A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zotac's New R Series ZBOX PCs Support Two Drive RAID Configurations

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | May 30, 2015 - 02:14 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, raid, mini server, media server

Zotac recently launched a new line of tiny ZBOX PCs under the new R Series that support two drive RAID 0 and RAID 1 setups. The series currently includes the ZBOX 1323 and ZBOX R1531. Both systems can be mounted vertically or horizontally and strongly resemble the company's existing ZBOX computers. The top and bottom panels are black with a silver bezel around the sides. A Zotac logo sits in the corner and a large blue circle sits in the center of the top.

The front panel hosts two audio jacks, an SDXC ard reader, COM port, IR reciever, and power button. Around back, the ZBOX boasts two antennas for the internal wireless module, two Gigabit Ethernet jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, and DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs. A third USB 3.0 port sits along the top edge of this small form factor PC.

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Internally, Zotac is using Intel processors, a small form factor motherboard with two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16 GB), a Mini PCI-E slot for the 802.11ac (plus Bluetooth 4.0) wireless card, and support for up to two 2.5" SATA drives. The motherboard supports RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD configurations for the SATA drives, and the R1531 SKU adds a mSATA slot for a third drive.

The ZBOX R1323 is equipped with a 11.5W dual core Intel (Haswell) Celeron 2961Y processor clocked at 1.1 GHz with 2MB cache and Intel HD Graphics clocked at up to 850 MHz. The ZBOX R1531 steps up to a 15W dual core (plus Hyperthreading) Broadwell-based Intel Core i3-5010U clocked at 2.1 GHz with HD 5500 graphics clocked at up to 900 MHz. 

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Both versions will be offered as barebones systems and the R1531 is additionally be sold in a PLUS model that comes with a 64GB mSATA SSD and 4GB of RAM pre-installed.

The new ZBOX R Series PCs would make for a nice home server with a mSATA drive for the OS and two storage drives in a RAID 1 for redundancy. The Core i3 should be plenty of horsepower for streaming media, running backups, running applications, and even some light video transcoding. The included COM port will also make it suitable for industrial applications, but I think this is mostly going to appeal to home and small business users.

Zotac has not yet revealed pricing or availability though. Hopefully we are able to find out more about these mini PCs at Computex!

Source: Zotac

Lenovo Tech World: High-Performance S2200 and S3200 Storage Arrays

Subject: Storage | May 27, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: storage, SAN, S3200, S2200, Lenovo, datacenter

Lenovo has announced two new high-performance storage products aimed at small and medium business, and the new S2200 and S3200 storage arrays are designed with speed in mind.

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The Storage S2200 and S3200 arrays offer dual and single controllers in 2U-12 and 24 drive configurations. The S2200 supports up to 96 drives and the S3200 supports up to 192 drives to easily support storage growth. The S2200 and S3200 make connectivity simple. The S2200 and S3200 support Fibre Channel, iSCSI and SAS, with the S3200 supporting multi-protocol connectivity that can work with Fibre Channel and iSCSI at the same time. This combination of flexibility and scalability makes integration into nearly any environment easy.

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Lenovo is also using a technology called "Intelligent Real-Time Tiering" to approximate the performance of flash storage by prioritizing frequently accessed data as it "automatically moves frequently accessed data to higher performing drives every five seconds, significantly increasing storage performance".

With hybrid configurations and Intelligent Real-Time Tiering, the Lenovo Storage S3200 can provide near All-Flash-Array (AFA) performance for up to 120,000 IOPS at a fraction of the cost of today’s Flash only systems.

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The Lenovo S2200 and S3200 SANs will be available worldwide starting in June.

Source: Lenovo

Love the NVMe, shame almost nobody can use it

Subject: Storage | May 20, 2015 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: XP941, SSD 750, ssd, SM951, pcie, NVMe, MZVPV512HDGL, AHCI

For owners of Z97 or X99 boards with updated UEFIs or a rare SFF-8643 connector for the 2.5" version, booting from NVMe is possible, for the rest the Intel SSD 750 will have to be a storage drive.   Al recently looked at this more than impressive PCIe SSD and now [H]ard|OCP has had a bash at it.  The review is certainly worth checking out as some of their tests, especially the real world ones, differ from the benchmarks that Al used.  This will give you more information about how the new SSD will handle your workloads, research worth it if you are thinking of spending $1055 for the 1.2TB model.

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"Intel is set to be the catalyst for a long-awaited leap forward in storage technology with the new SSD 750 bringing NVMe storage to client PCs for the first time, and turning the high end SSD space upside-down. We are expecting blinding IOPs and we dig in to find out what it can mean to the hardware enthusiast."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Toshiba's portable backup drive, the Canvio Connect

Subject: Storage | May 7, 2015 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, Canvio Connect, backup, external drive

At a $90 price point the 2TB Toshiba Canvio Connect is not a huge investment to give yourself another way to back up your precious data; remember kids the equation is Actual Number of backups = Number of Backups - 1.  It is also a good choice for portable storage, at 8.2oz and 111x79x21mm (4.4x3.1x0.8") it will easily fit into your bag or laptop case.  Hardware Secrets tested it for speed and found it a bit slower than the competition but certainly within expectations for a USB 3.0 drive.  They prefer the Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB overall, for the same price it is slightly faster and slimmer as well.

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"Users are always damanding more and more storage space, not only inside their computers, but also as portable external hard disk drives. Nowadays, 2 TB portable external drives are becoming popular, and we will test the Toshiba 2 TB Canvio Connect, comparing it to the Seagate 2 TB Backup Plus Slim and the Western Digital 2 TB My Passport Ultra that we've already reviewed. They are all compact drives and make use of the USB 3.0 interface. Which one is the fastest? Let's see!"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

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

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

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

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

Read on for the full review!

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Don't be afraid of PCIe or NVMe

In very early April, Intel put a shot across the bow of the storage world with the release of the SSD 750 Series of storage devices. Using the PCI Express bus but taking advantage of the new NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) protocol, it drastically upgrades the capabilities of storage within modern PC platforms. In Allyn's review, for example, we saw read data transfer rates cross into the 2.6 GB/s range in sequential workloads and write rates over 1.2 GB/s sequentially. Even more impressive is the random I/O performance where the SSD 750 is literally 2x the speed of previous PCIe SSD options.

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A couple of weeks later we posted a story looking into the compatibility of the SSD 750 with different motherboards and chipsets. We found that booting from the SSD 750 Series products is indeed going to require specific motherboards and platforms simply due to the "new-ness" of the NVMe protocol. Officially, Intel is only going to support Z97 and X99 chipsets today but obviously you can expect all future chipsets to have proper NVMe integration. We did find a couple of outliers that allowed for bootability with the SSD 750, but I wouldn't count on it.

Assuming you have a Z97/X99 motherboard that properly supports NVMe drives, of which ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte seem to be on top of, what are the steps and processes necessary to get your system up and running on the Intel SSD 750? As it turns out, it's incredibly simple.

Step 1

Make sure you have enabled NVMe in the latest BIOS/UEFI. The screenshot below shows our ASUS X99-Deluxe motherboard used during testing and that it is properly recognizing the device. There was no specific option to ENABLED NVMe here though we have seen instances where that is required.

Continue reading our overview of installing Windows on the Intel SSD 750 Series!!

Kingston and Phison and Toshiba; oh my

Subject: Storage | April 28, 2015 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: Phison PS3110, 19nm, toshiba, toggle NAND, kingston hyper x, ssd

When you pick up a Kingston HyperX Savage SSD you have a choice of the barebones model at $122 for the 240GB model or you can pay an extra $25 for the upgrade kit which contains 2.5mm z-height adapter, a SATA 6Gb/s cable, a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate, Acronis True Image HD imaging software, a micro-screwdriver set, and a USB 3.0 enclosure with USB 3.0 cable.  That upgrade kit is perfect for those looking for an easy way to move their entire OS to the new SSD with a minimum of fuss.  Inside the drive is the Phison PS3110 controller with a 256MB DDR3-1600 cache and Toshiba's 19nm Toggle Mode NAND.  Hardware Canucks put the drive to the test and it shows huge improvements from the first generation, enough to put it in competition with offerings from OCZ, Intel and Crucial.  This demonstrates a faster evolution that competitors products but it does unfortunately come at a price that is a bit high compared to those competitors offerings.

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"The affordable Kingston HyperX Savage is one of the first SSDs to use the new Phison PS3110 controller and the end results are extremely impressive to say the least."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Samsung 840 EVO Standalone ISO Updater Now Available

Subject: Storage | April 28, 2015 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: TurboWrite, tlc, ssd, slc, Samsung, 840 evo

For those of you following the Samsung 840 EVO saga, last week we saw the release of Magician 4.6. Samsung was initially throttling downloads and firmware update rates, but those limits appear to have been lifted as of this morning. Another thing we noticed this morning was the inclusion of the standalone ISO updater for those who are otherwise unable to run the Magician software (i.e. Mac users):

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For those on laptops or other devices with no optical drive, I've confirmed the ISO can be used via USB if placed there with a tool such as Rufus.

Note to Linux users:

There was an early report of complications from a user who was running a full disk fstrim during boot, where that operation was causing errors (corrected once that operation was disabled). It should be noted that full disk TRIM operations are redundant so long as the OS is issuing TRIM on-the-fly during regular file moves / deletions. This may be an issue with queued TRIM handling of the new 840 EVO firmware. If not reproduced / corrected by Samsung, the Linux devs may be able to add this firmware revision to the queued TRIM blacklist to possibly fix the problem on their end.

Note to mSATA 840 EVO users:

It appears the update does not currently apply to these. I've asked Samsung about this.

AMD and QNAP get NASty

Subject: Storage | April 23, 2015 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: TVS-463 8G, qnap, NAS, amd

The QNAP TVS-463 8G is powered by an AMD GX-424CC, part of the Steppe Eagle family of SoCs which includes a Mullin's based Radeon R5E GPU.  There are several models ranging from the entry level which sports only 4GB of RAM, which can be expanded to 16GB with the review model TechPowerUp recieved sitting in the middle at 8GB.  You can install up to four 2.5" or 3.5" SATA3 disks in a variety of RAID configurations, the NAS ships empty so you will need to provide your own drives.  It is a little expensive, just over $800, which includes the internal PSU and the built in OS to allow you to activate your NAS via the web with a simple command.  It has two Gigabit ports with LACP support and you can even pick up an expansion card to increase it to 10GbE, read the full review to get an idea just how capable this NAS is.

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"QNAP has for the first time used an AMD CPU with one of their NAS offerings. The new series is codenamed TVS-x63, and today, we will evaluate the TVS-463, which, as its model number implies, can take up to four HDDs. It is also 10GbE ready through an optional expansion card."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: techPowerUp