TinkerTry Gets a Real Look at the Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X

Subject: Storage | August 14, 2017 - 08:09 AM |
Tagged: P4800X, XPoint, NVMe, HHHL, Optane, Intel, ssd, DC

We reviewed the Intel P4800X - Intel's first 3D XPoint SSD, back in April of this year. The one thing missing from that review was product pictures. Sure we had stock photos, but we did not have the product in hand due to the extremely limited number of samples and the need for Intel to be able to make more real-time updates to the hardware based on our feedback during the testing process (reviewers making hardware better FTW!). After the reviews were done, sample priority shifted to the software vendors who needed time to further develop their code bases to take better advantage of the very low latency that Optane can offer. One of those companies is VMware, and one of our friends from over there was able to get some tinker time with one of their samples.

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Paul whipped up a few videos showing the installation process as well as timing a server boot directly from the P4800X (something we could not do in our review since we were testing on a remote server). I highly encourage those interested in the P4800X (and the upcoming consumer versions of the same) to check out the article on TinkerTry. I also recommend those wanting to know what Optane / XPoint is and how it works to check out our article here.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

Today Corsair launched their first ever HHHL form factor SSD, the NX500:

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Just from the looks of this part, it is clear they were pulling out all the stops with respect to product design. This is certainly one of the most impressive looking SSDs we have seen come through our lab, and it will certainly be the type of thing enthusiasts would show off in their system builds. The NX500 is also likely to be the best showcase of Phison's new E7 controller. I'm just as eager to see if this SSD performs as well as it looks, so let's get to the review!

Specifications

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The specifications here are in line what we would expect for a modern day NVMe SSD. Note that ratings are identical for the 400GB and 800GB models, aside from a doubling of endurance due to the corresponding doubling of flash. There were some additional details in our press kit:

Extreme Performance
The Phison PS5007-E7
Description: PS5007-E7 is Phison’s first NVMe controller designed for high performance application. Supporting up to 8-channels in its NAND Flash interface.
Extreme Reliability
Multiple features are built into the PS5007-E7 to ensure stability and reliability.
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
Extreme Control
The Neutron NX500 SSD with Phison PS5007-E7 controller works with CORSAIR SSD Toolbox.
Drive monitoring – Monitor the health of your Force Series
Secure wipe – For security purposes, completely clear the drive of any recoverable data
Firmware update – Install updated firmware as needed

As the Phison E7 is a new controller, it's worth taking a look at the internals:

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Highlights from above are 8 channels to the flash, ONFI 3.2 and Toggle 2.0 support (covering most flash memory types), along with support for all modes (SLC/MLC/TLC).

Packaging

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I haven't seen SSD packaging this nice since the FusionIO ioDrive, and those parts were far more expensive. Great touch here by Corsair.

Continue reading our full review of the Corsair NX500!

FMS 2017: Intel's EDSFF 'Ruler' SSD Form Factor Details Emerge - 1 Petabyte in a 1U Chassis!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 9, 2017 - 09:19 PM |
Tagged: FMS 2017, ssd, S4600, S4500, ruler, pcie, NVMe, Intel, EDSFF

Yesterday we saw Samsung introduce their 'NGSFF' form factor during yesterday's keynote. Intel has been at work on a similar standard, this one named EDSFF (Enterprise & Datacenter Storage Form Factor), with the simpler working name as 'Ruler', mainly because it bears a resemblance:

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Note that the etching states P4500 Series. P4500 was launched a couple of days ago and is Intel's next generation NVMe PCIe Datacenter SSD. It's available in the typical form factors (U.2, HHHL), but this new Ruler form factor contains the exact same 12 channel controller and flash counts, only arranged differently.

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SFF-TA-1002 connector (aka 'Gen-Z'), shown next to an AA battery for scale. This connector spec is electrically rated for speeds up to 4th and 5th generation PCIe, so future proofing was definitely a consideration here. In short, this is a beefed up M.2 style connector that can handle more throughput and also has a few additional pins to support remote power and power-loss-protection (capacitors outside the Ruler), as well as support for activity LEDs, etc.

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Here is a slide showing the layout of the Ruler. 36 flash packages can be installed, with the possibility of pushing that figure to 42.

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Thermals were a main consideration in the design, and the increased surface area compared to U.2 designs (with stacked PCBs) make for far cooler operation.

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Intel's play here is fitting as much flash as possible into a 1U chassis. 1PB in a 1U is definitely a bold claim, but absolutely doable in the near future.

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I'll leave you with the quick sniper shot I grabbed of their demo system. I'll be posting more details on the P4500 and P4600 series products later this week (remember, same guts as the Ruler), so stay tuned!

FMS 2017: Micron Launches 9200 Series Enterprise Lineup with 3D TLC NAND, x8 PCIe

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 8, 2017 - 12:02 PM |
Tagged: U.2, pcie, NVMe, micron, HHHL, FMS 2017, 9200, 3d nand

We were extremely impressed with the Micron 9100 Enterprise SSDs. They are still the fastest NAND flash SSDs we've tested to date, but they were built on planar NAND, and we know everyone is replacing their flat flash with more cost efficient 3D NAND. Same goes for the 9200:

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Highlights for the new models are IMFT 3D NAND running in TLC mode and a new controller capable of PCIe 3.0 x8 (HHHL form factor only - U.2 is only a x4 interface). Here are the detailed specs:

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Improvements for the x4 models are marginal upgrades over the 9100, but the x8 variants bump up the maximum performance to 900,000 IOPS and 5.5GB/s! These should be shipping by the end of the month, and we will review them as they come in.

Press blast after the break

A new challenger appears; Toshiba's XG5 is hot on Samsung's heels

Subject: Storage | July 24, 2017 - 05:01 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, ocz, NVMe, nand, M.2, XG5, BiCS, 64-Layer

We first saw Toshiba's XG5 M.2 SSD at Computex this year but as of yet we have not had a chance to review it.  The Tech Report on the other hand did get their mitts on the 512GB model of this drive and they put it through its paces in this review right here.  Their results show a drive that beats OCZs' RD400 across the board and is impinging on Samsung's 960 Pro and EVO, though they are not quite there yet.  The next generation will improve on performance which should spur Samsung to new heights with their next NVMe product.  At the start of the article is some history on the current state of Toshiba which is worth checking out if you are not familiar with what is going on there.

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"Toshiba's XG5 NVMe SSD is shipping to the company's OEM partners now. We run it through our test suite to see if the company's newfangled 64-layer BiCS NAND helps it compete with the best in the business."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Toshiba's new 64 layer NVMe drive takes the cake

Subject: Storage | June 28, 2017 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: Toshiba XG5, toshiba, ssd, NVMe, nand, M.2, BiCS, 64-Layer

We first heard about the Toshiba XG5 1TB NVMe SSD at Computex, with its 64 layer BiCS flash and stated read speeds of 3GB/s, writes just over 2 GB/s.  Today Kitguru published a review of the new drive, including ATTO results which match and even exceed the advertised read and write speeds.  Their real world test involved copying 30GB of movies off of a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro to the XG5, only Samsung's new 960 lineup and the OCZ RD400 were able to beat Toshiba's new SSD.  Read more in their full review, right here.

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"The Toshiba XG5 1TB NVMe SSD contains Toshiba's newest 3D 64-Layer BiCS memory and our report will examine Toshiba's newest memory, as well as their newest NVMe controller to go along with it."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Kingston's DCP1000 NVMe PCIe SSD; fast and outside most people's budgets just like a race car

Subject: Storage | June 12, 2017 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: kingston, DCP1000, enterprise ssd, NVMe, PCIe SSD

The Kingston DCP1000 NVMe PCIe SSD comes in 800GB, 1.6TB, and 3.2TB though as it is an Enterprise class drive even the smallest size will cost you over $1000.  Even with a price beyond the budget of almost all enthusiasts it is interesting to see the performance of this drive, especially as Kitguru's testing showed it to be faster than the Intel D P3608.  Kitguru cracked the 1.6TB card open to see how it worked and within found four Kingston 400GB NVMe M.2 SSDs, connected by a PLX PEX8725 24-lane, 10-port PCIe 3.0 switch which then passes the data onto the cards PCIe 3.0 x8 connector.  Each of those 400GB SSDs have their own PhisonPS5007-11 eight channel quad-core controller which leads to very impressive performance.  They did have some quibbles about the performance consistency of the drive; however it is something they have seen on most drives of this class and not something specific to Kingston's drive.

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"Move over Intel DC P3608, we have a new performance king! In today’s testing, it was able to sustain sequential read and write speeds of 7GB/s and 6GB/s, respectively! Not only that, but it is able to deliver over 1.1million IOPS with 4KB random read performance and over 180K for write."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Just a little more Computex in the cache; check out what Adata is up to

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 12, 2017 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, NVMe, M.2, computex 2017, adta

Adata had a flashy booth at Computex, focusing on their upcoming storage and memory products which The Tech Report spent some time at.  They had quite a lineup to show off, a pair of Enterprise class NVMe M.2 drives, the IM2P33E8 powered by Silicon Motion's upcoming SM2262 controller which is reputed to hit 3000 MB/s read, 1500 MB/s write as well as the SATA IM2S33D8 using the SM2259 controller.

For high end users there are the NVMe XPG SX9000, XPG SX8000 and XPG SX7000, the former with a Marvell controller and Toshiba's evergreen 15-nm MLC NAND, the latter pair with a Silicon Motion controller and IMFT 3D MLC flash.  For the price sensitive they have launched an M.2 drive which only uses two PCIe lanes, it will not be as the high end drives but should leave a HDD or older SSD in the dirt. 

As for what is below?  Why that is an XPG Spectrix S10 drive which is the world's first RGB infected SSD.

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"Without high-end motherboards or funky case concepts to show off, Adata focused its Computex presence on its strong point: storage. Join us as we walk through the company's upcoming SSD offerings."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Computex 2017: Toshiba Launches XG5 NVMe Client SSD With 64-Layer BiCS Flash

Subject: Storage | May 30, 2017 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, ocz, NVMe, nand, M.2, computex 2017, BiCS, 64-Layer

Last night we saw WD launch the first client SSDs with 64-layer NAND Flash, but recall that WD/SanDisk is in partnership with Toshiba to produce this new gen 3 BiCS memory, which means Toshiba is also launching their own product wrapped around this new high-density flash:

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Enter the Toshiba XG5. It is certainly coming on strong here, as evidenced by the specs:

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Unlike the WD/SanDisk launch, the BiCS flash on this Toshiba variant sits behind an NVMe SSD controller, with stated read speeds at 3GB/s and writes just over 2 GB/s. We don't yet have random performance figures, but we expect it to certainly be no slouch given the expected performance of this newest generation of flash memory. Let's take a quick look at some of the high points there:

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Alright, so we have the typical things you'd expect, like better power efficiency and higher endurance, but there is a significant entry there under the performance category - 1-shot, full sequence programming. This is a big deal, since writing to flash memory is typically done in stages, with successive program cycles nudging cell voltages closer to their targets with each pass. This takes time and is one of the main things holding back the write speeds of NAND flash. This new BiCS is claimed to be able to successfully write in a single program cycle, which should translate to noticeable improvements in write latency.

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Another thing helping with writes is that the XG5 will have its BiCS flash operating in a hybrid mode, meaning these are TLC SSDs with an SLC cache. We do not have confirmed cache sizes to report, but it's a safe bet that they will be similar to competing products.

We don't yet have pricing info, but we do know that the initial capacity offerings will start with 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB offerings. The XG5 is launching in the OEM channel in the second half of 2017. While this one is an OEM product, remember that OCZ is Toshiba's brand for client SSDs, so there's a possibility we may see a retail variant appear under that name in the future.

Press blast after the break.

Source: Toshiba

Computex 2017: ASUS Announces Republic of Gamers, STRIX X299-based Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | May 30, 2017 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, Strix X299-E, ROG, Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex, raid, NVMe, LiveDash, Intel, computex 2017, asus, 802.11ad, 10G

Hot on the heels of Intel's Core i9 Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X announcements today, ASUS has released details on its X299 offerings. While you can find details on the more Prime and TUF ASUS Motherboards here, we're taking a look at the flagship Republic of Gamers products in this post.

Today ASUS is taking the wraps off of 3 X299 ROG Motherboards, the Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex, and Strix X299-E.

One of the interesting features ASUS is talking about with these X299 boards is Intel VROC technology. While we'll have a post with some more details about VROC soon, essentially it allows for a bootable M.2 NVMe RAID to exist from the CPU PCIe lanes.

While NVMe RAID is supported on the Z170 and Z270 platforms, it depends on all data going through the chipset to function which creates a bottleneck. Using an add-in card in the PCIe slot of your motherboard, VROC claims to allow NVME SSDs to operate in a RAID away from the chipset, while still being bootable.

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Rampage VI Extreme

As we've historically seen with ASUS ROG Motherboards, the "Extreme" model tends to be where we see innovative new features that will later find their way into the rest of ASUS's motherboard lineup, and the Rampage VI Extreme seems to be no different.

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Networking seems to be a big focus for the Rampage VI Extreme, with the addition of 802.11ad wireless networking. While 802.11ad devices are just starting to come out, it's use of 60GHz wireless in order to hit speeds of up to 4.6GBps is very compelling. However, by using such high-frequency wireless technology, 802.11ad signals will not penetrate surfaces like walls and mostly depend on line of sight. This is more for fast file transfers within one room, with the rest of your house still utilizing 802.11ac.

Wired networking sees an upgrade too on the Rampage VI Extreme, with the addition of a 10 Gigabit NIC. We saw ASUS integrate 10G networking on the X99-E WS 10G late last year, and it's great to see continued commitment to bringing 10G to consumers.

In addition to the VROC add-in card for NVMe SSDs that we mentioned previously, the Rampage VI Extreme features 3 onboard M.2 slots (2 slots come from the use of the DIMM.2 module in one of the memory slots). ASUS says this will help clean up your chassis while still giving you maximum storage options. It's unclear if these SSDs are being routed through the chipset, or are going directly to the CPU using Intel's VROC technology which would provide more throughput.

For users looking for a bit of flair on their motherboard, in addition to built-in RGB lighting, the Rampage VI Extreme features a new LiveDash OLED display for displaying real-time system information on your motherboard. You can also customize this display to offer custom messages and graphics to complement your case mod.

Rampage VI Apex

A newer addition to the ROG family, the Apex motherboards are meant for maximum overclocking and performance. This means that you'll actually sacrifice some features from other X299 boards in order to get a lean product you can push to the edge.

For instance, the Rampage VI Apex only provide 1 DIMM slot per memory channel, which ASUS claims allows the optimal trace routing to improve performance and stability with the fastest memory kits. In addition, you'll also find 2 DIMM.2 slots to add a total of 4 PCIe M.2 SSDs to your system.

While it may not be meant for gamers, the Rampage VI Apex is sure to set some records in the high-end overclocking realm.

Strix X299-E

Unlike the uncompromising motherboards we've talked about so far, the Strix X299-E aims to bring a more entry-level motherboard to the ROG line. 

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Keeping the same design cues as the other ROG motherboards, the Strix X299-E also keeps a lot of the same features. Users can expect the same PCIe slots and headers as other ROG boards. Additionally, features like onboard RGB lighting with Aura Sync Software, USB 3.1 Gen2, SupremeFX audio, and Intel Gigabit networking make the Strix X299-E a compelling product that should suit the needs of most users.

ROG Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex and ROG Strix X299-E motherboards will be available at leading resellers in North America starting in late June with the STRIX series arriving first.

Source: ASUS