Pre and Post Update Testing
Samsung launched their 840 Series SSDs back in May of 2013, which is over three years ago as of this writing. They were well-received as a budget unit but rapidly eclipsed by the follow-on release of the 840 EVO.
A quick check of our test 840 revealed inconsistent read speeds.
We broke news of Samsung’s TLC SSDs being effected by a time-based degrading of read speeds in September of 2014, and since then we have seen nearly every affected product patched by Samsung, with one glaring exception - the original 840 SSD. While the 840 EVO was a TLC SSD with a built-in SLC static data cache, the preceding 840 was a pure TLC drive. With the focus being on the newer / more popular drives, I had done only spot-check testing of our base 840 sample here at the lab, but once I heard there was finally a patch for this unit, I set out to do some pre-update testing so that I could gauge any improvements to read speed from this update.
As a refresher, ‘stale’ data on an 840 EVO would see reduced read speeds over a period of months after those files were written to the drive. This issue was properly addressed in a firmware issued back in April of 2015, but there were continued grumbles from owners of other affected drives, namely the base model 840. With the Advanced Performance Optimization patch being issued so long after others have been patched, I’m left wondering why there was such a long delay on this one? Differences in the base-840’s demonstration of this issue revealed themselves in my pre-patch testing:
Subject: Storage | June 24, 2016 - 01:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Mushkin, Triactor, SM2256, tlc
At about $0.23/GB for the 480GB model it would be hard to find a less expensive SSD without waiting for a sale. There are those who will refuse the drive because of the use of 256Gbit TLC SanDisk flash and the Silicon Motion SM2256K controller but those on the lookout for bargains should pop by The SSD Review for a look at the full performance review. Apart from the expected poor performance with large constant write transfers this drive runs at a respectable pace when performing the common tasks you would require.
"We've tested quite a few TLC based SSDs as of late, will the Mushkin Triactor show up the competition? Or will it lag behind in all its TLC "glory?" So far all we can say is that it sure does look cool. Read on as we analyze the new Mushkin Triactor 480GB in today's review!"
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- OCZ RD400 PCIe NVMe SSD @ Benchmark Reviews
- Intel 535 Series 240GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- WD My Cloud Expert Series EX2100 8TB NAS Server Review @ NikKTech
- Samsung Portable SSD T3 500GB USB 3.1 Gen 1 Drive Review @ NikKTech
Subject: Storage | June 21, 2016 - 04:02 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: V-NAND, SM961, Samsung, PM961, 960 PRO, 960 EVO, 48-layer
We've known Samsung was working on OEM-series SSDs using their new 48-layer V-NAND, and it appears they are getting closer to shipping in volume, so here's a peek at what is to come:
First up are the SM961 and PM961. The SM and PM appear to be converging into OEM equivalents of the Samsung 'PRO' and 'EVO' retail product lines, with MLC flash present in the SM and TLC (possibly with SLC TurboWrite cache) in the PM. The SM961 has already been spotted for pre-order over at Ram City. Note that they currently list the 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB models, but at the time of this writing, all three product titles (incorrectly) state 1TB. That said, pricing appears to be well below the current 950 PRO retail for equivalent capacities.
These new parts certainly have impressive specs on paper, with the SM961 claiming a 25-50% gain over the 950 PRO in nearly all metrics thanks to 48-layer V-NAND and an updated 'Polaris' controller. We've looked at plenty of Samsung OEM units in the past, and sometimes specs differ between OEM and retail parts, but it is starting to make sense for Samsung to simply relabel a given OEM / retail part at this point (minus any vendor-requested firmware detuning, like reduced write speeds in favor of increased battery life, etc).
With that are the other two upcoming parts that do not appear on the above chart. Those will be the 960 PRO and EVO, barring any last second renaming by Samsung. Originally we were expecting Samsung to add a 1TB SKU to their 950 PRO line, but it appears they have changed gears and will now shift their 48-layer parts to the 960 series. The other big bonus here is that we should also be getting an EVO, which would mark Samsung's first retail M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 part sporting TLC flash. That product should come in a lot closer to 850 EVO pricing, but offer significantly greater performance over the faster interface. While we don't have specs on these upcoming products, the safe bet is that they will come in very close (if not identical) to that of the aforementioned SM961 and PM961.
All of these upcoming products are based on Samsung's 48-layer V-NAND. Announced late last year, this flash has measurably reduced latency (thanks to our exclusive Latency Percentile testing) as compared to the older 32-layer parts. Given the performance improvements noted above, it seems that even more can be extracted from this new flash when connected to a sufficiently performant controller. Previous controllers may have been channel bandwidth limited on the newest flash, where Polaris can likely open up the interface to higher speed grades.
We await these upcoming launches with baited breath. It's nice to see these parts inching closer to the saturation point of quad lane PCIe 3.0. Naturally there will be more to follow here, so stay tuned!
Subject: Storage | June 21, 2016 - 02:43 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: usb 3.0, Thunderbolt 2, raid, hdd, drobo, DAS, BeyondRAID, 5Dt, 5D
Today Drobo updated their 5D, shifting to Thunderbolt 2, an included mSATA caching SSD, and faster internals:
The new 5Dt (t for Turbo Edition) builds on the strengths of the 5D, which launched three years ago. The distinguishing features remain the same, as this is still a 5-bay model with USB 3.0, but the processor has been upgraded, as well as the USB 3.0 chipset, which was a bit finicky with some earlier implementations of the technology.
The changes present themselves at the rear, as we now have a pair of Thunderbolt 2 (20 Gb/s) ports which support display pass-through (up to 4k). Rates speeds climb to 540 MB/s read and 250 MB/s write when using HDDs. SSDs bump those figures up to 545 / 285 MB/s, respectively.
Another feature that has remained was their Hot Data Cache technology, but while the mSATA part was optional on the 5D, a 128GB unit comes standard and pre-installed on the 5Dt.
The Drobo 5Dt is available today starting at $899. That price is a premium over the 5D, but the increased performance specs, included SSD, and Thunderbolt connectivity come at a price.
The current (updated) Drobo product lineup.
Full press blast after the break.
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Western Digital launched their My Passport Wireless nearly two years ago. It was a nifty device that could back up or offload SD cards without the need for a laptop, making it ideal for photographers in the field. I came away from that review wondering just how much more you could pack into a device like that, and today I get to find out:
Not to be confused with the My Passport Pro (a TB-connected portable RAID storage device), the My Passport Wireless Pro is meant for on-the-go photographers who seek to back up their media while in the field but also lighten their backpacks. The concept is simple - have a small device capable of offloading (or backing up) SD cards without having to lug along your laptop and a portable hard drive to do so. Add in a wireless hotspot with WAN pass-through along with mobile apps to access the media and you can almost get away without bringing a laptop at all. Oh, and did I mention this one can also import photos and videos from your smartphone while charging it via USB?
- Capacity: 2TB and 3TB
- Battery: 6,400 mAH / 24WH
- UHS-I SD Card Reader
- USB 3.0 (upstream) port for data and charging
- USB 2.0 (downstream) port for importing and charging smartphones
- 802.11AC + N dual band (2.4 / 5 GHz) WiFi
- 2.4A Travel Charge Adapter (included)
- Plex Media Server capable
- Available 'My Cloud' mobile apps
No surprises here. 2.4W power adapter is included this time around, which is a nice touch.
Subject: Storage | June 16, 2016 - 02:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SK Hynix, enterprise ssd, SE3010
SK Hynix's SE3010 uses their own controller, the eight channel SH87910AA Pearl and in the case of the 960GB model, eight 16nm 128Gb MLC NAND chips with a mysterious H27Q18YEB9a label and four capacitors to prevent data loss in the case of unexpected power loss. The drive is optimized for read speeds and Kitguru's testing certainly shows that they were effective in their implementation. Check out the write speed and overall conclusions in the full review.
"When we last looked at an SSD from SK hynix it was from their consumer portfolio. This time around we are looking at a drive from the other part of their storage business in the shape of the SE3010, a read intensive drive for the Enterprise market space."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Crucial's MX300 SSD @ The Tech Report
- Crucial MX300 750GB Limited Edition @ Kitguru
- Crucial MX300 @ The SSD Review
- Samsung 750 EVO 500GB SSD @ Guru of 3D
- Samsung Portable SSD T3 (1TB) @ Bjorn3d
Introduction, Dynamic Write Acceleration, and Packaging
Micron joined Intel in announcing their joint venture production of IMFT 3D NAND just a bit over a year ago. The industry was naturally excited since IMFT has historically enabled relatively efficient production, ultimately resulting in reduced SSD prices over time. I suspect this time things will be no different as IMFT's 3D Flash has been aiming high die capacities since its inception, and I suspect their second generation will *double* per-die capacities while keeping speeds reasonable thanks to a quad-plane design implemented from the start of this endeavor. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit as there are no consumer products sporting this flash just yet - well not until today at least:
Marketed under Micron's consumer brand Crucial, the MX300 is their first entrant into the consumer space, as well as the first consumer SSD sporting IMFT 3D NAND. Crucial is known for their budget-minded SSDs, and for the MX300 they chose to go with the best cost/GB they could manage with what they had to work with. That meant putting this new 3D NAND into TLC mode. Now there are many TLC haters out there, but remember this is 3D NAND. Samsung's 850 EVO can exceed 500 MB/sec writes to TLC at its 500GB capacity point, and this MX300 is a product that is launching with *only* a 750GB capacity, so its TLC speed should be at least reasonable.
(the return of) Dynamic Write Acceleration
Dynamic Write Acceleration in action during a sequential fill - that last slowest part was my primary concern for the mX300.
TLC is not the only story here because Crucial has included their Dynamic Write Acceleration (DWA) technology into the MX300. This is a tech where the SSD controller is able to dynamically switch flash programming modes of the flash pool, doing so at the block level. This appears to be a feature unique to IMFT flash, as every other 'hybrid' SSD we have tested had a static SLC cache area. DWA's ability to switch flash modes on-the-fly has always fascinated me on paper, but I just haven't been impressed by Micron's previous attempts to implement it. The M600 was a bit all over the place on its write consistency, and that SSD was flipping blocks between SLC and MLC. With the MX300 flipping between SLC and *TLC*, there was a possibility of far more noticeable slow downs in the cases where large writes were taking place and the controller was caught trying to scavenge space in the background.
New Latency Percentile vs. legacy IO Percentile, shown here highlighting a performance inconsistency seen in the Toshiba OCZ RD400. Note which line more closely represents the Latency Distribution (gray) also on this plot.
Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 03:46 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand
For those unaware, XPoint (spoken 'cross-point') is a new type of storage technology that is persistent like NAND Flash but with speeds closer to that of RAM. Intel's brand name for devices implementing XPoint are called Optane.
Starting at the bottom of the slide, we see a new 'System Acceleration' segment with a 'Stony Beach PCIe/NVMe m.2 System Accelerator'. This is likely a new take on Larson Creek, which was a 20GB SLC SSD launched in 2011. This small yet very fast SLC flash was tied into the storage subsystem via Intel's Rapid Storage Technology and acted as a caching tier for HDDs, which comprised most of the storage market at that time. Since Optane excels at random access, even a PCIe 3.0 x2 part could outmaneuver the fastest available NAND, meaning these new System Accelerators could act as a caching tier for Flash-based SSDs or even HDDs. These accelerators can also be good for boosting the performance of mobile products, potentially enabling the use of cheaper / lower performing Flash / HDD for bulk storage.
Skipping past the mainstream parts for now, enthusiasts can expect to see Brighton Beach and Mansion Beach, which are Optane SSDs linked via PCIe 3x2 or x4, respectively. Not just accelerators, these products should have considerably more storage capacity, which may bring costs fairly high unless either XPoint production is very efficient or if there is also NAND Flash present on those parts for bulk storage (think XPoint cache for NAND Flash all in one product).
We're not sure if or how the recent delays to Kaby Lake will impact the other blocks on the above slide, but we do know that many of the other blocks present are on-track. The SSD 540s and 5400s were in fact announced in Q2, and are Intel's first shipping products using IMFT 3D NAND. Parts not yet seen announced are the Pro 6000p and 600p, which are long overdue m.2 SSDs that may compete against Samsung's 950 Pro. Do note that those are marked as TLC products (purple), though I suspect they may actually be a hybrid TLC+SLC cache solution.
Going further out on the timeline we naturally see refreshes to all of the Optane parts, but we also see the first mention of second-generation IMFT 3DNAND. As I hinted at in an article back in February, second-gen 3D NAND will very likely *double* the per-die capacity to 512Gbit (64GB) for MLC and 768Gbit (96GB) for TLC. While die counts will be cut in half for a given total SSD capacity, speed reductions will be partially mitigated by this flash having at least four planes per die (most previous flash was double-plane). A plane is an effective partitioning of flash within the die, with each section having its own buffer. Each plane can perform erase/program/read operations independently, and for operations where the Flash is more limiting than the interface (writes), doubling the number of planes also doubles the throughput. In short, doubling planes roughly negates the speed drop caused by halving the die count on an SSD (until you reach the point where controller-to-NAND channels become the bottleneck, of course).
IMFT XPoint Die shot I caught at the Intel / Micron launch event.
Well, that's all I have for now. I'm excited to see that XPoint is making its way into consumer products (and Storage Accelerators) within the next year's time. I certainly look forward to testing these products, and I hope to show them running faster than they did back at that IDF demo...
With all the new drives on the market it would be interesting to see The Tech Report try to kill another stack of SSDs. With the spread of NVMe drives they could take the OCZ RD400 they just reviewed and a number of others and see if they can't write them to death. It would likely be a bit more work, these drives are more resilient and the amount of data they can move in a short time would certainly require a change in methodology. The Intel 750 and Samsung 950 Pro would be obvious choices as most other SSDs simply would not be able to keep up. Al has a collection as well, maybe a joint effort to kill as many PCIe SSDs as possible?
"Toshiba is bringing the OCZ brand into the NVMe SSD market with its RD400. We put the drive through its paces to see how it stacks up with Intel's 750 Series and Samsung's 950 Pro drives."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Techman SSD XC100 Series NVMe @ The SSD Review
- SanDisk X400 @ The SSD Review
- Angelbird Wings PX1 SSD Adapter @ techPowerUp
- QNAP TBS-453A 4-Bay M.2 SSD NASbook @ techPowerUp
- Seagate Enterprise Capacity 8TB HDD Review @ OCC
- Seagate Personal Cloud Pro (2-Bay) 4TB NAS Review @ NikKTech
- Patriot SuperSonic Rage 2 256GB USB 3.1 Gen 1 Flash Drive Review @ NikKTech
Subject: Storage | June 7, 2016 - 02:42 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: SSD 750, M.2 2280, M.2, Intel, Adatper
Back when Intel launched their SSD 750 Series product line, their hope was that the motherboard industry would adopt the U.2 PCIe connector and add those ports to all motherboards. Well, it's over a year later, and we've only seen U.2 appear on a very small fraction of currently shipping motherboards. It's far more likely to see motherboard manufacturers simply tossing in a U.2 to M.2 adapter than to incorporate both onto the board itself. Since things have panned out the way that they have, Intel has recently let us know they will be introducing a new SKU of the SSD 750 products:
Instead of the bundled U.2 cable (seen above next to an ASUS Hyper Kit), the alternate will include a U.2 to M.2 cable, eliminating the need for an adapter for consumers who have no native U.2 port on their systems.
For now, the only available products on the market have the U.2 cable, so don't worry about getting the wrong one. Once the new SKU hits the to market, we should see product descriptions indicating which cable is included. Those purchasing starting this summer should be aware that in the future there will be an additional product with the alternate cable, and be careful to purchase the desired product/cable.