Seagate Reveals 10GBps NVMe SSD

Even though they are one of the Big 2 HDD manufacturers, Seagate has not neglected the growing importance of NAND and flash storage. Starting off with their Seagate 600 series of SSDs, the company has focused on bringing their brand to the enterprise flash storage segment. In line with that, Seagate has just revealed what is most likely the fastest SSD made yet. With up to 10GBps of throughput, the new Nytro SSDs will be fastest yet.

Using the NVMe storage protocol, the top model uses PCIe 3.0 x16 for peak performance. This gives the drive 15.75GBps of bandwidth though peak performance is limited to 10Gbps. This is well beyond what other NVMe SSDs, even those utilizing PCIe 3.0 use. In fact, the Nytro will likely be twice as fast as it’s competitors, most of whom can’t even saturate PCIe 3.0 x4, let alone PCIe 3.0 x8.

For the more power and price sensitive customers, Seagate will be introducing a toned down version using PCIe 3.0 x8, with 7.88GBps of bandwidth and 6.7Gbps of peak sequential throughput. Despite being the second tier of performance, this model should still give most of Seagate’s competitors a run for their money, with few drives being capable of even theoretically matching it.

For now, there is no word on pricing but given the performance and enterprise segment, expect a hefty price tag. There is no word yet on the controller or NAND used nor random performance, a more important metric for SSDs than sequential performance.

Silicon Motions Presents New NVMe and SATA Turnkey Controllers

This has surely been an exciting year in storage with a lot of new breakthroughs being made available for the consumers and enterprises alike. We’ve seen a rise in triple-cell and 3D NAND that in short makes larger capacity SSDs more affordable, some amazing M.2 and PCIe SATA SSDs, mechanical helium-filled HDDs with 10TB capacity and Intel’s amazing 750 NVMe PCIe SSD – and the year isn’t even over yet. We shouldn’t forget the theoretical breakthroughs either that haven’t resulted in any actual products such as Intel and Micron’s new initiative.

The Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara is starting today the 11th and will go on until the 13th, but we’ve already heard some amazing things ahead of it. Silicon Motion will also be present with a booth where they’ll be showcasing the new SSD controllers that they just introduced. There is the new SM2256 controller that is a world’s first turnkey SSD controller supporting TLC NAND as well as the new SM2260 PCIe 3.0 NVMe controller.

You can’t create a Solid State Drive without the proper controller and the SM2260 fills a gap. It is the first turnkey merchant PCIe 3.0 NVMe 1.2 SSD controller solution that supports MLC, TLC, and 3D NAND. The controller can deliver four 8 Gbps lanes of simultaneous data flow coupled with eight NAND channels. It is designed with fourth-generation NANDXtend technology, enabling the SM2260 to support 1y/1z nm TLC NAND as well as the upcoming 3D NAND technologies from all major NAND suppliers.

For the more traditional SATA3 6Gbps interface, Silicon Motion has the new SM2256 controller that is the world’s first and only turnkey merchant SATA 6Gbps SSD controller supporting 1y/1z nm TLC NAND and the upcoming 3D NAND from all major NAND suppliers. It also features SM’s proprietary NANDXtend ECC technology that triples the P/E cycles for TLC NAND to deliver unparalleled performance, endurance and reliability for cost-effective, TLC-based SSDs.

We have the NAND and now we have the controllers, all that is missing is for companies to put the two together and release the products. I’d expect the majority of those to be presented around next year’s CES in January.

ASRock Announced a mITX-board With LGA2011v3 and Quad-Channel Memory

A powerful server doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge monster of a beast and ASRock proves that once again by cramming not just an Intel LGA2011 v3 socket and a C612 chipset onto a tiny mini ITX motherboard, they also managed to cram in support for quad-channel DDR4 memory.

The new ASRock motherboard is named the EPC612D4I and supports Intel’s Xeon E5 V3 series processors. Being what it is, the board takes SO-DIMM DDR4 memory modules and that might be the biggest problem right now. There aren’t really any SO-DIMM DDR4 modules released yet, but that is surely going to change soon as the new memory standard takes off and enters the mainstream to replace the current DDR3 models.

The board features an onboard graphics solution powered by the ASpeed chip and it provides analog display output with a resolution up to 2048 x 1536 next to a dedicated IPMI RJ45 port powered by a Realtek RTL8211E chip. It also comes with onboard dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet network, four SATA 3 ports, and a PCIe 3.0 x16 expansion slot. It has both a USB 3.0 header as well as an onboard plug for building a flash module right into your system.

Specification Highlights

  • Mini ITX 6.7″ x 6.7″
  • Socket LGA 2011 R3 Intel Xeon processor E5-1600/2600 v3 series
  • Supports Quad channel DDR4 2133/1866 ECC DIMM, 4 x SO-DIMM slots
  • Support 4 SATA3 by C612
  • Supports 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16
  • Integrated IPMI 2.0 with KVM and Dedicated LAN (RTL8211E)
  • Supports Intel® Dual GLAN ( Intel® i210 + Intel® i217 )

Marvell Reveal Their Next-Gen SSD Controllers

Marvell has created the World’s First DRAM-less NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) SSD controller for mobile computing solutions. The new controller only measures 8x8mm and by that allows for SSDs as small as M.2 2230 (22 x 30 mm). On top of that they come with industry-leading NANDEdge low-density parity-check (LDPC) technology and support for triple-level cell (TLC) and 3D NAND. Marvell’s 88NV1140 and 88NV1120 enable small form factor SSD solutions with unparalleled performance for integration into low-z-height tablets, Chrome devices and the upcoming wave of new 2-in-1 hybrid and detachable mobile PC platforms.

The controller works with both SATA and PCIe SSDs with the same firmware, allowing for easier integration and maintenance. It’s also best-in-class on active power consumption and supports the newest PCIe L1.2 and DevSleep functions. In addition, Marvell’s NANDEdge LDPC technology can support 15/16nm TLC and 3D NAND, resulting in low enabling cost of TLC and 3D NAND. The NVMe design has passed in-house SSD validation and third-party operating system and platform compatibility testing.

Key features of Marvell’s new 88NV1140 and 88NV1120 include:

88NV1140 and 88NV1120 both share:

  • Powerful Dual core Cortex R5 CPU’s
  • Embedded SRAM with hardware accelerators to optimize IOPS performance
  • ONFI3 and Toggle2 NAND support
  • NANDEdge error-correction: 15nm TLC and 3D NAND support using LDPC technology to boost endurance and reliability
  • BGA SSD and M.2/2.5 slim form factor support with thermal optimization and small package size
  • 28nm low power CMOS process

88NV1140:

  • AHCI and NVMe support over PCIe Gen3x1
  • Fully hardware automated NVMe 1.1b support
  • Low power management (L1.2) design

88NV1120:

  • SATA 6Gb/s support
  • SATA DevSlp support

Thanks to Marvell for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of BusinessCheatSheet

ASUS Republic of Gamers Maximus VII Ranger Z97 (LGA 1150) Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


During the launch of Z87 motherboards ASUS surprised a lot of people when they announced their “Hero” SKU of the Republic of Gamers line of motherboards. When the Hero was released it was an extremely popular motherboard simply because it brought an ASUS ROG motherboard into the reaches of most peoples’ budgets. A surprising move because ROG motherboards have traditionally been extremely expensive products that target a fairly niche market. It is unlikely that ASUS ROG would have made this move last generation without the price pressure of rival brands such as Gigabyte, with their G1 Sniper Z87, MSI, with their Z87-G45 Gaming and ASRock, with their Z87 Fatal1ty Killer. All of these competing products have driven the price of gaming motherboards down to the point where gaming motherboards are no longer exclusive or expensive products, but accessible to the fairly mainstream PC user and mainstream budget. Now ASUS have added the Ranger to sit just below the Hero for the Z97 platform which is another smart move given that Gigabyte and MSI have become even more aggressive with the pricing of their Gaming Series motherboards which start at just £100/$140. The main benefit of the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger is that it carries a 10-15% lower price premium (depending on the region and retailer) than the ASUS Maximus VII Hero but drops fairly little in terms of features or specifications. From our discussions with ASUS they have clarified that the main differences between the Hero and the Ranger are that the Hero has:

  • Better power componentry (such as 4 more PWM drivers and 60A ferrite chokes) to provide more efficient power delivery and better overclocking potential
  • Two more SATA III ports via an ASMedia controller for additional storage options
  • A heat pipe joining the two CPU VRM heatsinks to provide more effective cooling and longevity
  • Additional onboard lighting to provide more striking aesthetics
  • A dual colour PCB design which includes red PCB accents around the heatsinks, audio codec and across parts of the motherboard
  • A slightly better bundle which includes a few extra SATA III cables

Of course, while those extras on the Maximus VII Hero are nice and will be useful to a lot of people, they are not essential for the more value-minded user so the Ranger offers a way for users to save a bit of money by opting out of those extra features. That said the Maximus VII Hero and the Ranger both still have a place in the market but it is important to distinguish the differences between the two. We anticipate a fair amount of confusion about the differences between the two models, and we expect consumers interested in the Ranger will be interested in the Hero (and vice versa). Hopefully this has cleared up some of the differences so let us now move onto to taking a look at the specifications of the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger:

Packaging and Accessories

The packaging is the usual high quality we’ve come to expect from ASUS ROG. Once you open up the product you are greeted with a couple of glossy “marketing” sheets on an additional internal box. The basic jist of those can be seen on the product page.

The back details the specifics and features of the motherboard, of course you can find those in full on the product page.

The accessories include an ASUS ROG door hangar, user guide and some cable labels.

ASUS ROG also provide four SATA III ready cables, a black labelled rear I/O and front panel Q Connectors.

Three New A58 Series FM2+ Motherboards Launched By MSI

MSI launched its three additions to the AMD A58 series FM2+ motherboards, the MSI A58-G41 PC Mate, MSI A58M-E35 and MSI A58M-E33, with support for the new AMD Kaveri APU having also compatibility with AM2 socket processors such as the Richland and Trinity APUs.

The motherboards are said to be available in ATX and mATX form factors, offering a great connectivity with its Dothill RAID controller, onboard LAN, PCIe 3.0, SATA and up to 12 USB ports. It is also stated to offer a multitude of multimedia features, such as H.264 hardware decoding and encoding, support for 4K UHD video, Blu-Ray playback and 8-channel HD Audio through HDMI, all suitable for multi-purpose multimedia use.

With the help of AMD’s Kaveri APU, the MSI A58 motherboards are said to support triple display 4K UHD configurations with up to 4096 x 2160 pixel resolution. Along with Military Class 4 components such as Hi-C CAPs, Solid CAPs, Dark CAPs, SFC and Dark Chokes, it ensures every PC runs stable under extreme conditions.

The MSI A58 motherboards are also equipped with a variety of new technologies, like OC Genie 4 providing easy to use overclockcing functions, the easy to use Click BIOS 4 and the Command Center software, providing the ultimate monitoring, tuning and controlling features for the hardware at hand.

More information about the MSI A58-G41 PC Mate, MSI A58M-E35 and MSI A58M-E33 can be found on MSI’s official website here.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of TechPowerUp

Two Bitcoin Mining Motherboards Introduced By BIOSTAR

For those interested in mining bitcons, take a look at BIOSTAR’s two motherboards dedicated for such operations. The company has two ATX motherboards that are perfect for setting up a Bitcoin mining machine. One is based on the Intel H81 chipset with an Intel socket 1150 board and the other is a H61B with a socket 1155 board, both having support for Intel 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Core i7/i5 and i3 CPUs.

For those who do not know, mining is the process of adding transaction records to Bitcoin’s public ledger of past transactions. This ledger of past transactions is called the block chain as it is a chain of blocks. The block chain serves to confirm transactions to the rest of the network as having taken place. Bitcoin nodes use the block chain to distinguish legitimate Bitcoin transactions from attempts to re-spend coins that have already been spent elsewhere. A “mining rig” is a computer system used for mining Bitcoins. It can be built specifically for mining or it could be your everyday computer for gaming and surfing, and is used to mine only on a part-time basis.

With the rising price of Bitcoins, now about $1000.00 USD for one Bitcoin, GPU mining can theoretically be profitable. What you need is a system that can do enormous amounts of mathematical calculations. The best way to do this is the GPUs in graphics cards. Motherboards with on-board graphics (also referred to as integrated graphics) are not as good as a dedicated GPU card. You should therefore choose a motherboard with multiple PCI slots to fit in 2, 3 or 4 high-powered graphics cards like the Radeon series from AMD.

To create a dedicated mining machine, getting a value oriented motherboard that you can load up graphics cards is the ideal strategy. BIOSTAR’s Hi-Fi H81 S2 and H61B with PCI-E Gen 3.0 are perfect choices. PCI-E 3.0 is the next evolution of the ubiquitous and general-purpose PCI Express I/O standard and is perfect for high-end AMD or NVIDIA graphics cards.

These boards will proudly show off BIOSTAR’s in-house technology, such as audio and power regulation upgrades such as Hi-Fi Power and Hi-Fi AMP. The video output includes HDMI with HDCP which allows full video & audio support via standard DVI output.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of TechPowerUp

ASRock Reveal The H87E-ITX/ac Mini-ITX Motherboard

ASRock have just announced their latest mini-ITX motherboard. The ASRock H87E-ITX/ac is based on Intel’s fourth generation “Haswell” CPU platform, LGA 1150. It supports all LGA 1150 processors from the Haswell generation and given ASRock’s recently announced H87 overclocking BIOS update, this mini-ITX motherboard should allow for overclocking of K series CPUs like the Core i5 4670K and Core i7 4770K.

The main unique selling point is that ASRock are bundling 802.11.ac WLAN with the product, this is based on Intel’s i217V chipset and can provide a maximum theoretical throughput of 867 Mbps. Other features include a 4 Phase VRM for the CPU, 32GB of dual channel memory support, a PCIe 3.0 X16 slot and an mPCIe slot that’s already populated by that 802.11ac WLAN card. A wireless antenna is also provided which connects into the rear IO to provide the signal for the 802.11ac.

Connectivity is abundant with Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0, six SATA III and a single eSATA (shared with one internal SATA slot), 8 channel audio based on Realtek ALC1150, optical SPDIF, four USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI. ASRock will ship this board from the end of this week. Pricing and availability is not yet available.

Image courtesy of ASRock

PCIe 3.1 and 4.0 Specifications Revealed

Earlier this week PCI-SIG revealed the specifications for PCI Express 3.1 and 4.0 according to Tom’s Hardware. The PCIe 3.1 specification consolidates numerous protocol extensions into three areas of power, performance and functionality. In terms of power the PCIe 3.1 specification combines the M-PCIe and L1 power management substrates with a CLKREQ# signal. In terms of performance enhanced downstream port containment and lightweight notification protocol extensions are grouped together. In terms of functionality PCIe 3.1 bundles together precision time measurement a separate refclk with independent SSC architecture, and the process address space ID. According to PCI-SIG this specification will be released later this year, although expect some lag before we see it in new PCIe devices and system boards.Finally PCI-SIG revealed that PCIe 4.0 will have 16GT/s of transfer speed which is double that of PCIe 3.0 which has 8GT/s of transfer speed. This standard is going to come primarily for servers, workstations and high-performance computing markets and naturally retains backwards compatibility. PCIe 4.0 also provides an increase in clock rates, enabling narrower link width implementations and reduced costs through pin production. PCIe 4.0 revision 0.5 is expected in Q1 of 2014 while revision 0.9 is expected in Q1 of 2015 – so still quite some way to go yet.

Image #1 courtesy of PCI-SIG and Image #2 courtesy of RTC Magazine