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

ADATA Announces XPG SX7000 Line of NVMe PCIe SSDs

Subject: Storage | April 10, 2017 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: adata, pcie, M.2, NVMe

ADATA has added another line of M.2 PCIe SSDs to their catalog with the XPG SX7000. These drives support NVMe and claim up to 1800 MB/s sequential read performance and 850 MB/s sequential write performance, with both tests measured on CrystalDiskMark at a queue depth of 32. Interestingly enough, their ATTO sequential write results, 860 MB/s, exceed their claimed maximum. Again, each of these numbers are provided by ADATA, so it’s still up to third-parties (like us) to verify. That said, ADATA provided a lot of information in their performance chart, which is nice to see.

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The spec sheet (pdf) provides performance results for three SKUs: 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. A fourth model (if you guessed 1TB, then you would be right) is also acknowledged, but not elaborated upon. These are all based on 3D TLC flash, with some undefined amount of SLC cache.

Pricing and availability are TBD, but it will come with a 5 year warranty.

Source: ADATA

CES 2017: Western Digital Launches WD Black NVMe PCIe SSD

Subject: Storage | January 5, 2017 - 05:32 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, ssd, pcie, NVMe, CES 2017, CES, Black

Following up on their Blue and Green SSDs launched back in October, Western Digital has now launched a Black series SSD:

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Unlike the Green and Blue which are SATA products available in 2.5" and M.2 (SATA) form factors, the Black is a pure M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 product. These were rumored to have a Marvell controller, but the samples I saw floating around CES appeared to have SanDisk branding. Flash will very likely be SanDisk 15nm TLC (with SLC cache). Specs are as follows:

  • 256GB / 512GB
  • $109 / $199 ($0.42 / $0.39 / GB)
  • Random read: 170k
  • Random write: 130k/134k
  • Sequential read: 2.05 GB/s
  • Sequential write: 700 / 800 MB/s
  • Endurance 80 / 160 TBW
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Power: 5.5 mW idle / 8.25 W peak

Pricing looks very competitive for an NVMe SSD, but we will have to see how the performance shakes out when compared against other budget SSDs. The WD Blue 1TB performed very well in our new test suite, so here's hoping the Black is equally surprising.

WD's press blast appears after the break.

Coverage of CES 2017 is brought to you by NVIDIA!

PC Perspective's CES 2017 coverage is sponsored by NVIDIA.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

*Updated* Samsung 960 PRO and 960 EVO Announced - Details and Specifications Inside

Subject: Storage | September 21, 2016 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, pcie, NVMe, M.2, 960 PRO, 960 EVO

I'm currently running around at the various briefings and events here at Samsung's Global SSD Summit, but we did get some details on the 960 PRO and EVO that I've set to go live at the NDA time of 1 PM Seoul time.

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Here is a distilled version of the specs, capacities, and prices of the 960 PRO and EVO:

960 PRO

  • 512GB, 1TB, 2TB capacities
  • Sequential: 3.5 GB/s reads / 2.1 GB/s writes
  • 4K random (IOPS): 440,000 read / 360,000 write
  • Dynamic Thermal Guard (new version of their overtemperature protection - details below)
  • 5 year warranty, endurace peaks at 1.2PBW for the 2TB model
  • 512GB model = $329.99 ($0.64/GB)

960 EVO

  • 250GB, 500GB, 1TB capacities
  • Sequential: 3.2 GB/s reads / 1.9 GB/s writes (write speed is for TurboWrite SLC cache)
  • 4K random (IOPS): 380,000 read / 360,000 write
  • Dynamic Thermal Guard
  • 3 year warranty, endurance up to 400TBW for the 1TB model
  • 250GB = $129.99 ($0.52/GB)

I would certainly like to see Samsung push the 960 EVO capacities upwards of 4TB, and with competing M.2 NVMe products shipping at a lower cost, those prices use some tweaking as well.

More information and pics to follow later today (tonight for you USA folks)!

**UPDATE** - since everyone is in bed and hasn't read any of this yet, I'm just going to add the information from the presentation here.

First, some of you may be wondering about the inverted capacity difference between the PRO and EVO. Historically, Samsung has shipped their EVO line in higher capacities than the PRO line. The 850 EVO currently ships in capacities up to 4TB, while the 850 PRO remains limited to 2TB. If you look closely at the photos above, you'll note that there are four flash packages on the PRO, while there are only two on the EVO. The cause for this difference is that the DRAM package (visible on the EVO) is integrated within the controller package on the PRO model. This is similar to what Samsung has done with their PM971-NVMe SSD, which has not only the controller and DRAM, but the flash itself all stacked within a *single* package. Samsung calls this package-on-package (PoP):

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During the Q&A, Samsung's Unsoo Kim indicated that future 960 EVO's may also shift to the PoP design in order to shift to 4 packages, and therefore double (or quadruple) the capacity on that line in the future.

Samsung also tackled thermal throttling head-on with what they call Dynamic Thermal Guard. This is a combination of a few things. First is the reduced power consumption - the new controller draws ~10% less power despite moving to a 5-core design (up from a 3-core on the 950 PRO). Second, and perhaps more interesting, is a new heat spreading label:

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This new label contains a copper layer that helps spread heat across more of the surface area of the M.2 part. Samsung gets bonus points for outside the box thinking there. The combination of the reduced power draw and the heat spreader help to make thermal throttling even more impossible under typical use:

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While the above chart was for reads (writes produce more heat), that's still a very good improvement, and being able to move potentially the full drive capacity before throttling is pretty good, especially considering the new models are moving data at a much faster speed. About those faster speeds, here are some increased details on the per-capacity specs:

960 PRO

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960 EVO

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Take the 960 EVO write specs with a grain of salt - those are assuming writes are going into the SLC cache area but never fear because TurboWrite is getting a boost as well:

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This new 'Intelligent TurboWrite' increases the SLC cache area significantly over that of the 850 EVO we are all used to, with up to a 42GB area on the 1TB model! This should make it easier to swallow those boastful write performance claims, as there's a really good chance that all writes any typical user applies to the new EVO will go straight into that new larger cache. 

Apologies for the odd cutoffs on these pictures. They were corrected for parallax prior to posting. I also couldn't do anything about the presenter being in the way of the data :). I've requested slides from Samsung and will replace these here if/when they are provided.

Last but not least was a newly announced '2.0' version of the Samsung proprietary NVMe driver, which should help enable these increased speeds, as the Windows InBox driver is certainly not optimized to handle them. With the driver comes a new ground-up redesign of Samsung's Magician software, which added support for file-specific secure erasure and a special 'Magic Vault' secure encrypted area of the SSD that can be invisible to the host OS when locked.

This appears to be the bulk of what is to be announced at the Summit, so for now, I leave you with the endurance ratings and (MSRP) pricing for all capacities / models:

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Full press blast after the break.

Samsung Kicks Off Global SSD Summit With 960 EVO and 960 PRO

Subject: Storage | September 20, 2016 - 06:01 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, 960 PRO, 960 EVO, NVMe, pcie, ssd, Summit, Global

Your humble Storage Editor is once again in Seoul, Korea. With these trips comes unique skylines:

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...the Seoul Tower:

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...and of course, SSD announcements! Samsung has a habit of slipping product pics into the yearly theme. This year they were a bit more blunt about it:

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Yup, looks like tomorrow we will see Samsung officially announce their successor to the 950 PRO. We'll be hearing all about the 960 PRO and the new 960 EVO tomorrow, exactly three months after we broke the early news of these new models.

There will, of course, be more details tomorrow once we attend the relevant product briefings. This will be late at night for those of you back in the states. No further details for now. I'm off to get some dinner and recover from that 14-hour flight!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction:

It's been quite some time since we saw a true client SSD come out of Intel. The last client product to use their legendary 10-channel controller was the SSD 320 (launched in 2011), and even that product had its foot in the enterprise door as it was rated for both client and enterprise usage. The products that followed began life as enterprise parts and were later reworked for consumer usage. The big examples here are the SATA-based SSD 730 (which began life as the SSD DC S3500/3700), and the PCI/NVMe-based SSD 750 (which was born from the SSD DC P3700). The enterprise hardware had little support for reduced power states, which led Intel to market the 730 as a desktop enthusiast part. The 750 had a great NVMe controller, but the 18-channel design and high idle power draw meant no chance for an M.2 form factor version of the same. With the recent addition of low-cost 3D NAND to their production lines, Intel has now made began another push into the consumer space. Their main client SSD of their new line is the 600p, which we will be taking a look at today:

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Read on for our full review of the Intel SSD 600p M.2 NVMe SSD!

PCIe 4.0 Will Still Deliver 75W of Slot Power

Subject: Graphics Cards, Motherboards | August 29, 2016 - 01:20 AM |
Tagged: pcie, PCI SIG

Last week, various outlets were reporting (incorrectly) that PCIe 4.0 would provide “at least 300W” through the slot. This would have been roughly equal to the power draw that a PCIe 3.0 GPU could provide with an extra six-pin and an extra eight-pin power connector, but do so all through the slot.

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Later, the PCI-SIG contacted Tom's Hardware (and likely others) to say that this is not the case. The slot will still only provide 75W of power; any other power will still need to come from external connectors. The main advantage of the standard will be extra bandwidth, about double that of PCIe 3.0, not easing cable management or making it easier to design a graphics card (by making it harder to design a motherboard).

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Micron
Tagged: U.2, ssd, pro, pcie, NVMe, micron, MAX, HHHL, 9100

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

It's been too long since we took a look at enterprise SSDs here at PC Perspective, so it's high time we get back to it! The delay has stemmed from some low-level re-engineering of our test suite to unlock some really cool QoS and Latency Percentile possibilities involving PACED workloads. We've also done a lot of work to distill hundreds of hours of test results into fewer yet more meaningful charts. More on that as we get into the article. For now, let's focus on today's test subject:

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Behold the Micron 9100 MAX Series. Inside that unassuming 2.5" U.2 enclosure sits 4TB of flash and over 4GB of DRAM. It's capable of 3 GB/s reads, 2 GB/s writes, and 750,000 IOPS. All from inside that little silver box! There's not a lot more to say here because nobody is going to read much past that 3/4 MILLION IOPS figure I just slipped, so I'll just get into the rest of the article now :).

Specifications:

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The 9100's come in two flavors and form factors. The MAX series (1.2TB and 2.4TB in the above list) come with very high levels of performance and endurance, while the PRO series comes with lower overprovisioning, enabling higher capacity points for a given flash loadout (800GB, 1.6TB, 3.2TB). Those five different capacity / performance points are available in both PCIe (HHHL) and U.2 (2.5") form factors, making for 10 total available SKUs. All products are PCIe 3.0 x4, using NVMe as their protocol. They should all be bootable on systems capable of UEFI/NVMe BIOS enumeration.

Idle power consumption is a respectable 7W, while active consumption is selectable in 20W, 25W, and 'unlimited' increments. While >25W operation technically exceeds the PCIe specification for non-GPU devices, we know that the physical slot is capable of 75W for GPUs, so why can't SSDs have some more fun too! That said, even in unlimited mode, the 9100's should still stick relatively close to 25W and in our testing did not exceed 29W at any workload. Detailed power testing is coming to future enterprise articles, but for now, the extent will be what was measured and noted in this paragraph.

Packaging:

Our 9100 MAX samples came only in anti-static bags, so no fancy packaging to show here. Enterprise parts typically come in white/brown boxes with little flair.

Read on for our full review of the Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB U.2 Enterprise SSD!