It's Crucial not to try two new things at once

Subject: Storage | December 7, 2018 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: crucial, QLC, P1, 500gb, PCIe SSD, NVMe

The Crucial P1 SSD marks two firsts for the company, their first NVMe drive as well as their first SSD using QLC flash. The drive differs from Samsung's QVO in that it uses Micron's 64-layer 3D QLC flash and an SM2263 controller but still uses QLC flash, much to the dismay of The Tech Report, amongst others.  The 500GB drive currently sells for $110, which is attractive but when you look at the performance, it seems perhaps a bit expensive; which is not good.

Check it out here, or read some of our old TLC reviews if you can't stand the QLC.

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"Powered by Micron's 3D quad-level-cell NAND, the Crucial P1 might be a herald of QLC-dominated days to come. We put Crucial's first NVMe drive through its paces to see how increasing the number of bits per cell affects performance."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Snapdragon 8cx is Qualcomm’s answer to higher-performance for Windows PCs

Subject: Mobile | December 6, 2018 - 08:38 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon x24, snapdragon, qualcomm, NVMe, kryo 495, adreno 680, 8cx

While yesterday was all about Snapdragon 855, and the enhancements it will bring to mobile devices, Qualcomm’s focus today at their Snapdragon Tech Summit was all about the “Always on, Always connected” (AOAC) PC.

Announced almost exactly a year ago, AOAC is the term that Qualcomm uses to brand Snapdragon devices featuring the Windows operating system.

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In the past year, Qualcomm has shipped PCs based on both the Snapdragon 835 and well as the PC-only Snapdragon 850 SoCs.

Today, Qualcomm is taking the wraps off of their higher-performance Snapdragon option for PCs, Snapdragon 8cx.

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From the start, Qualcomm assures us that Snapdragon 8cx won’t be completely replacing Snapdragon 850 in the marketplace, pointing to it being a more upmarket solution.

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Kryo 495

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Unlike the Prime Core design on the Snapdragon 855, the 8cx platform is sticking with a more traditional BIG.little design with four performance and four efficiency cores. However, we do see larger cache sizes than previous Snapdragons, with a total of 10MB system cache.

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Qualcomm did make a few performance claims against Intel's notebook parts, but they are a bit confusing.

While they did compare the Snapdragon 8cx to Intel's mainstream 15W U-series quad-core mobile CPUs, the performance numbers Qualcomm showed were for both CPUs running at 7W. 

Qualcomm says this is because of the thermal constraints of a fanless design, of which all the Snapdragon PCs are, but looking at the thermal performance of real-world fanless PCs with Intel U-series processors like the Surface Pro 6 with a Core-i5, 7W seems to be a lower power level than that PC ever actually sees.

As always, only time and independent performance analysis will tell the true competitive nature of these CPUs.

Adreno 680

Also all-new for Snapdragon 8cx is the Adreno 680 GPU, what Qualcomm is touting as their fastest GPU ever with a 2x performance improvement and 60% greater power efficiency over Snapdragon 850.

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On the connectivity side, Adreno 680 will provide desktop-level outputs, including support for up to two simultaneous 4K HDR displays.

Despite the significant performance increases on the GPU side, Qualcomm is claiming that the Adreno 680 GPU in Snapdragon 8cx is 60% more efficient than the Adreno GPU in their current lead PC platform, Snapdragon 850.

Snapdragon X24

Snapdragon 8cx will sport the same X24 modem we saw announced alongside the Snapdragon 855 yesterday.

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This new modem will enable both LTE connections up to 2Gbps as we saw with Snapdragon 855, but judging from the specification sheet that was provided, 8cx seems to lack the ability for Wifi-6 (802.11ax) and 802.11ay.

In addition, Qualcomm also teased that 5G-enabled 8cx devices (likely with the Snapdragon x50 modem) will also be coming in 2019.

Connectivity

One of the most significant downsides for the current generation of Snapdragon-powered PCs has been the carryover of UFS storage from the mobile phone side. While UFS can provide a sufficient experience on Android devices, it became a significant bottleneck on Windows-based devices.

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Thanks to an available four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 connectivity, the Snapdragon 8cx will provide support for NVMe SSDs. While Qualcomm still hasn’t implemented a native NVMe controller into their SSD like Apple, this will at least enable the option for faster storage coming from OEMs.

However, it remains to be seen how many OEMs adopt NVMe SSDs in their Snapdragon 8cx products, due to the added cost, and potential thermal issues with higher performance, PCIe SSD in a fan-less form factor.

Software

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Another pain point for Snapdragon PCs has been software support. While the initial Windows on Snapdragon releases were able to run native ARM 32bit applications as well as emulate 32bit x86 applications, software support has come a long way for this platform in the past year.

One of the biggest areas of concern has been native browser support. Currently, the only native ARM browser on Windows is Edge. With Microsoft's announced move of Edge to the Chromium rendering system, we will now gain an implementation of the open source engine that power Google Chrome, but not the Chrome browser itself yet.

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Mozilla however, is set to ship a native ARM64 version of Firefox in the coming months, which will be the first high-performance answer to Edge for the Windows on Snapdragon platform.

Microsoft was also on stage today discussing how they are bringing Windows 10 Enterprise to Snapdragon devices, allowing for more wide deployments of these machines in large corporations.

Pricing and Availability

Despite bringing Lenovo on stage at the event to talk about their partnership with Qualcomm, no actual devices or even manufactures of 8cx devices were officially announced today.

Due to that, we have no real information on pricing or availability on Snapdragon 8cx-powered systems besides that they are coming in 2019, at some point.

That being said since Snapdragon 850 is still sticking around as an option in the marketplace, expect Snapdragon 8cx devices to be more expensive than the current crop of Snapdragon-enabled PCs.

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We expect more information to come on Snapdragon 8cx in the coming months at CES and MWC, so stay tuned for more information as it becomes available!

Source: Qualcomm
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: MyDigitalDiscount

MyDigitalDiscount doesn't seem to have been satisfied with their performance BPX line or their value SBX line, and have now launched a BPX Pro, which looks to carry the budget pricing of the SBX while offering performance *higher* than the original BPX. How much faster is the BPX Pro than the BPX? That's what this review sets to find out, so let's get to it.

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Specs:

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Internals:

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With the label peeled back, we find the Phison E12, coupled to Toshiba BiCS3 TLC NAND. PCBs are single sided up to 480GB. 960GB (and 2TB - not in this review) employ a different PCB with additional DRAM and two more flash packages on the flip side.

Read on for the results and conclusion!

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.

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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."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

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.

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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!