Subject: Storage | February 20, 2015 - 06:21 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: tlc, ssd, Samsung, 840 evo
Just over a week or so ago Allyn spent some time with the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard, a fact that might seem a little odd to our frequent readers. Why would our storage editor be focusing on a motherboard? USB 3.1 of course! When we visited MSI at CES in January they were the first company to show working USB 3.1 hardware and performance numbers that we were able duplicate in our testing when MSI sent us similar hardware.
But ASUS is in this game as well, preparing its product lines with USB 3.1 support courtesy of the same ASMedia controller we looked at before. ASUS has a new revision of several motherboards planned with integrated on-board USB 3.1 but is also going to be releasing an add-in card with USB 3.1 support for existing systems.
Today we are going to test that add-in card to measure ASUS' implementation of USB 3.1 and see how it stacks up to what MSI had to offer and what improvements and changes you can expect from USB 3.0.
USB 3.1 Technology Background
Despite the simple point denomination change in USB 3.1, also known as SuperSpeed+, the technological and speed differences in the newest revision of USB are substantial. Allyn did a good job of summarizing the changes that include a 10 Gbps link interface and a dramatic drop in encoding overhead that enables peak theoretical performance improvements of 2.44x compared to USB 3.0.
USB 3.1 is rated at 10 Gbps, twice that of USB 3.0. The little-reported-on nugget of info from the USB 3.1 specification relates to how they classify the raw vs. expected speeds. Taking USB 3.0 as an example, Superspeed can handle a raw 5Gbps data rate, but after subtracting out the overhead (packet framing, flow control, etc), you are left with ~450MB/s of real throughput. Superspeed+ upgrades the bit encoding type from 8b/10b (80% efficient) to 128b/132b (97% efficient) *in addition to* the doubling of raw data rate. This means that even after accounting for overhead, Superspeed+’s best case throughput should work out to ~1.1GB/s. That’s not a 2x speed improvement – it is actually 2.44x of USB 3.0 speed. Superspeed+ alright!
Subject: Storage | February 16, 2015 - 04:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ocz, ARC 100, endurance
The sample size for the tests at KitGuru to see how well the OCZ ARC 100 SSDs stand up to their warranty are only five drives, now four as one has failed. The ARC 100 is rated for 20GB/day of host writes for 3 years, a total of 21.9TB and this one made it to about 322TB of writes before succumbing to errors. The other four are still going strong which lends credence to the claimed improvements that the Toshiba owned OCZ has made with their new SSD controllers. Even if you do suffer the death of a drive during the warranty period of three years the new hassle free ShieldPlus Warranty makes it very easy for you to get a replacement.
"The drives all passed the warranty figure of 300TB on 3rd February 2015 – but one of them has just failed with 322TB showing before failure."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Patriot Ignite SSD Review (480GB) - Asynch Flash Takes On a Whole New Look @ The SSD Review
- Crucial MX200 500GB & 1TB SSD Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Plextor M6e Black Edition PCIe 256GB SSD @ eTeknix
- ADATA Premier Pro SP900 M.2 6Gbps SSD @ The SSD Review
- Synology DiskStation BeyondCloud Preconfigured NAS Review @ Techgage
- QNAP TurboNAS TS-431 NAS Server Review @ NikKTech
- Silicon Power Mobile X31 OTG USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review @ Madshrimps
- Inateck HB3001G OTG 3-Port USB Hub and Card Reader @ eTeknix
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Micron's Crucial brand has been cranking out some great low cost SSDs for the past several years now. While their early drives pushed into the SATA 6Gb/sec interface before most of the competition, their performance was inconsistent and lagged behind some of the other more nimble solutions available at that time. This pattern was broken around the time of the M550 and MX100 launches. Those two drives were heavily competitive in performance and even moreso in pricing. Actually the pricing is probably the bigger story - when they launched, one of our readers caught a 512GB MX100 on sale for $125 ($0.24/GB)! We are coming up on a year since the MX100, and at CES 2015 Micron launched a pair of SSD models - the BX100 and MX200. Today we are going to look at the BX100 series:
Crucial aims to make the BX100 as their lowest cost/GB SSD ever - even cheaper than the MX100. Since Micron makes the flash, the best way to drive costs down is to use a lower cost controller. The Silicon Motion SM2246EN is cheaper to procure than the equivalent Marvell part, yet still performs rather well.
The Silicon Motion SM2246EN SSD controller
This is a great controller, as we have seen in our prior review of the ADATA SP610, Corsair Neutron LX, and Angelbird SSD WRK. From the specs, we can see that Micron has somehow infused their variant with increased write speeds even though it appears to use the same flash as those competing models listed above. We'll see how this plays out as the review progresses.
Subject: Storage | February 13, 2015 - 02:47 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Seagate, micron
The large storage companies have been teaming up for a while now, not simply through mergers and takeovers but also joint ventures between those who were once competitors. It is debatable if consumers will see much cost benefit from this cooperation but at least the products do seem to improve as specialties are combined. In this particular case we will see the traditionally disk based Seagate working with the flash memory maker Micron develop SAS products as well as SSDs for Enterprise customers. The idea of Serial attached SCSI SSDs is certainly interesting but in the current business environment you have to wonder how many companies will have the budget to invest in large scale migrations to flash based storage. It is far more likely this will bring new hybrid storage servers to the market, with SSDs in the front to provide bandwidth to frequently accessed data with HDD behind them for backups and cold storage. You can get a quick refresher on the other companies which have started cooperative ventures in the article at The Inquirer.
"SEAGATE AND MICRON have announced that they will join forces to work on projects together over a number of years."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Torvalds Polls Desire for Linux's Next Major Version Bump @ Slashdot
- AMD stops shipping chips as bloated channel begs 'Please, no more' @ The Register
- Microsoft launches wobbly Windows 10 phone preview for Lumia daredevils only @ The Register
- Hacker kicks one bit XP to 10 Windows scroll goal @ The Register
- HP's Sprout computer proves the desktop isn't dead @ The Inquirer
- The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Media Preview @ TechARP
Introduction and Background
We first got a peek of USB 3.1 at CES 2015. MSI had a cool demo showing some throughput figures including read and write speeds as high as 690 MB/s, well over the ~450 MB/s we see on USB 3.0 options shipping today.
We were of course eager to play around with this for ourselves, and MSI was happy to oblige, sending along a box of goodies:
Stuff we will be testing today (Samsung T1 was not part of the MSI demo).
For those unaware, USB 3.1 (also known as Superspeed+), while only a 0.1 increment in numbering, incorporates a doubling of raw throughput and some dramatic improvements to the software overhead of the interface.
Don't be confused between the USB 3.1 standard and the new USB Type-C connector - they are unrelated and independent of each other.
Yes, you’re all going to have to buy *more* cables in the future.
Type-C connectors will enable more simple cable design and thinner connections going forward but USB 3.1 will exist in both Type-A/B and Type-C going forward. Our benchmarking today will utilize Type-A.
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Storage | February 11, 2015 - 09:59 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: usb 3.1, usb, msi, asmedia
USB 3.0, for storage, is fast. If you are using an external, spindle-based hard drive, it will perform basically as fast as an internal sibling would. Apart from my two SSDs, I do not even have an internal drive anymore. You can safely install games to external hard drives now.
But with USB 3.1, the spec doubled to 10 Gbps, which matches the first generation Thunderbolt connector. A couple of weeks ago, Tom's Hardware put it to the test with an ASMedia USB3.1 to SATA 6 Gbps developer board. Sure enough, when you are raiding a pair of Intel 730 SSDs, you can achieve over 700 MB/s read/write in CrystalDiskMark.
About the most interesting part of Tom's Hardware testing is their CPU usage benchmark. While USB 3.0 on Intel's controller choked a CPU thread, USB 3.1 on ASMedia's controller did not even reach half of a thread's maximum (the CPU in question is a Core i7-5930K Haswell-E at 3.5 GHz).
So until we get flash drives that are constrained by USB 3.0's fairly high ceiling, we might be able to have reduced CPU usage.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Plextor launched their M6e PCIe SSD in mid-2014. This was the first consumer retail available native PCIe SSD. While previous solutions such as the OCZ RevoDrive bridged SATA SSD controllers to PCIe through a RAID or VCA device, the M6e went with a Marvell controller that could speak directly to the host system over a PCIe 2.0 x2 link. Since M.2 was not widely available at launch time, Plextor also made the M6e available with a half-height PCIe interposer, making for a painless upgrade for those on older non M.2 motherboards (which at that time was the vast majority).
With the M6e out for only a few months time (and in multiple versions), I was surprised to see Plextor launch an additonal version of it at the 2015 CES this past January. Announced alongside the upcoming M7e, the M6e Black Edition is essentially a pimped out version of the original M6e PCIe:
We left CES with a sample of the M6e Black, but had to divert our attention to a few other pressing issues shortly after. With all of that behind us, it's time to get back to cranking out the storage goodness, so let's get to it!
Subject: Storage | February 5, 2015 - 02:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: usb, team group, M131, Micro USB
Team Group M131 Smart Dual Drive is so named because it can plug into both full sized USB and with the additional connector it can connect to Micro USB ports as well. It's tiny size at 44 x 16.6 mm and 6.6g makes it easy to carry around, the largest size of 32GB may feel cramped for a PC but seems appropriate for use with a smartphone. It is not the fastest USB drive out there but eTeknix saw it for sale at £7.19 so you are not paying extra for the convenience of the drive. Check out their review here.
"The limited storage in mobile devices can be a real problem just as the fact that a touchscreen rarely is the optimal input device. Both these things might be a thing of the past if you invest in a Team Group M131 Smart Dual Drive with OTG support that. I’m taking a closer look at 16GB model of just this drive today."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Kingston DataTraveler microDuo 3.0 OTG 64GB USB Flash Drive Review @ NikKTech
- Patriot Memory Supersonic Boost XT 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review @ Madshrimps
- Kingston Class 10 UHS-I SDXC Card (256 GB) @ TechARP
- Thecus N4310 4-Bay NAS @ eTeknix
- Asustor AS5104T @ Legion Hardware
- Silverstone DS380 NAS Chassis @ eTeknix
- OCZ Challenge update: All 5 ARC 100 SSD’s hit 300TB mark @ Kitguru
Well here we are again with this Samsung 840 EVO slow down issue cropping up here, there, and everywhere. The story for this one is so long and convoluted that I’m just going to kick this piece off with a walk through of what was happening with this particular SSD, and what was attempted so far to fix it:
The Samsung 840 EVO is a consumer-focused TLC SSD. Normally TLC SSDs suffer from reduced write speeds when compared to their MLC counterparts, as writing operations take longer for TLC than for MLC (SLC is even faster). Samsung introduced a novel way of speeding things up with their TurboWrite caching method, which adds a fast SLC buffer alongside the slower flash. This buffer is several GB in size, and helps the 840 EVO maintain fast write speeds in most typical usage scenarios, but the issue with the 840 EVO is not its write speed – the problem is read speed. Initial reviews did not catch this issue as it only impacted data that had been stagnant for a period of roughly 6-8 weeks. As files aged their read speeds were reduced, starting from the speedy (and expected) 500 MB/sec and ultimately reaching a worst case speed of 50-100 MB/sec:
There were other variables that impacted the end result, which further complicated the flurry of reports coming in from seemingly everywhere. The slow speeds turned out to be the result of the SSD controller working extra hard to apply error correction to the data coming in from flash that was (reportedly) miscalibrated at the factory. This miscalibration caused the EVO to incorrectly adapt to cell voltage drifts over time (an effect that occurs in all flash-based storage – TLC being the most sensitive). Ambient temperature could even impact the slower read speeds as the controller was working outside of its expected load envelope and thermally throttled itself when faced with bulk amounts of error correction.
An example of file read speed slowing relative to age, thanks to a tool developed by Techie007.
Once the community reached sufficient critical mass to get Samsung’s attention, they issued a few statements and ultimately pushed out a combination firmware and tool to fix EVO’s that were seeing this issue. The 840 EVO Performance Restoration Tool was released just under two months after the original thread on the Overclock.net forums was started. Despite a quick update a few weeks later, that was not a bad turnaround considering Intel took three months to correct a firmware issue of one of their own early SSDs. While the Intel patch restored full performance to their X25-M, the Samsung update does not appear to be faring so well now that users have logged a few additional months after applying their fix.