Brace Yourself: The PC Perspective CES 2013 Coverage is Coming!

Subject: Graphics Cards, Networking, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Systems, Storage, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2013 - 10:47 AM |
Tagged: CES, ces 2013, pcper

It's that time of year - the staff at PC Perspective is loaded up and either already here in Las Vegas, on their way to Las Vegas or studiously sitting at their desk at home - for the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show!  I know you are on our site looking for all the latest computer hardware news from the show and we will have it.  The best place to keep checking is our CES landing page at http://pcper.com/ces.  The home page will work too. 

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We'll have stories covering companies like, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte, Zotac, Sapphire, Galaxy, EVGA, Lucid, OCZ, Western Digital, Corsair and many many more that I don't feel like listing here.  It all starts Sunday with CES Unveiled and then the NVIDIA Press Conference where they will announce...something.

Also, don't forget to subscribe to the PC Perspective Podcast as we will be bringing you daily podcasts wrapping up each day.  We are also going to try to LIVE stream them on our PC Perspective Live! page but times and bandwidth will vary.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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

Samsung 840 Series gives SSD fans a little TLC

Subject: Storage | January 3, 2013 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: tlc, Samsung 840, 500gb, ssd

As the lifespan of flash memory in SSDs has become a topic of concern for many users, it is nice to see that the Samsung 840 500GB has a lifespan of some 14 years assuming a daily write load of 10GB.  Since most users do not write 10GB to a drive day in and day out, that estimate is probably on the low end.  If that doesn't have you excited then consider the cost of the drive, at $350 it is much lower than the $1/GB mark most other SSDs are at.  There are some trade offs however, [H]ard|OCP saw comparatively slow extended write speeds though the read speeds were higher than the 256GB model.  When you consider this drive do keep in mind that it is still going to be faster than a platter drive even when it is working on a task that other SSDs might do slightly faster.

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"Samsung has released the first TLC NAND equipped SSDs into the market, creating the lowest price points we have witnessed for SSDs bringing large capacity SSDs within reach for average users. Today we test the 500GB TLC Samsung 840 Series SSD to test the performance in steady state of a large capacity TLC Solid State Drive."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Sumitomo Electric Green Lit for Infrared Light in Thunderbolt

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | January 1, 2013 - 12:25 AM |
Tagged:

Sumitomo Electric released a press statement to confirm their status as the first company to mass produce optical Thunderbolt cables.

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Current implementations of Thunderbolt operate electronically which pose serious limitations on how far they can effectively transmit. The company currently offers metal-based cables up to a length of approximately 10 feet. With the transition to fibre, Sumitomo will begin manufacturing cables up to 100ft in length.

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Monopriceless expression.

This all comes at the expense of an extra centimeter added in length to each end of the cable. Darn, how will I ever survive? All kidding aside, optical cables do have a serious drawback compared to their electric counterparts. Optical cables are currently unable to provide power to attached devices. This could prove highly annoying if your device requires somewhere below the rated 10W of bus power. This cable will not work in every situation.

There is currently no discussion of expected cost nor is there discussion of how cheap Monoprice will undercut them. Troll lol-lol… lol-lol. Okay, so not all kidding aside.

Samsung Acquires NVELO and SSD Caching Software Dataplex

Subject: Storage | December 16, 2012 - 09:59 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, Nvelo Dataplex, nvelo

Thanks to those of you that sent this in to us as it will likely be very big news to discuss during the upcoming CES in January.  Samsung Electronics announced it has acquired NVELO, a California based SSD technology company most popularly known for Dataplex, software used for storage caching.

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Many of the most popular caching SSDs from companies like OCZ, Corsair, Crucial and Mushkin are currently licensing the Dataplex software to bundle with select lines of drives to enable SSD caching technology without using Intel's Smart Response Technology.  We tested the Dataplex software on the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid back in December of last year and we found no issue with it compared to Intel's tech.

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Simple Dataplex installation process

As of this writing though Samsung does not have a caching system of its own or a line of drives using anyone else's technology.  Samsung in general prefers to have a completely vertical product line in which it can control as many aspects as possible: NAND, design, sales, etc.  It would appear that they have decided that simply buying up the privately held NVELO would be the simplest and surest way to make a splash.

"The acquisition of NVELO will enable us to extend our ability to provide SSD related storage solutions to customers. We are pleased with this transaction as the employees of NVELO share our vision to take SSD storage into the next-generation of performance and reliability," said Young-Hyun Jun, executive vice president of Flash product & technology, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics.

What we don't know of course is how this will affect the competing SSD vendors like OCZ and Corsair.  It seems unlikely that Samsung will kill the deal for currently selling SSDs but I wouldn't expect NVELO to be able to offer the software for license in the future.  Current sellers will need to be on the lookout for another software solution after the new year. 

On the other hand I am very interested to see what Samsung can do with NVELO's technology and what integration methods they'll devise for future products. 

AMD caches in on fast boot times with downloadable RAMDisks

Subject: Storage | December 12, 2012 - 02:50 PM |
Tagged: radeon, cache, radeon ramdisk

We've heard mentions of AMD's downloadable RAMDisk software which will portion off a part of your system RAM to act as a cache drive to give you all the benefits of an SSD cache drive without the costs.  There are three levels, two free levels which will give you 4GB if you do not have Radeon branded memory and 6GB if you do.  For $18.99 you can get the Xtreme version which will allow you up to 64GB on any type of RAM and will get rid of the upgrade now pop up which you will see on the free versions.  This software should work with any modern CPU from AMD or Intel which is a great move on AMDs part to help make this software popular.  Hardware Canucks checked the boot time with a Super Anti-Spyware scan that is launched during boot which slowed the RAMDisk down a bit however the launch time of CS5 was significantly faster than even an SSD.  Check it out here, or just download it from here.

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"With memory prices on the decline and Intel's RST caching offering a great solution for budget conscious buyers, AMD is reviving the idea of memory-based application acceleration. Called Radeon RAMDisk, it promises to reduce load times to mere seconds on even the most basic of systems."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Kickstarter begins for Transporter: Internet Connected Private Storage

Subject: Storage | December 6, 2012 - 10:12 AM |
Tagged: transporter, storage, NAS, cloud

I was recently briefed on an interesting new product called the Transporter, a file sharing device engineered by the same folks that took part in the creation of the Drobo. Connected Data has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its production, so I am now free to talk about it. Here's what it looks like:

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Transporter is basically a local area network share. It connects to your router via Gigabit Ethernet (and reportedly runs at close to HDD throughput). With the software installed to your local PCs or Macs, it enables folder sharing and real-time syncing to any other Transporter-equipped location (i.e. a family member). There will also be versions of Transporter with 1TB or 2TB internal hard drives, which shift the file storage burden off of the local computers, if desired.

This may sound a lot like other cloud-based sharing solutions out there, but there are some very significant differences:

  • User data is only stored on local systems or shared with other user-invited locations (via their Transporter).
  • The capacity shared is only limited by your local storage capacity (plus whatever internal storage is installed into the Transporter via its internal 2.5" drive bay).

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To put it simply, Transporter is similar to Dropbox in functionality and convenience, but your data is *only* stored privately, and there are no subscription fees or storage limits (beyond that of your local storage capacity). The Kickstarter has only been going for a few hours, and the 'early adopter' pre-orders are more than half gone. Once the 'early' orders are used up, price for a bare Transporter goes from $149 to $179. 1TB models go for $269 and 2TB for $359. We're definitely keeping our eye on this one.

Source:

SSDs Might Just Get a Little More Solid: Write Wearing Fixed?

Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 5, 2012 - 10:01 PM |
Tagged: Macronix, ssd, enterprise ssd

I have not been too worried about my SSD failing due to excessive write-erase wear and tear. Typical flash cells fail somewhere between a few thousand write cycles with high endurance drives creeping over the ten-thousand cycle border. It is quite rare for me, like many home users, to write to my SSD outside of application updates or profile changes on my web browser.

Enterprise customers tend to hammer on drives quite a bit more ferociously, however. It will primarily be those customers who are most interested in news recently published with the IEEE: modifications to the integrated circuit holding the flash cells can be made to recondition dead NAND cells.

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SSDs have been able to be restored from write-erase degradation through excessive heating, think several hours at two-and-a-half times the sea-level boiling point of water. Clearly tossing SSDs in a range with your fries and chicken strips is not an ideal solution and would not be wise to recommend.

Macronix, the company who claims to have invented the technology based on research into competing Phase Change RAM (PCRAM), assert that their flash will survive at least ten-thousand times longer than enterprise NAND. Their integrated circuit has been designed to deliver extreme heat, 8-times the boiling point of water, local to the flash cell for a very brief time. The article boasts at least 100-million cycles because that was their point where their patience in testing the flash ended: the flash was still ready for more.

That said I do not claim to have too much knowledge about solid state flash so tune in for the December 5th PC Perspective Podcast for more discussion from smarter people. If you found this quick enough you could also tune in live just after this publishes!

Hitachi does external USB 3.0 drives well

Subject: Storage | December 3, 2012 - 05:14 PM |
Tagged: usb 3.0, Touro Mobile Pro, hitachi, external drive

If you spot the Hitachi GST Touro Mobile Pro USB 3.0 external HDD for a reasonable price you really should consider picking it up.  Just looking at the speed charts on NikkTech shows you that this USB 3.0 drive can keep up with eSATA drives and other USB 3.0 drives.  At 80 x 126 x 15mm and weighing 155g it is extremely portable, though the cable only being 1' long is a pity.  If you are in the market for large portable storage that is quick enough your copying doesn't take all night this is worth checking out.

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"Only 25 or so days before we go dark for our much anticipated Christmas vacations (which shouldn't last more than 10 days in total) and so we decided to mainly focus on reviews requested by some of you during the last 2 months. Needless to say we are already testing quite a few gaming peripherals for the past 2 weeks so there isn't really much time for anything else that requires time and effort to test, however since the primary concern of most of you have been 2.5" portable hard disk drives (much easier/faster to test) we gathered quite a few of the latest USB 3.0 models here to see which delivers the most bang for your buck. The first of those portable USB 3.0 HDDs is no other than the latest Touro Mobile Pro 500GB by HGST."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: NikkTech

Intel Pushes New SSD Toolbox, Updates 335 Series Firmware MWI Bug

Subject: Storage | November 28, 2012 - 10:32 PM |
Tagged: ssd toolbox, Intel, firmware, 335

A quick note to users of Intel SSDs - specifically for owners of the 335 Series. Intel has updated their SSD Toolbox app to v3.1.2. This app is used for various tasks on Intel SSDs, such as secure erasure, performance optimization under Windows, and TRIM through RAID-0 under Intel RST / ICH / PCH motherboard SATA controllers. This update is significant in that it can in turn update the firmware of the Intel 335 Series SSDs to correct a bug in how those drives report wear. This bug was initially discovered by Kristian Vättö, over at Anandtech.

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If you have a newer version of the SSD Toolbox, F9 will be listed as "Total NAND Writes", and list that value in MB. The issue with the original 335 firmware was that it incorrectly calculated the wear (the Wearout Indicator - E9 above) such that it would list the drive as worn out after ~1,000 total flash cell erase cycles (i.e. 1,000 x the capacity of the SSD). The firmware update corrects this value to ~3,000 cycles, which is more appropriate for the rating of IMFT 20nm flash. Updating should be non-destructive, but you should backup just in case. The update is not urgent, in that it only corrects how the drive does the math to calculate E9. The Wearout Indicator will change to the correct value after the update, regardless of when it is applied. Additionally, if the MWI reaches 0 prematurely, it should have no impact on operation of the SSD.

Grab the update here.

OCZ interrupts your viewing of the legal battle to introduce a new product; the Vector

Subject: Storage | November 27, 2012 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: vector, ssd, sata, ocz, mlc, barefoot 3

There are three members of the OCZ Vector SSD, the 128GB and 256GB models will have 512MB cache and the 512GB model 1GB of cache, each costing a bit over $1/GB.  Inside is the brand new Barefoot 3 controller which features 8 channels and both an ARM cortex processor and OCZ's secret sauce, the Aragon co-processor.  On paper, the 256GB and 512GB models have the same performance specs with the 128GB model having slightly slower sequential writes and 4k reads, though still the speeds are impressive enough that you won't suffer unduly.  [H]ard|OCP takes you through their torture test here and of course if you haven't seen what Allyn did to them, get reading!

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"OCZ soft launches the 256GB Vector SSD with its first OCZ-proprietary controller, the Barefoot 3. Geared for steady state performance, the OCZ Vector SSD is designed with the end user in mind. Today we take a look at the Vector and the new controller architecture and see how these fare in our steady state testing."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

OCZ Launches Vector SSD Series and Proprietary Barefoot 3 Controller

Subject: Storage | November 27, 2012 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: vector, ssd, sata, ocz, mlc, barefoot 3

SAN JOSE, CA – November 27, 2012 - OCZ Technology Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:OCZ), a leading provider of high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) for computing devices and systems, today announced the availability of its new SATA III-based Vector SSD Series featuring the company’s next-generation Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller. OCZ’s worldwide technology hardware and firmware teams developed the new controller silicon and firmware completely in-house to enable full design control over the Vector SSD Series roadmap, while delivering exceptional I/O performance, enhanced reliability and endurance, and a host of differentiated features to empower high performance laptops, desktops, and workstations with superior storage capabilities.

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OCZ Vector SSDs provide exceptional input/output operations per second (IOPS) performance and the cutting-edge Barefoot 3 controller consistently delivers superior sustained performance over time regardless of whether the data streams are in compressed or uncompressed formats. As a result, this groundbreaking SSD series provides faster file transfers and boot-ups, and a quicker, more responsive storage experience.

“The development of the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller architecture is a crowning achievement in our company’s history, being our first controller silicon and firmware completely designed in-house from start to finish using all of the OCZ technology development teams,” said Ralph Schmitt, CEO for OCZ Technology. “These are the first SSD products delivered under the new OCZ and leverages cutting-edge controller technology to deliver a groundbreaking level of sustained performance and reliability for customers seeking a superior SSD for their high performance computing applications.”

The Vector SSD Series is available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities, and delivers read bandwidth of up to 550 MB/s, write bandwidth of up to 530 MB/s, random read performance of up to 100,000 IOPS. The Vector’s ultra-slim, 7mm sleek alloy housing supports a wide spectrum of computers including the latest thin form factor notebooks, and each Vector SSD is also bundled with a 3.5-inch desktop adapter bracket and Acronis® True Image™ cloning software to enable quick and easy data transfer from legacy hard disk drive (HDD) storage to high performance Vector SSD storage.\

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Endurance was a major priority in the design of the Vector Series, and the highly intelligent Barefoot 3 controller includes an advanced suite of flash management tools that can analyze and dynamically adapt to increasing NAND vulnerabilities as flash cells wear or process geometries get smaller. In this way, the Barefoot 3 controller overcomes the shortcomings associated with MLC NAND flash memory and is specified to deliver 20GB host writes per day for 5 years. This 5-year warranty ensures that Vector SSDs can be reliably used in a wide range of high performance computing environments over an extended lifetime.

Plextor's Marvell powered 256GB M5 Pro SSD

Subject: Storage | November 26, 2012 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: plextor, m5 pro, ssd, marvell 88SS9187, toggle NAND

Hopefully at some point NewEgg will refresh their stock of Plextor's 256GB and 512GB M5 Pro SSDs, as both offer the same rated speed and a price just under $1/GB.  The Marvell controller they are using is one we have seen before, the Indilinx Everest 2 controller found in the OCZ Vertex 4.  The Guru of 3D pitted the 256GB model against numerous MLC SSDs and it trended towards the top of the results, not the fastest but consistent in being among the best performers in all tests.  Another benefit to the drive is the 5 year warranty, something which is becoming all too rare in storage devices.

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"In this article we test, benchmark and review the Plextor M5 Pro series SSD. Plextor has developed this product alongside a marvel controller tied to 256GB of NAND flash memory it is amongst the fastest drives we have ever tested. We sure have lots to talk about alright. The 256GB models have sutained read/write levels of 540 MB/sec and 450 MB/sec respectively.

And with 4K random write performance estimated at 86,000 IOPS (input/output operations per second) it's dressed to impress alright. Have a peek, after which we'll dive into the technology behind it and obviously we'll present you a nice phat performance overview."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: Guru of 3D

Samsung's new 21nm Toggle TLC Flash based Series 840 SSDs

Subject: Storage | November 20, 2012 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, 840, tlc

As part of their review of the Samsung 840 250GB SSD, The Tech Report covers the specifics of the TLC flash memory which is used in the 840 series as opposed to the MLC we saw in the 830 series.   As well they show off some of the capabilities of the control software, which Samsung has dubbed the SSD Magician utility.  Of course from there the benchmarking begins which showed performance continually below the similarly priced 830 series which hurts the new SSDs on the price to performance chart.  Overall they are hard pressed to recommend the drive over the previous models, not only because of the performance but also the shortened lifespan of TLC flash.  As that flash technology matures we may see those concerns fade, as Allyn pointed out in his review.

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"Samsung's 840 Series SSD combines a next-gen fabrication process with an extra bit per cell to lower the cost per gigabyte. We take a closer look at the implications and see how the drive stacks up against the competition."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Western Digital releases 4TB Black series HDD

Subject: Storage | November 20, 2012 - 10:35 AM |
Tagged: WD, western digital, Black, 4TB, hdd

Today Western Digital announced their new 4TB Black Series HDD. This new drive boasts some features normally reserved for their RE (enterprise) series drives, such as dual processors and dual stage actuator tech. This 7200 RPM unit comes with the now standard 64MB cache and SATA 6Gb/sec interface. We will be reviewing a sample upon its arrival, but I suspect performance will be close to the RE series, albeit without the additional enterprise-specific features.

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The 4TB Black kicks off at an MSRP of $339. Hopefully we see some 4TB Greens and Reds out of Western Digital shortly - as those should be at a lower cost and be more suited to the typical mass-storage applications of such a high capacity drive.

Press blast after the break:

Double up your Neutron for more fun; Corsair's new 480GB SSD

Subject: Storage | November 14, 2012 - 06:39 PM |
Tagged: corsair, Neutron GTX 480GB, LAMD Amber

Apart from the extra storage space, the best thing about larger SSDs is their improved performance over smaller sized SSDs as more channels allows for faster data transfer.  Corsair's new $460 Neutron GTX 480GB is no exception with [H]ard|OCP's benchmarks demonstrating speeds surpassing other similar sized SSDs.  The LAMD Amber LM87800 controller inside this SSD does not depend on compression to increase speed which is why the performance of the drive stays at the top of the pack even when faced with uncompressible data.  Speed is not everything with SSDs, as many have found out to their regret which is why thanks to two features onboard this drive, ECC and a new feature called eBoost which acts to clean up the signals received by the drive, [H] would almost class this as an enterprise drive.  A five year warranty doesn't hurt either!

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"The Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB and its LAMD Amber controller represent the next generation of high capacity SSDs. Typically large SSDs suffer performance degradation compared to smaller counterparts, and today we test the Neutron GTX with its Toshiba Toggle NAND to see if this holds true with Corsairs next generation controllers."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Samsung teams up with Ubisoft to include Assassin's Creed III with 840 Pro purchases

Subject: Storage | November 7, 2012 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, Samsung, 840 pro

We're used to seeing various video card vendors tossing in some game titles to sweeten the deal. Now Samsung has jumped in the ring by including bonus copies of Assassin's Creed III with the purchase of 128, 256, or 512GB 840 Pro Series SSDs.

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For a limited time, those who purchase a new 840 Pro will receive a download code for the new game. Note: this deal *does not* apply to the TLC-flash-equipped 840 Series (non-pro).

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Press blast after the break:

Sandisk's Extreme 240GB, not the fastest but certainly the lowest in power consumption

Subject: Storage | November 6, 2012 - 12:15 AM |
Tagged: sandisk, 240gb, toggle NAND, SF-2181, sandforce, Extreme 240GB

SanDisk has been taking advantage of their long experience in the flash memory market to develop a line of SSDs which, apart from the controller, are all made in house.  That way they only have to license a controller, in this case SandForce's 2181, avoiding the costs of developing and improving their own controller.  The cost might be a bit high at $215 when you compare it to some of the deals currently available on the previous generation of SSDs.  [H]ard|OCP saw better performance than they expected from the older SF-2181 but still not to the level of the current generation of controllers.  What helped make this particular drive more attractive was the Toolkit which makes updating your firmware quite easy and remarkably low power consumption.

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"The SanDisk Extreme 240GB is SanDisk's SandForce-powered SSD. Featuring Toggle Mode NAND and the SF-2181 with the latest firmware we give the SanDisk Extreme a spin. How does it stand up to its enthusiast competitors in terms of steady state and out of the box performance?"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel announces new DC S3700 Series of datacenter SSDs

Subject: Storage | November 5, 2012 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: ssd, s3700, enterprise, datacenter

Today Intel officially launched a new line of enterprise-oriented SSDs. Dubbed the DC S3700 ('DC for Data Center', 'S' for SATA), this new line fills the large interface speed void left by the older 710 Series, which was limited to SATA 3Gb/sec speeds.

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The S3700 makes some big promises and we are expecting samples shortly. Here's the tally of what's to come:

  • Intel designed 8-channel controller ASIC and firmware
  • SATA 6Gb/sec interface
  • 7mm x 2.5" form factor
  • Random 4k writes 15x faster and reads 2x faster than SSD 710
  • 75,000 4k random read IOPS (all models)
  • 19/32/36/36k 4k random write IOPS (for 100/200/400/800GB capacity)
  • 500MB/sec sequential reads (all models)
  • 200/365/460/460 MB/sec sequential writes (for 100/200/400/800GB capacity)
  • 25nm MLC-HET IMFT flash
  • Rated for 10 Drive Writes per Day (DWPD) over a 5-year lifetime
  • Solid-State-Capacitor backed power-loss protection
  • Shipping in volume ~Q1 2013
  • 1k qty pricing: $235/$470/$940/$1880 ea. for 100/200/400/800GB capacities

The cost of just over $2/GB should be very enticing for an enterprise-grade SSD, but the most interesting tidbit I got from the briefing was that Intel claims this drive will achieve a <500us response time for 4k random writes, 99.9% of the time. Most SSDs will begin to show intermittent peaks in latency when hit with sustained 4k random access. The S3700 Series should mostly eliminate that issue. More to follow on that front once we can log some hours on a sample.

Plextor's M5 Pro features new flash and a new controller

Subject: Storage | October 26, 2012 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: plextor, m5 pro, ssd, toggle NAND, Marvell, Monet 88SS9187-BLD2

The Plextor M5 Pro introduces both Toshiba's new 19nm toggle NAND and Marvell's new 8-channel dual core Monet controller.  [H]ard|OCP tried out the 256GB model, availble for $250, and were impressed not only by the performance but also the error correction abilities and the system utilities which were included.  They were disappointed that the familiar Plextool software is not supported by this drive but they feel it is only a matter of time before Plextor remedies that issue.  Check out the results of the benchmarks in their full review.

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"Plextor brings the M5 Pro with the new Marvell Monet controller powering its banks of high performance Toshiba Toggle NAND. This is the debut of the first SSD with 19nm Toshiba Toggle NAND, the debutof the new Marvell Monet 88SS9187-BLD2 controller. We take a look and see what these new components bring to the table."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

A quick look at the data on Apple's Fusion Drive

Subject: Editorial, Storage | October 24, 2012 - 08:26 PM |
Tagged: hybrid, fusion drive, fusion, apple

Yesterday, amongst a bunch of other announcements, Apple mentioned a 'new' technology that was built into OSX (10.8.2 and up).

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Dubbed 'Fusion Drive', this tech enables the late 2012 Mac Mini and iMac models to have a pseudo-hybrid drive. There's been a lot of speculation today on just how this technology will work, but I've cut through the chaff to try and shed some proper light on just how this new thing works, and how it is so different than any other 'hybrid' solution out there.

First, it's not a hybrid drive. The iMac or Mac Mini comes with an SSD and a HDD. Two individual SATA devices. Both devices appear as individual drives, even in Disk Utility. Where the magic happens is that OSX can be configured (and is pre-configured in these new systems) to combine the two drives into one drive that presents itself to the user as a single logical volume. The important point is that the drives are 'fused' together, not merged or mirrored. The SSD and HDD each have their own partition, and OSX can reach beneath the Fusion layer and shift files back and forth between the two as it sees fit. Frequently used apps and files can be shifted back and forth between the SSD and HDD, as seen in the below pic:

fusion drive 2-.png

The biggest differences are in that since it's not a mirrored hybrid solution, where the SSD space is not available, and a failure of the HDD causes loss of all data. Fusion Drive combines the two volumes and *adds* the space together, and the apps or files will sit on either device (but not both). All files written go to the SSD first and are later shifted to the HDD in the background. This is actually a very smart way to handle things. The entire OSX install always stays on the SSD, so there is no concern of OS files 'rolling off' of the SSD cache, causing intermittent slowdowns. More (perhaps most) importantly, if the HDD fails on a Fusion Drive setup, OSX should theoretically just keep on chugging, albeit without access to the files or apps that were stored on the HDD. On the flip side, if the SSD were to fail, the HDD could simply be mounted in Target Mode under another Mac, and all files stored to that drive could then be recovered. Sure you won't get everything back in these scenarios, but it provides *much* more flexibility for data recovery, and it's worth repeating the fact that an HDD failure in any other hybrid solution results in the loss of ALL data.

A couple of other quick gotchas: You can still dual boot with boot camp under a Fusion Drive setup, but the boot camp partition will only be at the end of the HDD, not on the SSD. Windows will not only run slower because it's on the spinning disk, it will run slower because the latter portions of a HDD typically see about half of the throughput as compared to the start of that disk. Also, you are only allowed *one* additional (non-Fusion) partition on the HDD, which can be used for another OSX install *or* for the Boot Camp Windows install. Users who prefer to boot greater than two operating systems on their newer Mac will have to do so with Fusion Drive disabled.

More to follow as more data comes in. For now I'm only working off of the other speculation and the Apple Support Page on the matter.