Be careful which ASUS Zenbook SSD you pick up

Subject: Mobile | March 12, 2012 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd, asus zenbook, asus

The SSD Review stumbled upon a dirty little secret about the ASUS Zenbook SSD; specifically the SSD part of the name.  It seems that when you buy one, you might be picking up a model with an AData XM11 SSD or it might be a Sandisk U100 but unfortunately they are the same price and a similar model number making them very difficult to tell apart ... until you use it.  The SandForce drive AData drive is significantly faster than the Sandisk drive which uses its own proprietary controller.  The difference is not crippling but it is certainly noticeable when benchmarking and using the system.  The final result was that size does matter, the 11.6" UX21 has SandForce while the 13.3" UX31 does not, though both are still very nice Ultrabooks.

SSDR_Sandisk-SSD.jpg

"If we told you that we spent $2400 to right a wrong in proving something that you as a consumer should be aware of, would you believe us? This report closely examines the ASUS Zenbook. Within the ‘Zen’, ASUS may provide either of two SATA 3 SSDs, these being the AData ‘SandForce Driven’ XM11 or the Sandisk U100. There is no price difference between the two, the product number is the same and the consumer has no way of knowing which they will receive. The performance drop between the two is somewhat unbelievable, however, and we thought this report important enough to invest in one of each Zenbook to educate the consumer on the reality of their potential Zenbook purchase."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

 

Source: SSD Review

Podcast #192 - AMD Radeon HD 7870 and 7850, Z77 Motherboard previews, and a Steam console

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 8, 2012 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: Z77, ssd, podcsat, podcast, msi, Intel, gpu, cpu, asus, amd, 7870, 7850

PC Perspective Podcast #192 - 03/08/2012

Join us this week as we talk about the AMD Radeon HD 7870 and 7850, Z77 Motherboard previews, and a Steam console?

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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malvantano

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

Program length: 54:59

Program Schedule: 

  1. 0:00:42 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. 0:02:00 Installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview In A VirtualBox Virtual Machine
  6. 0:05:00 AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB and HD 7850 2GB Pitcairn Review
    1. Radeon HD 7870 2GB vs HD 7850 2GB vs HD 5870 1GB Quick Look
  7. 0:18:30 ASUS Z77 Chipset Motherboard Preview: Formula, Gene, mini-ITX
  8. 0:24:30 MSI X79A-GD65 (8D) LGA 2011 ATX Motherboard Review
  9. 0:26:00 Visual Computing Still Decades from Computational Apex
  10. 0:36:00 This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  11. 0:37:00 GDC 12: The bigger big picture, Steam Box to be announced?
  12. 0:40:30 MSI Shows of Next Generation Twin Frozr IV Cards at Cebit
  13. 0:42:30 Peter Pan presents a stylish mouse at CeBIT; Thermaltake's Level 10 M
  14. 0:45:45 Apple Launching Quad Core Graphics A5X Powered iPad 3 With Retina Display
  15. 0:49:00 Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: How about a new laptop?  Time for shopping!!  Ultrabook?  IVB maybe?
    2. Jeremy: Ever heard of the brown note?
    3. Josh: They have arrived
    4. Allyn: sleep lulz
  16. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  17. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  18. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  19. Closing

Source:

The SSD market gets passed a TRIM command

Subject: General Tech, Storage | March 7, 2012 - 10:39 AM |
Tagged: western digital, ssd, hitachi, flash, EMC

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, which was the result of the merger of Hitachi and IBM's HDD businesses, is likely being purchased by Western Digital tomorrow for about $4.3 billion.  This makes sense as WD has been using Hitachi GST as a sales partner when providing  EMC with high end flash disks.  This deal comes on the heels of a major sell, the SSD400S flash disk which uses Intel's 34nm SLC NAND and the SSD400S-B which utilizes the new 25nm NAND developed by Intel.  Check out the specifications of the flash drives as well as the new SSD company over at The Register.

intel-nand.jpg

"WD is buying Hitachi GST and the acquisition is expected to be formally announced tomorrow with a condition of two years of independence for Hitachi GST - imposed by a Chinese anti-competition regulator. EMC has certified Hitachi GST's SSD400S flash disks for use in its VNX mid-range unified storage arrays, including the all-flash VNX5500-F, so WD will effectively fulfil this deal once the acquisition is announced."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register
Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: Various
Tagged: ssd, Future, flash, Bleak, 2012

Overcoming Hurdles

A paper, titled “The Bleak Future of NAND Flash Memory” was recently jointly published by the University of California and Microsoft Research. It has been picked up by many media outlets who all seem to be beating the same morbid drum, spinning tales of a seemingly apocalyptic end to the reign of flash-based storage devices. While I agree with some of what these authors have to say, I have reservations about the methods upon which the paper is based.

TLC and beyond?

The paper kicks off by declaring steep increases in latency and drops in lifetime associated with increases in bits-per-cell. While this is true, flash memory manufacturers are not making large pushes to increase bits-per-cell beyond the standard MLC (2 bits per cell) tech. Sure some have dabbled in 3-bit MLC, also called Triple Level Cell (TLC) which is a bit of a misnomer since storing three bits in a cell actually requires eight voltage level bands, not three as the name implies. Moving from SLC to MLC doubles density, but the diminishing returns increase sharply after that – MLC to TLC only increases capacity by a another 1.5x, but sees a 2-4x reduction in performance and endurance. In light of this, there is little demand for TLC flash, and where there is, it’s clear by the usage cases that it is not meant for anything beyond light usage. There's nothing wrong with the paper going down this road, but the reality is that increasing bits per cell is not the envelope being pushed by the flash memory industry.

paper-lifetime.png

Wait a second – where is 25nm MLC?

Looking at the above we see a glaring omission – 25nm MLC flash, which has been around for close to two years now, and constitutes the majority of shipping flash memory parts currently in production. SLC was also omitted, but I can see the reason for this – it’s hard to get your hands on 25nm SLC these days. Why? Because MLC technology has been improved upon to the point where ‘enterprise MLC’ (eMLC) is rapidly replacing SLC even despite the supposed reduction in reliability and endurance over SLC. The reasons for this are simple, and are completely sidestepped or otherwise overlooked by the paper:

  • SSD controllers employ write combination and wear leveling techniques.
  • Some controllers even compress data on-the-fly as to further reduce writes and provisioning.
  • Controller-level Error Correction (ECC) has improved dramatically with each process shrink.
  • SSD controllers can be programmed to compensate for the drift of data stored in a cell (eMLC).

Continue reading our editorial on the not-so-bleak future of NAND Flash Memory!!!

Upgrade your PS3 with an SSD... or just play on the PC.

Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 20, 2012 - 02:53 PM |
Tagged: ssd, PS3

There is an interesting article down at Eurogamer which covers the possible benefits of upgrading a PS3 with a solid state drive. Those who know me can guess that I am snickering while crossing another perceived advantage off of my console versus PC list. Still, if for some reason you want to play exclusives to a disposable platform that are only exclusive because you let them be and you desire to upgrade your experience, check out the interesting article.

PS3SSDSkyrim.png

Isn’t “not needing to do this” the whole reason for having a console?

Consoles titles are naturally becoming as hard drive-intensive as they are allowed to be due to their abysmally small quantity of RAM. Developers have been using tricks to increase the usefulness of their available RAM such as disallowing split screen, streaming content as needed, and rendering at low resolutions.

The first Halo, for instance, was famous for their quick load times. The load speed is due in part to having their game assets copied multiple times on the disk which allows choice in loading whichever copy requires the least seek time to access. Also, having a hard drive helped Halo too.

The article itself focuses mostly on RAGE and Skyrim due to their harsh issues with lag and pop-in. Skyrim has had known issues with getting progressively worse as time progressed. This issue was mostly corrected in version 2.03 as was also demonstrated in Eurogamer’s article making an SSD almost unnecessary, but prior to 2.03 an SSD surprisingly helped substantially with the problem. It should also be no surprise that throwing faster storage at RAGE helped immensely just as it does on the PC.

If you were considering upgrading to a faster drive for your Sony console be sure to check out Eurogamer -- or the new Hardware Leaderboard and just play on the PC.

Source: Eurogamer

VIA teams with Tensilica to roll their own SSD controller

Subject: Storage | February 16, 2012 - 06:51 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 - 01:08 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 - 10:12 AM |
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.