Subject: Storage | May 30, 2017 - 09:00 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, ocz, NVMe, nand, M.2, computex 2017, BiCS, 64-Layer
Last night we saw WD launch the first client SSDs with 64-layer NAND Flash, but recall that WD/SanDisk is in partnership with Toshiba to produce this new gen 3 BiCS memory, which means Toshiba is also launching their own product wrapped around this new high-density flash:
Enter the Toshiba XG5. It is certainly coming on strong here, as evidenced by the specs:
Unlike the WD/SanDisk launch, the BiCS flash on this Toshiba variant sits behind an NVMe SSD controller, with stated read speeds at 3GB/s and writes just over 2 GB/s. We don't yet have random performance figures, but we expect it to certainly be no slouch given the expected performance of this newest generation of flash memory. Let's take a quick look at some of the high points there:
Alright, so we have the typical things you'd expect, like better power efficiency and higher endurance, but there is a significant entry there under the performance category - 1-shot, full sequence programming. This is a big deal, since writing to flash memory is typically done in stages, with successive program cycles nudging cell voltages closer to their targets with each pass. This takes time and is one of the main things holding back the write speeds of NAND flash. This new BiCS is claimed to be able to successfully write in a single program cycle, which should translate to noticeable improvements in write latency.
Another thing helping with writes is that the XG5 will have its BiCS flash operating in a hybrid mode, meaning these are TLC SSDs with an SLC cache. We do not have confirmed cache sizes to report, but it's a safe bet that they will be similar to competing products.
We don't yet have pricing info, but we do know that the initial capacity offerings will start with 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB offerings. The XG5 is launching in the OEM channel in the second half of 2017. While this one is an OEM product, remember that OCZ is Toshiba's brand for client SSDs, so there's a possibility we may see a retail variant appear under that name in the future.
Subject: Storage | May 29, 2017 - 11:42 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, Ultra, ssd, sandisk, nand, computex 2017, Blue, BiCS, 3d
Western Digital bought SanDisk nearly two years ago, but we had not really seen any products jointly launched under both brand labels. Until today:
The WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD and SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD are both products containing identical internals. Specifically, these are the first client SSDs built with 64-layer 3D NAND technology. Some specs:
- Sequential read: 560 MB/s
- Sequential write: 530 MB/s
- Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
- Form factor: 2.5" (WD and Sandisk), M.2 (SATA) 2280 (WD only)
MSRP's start at $99.99 for the 250GB models of all flavors (2.5" / M.2 SATA), and all products will ship with a 3-year warranty.
It might seem odd that we see an identical product shipped under two different brands owned by the same company, but WD is likely leveraging the large OEM relationship held by SanDisk. I'm actually curious to see how this pans out long term because it is a bit confusing at present.
Intro and Upgrading the PS4 Pro Hard Drive
When Sony launched the PS4 Pro late last year, it introduced an unusual mid-cycle performance update to its latest console platform. But in addition to increased processing and graphics performance, Sony also addressed one of the original PS4's shortcomings: the storage bus.
The original, non-Pro PlayStation 4 utilized a SATA II bus, capping speeds at 3Gb/s. This was more than adequate for keeping up with the console's stock hard drive, but those who elected to take advantage of Sony's user-upgradeable storage policy and install an SSD faced the prospect of a storage bus bottleneck. As we saw in our original look at upgrading the PS4 Pro with a solid state drive, the SSD brought some performance improvements in terms of load times, but these improvements weren't always as impressive as we might expect.
We therefore set out to see what performance improvements, if any, could be gained by the inclusion of SATA III in the PS4 Pro, and if this new Pro model makes a stronger case for users to shell out even more cash for a high capacity solid state drive. We weren't the only ones interested in this test. Digital Foundry conducted their own tests of the PS4 Pro's SATA III interface. They found that while a solid state drive in the PS4 Pro clearly outperformed the stock hard drive in the original PS4, it generally didn't offer much improvement over the SATA II-bottlenecked SSD in the original PS4, or even, in some cases, the stock HDD in the PS4 Pro.
But we noticed a major issue with Digital Foundry's testing process. For their SSD tests, they used the OCZ Trion 100, an older SSD with relatively mediocre performance compared to its latest competitors. The Trion 100 also has a relatively low write endurance and we therefore don't know the condition and performance characteristics of Digital Foundry's drive.
To address these issues, we conducted our tests with a brand new 1TB Samsung 850 EVO. While far from the cheapest, or even most reasonable option for a PS4 Pro upgrade, our aim is to assess the "best case scenario" when it comes to SSD performance via the PS4 Pro's SATA III bus.
Subject: Editorial | April 27, 2017 - 12:19 PM | Alex Lustenberg
Tagged: podcast, Win 3.11, ssd, riotoro, Optane Memory, Optane, Intel, GTX 1080Ti, fsp, evga, EK Supremacy, corsair, biostar, asus, video
PC Perspective Podcast #447 - 04/27/17
Join us for loads of Intel Optane, multiple water cooling parts, a Mini-ITX AM4 board, and more!
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Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison, Morry Teitelman
Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg
Program length: 1:50:22
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Introduction and Specifications
XPoint. Optane. QuantX. We've been hearing these terms thrown around for two years now. A form of 3D stackable non-volatile memory that promised 10x the density of DRAM and 1000x the speed and endurance of NAND. These were bold statements, and over the following months, we would see them misunderstood and misconstrued by many in the industry. These misconceptions were further amplified by some poor demo choices on the part of Intel (fortunately countered by some better choices made by Micron). Fortunately cooler heads prevailed as Jim Handy and other industry analysts helped explain that a 1000x improvement at the die level does not translate to the same improvement at the device level, especially when the first round of devices must comply with what will soon become a legacy method of connecting a persistent storage device to a PC.
Did I just suggest that PCIe 3.0 and the NVMe protocol - developed just for high-speed storage, is already legacy tech? Well, sorta.
That 'Future NVM' bar at the bottom of that chart there was a 2-year old prototype iteration of what is now Optane. Note that while NVMe was able to shrink down the yellow bar a bit, as you introduce faster and faster storage, the rest of the equation (meaning software, including the OS kernel) starts to have a larger and larger impact on limiting the ultimate speed of the device.
NAND Flash simplified schematic (via Wikipedia)
Before getting into the first retail product to push all of these links in the storage chain to the limit, let's explain how XPoint works and what makes it faster. Taking random writes as an example, NAND Flash (above) must program cells in pages and erase cells in blocks. As modern flash has increased in capacity, the sizes of those pages and blocks have scaled up roughly proportionally. At present day we are at pages >4KB and block sizes in the megabytes. When it comes to randomly writing to an already full section of flash, simply changing the contents of one byte on one page requires the clearing and rewriting of the entire block. The difference between what you wanted to write and what the flash had to rewrite to accomplish that operation is called the write amplification factor. It's something that must be dealt with when it comes to flash memory management, but for XPoint it is a completely different story:
XPoint is bit addressible. The 'cross' structure means you can select very small groups of data via Wordlines, with the ultimate selection resolving down to a single bit.
Since the programmed element effectively acts as a resistor, its output is read directly and quickly. Even better - none of that write amplification nonsense mentioned above applies here at all. There are no pages or blocks. If you want to write a byte, go ahead. Even better is that the bits can be changed regardless of their former state, meaning no erase or clear cycle must take place before writing - you just overwrite directly over what was previously stored. Is that 1000x faster / 1000x more write endurance than NAND thing starting to make more sense now?
Ok, with all of the background out of the way, let's get into the meat of the story. I present the P4800X:
Subject: Storage | April 7, 2017 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: WD, ssd, external ssd
Western Digital has just announced the My Passport SSD line of portable solid state hard drives. As you might expect, the major advantage of SSD-based portable storage is speed. This one connects with a USB Type-C port and is rated at up to 515 MB/s, although that hasn’t been benchmarked yet. The drives also support hardware, 256-bit AES encryption via their security software.
According to Best Buy, the 256GB model ($99.99 USD) is already sold out, but the 512GB model ($199.99) and the 1TB model ($399.99) are both still available for the 14th of April.
Subject: Storage | February 15, 2017 - 08:58 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, ssd, Optane, memory, Intel, cache
We now have an actual Optane landing page on the Intel site that discusses the first iteration of 'Intel Optane Memory', which appears to be the 8000p Series that we covered last October and saw as an option on some upcoming Lenovo laptops. The site does not cover the upcoming enterprise parts like the 375GB P4800X, but instead, focuses on the far smaller 16GB and 32GB 'System Accelerator' M.2 modules.
Despite using only two lanes of PCIe 3.0, these modules turn in some impressive performance, but the capacities when using only one or two (16GB each) XPoint dies preclude an OS install. Instead, these will be used, presumably in combination with a newer form of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology driver, as a caching layer meant as an HDD accelerator:
While the random write performance and endurance of these parts blow any NAND-based SSD out of the water, the 2-lane bottleneck holds them back compared to high-end NVMe NAND SSDs, so we will likely see this first consumer iteration of Intel Optane Memory in OEM systems equipped with hard disks as their primary storage. A very quick 32GB caching layer should help speed things up considerably for the majority of typical buyers of these types of mobile and desktop systems, while still keeping the total cost below that for a decent capacity NAND SSD as primary storage. Hey, if you can't get every vendor to switch to pure SSD, at least you can speed up that spinning rust a bit, right?
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Micron paper launched their 5100 Series Enterprise SATA SSD lineup early last month. The new line promised many sought after features for such a part, namely high performance, high-performance consistency, high capacities, and relatively low cost/GB (thanks to IMFT 3D NAND which is now well into volume production since launching nearly two years ago). The highs and lows I just rattled off are not only good for enterprise, they are good for general consumers as well. Enterprises deal in large SSD orders, which translates to increased production and ultimately a reduction in the production cost of the raw NAND that also goes into client SSDs and other storage devices.
The 5100 Series comes in three tiers and multiple capacities per tier (with even more launching over the next few months). Micron sampled us a 2TB 'ECO' model and a 1TB 'MAX'. The former is optimized more for read intensive workloads, while the latter is designed to take a continuous random write beating.
I'll be trying out some new QoS tests in this review, with plans to expand out with comparisons in future pieces. This review will stand as a detailed performance verification of these two parts - something we are uniquely equipped to accomplish.
Subject: Storage | January 5, 2017 - 05:32 AM | Allyn Malventano
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:
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.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Storage | January 3, 2017 - 02:46 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: usb, Ultimate, Terabyte, ssd, kingston, GT, flash, drive, DataTraveler, CES 2017, CES, 2TB, 1TB
Kicking off the storage announcements at CES 2017, Kingston announced a 2TB thumb drive:
Ok, well it's a bit big for a thumb drive, but it is definitely a high capacity portable SSD with a narrower profile (width wise) than a Samsung T3, and is meant to be plugged directly into a USB port. Thickness may be an issue for some applications, but I assume they would include a short extension for those trying to plug into tighter spaces like at the rear of a PC case. The release was light on details, particularly performance, though I'd expect these to be able to do a few hundred MB/s on sequentials at a minimum. More should come out about this and other Kingston products later in the week.
*edit* Here's a couple of pics I snagged at one of the events here:
Full press blast after the break.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!