Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ICY DOCK

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction

ICY DOCK has made themselves into a sort of Swiss Army knife of dockable and hot-swappable storage solutions. From multi-bay desktop external devices to internal hot-swap enclosures, these guys have just about every conceivable way to convert storage form factors covered. We’ve looked at some of their other offerings in the past, but this week we will focus on a pair of their ToughArmor series products.

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As you can no doubt see here, these two enclosures aim to cram as many 2.5” x 7mm form factor devices into the smallest space possible. They also offer hot swap capability and feature front panel power + activity LEDs. As the name would imply, these are built to be extremely durable, with ICY DOCK proudly running them over with a truck in some of their product photos.

Read on for our full review of the ICY DOCK ToughArmor MB998SP-B and MB993SK-B!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

As we were publishing our full review of the Western Digital Red 8TB, we noted something odd. While the street prices of the bare drives seemed to be a bit high ($333), the WD My Book was on sale for $250. Ryan happened to look them up and discovered that our local Best Buy actually had them available for store pick-up. Since the 8TB Red and My Book 8TB were launched simultaneously, and we were just provided early samples of the 8TB Reds last week, how could there already be 8TB Reds on the shelf just down the street? Could they have shipped some earlier form of the 8TB Red in the external My Book and continued tweaking their NASware algorithms / firmware prior to the Red launching? Our curiosity got the best of us, and we decided to find out.

Sebastian ran out to his local Best Buy and picked up a single WD My Book 8TB model, promptly took it home and ripped it open. I don’t think he even plugged it in first. This is what he found:

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Well, that’s not a Red label, but it does say Western Digital, and it’s clearly a HelioSeal housing (common to HGST He Series and WD Red 8TB). One thing that immediately stuck out to me was the model number. WD model numbers have a specific pattern (WD80EFZX), and that number above does *not* follow that pattern. The pattern it does follow, however, is that of the HGST He8 line:

He8 part number decoder.png

Sebastian noted something else almost immediately. The label looked like it was on top of another one. Peeling this one back showed this pure white label:

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…and peeling back *that* label gave us this:

Read on for the suspense-filled conclusion!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Specifications

Introduction

Storage devices for personal computers have always been a tricky proposition. While the majority of computer parts are solid state, the computer industry has spent most of its life storing bits on electromechanical mechanical devices like tapes and floppy disks. Speaking relatively, it was only recently (less than a decade) that solid state storage became mainstream, and even today the costs of flash production make rotating media the better option for bulk data storage. Hard drives are typically vented to atmosphere, as the Bernoulli Effect is necessary as part of what keep the drive heads flying above the rotating platters. With any vented enclosure, there is always the risk of atmospheric contaminants finding their way in. Sure there are HEPA-class filters at the vent holes, but they can’t stop organic vapors that may slightly degrade the disk surface over time.

By filling a hard disk with an inert gas and hermetically sealing the disk housing, we can eliminate those potential issues. An added bonus is that if Helium is used, its lower density enables lower air friction of the rotating platters, which translates to lower power consumption when compared to an equivalent air-filled HDD. Ever since HGST released their Helium filled drives, I’ve been waiting for this technology to trickle down to consumer products, and Western Digital has recently brought such a product to market. Today we will be diving into our full performance review of the Western Digital 8TB Red.

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Specifications (source)

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Compared to the 6TB Red, the 8TB model doubles its cache size to 128MB. We also see a slight bump in claimed transfer rates. Idle power consumption sees a slight bump due to different electronics in use, and power/capacity figures check out as well (more on that later as we will include detailed power testing in this article).

Continue reading our review of the 8TB Western Digital Red Helium-filled HDD!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction

Since Samsung’s August 2015 announcement of their upcoming 48-layer V-NAND, we’ve seen it trickle into recent products like the SSD T3, where it enabled 2TB of capacity in a very small form factor. What we have not yet seen was that same flash introduced in a more common product that we could directly compare against the old. Today we are going to satisfy our (and your) curiosity by comparing a 1TB 850 EVO V1 (32-layer - V2) to a 1TB 850 EVO V2 (48-layer - V3).

**edit**

While Samsung has produced three versions of their V-NAND (the first was 24-layer V1 and only available in one of an enterprise SSDs), there have only been two versions of the 850 EVO. Despite this, Samsung internally labels this new 850 EVO as a 'V3' product as they go by the flash revision in this particular case.

**end edit**

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Samsung’s plan is to enable higher capacities with this new flash (think 4TB 850 EVO and PRO), they also intend to silently push that same flash down into the smaller capacities of those same lines. Samsung’s VP of Marketing assured me that they would not allow performance to drop due to higher per-die capacity, and we can confirm that in part with their decision to drop the 120GB 850 EVO during the switch to 48-layer in favor of a planar 750 EVO which can keep performance up. Smaller capacity SSDs work better with higher numbers of small capacity dies, and since 48-layer VNAND in TLC form comes in at 32GB per die, that would have meant only four 48-layer dies in a 120GB SSD.

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Samsung's 48-Layer V-NAND, dissected by TechInsights
(Similar analysis on 32-Layer V-NAND here)

Other companies have tried silently switching flash memory types on the same product line in the past, and it usually does not go well. Any drops in performance metrics for a product with the same model and spec sheet is never welcome in tech enthusiast circles, but such issues are rarely discovered since companies will typically only sample their products at their initial launch. On the flip side, Samsung appears extremely confident in their mid-line flash substitution as they have voluntarily offered to sample us a 1TB 48-layer 850 EVO for direct comparison to our older 1TB 32-layer 850 EVO. The older EVO we had here had not yet been through our test suite, so we will be comparing these two variations directly against each other starting from the same fresh out of the box and completely unwritten state. Every test will be run on both SSDs in the same exact sequence, and while we are only performing an abbreviated round of testing for these products, the important point is that I will be pulling out our Latency Percentile test for detailed performance evaluation at a few queue depths. Latency Percentile testing has proven itself far more consistent and less prone to data scatter than any other available benchmark, so we’ll be trusting it to give us the true detailed scoop on any performance differences between these two types of flash.

Read on for our comparison of the new and the old!
(I just referred to a 3D Flash part as 'old'. Time flies.)

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

Around this same time last year, Samsung launched their Portable SSD T1. This was a nifty little external SSD with some very good performance and capabilities. Despite its advantages and the cool factor of having a thin and light 1TB SSD barely noticeable in your pocket, there was some feedback from consumers that warranted a few tweaks to the design. There was also the need for a new line as Samsung was switching over their VNAND from 32 to 48 layer, enabling a higher capacity tier for this portable SSD. All of these changes were wrapped up into the new Samsung Portable SSD T3:

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Specifications

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Most of these specs are identical to the previous T1, with some notable exceptions. Consumer feedback prompted a newer / heavier metal housing, as the T1 (coming in at only 26 grams) was almost too light. With that newer housing came a slight enlarging of dimensions. We will do some side by side comparisons later in the review.

Read on for our full review of the new Samsung T3!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

The steady increase in flash memory capacity per die is necessary for bringing SSD costs down, but SSDs need a minimum number of dies present to maintain good performance. Back when Samsung announced their 48-layer VNAND, their Senior VP of Marketing assured me that the performance drop that comes along with the low die count present in lower capacity models would be dealt with properly. At the time, Unsoo Kim mentioned the possibility of Samsung producing 128Gbit 48-layer VNAND, but it now appears that they have opted to put everything into 256Gbit on 3D side. Fortunately they still have a planar (2D) NAND production line going, and they will be using that same flash in a newer line of low capacity models. When their 850 Series transitions over to 48-layer (enabling 2TB capacities), Samsung will drop the 120GB capacity of that line and replace it with a new OEM / system builder destined 750 EVO:

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The SSD 750 EVO Series is essentially a throwback to the 840 EVO, but without all of the growing pains experienced by that line. Samsung assured me that the same corrections that ultimately fixed the long-term read-based slow down issues with the 840 EVO also apply to the 750 EVO, and despite the model number being smaller, these should actually perform a bit better than their predecessor. Since it would be silly to just launch a single 120GB capacity to make up for the soon to be dropped 850 EVO 120GB, we also get a 250GB model, which should make for an interesting price point.

Specifications

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Baseline specs are very similar to the older 840 EVO series, with some minor differences (to be shown below). There are some unlisted specs that are carried over from the original series. For those we need to reference the slides from the 840 EVO launch:

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Read on for the full review of these two new models!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Gigabyte

Introduction

NVMe was a great thing to happen to SSDs. The per-IO reduction in latency and CPU overhead was more than welcome, as PCIe SSDs were previously using the antiquated AHCI protocol, which was a carryover from the SATA HDD days. With NVMe came additional required support in Operating Systems and UEFI BIOS implementations. We did some crazy experiments with arrays of these new devices, but we were initially limited by the lack of native hardware-level RAID support to tie multiple PCIe devices together. The launch of the Z170 chipset saw a remedy to this, by including the ability to tie as many as three PCIe SSDs behind a chipset-configured array. The recent C600 server chipset also saw the addition of RSTe capability, expanding this functionality to enterprise devices like the Intel SSD P3608, which was actually a pair of SSDs on a single PCB.

Most Z170 motherboards have come with one or two M.2 slots, meaning that enthusiasts wanting to employ the 3x PCIe RAID made possible by this new chipset would have to get creative with the use of interposer / adapter boards (or use a combination of PCI and U.2 connected Intel SSD 750s). With the Samsung 950 Pro available, as well as the slew of other M.2 SSDs we saw at CES 2016, it’s safe to say that U.2 is going to push back into the enterprise sector, leaving M.2 as the choice for consumer motherboards moving forward. It was therefore only a matter of time before a triple-M.2 motherboard was launched, and that just recently happened - Behold the Gigabyte Z170X-SOC Force!

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This new motherboard sits at the high end of Gigabyte’s lineup, with a water-capable VRM cooler and other premium features. We will be passing this board onto Morry for a full review, but this piece will be focusing on one section in particular:

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I have to hand it to Gigabyte for this functional and elegant design choice. The space between the required four full length PCIe slots makes it look like it was chosen to fit M.2 SSDs in-between them. I should also note that it would be possible to use three U.2 adapters linked to three U.2 Intel SSD 750s, but native M.2 devices makes for a significantly more compact and consumer friendly package.

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With the test system set up, let’s get right into it, shall we?

Read on for our look at triple M.2 in action!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

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This is it. This is the day we have been waiting for.  Ever since we feasted our eyes on the NVMe version of the Samsung SM951, we’ve been begging Samsung to release this as a consumer product. Bonus points if it was powered by their 3D VNAND technology. It took them a while, but they came through, officially announcing the 950 PRO exactly one month ago, and launching them today! Not only will we dive into the performance of this new model, we will also include its results in our new Latency Distribution and Percentile testing.

Specifications:

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Nothing has changed since the announcement. All specs remain the same very impressive 2.2-2.5 GB/s reads, 0.9-1.5 GB/s writes, and upwards of 300k IOPS, all from an M.2 2280 SSD consuming only 7 Watts!

While the 950 PROs will work with the built-in Microsoft NVMe driver (present in Windows 8 and up), Samsung has also provided their own driver, which will increase performance. The same was true for the Intel SSD 750 Series.

Packaging:

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There’s really not much to this packaging, but it’s the most ‘retail’ we’ve seen for packaging of a simple M.2 SSD.

Read on for the full review of the 256GB and 512GB Samsung 950 PROs!!

Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

What you never knew you didn't know

While researching a few upcoming SD / microSD product reviews here at PC Perspective, I quickly found myself swimming in a sea of ratings and specifications. This write up was initially meant to explain and clarify these items, but it quickly grew into a reference too large to include in every SD card article, so I have spun it off here as a standalone reference. We hope it is as useful to you as it will be to our upcoming SD card reviews.

SD card speed ratings are a bit of a mess, so I'm going to do my best to clear things up here. I'll start with classes and grades. These are specs that define the *minimum* speed a given SD card should meet when reading or writing (both directions are used for the test). As with all flash devices, the write speed tends to be the more limiting factor. Without getting into gory detail, the tests used assume mostly sequential large writes and random reads occurring at no smaller than the minimum memory unit of the card (typically 512KB). The tests match the typical use case of an SD card, which is typically writing larger files (or sequential video streams), with minimal small writes (file table updates, etc).

Speed Class

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In the above chart, we see speed 'Class' 2, 4, 6, and 10. The SD card spec calls out very specific requirements for these specs, but the gist of it is that an unfragmented SD card will be able to write at a minimum MB/s corresponding to its rated class (e.g. Class 6 = 6 MB/s minimum transfer speed). The workload specified is meant to represent a typical media device writing to an SD card, with buffering to account for slower FAT table updates (small writes). With higher bus speed modes (more on that later), we also get higher classes. Older cards that are not rated under this spec are referred to as 'Class 0'.

Speed Grade

As we move higher than Class 10, we get to U1 and U3, which are referred to as UHS Speed Grades (contrary to the above table which states 'Class') in the SD card specification. The changeover from Class to Grade has something to do with speed modes, which also relates with the standard capacity of the card being used:

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U1 and U3 correspond to 10 and 30 MB/s minimums, but the test conditions are slightly different for these specs (so Class 10 is not *exactly* the same as a U1 rating, even though they both equate to 10 MB/sec). Cards not performing to U1 are classified as 'Speed Grade 0'. One final note here is that a U rating also implies a UHS speed mode (see the next section).

Read on as we decrypt all of the many specs and ratings present on SD and microSD cards!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

What's better than an 18-channel NVMe PCIe Datacenter SSD controller in a Half Height Half Length (HHHL) package? *TWO* 18-channel NVMe PCIe Datacenter controllers in a HHHL package! I'm sure words to this effect were uttered in an Intel meeting room some time in the past, because such a device now exists, and is called the SSD DC P3608:

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The P3608 is essentially a pair of P3600's glued together on a single PCB, much like how some graphics cards merge a pair of GPUs to act with the performance of a pair of cards combined into a single one:

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What is immediately impressive here is that Intel has done this same trick within 1/4 of the space (HHHL compared to a typical graphics card). We can only imagine the potential of a pair of P3600 SSDs, so lets get right into the specs, disassembly, and testing!

Read on for the full review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Specifications

Introduction:

It has been a while since we took a look at some hard drives here at PC Perspective. While seemingly everyone is pushing hard into Solid State Storage, those spinning platters have gotten the computer industry by for several decades, and they won't be going away any time soon so long as magnetic domains can store bits for cheaper than electrons can. SSDs have been eating away at the market for OS and single drive mobile needs, but when it comes to bulk storage, nothing beats a great hard drive for the money. Since many users would rather avoid maintaining a large array of drives, getting the capacity of each 3.5" unit higher is still a need, especially for storage hungry consumers. Enterprise units have been pushing into 8TB territory lately, but the consumer sweet spot currently remains at 6TB. Western Digital entered this area in July of last year, pushing their popular Green and Red lines up to 6TB. While the capacity was great, those two lines are mean to be power saving, slower spinning drives. When platter speeds are low, the laws of physics (and of rotational latency) kick in and dictate that they could never perform as well as their 7200 RPM counterparts.

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...and now they have filled that gap, with their Black and Red Pro models now made available in up to 6TB capacities. To clarify the product lines here, the Green and Black products are intended for usage as a single drive, while the Red and Red Pro are meant for operating in NAS devices and use in a RAID. The two drives in this review are the faster spinning models, so we should see better performance all around. Spinning those platters faster means more power drawn and more heat generated by air friction across the platters, as we can look into below:

Specifications:

Western Digital Red Pro 6TB:

  • Model: WD6001FFWX
  • Max Sequential Read: 214 MB/s
  • Form Factor: 3.5”
  • Interface Type: SATA 6.0 Gb/s (SATA 3)
  • UBER: <1 in 1015
  • Power (active/idle/standby): 10.6W/7.4W/1.6W
  • Warranty: 5 years

Western Digital Black 6TB:

  • Model: WD6001FZWX
  • Max Sequential: 218 MB/s
  • Form Factor: 3.5”
  • Interface Type: SATA 6.0 Gb/s (SATA 3)
  • UBER: <1 in 1014
  • Power (active/idle/standby): 10.6W/7.6W/1.6W
  • Warranty: 5 years

For comparison, the slower spinning 6TB Red and Green models run at 5.3W/3.4W/0.4W. Lesson learned - moving from ~5400 RPM to 7200 RPM roughly doubles the power draw of a high capacity 3.5" HDD. Other manufacturers are doing things like hermetically sealing their drives and filling them with Helium, but that is a prohibitively expensive proposition for consumer / small business drives, which is what the Black and Red Pro lines are meant to satisfy. It has also been proven that Helium filled drives are not the best if their track geometry is not optimized as well as it could be.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, rst, raid, Intel

A quick look at storage

** This piece has been updated to reflect changes since first posting. See page two for PCIe RAID results! **

Our Intel Skylake launch coverage is intense! Make sure you hit up all the stories and videos that are interesting for you!

When I saw the small amount of press information provided with the launch of Intel Skylake, I was both surprised and impressed. The new Z170 chipset was going to have an upgraded DMI link, nearly doubling throughput. DMI has, for a long time, been suspected as the reason Intel SATA controllers have pegged at ~1.8 GB/sec, which limits the effectiveness of a RAID with more than 3 SSDs. Improved DMI throughput could enable the possibility of a 6-SSD RAID-0 that exceeds 3GB/sec, which would compete with PCIe SSDs.

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Speaking of PCIe SSDs, that’s the other big addition to Z170. Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology was going to be expanded to include PCIe (even NVMe) SSDs, with the caveat that they must be physically connected to PCIe lanes falling under the DMI-connected chipset. This is not as big of as issue as you might think, as Skylake does not have 28 or 40 PCIe lanes as seen with X99 solutions. Z170 motherboards only have to route 16 PCIe lanes from the CPU to either two (8x8) or three (8x4x4) PCIe slots, and the remaining slots must all hang off of the chipset. This includes the PCIe portion of M.2 and SATA Express devices.

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Continue reading our preview of the new storage options on the Z170 chipset!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Since their acquisition by Toshiba in early 2014, OCZ has gradually transitioned their line of SSD products to include parts provided by their parent company. Existing products were switched over to Toshiba flash memory, and that transition went fairly smoothly, save the recent launch of their Vector 180 (which had a couple of issues noted in our review). After that release, we waited for the next release from OCZ, hoping for something fresh, and that appears to have just happened:

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OCZ sent us a round of samples for their new OCZ Trion 100 SSD. This SSD was first teased at Computex 2015. This new model would not only use Toshiba sourced flash memory, it would also displace the OCZ / Indilinx Barefoot controller with Toshiba's own. Then named 'Alishan', this is now officially called the 'Toshiba Controller TC58'. As we found out during Computex, this controller employs Toshiba's proprietary Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) error correction technology:

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Error correction tech gets very wordy, windy, and technical and does so very quickly, so I'll do my best to simplify things. Error correction is basically some information interleaved within the data stored on a given medium. Pretty much everything uses it in some form or another. Some Those 700MB CD-R's you used to burn could physically hold over 1GB of data, but all of that extra 'unavailable' space was error correction necessary to deal with the possible scratches and dust over time. Hard drives do the same sort of thing, with recent changes to how the data is interleaved. Early flash memory employed the same sort of simple error correction techniques initially, but advances in understanding of flash memory error modes have led to advances in flash-specific error correction techniques. More advanced algorithms require more advanced math that may not easily lend itself to hardware acceleration. Referencing the above graphic, BCH is simple to perform when needed, while LDPC is known to be more CPU (read SSD controller CPU) intensive. Toshiba's proprietary QSB tech claims to be 8x more capable of correcting errors, but what don't know what, if any, performance penalty exists on account of it.

We will revisit this topic a bit later in the review, but for now lets focus on the other things we know about the Trion 100. The easiest way to explain it is this is essentially Toshiba's answer to the Samsung EVO series of SSDs. This Toshiba flash is configured in a similar fashion, meaning the bulk of it operates in TLC mode, while a portion is segmented off and operates as a faster SLC-mode cache. Writes first go to the SLC area and are purged to TLC in the background during idle time. Continuous writes exceeding the SLC cache size will drop to the write speed of the TLC flash.

Read on for the full review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Where are all the 2TB SSDs? It's a question we've been hearing since they started to go mainstream seven years ago. While we have seen a few come along on the enterprise side as far back as 2011, those were prohibitively large, expensive, and out of reach of most consumers. Part of the problem initially was one of packaging. Flash dies simply were not of sufficient data capacity (and could not be stacked in sufficient quantities) as to reach 2TB in a consumer friendly form factor. We have been getting close lately, with many consumer focused 2.5" SATA products reaching 1TB, but things stagnated there for a bit. Samsung launched their 850 EVO and Pro in capacities up to 1TB, with plenty of additional space inside the 2.5" housing, so it stood to reason that the packaging limit was no longer an issue, so why did they keep waiting?

The first answer is one of market demand. When SSDs were pushing $1/GB, the thought of a 2TB SSD was great right up to the point where you did the math and realized it would cost more than a typical enthusiast-grade PC. That was just a tough pill to swallow, and market projections showed it would take more work to produce and market the additional SKU than it would make back in profits.

The second answer is one of horsepower. No, this isn't so much a car analogy as it is simple physics. 1TB SSDs had previously been pushing the limits of controller capabilities of flash and RAM addressing, as well as handling Flash Translation Layer lookups as well as garbage collection and other duties. This means that doubling a given model SSD capacity is not as simple as doubling the amount of flash attached to the controller - that controller must be able to effectively handle twice the load.

With all of that said, it looks like we can finally stop asking for those 2TB consumer SSDs, because Samsung has decided to be the first to push into this space:

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Today we will take a look at the freshly launched 2TB version of the Samsung 850 EVO and 850 Pro. We will put these through the same tests performed on the smaller capacity models. Our hope is to verify that the necessary changes Samsung made to the controller are sufficient to keep performance scaling or at least on-par with the 1TB and smaller models of the same product lines.

Read on for the full review!

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Lexar is Micron’s brand covering SD Cards, microSD Cards, USB flash drives, and card readers. Their card readers are known for being able to push high in the various speed grades, typically allowing transfers (for capable SD cards) much faster than what a typical built-in laptop or PC SD card reader is capable of. Today we will take a look at the Lexar ‘Professional Workflow’ line of flash memory connectivity options from Lexar.

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This is essentially a four-bay hub device that can accept various card readers or other types of devices (a USB flash storage device as opposed to just a reader, for example). The available readers range from SD to CF to Professional Grade CFast cards capable of over 500 MB/sec.

We will be looking at the following items today:

  • Professional Workflow HR2
    • Four-bay Thunderbolt™ 2/USB 3.0 reader and storage drive hub
  • Professional Workflow UR1
    • Three-slot microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-I USB 3.0 reader
  • Professional Workflow SR1
    • SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-I USB 3.0 reader
  • Professional Workflow CFR1
    • CompactFlash® USB 3.0 reader
  • Professional Workflow DD256
    • 256GB USB 3.0 Storage Drive

Note that since we were sampled these items, Lexar has begun shipping a newer version of the SR1. The SR2 is a SDHC™/SDXC™ UHS-II USB 3.0 reader. Since we had no UHS-II SD cards available to test, this difference would not impact any of our testing speed results. There is also an HR1 model which has only USB 3.0 support and no Thunderbolt, coming in at a significantly lower cost when compared with the HR2 (more on that later).

Continue reading for our review of all of the above!

Manufacturer: Inateck

One hub to rule them all!

Inateck sent along a small group of connectivity devices for us to evaluate. One such item was their HB7003 7 port USB 3.0 hub:

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This is a fairly standard powered USB hub with one exception - high speed charging. Thanks to an included 36W power adapter and support for Battery Charging Specification 1.2, the HB7003 can charge devices at up to 1.5 Amps at 5 Volts. This is not to be confused with 'Quick Charging', which uses a newer specification and more unique hardware.

Specifications:

  • L/W/H: 6.06" x 1.97" x 0.83"
  • Ports: 7
  • Speed: USB 3.0 5Gbps (backwards compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1)
  • Windows Vista / OSX 10.8.4 and newer supported without drivers

Packaging:

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Densely packed brown box. Exactly how such a product should be packaged.

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Power adapter (~6 foot cord), ~4.5 foot USB 3.0 cord, instruction manual, and the hub itself.

Charging:

Some quick charging tests revealed that the HB7003 had no issue exceeding 1.0 Amp charging rates, but fell slightly short of a full 1.5A charge rate due to the output voltage falling a little below the full 5V. Some voltage droop is common with this sort of device, but it did have some effect. In one example, an iPad Air drew 1.3A (13% short of a full 1.5A). Not a bad charging rate considering, but if you are expecting a fast charge of something like an iPad, its dedicated 2.1A charger is obviously the better way to go.

Performance and Usability:

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As you can see above, even though the port layout is on a horizontal plane, Inateck has spaced the ports enough that most devices should be able to sit side by side. Some wider devices may take up an extra port, but with seven to work with, the majority of users should have enough available ports even if one or two devices overlap an adjacent port. In the above configuration, we had no issue saturating the throughput to each connected device. I also stepped up to a Samsung USB T1 which also negotiated at the expected USB 3.0 speeds.

Pricing and Availability

Inateck is selling it these direct from their Amazon store (link above).

Conclusion:

Pros:

  • Clean design 7-port USB 3.0 hub.
  • Port spacing sufficient for most devices without interference.
  • 1.5A per port charging.
  • Low cost.

Cons:

  • 'Wall wart' power adapter may block additional power strip outlets.

At just $35, the Inateck HB7003 is a good quality 7-port USB 3.0 hub. All ports can charge devices at up to 1.5A while connecting them to the host at data rates up to 5 Gbps. The only gripe I had was that the hub was a bit on the light weight side and as a result it easily slid around on the desk when the attached cords were disturbed, but some travelers might see light weight as a bonus. Overall this is a simple, no frills USB 3.0 hub that gets the job done nicely.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Inateck

You love the dock!

Today we'll take a quick look at the Inateck FD2002 USB 3.0 to dual SATA dock:

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This is a UASP capable dock that should provide near full SATA 6Gb/sec throughput to each of two connected SATA SSDs or HDDs. This particular dock has no RAID capability, but exchanges that for an offline cloning / duplication mode. While the FD2002 uses ASMedia silicon to perform these tasks, similar limitations are inherent in competing hardware fron JMicron, which comes with a similar toggle of either RAID or cloning capability. Regardless, Inateck made the logical choice with the FD2002, as hot swap docks are not the best choice for hardware RAID.

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The pair of ASMedia chips moving data within the FD2002. The ASM1153E on the left couples the USB 3.0 link to the ASM1091R, which multiplexes to the pair of SATA ports and apparently adds cloning functionality.

Continue reading for our review of the Inateck FD2002 USB 3.0 Dual SATA Dock!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: SSD 750, pcie, NVMe, IOPS, Intel

It's been a while since we reviewed Intel's SSD 750 PCIe NVMe fire-breathing SSD, and since that launch we more recently had some giveaways and contests. We got the prizes in to be sent out to the winners, but before that happened, we had this stack of hardware sitting here. It just kept staring down at me (literally - this is the view from my chair):

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That stack of 5 Intel SSD 750’s was burning itself into my periphery as I worked on an upcoming review of the new Seiki Pro 40” 4K display. A few feet in the other direction was our CPU testbed machine, an ASUS X99-Deluxe with a 40-lane Intel Core i7-5960 CPU installed. I just couldn't live with myself if we sent these prizes out without properly ‘testing’ them first, so then this happened:

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This will not be a typical complete review, as this much hardware in parallel is not realistically comparable to even the craziest power user setup. It is more just a couple of hours of playing with an insane hardware configuration and exploring the various limits and bottlenecks we were sure to run into. We’ll do a few tests in a some different configurations and let you know what we found out.

Continue reading for the results of our little experiment!

A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt

Today at Computex, Intel took the wraps off of the latest iteration of Thunderbolt, a technology that I am guessing many of you thought was dead in the water. It turns out that's not the case, and this new set of features that Thunderbolt 3 offers may in fact push it over the crest and give it the momentum needed to become a useable and widespread standard.

First, Thunderbolt 3 starts with a new piece of silicon, code named Alpine Ridge. Not only does Alpine Ridge increase the available Thunderbolt bandwidth to 40 Gbps but it also adds a native USB 3.1 host controller on the chip itself. And, as mobile users will be glad to see, Intel is going to start utilizing the new USB Type-C (USB-C) connector as the standard port rather than mini DisplayPort.

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This new connector type, that was already a favorite among PC Perspective staff because of its size and its reversibility, will now be the way connectivity and speed increases this generation with Thunderbolt. This slide does a good job of summarizing the key take away from the TB3 announcement: 40 Gbps, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, 100 watt (bi-directional) charging capability, 15 watt device power and support for four protocols including Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB and PCI Express.

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Protocol support is important and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C will be able to connect directly to a DisplayPort monitor, to an external USB 3.1 storage drive, an old thumb drive or a new Thunderbolt 3 docking station. This is truly unrivaled flexibility from a single connector. The USB 3.1 controller is backward compatible as well: feel free to connect any USB device to it that you can adapt to the Type-C connection.

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From a raw performance perspective Thunderbolt 3 offers a total of 40 Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth, twice that of Thunderbolt 2 and 4x what we get with USB 3.1. That offers users the ability to combine many different devices, multiple displays and network connections and have plenty of headroom.

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With Thunderbolt 3 you get twice as much raw video bandwidth, two DP 1.2 streams, allowing you to run not just a single 4K display at 60 Hz but two of them, all over a single TB3 cable. If you want to connect a 5K display though, you will be limited to just one of them.

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For mobile users, which I think is the area where Thunderbolt 3 will be the most effective, the addition of USB 3.1 allows for charging capability up to 100 watts. This is in addition to the 15 watts of power that Thunderbolt provides to devices directly - think external storage, small hubs/docks, etc.

Continue reading our preview of the new Thunderbolt 3 technology!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Back in November of last year, we tested the Corsair Neutron XT, which was the first product to feature the Phison PS3110-S10 controller. First spotted at Flash Memory Summit, the S10 sports the following features:

  • Quad-core controller - Quad-core CPU dedicates three cores just to managing flash and maintaining performance
  • Maximum throughput and I/O - Offers speeds of up to 560 MB/s read and 540 MB/s write and 100K IOPs on read and 90 IOPs on write, saturating the SATA 6Gbps bus
  • End-to-end Data Path Protection - Enterprise level CRC/ECC corrects internal soft errors as well as detecting and correcting any errors that may arise between the DRAM, controller, and flash
  • SmartECC™ - Reconstructs defective/faulty pages when regular ECC fails
  • SmartRefresh™ - Monitors block ECC health status and refreshes blocks periodically to improve data retention
  • SmartFlush™ - Minimizes time data spends in cache to ensure data retention in the event of power loss
  • Advanced wear-leveling and garbage collection

Corsair was Phison's launch partner, but as that was a while ago, we now have two additional SSD models launching with the S10 at their core:

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To the left is the Kingston HyperX Savage. To the right is the Patriot Ignite. They differ in flash memory types used, available capacities, and the stated performance specs vary slightly among them. Today we'll compare them against the Neutron XT as well as a selecton of other SATA SSDs.

Read on for the full review!