Intel SSD 750 Series PCIe Compatibility Tested

Subject: General Tech, Storage | April 16, 2015 - 06:47 AM |
Tagged: uefi, SSD 750, PCI-E 3.0, NVMe, Intel, ACHI, 750 series

UPDATE: ASUS has pointed us towards a poll they are running to gauge what platforms people are most anxious for NVMe Boot support on. So if you have an ASUS board and are interested in buying an Intel SSD 750 Series, head to their poll to voice your opinion!

Last week, the Intel 750 Series SSD was unveiled the the public as the first consumer SSD to feature the NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express interface. NVMe was designed from the ground up for flash storage, and provides significant advantages in latency and potential top transfer rates over the aging AHCI standard. Check out our review of the Intel SSD 750 Series to find out why this is such an important step forward for storage technology.

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Even if you aren't necessarily concerned about the merits of a new storage interface, the throughput numbers from the 750 series are hard to ignore. With peak speeds over 2.5GB/s read and 1.5GB/s write, it's hard not to be interested in this new drive.

However, all this new speed doesn't come without a few complications. NVMe is an all-new standard which means it might not be supported on all platforms. Intel themselves only point to official support for Z97 and X99 chipsets. In order to get a better idea of the landscape of NVMe compatibility, I took it amongst myself to start testing the add-in card version of the 750 Series in just about every modern motherboard I could get my hands on at the office.

Continue reading our testiof Intel SSD 750 Series Compatiblity!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ICY DOCK

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

The other day we took a look at the ICY DOCK ToughArmor MB996SP-6SB and ICYBento MB559U3S-1S. Today we'll move onto a couple of larger products in their lineup:

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To the left is the ICYCube MB561U3S-4S, which is a 4-bay eSATA / USB 3.0 JOBD enlcosure. To the right is the ICYRaid MB662U3-2S, which is a 2-bay USB 3.0 JBOD/Big/RAID-0/RAID-1 enclosure.

Read on for our review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction

The tale of the Samsung 840 EVO is a long and winding one, with many hitches along the way. Launched at the Samsung 2013 Global SSD Sumit, the 840 EVO was a unique entry into the SSD market. Using 19nm planar TLC flash, the EVO would have had only mediocre write performance if not for the addition of a TurboWrite cache, which added 3-12GB (depending on drive capacity) of SLC write-back cache. This gave the EVO great all around performance in most consumer usage scenarios. It tested very well, was priced aggressively, and remained our top recommended consumer SSD for quite some time. Other editors here at PCPer purchased them for their own systems. I even put one in the very laptop on which I'm writing this article.

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An 840 EVO read speed test, showing areas where old data had slowed.

About a year after release, some 840 EVO users started noticing something weird with their systems. The short version is that data that sat unmodified for a period of months was no longer able to be read at full speed. Within a month of our reporting on this issue, Samsung issued a Performance Restoration Tool, which was a combination of a firmware and a software tool that initiated a 'refresh', where all stale data was rewritten, restoring read performance back to optimal speeds. When the tool came out, many were skeptical that the drives would not just slow down again in the future. We kept an eye on things, and after a few more months of waiting, we noted that our test samples were in fact slowing down again. We did note it was taking longer for the slow down to manifest this time around, and the EVOs didn't seem to be slowing down to the same degree, but the fact remained that the first attempt at a fix was not a complete solution. Samsung kept up their end of the bargain, promising another fix, but their initial statement was a bit disappointing, as it suggested they would only be able to correct this issue with a new version of their Samsung Magician software that periodically refreshed the old data. This came across as a band-aid solution, but it was better than nothing.

Read on for our full evaluation of the new firmware and Magician 4.6!

Checking out PCIe SSDs, both the full sized version and the bite sized ones

Subject: Storage | April 7, 2015 - 02:49 PM |
Tagged: Plextor M6e, XP941, Samsung, DC P3700, Intel, PCIe SSD, M.2

The Tech Report have updated their storage testbed to properly benchmark PCIe SSDs, the M.2 versions as well as ones such as Intel's DC P3700 which takes up a full slot.  They contrast the performance with 10 popular SATA drives to give you an idea of the difference performance a PCI SSD will give you.  The rather expensive DC P3700 dominates almost every test they performed, apart from boot times in Windows 8.1 which are still well under 1 minute.  Read through the review with your own usage patterns in mind, in many cases a SATA SSD is still a great choice for many gamers and are much more affordable.  Then again, if you can afford a $2500 SSD, Intel's offering is definitely king.

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"SSDs have been bumping up against the limits of the Serial ATA interface for a while, but they don't have to be stuck behind the 6Gbps link. Native PCIe drives with way more bandwidth have made their way onto the market over the past year. We've tackled a trio of them—Plextor's M6e, Samsung's XP941, and Intel's server-grade DC P3700—with a fresh slate of benchmarks to see how the new breed stacks up against the SATA incumbents."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ICY DOCK

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

Today we're taking a quick look at a pair of drive enclosures sent to us by ICY DOCK.

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To the left is the ToughArmor MB996SP-6SB, which is a 5.25" bay hot swap chassis capable of mounting 6 2.5" SATA devices. To the right is the ICYBento MB559U3S-1S, which is a UASP external 3.5" HDD enclosure connectable by either USB 3.0 or eSATA.

Specifications

ToughArmor MB996SP-6SB

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ICYBento MB559U3S-1S (also available in black)

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Packaging

ToughArmor MB996SP-6SB

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We did note that the spec sheet and manual included SATA power to molex adapters, but we found no such adapters in the box. We may have received old stock, as the web site appears more up to date than the paper manual we received.

**update** ICYDock reached out and let me know that all shipping boxes of this part should come with a pair of molex to SATA power cables. Our sample came from their techs and they must have forgot to put those cables back into our box.

ICYBento MB559U3S-1S (also available in black)

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Both items were well packaged with no shipping damage noted.

Read on for our review!

PCPer Live! Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway!

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | April 2, 2015 - 08:19 PM |
Tagged: video, sdd, live, Intel, giveaway, contest

UPDATE: The secret is out! Today's live stream will focus on the new Intel SSD 750 Series products, which Allyn posted our review of just a few minutes ago. Be sure you read up on that story and prepare your questions for our event that starts in less than three hours!

UPDATE 2: If you missed the live streaming event today, you can find the reply embedded directly below. You can't win any of the prizes at this point (sorry!) but there is a ton of information for you to gleam from the discussion. That includes a history of Intel's SSD technology, how flash works and what the new SSD 750 Series has to offer with PCIe and NVMe. Enjoy!

Earlier this month we spotted a new and potentially very exciting SSD while looking through some PAX East coverage around the web. It appears to be a PCI Express based Intel SSD, likely based on the same technology as the P3700-series of NVMe drives released last June. And today, if you take a look at this Intel promotional landing page you'll see a timer and countdown that ends on April 2nd.

Sounds like something must be up, huh?

Well, in totally unrelated news, PC Perspective and Intel are partnering together for a live stream to discuss "SSD related topics" on April 2nd.

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Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway

12pm PT / 3pm ET - April 2nd

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

Joining us for the live event will be Intel's Bryn Pilney and Kei Kobayashi, making a follow up appearance after jumping on stage with us at Quakecon 2014. During the event we'll discuss some of the history of Intel's move into the SSD market, how consumers benefit from Intel development and technology and a certain new product that will be making an appearnce on that same day.

And of course, what's a live stream event without some hardware to give away?!? Here's what we have on the docket for those that attend:

  • 2 x Intel 180GB 530 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel 480GB 730 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel 400GB 750 Series SSDs

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Huge thanks to Intel for supporting our viewers and readers with hardware to giveaway!

The event will take place Thursday, April 2nd at 3pm ET / 12pm PT at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience, asking questions for me and Intel to answer live. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

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If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from Intel?

So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Thursday at 3pm ET / 12pm PT and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Editor's note: We are hosting a live stream event with our friends at Intel's SSD group today to discuss the new SSD 750 Series launch and to giveaway a couple of the 400GB units as well! Be sure you stop by to ask quesitons, learn about the technology and have a chance to win some hardware!!

Introduction:

Intel has a habit of overlapping their enterprise and consumer product lines. Their initial X25-M was marketed to both consumer and enterprise, with heavier workloads reserved for the X25-E. Their SSD 320 Series was also spec'd for both consumer and enterprise usage. Their most recent SSD 730 Series was actually an overclocked version of their SSD DC S3500 units. Clearly this is an established trend for Intel, so when they dominated flash memory performance with the SSD DC P3700 launch last year, pretty much everyone following these sorts of things eagerly waited in anticipation of a consumer release.

While they were hard to find outside of enterprise supply chains, some dedicated users picked up that enterprise part for their enthusiast systems, but many were disappointed as the P3700's enterprise hardware and firmware conflicted with many consumer motherboards' BIOS, rendering it unbootable for some and causing address space conflicts for others. In short, the P3700 was a great product that simply did not function properly with most consumer motherboards. All anyone could do was wait for Intel to spin a consumer product from this enterprise part, and that day is today:

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This is the add-in card version of the new Intel SSD 750 Series that brings NVMe technology and insane performance levels to consumers at a cost that is more affordable than you might think.

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As with the enterprise variant, Intel chose to launch the SSD 750 Series in the familiar HHHL PCIe x4 form factor as well as a 2.5" SFF-8639 packaging. The 2.5" model contains the exact same set of components, just rearranged into a smaller device.

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Despite being 2.5", this is not a SATA device. While the connector may look similar, it is *very* different:

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As you can see above, SFF-8639 further extends on the familiar SATA power and data connections, which had already been extended a few times to add additional SAS data lines. The new spec adds a complete row of pins on the back side of the connector to support four lanes of PCIe. This means the SFF variant of the SSD 750 will perform identically to the PCIe half-height card version. Since SFF-8639 was born as an enterprise spec, one question remains - how do you connect it to a consumer desktop motherboard? Well, desktop motherboards are coming with M.2 ports that can support up to PCIe 3.0 x4, so all you really need is a simple way to get from point A to point B:

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Pictured above (left) is the ASUS 'Hyper Kit' adapter PCB, which was sampled to us with their new Sabertooth X99 motherboard just for testing these new 2.5" devices. The connector you see at the right may look familiar, as it is an internal Mini-SAS HD (SFF-8643) cable commonly used with high end SAS RAID cards. Intel is basically borrowing the physical spec, but rewiring those four SAS lanes over to the PCIe pins of the SFF-8639 connector at the other end of the cable.

Continue reading our review of the Intel SSD 750 Series NVMe 1.2TB PCIe drives!!

Samsung's 850 EVO now comes in M.2 flavour too

Subject: Storage | March 31, 2015 - 07:01 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, Samsung, msata, M.2 SATA, 850 EVO, 500gb, 1TB, 120gb

As Al's review of the 850 EVO exists in a cat like superposition of being biased both for and against Samsung, perhaps you would like a second opinion.  That is where The Tech Report's review comes in handy, which was published just a few short hours ago.  Their findings were perfectly in line with the others, exactly the same performance as the 2.5" drives but in a nice bite sized form factor.  The only drawback is the size, the new M.2's are missing the 1TB model at the moment.

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"Samsung's 850 EVO SSD debuted in December inside the usual 2.5" case. Now, the drive is spreading to smaller mSATA and M.2 form factors. We've examined the new drives to see how the mini lineup compares to its full-sized forbear."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Following the same pattern that Samsung led with the 840 Pro and 840 EVO, history has repeated itself with the 850 Pro and 850 EVO. With the 850 EVO launching late last year and being quite successful, it was only a matter of time before Samsung expanded past the 2.5" form factor for this popular SSD. Today is that day:

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Today we will be looking at the MSATA and M.2 form factors. To clarify, the M.2 units are still using a SATA controller and connection, and must therefore be installed in a system capable of linking SATA lanes to its M.2 port. As both products are SATA, the DRAM cache based RAPID mode included with their Magician value added software is also available for these models. We won't be using RAPID for this review, but we did take a look at it in a prior article.

Given that 850 EVOs use VNAND - a vastly different technology than the planar NAND used in the 840 EVO, we suspect it is not subject to the same flash cell drift related issues (hopefully to be corrected soon) in the 840 EVO. Only time will tell for sure on that front, but we have not see any of those issues present in 850 EVO models since their launch.

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Cross sectional view of Samsung's 32-layer VNAND. Photo by TechInsights.

Samsung sampled us the M.2 SATA in 120GB and 500GB, and the MSATA in 120GB and 1TB. Since both are SATA-based, these are only physical packaging differences. The die counts are the same as the 2.5" desktop counterparts. While the pair of 120GB models should be essentially identical, we'll throw both in with the results to validate the slight differences in stated specs below.

Continue reading our review of these new Samsung 850 EVOs!!

Intel / Micron Announce 3D NAND Production with Industry's Highest Density: >10TB on a 2.5" SSD

Subject: Storage | March 26, 2015 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: storage, ssd, planar, nand, micron, M.2, Intel, imft, floating-gate, 3d nand

Intel and Micron are jointly announcing new 3D NAND technology that will radically increase solid-storage capacity going forward. The companies have indicated that moving to this technology will allow for the type of rapid increases in capacity that are consistent with Moore’s Law.

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The way Intel and Micron are approaching 3D NAND is very different from existing 3D technologies from Samsung and now Toshiba. The implementation of floating-gate technology and “unique design choices” has produced startling densities of 256 Gb MLC, and a whopping 384 Gb with TLC. The choice to base this new 3D NAND on floating-gate technology allows development with a well-known entity, and benefits from the knowledge base that Intel and Micron have working with this technology on planar NAND over their long partnership.

What does this mean for consumers? This new 3D NAND enables greater than 10TB capacity on a standard 2.5” SSD, and 3.5TB on M.2 form-factor drives. These capacities are possible with the industry’s highest density 3D NAND, as the >3.5TB M.2 capacity can be achieved with just 5 packages of 16 stacked dies with 384 Gb TLC.

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A 3D NAND cross section from Allyn's Samsung 850 Pro review

While such high density might suggest reliance on ever-shrinking process technology (and the inherent loss of durability thus associated) Intel is likely using a larger process for this NAND. Though they would not comment on this, Intel could be using something roughly equivalent to 50nm flash with this new 3D NAND. In the past die shrinks have been used to increase capacity per die (and yields) such as IMFT's move to 20nm back in 2011, but with the ability to achieve greater capacity vertically using 3D cell technology a smaller process is not necessary to achieve greater density. Additionally, working with a larger process would allow for better endurance as, for example, 50nm MLC was on the order of 10,000 program/erase cycles. Samsung similarly moved to a larger process with with their initial 3D NAND, moving from their existing 20nm technology back to 30nm with 3D production.

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This announcement is also interesting considering Toshiba has just entered this space as well having announced 48-layer 128 Gb density 3D NAND, and like Samsung, they are moving away from floating-gate and using their own charge-trap implementation they are calling BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling). However with this Intel/Micron announcement the emphasis is on the ability to offer a 3x increase in capacity using the venerable floating-gate technology from planar NAND, which gives Intel / Micron an attractive position in the market - depending on price/performance of course. And while these very large capacity drives seem destined to be expensive at first, the cost structure is likely to be similar to current NAND. All of this remains to be seen, but this is indeed promising news for the future of flash storage as it will now scale up to (and beyond) spinning media capacity - unless 3D tech is implemented in hard drive production, that is.

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So when will Intel and Micron’s new technology enter the consumer market? It could be later this year as Intel and Micron have already begun sampling the new NAND to manufacturers. Manufacturing has started in Singapore, plus ground has also been broken at the IMFT fab in Utah to support production here in the United States.

Source: Intel