Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: AMD

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

AMD has been branching their brand out past CPUs for nearly a decade now. Back in 2006, AMD acquired ATI, and their video card branch has been highly competitive ever since. Then in 2011, AMD entered the RAM market by partnering with Patriot and VisionTek. That partnership appears to have been fruitful, along with some additional help in the form of RAMDisk software through an additional partnership with Dataram, as more recently a highly competitive Gamer Series of that RAM was launched. So, CPU's - check, GPU's - check, RAM - check. What's next? Solid State Drives? Sure, why not!

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Behold the AMD Radeon R7 SSD!

Ok, so the naming might be a bit confusing for those familiar with AMD's video card line of the same name, so you'll have to be sure to include 'SSD' in your searches if you are looking for one of these on the market. Just like AMD handled the RAM, they have again chosen to partner with another company in the creation of a new product:

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...and this time that choice was OCZ. As you can see above, the Radeon R7 is a gamer-oriented SSD, which sits right in between the Vertex 460 and the Vector 150 in OCZ's product lineup. The expectation is performance similar to the Vector, but with a slightly lower warranty and GB/day rating. We also see the inclusion of the lower cost 'advanced' Toshiba A19nm MLC flash, which should help with pricing and get this new SSD into the hands of even more gamers.

Continue reading as we evaluate the new AMD Radeon R7 SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Angelbird

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

You might have never heard of Angelbird - until now, that is. Angelbird Technologies GmbH is an SSD maker based out of Vorarlberg, Austria. Their product lines have historically focused around high end and Mac-based products, with a recent arch into portable SSDs (like their SSD2go line). Angelbird is known for their high build quality, and their products are assembled using a technique I can appreciate - vapor phase soldering - (seen here) a technique that puts the least possible thermal stress on the components, as well as ensuring all solder joints are oxygen free. While the vast majority of the their prior products have been build around SandForce controllers, today they have launched a new line, the SSD wrk:

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The Angelbird SSD wrk is built around a new (to them) controller, the SM2246EN from Silicon Motion:

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Silicon Motion prides themselves on making SSD controllers that deliver good performance at very low power consumption. For those wanting more detail on this particular controller technology, we have a detailed analysis from last August, available at this page.

Continue reading as we evaluate the new Angelbird SSD wrk!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, sata, ocz, ARC

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

OCZ is on what I would consider to be an upswing now that it exists under the relative safety of its parent company, Toshiba. Shortly after they were acquired, OCZ cut a bunch of unnecessary and/or redundant SKUs from their inventory and simultaneously began the transition of all of their product lines to exclusively use Toshiba branded flash. It only makes sense, given that flash is now available in-house - a luxury OCZ had wanted to have for quite some time. The changeover so far has refreshed the Vector 150, Vertex 460, and most recently the RevoDrive 350. Today OCZ has made another change, but instead of refreshing an old product, they are introducing a new one:

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Behold the ARC 100!

To those wondering why OCZ needs another model SSD, and where that model will fall in their lineup, here's everything you need to see:

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...so we have a slightly de-rated SSD, with the same Indilinx Barefoot controller, and the same Toshiba 19nm flash, but with a *significantly* reduced price. I wouldn't sweat the 20GB/day rating, as the vast majority of users will average far less than that daily when that usage is spread over a multi-year period. Even heavy gamers that blow through 100+GB of writes on an initial system and game install will still average far less than that over the subsequent months and years. Here is a look at the complete OCZ product spectrum, including their business and PCIe offerings:

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In our prior (and this) review, we've covered the whole bottom row. While we have reviewed the Z-Drive 4500 / XL's predecessor (the Z-Drive R4), The 4500 is not yet on finalized firmware. 

OK, so they've got my attention with this price thing, so lets see how well the ARC performs given its lower cost:

Continue reading as we evaluate the new OCZ ARC 100!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Thecus

Introduction

The Thecus N2560 is a dual-bay NAS Server powered by an Intel Atom SoC. With the addition of HDMI output could this be the answer for some basic HTPC needs as well?

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The Thecus N2560 at work in the living room

The N2560 is similar in some ways to the Thecus N2310 NAS we looked at a couple of months ago, but it builds on both the functionality and power of that unit. Both are 2-bay designs with support for up to 8TB of storage via dual 4TB hard drives, and they run the same OS (ThecusOS 6). There are some very big differences, too. The N2560 boasts an Intel Atom SoC which provides dual 1.60 GHz cores, compared to the N2310’s single 800 MHz PowerPC core. The N2560 also features a full-size HDMI output as well as SPDIF digital audio output, making it a potential alternative for some HTPC tasks.

The Thecus N2560 is an attractive-looking device, with the smooth lines and finish of a more expensive product. But beyond the N2560's appearance and basic function as a NAS, this is really a server. Digital audio and video output is certainly an impressive addition for a device that retails for around $180, making it a compelling budget HTPC option if the OS and media software work well. Since the basics of the Thecus OS and NAS usage were covered with the N2310, the media output potential of the N2560 is the area of focus for this review.

Continue reading our look at the Thecus N2560 NAS Server!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer:

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

A few months back, we took a look at the ADATA Premier Pro SP920 series of SSDs. Those came equipped with the Marvell 88SS9189 controller. Marvell SSD controllers have always done a good job, and they were among the first to support SATA 6Gbit speeds. Crucial was one of the first to adopt the Marvell controller into their SATA SSD products, so it seems fitting that we revisit the 88SS9189 controller in the form of Micron's Crucial M550 Series of SSDs:

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Being one of the big manufacturers of SSDs, Micron has some cool production videos. Here's one of their videos covering the production of flash all the way through to the assembly of an SSD. We actually toured one of these plants a few years back. Good stuff:

Continue reading as we evaluate all available capacities of the Crucial M550!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Tagged: wdc, WD, Red Pro, red, hdd, 6tb, 4TB

Introduction and Specs

Introduction:

*** NOTE ***

In the preparation for this review, we noted abnormal behavior with the 6TB Red. After coordination with Western Digital, they replicated our results and will be issuing a firmware to correct the issue. We are publishing this piece as-is, with caveats added as appropriate. We will revisit this piece with an additional update once we have retested the 6TB Red on the updated firmware / configuration. More information / detail is available in our related news post on this matter.

*** END NOTE ***

Last year we covered the benefits of TLER enabled drives, and the potential for drive errors in a RAID can lead to the potential loss of entire arrays. Western Digital solved this problem by their introduction of the WD Red series. That series was since incrementally updated to include a 4TB capacity, and other Western Digital lines were also scaled up to 4TB capacities.

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This week the Red line was updated to include both 5TB and 6TB models, sporting 1.2TB per platter. Performance is expected to be slightly improved over the older / smaller capacities of the Red. The upgraded line will use an improved 'NASware 3.0' firmware, which makes improvements to Western Digital's software based vibration compensation. These improvements mean WD can now support up to 8 Reds in a single chassis (up from 5 with NASware 2.0).

Also announced was the new Red Pro line, available in capacities up to 4TB. The Red Pro is just as it sounds - a 'Pro' version of the Red. This model borrows more features from WD's enterprise line, making it very similar to an SE series HDD. Imagine a Red, but at 7200RPM and more aggressive seek times. The Red Pro also borrows the enterprise-grade 5-year warranty and is supported in chassis up to 16 bays, thanks to built-in hardware vibration compensation. When all is said and done, the Red Pro is basically a WD SE with firmware tweaked for NAS workloads.

As a recap of what can potentially happen if you have a large RAID with 'normal' consumer grade HDD's (and by consumer grade I mean those without any form of Time Limited Error Recovery, or TLER for short):

  • Array starts off operating as normal, but drive 3 has a bad sector that cropped up a few months back. This has gone unnoticed because the bad sector was part of a rarely accessed file.
  • During operation, drive 1 encounters a new bad sector.
  • Since drive 1 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 1 and marks it offline.
  • Array is now in degraded status with drive 1 marked as failed.
  • User replaces drive 1. RAID controller initiates rebuild using parity data from the other drives.
  • During rebuild, RAID controller encounters the bad sector on drive 3.
  • Since drive 3 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 3 and marks it offline.
  • Rebuild fails.
  • Blamo, your data is now (mostly) inaccessible.

I went into much further detail on this back in the intro to the WD 3TB Red piece, but the short of it is that you absolutely should use a HDD intended for RAID when building one.

Continue reading our review of the new WD 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro!!

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Corsair

Need 128GB at 450 MB/s in your pocket?

We don't normally do reviews on USB flash drives, even if they are USB 3.0 based. But the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX turned out to be a bit different. Not only is this a USB 3.0 capable thumb drive, it is powered by an SSD controller, pushing performance as high as 460 MB/s in our testing! Add to that capacity options of 128GB and 256GB and you have a flash drive that really stands out from majority of the market.

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Check out the video review below that Allyn and I made about the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB flash drive and then continue on to see some more pictures and our quick benchmark results.

The Flash Voyager GTX is a bit large in pantheon of USB thumb drives but it's actually smaller than I expected it when I heard the capacity options available. You'll definitely be able to keep this around your neck or in your pocket without noticing it and you may still be able to keep it on your key ring. 

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What do you do with 128GB or 256GB of flash drive? Well, other than the obvious of having a huge capacity drive for your "sneaker net" implementation at your home or office, you can investigate more interesting usage models. If you are looking for a more secure place to store sensitive files that you don't want on your home or work PC full time, just keep them on the Flash Voyager GTX and plug it into a USB 3.0 port when you want access. You'll get performance on par with an SSD but the ability to quickly disconnect it.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB USB 3.0 SSD Flash Drive!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Late last year, Western Digital launched their My Cloud series, first with a single-drive My Cloud, and immediately followed up with a beefier small-office product, the 4-drive My Cloud EX4. Then earlier this year, they filled My Cloud gap (so to speak), with a 2-drive variant of the EX4 - the My Cloud EX2. As the EX2 was more of a business type of NAS, it commanded a bit of a price premium as compared to competing 2-bay NAS devices. The logical solution is was for WD to expand the standard My Cloud lineup upward by adding a 2-bay device to their existing consumer line.

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The My Cloud Mirror is very similar to the My Cloud EX2. You get the bulk of the same features as compared with the EX2, but with some of the more workstation / enterprise features removed. Here's a couple of slides to help explain those differences:

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Packaging:

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Packaging is simple, with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud Mirror!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction

Samsung has certainly been pushing the envelope in the SSD field. For the past two years straight, they have launched class leading storage products, frequently showing outside-the-box thinking. Their 840 PRO series was an impressive MLC performer to say the least, but even more impressive was the 840 EVO, which combined cost-efficient TLC flash with a super-fast SLC cache. The generous SLC area, present on each die and distributed amongst all flash chips within the drive, enabled the EVO to maintain PRO-level performance for the majority of typical consumer (and even power user) usage scenarios. The main win for the EVO was the fact that it could be produced at a much lower cost, and since its release, we've seen the EVO spearheading the push to lower cost SSDs.

All of these innovations might make you wonder what could possibly be next. Today I have that answer:

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If you're going "Hey, they just changed the label from 840 to 850!", well, think again. This SSD might have the same MEX controller as its predecessor, but Samsung has done some significant overhauling of the flash memory itself. Allow me to demonstrate.

Here's standard (2D) flash memory, where the charge is stored on a horizontal plane:

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..and now for 3D:

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The charges (bits) are not stored at the top layer. They are stored within all of those smaller, thinner layers below it. You're still looking at a 2D plane (your display), so here's a better view:

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Read on as we dive even deeper into this awesome new 3D flash technology!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ Storage Solutions

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

OCZ's RevoDrive series has been around for quite some time. We reviewed the first of the series over four years ago, and they just kept coming after that initial launch

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The full line of (now legacy) Revo / Z-Drive series products.

With the recent acquisition by Toshiba, it was only a matter of time before OCZ revamped the RevoDrive line with their new flash. It just makes sense, as Toshiba can be obtained much more readily (and cheaply) since they are now an in-house source for OCZ. With the Vector 150 and Vertex 460 already driving 19nm Toshiba flash, we now have the RevoDrive 350:

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We suspected they might also count this as an update to the Revo line and not just a flash swap, so with a sample to test, let's see what's what!

Read on for our full review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Seagate
Tagged: sshd, Seagate, hybrid, 4TB

Introduction

Introduction

We've looked at many hybrid options over the past few years. First we checked out Intel's RST Caching solution, introduced on the Z68 chipset. Then we looked into Seagate's first few rounds of SSHD's, which were basically a standard HDD with an 8GB cache tacked on to the controller. Despite larger adoption of SSD's taking place, Seagate continues to push further into the hybrid market, with the addition of dual mode caching and other advancements. Today we take a look at their most recent push:

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Yup, that's 4TB of hybrid goodness right there. No doubt this is a desktop class product, but how well can it handle desktop workloads?

Read on for the full review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Plextor

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

You might not expect it from who was originally an optical drive company, but Plextor has been cranking out SSDs for a while now. We will be taking a look at the recent wave of releases from Plextor, starting with the M6M:

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This SSD contains the same Marvell 88SS9188 controller seen in the Crucial M550, MX100, and ADATA SP920 SSDs, but with additional firmware tweaks claimed by Plextor.

Let's dive right in. Read on for our full review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: ssd, pcie, NVMe, Intel, DC P3700

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel has a nasty habit of releasing disruptive technology, especially in the area of computer storage. Among the first of those releases was the X25-M, which was groundbreaking to say the least. At a time where most other SATA SSDs were just stopgap attempts to graft flash memory to a different interface, Intel's SATA SSD was really the first true performer.

With performance in the bag, Intel shifted their attention to reducing the cost of their products. The next few generations of the Intel line was coupled with leadership in die shrinks. This all came together in the form of SSD releases of increasingly reduced cost. Sure the enterprise parts retained a premium, but the consumer parts generally remained competitive.

Now Intel appears to have once again shifted their attention to performance, and we know it has been in the works for a while now. With the SATA bottleneck becoming increasingly apparent, big changes needed to me made. First, SATA, while fine for relatively high latency HDD's, was just never meant for SSD speeds. As SSD performance increased, the latencies involved with the interface overhead (translating memory-based addresses into ATA style commands) becomes more and more of a burden.

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The solution is to not only transition to PCIe, but to do so using a completely new software and driver interface, called NVM Express. NVMe has been in the works for a while, and offers some incredible benefits in that it essentially brings the flash memory closer to the CPU. The protocol was engineered for the purpose of accessing flash memory as storage, and doing so as fast and with the least latency as possible. We hadn't seen any true NVMe products hit the market, until today, that is:

Behold the Intel SSD DC P3700!

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Read on for our initial review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Crucial
Tagged: ssd, sata, mx100, crucial, 16nm

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Back in July of last year, Micron announced production of 16nm flash memory. These were the same 128gbit dies as the previous gen parts, but 16nm means the dies are smaller, meaning more dies from a single wafer, ultimately translating to lower end user cost.

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It takes a bit of time for those new flash die shrinks to trickle into mainstream products. Early yields from a given shrink tend to not have competitive endurance on initial production. As production continues, the process gets tweaked, resulting in greater and longer enduring yields.

Continue reading for the full scoop!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Thecus

Introduction

The N2310 is a budget dual-bay NAS from Thecus and an interesting product beyond the low cost for this category, boasting a number of features that help set it apart.

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Apart from the primary role of a network attached storage (NAS) device - you know, storage - there are some interesting things a piece of hardware like the N2310 can do. This inexpensive NAS is actually a server, too, so beyond storing up to 8TB of data it’s powerful enough to replace a dedicated PC for certain tasks - the kind of tasks that some of us leave a PC running 24/7 to accomplish.

In this review we’ll take a look at some of the functionality that helps set the N2310 apart, as well as the kind of real-world performance you might expect to see.

It’s All About the Gigabytes

There are more reasons now than ever before for large storage options. Even though SSD’s are at their lowest prices ever most of us still need to supplement a fast boot drive with some traditional spinning disks. Just think about what accumulates in an average year on your PC… photos, music, videos, program backups and images, you name it. All those GB’s have to go somewhere, and there are obviously internal and external hard drives to share the load. However, regardless of the local storage option you might chose, it’s not always so convenient to actually access this stuff again. Clearly, the easier it is to access your files, the better - and not just from one device. So, having centralized storage is a great idea, right?

Between computers, tablets, and of course our phones, there are generally quite a few connected devices in the average technology-inclined home. And while every device mentioned can connect to the internet - and cloud storage has become very popular - there's still something to be said for local content management. Beyond the convenience of sharing sometimes massive amounts of data easily at home, another benefit of always-on storage is backup. Ideally, every computer in the home would be backed up locally as well as the cloud, and a great way to take care of the local side of backup is with a NAS. Setting one up is very easy these days, with a growing number of affordable options from various vendors.

Thecus makes an interesting case for a budget NAS with the N2310. For a comparison, Allyn recently looked at Western Digital’s My Cloud EX2 network drive, and this is a highly polished all-in-one solution is now selling for about $199 (without drives). The Thecus N2310 is less expensive at $149, and both offer two 3.5” drive bays. (The My Cloud is also offered pre-populated with drives providing up to 8TB of storage.) These “diskless” enclosures present a good opportunity to save some money up front, and whether you choose to run on two drives you happened to have around the house or office, or if you want to go out and grab a couple of Western Digital 4TB Red drives, they can accommodate your situation.

Let’s take a look at the Thecus N2310.

Continue reading our review of the Thecus N2310 SOHO NAS Server!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ADATA
Tagged: ssd, SP920, sata, Marvell, adata

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

ADATA has been in the storage market for a good while now. I like to think of them as the patient underdog. They don't necessarily come out with the shiny new controller or flash technology. Instead they tend to sit back and wait for a given set of hardware to mature and drop in price a bit. Once that happens, they figure out how to package the matured technology into a device of relatively low cost as compared to the competition. They have done so again today, with their new Premier Pro SP920 lineup:

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As hinted at earlier, this line does not use the newest Marvell controller, but as Marvell controllers have been very capable SATA 6Gb/sec units for a long time now, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In addition, Marvell controllers have a track record of gaining significant performance margins as their firmware matures, which makes ADATA's later entrance more of a good thing.

Continue reading for the full scoop and performance benchmarks of all available capacities!!

Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction and Background

Introduction:

Back in 2010, Intel threw a bit of a press thing for a short list of analysts and reviewers out at their IMFT flash memory plant at Lehi, Utah. The theme and message of that event was to announce 25nm flash entering mass production. A few years have passed, and 25nm flash is fairly ubiquitous, with 20nm rapidly gaining as IMFT scales production even higher with the smaller process. Last week, Intel threw a similar event, but instead of showing off a die shrink or even announcing a new enthusiast SSD, they chose to take a step back and brief us on the various design, engineering, and validation testing of their flash storage product lines.

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At the Lehi event, I did my best to make off with a 25nm wafer.

Many topics were covered at this new event at the Intel campus at Folsom, CA, and over the coming weeks we will be filling you in on many of them as we take the necessary time to digest the fire hose of intel (pun intended) that we received. Today I'm going to lay out one of the more impressive things I saw at the briefings, and that is the process Intel goes through to ensure their products are among the most solid and reliable in the industry.

Read on for more on how Intel tests their products!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Last October, Western Digital launched the My Cloud. This device was essentially a network connected version of their My Book line of external hard drives, but with Internet connectivity and apps that could reach back to the My Cloud even when you were away from home. One month later, WD launched the My Cloud EX4, a much beefier version which supported redundant arrays of 4 hard disks, redundant network and power, and a load of other features. There was a rather large gap in features between these two devices, as the only RAID option was more of a small business one. Today Western Digital closed that gap:

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The My Cloud EX2 is essentially a My Cloud, but with dual drive bays, and a few additional features. Check out this projected trend below:

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You can see there was a definite void in the 2-drive range that needed filling. With those two drives, you get a few options for redundancy or capacity+speed:

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All standard RAID options for a 2-bay appliance are met here, though the vast majority of users should opt for the default RAID-1 mirrored set.

 

Packaging:

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Packaging is simple here with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud EX2!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: SSD 730, ssd, Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel launched their first consumer SSD more than five years ago. Their very first SSD, the X25-M, might have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but once the initial bugs were worked out, it proved to be an excellent example of what a 3Gb/sec SATA SSD was capable of. While the competition was using 4 or 8 flash channels, Intel ran circles around them with their 10-channel controller. It was certainly a great concept, and it most definitely had legs. The very same controller, with only minor tweaks, was able to hold its own all the way through into the enterprise sector, doing so even though the competition was moving to controllers capable of twice the throughput (SATA 6Gb/sec).

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The various iterations featuring Intel's 10-channel controller, spanning the 20GB cache SSD (left), original X25M and X25-E (center), and  finally X25-M G2, SSD 320, and SSD 710 (right).

While the older controller was extremely nimble, it was bottlenecked by a slower interface than the competition, who had all moved to the more modern SATA 6Gb/sec link. Intel also moved into this area, but not with their own native controller silicon. The SSD 510 launched in 2011 equipped with a Marvell controller, followed by the SSD 520, launched in 2012 with a SandForce controller. While Intel conjured up their own firmware for these models, their own older and slower controller was still more nimble and reliable than those other solutions, proven by the fact that the SSD 710, an enterprise-spec SSD using the older 10-channel controller, was launched in tandem with the consumer SSD 510.

Fast forward to mid-2013, where Intel finally introduced their own native SATA 6Gb/s solution. This controller dropped the channel count to a more standard figure of 8, and while it did perform well, it was only available in Intel's new enterprise 'Data Center' line of SSDs. The SSD DC S3500 and SSD DC S3700 (reviewed here) were great drives, but they were priced too high for consumers. While preparing that review, I remember saying how that controller would be a great consumer unit if they could just make it cheaper and tune it for standard workloads. It appears that wish has just been granted. behold the Intel SSD 730:

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Continue reading our review of the Intel SSD 730!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

As of yesterday, the OCZ we all knew was officially acquired by Toshiba. They are now referred to as OCZ Storage Solutions, acting as a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba Group:

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This deal has been in the works for a while now, and while some suspected OCZ might be going under, they have continued to release new drives. The acquisition is more beneficial to OCZ than you might think, in that they now have much better access to Toshiba flash memory. Further, they can likely purchase it at better costs than available to those outside of the new parent companies' umbrella.

Today is no different, and OCZ is ringing in the pairing with a new product launch:

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Lets jump right into the specs:

Specifications:

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OCZ also provided a comparison against prior models:

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This new model, just like the Vector 150, sports Toshiba 19nm flash. It's a slightly newer version of the Barefoot 3 controller, but with a lower endurance spec and warranty period.

Continue reading our review of the OCZ Vertex 460 240GB SSD!!