Gigabyte Launches M.2 PCI-E NVMe x2 SSDs

Subject: Storage | September 27, 2018 - 12:41 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, M.2, M.2 2280, NVMe, PCI-E 3.0

Gigabyte recently announced a new series of M.2 form factor PCI-E NVMe solid state drives. Following the company’s Ultra Durable technology and testing methodologies, the new Gigabyte M.2 SSDs come in three capacities at 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB in a M.2 2280 package.

Gigabyte M2 PCIe NVMe SSD.png

The new M.2 SSDs feature a PCI-E 3.0 x2 interface and support for NVMe 1.3 as well as Host Memory Buffer technology that allows for system RAM to be used as the drive’s cache in lieu of on-board DRAM. The 128GB and 256GB models are official today, and the 512GB model is reportedly coming soon. Gigabyte has not yet released specifications on the top capacity drive, but performance information on the two lower capacity drives is available on its website. The Gigabyte M.2 128GB SSD is rated at up to 1100 MB/s sequential reads, 500 MB/s sequential writes, 90K random read IOPS, and 100K random write IOPS. The mid-tier 256GB capacity SSD steps things up a bit to 1200 MB/s sequential reads, 800 MB/s sequential writes, 80K random read IOPS, and 150K random write IOPS. It seems to take a hit on the random reads, but the random write performance is much better, at least on paper. I am curious what the 512GB SSD will offer in terms of performance.

The new M.2 drives come with three-year warranties and 1.5 million hours MTBF ratings. The 128GB is limited (under warranty) to 100 TBW and the 256GB drive rated at 200 TBW. The drives will reportedly be available soon though I was not able to find online listings or pricing at the time of writing.

Source: Gigabyte
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Toshiba

Today we take a quick look at an update to Toshiba's line of OEM SSDs. The first product to employ 96-layer 3D TLC NAND, the XG6:

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I'm going to keep this one brief since this is to be an OEM-only product that is not expected to be available in retail channels. It's good to have some results out there since it will appear in many laptops and may result in the creation of a parallel retail product at some point in the future.

Specs:

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Internals (sorta):

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XG6 at the top. XG5 at the bottom. Pretty much identical with the labels removed, the major exception being the flash memory, which is now 96-layer BiCS.

Read on for the results and conclusion!

Samsung Unveils Plans for Data Center SSDs You Can Actually Buy!

Subject: Storage | September 5, 2018 - 10:54 PM |
Tagged: Z-NAND, V-NAND, ssd, sata, Samsung, NVMe, 983 ZET, 983 DCT, 883 DCT, 860 DCT

Samsung was strangely absent from FMS this year, but they had us out to NYC yesterday for a briefing we've been waiting a looong time for:

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Above is a spec layout for Data Center SSDs that are to be in the retail channel, meaning they will be available for purchase on the open market, not locked behind exclusivity contracts with a select few corporations, as was the case previously. Here's the abbreviated rundown:

  • 860 DCT
    • SATA
    • Low write workloads
    • 960GB, 2TB, 4TB
    • Low cost (~0.25/GB)
  • 883 DCT
    • SATA
    • Mixed workloads
    • Power Loss Protection
    • 240/480/960GB, 2TB, 4TB
    • $0.30/GB
  • 983 DCT
    • NVMe (M.2 / U.2)
    • Mixed workloads / higher performance
    • Power Loss Protection
    • 960GB, 2TB
    • $0.34/GB

The prices above are MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) as MSRP doesn't carry over to enterprise products quite the same. Performance details are above and below in the full press release, but the gist of them is that they are comparable to current Samsung SATA and NVMe products with the exception of random writes being rated at steady state sustained values (client SSDs are typically rated for reduced span random writes of shorter durations).

There was another thing to check out as well:

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That's Samsung's elusive Z-SSD, now with the model name 983 ZET. It contains slightly modified V-NAND operating in straight SLC mode and with some additional tweaks to help reduce latencies - referred to by Samsung as Z-NAND. Here are the specs:

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We did note that some of what drives those super-fast latencies is the use of a DRAM cache. We won't know how this impacts larger span random performance until we can test this product first-hand. Samsung also showed where they expect these new products to fall relative to other competing offerings:

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I'm thrilled to see Samsung finally opening up their Data Center parts to the rest of the masses. We'll be testing and reviewing these as samples arrive. I personally can't wait, because Samsung's data center parts are known for having amazing QoS performance, and I can't wait to throw our enterprise test suite at them!

Read on for Samsung's full press release, with specs!

Source: Samsung
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Samsung has been in the portable SSD business for a good while now. They released their T1 back in 2015, with the T3 and T5 coming in at a yearly cadence. Keeping with tradition, today we see the release of a new model on a new interface - Samsung's new Portable SSD X5:

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(970 EVO included for scale)

While the 'T' branded predecessors were USB 3.0 and 3.1 (Gen1 - limited to 5Gbps), Samsung has now jumped onto the Thunderbolt 3 bandwagon, taking a firmware-tweaked (for encryption) 970 EVO and placing it behind an Intel Alpine Ridge DSL6340 Thunderbolt 3 controller.

Specifications

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Specs of note are the nearly 3GB/s sequential read speed. 2.3GB/s writes are nothing to sneeze at, either. No random performance noted here, but we will fix that with our test suite later on in the article.

Packaging

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Nice packaging and presentation.

Read on for our review of the Samsung Portable SSD X5!

Bring your own cache to Toshiba's RC100 Host Memory Buffet

Subject: Storage | July 13, 2018 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, RC100, NVMe, M.2, M.2 2242

The wee M.2 2242 form factor of the RC100 means there is no space for a DRAM buffer, which led Toshiba to utilize the Host Memory Buffer feature included in NVMe revision 1.2.  In order to use this feature you must be running Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (or 1709) or the at least the 4.14 Linux kernel.  It commandeers a portion of your system RAM to act as the cache, somewhat less effective than having it on board as The Tech Report's testing shows.  As well it is hampered its PCIe 2x interface, which ensures it falls behind 4x NVMe drives. 

The testing reveal the weaknesses of this design, but it is an interesting implementation of an NVMe featuer not often seen, which is in itself worth taking a look at.

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"Toshiba's RC100 NVMe SSD takes a bold stab at life without DRAM or a full four lanes of PCIe connectivity. Unlike many DRAM-less SSDs, however, the RC100 has a trick up its sleeve with the NVMe protocol's Host Memory Buffer caching feature. Join us to find out whether NVMe and HMB can bolster this entry-level SSD's performance."

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Biostar Announces Budget M500 NVMe SSDs

Subject: Storage | June 29, 2018 - 06:14 PM |
Tagged: tlc, ssd, NVMe, biostar, 3d nand

Motherboard manufacturer Biostar is expanding its solid state drive lineup with the launch of the M500 M.2 2280 SSD which appears to be the company’s first PCI-E NVMe SSD (it is not the first M.2 but those drives used SATA). The new Biostar M500 SSD uses 3D TLC NAND flash and supports NVMe 1.2 protocol and the PCI-E x2 interface. The exact controller and flash chips used have not yet been revealed, however.

Biostar M500 PCI-E NVMe SSD.jpg

Biostar continues its gamer / racing aesthetics with the new drive featuring a black heatsink with two LEDs that serve a utilitarian purpose. One LED shows the temperature of thebdrive at a glance (red/yellow/green) while the other LED shows data transmit activity and also shows which PCi-E mode (2.0 / 3.0) the drive is in.

The M500 SSD uses up to 1.7W while reading. it comes in four SKUs including 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1TB capacities with either 256 MB. 512 MB, or 1 GB of DDR3L cache respectively.

As far as performance is concerned, Biostar claims up to 1,700 MB/s sequential reads and 1,100 MB/s sequential writes. Further, the drives offer up to 200K random read IOPS and 180K random write IOPS. Of course, these numbers are for the top end 512 GB and 1 TB drives and the lower capacity models will have less performance as they have less cache and flash channels to spread reads and writes from/to.

SSD Capacity Max Sequential Read Max Sequential Write Read IOPS Write IOPS Price
128 GB 1,500 MB/s 550 MB/s 200K 180K $59
256 GB 1,600 MB/s 900 MB/s 200K 180K $99
512 GB 1,700 MB/s 1,100 MB/s 200K 180K $149
1 TB 1,700 MB/s 1,100 MB/s 200K 180K $269

According to Guru3D, Biostar’s M500 M.2 drives will be available soon with MSRP prices of $59 for the 128 GB model, $99 for the 256 GB model, $149 for the 512 GB drive, and $269 for the 1 TB SKU. The pricing does not seem terrible though the x2 interface does limit its potential / usefulness. They are squarely budget SSDs aimed at computing with SATA SSDs and enticing upgrades from mechanical drives. They may be useful for upgrading older laptops where a x4 M.2 slot would not be wasted like on a desktop machine.

What do you think about Biostar’s foray into NVMe solid state drives?

Source: Guru3D
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Toshiba

Toshiba RC100 240GB/480GB SSD Review

Introduction:

Budget SSDs are a tough trick to pull off. You have components, a PCB, and ultimately assembly - all things which costs money. Savings can be had when major components (flash) are sourced from within the same company, but there are several companies already playing that game. Another way to go is to reduce PCB size, but then you can only fit so much media on the same board as the controller and other necessary parts. Samsung attempted something like this with its PM971, but that part was never retail, meaning the cost savings were only passed to the OEMs implementing that part into their systems. It would be nice if a manufacturer would put a part like this into the hands of regular customers looking to upgrade their system on a budget, and Toshiba is aiming to do just that with their new RC100 line:

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Not only did Toshiba stack the flash and controller within the same package, they also put that package on an M.2 2242 PCB. No need for additional length here really, and they could have possibly gotten away with M.2 2230, but that might have required some components on the back side of the PCB. Single-sided PCBs are cheaper to produce vs. a PCB that is 12mm longer, so the design decision makes sense here.

Specifications:

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Bear in mind these are budget parts and small ones at that. The specs are decent, but these are not meant to be fire-breathing SSDs. The PCIe 3.0 x2 interface will be limiting things a bit, and these are geared more towards power efficiency with a typical active power draw of only 3.2 Watts. While we were not sampled the 120GB part, it does appear to maintain decent specified performance despite the lower capacity, which is a testament to the performance of Toshiba's 64-layer 3D BiCS TLC flash.

Packaging:

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Not much to talk about here. Simple, no frills, SSD packaging. Just enough to ensure the product arrives undamaged. Mission accomplished.

Read on for our full review of the Toshiba RC100 240GB and 480GB SSDs!

Marvell Updates NVMe SSD Controllers - 8-Channel 88SS1100 and 4-Channel 88SS1084

Subject: Storage | June 7, 2018 - 06:08 AM |
Tagged: toggle NAND, ssd, PCIe 3.0 x4, ONFI, NVMe, Marvell, controller, 88SS1100, 88SS1084

We've seen faster and faster SSDs over the past decade, and while the current common interface is PCIe 3.0 x4, SSD controllers still have a hard time saturating the available bandwidth. This is due to other factors like power consumption constraints of the M.2 form factor as well as the controllers not being sufficiently optimized to handle IO requests at a consistently low latency. This means there is plenty of room for improvement, and with that, we have two new NVme SSD controllers out of Marvell:

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Above is the block diagram for the 88SS1100, an 8-Channel controller that promises higher performance over Marvell's previous parts. There is also a nearly identical 88SS1084, which drops to four physical channels but retains the same eight CE (chip enable) lines, meaning it can still talk to eight separate banks of flash, which should keep performance reasonable despite the halving of the physical channels available. Reducing channels to the flash helps save power and reduces the cost of the controller.

Marvell claims the new controller can reach 3.6GB/s throughput and 700,000 IOPS. Granted it would need to be mated to solid performing flash in order to reach those levels, that shouldn't be an issue as the new controllers increase compatibility with modern flash communication protocols (ONFi 4.0, Toggle 3.0, etc). Marvell's NANDEdge tech (their name for their NAND side interface) enters its fourth generation, promising compatibility with 96-layer and TLC / QLC flash.

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Specs for the 8-Channel 88SS1100. 88SS1084 is identical except the BGA package drops in size to 12mm x 13.5mm and only requires 418 balls.

Rounding out the specs are the staples expected in modern SSD controllers, like OTP / Secure Drive / AES hardware crypto support, and NVMe 1.3 compliance for the host end of the interface.

While the two new parts are 'available or purchase now', it will take a few months before we see them appear in purchasable products. We'll be keeping an eye out for appearances in future SSD launches!

Marvell's full press release appears after the break.

Source: Marvell
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ADATA

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

ADATA has a habit of occasionally coming out of the woodwork and dropping a great performing SSD on the market at a highly competitive price. A few of their recent SATA SSD launches were promising, but some were very difficult to find in online stores. This has improved more recently, and current ADATA products now enjoy relatively wide availability. We were way overdue for an ADATA review, and the XPG SX8200 is a great way for us to get back into covering this company's offerings:

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For those unaware, XPG is a computing-related sub-brand of ADATA, and if you have a hard time finding details for these drives online, it is because you must look at their dedicated xpg.com domain. Parent brand ADATA has since branched into LED lighting and other industrial applications, such as solid-state drive motor controllers and the like. Some PC products bear the ADATA name, such as USB drives and external hard drives.

Ok, enough rambling about other stuff. Let's take a look at this XPG SX8200!

Specifications:

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Specs are mostly par for the course here, with a few notable exceptions. The SX8200 opts for a lower available capacity than you would typically see with a TLC SSD. That means a slight bump in OP, which helps nudge endurance higher due to that sacrifice. Another interesting point is that they have simply based their specs of 'up to 3200 MB/s read / 1700 MB/s write' from direct measurements of common benchmarking software. While the tests they used are 'short-run' benchmarks that will remain within the SLC cache of these SSDs, I do applaud ADATA for their openness here.

Packaging:

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Straightforward packaging with a small bonus inside - in the form of a thermal adhesive-backed aluminum heat spreader. This is included as an option since some folks may have motherboards with integrated heat spreading M.2 socket covers or laptops with extremely tight clearances, and the added thickness may not play nicely in those situations.

Read on for our full review of the ADATA XPG SX8200 M.2 NVMe SSD!

ADATA's XPG SX8200, beating Intel on a level playing field?

Subject: Storage | May 25, 2018 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: XPG SX8200, SM2262, NVMe, M.2, adta, 480GB

ADATA's XPG SX8200 uses the Silicon Motion SM2262 controller found in recent Intel and Mushkin M.2 SSDs, so we have an idea of its capabilities in conjunction with Micron's 64-layer 3D TLC NAND.  In The Tech Reports real world testing this drive beat out Intel's 760p by a small margin in both reads and writes and it is slightly cheaper to pick up.  It didn't come out as the fastest drive they've tested but it does show up near the top. 

If you aren't quite sure if this drive is for you, just wait a wee bit as Al has it strapped down on his test bench right now *Allyn EDIT* our review is now live!.

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"Adata's got a half-dozen NVMe M.2 drives available across its entire lineup, but its latest—the XPG SX8200—promises to dazzle with Micron's newest-gen 3D TLC and a Silicon Motion SM2262 controller. We break down the XPG SX8200 to find out if it's as good as the top dogs in the market."

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