Plextor M6S Plus SSD Arrives On Market

With SSDs seemingly advancing by leap and bounds everyday, it’s crucial for companies to be able to get their products out to market quickly. By being on the bleeding edge, companies can exploit process and controller advantages to increase their margin or lower prices. First unveiled and announced a little over 2 months ago, Plextor’s M6S Plus series of SSDs will finally reach market and become available for purchase.

As a 2016 update of the M6S, the M6S Plus uses the newer 15nm MLC Toggle NAND from Toshiba instead of the A19nm found in the M6S. This will help Plextor bring prices down and become more competitive. The drive continues Plextor’s relationship with the 4-channel Marvell 88SS9188 with custom firmware support for TrueSpeed, TrueProtect, PlexTurbo and PlexCompressor. The drives it boasts random access speeds of up to 90,000 IOPS reads and 80,000 IOPS writes, with sequential speeds of up to 520 MB/s read and 300 MB/s, 420 MB/s, and 440 MB/s writes depending on capacity.

Given the time it took to bring the M6S Plus to market, we can expect the M7V, announced a week ago, to drop sometime in May/June. That drive features the newer 4-channel Marvell 88SS1074B1 controller paired with 15nm TLC Toggle NAND from Toshiba. Interestingly, the M7V actually features higher write speeds despite being TLC. Perhaps this is due to an improved SLC caching mechanism. Lastly, the budget M6V with the SMI 2246EN controller and 15nm MLC has also popped up alongside the M6S Plus as well.

Micron Announces Enterprise 9100 and 7100 NVMe PCIe SSDs

NVMe has been hailed as the next big storage protocol supplanting the aging ACHI that many SSDs still use. While NVMe is still slowly making its way into the consumer market, the enterprise segment has been readily moving forwards. In light of this Micron is updating their P420m and P320h lineup of SSDs with the new 9100 and 7100 series of drives with NVMe support.

With the larger model number, the 9100 is the higher performing and more costly model. It comes with a PMC-Sierra controller and boasts a high 27W TDP. The drive comes in both PCIe 3.0 x4 or U.2 formats with peak reads and writes at 3.0 GB/s and 2.0 GB/s respectively. Capacities range from 800GB to 3.2TB. Random read/writes are even more impressive at 750k/160k IOPS.

The Micron 7100 is a more mainstream product, utilizing a  Marvell 88SS1093 controller. This is Marvell’s first NVMe PCIe 3.0 controller and uses Micron’s custom firmware. The form factors and capacities are different too, with M.2 and U.2  peaking at 960GB and 1.92TB respectively. Speeds are respectable as well, peaking at 2.5GB/s and 900MB/s for read and write respectively. Random read/writes are pretty good at 235K/40K for the fastest variant though the large capacities suffer due having to use higher capacity NAND dies, reducing parallelism.

Lastly, Micron has chosen to use their latest 16nm MLC. I suppose their 3D NAND isn’t quite ready for prime time and TLC wouldn’t do for enterprise drives. Micron expected their 3D NAND enterprise SSDs to drop in the second half of 2016. You can find more information at Micron’s press release here.

PNY CS2211 XLR8 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Today’s review is a special one for me as it is the first time I get to review a PNY SSD. I got the XLR8 CS2211 2.5-inch gaming branded SSD on the test bench today and it will be interesting to see how well it does. The PNY CS2211 SSD is available in three capacities from 240GB over 480GB to 960GB from which I’ll be testing the 240GB model today.

PNY is no stranger in the SSD market and they created some great drives in the past for all sectors of the market, but they’re probably most known for their graphics cards. But we aren’t here to talk about graphics cards, it is about storage today. PNY has taken what they have learned from their previous drives and created the XLR8 branded CS2211 drive, and it shows in the performance ratings.

The drive is rated for a sequential performance of up to 565 MB/s reading and 540MB/s writing, which is about as good as it gets on the SATA3 interface. The random input-output performance is equally impressive with 95K IOPS ratings for both reading and writing. Those are at least the ratings for the larger models and the small 240GB version can’t keep fully up with that. It still comes with impressive ratings despite being a little slower ,with an 87K IOPS rating and a drop in sequential writes to 470MB/s.

It is no surprise that the drive has such good ratings as it is built with only the best components. It utilizes 15nm Toshiba MLC NAND and a Phison PS3110-S10 controller aided by 256MB DDR3 cache package

PNY gave the CS2211 the XLR8 styling as a gaming product, but the design has been toned down a bit in comparison to the previous XLR8 drive design. It is a beautiful design that makes the drive stand out and also makes in an optimal candidate for systems that proudly shows what components they are made off.

There are a lot of products that get a ‘gaming’ label in order to appeal to that market segment, but the CS2211 does deserve this label. It is a perfect gaming drive thanks to its high IOPS performance on top of the high sequential performance. You’ll copy fast, load fast, and should experience even less loading times in-game.

Feature wise we find the basic Trim and SMART capabilities, but the CS2211 also comes with background garbage collection, end-to-end data protection, and error correction code for up to 120 bits per 2K sector. Overall, we see a drive that presents itself very well and PNY agrees with a 2 million hours mean time before failure rating and a full 4-year warranty.

The 7mm slim drive is perfect for usage in both desktop and notebook systems where it also will fit well in 9.5mm drive bays thanks to the included adapter bracket. The SSD doesn’t feature the DevSleep function that I really like to see in drives, but that isn’t a deal breaker and most gamers don’t want power saving features, they want pure and raw performance which the CS2211 delivers.

Aside from the beautiful brand sticker on the top, the drive is built with a standard 2-piece snap-together enclosure that holds the PCB and doesn’t require any screws that could loosen themselves over time in high-vibration environments.

The PCB itself is a two-thirds length one with a total of eight NAND chips distributed over the front and back. The Phison PS3110 S10C controller sits firmly in the middle of the PCB. Next to it we also see the Nanya DDR3 cache chip that helps the drive to achieve the great speeds that it can.

Specifications

  • Capacity: 240GB
  • Part Number: SSD7CS2211-240-RB
  • Form Factor: 2.5 inch
  • Height: 7mm
  • Interface: SATA-III 6Gb/s; backward compatible with SATA-II 3Gb/s
  • Max Sequential Read Speed: 560 MB/s
  • Max Sequential Write Speed: 470 MB/s
  • Max Random Read Speed: 87,000 IOPS
  • Max Random Write Speed: 95,000 IOPS
  • NAND Type: MLC
  • Ideal For: Gaming, Hard disk drive replacement, photo and video storage, and boot drives

Packaging and Accessories

The PNY XLR8 CS2211 solid state drive came packed in a simple black box with the PNY logo on the side.

Inside the box is the SSD itself as well as a 9.5mm adapter for usage in notebooks and laptops designed for the 9.5mm thick drives. By adding the adapter to the drive, you make sure that it’s firmly seated in the system and doesn’t rattle around.

Normally you’d get the drive in a more colourful wrapping and with an included registration key for the Acronis True Image cloning software. Review samples like this one sometimes come with a few things missing because the company is in a hurry to get the drives to us so we can test them for you – and they know that we don’t need the extras.

SSD Reliability Study Shows SLC No Better than MLC

The first SSDs we had all used SLC or single level cell, holding 1 bit per cell. As SSDs grew more and more common and advanced,  different tech like MLC (multi-level cell) and TLC (triple-level cell) grew more common, with 2 and 3 bits per cell respectively. While consumers have mostly used MLC and TLC due to cost reasons, some, especially in the enterprise have stuck with SLC due to performance or reliability concerns. From a recent study though, it looks like the second factor really isn’t all that different between SLC and MLC.

According to the researchers from the University of Toronto and Google, over a 6 year period, SLC and MLC drives failed at about the same rate. This meant that despite a significantly lower durability to writes for MLC, it was still able to keep up with SLC. The biggest reason for failures was due to the age of the SSD and not the number of writes. This is somewhat expected as many SSD durability experiments have shown, that controller, firmware, NAND defect or other failures are more likely to take place before the NAND actually dies from too many writes.

The study also found that Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate specifications weren’t useful at all while Raw Bit Error Rate was, though the manufacturers were too conservative with their estimates. The biggest concern is that 30-80 percent of SSDs develop at least one bad block and 2-7 percent develop at least one bad chip in the first four years of deployment. This means while SSDs are unlikely to lose all their data at once like HDD failure does, they do tend to lose snippets of data here and there.

All this being said and done, most SSDs should be able to recover data from bad blocks and have enough spare that it doesn’t matter too much. The study was also done with enterprise drives which are used more often and hit harder. One big takeaway is that unless you want speed MLC is the way to go. The biggest takeaway is that instead of worrying about writes to your SSD, worry more about its age and keep a good backup plan going.

Mushkin Reactor 512GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


After I recently had a look at Mushkin’s Striker SSD, it is now time to take a closer look at the Mushkin Reactor SSD and that’s just what I am doing in today’s review. Mushkin’s Reactor solid state drive promises simultaneous capacity and performance while also keeping the initial costs of purchase in the mainstream spectrum. The Reactor drive is available in three capacities from 256GB to 1TB, but I’m taking a closer look at the 512GB model today.

The Mushkin Reactor is a basic mainstream drive that will be a great solution in any workstation system or gaming rig. It is built around the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller which is a little cheaper than the Phison S10 for example. In return, we get a drive that is cheaper to purchase. It still delivers a great performance thanks to the use of MLC NAND and it is rated for sequential operations up to 560MB/s reading and 460MB/s writing. The random access performance isn’t bad at all either and the drive comes with a rating of up to 71K IOPS reading and up to 75K IOPS writing.

With solid performance figures like these, the Reactor drive has no reason to hide behind any other competing drives. Capacity wise you got three options in this series where the 512GB model that I’m having a look at today is right in the middle. There’s also a smaller version with 256GB capacity and the larger model with 1TB capacity. That’s a lot of fast storage at an affordable price thanks to clever hardware choices.

The drive has a couple features less than the Mushkin Striker SSD that I recently reviewed, but the basics are well covered on this drive too. The Reactor has the basic S.M.A.R.T. and Trim features as well as early weak block retirement, DataRefresh, and built-in BCH ECC with up to 66 bits per 1kb. The only thing that could be considered missing is DevSleep and that’s only really relevant for notebook users anyway.

Just because the Reactor drive doesn’t have the DevSleep feature doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a great upgrade for any notebook, laptop, or ultrabook out there. The 7mm height and default 2.5-inch form factor makes the upgrade quick and easy in either case. The Reactor is also a light drive and that’s something everyone can appreciate for their portable devices. You don’t want to carry any more weight with you than absolutely necessary.

The SATA power and data connectors are default in the sense of pin connectors, as it should be, but they are also another place where Mushkin managed to save a little in order to provide you with a better-priced drive. The connectors are almost transparent when you shine a light on them, but they still appear to be an equal quality when compared to conventional connectors stability.

Mushkin’s Reactor SSD is one of the few drives these days that’s still assembled with screws, which makes my life a lot easier when showing you what the drive looks like on the inside. The enclosure itself is put together with four screws and the PCB is also secured to the case with four screws. In the photo below we also see the thermal transfer pad located on the controller that connects to the chassis. This effectively turns the entire drive into a heatsink and it’s something we’ve seen quite often in other drives because it simply works well.

Having a closer look, we see the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller next to eight NAND chips from SanDisk.

The other side of the PCB has another eight NAND chips and a Nanya RAM chip as a cache buffer.

Feature Highlights

  • Capacity and Performance
  • Optimal Data Flow: Optimized for dependable and reliable data flow
  • TRIM Support when used with compatible operating system
  • Shock-Resistant: Designed for continued reliable function
  • 3 Year Warranty: Quality guaranteed

Specifications

  • Capacity: 512GB
  • Dimensions: 7mm X 69.85mm X 100.5mm
  • Performance: Up to 560MB/sec (Read) / Up to 460MB/sec (Write)
  • IOPS: Up to 71,000 IOPS (Read) / Up to 75,000 IOPS (Write)
  • MTBF: 1,500,000 hours
  • Controller: Silicon Motion SM2246EN
  • Interface Type: SATA 3.0 (6Gb/s) interface (backwards compatible with SATA 2.0 (3Gb/s) and SATA 1.0 (1.5Gb/s))
  • Temperature Range: 0-70°C
  • Warranty: 3 years limited

Packaging

The Mushkin Reactor comes in a simple blister package that showcases the included drive itself.

It is surrounded by a simple inlay that also shows the drive’s main features on the rear. Other than that, there isn’t much to the package.

Transcend Develops SuperMLC NAND Technology

Here I sat thinking that I knew all the terms for the different NAND technologies and then Transcend comes along with a new one that they have called SuperMLC. SuperMLC was developed as a more cost effective solution to SLC NAND with a performance that comes very close. In fact, the write performance is up to four times better than traditional MLC-based products.

Okay, I have to be honest right away and say that this technically isn’t a new form of NAND, we’re still dealing with Multi-Level Cell NAND chips. The difference comes down to how this NAND is handled by the SSD controller and its firmware. By using high-quality NAND chips and reprogramming the firmware, Transcend essentially created a cell-based RAID setup where the same data is stored in both bits in the same cell instead of having different data stored in the two. This naturally decreases the available capacity per NAND chip by half, but it also allows the drives to deliver a much better performance. In fact, the new SuperMLC has up to four times the sequential write performance when compared with traditional MLC NAND. It also brings better lifetime expectancy with up to 30,000 P/E cycles.

Transcend will release new drives based on this technology in early 2016 and they are all aimed at the enterprise sector where both initial costs and total costs of ownership really matters. That doesn’t mean that you can’t purchase these drives and use them in your personal setup, if that is something you are considering. Among the upcoming products with this brand new SuperMLC technology are a 2.5-inch SSD (SSD510K), an mSATA SSD (MSA510), a half-slim SSD (HSD510), and two M.2 SSD models. (MTS460 & MTS860).

What do you think of this way to utilize the NAND chips? Would this be an option you would be interested in, or do you prefer the normal MLC NAND for capacity or SLC NAND-based products for their reliability and performance? Let us know in the comments.

Microsoft Using Anemic Samsung TLC SSD in Surface Book

With the first Surface Books shipping, we’re getting a better picture of what Microsoft’s new convertible looks like. According to the latest reports, Microsoft chose to use a slower TLC SSD instead of a caster MLC model. While mostly offering a superb SSD performance, the TLC-based Samsung PM951 falls short with its write speeds.

For the 128GB model, the Surface Book clocks a meagre 150MB/s and the 256GB model only manages about 280MB/s. Unlike the popular SM951 which uses MLC NAND, the PM951 sports 19nm TLC which is inherently slower. Due to this, the PM951 has write speeds similar to 2011 and 2012 SSDs from 3-4 years ago like the Samsung 830 and 840. In fact, the 150MB/s speed for the 128GB is pretty much on par with HDDs which is telling.

While TLC is part of the issue, the bigger problem is the lack of NAND parallelism. Each NAND die has speed limits and SSDs gain their superb speeds by writing to many NAND dies simultaneously. As NAND lithography shrinks and denser methods like TLC are used, fewer and fewer NAND dies will be needed for a certain capacity.This all happens before we even consider other limitations like M.2 which limits the number of NAND dies as well.

There are benefits to using TLC and lower lithographies, chiefly the ability to hit a higher capacity at lower cost. In order to compensate the decreased NAND parallelism, we must turn to things like 3D-VNAND and NVME, which can raise costs. On the other hand, the prices OEMs charge for storage should be more than enough to ensure only top end SSDs make it into premium products.

For the Surface Book, the increase to higher storage capacities is pretty insane. For an increase of 768GB of storage, Microsoft charges about $1000 which is well above what Samsung charges. For an increase of a more modest 256GB, there is a $500 price bump. These cost increases would more than cover going to faster SSDs like the SM951 or PM987. Given these prices and the premium nature of the Surface Book, it seems natural that Microsoft would have made sure storage is up to par. Hopefully, Microsoft and other OEMs will take note of this with their future products.

Addonics Announces Complete Family of Industrial or Enterprise Grade SSDs

Addonics announced a new family of SSDs that support the CFast, mSATA and M2 form factors in both Industrial or Enterprise class grades. The difference between the two types is the type of NAND used. The Industrial class modules are built with SLC NAND where the Enterprise class modules are made with MLC NAND.

These new storage modules are all rated for operation in industrial temperatures ranging from minus 45 to plus 80 degrees Celcius. They are also some of the most reliable SSDs on the market, a thing that easily can be spotted in the TBW and MTBF ratings. For example, a 64GB SLC mSATA modules comes with a TBW rating of 3448 TB and the same module with MLC NAND has a TBW of 635TB for the 256GB model. All come with an MTBF of over 3 million hours.

Which type you pick is down to the operations they need to perform. MLC is more energy-efficient, has more capacity, and it is faster, but the SLC has more durability and a longer lifetime expectancy. Addonics new Industrial and Enterprise SSDs range from 4GB to 256GB capacity and Addonics also offers a full line of converters, readers, and duplicators for the most common SSD form factors.

Suggested retail prices of the Addonics Industrial grade mSATA Flash SSD is $325 for 32GB. The Enterprise class mSATA SSD starts at $54 for 32G. You can also check out the full details on the official new landing page for Addonics Flash media and SSDs: http://addonics.com/category/fm-ssd.php

Patriot Ignite 480GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


It has been quite a while since we had any of Patriot’s drives on our test bench and it is as such a pleasure to be able to put the 480GB capacity Patriot Ignite through the paces. The Patriot Ignite is available in several versions and capacities, both M.2 and 2.5-inch form factors and it is also available in various capacities.

Patriot named the drive Ignite because that is its goal, to ignite and enhance your computers performance. The more traditional form factor and SATA3 connection makes it compatible with almost any system and would be a great upgrade from a traditional mechanical disk drive.

The drive measures 7mm in height and that also makes it perfect for ultrabooks and laptops that usually are limited to that height in their 2.5-inch drives. Patriot’s Ignite 2.5-inch SSD comes in two large sizes that provide plenty of space from a single drive: 480GB and 960GB.

The Ignite doesn’t just offer a lot of capacity, it also offers great transfer speeds. The drive series is rated for up to 560MB/s while reading and 545MB/s while writing. The random performance is equally impressive with 80K IOPS while reading and 75K IOPS while writing.

The Patriot Ignite doesn’t just come in a traditional form factor, the same goes for the design. The drive itself is packed inside a black enclosure and it features a sticker on each side. The top shows the drive name and company logo as well as the capacity while the bottom sticker  shows pretty much the same information on a white sticker.

Feature wise the drive packs everything you’ll want. You got the basic TRIM and Advanced Garbage Collection, but the drive also feature Smart ECC that’s able to recover 115bits/2KB, end-to-end data path protection (ETEP), and Advanced wear leveling together with Smart Refresh. Overall a feature list that should make sure that the drive runs stable for a long time.

Inside the drive, we find a short PCB featuring the Phison S10 series controller paired with MLC NAND for a great performance. The 480GB model that I’m taking a closer look at today features 512MB DRAM Cache while its bigger brother with 960GB capacity features a full GB of cache.

The Patriot Ignite is backed by a 3-year warranty and has a mean time before failure rating of 2 million hours. It sure sounds like a great drive, so lets put it to the test.

Features

  • Phison S10 Series SSD Processor paired with qualified MLC NAND flash for best performance value and reliability
  • DRAM Cache: 480GB = 512MB
  • SATA3 6Gbps/SATA2 3Gbps
  • TRIM support (O/S dependent)
  • End-to-end data path protection (ETEP)
  • Advanced wear-leveling
  • Advanced Garbage Collection
  • Smart ECC
  • Smart Refresh
  • Operating Temperature – 0° ~ 70°C
  • Native Command Queuing (NCQ) – Up to 32 commands
  • ECC Recovery: Up to 115bits/2KB
  • MTBF: 2,000,000 hours

Packaging

The Patriot Ignite comes in a beautiful blue box that showcases the important features on the front as well as the drive itself through a window in the packaging.

The rear of the package features a few more information and more details on each.

Inside the package isn’t much besides the drive itself. There is a small install guide, but no other accessories.

Micron to start selling TLC SSDs this quarter

Micron Technologies is finally moving into the TLC (Triple-Level Cell) NAND market, with shipments of consumer SDDs starting in Q4 this year. TLC is generally cheaper than MLC, holding up to 3 bits compared to the 2 with the older technology. This allows for cheaper SSDs as it requires fewer NAND dies to reach a certain capacity compared to MLC. By Q3 2016, Micron is expecting about 50% of their SSDs will be using TLC.

Along with Intel, Micron’s joint venture IMFT has largely focused on shrinking the process with MLC in order to gain die savings. IMFT was one of the earliest NAND producers to reach 20 and 16nm. On the other hand, SanDisk/Toshiba and Samsung have long been using TLC in their SSDs, preferring to move to new processes slower. Samsung for instance, released their first TLC  drive back in 2013 and SanDisk their’s in 2014.

Combining their leading 16nm process with TLC should offer great savings for SSD buyers. TLC does come with a number of drawbacks though, most notably lower endurance and performance. TLC generally only can last 1,000 P/E (program/erase) cycles while MLC dos much better at 3,000. Even with only 1,000 cycles though, TLC should be more than enough for most consumers, especially if a bit of extra NAND is set aside. On the performance front, a caching system like those used in the Samsung 840/850 EVO or SanDisk Ultra II can mitigate most of the issues. Micron first trialed their caching system with the MX200 which should be a great starting point to work from for the TLC drives.

Micron has not yet revealed any details for their TLC drives. Intel too, given their joint IMFT venture may be trying out TLC drives in the near future. Combined with 3D XPoint and 3D NAND from SanDisk/Toshiba, 2016 should be a pretty good year for SSDs.

First 2TB Consumer SSDs Are Now Available

Samsung announced that they would be releasing 2TB versions of their popular 850 Evo and 850 Pro families a couple of months ago, but thus far no one has spotted the drives out in the wild. That is up until now, they have been spotted in shops, are available through Samsung directly, and can be ordered from multiple online shops with others taking pre-orders until stock arrives.

While 2TB SSDs aren’t anything new in themselves, this is the firs time that we get this capacity on the consumer level and at a more reasonable price. Both drives are built with 40nm V-NAND, but not the same type. The Evo drive is built with TLC Toggle while the Pro is built with MLC Toggle NAND. The new Samsung 2TB drives are using 2GB LPDDR3 Cache to help with the performance and utilize the Samsung MHX controller.

The two series aren’t far from each other when it comes to performance. The Pro can read with 550MB/s where the Evo only does 540MB/s in sequential operations and the random performance of the Pro is 2K higher and comes in at 100K IOPS. The write performance is identical on both series with 520MB/s sequential and 90K IOPS random 4K.

I mentioned earlier that these drives come at a reasonable price, whether that is true or not probably depends on your absolute needs. The Samsung 850 Pro can be had for around 900 Euro while the  Samsung 850 Evo is a little cheaper and can be had for around 720 Euro. Those prices are actual list prices and might variate depending on the retailer. The MSRP for the drives has been set to $1000 and $800 respectively.

Toshiba Introduces Q300 and Q300 Pro SSDs

Toshiba announced two new internal solid state drive series with large capacity and great performance. The two new drives are the Q300 series built for a balance of performance and value and the Q300 Pro series aimed at the enthusiasts and gamers. Both drives are built with Toshiba’s own controllers and NAND, and they use Adaptive Sized SLC cache technology to increase the performance.

The Toshiba Q300 series is built with Triple-Level-Cell (TLC) NAND and it uses the TC358790 controller. The Q300 comes with capacity options up to 960GB, making it an ideal upgrade from that old, slow, and loud mechanical hard drive. This SSD delivers quiet operation, low power consumption, and tough shock resistance for greater long-term durability. All in a 7mm 2.5-inch design and backed by a 3-year warranty.

The Toshiba Q300 Pro series is built for those that need that extra bit of performance. It has a Toshiba TC58NC1000 controller and Toshiba’s own 2-bit MLC NAND on the insides. That brings greater performance over the TLC NAND, but also a capacity reduction and the Q300 Pro is only available up to a size of 512GB.

The sequential performance is almost equal between the two drives. The Q300 can read with 550MB/s and write with 530MB/s while the Q300 Pro reads and writes with 550MB/s and 520MB/s. When we look at the random performance, we see that the drives aren’t so equal anymore. The Q300 has a random performance rating up to 87K/83K IOPS read/write where the Q300 Pro does 92K/63K IOPS.

The endurance rating is another place where the two differentiate. The 512GB Pro model has an endurance of 320TB total bytes written while the Q300 480GB drive only has a rating of 120TB total bytes written. That is a difference. The Pro model also consumes less power, making it a more optimal choice for notebook users. The last difference between the two is the warranty and the Q300 Pro offers an additional 2-years, making it 5-years in total for the Q300 Pro versus the 3-years for the Q300.

The new Toshiba Q300 and Q300 Pro series SSDs are available now. The MSRP for the Q300 Pro Series is $124.99 for 128GB, $199.99 for 256GB, and $389.99 for 512GB. The Q300 Series has an MSRP of $99.99 for 120GB, $159.99 for 240GB, $309.99 for 480GB, and $449.99 for 960GB.

Toshiba Unveils M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drives

Toshiba announced three new families of solid state drives that are fitted with high.speed PCIe interfaces that provide high.bandwidth point-to-point links with the processor and reduce system bottlenecks. That is thanks to the use of the NVMe protocol and they come for various systems. All versions are built with Toshiba’s own MLC NAND flash memory.

We’ve previously seen the PX4P family that is designed for server applications in its 2.5-inch form factor, but the M.2 drives are new. Most newer motherboards feature an M.2 connector and the drives are also used in netbooks and ultrabooks thanks to the small form factor.

The XG3 family is the one aimed at the broader audience and it is an impressive drive. It is an M.2 Type 2280 drive and comes with the industries highest capacity of up to 1TB. It supports up to four PCIe 3.1 lanes and a maximum bandwidth that is six times that of the SATA3 interface. There will also be a 2.5-inch SATA-Express version of this drive. The XG3 series is equipped with Toshiba’s QSBC (Quadruple Swing-By Code) error-correction technology and also features lower power state modes. It is also the first Toshiba product to support the Trusted Computing Group security specification, Pyrite (TCG Pyrite).

The second M.2 type drive that Toshiba Announced, is the BG1 SSD family, the world’s smallest NVMe SSD. It measures just 16 by 20 mm thanks to the M.2 Type 1620 form factor and will also be available as a Type 2230 removable module with up to 256GB capacity. This drive is designed for thin notebooks and 2-in1 systems that are naturally limited in physical space. The BG1 series also supports the TCG Pyrite and features the low power state modes that the larger XG3 family has.

Along with these information, we also learned that the PX04P series, with its incredible low 18 watts max power draw, also will be available as HHHL (half-height half-length) add-in card next to the SFF-8639 12Gbps connector. Samples of the new drives are expected in Q4 2015, so expect the actual drives sometime during the start of 2016.

Samsung Launches 2TB 850 Pro and 850 EVO SSDs

Super sized SSDs are not new as both SanDisk, Intel, as others have launched 2TB SATA SSDs already. However, those drives have all been enterprise or server oriented. Samsung has just announced the first 2TB consumer SSDs, with the new drives coming from the current 850 Pro and 850 EVO families. Pricing is set at $1000 and $800 respectively which in the grand scheme of things is quite reasonable. Of course, those prices are the MSRP and retail pricing will likely be different.

While the 840 and 840 EVO has experienced ongoing problems for a while, the 850 Pro and 850 EVO have not yet suffered any documented slowdown issues. Both the 850 Pro and Evo are based on Samsung’s 3D V-NAND technology, using MLC and TLC respectively. Most users will do fine with the EVO though the Pro has a longer warranty, more stated durability and is faster.  The 2TB drives are limited to 2.5 inch SATA for now, but M.2 and mSATA may be coming shortly.

While priced 8-10x more than a similar sized HDD, the speed increase of an SSD can be well worth it. For those needing lots of fast storage, the larger drives will reduce drive count, eliminate RAID difficulties and reduced shuffling of files. As HDDs start hitting a capacity wall, it offers a chance for SSDs to finally catch up. Maybe 2016 will be the year that SSDs and HDDs finally reach price parity. I for one, can’t wait till my entire system is on NAND.

WD Turns Their Blue Series Into SSHD Drives

Western Digital has a colourful range of hard drives which is kinda fitting right now with everyone turning their Facebook profile into a rainbow. We know the RED NAS drives very well from our review section and WD also has their Purple series for NVR, Black series for performance, Green series for the environment, and the Blue series that is kinda of the normal desktop series.

It has been a while since we’ve seen any new drives in the Blue series, but that has just changed as WD released the newest evolution of this drive series. The WD Blue series has turned into a SSHD series and gotten a NAND boost.

The new WD Blue series initially comes in two version, a 3.5-inch 4TB version (WD40E31X) and a 2.5-inch 1TB version (WD10J31X). Both of them have 64MB cache and 8GB MLC NAND.

The 4TB drive has a speed rating of 150MB/s while the 2.5-inch 1TB drive only performs up to 100MB/s. The NAND should however boost up the hot file access a lot and improve boot times as well as overall load times of frequently accessed data.

The two new WD Blue drives are expected to launch on July 2nd and come backed by a three-year limited warranty. As for the prices, the new WD Blue 4TB is currently listed starting from €189.90 and the 1TB is listed from €94.90.

Intel SSD 750 PCIe 1.2TB NVMe Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Once in a while we see a new generation of products being released that completely change how we view the area and make what we used to think was good into something rather mediocre. Such a time is upon us right now thanks to Intel and their brand new consumer drives, the Intel SSD 750 Series. I’ll be taking a closer look at the 1.2TB PCIe Half-Height Half-Length (HH-HL) add-in card today, but the drive is also available as a smaller version with 400GB capacity and both capacities are also available as 2.5″ inch form factor with an SFF8639 connector.

The Intel SSD 750 series is an NVMe based drive which both is a wonderful thing and has a hitch at the same time. Your motherboard has to support it and you need the proper drivers to get the full potential. But assuming we have this, and major manufacturer are all upgrading their Intel 9 series motherboards to support this, then you have the next generation of storage drives.

What started out as something available only for enterprises and at a price that no normal person could afford has now moved into the consumer range. In a way, this storage drive can be seen as a consumer version of the Enterprise DC series and now that the processes have matured and a lot of R&D costs have been paid by enterprises utilizing the DC drives, we end users rake the benefits.

NVMe is the next generation of storage connectivity and it will replace the AHCI standard the same way that replaced the IDE. AHCI and SATA3 were created for with mechanical drives in mind and it’s far from the perfect platform to build flash storage upon. NVMe on the other hand is designed from the ground up for this use and performs a lot better thanks to this. NVMe lowers overall CPU overhead because NVMe has a simplified command set which minimizes the number of CPU clocks per I/O in comparison to AHCI.

I’ve talked a lot about how great this new drive performs, but I haven’t mentioned any numbers yet and that has to change. The drive is rated for impressive 2400MB/s read and 1200MB/s write performance at sequential operations and has even more impressive 440K IOPS read and 290K IOPS random 4K write performance.

The drive is rated for 70GB writes per day that equals to 219TB total bytes written over a five-year period. It comes with a mean time before failure of 1.2 million hours and is backed by a five-year warranty. SMART, TRIM, and ECC are also part of the package.

Diving further into the card and having a look at the PCB on the bottom of the card and we find 14-BFA packages with 20nm Intel Multi-Level Cell NAND and two Micron DDR3 DRAM packages.

Removing the giant heatsink isn’t an easy task, and it is one that I failed at. It is mounted so solid that I couldn’t make it move the tiniest bit despite having removed all screws. I wasn’t using more than a sensible amount of force on a product like this, and I had to give up as I didn’t want to destroy the card.

Inside the large heatsink that covers the entire card, we find a smaller one that can be removed and below we find the SSD controller.

Intel is using their own proprietary controller named the CH29AE41AB0 and I really like how Intel used proper thermal paste rather than pads. Overall the cooler design is impressive for a storage drive and it should keep the drive running perfectly in even the most demanding setups.

TDK Launches SDS1B Series SSDs

TDK is a company that I haven’t thought of in years, actually many years as I don’t think I’ve seen the name since the time of audio cassettes (MC), but they’re still around and still producing a lot of products in various regions of the electronic sectors. One of their newest products is a SATA III SSD built around their own in-house SSD controller, the SDS1B series of SSDs.

TDK developed their own controller for this drive, working from the base of their old controllers. The new GBDriver GS1 NAND flash controller features the recovery and refresh functions of the old controllers as well as a power interruption tolerance algorithm and integrated power supply protection circuit; it will work with both MLC and SLC NAND flash memory.

The new SSDs presented here come without a DRAM or other type of cache, meaning they will run slower than what we’re used to from consumer class drives. The new product can achieve read access speeds up to 440 MB/s and write access speeds up to 240 MB/s with MLC and up to 340 with SLC flash.

These drives are intended for embedded and industrial applications and reliability is more of an issue than the extra speed. Each feature and chip added to something is another part that can fail and stop the drive from functioning and by not adding a caching function, TDK eliminates one more of these.

TDK SDS1B features include global static wear leveling algorithm for the entire drive and improved power interruption tolerance with an internal power supply protection circuit to prevent collateral data errors. The auto-refresh function reads all data including little-used data and automatically performs error correction (ECC) when needed and TDK also added a function for specifying a data range and completely deleting all data in it. The drives feature AES 128/265-bit hardware encryption and also TDK’s proprietary security function that requires mutual authentication from both host and SSD. SMART and TRIM are also present as it should be on any drive.

TDK will demonstrate the drive at the Embedded Systems Expo (ESEC) to be held in Tokyo this week and the new products will be available from August 2015.

Fixstars SSD-6000M Is the Largest 2.5″ SSD to Date

This has certainly already been a very interesting year with a bunch of new impressive solid state drives hitting the market. We’ve previously seen Fixstars 3TB and 5TB drives being released, Kingston released their new Predator PCIe SSD and Intel blew everyone away with their SSD 750 NVMe drive.

Now Fixstars is back to blow us away again with the world’s largest capacity 2.5-inch standard form factor drive, sporting an incredible 6TB capacity. The drive does go beyond the more common 7mm drive height and instead uses the 9.5mm height that most 2.5-inch HDDs come in. Fixstars used that all that space and packed it with 15nm MLC NAND. Fixstars did not specify which brand of NAND they were using, but with 15nm technology it can really only be either Toshiba or SanDisk that jointly developed this.

The drive is said to perform pretty well despite the capacity with sequential read reaching up to 540 MB/s and writes reaching up to 520 MB/s. The figures come directly from Fixstars and the test environment wasn’t specified, neither was the random 4K performance (IOPS), but I’m sure those specifications will be released as the launch gets closer. The drive also supports all the basic features such as NCQ, TRIM, and SMART.

Fixstars backs the drive with a 3-year warranty and it is expected to launch in July this year. The 6TB SSD is designed mainly for video storage, medical applications, big data analytics, communications infrastructure and other industrial applications, but that doesn’t stop us power users from enjoying it too, if the price is right.

HP Announced Second Generation Z Turbo Drive PCIe NVMe SSD

HP didn’t just release multiple new monitors, they’re also ready with the second generation of their HP Z Turbo Drive, a PCIe SSD powered by Samsung’s NVMe technology for outstanding performance. The new NVMe standard, or relative new, is designed from the ground up for flash storage where the SATA standard goes way back to mechanical drives. This gives the new drives an advantage that’s hard to miss.

“When working at 4K resolutions, hard drive and storage performance are key,” said Danny Holland, post-production supervisor, Brain Farm Digital Cinema, “The HP Z Turbo Drive delivers astonishing power and speed at a lower cost.”

The HP Z Turbo Drive G2 can achieve sequential speeds up to 2150MB/s while reading and 1550MB/s while writing and the random 4K read IOPS come in at an impressive 300K. That is almost the double the perform of the previous generation Z Turbo Drive. The drive will initially be available as a 256GB and 512GB version, but more and larger capacities are planned for the future.

The Z Turbo Drive G2 is using MLC NAND that is rated for 3,000 program/erase cycles. That equals to an endurance rating for the 256 GB version of 146TB TBW which equals 80 GB per day for 5 years, and the 512 GB version is specified at 292 TB TBW, 160 GB per day for 5 years.

HP Z Turbo Drive is expected to be available starting in June at the two initial capacities of 256 GB and 512 GB. The MSRP will be $399 and $699, respectively.

Toshiba HG6 THNSNJ512GCSU 512GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Toshiba’s drives are mostly sold as OEM models and built into other products such as workstations and laptops, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to get a good spin on my test bench. Today I’m taking a closer look at the Toshiba HG6 series of solid state drives, more specific the Non-SED model with 512GB capacity (THNSNJ512GCSU).

The HG6 is a series of mainstream SATA Solid State Drives that combine high performance with power efficiency to satisfy a wide range of applications from notebook PCs to servers in the data centers. Toshiba is the inventor of NAND flash memory technology, so we know that we have some of the best on our hands when dealing with these drives.

Toshiba leverages its NAND flash memory expertise to optimize the performance and data integrity, integrating enterprise-class technology such as the Toshiba Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) for improved error correction and reliability. It is the 2.5-inch drive that I’m taking a look at today, but the drive is available in a wide variety of form factors such as mSATA and M.2 2280 and with capacities between 60GB and up to 512GB.

Toshiba’s Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) technology is in improved error correction code (ECC) that is said to be far superior to the otherwise used technologies and as such should provide you with far better data security. It also features End-to-End Data Protection, S.M.A.R.T., TRIM and Garbage collection. The drives support Read-only mode for emergency and serial ATA DIPM (Device Initiated Power Management), HIPM (Host Initiated Power Management) and Device Sleep for reduced power consumption.

The reduced power consumption from the above-mentioned features is great for use in laptops and so it the drives weight of just 53 grams. The HG6 is using Toshiba’s own A19nm Toggle 2.0 MLC NAND Flash memory as well as the in-house created Toshiba T635879BXBG SSD controller. It comes with a normal mean time to failure for this market segment of 1.5 million hours and an expected product life of 5 years. Since this is an OEM product, the warranty is based on whatever product you’ve purchased with it built-in.

The drive doesn’t use a RAM buffer like most SSDs on the market, but rather relies on the Adaptive Size SLC Write Cache technology that assumes a similar function as Samsung’s TurboWrite feature. It is treating a portion of the NAND as SLC for write operations to improve performance before flushing the writes to the MLC when idle. It’s also to be noted that Toshiba used thermal pads on all chips, providing the most efficient heat dissipation for high-performance systems such as servers.

Transcend Unveils UHS-I Speed Class 3 MicroSD Cards for High-Speed Recordings

Transcend released the new SDXC/SDHC UHS-I Speed Class 3 (U3) 633x microSD memory cards. The new microSD cards are based on MLC NAND and can reach transfer speeds of up to 95MB per second while offering optimum protection and a capacity up to 64GB, ideal for recording with action cameras or other high-speed capture devices.

The write speeds don’t go as far as the read speeds, but still come in at a very impressive 85MB/s, and that’s the relevant item when recording. It should easily be enough for capturing smooth 3D or 4K content and easily deal with Full HD videos speed-shots. Older devices that don’t support the UHS-I specification are still compatible, and Transcend’s SDXC/SDHC UHS-I U3 card can still offer constant write speeds of at least 10MB/s.

There is a good chance that your device will give out long before the card does as it can operate at temperatures between -25°C to 85°C, it’s waterproof, static proof, x-ray proof and shock proof. It also comes with built-in error correcting code (ECC). Transcend also bundles the RecoveRx software with the card, allowing the user to easily rescue deleted files by searching the NAND.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31MpaCKPJQY

All Transcend memory cards are fully tested for compatibility and reliability and the UHS-I U3 (633X) microSD cards are offered in 32GB and 64GB capacities and carry Transcend’s Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Thanks to Transcend for providing us with this information

Super Talent Updates Capacity on the Popular CFast Pro to 256GB

Super Talent Technology announces its 256 GB CFast Pro Flash Media Card, a double up from the previous available capacity. These cards aren’t cheap, but they deliver the speeds needed for professional and high fps recording without delay or lag.

The CFast Pro is one of Super Talent’s highly popular flash media card solutions for consumer and commercial media storage. Previously, Super Talent only offered the CFast Pro up to 128 GB but now that capacity has increased to 256 GB. Users can now record even more data, photos, and longer movies at the highest quality settings.

Super Talent also provides a compatibility chart for these cards for those unsure if the CFast Pro cards will work with existing equipment. Those using high-end cameras from ARRI and Blackmagic Design can take full advantage of CFast cards available on the market today for their media needs.

Thanks to SuperTalent for providing us with this information

Corsair Released Neutron XT SSDs

We could report a couple of months ago that Corsair was getting ready to launch their new line of Neutron XT SSDs, and now it finally come that time. Corsair announced the release of the new Neutron Series XT SSDs in 240GB, 480Gb and 960GB capacities.

The Neutron XT is using a Quad-core Phison SSD controller and MLC NAND. Those two make the drive able to perform sequential read speeds of 560MB/sec and sequential write speeds of 540MB/sec. SmartFlush and SmartRefresh technologies offer enterprise-level data management and retention in the event of power failure and advanced wear-leveling and garbage collection help to maintain performance over the life of the drive.

The Neutron XT is backed by a five-year warranty and should be available immediately for an MSRP of $149.99 for the 256GB, $269.99 for the 512GB, and $539.99 for the 960GB model.

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Corsair

Super Talent Launches DuraDrive AT7 for in-Vehicle-Infotainment

Super Talent Technology announced its updated DuraDrive AT7 Solid State Drive built for approved automotive In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI) systems. While the drive is built for IVI systems, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be used other places. It just means that some aspects of the drive have been improved upon specifically to suit an automobile environment.

The DuraDrive AT7 can operate at temperatures from minus 40°C and up to plus 85°C with a humidity between 5% and 98%, withstand vibration up to 16G, and hold up to a 1500G shock impact. Other than that, it’s a pretty normal 2.5-inch SATA3 SSD that comes in capacities from 32GB and up to 1TB.

The details about the individual drives aren’t available yet and there are several varieties in the lineup as Super Talent uses both SLC and MLC NAND, but without specifying anything closer. The performance is rated up to 500 MB/s at reading, 400MB/s at writing, and the DuraDrive AT7 comes with a 1ms response time.

Thanks to SuperTalent for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of SuperTalent

 

Patriot Torch SSD Listed and Available Ahead of Launch

Some people just have a keen eye when being at the right place at the right time, and as such the Patriot Torch SSD has been spotted as listed on Amazon ahead of its launch. While the drive isn’t even listed on the product pages yet, we do get some information about the drive from this listing. It actually already has one user review dated the 4th November 2014.

The Patriot Torch is built around the Phison SSD controller and paired with qualified 16nm Synchronous MLC NAND flash chips to deliver a good performance and reliability while staying cost-effective. The sequential read and write speeds are listed up to 545MB/s and 430MB/s for the 120GB model while the 240GB model can achieve 555MB/s reading and 535MB/s writing.

The only two features mentioned are TRIM and Advanced wear-leveling, but we can assume that SMART is present just as well, and DevSleep is a good bet. It’s backed by a 3-year warranty and supports Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, Mac OS, and Linux.

It’s listed as available and ready for dispatch at a price of $106.01 (MSRP $109.99) for the 240GB model while the 120GB capacity will cost you $66.63 (MSRP $79.99).

Thanks to TechPowerUp for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Amazon

Story Develops – iPhone TLC and MLC Memory Tests

Yesterday we reported on initial tests of Apple’s TLC and MLC memory capabilities. This was due to the news being released that Apple had disabled all TLC memory in various iPhone models due to a high failure rate – without any warning to consumers or word of a replacement.

Through these findings, we were able to determine that TLC is a much faster ‘burst’ option of flash memory. Greatly out performing MLC in the beginning to middle of a ‘zero fill’ test on a 64GB iPhone 6, but falling off majorly toward the end. The conclusion of this information is that TLC memory is good for opening applications quicker and processing small amounts of data, whereas MLC will provide you a steady rate of transfer or speed no matter what the task. If you’re looking to run multiple applications at once – MLC is for you.

New data has come to light thanks to ‘Gforgames’ reporting on further findings where the TLC results are quite interesting. This goes to prove that you shouldn’t always judge a product just one method of testing – look into it further before making a choice. A random fill test was completed, seeing random amounts of data poured into the same iPhone models as reported on yesterday, this time the results were significantly in MLC’s favor – seeing a steady upwards curve in transfer speed, whereas TLC stayed consistent for the most part, with a slight decline toward the higher sized transfer files.

Following these results, they also reported that while these transfers were happening, memory usage of each device was quite interesting. Below you will see a MLC operational phone pouring most of it’s resources into the data transfer (left image). This is comparable to the TLC alternative which you can see has over 200mb of inactive memory sitting idle (right image).

We will continue to report on these findings as the story develops.

Images courtesy of Chiphell

Apple’s iPhone 6 TLC and MLC Put to the Test

We recently reported on Apple disabling TLC Memory in their iPhone 6 Plus models due to a high failure rate in their devices – further slowing down people’s phones and causing major outrage within clued up users. In further developments, we’ve gotten our hands on some testing and results looking into exactly how these changes will affect you. Is there a real difference betweel TLC and MLC flash in the iPhone 6 and will it make major differences to performance?

Experienced Hong Kong hardware testers HKEPC have just completed a detailed review and have found that a number of iPhone 6 64GB samples, including space gray, silver and gold colors may contain either HYNIX MLC, TOSHIBA MLC or SanDisk TLC flash memory. Put simply, it’s not obvious to know (simply by looking at the model) whether your iPhone 6 will have TLC or MLC memory at all – it seems to be almost random across the board and very hard to trace.

Without further adieu, here’s the first batch of results, showing a Zero Fill test comparison between MLC and TLC memory on the iPhone 6, 64GB model.

At first glance, these results are fairly obvious and there is no real need for explanation. However, HKEPC’s tests discovered that TLC utilization in the iPhone is optimized for fast access for processes like quickly opening applications. Its performance ranks above double MLC’s for the most part, drops off majorly toward the end of testing. This shows that if you’ve got multiple applications all fighting for a share of TLC memory, it might slow down to crawling pace. As the quote goes – “slow and steady wins the race”. However, if you’re using TLC for simple applications and not loading up your phone – it’s a far superior alternative.

We haven’t seen reports as to if Apple will be replacing iPhone’s under warranty that have had their memory randomly shut off without warning – we will continue to report as the story develops.

Images courtesy of Chiphell and eTeknix