Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel launched their Datacenter 'P' Series parts a little over two years ago. Since then, the P3500, P3600, and P3700 lines have seen various expansions and spinoffs. The most recent to date was the P3608, which packed two full P3600's into a single HHHL form factor. With Intel 3D XPoint / Optane parts lurking just around the corner, I had assumed there would be no further branches of the P3xxx line, but Intel had other things in mind. IMFT 3D NAND offers greater die capacities at a reduced cost/GB, apparently even in MLC form, and Intel has infused this flash into their new P3520:

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Remember the P3500 series was Intel's lowest end of the P line, and as far as performance goes, the P3520 actually takes a further step back. The play here is to get the proven quality control and reliability of Intel's datacenter parts into a lower cost product. While the P3500 launched at $1.50/GB, the P3520 pushes that cost down *well* below $1/GB for a 2TB HHHL or U.2 SSD.

Read on for our full review of the Intel DC P3520 SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Seagate

Introduction and Specifications

Introduction

Barracuda is a name we have not heard in a good while from Seagate. Last seen on their 3TB desktop drive, it appears they thought it was time for a comeback. The company is revamping their product lines, along with launching a full round of 10TB Helium-filled offerings that cover just about anything you might need:

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Starting from the center, IronWolf is their NAS drive, optimized for arrays as large as 8 disks. To the right is their surveillance drive offering, the SkyHawk. These are essentially NAS units with custom firmware optimized for multiple stream recording. Not mentioned above is the FireCuda, which is a rebrand of their Desktop SSHD. Those are not He-filled (yet) as their max capacity is not high enough to warrant it. We will be looking at those first two models in future pieces, but the subject of today’s review is the BarraCuda line. The base 3.5” BarraCuda line only goes to 4TB, but the BarraCuda Pro expands upon those capacities, including 6TB, 8TB, and 10TB models. The subject of today’s review is the 10TB BarraCuda Pro.

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Read on for our review of the 10TB BarraCuda Pro!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: DeepSpar

Introduction, Packaging, and Internals

Introduction

Being a bit of a storage nut, I have run into my share of failed and/or corrupted hard drives over the years. I have therefore used many different data recovery tools to try to get that data back when needed. Thankfully, I now employ a backup strategy that should minimize the need for such a tool, but there will always be instances of fresh data on a drive that went down before a recent backup took place or a neighbor or friend that did not have a backup.

I’ve got a few data recovery pieces in the cooker, but this one will be focusing on ‘physical data recovery’ from drives with physically damaged or degraded sectors and/or heads. I’m not talking about so-called ‘logical data recovery’, where the drive is physically fine but has suffered some corruption that makes the data inaccessible by normal means (undelete programs also fall into this category). There are plenty of ‘hard drive recovery’ apps out there, and most if not all of them claim seemingly miraculous results on your physically failing hard drive. While there are absolutely success stories out there (most plastered all over testimonial pages at those respective sites), one must take those with an appropriate grain of salt. Someone who just got their data back with a <$100 program is going to be very vocal about it, while those who had their drive permanently fail during the process are likely to go cry quietly in a corner while saving up for a clean-room capable service to repair their drive and attempt to get their stuff back. I'll focus more on the exact issues with using software tools for hardware problems later in this article, but for now, surely there has to be some way to attempt these first few steps of data recovery without resorting to software tools that can potentially cause more damage?

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Well now there is. Enter the RapidSpar, made by DeepSpar, who hope this little box can bridge the gap between dedicated data recovery operations and home users risking software-based hardware recoveries. DeepSpar is best known for making advanced tools used by big data recovery operations, so they know a thing or two about this stuff. I could go on and on here, but I’m going to save that for after the intro page. For now let’s get into what comes in the box.

Note: In this video, I read the MFT prior to performing RapidNebula Analysis. It's optimal to reverse those steps. More on that later in this article.

Read on for our full review of the RapidSpar!

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Angelbird

Cool your jets

Cool Your Jets: Can the Angelbird Wings PX1 Heatsink-Equipped PCIe Adapter Tame M.2 SSD Temps?

Introduction to the Angelbird Wings PX1

PCIe-based M.2 storage has been one of the more exciting topics in the PC hardware market during the past year. With tremendous performance packed into a small design no larger than a stick of chewing gum, PCIe M.2 SSDs open up new levels of storage performance and flexibility for both mobile and desktop computing. But these tiny, powerful drives can heat up significantly under load, to the point where thermal performance throttling was a critical concern when the drives first began to hit the market.

While thermal throttling is less of a concern for the latest generation of NVMe M.2 SSDs, Austrian SSD and accessories firm Angelbird wants to squash any possibility of performance-killing heat with its Wings line of PCIe SSD adapters. The company's first Wings-branded product is the PX1, a x4 PCIe adapter that can house an M.2 SSD in a custom-designed heatsink.

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Angelbird claims that its aluminum-coated copper-core heatsink design can lower the operating temperature of hot M.2 SSDs like the Samsung 950 Pro, thereby preventing thermal throttling. But at a list price of $75, this potential protection doesn't come cheap. We set out to test the PX1's design to see if Angelbird's claims about reduced temperatures and increased performance hold true.

PX1 Design & Installation

PC Perspective's Allyn Malventano was impressed with the build quality of Angelbird's products when he reviewed its "wrk" series of SSDs in late 2014. Our initial impression of the PX1 revealed that Angelbird hasn't lost a step in that regard during the intervening years.

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The PX1 features an attractive black design and removable heatsink, which is affixed to the PCB via six hex screws. A single M-key M.2 port resides in the center of the adapter, with mounting holes to accommodate 2230, 2242, 2260, 2280, and 22110-length drives.

Continue reading our review of the Angelbird Wings PX1 Heatsink PCIe Adapter!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction:

Everyone expects SSD makers to keep pushing out higher and higher capacity SSDs, but the thing holding them back is sufficient market demand for that capacity. With that, it appears Samsung has decided it was high time for a 4TB model of their 850 EVO. Today we will be looking at this huge capacity point, and paying close attention to any performance dips that sometimes result in pushing a given SSD controller / architecture to extreme capacities.

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This new 4TB model benefits from the higher density of Samsung’s 48-layer V-NAND. We performed a side-by-side comparison of 32 and 48 layer products back in March, and found the newer flash to reduce Latency Percentile profiles closer to MLC-equipped Pro model than the 32-layer (TLC) EVO:

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Latency Percentile showing reduced latency of Samsung’s new 48-layer V-NAND

We’ll be looking into all of this in today’s review, along with trying our hand at some new mixed paced workload testing, so let’s get to it!

Read on for our full review of the Samsung 850 EVO 4TB SATA SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Micron
Tagged: U.2, ssd, pro, pcie, NVMe, micron, MAX, HHHL, 9100

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

It's been too long since we took a look at enterprise SSDs here at PC Perspective, so it's high time we get back to it! The delay has stemmed from some low-level re-engineering of our test suite to unlock some really cool QoS and Latency Percentile possibilities involving PACED workloads. We've also done a lot of work to distill hundreds of hours of test results into fewer yet more meaningful charts. More on that as we get into the article. For now, let's focus on today's test subject:

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Behold the Micron 9100 MAX Series. Inside that unassuming 2.5" U.2 enclosure sits 4TB of flash and over 4GB of DRAM. It's capable of 3 GB/s reads, 2 GB/s writes, and 750,000 IOPS. All from inside that little silver box! There's not a lot more to say here because nobody is going to read much past that 3/4 MILLION IOPS figure I just slipped, so I'll just get into the rest of the article now :).

Specifications:

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The 9100's come in two flavors and form factors. The MAX series (1.2TB and 2.4TB in the above list) come with very high levels of performance and endurance, while the PRO series comes with lower overprovisioning, enabling higher capacity points for a given flash loadout (800GB, 1.6TB, 3.2TB). Those five different capacity / performance points are available in both PCIe (HHHL) and U.2 (2.5") form factors, making for 10 total available SKUs. All products are PCIe 3.0 x4, using NVMe as their protocol. They should all be bootable on systems capable of UEFI/NVMe BIOS enumeration.

Idle power consumption is a respectable 7W, while active consumption is selectable in 20W, 25W, and 'unlimited' increments. While >25W operation technically exceeds the PCIe specification for non-GPU devices, we know that the physical slot is capable of 75W for GPUs, so why can't SSDs have some more fun too! That said, even in unlimited mode, the 9100's should still stick relatively close to 25W and in our testing did not exceed 29W at any workload. Detailed power testing is coming to future enterprise articles, but for now, the extent will be what was measured and noted in this paragraph.

Packaging:

Our 9100 MAX samples came only in anti-static bags, so no fancy packaging to show here. Enterprise parts typically come in white/brown boxes with little flair.

Read on for our full review of the Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB U.2 Enterprise SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Pre and Post Update Testing

Samsung launched their 840 Series SSDs back in May of 2013, which is over three years ago as of this writing. They were well-received as a budget unit but rapidly eclipsed by the follow-on release of the 840 EVO.

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A quick check of our test 840 revealed inconsistent read speeds.

We broke news of Samsung’s TLC SSDs being effected by a time-based degrading of read speeds in September of 2014, and since then we have seen nearly every affected product patched by Samsung, with one glaring exception - the original 840 SSD. While the 840 EVO was a TLC SSD with a built-in SLC static data cache, the preceding 840 was a pure TLC drive. With the focus being on the newer / more popular drives, I had done only spot-check testing of our base 840 sample here at the lab, but once I heard there was finally a patch for this unit, I set out to do some pre-update testing so that I could gauge any improvements to read speed from this update.

As a refresher, ‘stale’ data on an 840 EVO would see reduced read speeds over a period of months after those files were written to the drive. This issue was properly addressed in a firmware issued back in April of 2015, but there were continued grumbles from owners of other affected drives, namely the base model 840. With the Advanced Performance Optimization patch being issued so long after others have been patched, I’m left wondering why there was such a long delay on this one? Differences in the base-840’s demonstration of this issue revealed themselves in my pre-patch testing:

Read on for our look at this new firmware for the Samsung 840!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction

Western Digital launched their My Passport Wireless nearly two years ago. It was a nifty device that could back up or offload SD cards without the need for a laptop, making it ideal for photographers in the field. I came away from that review wondering just how much more you could pack into a device like that, and today I get to find out:

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Not to be confused with the My Passport Pro (a TB-connected portable RAID storage device), the My Passport Wireless Pro is meant for on-the-go photographers who seek to back up their media while in the field but also lighten their backpacks. The concept is simple - have a small device capable of offloading (or backing up) SD cards without having to lug along your laptop and a portable hard drive to do so. Add in a wireless hotspot with WAN pass-through along with mobile apps to access the media and you can almost get away without bringing a laptop at all. Oh, and did I mention this one can also import photos and videos from your smartphone while charging it via USB?

Specifications

  • Capacity: 2TB and 3TB
  • Battery: 6,400 mAH / 24WH
  • UHS-I SD Card Reader
  • USB 3.0 (upstream) port for data and charging
  • USB 2.0 (downstream) port for importing and charging smartphones
  • 802.11AC + N dual band (2.4 / 5 GHz) WiFi
  • 2.4A Travel Charge Adapter (included)
  • Plex Media Server capable
  • Available 'My Cloud' mobile apps

Packaging

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No surprises here. 2.4W power adapter is included this time around, which is a nice touch.

Read on for our review of the WD My Passport Wireless Pro!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Crucial

Introduction, Dynamic Write Acceleration, and Packaging

Introduction

Micron joined Intel in announcing their joint venture production of IMFT 3D NAND just a bit over a year ago. The industry was naturally excited since IMFT has historically enabled relatively efficient production, ultimately resulting in reduced SSD prices over time. I suspect this time things will be no different as IMFT's 3D Flash has been aiming high die capacities since its inception, and I suspect their second generation will *double* per-die capacities while keeping speeds reasonable thanks to a quad-plane design implemented from the start of this endeavor. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit as there are no consumer products sporting this flash just yet - well not until today at least:

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Marketed under Micron's consumer brand Crucial, the MX300 is their first entrant into the consumer space, as well as the first consumer SSD sporting IMFT 3D NAND. Crucial is known for their budget-minded SSDs, and for the MX300 they chose to go with the best cost/GB they could manage with what they had to work with. That meant putting this new 3D NAND into TLC mode. Now there are many TLC haters out there, but remember this is 3D NAND. Samsung's 850 EVO can exceed 500 MB/sec writes to TLC at its 500GB capacity point, and this MX300 is a product that is launching with *only* a 750GB capacity, so its TLC speed should be at least reasonable.

(the return of) Dynamic Write Acceleration

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Dynamic Write Acceleration in action during a sequential fill - that last slowest part was my primary concern for the mX300.

TLC is not the only story here because Crucial has included their Dynamic Write Acceleration (DWA) technology into the MX300. This is a tech where the SSD controller is able to dynamically switch flash programming modes of the flash pool, doing so at the block level. This appears to be a feature unique to IMFT flash, as every other 'hybrid' SSD we have tested had a static SLC cache area. DWA's ability to switch flash modes on-the-fly has always fascinated me on paper, but I just haven't been impressed by Micron's previous attempts to implement it. The M600 was a bit all over the place on its write consistency, and that SSD was flipping blocks between SLC and MLC. With the MX300 flipping between SLC and *TLC*, there was a possibility of far more noticeable slow downs in the cases where large writes were taking place and the controller was caught trying to scavenge space in the background.

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New Latency Percentile vs. legacy IO Percentile, shown here highlighting a performance inconsistency seen in the Toshiba OCZ RD400. Note which line more closely represents the Latency Distribution (gray) also on this plot.

Read on for our full review of the Crucial MX300 750GB SATA SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Toshiba (OCZ)

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

The OCZ RevoDrive has been around for a good long while. We looked at the first ever RevoDrive back in 2010. It was a bold move for the time, as PCIe SSDs were both rare and very expensive at that time. OCZ's innovation was to implement a new VCA RAID controller which kept latencies low and properly scaled with increased Queue Depth. OCZ got a lot of use out of this formula, later expanding to the RevoDrive 3 x2 which expanded to four parallel SSDs, all the way to the enterprise Z-Drive R4 which further expanded that out to eight RAIDed SSDs.

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OCZ's RevoDrive lineup circa 2011.

The latter was a monster of an SSD both in physical size and storage capacity. Its performance was also impressive given that it launched five years ago. After being acquired by Toshiba, OCZ re-spun the old VCA-driven SSD one last time in the form of a RevoDrive 350, but it was the same old formula and high-latency SandForce controllers (updated with in-house Toshiba flash). The RevoDrive line needed to ditch that dated tech and move into the world of NVMe, and today it has!

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Here is the new 'Toshiba OCZ RD400', branded as such under the recent rebadging that took place on OCZ's site. The Trion 150 and Vertex 180 have also been relabeled as TR150 and VT180. This new RD400 has some significant changes over the previous iterations of that line. The big one is that it is now a lean M.2 part which can come on/with an optional adapter card for those not having an available M.2 slot.

Read on for our full review of the new OCZ RD400!

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:

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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:

specs.png

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:

p3608-nvme-controllers.jpg

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!