CES 2015: MSI Implements USB 3.1 and USB Type-C Connector

Subject: Motherboards, Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c, usb 3.1, msi, ces 2015, CES

If you are like me, you probably thought the world of USB was going to be stable for a bit. Not so much as it turns out! MSI was showing off a couple of new products in its suite at CES 2015 that showcase new performance levels for USB as well as a much-needed new connector type.


First up, USB 3.1, the upgrade that includes performance as high as single channel Thunderbolt, 10 Gbps. MSI will be shipping USB 3.1 on a new revision of the GT72 gaming notebook as well as on the X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard shipping in February or March. Each will feature two ports of USB 3.1 capable of some impressive speeds.


These results are based on a RAID-0 implementation of a pair of Intel SSD 730 SSDs running on a prototype USB 3.1 capable controller that MSI didn't want us to show you. Seeing USB speeds reaching as high as 694 MB/s are impressive, exceeding that of the best USB 3.0 speeds we have seen at 470 MB/s. Considering we are looking at very early devices and software implementations, MSI's results on this board are fantastic.

Maybe more exciting than a speed boost to some USB users is implementation of the USB Type-C connector on the MSI Z97A Gaming 6 motherboard due in the same time frame.


There are several advantages to this new connector for both users and OEMs. First, it is reversible meaning you can plug plug the connector in upside down and it will work (finally!). It is also small, able to fit on the slimmest phones and tablets. Both sides of the cable are going to be the same, so any device that can use a Type-C connector will be able to use most any cable.


Power delivery also improves - 10 watts (5V at 2A), 60 watts (12V at 5A) and even up to 100 watts (20V at 5A)! And all of this power can be sent through that tiny Type-C connector as well leaving the possibility of charging your laptop through the same connector as your phone.

Expect both USB 3.1 as well as Type-C connectors to be a big shift in the middle of Q1.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

CES 2015: Storage Visions: Western Digital SATA Express SSD+HDD Spotted

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2015 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: CES, western digital, storage visions, ssd, SATA Express, hybrid, hdd, ces 2015

At the SATA-IO booth at Storage Visions, they have a functional demo of Western Digital prototype hybrid HDD/SSD's.


These are not hybrid in the traditional sense, as the SSD portion (128GB JMicron based controller driving Toshiba flash in the case of these prototypes) is logically separated from the HDD portion (a standard 4TB Black in this case).



Given that a SATA Express link can simultaneously pass a PCIe 2.0 x2 link in addition to a SATA 6Gbit/sec link, this one unit can link an SSD and an HDD simultaneously and independently. Above you see the standard SATA Express connector, and below is how those pins are connected at the drive itself:


Note the additional pins at what is usually the black side of the connector.


The rest of the connector is mostly a standard SATA connector that you are used to seeing.

At the demo, we saw a single 3.5" hybrid unit booting from the SSD portion and using the 4TB HDD for mass storage, all from the same device. The second demo had a separate boot drive and linked a pair of these prototype units in a dual RAID. Configured through Windows dynamic volumes, a RAID of the HDD's offered the increased performance you might expect from a pair of 4TB WD Blacks. The SSD portion of each unit was also RAIDed, and we saw their combined throughput as just over 1GB/sec. That was not much more than what a pair of RAIDed SATA 6Gb/sec SSDs would do, but realize this was being accomplished in addition to (and independently of) the HDD portions.

We were not allowed to start removing screws, but here's a look at the accessible portion of the logic board for this drive:


There is a JMicron controller paired with a single package of Toshiba flash. Toshiba has shown they can contain 128GB in a single package, so no problems there.

We're not sure where this technology is headed as the recent trend has been towards sticking with the standard SATA link for mass storage and M.2 SSDs plugged directly into the added port we've been seeing in many recent motherboards. We'll keep an eye on this technology moving forward, but for now at least we have seen it in the flesh and fully functional.

Coverage of CES 2015 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2015 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Startech's dual drive, dual Thunderbolt enclosure

Subject: Storage | January 2, 2015 - 03:09 PM |
Tagged: Startech, thunderbolt, S252SMTB3, ssd

The StarTech Thunderbolt Dual SSD Enclosure S252SMTB3 is fairly expensive at just over $200 empty but thankfully they included a Thunderbolt cable; you will need to provide the second cable if you intend to daisy chain devices.  This model uses the first generation 10Gbps interface and allows you to install two SSDs in either RAID 0 or RAID 1.  In RAID 1 the drives performed as you would expect with the reads hitting close to theoretical maximum and write sitting just below half of that speed.  In RAID 0 the reads and writes on the 128 GB Corsair Force GS SSDs used by Bjorn3D for testing hit their maximum theoretical speeds; it will be very interesting to see the results of faster SSDs on a new 20Gbps model of enclosure.  If you want external storage that is as fast as your internal drives then this is worth looking at.


"Even though it is popular to use a network attached storage sometimes it is nice to have storage closer to the computer, for example for Timemachine backup on a Mac or just as a way to add more storage space on a laptop with a small SSD. The Startech enclosure we are reviewing today, the StarTech Thunderbolt Dual SSD Enclosure S252SMTB3, comes with a Thunderbolt interface that not only lets you daisy-chain it with several other peripherals but also offers a lot of bandwidth making it a perfect option for increasing the storage space on a Mac Book Air or other computer with little initial storage. After testing it turns out that it performs just as well as expected with just a few minor complaints."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Source: Bjorn3D
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Drobo


Drobo is frequently referred to as ‘the Apple of external storage products’. They got this name because their products go for the simplest possible out-of-the-box experience. Despite their simplicity, the BeyondRAID concept these units employ remains extremely robust and highly resistant to data loss in even the most extreme cases of drive failures and data loss. I reviewed the DroboPro 8-bay unit over 5 years ago and was so impressed by it that I continue to use one to this day (and it has never lost data, despite occasional hard drive failures).

Over those past 5 years since our review of the DroboPro, Drobo (then known as Data Robotics) has also had a bit of an Apple story. Their original CEO started the company but was ousted by the board in late 2009. He then started Connected Data in 2011, quickly growing to the point where they merged with Drobo in 2013. This was not just a merger of companies, it was a merger of their respective products. The original Transporter was only a single drive unit, where Drobo’s tech supercharged that personal cloud capability to scale all the way up to corporate environments.

Many would say that for that period where their original CEO was absent, Drobo’s products turned more towards profitability, perhaps too soon for the company, as the products released during that period were less than stellar. We actually got a few of those Drobos in for review, but their performance was so inconsistent that we spent more time trying to figure out what was causing the issues than completing a review we could stand behind. With their founder back in the CEO chair, Drobo's path was turned back to its roots - making a good, fast, and low cost product for their customers. This was what they wanted to accomplish back in 2009, but in many ways the available tech was not up to speed yet. USB 2.0 was the fastest widely available standard, aside from iSCSI over Gigabit (but that was pricey to implement and appeared in the DroboPro). Nowadays things are very different. USB 3.0 controllers are vastly more compatible and faster than they used to be, as is SATA controller hardware and ARM microcontrollers. These developments would ultimately enable Drobo to introduce what they wanted to in the first place:


This is the third generation 4-Bay Drobo. The 4-Bay model is what started it all for them, but was a bit underpowered and limited to USB 2.0 speeds. The second gen unit launched mid 2008, adding FireWire as a faster connection option, but it was still slower than most would have liked given its $500 price tag. This third generation unit promises to change all of that.


USB is once again the only connectivity option, but this time it’s USB 3.0. There have previously been other 5-bay Drobos with this as an option (Drobo S, S gen 2, 5D, Mini), but many of those units saw compatibility issues with some USB 3.0 host controllers. We experienced some of these same frustrating incompatibilities first hand, and can confirm those frustrations. Drobo is putting that behind them with a revised chipset, and today we will put it all to the test.

Read on for our full review of the new Drobo!

Quick Deal (Canada): 480GB Intel 730 SSD for $259.99 CDN

Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 28, 2014 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: Intel, ssd, ncix, directcanada, deals

A couple of Canadian stores, NCIX and DirectCanada, have marked down the Intel 730 SSD in both 240GB and 480GB models. While sites like Amazon and Newegg are selling it for $530 and $547, respectively, NCIX has the 480GB version on for $259.99 and the 240GB version for $169.99. DirectCanada is close, their price is about $10 more expensive for the 480GB and a few cents cheaper for the 240GB (480GB - $269.89 and 240GB - $169.95). This is even cheaper than the American Amazon price, which is going for $456.99 USD.


You can see in Allyn's review from February, he really liked the drive. He notes that it is a bit hot and power hungry, but he also notes that the controller is overclocked and that is probably why you want to buy it. If you are Canadian, or are somehow able to make a purchase in Canada, this is a ridiculous price. For everyone else, who knows? It might be a sign that its price could drop altogether. Either that, or NCIX and DirectCanada just feel like throwing money around today.

Source: NCIX
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Inateck

Introduction and Internals

We've seen USB 3.0 in devices for a few years now, but it has only more recently started taking off since controllers, drivers, and Operating Systems have incorporated support for the USB Attached SCSI ProtocolUASP takes care of one of the big disadvantages seen when linking high speed storage devices. USB adds a relatively long and multi-step path for each and every transaction, and the initial spec did not allow for any sort of parallel queuing. The 'Bulk-Only Transport' method was actually carried forward all the way from USB 1.0, and it simply didn't scale well for very low latency devices. The end result was that a USB 3.0 connected SSD performed at a fraction of its capability. UASP fixes that by effectively layering the SCSI protocol over the USB 3.0 link. Perhaps its biggest contributor to the speed boost is SCSI's ability to queue commands. We saw big speed improvements with the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX and other newer UASP enabled flash drives, but it's time we look at some ways to link external SATA devices using this faster protocol. Our first piece will focus on a product from Inateck - their FE2005 2.5" SATA enclosure:


This is a very simple enclosure, with a sliding design and a flip open door at the front.


Read on for our review!

One way to build an inexpensive yet speedy storage server

Subject: Storage | December 15, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: SAS, hdd, DIY, LSI, Seagate, icy dock

You may want to build a server consisting of enterprise level SSDs to make sure it provides the best possible speeds to anyone accessing data stored there but the chances of you getting the budget for it are slim going on none.  That is why reading the guide on building servers from Modders Inc is worth your time if you find yourself pondering the best way to build a storage server on a budget without making it abysmally slow.  You have many choices when you are designing a storage server but if you are not quite sure where to start the list of components and the arguments for their usefulness will get you headed in the right direction.  For example the LSI MegaRAID SAS 9271-8i is an impressive RAID controller and with good SAS HDDs you can expect to see very good data throughput and will be more important than the CPU you select.  Check out the article right here.


"IT infrastructure and storage has always been part of serious conversation between IT engineers and their bosses. As always IT Engineers want to use the best of the newest technologies while their bosses want to keep every project under a tight budget. It's always an ongoing battle, however both sides always come to some mutual agreement that benefits both sides."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Source: Modders Inc

Samsung's 32-layer VNAND dissected by TechInsights, analysed by 3DInCities

Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 11, 2014 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: vnand, TEM, SEM, Schiltron, Samsung, cross section, 3D VNAND

Since Samsung announced VNAND, we have been following its developments with great interest. You might have seen some of Andrew Walker's cool mock ups of what this new VNAND might look like:


Once a technology is released to the public, the only thing stopping you from knowing how it works is the ability to look inside. With detailed imagery of 32-layer VNAND recently released by TechInsights, not only was Andy able to conduct a very thorough analysis at his blog, we are able to get some incredibly detailed looks at just what makes this new flash memory tick:


Flash packaging, showing interconnect traces (which connect the outside of the package to the flash dies contained within).


1x: The 3D VNAND die itself. We'll use this as a point of reference of the magnification levels moving forward.


350x: This is the edge of the die, showing how the word (data) lines are connected to the individual layers.


1,500x: There it is, all 32 layers in all of their vertical glory. The only thing more amazing about the technology at play to create such a complex 3D structure at such a small scale, is the technology used to slice it in half (some of the material is tungsten) and take such a detailed 'picture' of that cross section.


30,000x: Finally, we have a top down slice of the channels themselves. This lets us get a good idea of the rough process node at play here. While the columns are 80nm in diameter, there are other features that are smaller, so the process itself still seemes to be in the ~40nm range.

Our focus is of course on the performance more than the extremeny low level bits, but it is definitely cool to see imagery of this new tech. For those curious, we encourage you to check out the detailed analysis done over at 3DInCities.

A little 3D TLC from Samsung, the new 850 EVO

Subject: Storage | December 8, 2014 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: 3d nand, tlc, 256 bit aes, 850 EVO, raid, RAPID, Samsung, sata, ssd

Not only does Samsung's new 850 EVO family introduce us to three dimensional triple level cell NAND, it also incorporates an SLC cache to boost write speeds.  The Tech Report received the 250GB and 1TB models to test, with a spotlight on how they fared against the 840 Pro and 840 Evo.  Their testing shows that the new way of creating NAND has helped mitigate the reduction in speed which accompanied the first generation of TLC drives.  There is no question that the SLC write cache also helps as long as it has space available but this new technology does come with a price, expect $500 for the 1TB and $150 for for the 250GB model.  The 5 year warranty is a nice touch for those who have reliability concerns.

Make sure to ready through Al's review as well, along with single drive benchmarks you can see how these drives perform in RAID.


"Samsung's long-awaited 850 EVO SSD employs three-dimensional NAND with three bits per cell. It augments that TLC storage with an SLC write cache, and it has a higher endurance rating and longer warranty than most MLC drives. We've taken a closer look to see how it holds up against the competition."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Mid last year, Samsung introduced the 840 EVO. This was their evolutionary step from the 840 Pro, which had launched a year prior. While the Pro was a performance MLC SSD, the EVO was TLC, and for most typical proved just as speedy. The reason for this was Samsung’s inclusion of a small SLC cache on each TLC die. Dubbed TurboWrite, this write-back cache gave the EVO the best write performance of any TLC-based SSD on the market. Samsung had also introduced a DRAM cache based RAPID mode - included with their Magician value added software solution. The EVO was among the top selling SSDs since its launch, despite a small hiccup quickly corrected by Samsung.

Fast forward to June of this year where we saw the 850 Pro. Having tested the waters with 24-layer 3D VNAND, Samsung revises this design, increasing the layer count to 32 and reducing the die capacity from 128Gbit to 86Gbit. The smaller die capacity enables a 50% performance gain, stacked on top of the 100% write speed gain accomplished by the reduced cross talk of the 3D VNAND architecture. These changes did great things for the performance of the 850 Pro, especially in the lower capacities. While competing 120/128GB SSDs were typically limited to 150 MB/sec write speeds, the 128GB 850 Pro cruises along at over 3x that speed, nearly saturating the SATA interface. The performance might have been great, but so was the cost - 850 Pro’s have stuck around $0.70/GB since their launch, forcing budget conscious upgraders to seek competing solutions. What we needed was an 850 EVO, and now I can happily say here it is:


As the 840 EVO was a pretty big deal, I believe the 850 EVO has an equal chance of success, so instead of going for a capacity roundup, this first piece will cover the 120GB and 500GB capacities. A surprising number of our readers run a pair of smaller capacity 840 EVOs in a RAID, so we will be testing a matched pair of 850 EVOs in RAID-0. To demonstrate the transparent performance boosting of RAPID, I’ll also run both capacities through our full test suite with RAPID mode enabled. There is lots of testing to get through, so let’s get cracking!

Read on for the full review!