Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

We have been overdue for a Samsung NVMe SSD refresh, and with the launch of their 860 PRO and EVO back in January, folks have been itching for the 970's to come out. The 950 and 960 (PRO) lines were separated by about a year, but we are going on 18 months since the most recent 960 EVO launch. Samsung could afford to wait a bit longer since the 960 line already offered outstanding performance that remained unmatched at the top of our performance charts for a very long time. Recently, drives like the WD Black have started catching up, so it is naturally time for Samsung to keep the competition on their toes:

180423-175345.jpg

Today we will look at most of the Samsung 970 PRO and EVO lineup. We have a bit of a capacity spread for the EVO, and a single PRO. Samples are hard to come by so far since Samsung opted to launch both lines at the same time, but we tried to get the more common capacities represented. EVO 2TB and PRO 1TB data will have to come at a later date.

Specifications:

specs-PRO.png

specs-EVO.png

Specs come in at just slightly higher than the 960 lines, with some welcome additions like OPAL and encrypted drive (IEEE1667) support, the latter being suggested but never making it into the 960 products. Another welcome addition is that the 970 EVO now carries a 5-year warranty (up from 3).

specs-EVO-2.png

The 970 EVO includes 'Intelligent TurboWrite', which was introduced with the 960 line. This setup maintains a static SLC area and an additional 'Intelligent' cache that exists if sufficient free space is available in the TLC area.

Packaging:

Packaging is in line with the previous 960 series parts. Nice packaging. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

180423-175542.jpg

Read on for our full review of the Samsung 970 PRO and EVO!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: MyDigitalSSD

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

When one thinks of an M.2 SSD, we typically associate that with either a SATA 6GB/s or more recently with a PCIe 3.0 x4 link. The physical interface of M.2 was meant to accommodate future methods of connectivity, but it's easy to overlook the ability to revert back to something like a PCIe 3.0 x2 link. Why take a seemingly backward step on the interface of an SSD? Several reasons actually. Halving the number of lanes makes for a simpler SSD controller design, which lowers cost. Power savings are also a factor, as driving a given twisted pair lane at PCIe 3.0 speeds draws measurable current from the host and therefore adds to the heat production of the SSD controller. We recently saw that a PCIe 3.0 x2 can still turn in respectable performance despite lower bandwidth interface, but how far can we get the price down when pairing that host link with some NAND flash?

180305-155833.jpg

Enter the MyDigitalSSD SBX series. Short for Super Boot eXpress, the aim of these parts is to offer a reasonably performant PCIe NVMe SSD at something closer to SATA SSD pricing.

Specifications:

  • Physical: M.2 2280 (single sided)
  • Controller: Phison E8 (PS5008-E8)
  • Capacities: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
  • PCIe 3.0 x2, M.2 2280
  • Sequential: Up to 1.6/1.3 GB/s (R/W)
  • Random: 240K+ / 180K+ IOPS (R/W)
  • Weight: 8g
  • Power: <5W

Packaging:

The MyDigitalDiscount guys keep things extremely simple with their SSD packaging, which is eaxctly how it should be. It doesn't take much to package and protect an M.2 SSD, and this does the job just fine. They also include a screwdriver and a screw just in case you run into a laptop that came without one installed.

180305-155754.jpg

Read on for our full review of all capacities of the MyDigitalSSD SBX lineup!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel has been doing great with their Optane / 3D XPoint products lately, but what about NAND? Samsung had been leading the pack with their VNAND for a few years now, forcing competitors to struggle to keep up on the capacity, performance, and endurance fronts. Intel's 3D NAND production (announced in 2015) is finally starting to come into its full stride, with 64-layer TLC NAND shipping in their 545S in mid 2017. With SATA essentially covered, PCIe NAND solutions have been a bit rough for Intel. The SSD 600p was their first M.2 PCIe product, launching over a year ago. While it was cost-effective, it was not a stellar performer. This left the now extremely dated SSD 750 as their flagship NAND product. It was great for its time, but was only available in HHHL and U.2 form factors, precluding any possibility of mobile use. With their 3D NAND finally in a good position, what Intel really needed was a truly solid M.2 product, and I'm happy to report that such a thing has finally happened:

180123-155708.jpg

Behold the Intel SSD 760p Series, currently available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities, with 1TB and 2TB coming later in Q1 2018. Today we will be reviewing all currently available capacities.

Specifications

specs.png

This chart makes me happy. Finally, an Intel M.2 SSD with competitive specs! Note that the performance specs all come in at 2x the 600p, all while consuming half of the power of the older model. Endurance remains the same, but the 600p's problems were with performance, not endurance.

Packaging:

180123-155639.jpg

Packaging was very similar to that of the 600p and other Intel products. Simple and no frills. Gets the job done.

You know you want to see how these perform, right? Read on to find out!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Samsung launched their 850 line of SSDs in mid-2014 (over three years ago now). The line evolved significantly over time, with the additions of PRO and EVO models, capacity expansions reaching up to 4TB, and a later silent migration to 64-layer V-NAND. Samsung certainly got their money's worth out of the 850 name, but it is now time to move onto something newer:

180123-114944.jpg

Specifications:

specs.png

Of note above is a significantly higher endurance rating as compared to the 850 Series products, along with an update to a new 'MJX' controller, which accounts for a slight performance bump across the board. Not mentioned here is the addition of queued TRIM, which is more of a carryover from the enterprise / Linux systems (Windows 10 does not queue its TRIM commands).

Packaging:

180123-112150.jpg

Aside from some updated specs and the new name, packaging remains very much the same.

Read on for our review of the Samsung 860 PRO and EVO SSDs (in multiple capacities!)

(Those of you interested in Samsung's press release for this launch will find it after the break)

Affordable NVMe? Intel's new 760p series

Subject: Storage | January 23, 2018 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: Intel, 760p, NVMe, ssd, 512GB, SM2262, 64-layer TLC

Intel have released a new M.2 SSD line which will come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB with prices of  $74, $109 and $199 respectively.  This is a far cry from falling under Ryan's Law but are lower than other NVMe drives.  The Tech Report believes it is using the Silicon Motion SM2262 controller though Intel is being cagey about confirmation, with 64-layer TLC flash for storage. The overall performance was mixed, for reads this drive is one of the best TR have tested however the write speeds are barely faster than a SATA drive; at this price point that should not scare you off unless you plan on doing a lot of writes.

drive-top.jpg

"Intel is shaking up the mainstream SSD market by releasing a new NVMe drive at what it calls near-SATA prices. We run the drive through our storage-testing gauntlet to see whether the SSD 760p 512 GB and its 64-layer NAND turn out to be a game-changer."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

Today Intel is launching a new line of client SSDs - the SSD 545S Series. These are simple, 2.5" SATA parts that aim to offer good performance at an economical price point. Low-cost SSDs is not typically Intel's strong suit, mainly because they are extremely rigorous on their design and testing, but the ramping up of IMFT 3D NAND, now entering its second generation stacked to 64-layers, should finally help them get the cost/GB down to levels previously enjoyed by other manufacturers.

diag.jpg

Intel and Micron jointly announced 3D NAND just over two years ago, and a year ago we talked about the next IMFT capacity bump coming as a 'double' move. Well, that's only partially happening today. The 545S line will carry the new IMFT 64-layer flash, but the capacity per die remains the same 256Gbit (32GB) as the previous generation parts. The dies will be smaller, meaning more can fit on a wafer, which drives down production costs, but the larger 512Gbit dies won't be coming until later on (and in a different product line - Intel told us they do not intend to mix die types within the same lines as we've seen Samsung do in the past).

Specifications

specs.png

There are no surprises here, though I am happy to see a 'sustained sequential performance' specification stated by an SSD maker, and I'm happier to see Intel claiming such a high figure for sustained writes (implying this is the TLC writing speed as the SLC cache would be exhausted in sustained writes).

I'm also happy to see sensical endurance specs for once. We've previously seen oddly non-scaling figures in prior SSD releases from multiple companies. Clearly stating a specific TBW 'per 128GB' makes a lot of sense here, and the number itself isn't that bad, either.

Packaging

packaging.jpg

Simplified packaging from Intel here, apparently to help further reduce shipping costs.

Read on for our full review of the Intel 545S 512GB SSD!

Samsung Crams Entire 512GB NVMe SSD Into Single BGA Chip Package

Subject: Storage | May 31, 2016 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: TurboWrite, Samsung, PM971-NVMe, BGA, 512GB, 48-layer, 32GB, 256Gbit

Have you ever checked out one of those laptops with the soldered-on eMMC SSD, where the manufacturer was basically checking the 'SSD' box for forgetting the 'Performance' box entirely? What if I told you that it was possible to fit an entire PCIe NVMe SSD with performance comparable to a 950 Pro into a package similar to those eMMC parts?

BGA_SSD_Main_2_2.jpg

Source: Samsung

Another look at the OCZ RD400 NVMe SSD

Subject: Storage | May 27, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: TSV, toshiba, ssd, revodrive, RD400, pcie, ocz, NVMe, M.2, HHHL, 512GB, 2280, 15nm

If you somehow felt that there was a test that Al missed while reviewing the OCZ RD400 NVMe SSD, then you have a chance for a second look.  There are several benchmarks which The SSD Review ran which were not covered and they have a different way of displaying data such as latency but the end results are the same, this drive is up there with the Samsung 950 Pro and Intel 750 Series.  Read all about it here.

OCZ-RD400-SSD-Front-Side.jpg

"With specs that rival the Samsung 950 Pro, a capacity point that nips at the heels of the Intel 750's largest model, and competitive MSRPs, the OCZ RD400 is out for blood. Read on to learn more about this latest enthusiast class NVMe SSD and see how it competes with the best of the best!"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Toshiba (OCZ)

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

The OCZ RevoDrive has been around for a good long while. We looked at the first ever RevoDrive back in 2010. It was a bold move for the time, as PCIe SSDs were both rare and very expensive at that time. OCZ's innovation was to implement a new VCA RAID controller which kept latencies low and properly scaled with increased Queue Depth. OCZ got a lot of use out of this formula, later expanding to the RevoDrive 3 x2 which expanded to four parallel SSDs, all the way to the enterprise Z-Drive R4 which further expanded that out to eight RAIDed SSDs.

110911-140303-5.5.jpg

OCZ's RevoDrive lineup circa 2011.

The latter was a monster of an SSD both in physical size and storage capacity. Its performance was also impressive given that it launched five years ago. After being acquired by Toshiba, OCZ re-spun the old VCA-driven SSD one last time in the form of a RevoDrive 350, but it was the same old formula and high-latency SandForce controllers (updated with in-house Toshiba flash). The RevoDrive line needed to ditch that dated tech and move into the world of NVMe, and today it has!

DSC00772.jpg

Here is the new 'Toshiba OCZ RD400', branded as such under the recent rebadging that took place on OCZ's site. The Trion 150 and Vertex 180 have also been relabeled as TR150 and VT180. This new RD400 has some significant changes over the previous iterations of that line. The big one is that it is now a lean M.2 part which can come on/with an optional adapter card for those not having an available M.2 slot.

Read on for our full review of the new OCZ RD400!

What Micron's Upcoming 3D NAND Means for SSD Capacity, Performance, and Cost

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, nand, micron, Intel, imft, 768Gb, 512GB, 3d nand, 384Gb, 32 Layer, 256GB

You may have seen a wave of Micron 3D NAND news posts these past few days, and while many are repeating the 11-month old news with talks of 10TB/3.5TB on a 2.5"/M.2 form factor SSDs, I'm here to dive into the bigger implications of what the upcoming (and future) generation of Intel / Micron flash will mean for SSD performance and pricing.

progression-3-.png

Remember that with the way these capacity increases are going, the only way to get a high performance and high capacity SSD on-the-cheap in the future will be to actually get those higher capacity models. With such a large per-die capacity, smaller SSDs (like 128GB / 256GB) will suffer significantly slower write speeds. Taking this upcoming Micron flash as an example, a 128GB SSD will contain only four flash memory dies, and as I wrote about back in 2014, such an SSD would likely see HDD-level sequential write speeds of 160MB/sec. Other SSD manufacturers already recognize this issue and are taking steps to correct it. At Storage Visions 2016, Samsung briefed me on the upcoming SSD 750 Series that will use planar 16nm NAND to produce 120GB and 250GB capacities. The smaller die capacities of these models will enable respectable write performance and will also enable them to discontinue their 120GB 850 EVO as they transition that line to higher capacity 48-layer VNAND. Getting back to this Micron announcement, we have some new info that bears analysis, and that pertains to the now announced page and block size:

  • 256Gb MLC: 16KB Page / 16MB Block / 1024 Pages per Block

  • 384Gb TLC: 16KB Page / 24MB Block / 1536 Pages per Block

To understand what these numbers mean, using the MLC line above, imagine a 16MB CD-RW (Block) that can write 1024 individual 16KB 'sessions' (Page). Each 16KB can be added individually over time, and just like how files on a CD-RW could be modified by writing a new copy in the remaining space, flash can do so by writing a new Page and ignoring the out of date copy. Where the rub comes in is when that CD-RW (Block) is completely full. The process at this point is very similar actually, in that the Block must be completely emptied before the erase command (which wipes the entire Block) is issued. The data has to go somewhere, which typically means writing to empty blocks elsewhere on the SSD (and in worst case scenarios, those too may need clearing before that is possible), and this moving and erasing takes time for the die to accomplish. Just like how wiping a CD-RW took a much longer than writing a single file to it, erasing a Block takes typically 3-4x as much time as it does to program a page.

With that explained, of significance here are the growing page and block sizes in this higher capacity flash. Modern OS file systems have a minimum bulk access size of 4KB, and Windows versions since Vista align their partitions by rounding up to the next 2MB increment from the start of the disk. These changes are what enabled HDDs to transition to Advanced Format, which made data storage more efficient by bringing the increment up from the 512 Byte sector up to 4KB. While most storage devices still use 512B addressing, it is assumed that 4KB should be the minimum random access seen most of the time. Wrapping this all together, the Page size (minimum read or write) is 16KB for this new flash, and that is 4x the accepted 4KB minimum OS transfer size. This means that power users heavy on their page file, or running VMs, or any other random-write-heavy operations being performed over time will have a more amplified effect of wear of this flash. That additional shuffling of data that must take place for each 4KB write translates to lower host random write speeds when compared to lower capacity flash that has smaller Page sizes closer to that 4KB figure.

schiltron-IMFT-edit.jpg

A rendition of 3D IMFT Floating Gate flash, with inset pulling back some of the tunnel oxide layer to show the location of the floating gate. Pic courtesy Schiltron.

Fortunately for Micron, their choice to carry Floating Gate technology into their 3D flash has netted them some impressive endurance benefits over competing Charge Trap Flash. One such benefit is a claimed 30,000 P/E (Program / Erase) cycle endurance rating. Planar NAND had dropped to the 3,000 range at its lowest shrinks, mainly because there was such a small channel which could only store so few electrons, amplifying the (negative) effects of electron leakage. Even back in the 50nm days, MLC ran at ~10,000 cycle endurance, so 30,000 is no small feat here. The key is that by using that same Floating Gate tech so good at controlling leakage for planar NAND on a new 3D channel that can store way more electrons enables excellent endurance that may actually exceed Samsung's Charge Trap Flash equipped 3D VNAND. This should effectively negate the endurance hit on the larger Page sizes discussed above, but the potential small random write performance hit still stands, with a possible remedy being to crank up the Over-Provisioning of SSDs (AKA throwing flash at the problem). Higher OP means less active pages per block and a reduction in the data shuffling forced by smaller writes.

25nm+penny.jpg

A 25nm flash memory die. Note the support logic (CMOS) along the upper left edge.

One final thing helping out Micron here is that their Floating Gate design also enables a shift of 75% of the CMOS circuitry to a layer *underneath* the flash storage array. This logic is typically part of what you see 'off to the side' of a flash memory die. Layering CMOS logic in such a way is likely thanks to Intel's partnership and CPU development knowledge. Moving this support circuitry to the bottom layer of the die makes for less area per die dedicated to non-storage, more dies per wafer, and ultimately lower cost per chip/GB.

progression slide.png

Samsung's Charge Trap Flash, shown in both planar and 3D VNAND forms.

One final thing before we go. If we know anything about how the Intel / Micron duo function, it is that once they get that freight train rolling, it leads to relatively rapid advances. In this case, the changeover to 3D has taken them a while to perfect, but once production gains steam, we can expect to see some *big* advances. Since Samsung launched their 3D VNAND their gains have been mostly iterative in nature (24, 32, and most recently 48). I'm not yet at liberty to say how the second generation of IMFT 3D NAND will achieve it, but I can say that it appears the next iteration after this 32-layer 256Gb (MLC) /384Gb (TLC) per die will *double* to 512Gb/768Gb (you are free to do the math on what that means for layer count). Remember back in the day where Intel launched new SSDs at a fraction of the cost/GB of the previous generation? That might just be happening again within the next year or two.