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

Samsung Shows Off M.2 Form Factor Z-NAND Z-SSD at OCP Summit

Subject: Storage | March 29, 2018 - 10:43 PM |
Tagged: z-ssd, Z-NAND, workstation, Samsung, NVMe, M.2, HPC, enterprise

Samsung is expanding its Z-NAND based "Z-SSD" products with a new M.2 solid state drive for workstations and high-performance compute servers. Previously only available in half-height AIC (add-in-card) form factors, the SZ983 M.2 sports a M.2 22110 form factor and NVMe compatible PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface. The new drive was shown off at Samsung's booth during the Open Compute Project Summit in San Jose and was spotted by Anandtech who managed to snap a couple photos of it.

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Image credit: Anandtech spotted Samsung's M.2 Z-SSD at OCP Summit 2018.

The new M.2 Z-SSD will come in 240GB and 480GB capacities and sports an 8 channel Phoenix controller. The drive on display at OCP Summit 2018 had a part number of MZ1JB240HMGG-000FB-001. Comparing it to the SZ985 PCI-E SSD, this new M.2 drive appears to also have a DRAM cache as well as capacitors to protect data in the event of power loss (data writes would be able to completely write from the cache to the drive before safe shutdown) though we don't know if this drive has the same 1.5GB of LPDDR4 cache or not. Note that the sticker of the M.2 drive reads SZ983 while Samsung elsewhere had the M.2 labeled as the SZ985 (M.2) so it's unclear which name will stick when this actually launches though hopefully it's the former just to avoid confusion. The Phoenix (formerly Polaris v2) controller is allegedly going to also be used on some of the higher end V-NAND drives though we'll have to wait and see if that happens or not.

Anyway, back to performance numbers, Samsung rates the M.2 Z-SSD at 3200 MB/s sequential reads and 2800 MB/s sequential writes (so a bit slower than the SZ985 at writes). Samsung did not talk random IOPS numbers. The drive is rated at the same 30 DWPD (drive writes per day) endurance rating as the SZ985 and will have the same 5-year warranty. I am curious if the M.2 NVMe drive is able to hit the same (or close to) random IOPS numbers as the PCI-E card which is rated at up to 750,000 read and 170,000 write IOPS.

Z-NAND is interesting as it represents a middle ground between V-NAND and other 3D NAND flash and 3D XPoint memory in both terms of cost and latency performance with Z-NAND being closer in latency to XPoint than V-NAND. Where it gets interesting is that Z-NAND is essentially V-NAND just run at a different mode and yet they are able to reduce write latency by 5-times (12-to-20 microseconds) and cell read latency by up to 10-times (16 microseconds). While Samsung is already working on second generation Z-NAND, these drives are using first generation Z-NAND which is the more performance (lowest latency) type but costs quite a bit more than 2nd generation which is only a bit slower (more read latency). Judging by the form 110mm form factor, this M.2 drive is aimed squarely at datacenter and workstation usage and is not likely to lead to a consumer Optane 800P (et al) competitor, but if it does well enough we may see some prosumer and consumer Z-NAND based options in the future with newer generations of Z-NAND as they get the right balance of cost and latency for the desktop gaming and enthusiast market.

Also read:

Source: Anandtech

Will you still need me when I'm 64 layers? Crucial's MX 500 SSDs

Subject: Storage | March 28, 2018 - 06:13 PM |
Tagged: crucial, MX500, ssd, sata, 1TB, 500gb

Crucial's MX500 series of SSDs have been out for a little while now, Al reviewed them back in December and since then the price has only become more attractive.  The 500GB model now sells for $130US/$168CDN, which makes it fairly attractive and the 1TB model has an even better price per gigabyte.  The Tech Report tested these two drives out and the 1TB model was able to match the performance of much more expensive drives thought the rated endurance less.  Check out the full review for a reminder on how these drives perform.

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"It's been a while since Crucial's MX300 SSD arrived with 3D NAND. The latest drive in the series has been refined with the latest-generation 64-layer 3D TLC. Join us to see how the MX500 fares against the competition."

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Storage

 

Seagate Announces Exos X14 14TB Enterprise Hard Drive

Subject: Storage | March 27, 2018 - 01:33 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, helium, enterprise, datacenter, 14tb

During the Open Compute Summit Seagate showed off a new drive in its Helium-filled Exos X lineup that offers up 14TB of storage in a 3.5-inch SATA hard drive package. The aptly named Exos X14 is a low power 7200 RPM drive that utilizes PMR rather than the more exotic methods (shingled, HAMR, ect) and is a drop-in replacement that Seagate claims allows up to 40% more storage space per rack than previous drives – up to 3,360 TB per rack!

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The drive is aimed at datacenter customers and cloud storage providers clamoring for fast-enough affordable storage. The Exos X14 platform is expected to use a whopping 9-platters each holding 1.55 terabytes. Beyond that, Seagate is not sharing exact specifications except to say that it has bested the sustained transfer rates of the Exos X12 and competitors and has leading and reliable random I/O performance that has been optimized for hyperscale environments (so take that for what you will) likely thanks to the increased storage density.

Seagate did note that the new drives support Seagate Secure encryption and the drive is rated for FIPS 140-2 / Level 2 and ISO/IEC 15408 certifications so at least in theory it meets a minimum level of IT security practices in the methods it uses to protect the data stored on it.

A research study performed by IDC and sponsored by Seagate found that worldwide data creation could hit up to 163 Zettabytes (163 trillion Gigabytes!) by 2025 (10-times the amount of data created last year) which is mind-boggling. Even if the reality is half of that, that’s still an absolutely staggering amount of data that needs to be stored somewhere and both spinning rust and expensive flash are going to have to make some significant advancements to get to that point – and to that point with an acceptable TCO.

The Exos X14 is expected to start shipping to datacenter customers this summer and is currently being sampled to select partners like Baidu and Facebook (Facebook was showing off a server packed with the drives at OCP 2018).

Also interesting is Seagate’s announcement of “Mach.2” multi-actuator technology and its advancements into making HAMR (heat assisted magnetic recording) more reliable both of which are going to be important for the future.

Source: Seagate
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!

PNY Adds CS900 960GB SATA SSD To Budget SSD Series

Subject: General Tech, Storage | March 18, 2018 - 12:20 AM |
Tagged: ssd, sata 3, pny, 3d nand

PNY has added a new solid-state drive to its CS900 lineup doubling the capacity to 960GB. The SATA-based SSD is a 2.5" 7mm affair suitable for use in laptops and SFF systems as well as a budget option for desktops.

PNY CS900 960GB SATA SSD.png

The CS900 960GB SSD uses 3D TLC NAND flash and offers ECC, end-to-end data protection, secure erase, and power saving features to protect data and battery life in mobile devices. Unfortunately, information on the controller and NAND flash manufacturer is not readily available though I suspect it uses a Phison controller like PNY's other drives.

The 960GB capacity model is rated for sequential reads of 535 MB/s and sequential writes of 515 MB/s. PNY rates the drive at 2 million hours MTBF and they cover it with a 3-year warranty.

We may have to wait for reviews (we know how Allyn loves to tear apart drives!) for more information on this drive especially where random read/write and latency percentile performance are concerned. The good news is that if the performance is there the budget price seems right with an MSRP of $249.99 and an Amazon sale price of $229.99 (just under 24 cents/GB) at time of writing. Not bad for nearly a terabyte of solid state storage (though if you don't need that much space you can alternatively find PCI-E based M.2 SSDs in this price range).

Source: PNY
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!