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!

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

A little Optane for your HDD

Intel's Optane Memory caching solution, launched in April of 2017, was a straightforward feature. On supported hardware platforms, consisting of 7th and 8th generation Core processor-based computers, users could add a 16 or 32gb Optane M.2 module to their PC and enable acceleration for their slower boot device (generally a hard drive). Beyond that, there weren't any additional options; you could only enable and disable the caching solution. 

However, users who were looking for more flexibility were out of luck. If you already had a fast boot device, such as an NVMe SSD, you had no use for these Optane Memory modules, even if you a slow hard drive in their system for mass storage uses that you wanted to speed up.

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At GDC this year, Intel alongside the announcement of 64GB Optane Memory modules, announced that they are bringing support for secondary drive acceleration to the Optane Memory application.

Now that we've gotten our hands on this new 64GB module and the appropriate software, it's time to put it through its paces and see if it was worth the wait.

Performance

The full test setup is as follows:

Test System Setup
CPU

Intel Core i7-8700K

Motherboard Gigabyte H370 Aorus Gaming 3 
Memory

16GB Crucial DDR4-2666 (running at DDR4-2666)

Storage

Intel SSD Optane 800P 

Intel Optane Memory 64GB and 1TB Western Digital Black

Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti 11GB
Graphics Drivers NVIDIA 397.93
Power Supply Corsair RM1000x
Operating System Windows 10 Pro x64 RS4

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In coming up with test scenarios to properly evaluate drive caching on a secondary, mass storage device, we had a few criteria. First, we were looking for scenarios that require lots of storage, meaning that they wouldn't fit on a smaller SSD. In addition to requiring a lot of storage, the applications must also rely on fast storage. 

Click here to continue reading our look at accelerating secondary drives with Optane

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ASUS

Is it a usable feature?

EDIT: We've received some clarification from Intel on this feature:

"The feature is actually apart of RST. While this is a CPU-attached storage feature, it is not VROC. VROC is a CPU-attached PCIe Storage component of the enterprise version of the product, Intel RSTe. VROC requires the new HW feature Intel Volume Management Device (Intel VMD) which is not available on the Z370 Chipset.

The Intel Rapid Storage Technology for CPU-attached Intel PCIe Storage feature is supported with select Intel chipsets and requires system manufacturer integration. Please contact the system manufacturer for a list of their supported platforms."

While this doesn't change how the feature works, or our testing, we wanted to clarify this point and have removed all references to VROC on Z370 in this review.

While updating our CPU testbeds for some upcoming testing, we came across an odd listing on the UEFI updates page for our ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-E motherboard.

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From the notes, it appeared that the release from late April of this year enables VROC for the Z370 platform. Taking a look at the rest of ASUS' Z370 lineup, it appears that all of its models received a similar UEFI update mentioning VROC. EDIT: As it turns out, while these patch notes call this feature "VROC", it is officially known as "Intel Rapid Storage Technology for CPU-attached Intel PCIe Storage " and slightly different than VROC on other Intel platforms.

While we are familiar with VROC as a CPU-attached RAID technology for NVMe devices on the Intel X299 and Xeon Scalable platforms, it has never been mentioned as an available option for the enthusiast grade Z-series chipsets. Could this be a preview of a feature that Intel has planned to come for the upcoming Z390 chipset?

Potential advantages of a CPU-attached RAID mode on the Z370 platform mostly revolve around throughput. While the chipset raid mode on the Z370 chipset will support three drives, the total throughput is limited to just under 4GB/s by the DMI 3.0 link between the processor and chipset.

Like we've seen AMD do on their X470 platform, CPU-attached RAID should scale as long as you have CPU-connected PCI-Express lanes available, and not being used by another device like a GPU or network card.

First, some limitations.

Primarily, it's difficult to connect multiple NVMe devices to the CPU rather than the chipset on most Z370 motherboards. Since the platform natively supports NVMe RAID through the Z370 chipset, all of the M.2 slots on our Strix Z370-E are wired to go through the chipset connection rather than directly to the CPU's PCIe lanes.

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To combat this, we turned to the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 card, which utilizes PCIe bifurcation to enable usage of 4 M.2 devices via one PCI-E X16 slot. Luckily, ASUS has built support for bifurcation, and this Hyper M.2 card into the UEFI for the Strix Z370-E.

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Aiming to simplify the setup, we are using the integrated UHD 620 graphics of the i7-8700K, and running the Hyper M.2 card in the primary PCIe slot, usually occupied by a discrete GPU.

Continue reading our look at CPU-attached NVMe RAID on Z370 motherboards from ASUS!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ADATA

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

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:

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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!

Specifications:

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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.

Packaging:

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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.

Read on for our full review of the ADATA XPG SX8200 M.2 NVMe SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Over the past couple of days, we saw some rumors and e-tailer appearances of the Intel SSD 905P. Essentially an incremental upgrade to the 900P, with a few notable differences. Specs see a slight bump across the board, as do capacities, but the most striking difference is Intel’s apparent choice to move forward with the blue-LED enabled design seen in a press deck slide that began circulating last year:

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That upper right design seemed pretty cool at the time, and I never thought we would see it materialize, but less than 24 hours ago this arrived at the office:

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Note: The color is user adjustable - we just don't have the software for it yet.

*edit* colors are configurable via command line, using the most recent SSD toolbox app. The possible colors are limited (literally red/green/blue/off - that's it), but I've confirmed that the setting does persist after reboot / power cycling / changing systems. This is a welcome change over other RGB-enabled components that require software to always be installed to control (or even turn off) lighting. Here's a look at the other two colors:

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*end edit*

Well now that it’s here, let’s see what it can do!

Read on for our full review of the Intel SSD 905P 960GB!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

We have been overdue for a Samsung NVMe SSD refresh, and with the launch of their 860 PRO and EVO back in January, folks have been itching for the 970's to come out. The 950 and 960 (PRO) lines were separated by about a year, but we are going on 18 months since the most recent 960 EVO launch. Samsung could afford to wait a bit longer since the 960 line already offered outstanding performance that remained unmatched at the top of our performance charts for a very long time. Recently, drives like the WD Black have started catching up, so it is naturally time for Samsung to keep the competition on their toes:

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Today we will look at most of the Samsung 970 PRO and EVO lineup. We have a bit of a capacity spread for the EVO, and a single PRO. Samples are hard to come by so far since Samsung opted to launch both lines at the same time, but we tried to get the more common capacities represented. EVO 2TB and PRO 1TB data will have to come at a later date.

Specifications:

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Specs come in at just slightly higher than the 960 lines, with some welcome additions like OPAL and encrypted drive (IEEE1667) support, the latter being suggested but never making it into the 960 products. Another welcome addition is that the 970 EVO now carries a 5-year warranty (up from 3).

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The 970 EVO includes 'Intelligent TurboWrite', which was introduced with the 960 line. This setup maintains a static SLC area and an additional 'Intelligent' cache that exists if sufficient free space is available in the TLC area.

Packaging:

Packaging is in line with the previous 960 series parts. Nice packaging. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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Read on for our full review of the Samsung 970 PRO and EVO!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged: x470, StoreMI, raid, NVMe, amd

NVMe RAID and StoreMI

With Ken testing all of the new AMD X470 goodness that we had floating around the office here at PCPer, I snuck in some quick storage testing to get a look at just how the new platform handled a typical power user NVMe RAID configuration. We will be testing a few different platform configurations:

  • ASUS Z270 w/ 7700K
    • 1x SSD behind chipset (PCH)
    • 2x SSD (RAID-0) behind chipset (PCH)
    • 1x SSD directly connected to CPU
  • AMD X470 w/ 2600X
    • 1x SSD via RAIDXpert bottom driver
    • 2x SSD (RAID-0) via RAIDXpert
    • 1x SSD via MS InBox NVMe driver

For the AMD system we tested, all M.2 ports were direct connected to the CPU. This should be the case for most systems since the AMD chipset has only a PCIe 2.0 x4 link which would cut most NVMe SSD bandwidth in half if passed through it. The difference on AMD is that installing the RAIDXpert software also installs a 'bottom driver' which replaces the Windows NVMe driver, while Intel's RST platform handles this process more in the chipset hardware (but is limited to PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI bandwidth). Now onto the results:

Random Read IOPS

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For random IO, we see expected scaling from AMD, but do note that IOPS comes in ~40% lower than the same configuration on Intel's platform. This is critical as much of the IO seen in general use is random reads at lower queue depths. We'd like to see AMD doing better here, especially in the case where a single SSD was operating without the interference of the RAIDXpert driver, which was better, but still not able to match Intel.

Random Read Latency

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This latency chart should better explain the IOPS performance seen above. Note that the across the board latency increases by ~10us on the X470 platform, followed by another ~20us when switching to the RAIDXpert driver. That combined ~30us is 50% of the 60us QD1 latency seen the Z270 platform (regardless of configuration).

Sequential Read

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Ok, now we see the AMD platform stretch its legs a bit. Since Intel NVMe RAID is bottlenecked by its DMI link while AMD has all NVMe SSDs directly connected to the CPU, AMD is able to trounce Intel on sequentials, but there is a catch. Note the solid red line, which means no RAIDXpert software. That line tracks as it should, leveling off horizontally at a maximum for that SSD. Now look at the two dashed red lines and note how they fall off at ~QD8/16. It appears the RAIDXpert driver is interfering and limiting the ultimate throughput possible. This was even the case for a single SSD passing through the RAIDXpert bottom driver (configured as a JBOD volume).

StoreMI

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AMD has also launched their answer to Intel RST caching. StoreMI is actually a more flexible solution that offers some unique advantages over Intel. Instead of copying a section of HDD data to the SSD cache, StoreMI combines the total available storage space of both the HDD and SSD, and is able to seamlessly shuffle the more active data blocks to the SSD. StoreMI also offers more cache capacity than Intel - up to 512GB SSD caches are possible (60GB limit on Intel). Lastly, the user can opt to donate 2GB of RAM as an additional caching layer.

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AMD claims the typical speedups that one would expect with an SSD caching a much slower HDD. We have done some testing with StoreMI and can confirm the above slide's claims. Actively used applications and games end up running at close to SSD speeds (after the first execution, which comes from the HDD). StoreMI is not yet in a final state, but that is expected within the next week or two. We will revisit that topic with hard data once we have the final shipping product on-hand.

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ICY DOCK

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction

A while back, we reviewed the ICY DOCK ToughArmor MB998SP-B and MB993SK-B hot-swap SATA docks. These were well built, high-density docks meant for 7mm height SSDs and HDDs. The former part was unique in that it let you squeeze eight drives in a single 5.25” drive bay, all while enabling you to hot swap all of them at the front panel. The ToughArmor line has been pushing into higher and higher bay counts, so it only made sense that we eventually saw something higher than an 8-bay unit:

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Enter the ToughArmor MB516SP-B. While it looks like two MB998SP-B’s stacked on top of each other, there is more than meets the eye in order to pull this trick off properly. We'll focus on that further into the review, but for now, let us get through the specs.

Continue reading for our full review!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

While Western Digital has a huge history with spinning disks, their experience with SSDs has been touch and go. They expanded further into the HDD arena with their very long merging process with HGST, but they have only really dabbled in the solid-state arena. Their earliest attempt was with the Black2 back in 2013, which was a novel concept that never really caught mainstream fame. WD acquired SanDisk a few years back, but they were better known for SD cards and OEM SATA SSDs. More recently we began seeing WD test the waters with PCIe / NVMe parts, with a WD Black and Blue launching at CES 2017. Those were 'ok', but were more of a budget SSD than a powerhouse class-leading product worthy of the Black moniker. Today we see WD take another stab at a WD Black NVMe SSD:

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Enter the WD Black NVMe and SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D 1TB SSDs. Yes, I know the names are a mouthful, but I would be more worried about the potential for confusion when looking for a WD Black SSD on the market (as there are now two *very* similarly named products). Technically the new part is the 'Western Digital WD Black NVMe SSD'. Yes I know don't tell me - they said Western Digital twice.

We will also be reviewing the SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD today. I'm including those results as well, but just as they did with their previous SATA SSD release, these are identical parts with different packaging and labeling. The specs are the same. Heck, the firmware is the same minus the bits that report the device name to the host. For the sake of simplicity, and the fact that the WD part is meant for retail/gamers (SanDisk for creative pros and OEMs), I'll stick with referring mostly to the WD side throughout this review.

Specifications:

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Strong specs here. Fast sequentials, but random IOPS is rated at QD32 across 8 threads (QD=256), which is, well, just silly. I know WD is doing this because 'everyone is doing it', and they have to compete, but I have a feeling we will also be seeing very good low QD performance today.

Packaging:

It doesn't get much more no frills than this.

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Read on for our full review of the Western Digital WD Black NVMe and SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D 1TB SSDs!

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: CalDigit

CalDigit Tuff Rugged External Drive

There are a myriad of options when it comes to portable external storage. But if you value durability just as much as portability, those options quickly dry up. Combining a cheap 2.5-inch hard drive with an AmazonBasics enclosure is often just fine for an external storage solution that sits in your climate controlled office all day, but it's probably not the best choice for field use during your national park photography trip, your scuba diving expedition, or on-site construction management.

For situations like these where the elements become a factor and the chance of an accidental drop skyrockets, it's a good idea to invest in "ruggedized" equipment. Companies like Panasonic and Dell have long offered laptops custom-designed to withstand unusually harsh environments, and accessory makers have followed suit with ruggedized hard drives.

Today we're taking a look at one such ruggedized hard drive, the CalDigit Tuff. Released in 2017, the CalDigit Tuff is a 2.5-inch bus-powered external drive available in both HDD and SSD options. CalDigit loaned us the 2TB HDD model for testing.

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Continue reading our review of the CalDigit Tuff rugged USB-C drive!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: MyDigitalSSD

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

When one thinks of an M.2 SSD, we typically associate that with either a SATA 6GB/s or more recently with a PCIe 3.0 x4 link. The physical interface of M.2 was meant to accommodate future methods of connectivity, but it's easy to overlook the ability to revert back to something like a PCIe 3.0 x2 link. Why take a seemingly backward step on the interface of an SSD? Several reasons actually. Halving the number of lanes makes for a simpler SSD controller design, which lowers cost. Power savings are also a factor, as driving a given twisted pair lane at PCIe 3.0 speeds draws measurable current from the host and therefore adds to the heat production of the SSD controller. We recently saw that a PCIe 3.0 x2 can still turn in respectable performance despite lower bandwidth interface, but how far can we get the price down when pairing that host link with some NAND flash?

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Enter the MyDigitalSSD SBX series. Short for Super Boot eXpress, the aim of these parts is to offer a reasonably performant PCIe NVMe SSD at something closer to SATA SSD pricing.

Specifications:

  • Physical: M.2 2280 (single sided)
  • Controller: Phison E8 (PS5008-E8)
  • Capacities: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
  • PCIe 3.0 x2, M.2 2280
  • Sequential: Up to 1.6/1.3 GB/s (R/W)
  • Random: 240K+ / 180K+ IOPS (R/W)
  • Weight: 8g
  • Power: <5W

Packaging:

The MyDigitalDiscount guys keep things extremely simple with their SSD packaging, which is eaxctly how it should be. It doesn't take much to package and protect an M.2 SSD, and this does the job just fine. They also include a screwdriver and a screw just in case you run into a laptop that came without one installed.

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Read on for our full review of all capacities of the MyDigitalSSD SBX lineup!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel has wanted a 3D XPoint to go 'mainstream' for some time now. Their last big mainstream part, the X25-M, launched 10 years ago. It was available in relatively small capacities of 80GB and 160GB, but it brought about incredible performance at a time where most other early SSDs were mediocre at best. The X25-M brought NAND flash memory to the masses, and now 10 years later we have another vehicle which hopes to bring 3D XPoint to the masses - the Intel Optane SSD 800P:

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Originally dubbed 'Brighton Beach', the 800P comes in at capacities smaller than its decade-old counterpart - only 58GB and 118GB. The 'odd' capacities are due to Intel playing it extra safe with additional ECC and some space to hold metadata related to wear leveling. Even though 3D XPoint media has great endurance that runs circles around NAND flash, it can still wear out, and therefore the media must still be managed similarly to NAND. 3D XPoint can be written in place, meaning far less juggling of data while writing, allowing for far greater performance consistency across the board. Consistency and low latency are the strongest traits of Optane, to the point where Intel was bold enough to launch an NVMe part with half of the typical PCIe 3.0 x4 link available in most modern SSDs. For Intel, the 800P is more about being nimble than having straight line speed. Those after higher throughputs will have to opt for the SSD 900P, a device that draws more power and requires a desktop form factor.

Specifications:

  • Capacities: 58GB, 118GB
  • PCIe 3.0 x2, M.2 2280
  • Sequential: Up to 1200/600 MB/s (R/W)
  • Random: 250K+ / 140K+ IOPS (R/W) (QD4)
  • Latency (average sequential): 6.75us / 18us (R/W) (TYP)
  • Power: 3.75W Active, 8mW L1.2 Sleep

Specs are essentially what we would expect from an Optane Memory type device. Capacities of 58GB and 118GB are welcome additions over the prior 16GB and 32GB Optane Memory parts, but the 120GB capacity point is still extremely cramped for those who would typically desire such a high performing / low latency device. We had 120GB SSDs back in 2009, after all, and nowadays we have 20GB Windows installs and 50GB game downloads.

Before moving on, I need to call out Intel on their latency specification here. To put it bluntly, sequential transfer latency is a crap spec. Nobody cares about the latency of a sequential transfer, especially for a product which touts its responsiveness - something based on the *random* access latency, and the 6.75us figure above would translate to 150,000 QD1 IOPS (the 800P is fast, but it's not *that* fast). Most storage devices/media will internally 'read ahead' so that sequential latencies at the interface are as low as possible, increasing sequential throughput. Sequential latency is simply the inverse of throughput, meaning any SSD with a higher sequential throughput than the 800P should beat it on this particular spec. To drive the point home further, consider that a HDD's average sequential latency can beat the random read latency of a top-tier NVMe SSD like the 960 PRO. It's just a bad way to spec a storage device, and it won't do Intel any favors here if competing products start sharing this same method of rating latency in the future.

Packaging:

Our samples came in white/brown box packaging, but I did snag a couple of photos of what should be the retail box this past CES:

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Read on for our full review of the Intel Optane SSD 800P 58GB and 118GB!

Author:
Subject: Storage, Mobile
Manufacturer: TEKQ

Delivering on the Promise of Thunderbolt 3

Despite the greatly increased adoption of Thunderbolt 3 over the previous 2 Thunderbolt standards, the market is still lacking actual devices that take advantage of the full 40Gbps bandwidth that Thunderbolt 3 offers.

External storage seems like a natural use of this PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface available with the Thunderbolt 3 standard, but storage devices that take advantage of this are few and far between. Most of the devices in the market currently are merely bridges for SATA M.2 drives to Thunderbolt 3, which would be limited by the SATA 6Gb/s interface.

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However, this market gap seems poised to change. Today, we are taking a look at the TEKQ Rapide Thunderbolt 3 Portable SSD, which advertises sequential transfer speeds up to 2.3 GB/s Read and 1.3 GB/s Write.

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Click here to find out more about the TEKQ Rapide Portable Thunderbolt 3 SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel has been doing great with their Optane / 3D XPoint products lately, but what about NAND? Samsung had been leading the pack with their VNAND for a few years now, forcing competitors to struggle to keep up on the capacity, performance, and endurance fronts. Intel's 3D NAND production (announced in 2015) is finally starting to come into its full stride, with 64-layer TLC NAND shipping in their 545S in mid 2017. With SATA essentially covered, PCIe NAND solutions have been a bit rough for Intel. The SSD 600p was their first M.2 PCIe product, launching over a year ago. While it was cost-effective, it was not a stellar performer. This left the now extremely dated SSD 750 as their flagship NAND product. It was great for its time, but was only available in HHHL and U.2 form factors, precluding any possibility of mobile use. With their 3D NAND finally in a good position, what Intel really needed was a truly solid M.2 product, and I'm happy to report that such a thing has finally happened:

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Behold the Intel SSD 760p Series, currently available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities, with 1TB and 2TB coming later in Q1 2018. Today we will be reviewing all currently available capacities.

Specifications

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This chart makes me happy. Finally, an Intel M.2 SSD with competitive specs! Note that the performance specs all come in at 2x the 600p, all while consuming half of the power of the older model. Endurance remains the same, but the 600p's problems were with performance, not endurance.

Packaging:

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Packaging was very similar to that of the 600p and other Intel products. Simple and no frills. Gets the job done.

You know you want to see how these perform, right? Read on to find out!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Samsung launched their 850 line of SSDs in mid-2014 (over three years ago now). The line evolved significantly over time, with the additions of PRO and EVO models, capacity expansions reaching up to 4TB, and a later silent migration to 64-layer V-NAND. Samsung certainly got their money's worth out of the 850 name, but it is now time to move onto something newer:

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Specifications:

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Of note above is a significantly higher endurance rating as compared to the 850 Series products, along with an update to a new 'MJX' controller, which accounts for a slight performance bump across the board. Not mentioned here is the addition of queued TRIM, which is more of a carryover from the enterprise / Linux systems (Windows 10 does not queue its TRIM commands).

Packaging:

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Aside from some updated specs and the new name, packaging remains very much the same.

Read on for our review of the Samsung 860 PRO and EVO SSDs (in multiple capacities!)

(Those of you interested in Samsung's press release for this launch will find it after the break)

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Crucial

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Crucial and their parent company Micron have certainly launched their share of SSDs over the years. Product launches have effectively toggled back and forth between both names, with Crucial handling the upgrade market while Micron proper handles the OEM side of things. Both sides have one thing in common - solid performing SSDs at a budget-friendly price point. Having the best performing SSD on the market is great, but does nobody any good if the majority of purchasers can't afford it.

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We had Micron out to discuss the MX500 before we completed our testing. Here is the full discussion video:

Specifications:

  • Micron® 3D TLC NAND Flash
    • RoHS-compliant package
    • SATA 6 Gb/s interface
    • TCG/Opal 2.0-compliant self-encrypting drive (SED)
    • Compatible with Microsoft eDrive®
    • Hardware-based AES-256 encryption engine
  • Performance (ALL CAPACITIES):
    • Sequential 128KB READ: Up to 560 MB/s
    • Sequential 128KB WRITE: Up to 510 MB/s
    • Random 4KB READ: Up to 95,000 IOPS
    • Random 4KB WRITE: Up to 90,000 IOPS
  • Power consumption:
    • 250GB: <3.5W
    • 500GB: <4.5W
    • 1000GB/2000GB: <5.0W
  • Endurance – total bytes written (TBW):
    • 250GB: 100TB
    • 500GB: 180TB
    • 1TB: 360TB
    • 2TB: 700TB

A few points from these impressive specs:

  • Performance specs are common across *all* capacities. Yes, even the smallest model is rated to perform as well as the largest.
  • Endurance is very high, especially for TLC NAND. Samsung's 850 EVO 500GB and 1TB models are rated at 150TB. Heck, the 850 PRO 1TB is only rated at 300TBW. Sure that's the same rating carried up from the 512GB model of the same, but it's not Micron's fault that Samsung opted to capacity-bracket their endurance ratings.

Packaging:

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No frills here. Quick start guide contains a link to crucial.com/support/ssd to get you started.

Read on for our full review of the Crucial MX500 1TB SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction and Specifications

Back in April, we finally got our mitts on some actual 3D XPoint to test, but there was a catch. We had to do so remotely. The initial round of XPoint testing done (by all review sites) was on a set of machines located on the Intel campus. Intel had their reasons for this unorthodox review method, but we were satisfied that everything was done above board. Intel even went as far as walking me over to the very server that we would be remoting into for testing. Despite this, there were still a few skeptics out there, and today we can put all of that to bed.

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This is a 750GB Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X - in the flesh and this time on *our* turf. I'll be putting it through the same initial round of tests we conducted remotely back in April. I intend to follow up at a later date with additional testing depth, as well as evaluating kernel response times across Windows and Linux (IRQ, Polling, Hybrid Polling, etc), but for now, we're here to confirm the results on our own testbed as well as evaluate if the higher capacity point takes any sort of hit to performance. We may actually see a performance increase in some areas as Intel has had several months to further tune the P4800X.

This video is for the earlier 375GB model launch, but all points apply here
(except that the 900P has now already launched)

Specifications:

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The baseline specs remain the same as they were back in April with a few significant notable exceptions:

The endurance figure for the 375GB capacity has nearly doubled to 20.5 PBW (PetaBytes Written), with the 750GB capacity logically following suit at 41 PBW. These figures are based on a 30 DWPD (Drive Write Per Day) rating spanned across a 5-year period. The original product brief is located here, but do note that it may be out of date.

We now have official sequential throughput ratings: 2.0 GB/s writes and 2.4 GB/s reads.

We also have been provided detailed QoS figures and those will be noted as we cover the results throughout the review.

Read on for our review of the 750GB P4800X!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

It’s been two long years since we first heard about 3D XPoint Technology. Intel and Micron serenaded us with tales of ultra-low latency and very high endurance, but when would we have this new media in our hot little hands? We got a taste of things with Optane Memory (caching) back in April, and later that same month we got a much bigger, albeit remotely-tested taste in the form of the P4800X. Since April all was quiet, with all of us storage freaks waiting for a consumer version of Optane with enough capacity to act as a system drive. Sure we’ve played around with Optane Memory parts in various forms of RAID, but as we found in our testing, Optane’s strongest benefits are the very performance traits that do not effectively scale with additional drives added to an array. The preferred route is to just get a larger single SSD with more 3D XPoint memory installed on it, and we have that very thing today (and in two separate capacities)!

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Rumor Central:

You might have seen various rumors centered around the 900P lately. The first is that the 900P was to supposedly support PCIe 4.0. This is not true, and after digging back a bit appears to be a foreign vendor mistaking / confusing PCIe X4 (4 lanes) with the recently drafted PCIe 4.0 specification. Another set of rumors centered around pre-order listings and potential pricing for the 280 and 480 GB variants of the 900P. We are happy to report that those prices (at the time of this writing) are way higher than Intel’s stated MSRP's for these new models. I’ll even go as far as to say that the 480GB model can be had for less than what the 280GB model is currently listed for! More on that later in the review.

Specifications:

Performance specs are one place where the rumors were all true, but since all the folks had to go on was a leaked Intel press deck slide listing figures identical to the P4800X, we’re not really surprised here.

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Lots of technical stuff above, but the high points are <10us typical latency (‘regular’ SSDs run between 60-100us), 2.5/2.0 GB/s sequential reads/writes, and 550k/500k random read/write performance. Yes I know, don’t tell me, you’ve seen higher sequentials on smaller form factor devices. I agree, and we’ve even seen higher maximum performance from unreleased 3D XPoint-equipped parts from Micron, but Intel has done what they needed to do in order to make this a viable shipping retail product, which likely means sacrificing the ‘megapixel race’ figures in favor of offering the lowest possible latencies and best possible endurance at this price point.

Packaging:

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Packaging is among the nicest we’ve seen from an Intel SSD. It actually reminds me of how the Fusion-io ioDrives used to come.

RSI Star Citizen Sabre Raven Ship.jpg

Also included with the 900P is a Star Citizen ship. The Sabre Raven has been a topic of gossip and speculation for months now, and it appears to be a pretty sweet looking fighter. For those unaware, Star Citizen is a space-based MMO, and with a ‘ship purchase’ also comes a license to play the game. The Sabre Raven counts as such a purchase and apparently comes with lifetime insurance, meaning it will always be tied to your account in case it gets blown up doing data runs. Long story short, you get the game for free with the purchase of a 900P.

Read on for our full review of the Intel Optane SSD 900P (in both capacities)!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction

Introduction

We've been hearing about Intel's VROC (NVMe RAID) technology for a few months now. ASUS started slipping clues in with their X299 motherboard releases starting back in May. The idea was very exciting, as prior NVMe RAID implementations on Z170 and Z270 platforms were bottlenecked by the chipset's PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI link to the CPU, and they also had to trade away SATA ports for M.2 PCIe lanes in order to accomplish the feat. X99 motherboards supported SATA RAID and even sported four additional ports, but they were left out of NVMe bootable RAID altogether. It would be foolish of Intel to launch a successor to their higher end workstation-class platform without a feature available in two (soon to be three) generations of their consumer platform.

To get a grip on what VROC is all about, lets set up some context with a few slides:

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First, we have a slide laying out what the acronyms mean:

  • VROC = Virtual RAID on CPU
  • VMD = Volume Management Device

What's a VMD you say?

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...so the VMD is extra logic present on Intel Skylake-SP CPUs, which enables the processor to group up to 16 lanes of storage (4x4) into a single PCIe storage domain. There are three VMD controllers per CPU.

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VROC is the next logical step, and takes things a bit further. While boot support is restricted to within a single VMD, PCIe switches can be added downstream to create a bootable RAID possibly exceeding 4 SSDs. So long as the array need not be bootable, VROC enables spanning across multiple VMDs and even across CPUs!

Assembling the Missing Pieces

Unlike prior Intel storage technology launches, the VROC launch has been piecemeal at best and contradictory at worst. We initially heard that VROC would only support Intel SSDs, but Intel later published a FAQ that stated 'selected third-party SSDs' would also be supported. One thing they have remained steadfast on is the requirement for a hardware key to unlock RAID-1 and RAID-5 modes - a seemingly silly requirement given their consumer chipset supports bootable RAID-0,1,5 without any key requirement (and VROC only supports one additional SSD over Z170/Z270/Z370, which can boot from 3-drive arrays).

On the 'piecemeal' topic, we need three things for VROC to work:

  • BIOS support for enabling VMD Domains for select groups of PCIe lanes.
  • Hardware for connecting a group of NVMe SSDs to that group of PCIe lanes.
  • A driver for OS mounting and managing of the array.

Let's run down this list and see what is currently available:

BIOS support?

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Check. Hardware for connecting multiple drives to the configured set of lanes?

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Check (960 PRO pic here). Note that the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 Card will only work on motherboards supporting PCIe bifurcation, which allows the CPU to split PCIe lanes into subgroups without the need of a PLX chip. You can see two bifurcated modes in the above screenshot - one intended for VMD/VROC, while the other (data) selection enables bifurcation without enabling the VMD controller. This option presents the four SSDs to the OS without the need of any special driver.

With the above installed, and the slot configured for VROC in the BIOS, we are greeted by the expected disappointing result:

VROC-2.png

Now for that pesky driver. After a bit of digging around the dark corners of the internet:

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Check! (well, that's what it looked like after I rapidly clicked my way through the array creation)

Don't even pretend like you won't read the rest of this review! (click here now!)

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction:

Back in January of 2016, Samsung launched the Portable SSD T1. This was a good way to get more of their VNAND flash out into the market in the form of a speedy and portable USB connected SSD. The launch went so well that they followed it up with the T3 in early 2016. While the T1 maxed out at 1TB of capacity, the T2 pushed that to 2TB, which remains the market sweet spot for max portable capacity today. As increased flash densities come out, it became time for Samsung to refresh the lineup:

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Meet the Samsung Portable SSD T5. This new version is ever so slightly smaller than the T3, while packing a 256Gbit die version of Samsung's 64-layer VNAND, along with a newer USB controller that should help get closer to the internal SATA 6Gbit speed of the device.

Specs:

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Most specs are nearly identical to the T3, with a notable increase to 540MB/s throughput, thanks to the faster interface capability.

Packaging:

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Straightforward packaging with a notable inclusion of both Type-C to A and C to C cables. The T3 and T1 came with only Type-A.