Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2014 - 03:37 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex, computex 2014, WD, ssd, pcie, SATA Express, hdd
SATA Express is an interface to either connect a hard drive to PCIe lanes, or up to two drives via SATA. Obviously, PCIe bandwidth over a cable connection is the real draw. To use the full speed, however, the drive needs to be able to communicate over PCIe. Currently, the standard uses two PCI Express 2.0 lanes (1 GB/s).
Now that Z97 and H97 have launched, WD is set to show off the technology at Computex. The above image is apparently of a dual-drive product, containing 4TB of rotating media and 128GB of SSD memory. I am immediately reminded of the Western Digital Black2 dual drive which Allyn reviewed last November. That product crammed a 120GB SSD into a 2.5" 1TB HDD, which appeared to the system as two separate drives. The drive has "Technology Demonstration" written in red font right on it, but it could be a good representation of what the company is thinking about.
WD also asserts that their prototype uses standard AHCI drivers, for OS compatibility.
If you want to see this product in action, then -- well -- you kind-of need to be at Computex. At some point, you might be able to see it in your own PC. When? How much? No pricing and availability, again, because it is a tech demo.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Intel has a nasty habit of releasing disruptive technology, especially in the area of computer storage. Among the first of those releases was the X25-M, which was groundbreaking to say the least. At a time where most other SATA SSDs were just stopgap attempts to graft flash memory to a different interface, Intel's SATA SSD was really the first true performer.
With performance in the bag, Intel shifted their attention to reducing the cost of their products. The next few generations of the Intel line was coupled with leadership in die shrinks. This all came together in the form of SSD releases of increasingly reduced cost. Sure the enterprise parts retained a premium, but the consumer parts generally remained competitive.
Now Intel appears to have once again shifted their attention to performance, and we know it has been in the works for a while now. With the SATA bottleneck becoming increasingly apparent, big changes needed to me made. First, SATA, while fine for relatively high latency HDD's, was just never meant for SSD speeds. As SSD performance increased, the latencies involved with the interface overhead (translating memory-based addresses into ATA style commands) becomes more and more of a burden.
The solution is to not only transition to PCIe, but to do so using a completely new software and driver interface, called NVM Express. NVMe has been in the works for a while, and offers some incredible benefits in that it essentially brings the flash memory closer to the CPU. The protocol was engineered for the purpose of accessing flash memory as storage, and doing so as fast and with the least latency as possible. We hadn't seen any true NVMe products hit the market, until today, that is:
Behold the Intel SSD DC P3700!
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Back in July of last year, Micron announced production of 16nm flash memory. These were the same 128gbit dies as the previous gen parts, but 16nm means the dies are smaller, meaning more dies from a single wafer, ultimately translating to lower end user cost.
It takes a bit of time for those new flash die shrinks to trickle into mainstream products. Early yields from a given shrink tend to not have competitive endurance on initial production. As production continues, the process gets tweaked, resulting in greater and longer enduring yields.
Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2014 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: usb 3.0, thumb drive, ssd, flash drive, corsair, computex 2014, computex
The Flash Voyager GTX is Corsair's attempt to be an SSD over USB 3.0. Differentiating itself from a standard USB flash drive, the Voyager GTX includes TRIM support, S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, and interfaces with USB Attached SCSI. It also comes in two, SSD-sized capacities, 128GB ($119.99) and 256GB ($199.99). These drives are rated at 450MB/s read and 350MB/s write.
This pricing structure puts the Voyager GTX against the Samsung 840 Pro, which is an interesting comparison to make. Both drives are backed by a five (5) year warranty and, while the 840 Pro has higher read bandwidth, the write speeds are fairly comparable. IOPS and write durability is not listed for the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX but, even if they are marginally behind, this has the advantage of USB.
Benchmarking should be interesting for this. I would be curious if this could lead to portable OS installations and abrupt boosts to Steam library sizes, both with SSD-like speeds.
The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX USB 3.0 drives will be available in July. The 128GB version has an MSRP of $119.99, while the 256GB is listed at $199.99.
For more Computex 2014 coverage, please check out our feed!
You probably saw some news floating around yesterday that leaked out about an upcoming Crucial MX100 SSD using 16nm flash with an eye towards the mainstream price segment. While we are waiting for our samples of these units to arrive, we did get this comment from Crucial on the matter.
The word is out that Crucial will be launching a new SSD in the early June 2014 timeframe called the Crucial MX100 SSD. The new MX100 will be a competitively-priced, 2.5" SSD based on Micron’s new 16nm chips, and will be the successor to the Crucial M500 drive. The high-performance Crucial M550 drive will also remain part of the Crucial SSD product line-up.
We’re excited to share that PC Perspective has been fully briefed on the new Crucial MX100 by the Crucial SSD product marketing team and have a review sample in hand that we’re now rigorously testing. Once the MX100 drive is officially announced, we’ll have a complete product overview and benchmarks to share with you directly. Stay tuned for the full scoop here!
Image source: Hardware.info
As a replacement for the Crucial M500 line, we expect the MX100 to be a big seller. Just look at the M500 price on Amazon.com today: 960GB for $459 or 480 GB for $219! That's really all we know for now, check back for Allyn's testing very soon!
Subject: General Tech, Storage | May 6, 2014 - 03:46 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, sandisk, 4TB SSD
If you are an enterprise, SanDisk is getting a bit SAS-y with some pretty large SSDs. How large? 4TB. Not large enough? Why are you the way you are. Also, according to VR-Zone, 6TB and 8TB versions will follow, in 2015 (Update: 5/6/2014 @ 5:56pm EST -- VR-Zone might have meant "16TB"... as Tom's IT Pro claims to have heard from SanDisk). These drives will be produced with 19nm NAND, not utilizing the 15nm cells from their partnership with Toshiba. SanDisk claims their choice of 19nm was for reliability. Also, clearly, they are not suffering with density.
Speaking of reliability, the SanDisk warranty is rated in both time as well as the supported number of full drive writes per day. The Optimus MAX SSD is rated at one-to-three drive writes per day, or 4-12TB per day, over the course of its 5-year warranty.
4TB Optimus MAX SSDs are expected to launch "to select OEMs and through the channel" in Q3.
VisionTek recently released a new storage product dubbed the mSATA mini USB 3.0 Bus-Powered SSD Enclosure (900696). Despite the name, VisionTek has an interesting product on its hands as it not only enables speedy portable storage (assuming you have hardware with USB 3.0 ports of course), but allows users to put any mSATA SSDs that would otherwise be gathering dust in a drawer to good use! Essentially, it is a small metal enclosure that accepts a mSATA SSD and interfaces it with a PC over USB 3.0.
The mSATA USB 3.0 enclosure measures 2.88" x 1.63" x 0.51" and is constructed of aluminum with a textured titanium color (for aesthetics) and rounded edges. Users can install any mSATA SSD up to 50mm in length. A third generation ASMedia ASM1153E controller then performs the conversion from the drive's SATA I, II, or III interface to USB 3.0. Naturally, you are going to take a performance hit due to the added latency and interface conversion introduced by the ASMedia controller versus directly attaching the drive to a motherboard's mSATA slot. Fortunately, the hit to performance is fairly minimal when dealing with large file transfers and sequential read and write performance.
According to Legit Reviews, their Kingston 120GB (SATA 3 6 Gbps) mSATA solid state drive saw sequential read and write speeds of 271 MB/s and 160 MB/s respectively when connected to a motherboard slot. When installed in the USB 3.0 enclosure, speeds dropped to 250 MB/s sequential reads and 158 MB/s sequential writes. Further, a large 71GB 4K video file transfer averaged out to 151 MB/s. The exact speeds will vary with the specific drive users install, but the thing to note is that the performance hit should be minimal (at least the performance relating to dealing with file copies, random access will take a larger hit) despite adding the USB 3.0 interface to the equation.
The VisionTek drive is available now with a three year warranty for $30.72 from Amazon, which is a tempting price for fast portable storage especially if you already have a mSATA drive laying around! Notably, it seems that VisionTek is not the only manufacturer sourcing these boards, as MyDigitalSSD has a simlar drive with an MSRP of $24.99.
If you are interested in putting together your own SSD-powered portable drive, check out the full review linked above.
Now, if I can only encourage Allyn to recycle some of his mSATA drives...
Subject: Storage | May 1, 2014 - 07:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SATA Express, pcie, asus, ssd, Z97-Deluxe
KitGuru had a chance to test the ASUS Z97-Deluxe with a Concept Edition SATA Express SSD from ASUS to see what happens when you can feed the data from an SSD across two SATA ports, giving it the bandwidth of two PCIe lanes. That should allow a theoretical 10Gbps bandwidth as PCIe 3.0 lanes are still being held in reserve as there are not that many available on an LGA1150 board but as KitGuru points out "leaked information suggest (we still cannot confirm anything) that M.2 support will be native to the ‘future Intel chipset’." Check out their review and be prepared to be amazed that the speed of 728MBps was lower than expected.
"We revisit the SATA Express interface to obtain a more up-to-date look at what the next generation of SATA connections is capable of. Our tools for the job; a retail Asus motherboard set to release soon, and a concept version of Asus’ Hyper Express enclosure, internally powered by solid state storage."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- ASUS Hyper Express SATA Express Drive Performance Preview @ Legit Reviews
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 PCIe SSD 480GB @ Kitguru
- What Is SATA Express and Why It Matters @ Legit Reviews
- Plextor M6M 256GB mSATA SSD @ Custom PC Review
- Micron M500DC Enterprise SSD Review (480GB) @ The SSD Review
- Crucial M550 512GB SATA SSD @ Custom PC Review
- Silicon Power 32GB Superior microSDHC UHS-1 Flash Card Review @ Madshrimps
- 32GB OTG USB Flash Drive Roundup - Corsair, Kingston, Transcend @ Legit Reviews
- Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo OTG 32GB USB Flash Drive @ NikKTech
- Lexar Professional 600x SDXC UHS-1 Card @ SSD Review
- Kingwin KF-252-BK Internal Hard Drive Hot Swap Rack Review @ Tweaknews
- Synology DiskStation DS414j
- Vantec NexStar 6G 2.5" Hard Drive Enclosure Review @HiTech Legion
- Synology DS1513+ 5-Bay NAS @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2014 - 12:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, tlc
Samsung has been working with TLC flash for a while now, both the original 840 and the 840 EVO utilize that type of flash, the increased yields offer lower pricing at the cost of a reduced number of writes before the flash begins to fail. The Register has posted their announcement of a new product line aimed at the data centre; the PM835T family will come in 240GB, 480GB and 960GB models and will also use TLC flash, with pricing predicted to be comparable to consumer level drives. With Samsung's 10nm-class TLC flash the experts at SMART suspect a 500 phase/erase cycle lifetime however depending on how Samsung has designed the drives the actual number could be much higher, they do offer a 3 year warranty on their current TLC drives. For now Samsung is not releasing an official expected lifetime for these drives which raises a question, will enterprise feel the short term cost savings are worth the long term replacement costs?
"Triple-level cell (TLC) flash chips mean fabs can extract more flash capacity from a silicon wafer, and so production costs are lower than for two-level cell MLC technology. Samsung says it gets "a 30 per cent increase in manufacturing efficiency compared to SSDs that use 2-bit NAND flash components."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Sandisk smashes glass ceiling with 4TB enterprise SSD @ The Inquirer
- Acer debuts new products @ DigiTimes
- Android accounts for whopping 99 percent of mobile malware @ The Inquirer
- StarTech USB 3.0 Hub with Ethernet Review @ TechwareLabs
Subject: General Tech, Storage | April 23, 2014 - 08:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, 15nm
While we often see smaller fabrication nodes discussed in terms of faster and more power efficient processors, it also increases storage density for memory circuits. In fact, it is probably easier to visualize how a process shrink will increase memory capacity than it is to ponder the benefits for CPUs and GPUs. Smaller features in the same area gives more places to cram data. Toshiba is starting to mass produce 15nm NAND Flash at Fab 5 in Yokkaichi.
While not mentioned in the press release, I believe that SanDisk and Toshiba are still in a partnership. The facility being discussed was actually a $4 Billion USD joint-venture between these two companies. I, reasonably, expect that SanDisk will also see some benefits from today's announcement. According to the press release, 15nm MLC is already in mass production with TLC following in June.
I brought up this story to Allyn, to see if he had any insights on it. He noted that 15nm is getting quite small. I asked about its implications in terms of write longevity, as that is has been the biggest concern in previous node shrinks. He guesses that the flash should be able to handle around 1,000 writes on average, compared to ~3,000 writes on IMFT's 20nm process. Keep in mind, IMFT prides itself on enterprise longevity and so, at least to me, it sounds fairly reasonable. Toshiba also mentions that they will have products for the high reliability market, such as enterprise SSDs.
The announcement does not mention anything that you can go out and buy yet, though. At the moment, it is behind-the-scenes stuff. It should be soon. I doubt that Toshiba would mass produce components like this without products or OEMs lined up.