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-EVO.png

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!

Friday storage roundup

Subject: Storage | April 20, 2018 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: round up, ssd, hdd, external drive, NAS

The SSD market is somewhat daunting to a newcomer, not just the various interfaces and technology but also the huge selection of models from the various suppliers.  HDDs and NAS devices are a little less so, but there is still a large variety to choose from. TechSpot offer their advice, with a round up of what they consider the best of the best in six categories of storage devices.  Quickly take a look to see if you agree, as it is all likely to change again very soon.

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"With solid state drives now fully mainstream and hard drives being more affordable than ever, there is a broad a mix of high-performance and high-capacity options to choose from in a range of form factors. Fortunately for you, we have spent dozens of hours testing storage devices, so we have a pretty clear idea about what devices are worth buying."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: TechSpot
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.

Western Digital Launches Ultrastar DC HC530 - TDMR 14TB HDD

Subject: Storage | April 18, 2018 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: wdc, WD, ultrastar, sata, SAS, HelioSeal, hdd, DC HC530, 14tb

Following up on the prior release of a 14TB SMR (shingled magnetic recording) HDD, WD has launched a PMR (parallel magnetic recording)version of the same - the Ultrastar DC HC530:

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While the new model does not yet incorporate MAMR, it does couple PMR with TDMR (two-dimensional magnetic recording), which gives a slight boost to platter density, reaching over 900 Gbit/sq. inch. The DC HC530 naming is a departure from the previous HGST Ultrastar line products, which were labeled as 'He8', 'He10', etc. High-level specs are as follows:

  • Rotational speed: 7200 RPM
  • Data buffer: 512MB
  • Seek time (typ): 7.5 ms
  • Sequential transfer rate: 267 MB/s (start of disk)
  • Available sector sizes: 512e (advanced format emulation), 4Kn (4KB sectors)
  • Warranty: 5 years

The SAS models offer double the interface throughput (12Gbps) and some additional custom sector sizes but require higher operating power to drive that faster interface. While track linear density is high enough (at least at the start of the disk) to saturate a SATA 3Gbit link, SATA 6Gbit and SAS 12Gbit links will still see a cache-hit benefit from the drives' relatively large 512MB data buffer.

WD's press release appears after the break, and more information is available on the Ultrastar DC HC530 product page.

Toshiba Refreshes HDD Branding, Intros Surveillance and Video Streaming Models

Subject: Storage | April 16, 2018 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: x300, V300, toshiba, s300, P300, N300, L200, hdd

Today (well, tonight) Toshiba changed up their HDD branding to make things a bit easier to grasp for the consumer, as well as adding surveillance and video streaming models to their lineup:

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Toshiba chose to go with a round of colors, but these are notably different than what you have previously seen from WD. Typical desktop and mobile drives now carry a red label, with their performance desktop model going grey. NAS HDDs are yellow, and the two new items are blue and green. Let's take a closer look at these new additions:

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The blue 'Video Stream V300' model comes in up to a 3TB capacity and is firmware optimized for handling multiple (4) simultaneous video streams without thrashing the heads constantly seeking between tracks. This is a low RPM drive and is meant more for use in DVRs. Max capacity comes in only 3TB, but this is a very low cost and low power drive. Note the 'annual workload rating' of 72TB per year. More on that later.

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The green 'Surveillance S300' model is meant for significantly more demanding workloads upwards of 64 simultaneous HD video camera streams. These are meant for incorporation into large arrays and come with the necessary RV (accelerometer) sensors to help keep the heads on track while the drive is subjected to harsher vibrations seen in large server chassis. These come in up to 10TB with a workload rating of 150TB per year.

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Above are the general specs across the entire lineup, and below are the prices for the two new models:

  • V300 Video Streaming
    • 1TB - V300 Video Streaming - $49.99
    • 2TB - V300 Video Streaming - $69.99
    • 3TB - V300 Video Streaming - $89.99
  • S300 Surveillance
    • 4TB - S300 Surveillance - $119.99
    • 5TB – S300 Surveillance - $149.99
    • 6TB - S300 Surveillance - $189.99
    • 8TB - S300 Surveillance - $249.99
    • 10TB - S300 Surveillance - $349.99

Those prices look very competitive, but that 'annual workload rating' troubles me a bit, especially for the S300. That model is meant for use in an array, which must be initialized (eating one full drive write), possibly migrated (eating another full drive capacity worth of access), and with some RAID controllers, periodically scrubbing the data to verify integrity. A large array of 10TB HDDs with periodic array scrubbing/integrity checking scheduled every 2-3 weeks will technically run these parts past their rated workload. Backing off to monthly checks will get you just under the limit, provided your actual video workload does not push you over. Just something to consider when specing out a surveillance unit build.

Press blast for these new models appears after the break.

Source: Toshiba
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!

The EX920, an HP NVMe SSD for thee

Subject: Storage | April 6, 2018 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: SSD EX920, NVMe, hp, tlc, SM2622, M.2

HP have released a new NVMe M.2 SSD, the EX920 which uses Silcon Motion's SM2622 controller and a DDR3-1600 cache which scales directly with the size of the drive, the 256GB drive has a 256MB cache while the 2TB has 2GB.  The drive uses four PCIe Gen 3 lanes, which offers some very impressive performance, Benchmark Reviews measured 3183/1776 MBps read/write in CrystalDiskMark.   The only real drawback to this drive is the warranty; while most companies offer at least five years, this HP drive is only covered for three.

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"HP suggests sustained sequential read speeds up to 3200 MB/s, and sustained sequential writes up to 1800 MB/s from their 1TB EX920 SSD, which utilizes 64-layer 3D NAND to deliver impressive storage density and reliability. Relative to solid state storage, one terabyte is an enormous amount of near-instant drive capacity. We’ll see if HP’s EX920 M.2 SSD is worth the money."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

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!

Kingston Launches Budget PCI-E x2 A1000 NVMe SSDs

Subject: Storage | April 5, 2018 - 03:38 AM |
Tagged: toshiba, tlc, phison, NVMe, kingston, BiCS3, 3d nand

Kingston is continuing its push into NVMe SSDs with its new A1000 series. The budget parts are positioned as mechanical drive alternatives. These drives use a lower cost PCI-E x2 interface and are single sided with the M.2 2280 (80mm) form factor. Kingston is using the four channel Phison E8 PS5008-E8 controller with DRAM cache along with Kingston branded TLC 3D NAND flash (SSD Review's sample reportedly used Toshiba's BICS3 256Gb flash).

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The A1000 series (PDF) comes in 240 GB, 480 GB, and 960 GB capacities. They offer up to 1500 MB/s sequential reads across all capacities and the other performance characteristics varying according to the capacity and number of flash dies used. The 960 GB drive is the fastest with up to 1,000 MB/s sequential writes, 120,000 random read IOPS, and 100,000 random write IOPS. The 480GB drive is a bit slower at 900 MB/s sequential writes, 100,000 random read IOPS, and 90,000 random write IOPS. Finally, the lowest capacity 240 GB SSD hits up to 800 MB/s sequential writes, 100,000 random read IOPS, and 80,000 random write IOPS. As far as endurance, Kingston rates all three capacities at the same 1 million hours MTBF and 150 TBW for the 240 GB, 300 TBW for the 480 GB, and 600 TBW for the 960 GB solid state drive. Kingston warranties the drives for five years which is nice to see on a budget drive.

  240 GB 480 GB 960 GB
Sequential Read 1,500 MB/s 1,500 MB/s 1,500 MB/s
Sequential Write 800 MB/s 900 MB/s 1,000 MB/s
Random Read 100K 100K 120K
Random Write 80K 90K 100K
Endurance Rating 150 TBW 300 TBW 600 TBW
MSRP $119.99 $219.99 $402.99

Kingston's A1000 SSDs use the NVMe 1.3 protocol but they are limited by the x2 PCI-E interface, especially where reads are concerned. Kingston is pricing the drives at MSRPs of $119.99 for the 240 GB, $219.99 for the 480 GB, and $402.99 for the 960 GB drive which does seem a bit on the pricier side of things but we'll have to wait a bit to see how retail pricing shakes out to say for sure. For example, looking on Amazon, the MSRPs of the A1000 drives are close to the retail pricing of Kingston's faster KC1000 SSDs which makes me think the street prices may come in lower than shown above (hopefully). In any case, the A1000 drives should be available soon as reviews have already begun popping up online.

Source: Kingston

Intel Launches 8th Gen i3+, i5+, i7+ with Optane Memory Mobile Caching up to 64GB

Subject: Storage | April 3, 2018 - 04:56 AM |
Tagged: Optane Memory, Optane, NVMe, Intel, 8th generation core, 800p, 3D XPoint

Remember *way* back just before CES 2017, when we caught that 'Optane Memory Storage Accelerator' entry on some Lenovo laptop release docs? Well, those obviously never happened, and we figured out why a few months later when we reviewed Intel's Optane Memory products and realized that the first iteration of these products had no apparent hardware power management capabilities, meaning they would draw excessive power while idling in a mobile platform.

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While the Optane Memory launch was a year ago, just last month we tested the 800P - what was meant to be the true usable standalone M.2 packaging for Optane. This part was nearly physically identical to Optane Memory, but with some tweaks to available capacities, and more importantly, support for hardware lower power idle states. While this opened the door for use in laptops, it still did not completely close the loop on an Optane-based caching solution for mobile platforms. That loop gets closed today:

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Along with a round of other new 8th generation CPU announcements (covered by Ken here), Intel has also launched a 'Core Plus' series, which are essentially the same 8th gen Core i3 / i5 / i7 parts, but with the addition of Optane Memory caching. These will be a newer, more power efficient version of the Optane Memory caching parts. While these were previously available in 16GB and 32GB capacities, this new round will add a 64GB tier to the mix.

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Another update being made to Optane Memory is that instead of caching the OS drive, Optane Memory will be able to cache a secondary data drive. This would be ideal for a system that was already using a fast NVMe SSD or 800P/900P as the OS drive, where the user also wanted to cache a very large secondary data HDD. The Optane Memory caching is currently limited to caching either the OS drive or a secondary drive - no current possibility to split the higher capacity Optane Memory modules across two separate drives (we asked, and will continue to press this suggestion).

Not sure what all of this 'Optane' / '3D XPoint' stuff is all about? Check out my article detailing how it all works here