CES 2015: SanDisk updates affordable SSD Plus, expands Ultra II SSD to mSATA

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: ces 2015, CES, Ultra II, SSD Plus, ssd, sandisk, msata

SanDisk has launched a few items of note this morning. There is a combination USB 3.0 / OTG capable flash drive, but the truly big news is a few updates to existing product lines.

First is an mSATA form factor of their existing and very popular Ultra II SSD. This is expected to perform similarly to its 2.5" SATA brother, but in the smaller form factor needed for some laptops, tablets, and so equipped desktop motherboards.

The other and perhaps most significant launch is the 'SSD Plus'. This is a sequel to SanDisk's original desktop SSD product, and is aimed squarely at the budget consumer that wants an SSD but doesn't necessarily need the best performing product.

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The SSD Plus is SanDisk's attempt to beat the competing SSD prices right out of the gate, with launch MSRP's at $70 for 120GB ($0.58/GB) and $110 for 240GB ($0.46/GB). Those are among the lowest launch MSRP's we've seen to date, and that's not taking into account the sales that typically take place in the months after a given SSD launches.

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We are going to be reviewing these as soon as we get them in. They are not meant to be super fast, but we doubt they would be what would be considered slow. So long as they are decent performers, that's a very good launch price.

Full press blast after the break.

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Source: SanDisk

CES 2015: TP-LINK Archer C2600 and C3200 802.11ac Routers

Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 5, 2015 - 07:35 AM |
Tagged: tp-link, router, ces 2015, CES, 802.11ac

At some point, routers have stopped becoming a pure commodity device. Some manufacturers are differentiating themselves based on CPU performance or available RAM, while others compete on software features. In this case, TP-LINK is introducing two routers: one with four antennas, and the other with six. They are both designed around connection quality for multiple devices that are communicating simultaneously.

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TP-LINK Archer C2600

The Archer C2600 is the four-antenna product that uses Qualcomm MU-MIMO EFX, which can connect to three devices at once. TP-LINK states that the platform can establish four connections, but they are reserving the fourth to assist the other three by somehow reducing interference. They do not provide details about their specific process (whether it's constructive interference, choose the best signal, etc.) and I do not have a deep understanding of practical implementations in this area.

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TP-LINK Archer C3200

The Archer C3200 is the six-antenna SKU that can operate on three bands simultaneously. Rather than sharing a single chunk of the 5.0 GHz spectrum, or dropping some devices down to 2.4 GHz, it can manage two segments of 5.0 GHz simultaneously (and a third at 2.4 GHz). As the number of connected devices increase, the router will automatically assign them to the best block.

Both routers also include Gigabit Ethernet for wired networks, and USB 3.0 ports (they do not state how many) to attach storage to. The C3200 advertises “Substantial RAM” without providing any hard numbers.

No pricing information is currently provided, but they are expected to be available in Q3 2015.

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Source: TP-LINK

CES 2015 Podcast Day 1 - Lenovo, NVIDIA Tegra X1, MSI, USB 3.1 and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2015 - 03:26 AM |
Tagged: video, usb type-c, usb 3.1, Tegra X1, tegra, podcast, nvidia, msi, Lenovo, ces 2015, CES

CES 2015 Podcast Day 1 - 01/04/15

It's time for podcast fun at CES!  Join us as we talk about the first day of the show including a lot of announcements from Lenovo, MSI, the NVIDIA Tegra X1, USB 3.1 and more!

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

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Ken Addison

Program length: 47:58

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Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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CES 2015: MSI Z97I Gaming ACK Mini-ITX Motherboard

Subject: Motherboards, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 03:24 AM |
Tagged: z97i gaming ack, z97, video, msi, M.2, ces 2015, CES

We have definitely seen our share of Z97 motherboards using the Mini-ITX form factor by now, but the new MSI Z97I Gaming ACK offers a couple of unique twists worth noting. First, the board features both wireless and wired Killer Networking components, has four SATA 6 Gb/s ports and a total of six USB 3.0 ports. Click BIOS, OC Genie and Command Center are all MSI specific features found on the ACK.

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The most interesting feature though is the rear-mounted M.2 port that allows the user to install a full 10 Gb/s M.2 storage device on the back side of the motherboard! Obviously you will have to be sure that the stand offs on your case will allow the spacing required for an M.2 device, but MSI doesn't think it will be a problem for most cases. It's a very interesting way to integrate more hardware on a design that is incredibly space limited. (Note: you'll have to watch the video to see the rear mounted M.2 port.)

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CES 2015: MSI AG240 4K Edition Gaming All-in-One

Subject: Systems, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2015 - 03:01 AM |
Tagged: msi, ces 2015, CES, all-in-one, AIO, ag240, 4k

Our review of the MSI AG270 Gaming AIO was pretty eye opening; I really didn't expect to find that kind of gaming capability inside an all-in-one chassis. Building on that success, MSI is preparing for a March release of the AG240 4K Edition, which as the name suggests, includes a 24-in 4K IPS monitor.

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Other hardware specifications include a 4th Generation Haswell processor, a yet-to-be-named GTX 900-series mobility GPU from NVIDIA and up to 3x mSATA SSDs running in RAID-0 (MSI sure loves its SuperRAID). The 4K screen itself definitely looked nice though I am curious about the choice to only include a single GPU in a system with that many pixels. You can still play your games at 1080p though should GPU horsepower be a concern.

I'm sure we'll have a review sample sometime this quarter, so stay tuned!

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CES 2015: Storage Visions Sightings Part 1: HGST He8, DriveSavers, and SanDisk

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 10:34 PM |
Tagged: CES, storage visions, ssd, sandisk, hgst, He8, DriveSavers, ces 2015

Many of the storage announcements this year are under embargo until tomorrow or later in the week. Fortunately there was plenty of things on display out in the open - meaning fair game for me to photograph and present to you in this quick photo walkthrough.

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The HGST Ultrastar He8 was on display. This is a 7-platter Helium filled HDD. The lower density atmosphere enables more platters and higher spin speeds without producing too much heat for the drive to handle.

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The added platters also enable a very large capacity of 8TB, all while consuming less power than most other available non-He HDD's, which is attractive for enterprise usage where racks upon racks are filled with these drives.

The display model we saw here was covered with plexiglass, but the DriveSavers folks had one completely open in all of its glory:

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Seeing the head pack out of a drive is rare, as you're supposed to only get to that point in a clean room environment (unless you don't want your data back, that is). DriveSavers told us the challenge to recovery from an He HDD is getting the Helium back into the housing prior to closing it back up after a failed component replacement. Here's a closer look at that head pack. Note the small logic die built into the ribbon - this component needs to be mounted as close as possible to the heads to minimize interference and signal loss from the very high frequency signal coming from the read heads:

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DriveSavers also has recently announced data recovery capability and partnership with SanDisk. There is a separate announcement we will be covering later in the week, but since we're talking about SanDisk, here is a look at the non-embargoed products we were allowed to show for now:

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From left: UltraDIMM, FusionIO Atomic, Optimus Max, Optimus MAX (opened), Optimus ECO. More interesting here is that SanDisk is able to pack 4TB into the Optimus form factor. They accomplish this by a unique folding PCB design shown below in unfolded form:

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That's it for this update, more to follow shortly.

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CES 2015: Lenovo Thinks That You'll Love Stackable Accessories

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Mobile | January 4, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: CES, usb 3.0, think stack, stack, power bank, peripherals, Lenovo, hotspot, ces 2015

Today at the Consumer Electronics Show, Lenovo announced updates and new additions to its Think-branded products aimed at business customers. New ThinkPad PCs, ThinkVision displays, and stackable ThinkPad accessories are launching early this year. 

ThinkPad Stack

The ThinkPad Stack represents a set of independent stackable accessories for business users to pair with their notebook or tablet. The Stack pieces can be placed atop each other interchangeably using a magnetic interlock system and can pass both power and data through the stack in order to connect to power and/or a PC with fewer cables. At launch, there are four accessories: a Bluetooth speaker, portable power bank, wireless hotspot, and a 1TB USB 3.0 hard drive. You will be able to stack any combination of the four accessories together or remove a piece to take with you to a meeting.

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The portable hard drive connects over a micro USB 3.0 connection to support fast transfer speeds. The wireless access point is able to take either a RJ45 wired Ethernet or 3G/4G cellular connection (using a wireless dongle) and broadcast out a Wi-Fi connection to allow you to share the Internet connection with multiple devices. The Bluetooth speaker accessory is aimed at business users wanting a simple device that can be used for conference calls (it has two 2W speakers and a noise cancelling microphone along with 3.5mm auxiliary and micro-USB line inputs). Finally, the power bank has a 10,000 mAh battery capacity and can charge two devices at 5V 2.1A on one port and 1A on the other port. Note that the speaker and hotspot have their own batteries as well.

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The ThinkPad Stack accessories will be available in April with pricing as follows:

Stack Accessory Pricing Availability
ThinkPad Stack Bluetooth Speaker $89.99 April
ThinkPad Stack 10000mAh Power Bank $49.99 April
ThinkPad Wireless Access Point / 1TB Hard Drive Kit $199.99 April

As such, the entire stack of stacks will run you just under $340 USD. The full stack weighs 861 grams or about 1.9 pounds and measures 136mm x 76mm (5.35" x 2.99"). It is a neat concept that should complement Lenovo's PCs well.

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2015: NVIDIA Tegra Press Conference Live Stream

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:41 PM |
Tagged: video, tegra, press conference, nvidia, live stream, live, ces 2015, CES

Tonight at 8pm PT / 11pm ET NVIDIA will be hosting its annual press conference from CES 2015. While I fully expect the majority of the information to be on Tegra-related products, there is a chance they could slip in some GeForce products as well. I leave nothing past NVIDIA with a 2 hour window.

You can watch the live stream of the event right here and I am going to be live blogging from the event as well, pending Internet capability inside the conference room.

 

Live Blog NVIDIA CES 2015 Press Conference

 

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CES 2015: MSI Implements USB 3.1 and USB Type-C Connector

Subject: Motherboards, Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c, usb 3.1, msi, ces 2015, CES

If you are like me, you probably thought the world of USB was going to be stable for a bit. Not so much as it turns out! MSI was showing off a couple of new products in its suite at CES 2015 that showcase new performance levels for USB as well as a much-needed new connector type.

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First up, USB 3.1, the upgrade that includes performance as high as single channel Thunderbolt, 10 Gbps. MSI will be shipping USB 3.1 on a new revision of the GT72 gaming notebook as well as on the X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard shipping in February or March. Each will feature two ports of USB 3.1 capable of some impressive speeds.

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These results are based on a RAID-0 implementation of a pair of Intel SSD 730 SSDs running on a prototype USB 3.1 capable controller that MSI didn't want us to show you. Seeing USB speeds reaching as high as 694 MB/s are impressive, exceeding that of the best USB 3.0 speeds we have seen at 470 MB/s. Considering we are looking at very early devices and software implementations, MSI's results on this board are fantastic.

Maybe more exciting than a speed boost to some USB users is implementation of the USB Type-C connector on the MSI Z97A Gaming 6 motherboard due in the same time frame.

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There are several advantages to this new connector for both users and OEMs. First, it is reversible meaning you can plug plug the connector in upside down and it will work (finally!). It is also small, able to fit on the slimmest phones and tablets. Both sides of the cable are going to be the same, so any device that can use a Type-C connector will be able to use most any cable.

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Power delivery also improves - 10 watts (5V at 2A), 60 watts (12V at 5A) and even up to 100 watts (20V at 5A)! And all of this power can be sent through that tiny Type-C connector as well leaving the possibility of charging your laptop through the same connector as your phone.

Expect both USB 3.1 as well as Type-C connectors to be a big shift in the middle of Q1.

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Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2015: Storage Visions: Western Digital SATA Express SSD+HDD Spotted

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: CES, western digital, storage visions, ssd, SATA Express, hybrid, hdd, ces 2015

At the SATA-IO booth at Storage Visions, they have a functional demo of Western Digital prototype hybrid HDD/SSD's.

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These are not hybrid in the traditional sense, as the SSD portion (128GB JMicron based controller driving Toshiba flash in the case of these prototypes) is logically separated from the HDD portion (a standard 4TB Black in this case).

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Given that a SATA Express link can simultaneously pass a PCIe 2.0 x2 link in addition to a SATA 6Gbit/sec link, this one unit can link an SSD and an HDD simultaneously and independently. Above you see the standard SATA Express connector, and below is how those pins are connected at the drive itself:

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Note the additional pins at what is usually the black side of the connector.

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The rest of the connector is mostly a standard SATA connector that you are used to seeing.

At the demo, we saw a single 3.5" hybrid unit booting from the SSD portion and using the 4TB HDD for mass storage, all from the same device. The second demo had a separate boot drive and linked a pair of these prototype units in a dual RAID. Configured through Windows dynamic volumes, a RAID of the HDD's offered the increased performance you might expect from a pair of 4TB WD Blacks. The SSD portion of each unit was also RAIDed, and we saw their combined throughput as just over 1GB/sec. That was not much more than what a pair of RAIDed SATA 6Gb/sec SSDs would do, but realize this was being accomplished in addition to (and independently of) the HDD portions.

We were not allowed to start removing screws, but here's a look at the accessible portion of the logic board for this drive:

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There is a JMicron controller paired with a single package of Toshiba flash. Toshiba has shown they can contain 128GB in a single package, so no problems there.

We're not sure where this technology is headed as the recent trend has been towards sticking with the standard SATA link for mass storage and M.2 SSDs plugged directly into the added port we've been seeing in many recent motherboards. We'll keep an eye on this technology moving forward, but for now at least we have seen it in the flesh and fully functional.

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