Podcast #422 - Samsung 960 Pro, Acer Z850 Projector, Surface Studio and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2016 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: z850, x50, video, tegra, switch, surface studio, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, Optane, nvidia, Nintendo, microsoft, Intel, gtx 1050, Fanatec, evga, acer, 960 PRO, 5G

PC Perspective Podcast #422 - 10/27/16

Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung 960 Pro, Fanatec racing gear, an Acer UltraWide projector, Optane leaks, MS Surface Studio and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:47:11

  1. Join our spam list to get notified when we go live!
  2. Patreon
  3. Fragging Frogs VLAN 14
  4. Week in Review:
    1. 0:06:00 Fanatec ClubSport V2 Ecosystem Review: What is Realism Worth?
    2. 0:25:20 Samsung 960 PRO 2TB M.2 NVMe SSD Full Review - Even Faster!
    3. 0:45:35 Acer Predator Z850 UltraWide 24:9 Gaming Projector Review
    4. 0:54:28 EVGA SuperNOVA 750W G2L Power Supply Review
  5. Today’s episode is brought to you by Harry’s! Use code PCPER at checkout!
  6. News items of interest:
    1. 1:00:50 GTX 1050 and 1050Ti
    2. 1:05:30 Intel Optane (XPoint) First Gen Product Specifications Leaked
    3. 1:11:20 Microsoft Introduces Surface Studio AiO Desktop PC
    4. 1:21:45 Microsoft Windows 10 Creators Update Formally Announced
    5. 1:25:25 Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon X50 5G Modem
    6. 1:31:55 NVIDIA Tegra SoC powers new Nintendo Switch gaming system
  7. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Chewbacca Hoodie
    2. Jeremy: The Aimpad R5 is actually much cooler than I thought
    3. Josh: Solid for the price. Get on special!
    4. Allyn: Factorio
  8. http://pcper.com/podcast
  9. http://twitter.com/pcper
  10. Closing/Outro

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Intel Optane (XPoint) First Gen Product Specifications Leaked

Subject: Storage | October 14, 2016 - 08:05 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Optane, 8000p, Intel

Intel and Micron jointly launched XPoint technology over a year ago, and we've been waiting to see any additional info ever since. We saw Micron demo a prototype at FMS 2016, and we also saw the actual prototype. Intel's last demo was not so great, later demos were better), and we saw a roadmap leaked a few months ago. Thanks to another leak, we now have specs for one of Intel's first Optane products:


Now I know there is a bunch of rambling around the net already. "Why so small?!?!". What I think we are looking at is Stony Beach - Intel's 'Application Accelerator" seen here:


What further backs this theory is that you'll note the PCIe 3.0 x2 link of that product in the above roadmap, which couples nicely with the upper end limits seen in the 32GB product, which is clearly hitting a bandwidth limit at 1.6 GB/s, which is the typical max seen on a x2 PCIe 3.0 link.


Now with the capacity thing aside, there is another important thing to bring up. First gen XPoint dies are 128 Gbit, which works out to 16 GB. That means the product specs for the 16GB part are turning in those specs *WITH ONE DIE*. NAND based SSDs can only reach these sorts of figures by spreading the IO's across four, eight, or more dies operating in parallel. This is just one die, and it is nearly saturating two lanes of PCIe 3.0!

Another cool thing to note is that we don't typically get to know how well a single die of anything will perform. We always have to extrapolate backwards from the smaller capacities of SSDs, where the dies are the bottleneck instead of the interface to the host. Here we have the specs of one die of a product. Imagine what could be done with even wider interfaces and more dies!


XPoint fills the still relatively large performance gap between RAM and NAND, and does so while being non-volatile. There are good things on the horizon to be enabled by this technology, even if we first see it in smaller capacity products.

IDF 2016: Intel To Demo Optane XPoint, Announces Optane Testbed for Enterprise Customers

Subject: Storage | August 16, 2016 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Testbed, Optane, Intel, IDF 2016, idf

IDF 2016 is up and running, and Intel will no doubt be announcing and presenting on a few items of interest. Of note for this Storage Editor are multiple announcements pertaining to upcoming Intel Optane technology products.


Optane is Intel’s branding of their joint XPoint venture with Micron. Intel launched this branding at last year's IDF, and while the base technology is as high as 1000x faster than NAND flash memory, full solutions wrapped around an NVMe capable controller have shown to sit at roughly a 10x improvement over NAND. That’s still nothing to sneeze at, and XPoint settles nicely into the performance gap seen between NAND and DRAM.


Since modern M.2 NVMe SSDs are encroaching on the point of diminishing returns for consumer products, Intel’s initial Optane push will be into the enterprise sector. There are plenty of use cases for a persistent storage tier faster than NAND, but most enterprise software is not currently equipped to take full advantage of the gains seen from such a disruptive technology.


XPoint die. 128Gbit of storage at a ~20nm process.

In an effort to accelerate the development and adoption of 3D XPoint optimized software, Intel will be offering enterprise customers access to an Optane Testbed. This will allow for performance testing and tuning of customers’ software and applications ahead of the shipment of Optane hardware.


I did note something interesting in Micron's FMS 2016 presentation. QD=1 random performance appears to start at ~320,000 IOPS, while the Intel demo from a year ago (first photo in this post) showed a prototype running at only 76,600 IOPS. Using that QD=1 example, it appears that as controller technology improves to handle the large performance gains of raw XPoint, so does performance. Given a NAND-based SSD only turns in 10-20k IOPS at that same queue depth, we're seeing something more along the lines of 16-32x performance gains with the Micron prototype. Those with a realistic understanding of how queues work will realize that the type of gains seen at such low queue depths will have a significant impact in real-world performance of these products.

future NVM.PNG

The speed of 3D XPoint immediately shifts the bottleneck back to the controller, PCIe bus, and OS/software. True 1000x performance gains will not be realized until second generation XPoint DIMMs are directly linked to the CPU.

The raw die 1000x performance gains simply can't be fully realized when there is a storage stack in place (even an NVMe one). That's not to say XPoint will be slow, and based on what I've seen so far, I suspect XPoint haters will still end up burying their heads in the sand once we get a look at the performance results of production parts.


Leaked roadmap including upcoming Optane products

Intel is expected to show a demo of their own more recent Optane prototype, and we suspect similar performance gains there as their controller tech has likely matured. We'll keep an eye out and fill you in once we've seen Intel's newer Optane goodness it in action!

FMS 2016: Facebook Talks WORM QLC NAND Flash, Benchmarks XPoint

Subject: Storage | August 9, 2016 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Worm, storage, ssd, RocksDB, Optane, nand, flash, facebook

At their FMS 2016 Keynote, Facebook gave us some details on the various storage technologies that fuel their massive operation:


In the four corners above, they covered the full spectrum of storing bits. From NVMe to Lightning (huge racks of flash (JBOF)), to AVA (quad M.2 22110 NVMe SSDs), to the new kid on the block, WORM storage. WORM stands for Write Once Read Many, and as you might imagine, Facebook has lots of archival data that they would like to be able to read quickly, so this sort of storage fits the bill nicely. How do you pull off massive capacity in flash devices? QLC. Forget MLC or TLC, QLC stores four bits per cell, meaning there are 16 individual voltage states for each cell. This requires extremely precise writing techniques and reads must appropriately compensate for cell drift over time, and while this was a near impossibility with planar NAND, 3D NAND has more volume to store those electrons. This means one can trade the endurance gains of 3D NAND for higher bit density, ultimately enabling SSDs upwards of ~100TB in capacity. The catch is that they are rated at only ~150 write cycles. This is fine for archival storage requiring WORM workloads, and you still maintain NAND speeds when it comes to reading that data later on, meaning that decade old Facebook post will appear in your browser just as quickly as the one you posted ten minutes ago.


Next up was a look at some preliminary Intel Optane SSD results using RocksDB. Compared to a P3600, the prototype Optane part offers impressive gains in Facebook's real-world workload. Throughput jumped by 3x, and latency reduced to 1/10th of its previous value. These are impressive gains given this fairly heavy mixed workload.

More to follow from FMS 2016!

Podcast #404 - Crucial MX300, E3 hardware news, GTX 1080 Shortages and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 16, 2016 - 11:43 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, xbox one, void, video, Strider, Silverstone, rx 480, rx 470, rx 460, podcast, PHAB2, Optane, MX300, Lenovo, GTX 1080, Egil, crucial, corsair, asus, arm

PC Perspective Podcast #404 - 06/16/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the new Crucial MX300 SSD, news on upcoming Xbox hardware changes, GTX 1080 shortages and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:48:30
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:39:00 Xbox E3 Hardware Discussion
    2. 0:49:50 GeForce GTX 1080 Shortages?
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Trackr
    2. Allyn: Safely Remove USB devices (or figure out what’s stopping them)
  4. Closing/outro

Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators

Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 03:46 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand

A recent post over at benchlife.info included a slide of some significant interest to those who have been drooling over XPoint technology:


For those unaware, XPoint (spoken 'cross-point') is a new type of storage technology that is persistent like NAND Flash but with speeds closer to that of RAM. Intel's brand name for devices implementing XPoint are called Optane.

Starting at the bottom of the slide, we see a new 'System Acceleration' segment with a 'Stony Beach PCIe/NVMe m.2 System Accelerator'. This is likely a new take on Larson Creek, which was a 20GB SLC SSD launched in 2011. This small yet very fast SLC flash was tied into the storage subsystem via Intel's Rapid Storage Technology and acted as a caching tier for HDDs, which comprised most of the storage market at that time. Since Optane excels at random access, even a PCIe 3.0 x2 part could outmaneuver the fastest available NAND, meaning these new System Accelerators could act as a caching tier for Flash-based SSDs or even HDDs. These accelerators can also be good for boosting the performance of mobile products, potentially enabling the use of cheaper / lower performing Flash / HDD for bulk storage.


Skipping past the mainstream parts for now, enthusiasts can expect to see Brighton Beach and Mansion Beach, which are Optane SSDs linked via PCIe 3x2 or x4, respectively. Not just accelerators, these products should have considerably more storage capacity, which may bring costs fairly high unless either XPoint production is very efficient or if there is also NAND Flash present on those parts for bulk storage (think XPoint cache for NAND Flash all in one product).

We're not sure if or how the recent delays to Kaby Lake will impact the other blocks on the above slide, but we do know that many of the other blocks present are on-track. The SSD 540s and 5400s were in fact announced in Q2, and are Intel's first shipping products using IMFT 3D NAND. Parts not yet seen announced are the Pro 6000p and 600p, which are long overdue m.2 SSDs that may compete against Samsung's 950 Pro. Do note that those are marked as TLC products (purple), though I suspect they may actually be a hybrid TLC+SLC cache solution.


Going further out on the timeline we naturally see refreshes to all of the Optane parts, but we also see the first mention of second-generation IMFT 3DNAND. As I hinted at in an article back in February, second-gen 3D NAND will very likely *double* the per-die capacity to 512Gbit (64GB) for MLC and 768Gbit (96GB) for TLC. While die counts will be cut in half for a given total SSD capacity, speed reductions will be partially mitigated by this flash having at least four planes per die (most previous flash was double-plane). A plane is an effective partitioning of flash within the die, with each section having its own buffer. Each plane can perform erase/program/read operations independently, and for operations where the Flash is more limiting than the interface (writes), doubling the number of planes also doubles the throughput. In short, doubling planes roughly negates the speed drop caused by halving the die count on an SSD (until you reach the point where controller-to-NAND channels become the bottleneck, of course).


IMFT XPoint Die shot I caught at the Intel / Micron launch event.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm excited to see that XPoint is making its way into consumer products (and Storage Accelerators) within the next year's time. I certainly look forward to testing these products, and I hope to show them running faster than they did back at that IDF demo...

Podcast #396 - MSI Gaming Notebooks, Intel Layoffs, the PlayStation Neo and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2016 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, msi, Intel, Playstation, ps4, neo, ps4k, phanteks, idf, Optane, XPoint, western digital, nvidia, GTX 1080

PC Perspective Podcast #396 - 04/21/2016

Join us this week as we discuss MSI Gaming Notebooks, Intel Layoffs, the PlayStation Neo and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

IDF Shenzhen: Intel Demos 3D XPoint Optane File Copy at 2 GB/s

Subject: Storage | April 14, 2016 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: Optane, NVMe, Intel, idf

At IDF Shenzhen, Intel talked more about 3D XPoint (spoken cross-point). Initially launched in July of last year, 3D XPoint is essentially a form of phase change memory which has speeds closer to that of DRAM.


It can be addressed at the byte level, unlike flash which transfers in pages (~8KB) and erases in blocks (~6MB). There have been a few demos since the initial launch, and this morning there was another:

Optane demo.png

It is great to see XPoint / Optane technology being demonstrated again, but as far as demos go, this was not the best / fairest example that Intel could have put together. First of all, the 'NAND SSD' they are using is a Thunderbolt 3 connected external, which was clearly bottlenecked badly somewhere else in the chain (when was the last time you saw a 6 Gbit SATA SSD limited to only 283 MB/s?). Also, using SATA for the NAND example while using PCIe x4 NVMe for the Optane example seems a bit extreme to me.

The Optane side of the demo is seen going 1.94 GB/s. That is an impressive figure for sure, but it is important to note that a faster Intel 'NAND SSD' product has already been shipping for over a year:


Yes, the P3700 (reviewed by us here), can reach the speeds seen in this demo, as evidenced by this ATTO run on one of our 1.6TB samples:

Intel DC3700 800GB - atto-4 (driver)--.png

Looking at the P3700 specs, we can see that the 2TB model performs even better and would likely beat the Optane SSD used in today's demo:

P3700 spec.png

Further, in the IDF 2015 demo (where they launched the Optane brand), Intel showed off Optane's random IO performance:


This demo showed 464,300 4K random IOPS, and if you do the math, that works out to 1.9 GB/s *worth of random IO*, which is far more impressive than sequentials that basically match that of the current generation NVMe product of the same form factor and interface.

I'm still happy to see these demos happen, as it means we are absolutely going to see 3D XPoint in our hands sooner than later. That said, I'd also like to see demos that better demonstrate the strengths of the technology, because if today's demo was comparing apples to apples, it would have shown a P3700 matching the speed of Optane, which does not make the previously stated 1000x speed improvement nearly as obvious as it should be presented.

Podcast #363 - DX12 Benchmarking, Skylake News from IDF, Intel Optane Storage and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2015 - 03:51 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, video, Skylake, podcast, Optane, ocz, NVMe, kingston, Intel, idf2015, fms2015, dx12, ashes of the singularity

PC Perspective Podcast #363 - 08/20/2015

Join us this week as we discuss DX12 Benchmarking, Skylake News from IDF, Intel Optane Storage and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

*sorry for the audio problems with Ryan's Skype, still not quite sure what the issue was*

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

IDF 2015: Intel Launches Optane Technology - XPoint for Everyone!

Subject: Storage | August 18, 2015 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, ssd, Optane, Intel, IDF 2015

Just three weeks ago, we reported 3D XPoint Technology. This was a 2-layer stack of non-volatile memory that couples the data retention of NAND flash memory with speeds much closer to that of DRAM.


The big question at that time was less about the tech and more about its practical applications. Ryan is out covering IDF, and he just saw the first publically announced application by Intel:


Intel Optane Technology is Intel’s term for how they are going to incorporate XPoint memory dies into the devices we use today. They intend to start with datacenter storage and work their way down to ultrabooks, which means that XPoint must come in at a cost/GB closer to NAND than to DRAM. For those asking specific performance figures after our earlier announcement, here are a couple of performance comparisons between an SSD DC P3700 and a prototype SSD using XPoint:


At QD=8, the XPoint equipped prototype comes in at 5x the performance of the P3700. The bigger question is how about QD=1 performance, as XPoint is supposed to be far less latent than NAND?


Yes, you read that correctly, that’s 76k IOPS at QD=1. That means only issuing the SSD one command at a time, waiting for a reply, and only then issuing another command. Basically the worst case for SSD performance, as no commands are stacked up in the queue to enable parallelism to kick in and increase overall throughput. For comparison, SATA SSDs have a hard time maintaining that figure at their maximum queue depths of 32.

Exciting to see a follow-on announcement so quickly after the announcement of the technology itself, but remember that Intel did state ‘2016’ for these to start appearing, so don’t put off that SSD 750 purchase just yet.

More to follow as we continue our coverage of IDF 2015!