VIA teams with Tensilica to roll their own SSD controller

Subject: Storage | February 16, 2012 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: Xtensa, VIA, Tensilica, ssd, DPU, controller

VIA has always been known for the 'slow and steady' approach to computing. They might not have the quickest stuff around, but they certainly tend to have the lowest power draw. While we haven't seen many releases from VIA as of late, they appear to be gearing up for a rediscovered purpose for their mantra - Solid State Storage.

VIA has brought on a company called Tensilica, who make a System on a Chip (SoC) architecture that has been purpose built for moving data around. The system, dubbed the Xtensa dataplane processor (DPU), has some particular math strengths that would be very beneficial if applied to the realm of an SSD controller. For example, the DPU is capable of performing multiple simultaneous table lookups within a single clock cycle. This is handy for increasing the IOPS rating of an SSD, since wear leveling and write amplification are handled by remapping the LBA's (sectors) to flash memory space. Each IO results in a necessary table lookup, which the DPU can perform very quickly.

tensilica_xtensa9_bg.png
 
With the DPU being so efficient at these tasks, it could be run at lower clock speeds and outmaneuver competing SSD controllers - all while consuming less power. We're going to be watching VIA closely in the coming months on this one for sure.
Source: X-bit labs

Podcast #188 - Featuring David Hewlett - White Space Wireless, AMD and NVIDIA GPU roadmaps, Hard Drives with lasers and more!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 9, 2012 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: wireless, whitespace, ssd, podcast, nvidia, mdt, intel 520, Intel, gpu, APU, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #188 - 02/09/2012

Join us this week as we talk about White Space Wireless, AMD and NVIDIA GPU roadmaps, Hard Drives with lasers and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malvantano, and David Hewlett

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:44:27

Program Schedule:

  1. Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:30 Introduction with David
    1. Okay, seriously, how nerdy are you really?
    2. What kind of hardware systems and specs do you have?
    3. What games are you playing today?  
  6. 0:13:25 AMD Processor and GPU Roadmaps Through 2013
  7. 0:28:30 Galaxy MDT GeForce GT 520 Graphics Card Review
  8. 0:32:00 Intel 520 Series SSD Full Review - SandForce on Steroids?
  9. 0:43:00 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  10. 0:45:05 White Space Wireless Discussion
    1. Links for reference: - WikipediaUS Radio Spectrum Chart (2003), 
  11. 0:56:00 Increased Hard Drive Write Speed and Density - Using Frickin' Lasers
  12. 1:02:00 An academic collaboration leads to a GPU/CPU collaboration
  13. 1:07:25 AMD shows 18mm thin reference ultrathin notebook based on Trinity
  14. 1:11:05 Tablets / Ultrabooks in Schools
    1. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204369404577209142710109710.html
  15. 1:16:45 NVIDIA Kepler Graphics Cards Lineup Leak To Web
  16. 1:22:30 PC Perspective Office Tour - Feb 6th, 2012
  17. 1:26:40 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Just in time for Valentine's Day...
    2. Jeremy: Now that's how you make a contest!
    1. Josh: Just got one for the wife. For great justice.
    2. Allyn: ioSafe SoloPRO
    3. David: Samsung Flexible Displays
  18. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  19. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  20. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  21. Closing

Source:

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em; Intel goes Sandforce

Subject: Storage | February 6, 2012 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: ssd, SF-2281 controller, sandforce, Intel, 520 Cherryville, 25nm

While the Intel 320 Series did hold the top spot for quite a while it has been a while since Intel refreshed their SSD line and has fallen behind new controllers in performance.  As of today that changes for the 520 Cherryville series has arrived and it is using none other than SandForce's SF-2281 controller.  Using such a popular controller leaves Intel with a bit of a problem, how do they stand out in such a crowded market?  One way that they have chosen is their home made 25nm synchronous NAND flash; Intel designs and fabs their own which gives them the opportunity to ensure the best flash chips make it into their drives.  The other way they've chosen to differentiate themselves is with a 5-year warranty for owners of this new drive.  Read how they did performance-wise at The Tech Report or else head straight to Al's review right here.

TR_box.jpg

"Intel's newest solid-state drive pairs a SandForce controller with custom firmware and 25-nm NAND. We've tested the 60 and 240GB models to see how they fare against more than two dozen SSDs, hybrids, and mechanical drives."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

 

Introduction

Today we take a look at Intel's newest 6Gb/sec SATA SSD - the 520 Series. This is the second non-Intel controller to appear in one of their products. The first was the Marvell controller, which appeared in the 510 Series last March. This time around, Intel has gone with SandForce. This should leave at least one SATA 6Gb/sec model to be released. Taylorsville is the code name for the next SATA 6Gb/sec native-Intel controller, which has been on their roadmap since mid-2010 but has yet to actually materialize. While Taylorsville development continues, Intel has stop-gapped the 6Gb/sec slot with the 510 and now the 520 Series. Intel seemingly worked wonders with the stock Marvell firmware, and while the Marvell controller was much improved over stock, it still lagged far behind other higher performing SATA 6Gb/sec solutions. The SandForce was one of the much more capable controllers eating the 510's lunch, but how much further could Intel improve upon the SandForce firmware?

outside-2.jpg

I guess a good question to answer up front is - What took them so long?!?! The answer is a bit complicated. Intel has actually been working on getting the 520 out the door for over a year now. They had to start with the same base SandForce firmware but accomplish two things for their version to be successful:

  • Optimize to perform better than other equivalent SandForce models (from competitors).
  • Pass Intel's stringent validation testing.

They didn't say so directly, but I can only imagine Intel's process was plagued by multiple 'back to the drawing board' moments. Trying to one-up competition like OCZ can't be easy as they've been tweaking SandForce firmware since the very beginning. There's also those nasty bugs that would cause random BSOD's or even permanently brick the drive. Such failures have no place in an Intel SSD. Intel's upper limit for each SSD line is a 0.75% annual failure rate, and we've seen SandForce SSD's failing at a higher rate than that this past year.

With each tweak made, Intel would have to once again pass their drives through another round of full validation testing. This is no small task for Intel. As an example: It took Intel just a couple of weeks to recreate and correct the long-term performance issue I discovered back in 2009, but despite mountingpressure, they could not release the updated firmware until it had successfully passed their validation a full three months later. Intel takes this testing very seriously, and that's what leads people to trust their reliability.

Read on for the full review!

 

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

 Introduction

A couple of days ago we looked at a pair of SSD's from Patriot. Next up is a pair of SSD's from Corsair. These are another two SandForce controlled units, but this time it's Async IMFT flash vs. Sync IMFT flash:

120131-220915-5.63_resize.jpg

We'll carry the Patriot Pyro (IMFT Async) into the results for comparison, and keeping the other benchmark OCZ and Intel models in with the mix of results. The OCZ Vertex 3 and Agility 3 will again share the same SandForce controller, but OCZ has been known to add many performance tweaks to their firmware. Let's see if Corsair was able to use 'tweaked' firmware or instead went with the stock one provided by SandForce.

Specifications

The Corsair Force 3 and Force GT are both available in the following capacities:

  • 60GB
  • 90GB
  • 120GB
  • 180GB
  • 240GB
  • 480GB

The added capacity points are a bonus of how IMFT can stack their dies in 'odd' multiples (i.e. 3 per package, making a 24GB TSOP). Varying slightly from low to high capacities (and across the two models), specs range from 490 to 525 MB/sec writes and 550 to 555 MB/sec reads. 60GB models get 80,000 4K IOPS and the rest get a rating of 85,000 4K IOPS. Corsairs specs indicate IOMeter 2008 was used for this test, and it's important to note that 2008's writes were a repeating pattern that is easily and fully compressible by the SandForce controller, meaning those specs were derived using fully compressible data.

Podcast #187 - Our thoughts on Ultrabooks, the Radeon HD 7950, ASUS DirectCU GTX cards, and more!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 2, 2012 - 03:11 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sandforce, radeon, podcast, patriot, nvidia, Intel, gtx, arm, amd, 7950

PC Perspective Podcast #187 - 02/02/2012

Join us this week as we talk about our thoughts on Ultrabooks, the Radeon HD 7950, ASUS DirectCU GTX cards, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Allyn Malvantano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 58:02

Program Schedule:

  1. 0:00:40 Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. 0:01:20 Ultrabooks: Intel Knows What's Good For You
  6. 0:08:30 Patriot Pyro and Wildfire SSD Review - IMFT Async vs. Toshiba Toggle-mode Flash
  7. 0:14:20 AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB Graphics Card Review
  8. 0:25:50 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  9. 0:26:38 Asus DirectCU II Roundup: ENGTX560, ENGTX570, and ENGTX580 Review
  10. 0:40:35 Raspberry Pi Linux Computer Will Have Fast GPU For The Price
  11. 0:44:20 If you thought Intel did well wait until you see ARM
  12. 0:47:00 AMD 7700 and 7800 Release Dates Leak To Web
  13. 0:51:20 Live Blog: AMD Financial Analyst Day
  14. 0:52:20 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Radeon HD 7950 Cards
    2. Jeremy: I'm giddy as a schoolgirl, albeit a very mercenary one
    1. Josh: And it is on sale! $770 off!
    2. Allyn: Corsair Force 3 - very good pricing.
  15. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  16. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  17. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  18. Closing

Source:

Take your SSD to work day

Subject: Storage | January 30, 2012 - 02:35 PM |
Tagged: ssd, enterprise, eMLC, Samsung, SM825 400GB

Enterprise level storage has vastly different priorities than consumer grade storage as data that is lost is of a different level than lost pictures and home movie.  As precious as those memories are it is unlikely that family members will sue you or disown you because you lost their data, internal and external customers on the other hand are very likely to.  This places a large priority on reliability which must be considered even before the cost savings are considered.  For companies with large databases and numerous users connecting to them concurrently there is a huge time savings possible from introducing an SSD to the front end, but only if it can be guaranteed to be available and not down.

The SSD Review takes a look at Samsung's enterprise class SSD, the SM825 which has 400GB of eMLC flash storage which is rated at 7000TBW (terabytes written) before failure; consumer models are usually 60TBW.  When the SSD Review cracked the case and did some addition, they spotted 112GB being used for over-provisioning as well as four impressively sized capacitors for protection against power outages.  Check out the full review to see how it performs.

SSDR_SSD-Width.jpg

"In reviewing the Samsung SSD SM825 Data Center Edition 400GB eMLC solid state drive, we understand that we have wandered off the beaten path of normal consumer reviews but there are some things in this SSD that will just grab your attention. Although it’s interesting to see that Samsung has chosen its own premium eMLC NAND flash memory in the SM825, we believe that it is the total write endurance that truly stands out in this enterprise class SSD."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Source: SSD Review
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Patriot Memory

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction

Today we're going to take a look at a pair of SSD models from Patriot. While they both share the same SandForce controller, that's where the differences end. This won't be your typical review - because this time we're pitting an Async IMFT flash unit against a Toshiba Toggle-mode flash unit:

icon.jpg

We're also tossing a few OCZ and Intel models into the mix. The OCZ Vertex 3 and Agility 3 will again share the same SandForce controller, but OCZ has been known to add many performance tweaks to their firmware. This will give us a chance to see the 'baseline' SandForce firmware in action.

Specifications

Patriot has their drive specs spread out over several pages. Here's a consolidated list for these two models. We will be reviewing a 120GB sample from each of the two product lines.

  • Wildfire 120GB:

-Sequential Read & Write Transfer: 555MB/s read | 520MB/s Write
-Max Random Write IOPS: Up to 85,000 (4K aligned)

  • Wildfire 240GB:

-Sequential Read & Write Transfer: 555MB/s read | 520MB/s Write
-Max Random Write IOPS: Up to 85,000 (4K aligned)

  • Wildfire 480GB:

-Sequential Read & Write Transfer: 540MB/S Read | 450MB/S Write*
-Max Random Write IOPS: Max 4K Random IOPS: 40K*

  • Pyro 60GB:

- Sequential Read & Write Transfer: 520MB/s read | 490MB/s Write.
- Max Random Write IOPS: Up to 80,000 (4K aligned).

  • Pyro 120GB:

- Sequential Read & Write Transfer: 550MB/s read | 515MB/s Write.
- Max Random Write IOPS: Up to 85,000 (4K aligned).

  • Pyro 240GB:

- Sequential Read & Write Transfer: 550MB/s read | 515MB/s Write.
- Max Random Write IOPS: Up to 85,000 (4K aligned).

I've highlighted a few outlier specs in the above list. While the Pyro sees the now expected dip in performance when transitioning from 120GB down to 60GB - due to a reduction in the communication channels to the (fewer) flash chips, the Wildfire sees a seemingly opposite and more drastic effect. This is not due to a change in the number of data paths - it's a limit inherent in the SandForce controller itself, and is not limited to Toggle-mode flash. The difference caused by the Toggle-mode flash is the missing 60GB model - caused by the intermix of capacity points and configuration needed for this different type of flash memory.

Read on for our full review!

The SSD powered Oaktrail tablet from Kupa is a trooper

Subject: Mobile | January 26, 2012 - 03:47 PM |
Tagged: tablet, ssd, oaktrail, mobile, Kupa X11, atom Z670, atom

You might not expect to see a tablet being examined at the SSD Review, except for the Kupa X11 which contains a 64 or 128GB mSSD drive.  As the Atom and Oaktrail pairing are perhaps not the fastest mobile chips on the block, the initial testing tried to determine if that chipset would prove to be a bottleneck.  They tested the Kingspec 128GB SSD which was included in the tablet as well as a Renice X3 120GB ‘SandForce Driven’ SSD and a Kingston mS100 SSD.  The Kingspec was the slowest choice of the three and even though the other two did perform more impressively Oaktrail did indeed prove to limit the performance of the drives.  On the other hand, it is still faster than a HDD and the SSD helps to extend the life of this 1366 x 768 10.1″ tablet to around 10 hours.  Also worth noting is that this tablet runs Xin7 Professional, not a trimmed down OS, and will fully support Win8.

ssdr_kupa.jpg

"Just prior to CES we had received an e-mail from a reader who had spoken of a company called Kupa, a tablet manufacturer who, as the reader had stated, “wasn’t afraid to experiment outside the box”. it took us all of two seconds to get to the Kupa Website and discover the Kupa X11, a tablet PC with all the power of a full size computer to include a Intel Atom Z670 1.5Ghz Oaktrail platform, 2GB RAM and your choice of 64 or 128GB SSD. Needless to say, we were impressed."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

 

Source: SSD Review

LaCie's Little Big Disk now comes in Thunderbolt

Subject: Storage | January 20, 2012 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: thunderbolt, LaCie, Little Big Disk, ssd, external drive

Thunderbolts and lightning have been gracing the front page of PC Perspective for a while now, the new external interfaces are well described but there is a lack of products on the market to review.   Hopefully that will change soon as there is little point of having an interface with nothing to plug into it.  LaCie is one of the few to have actually managed to get a product to market, a Thunderbolt connected external 240GB SSD version of their Little Big Disk.  It was certainly fast in the testing that TechReviewSource performed but it does leave one with a question, who needs to back up 200GB in a big hurry and is willing to spend over $900 for the ability to do so?

lacie240gbssd.jpg

"The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt (240GB SSD) is currently the least expensive way to obtain Thunderbolt speeds for your late-model Mac. It's half the price of the Promise Pegasus R6, the only other Thunderbolt drive on the market, but that doesn't mean it's cheap."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage