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

Samsung Magician 4.6 and 840 EVO Firmware Released - Downloads Throttled

Subject: Storage | April 23, 2015 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: TurboWrite, tlc, ssd, slc, Samsung, 840 evo

For those who watched last night's podcast live, I predicted that Samsung would be posting their 840 EVO Firmware and new Magician 4.6 software 'soon'. Turns out that 'soon' was actually this morning, but there's a catch - Samsung decided to limit the daily downloads:

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If you went to the Samsung SSD Download Page and got the above error, don't fret, there are a few mirrors out there:

I downloaded from these three sources and at the time of this posting can confirm all three are identical to the Magician 4.6 download available from Samsung.

Once installed, you *should* be able to use Magician to update the firmware on your 840 EVO and (hopefully) see its performance come back to where it should be. There have been some reports of users unable to update, but that appears to be Samsung's servers being hammered and Magician's default / timeout is to report that you are on the latest firmware. Restarting Magician may force it to re-check and get the update.

Linux and Mac users are not yet able to update as the ISO updater has not been released for the new firmware. Those capable can update their Linux or Mac 840 EVOs connected as a secondary drive under Windows with Magician 4.6 installed. Also, if you're running Linux and happen use fstrim during boot, read this post prior to updating.

Source: Samsung
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

There's been a lot of recent talk about the Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe SSD. It was supposed to launch as an NVMe product, but ended up coming out in AHCI form. We can only assume that Samsung chose to hold back on their NVMe-capable iteration because many devices are unable to boot fron an NVMe SSD. Sitting back for a few months was a wise choice in this case, as an NVMe-only version would limit the OEM products that could equip it. That new variant did finally end up launching, and we have rounded it and the other Samsung M.2 PCIe SSDs up for some much awaited testing:

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I'll be comparing the three above units against some other PCIe SSDs, including the Intel SSD 750, Kingston HyperX Predator, G.Skill Phoenix Blade, Plextor M6e Black, and more!

Continue reading our review of these hot new M.2 products!

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:

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