Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: ssd, SMI, QLC, Intel, 660p, 512GB, 3d nand, 2TB, 1TB

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction:

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.

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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:

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Specifications:

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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:

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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.

Packaging:

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Simple packaging. Nothing to write home about.

Read on for our full review of the Intel SSD 660p 1TB QLC SSD!

64 layers of EVOlutionary growth from Samsung

Subject: Storage | August 2, 2018 - 04:24 PM |
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.

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"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:

Storage

 

Bring your own cache to Toshiba's RC100 Host Memory Buffet

Subject: Storage | July 13, 2018 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, RC100, NVMe, M.2, M.2 2242

The wee M.2 2242 form factor of the RC100 means there is no space for a DRAM buffer, which led Toshiba to utilize the Host Memory Buffer feature included in NVMe revision 1.2.  In order to use this feature you must be running Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (or 1709) or the at least the 4.14 Linux kernel.  It commandeers a portion of your system RAM to act as the cache, somewhat less effective than having it on board as The Tech Report's testing shows.  As well it is hampered its PCIe 2x interface, which ensures it falls behind 4x NVMe drives. 

The testing reveal the weaknesses of this design, but it is an interesting implementation of an NVMe featuer not often seen, which is in itself worth taking a look at.

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"Toshiba's RC100 NVMe SSD takes a bold stab at life without DRAM or a full four lanes of PCIe connectivity. Unlike many DRAM-less SSDs, however, the RC100 has a trick up its sleeve with the NVMe protocol's Host Memory Buffer caching feature. Join us to find out whether NVMe and HMB can bolster this entry-level SSD's performance."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

That didn't take long, RGB SSDs from Team Group

Subject: Storage | July 5, 2018 - 02:18 PM |
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.

Join TechPowerUp and bask in the glow.

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"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:

Storage

 

Source: TechPowerUp

Biostar Announces Budget M500 NVMe SSDs

Subject: Storage | June 29, 2018 - 06:14 PM |
Tagged: tlc, ssd, NVMe, biostar, 3d nand

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.

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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?

Source: Guru3D

Deathwish RAID racing; hit single channel DDR4 transfer rates with WD Black NVMe drives

Subject: Storage | June 19, 2018 - 04:13 PM |
Tagged: wd black nvme, RAID-0, raid, kingston, Hyper M.2 X16 Card, deathwish, ddr4-2400, asus

This will cost you a bit to set up but will provide you with almost unbelievable transfer rates.  Simply combine eight 1 TB WD Black NVMe SSDs at roughly $400 a pop with a pair of ASUS' Hyper M.2 expansion cards at $60 each and build up a deathwish RAID of doom!  TechARP just posted a look at how Andrew Vo managed to pull this off. 

As pointed out by several readers who ... well, actually watched the video instead of just reading the article ... this was done on Threadripper, which makes far more sense than a PCIe lane starved Intel system.   Ignore me and make your Threadripper roar.

Unfortunately this trick will not work the same on AMD platforms, it is limited to Intel Skylake or Coffee Lake with VROC support.  It will be interesting to see how a properly configured Threadripper system would compare.

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"To hit 19 GB/s, you need to create a RAID 0 array of those eight 1 TB WD Black NVMe SSDs, but you can’t use the motherboard’s RAID feature because you would be limited by the 32 Gbps/4GB/s DMI bottleneck."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Source: TechARP
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!

T'was a dark and StorMI knight

Subject: Storage | June 11, 2018 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: amd, StorMI, tiered storage

AMD's Store Machine Intelligence Technology seeks to create a hybrid better than the sum of its parts, combining the low cost of cold spinning rust with the speed of hot flash based drives.  The implementation is not the same as Intel's SRT which treats your SSD as a cache to move frequently used files to the SSD but instead works like a tiered storage system.  That indicates entire files are moving from hot storage to cold storage as their usage patterns change and are not constantly being rebuilt. 

From the testing which [H]ard|OCP did, the machine intelligence part of StorMI lives up to its name, and the installation and configuration are very well done, to the point where they declare Intel's Rapid Storage Technology to be outclassed and should not even be considered as competition to AMD's storage stacking skills.

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"AMD’s StoreMI or (Store Machine Intelligence Technology) is storage performance enhancement technology, which can accelerate the responsiveness and the perceived speed of mechanical storage devices to SSD levels. This isn’t exactly a new concept, but AMD’s approach to this implementation is different than what we’ve seen in the past."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP
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!