Subject: General Tech | August 16, 2018 - 03:16 PM | Alex Lustenberg
Tagged: xeon, video, Turning, Threadripper, ssd, Samsung, QLC, podcast, PA32UC, nvidia, nand, L1TF, Intel, DOOM Eternal, asus, amd, 660p, 2990wx, 2950x
PC Perspective Podcast #509 - 08/16/18
Join us this week for discussion on Modded Thinkpads, EVGA SuperNOVA PSUs, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store (audio only)
- Google Play - Subscribe to our audio podcast directly through Google Play!
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader (audio only)
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano
Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg
Program length: 1:35:10
There is no 3
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Picks of the Week:
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Flash Memory Summit 2018 is on, and it's rapidly looking like the theme of the year is 'QLC'. QLC stands for Quad Level Cell, which is a bit of a misnomer since there are actually 16 voltage levels of a QLC cell - the 'quad' actually relating to the four bits of data that can be stored at any specific location.
Doubling the number of voltage states allows you to store 33% more data in a given number of flash cells, but comes at a cost. The tighter voltage tolerances required and higher sensitivity to cell leakage mean that endurance ratings cannot be as high as TLC or MLC, and programming (writing) requires greater voltage precision, meaning slower writes. Reads may also see a slight penalty since it is more difficult to discriminate more finely grained voltage thresholds. SSD makers have been trying to overcome these hurdles for years, and it seems that Intel is now the first to crack the code, launching their first mainstream QLC SSD:
Specifications are not earth shattering but respectable for a budget-minded NVMe SSD. 1.8GB/s sequentials and 250,000 IOPS fall well within NVMe territory. The write figures may be higher than expected given this article intro, but Intel has a few tricks up their sleeves here that help them pull this off:
While not specifically called out in the specs, Intel has implemented a large dynamic write cache to help overcome slower QLC media write speeds. The idea here is that in the vast majority of typical usage scenarios, the user should never see QLC speeds and will only ever be writing to SLC. The dynamic cache is created by simply operating sections of the QLC media in SLC mode (1TB of QLC = 256GB of SLC). Intel could have gone higher here, but doing so would more negatively impact endurance since erasing blocks of cells wears the flash similarly regardless of the mode it is currently operating in.
Simple packaging. Nothing to write home about.
Read on for our full review of the Intel SSD 660p 1TB QLC SSD!
Subject: Storage | August 2, 2018 - 04:24 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 860 evo, Samsung, sata, ssd, 64-layer TLC
Samsung have updated their popular SATA SSD series with 64-layer TLC and The Tech Report takes a look at it here. As you may remember from Al's review back in January, the drive did not show real improvements over the 850 EVO and was occasionally slower at certain tasks. It has been a while, so has the performance changed over time? Find out in the full review.
"Samsung has replaced the longtime reigning champion of the mainstream SSD market. We test out the 860 EVO to see whether doubling V-NAND layers doubles the fun."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung SSD 860 PRO 1TB @ Benchmark Reviews
- Toshiba OCZ RC100 480 GB @ TechPowerUp
- ADATA XPG SX8200 480GB M.2. SSD @ Guru of 3D
- QNAP TVS-1282-i7-64G 12-bay NAS @ Kitguru
- QNAP TS-328 3-bay NAS @ Kitguru
Subject: Storage | July 5, 2018 - 02:18 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ssd, sata, RGB, team group, delta rgb
Team Group have hit peak RGB with their new Delta SSDs which does not only have a full blown case of RGBs but is compatible with ASUS Aura Sync, MSI Mystic Light, Gigabyte RGB Fusion and other fancy software to control your blinken lighten. In theory it should also offer performance that saturates SATA 6Gbps bandwidth, but who cares about that when you can get even more lumens shoved into your PC! For about $80 you can pick one up, but with this drive you should be going with at least a RAID 5 setup.
"Team Group's Delta RGB SSD is a unique solid-state drive, due to its amazing RGB support. It connects to your motherboard's RGB header, which then gives you full control over the LEDs, for mixed colors, patterns and custom lighting effects. Performance is good too, so is pricing, with just $80 for the 250 GB version."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Kingston A1000 NVMe SSD @ Modders-Inc
- Toshiba OCZ RC100 240GB SSD @ Kitguru
- NVMe SSD Storage Performance: Intel Z370 vs. AMD X470 @ TechSpot
- Kingston Canvas & Toshiba Exceria Memory Card Comparison @ NikKTech
- QNAP TS-228A 2-bay NAS @ Kitguru
- QNAP TS-328 Home NAS @ Modders Inc
- Synology DS718+ 2-Bay NAS @ TechPowerUp
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 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?
Toshiba RC100 240GB/480GB SSD Review
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:
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.
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.
Not much to talk about here. Simple, no frills, SSD packaging. Just enough to ensure the product arrives undamaged. Mission accomplished.
Subject: Storage | June 7, 2018 - 06:08 AM | Allyn Malventano
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:
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.
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!
Subject: Storage | June 6, 2018 - 03:55 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, Optane Memory, Optane, M.2 22110, M.2, Intel, 905P, 3D XPoint
At Computex 2018, Intel announced a new Optane 905P SSD:
...the Optane 905P 380GB, now in an M.2 form factor!
This looks to be a miniaturization of the 7-channel controller previously only available on the desktop add-in cards (note there are 7 packages). There is a catch though, as fitting 7 packages plus a relatively large controller means this is not M.2 2280, but M.2 22110. The M.2 22110 (110mm long) form factor may limit where you can install this product, as mobile platforms and some desktop motherboards only support up to an M.2 2280 (80mm) length. Power consumption may also be a concern for mobile applications, as this looks to be the full blown 7-channel controller present on the desktop AIC variants of the 905P and 900P.
We have no performance numbers just yet, but based on the above we should see figures in-line with the desktop Optane parts (and higher than the previous 'Optane Memory'/800P M.2 parts, which used a controller with fewer channels). Things may be slightly slower since this part would be limited to a ~7W power envelope - that is the maximum you can get out of an M.2 port without damaging the motherboard or overheating the smaller surface area of an M.2 form factor.
An interesting point to bring up is that while 3D XPoint does not need to be overprovisioned like NAND flash does, there is a need to have some spare area as well as space for the translation layer (used for wear leveling - still a requirement for 3D XPoint as it must be managed to some degree). In the past, we've noted that smaller capacities of a given line will see slightly less of a proportion of available space when comparing the raw media present to the available capacity. Let's see how this (theoretically) works out for the new 905P:
- 800P 58GB - 64GB RAW - 10%
- 800P 118GB - 128GB RAW - 8%
- 900P 280GB - 336GB RAW - 20%
- 905P 380GB - 448GB RAW - 18%
- 900P 480GB - 560GB RAW - 17%
- 905P 960GB - 1120GB RAW - 17%
I'm making an educated guess that the new 380GB part contains 4 die stacks within its packages. We've never seen 8 die stacks come out of Intel, and there is little reason to believe any would be used in this product based on the available capacity. Note that higher capacities run at ~17% excess media, but as the capacity reduces, the percentage excess increases. The 280GB 900P increases to 20% by that capacity, but the new 905P M.2 comes in at 18%. Not much of a loss there, meaning the cost/GB *should* come in-line with the pricing of the 480GB 900P, which should put the 905P 380GB right at a $450-$500 price point.
The new 905P M.2 22110 is due out later this year.
Subject: Storage | May 30, 2018 - 07:28 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, QLC, Optane DC, Optane, Intel, DIMM, 3D XPoint, 20TB
Lots of good stuff coming out of Intel's press event earlier today. First up is Optane, now (finally and officially) in a DIMM form factor!:
We have seen and tested Optane in several forms, but all so far have been bottlenecked by the interface and controller architectures. The only real way to fully realize the performance gains of 3D XPoint (how it works here) is to move away from the slower interfaces that are holding it back. A DIMM form factor is just the next logical step here.
Intel shows the new 'Optane DC Persistent Memory' as yet another tier up the storage/memory stack. The new parts will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities. We don't have confirmation on the raw capacity, but based on Intel's typical max stack height of 4 dies per package, 3D XPoint's raw die capacity of 16GB, and a suspected 10 packages per DIMM, that should come to 640GB raw capacity. Combined with a 60 DWPD rating (up from 30DWPD for P4800X), this shows Intel is loosening up their design margins considerably. This makes sense as 3D XPoint was a radically new and unproven media when first launched, and it has now built up a decent track record in the field.
Bridging The Gap chart - part of a sequence from our first P4800X review.
Recall that even with Intel's Optane DC SSD parts like the P4800X, there remained a ~100x latency gap between the DRAM and the storage. The move to DIMMs should help Intel push closer to the '1000x faster than NAND' claims made way back when 3D XPoint was launched. Even if DIMMs were able to extract all possible physical latency gains from XPoint, there will still be limitations imposed by today's software architectures, which still hold many legacy throwbacks from the times of HDDs. Intel generally tries to help this along by providing various caching solutions that allow Optane to directly augment the OS's memory. These new DIMMs, when coupled with supporting enterprise platforms capable of logically segmenting RAM and NV DIMM slots, should be able to be accessed either directly or as a memory expansion tier.
Circling back to raw performance, we'll have to let software evolve a bit further to see even better gains out of XPoint platforms. That's likely the reason Intel did not discuss any latency figures for the new products today. My guess is that latencies should push down into the 1-3us range, splitting the difference between current generation DRAM (~80-100ns) and PCIe-based Optane parts (~10us). While the DIMM form factor is certainly faster, there is still a management layer at play here, meaning some form of controller or a software layer to handle wear leveling. No raw XPoint sitting on the memory bus just yet.
Also out of the event came talks about QLC NAND flash. Recently announced by Intel / Micron, along with 96-layer 3D NAND development, QLC helps squeeze higher capacities out of given NAND flash dies. Endurance does take a hit, but so long as the higher density media is coupled to appropriate client/enterprise workloads, there should be no issue with premature media wear-out or data retention. Micron has already launched an enterprise QLC part, and while Intel been hush-hush on actual product launches, they did talk about both client and enterprise QLC parts (with the latter pushing into 20TB in a 2.5" form factor).
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
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:
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!
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.
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.