Basic Solid State Drive Features Explained

When we report on storage news as well as in our reviews, we use a lot of terms and features that might not be familiar to everyone. The words and acronyms sound good and you chose your products based on whether they are present or not. But what do they actually mean? That is something that I’ll try to explain a little more today. I think there is a little bit for everyone here, whether you’re an advanced system builder or new to the area.

First I’ll start out with the basic features that are present in almost any storage drive these days, whether it’s a flash drive, hard disk drive, or solid state drive, and then slowly move on to the more exclusive features further down.


S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T. is the most basic feature that you’ll find and at the same time it is one of the most useful ones. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology and it is a way for the drive to keep track of itself and let you have access to the information too. There are many tools out there that can read out the information for you and most systems can also keep track of them trough BIOS and chipset functions. A simple and free tool to get access to the information is CrystalDiskInfo.

Most SMART values are can be two values, either good or bad, but there are a few that keep track of total reads, writes, and power-on hours as well. An application like CrystalDiskInfo will also show you the expected health status as you can see in the image above.

S.M.A.R.T. can also include self-tests that can be run manually or scheduled by a lot of systems. The short and long tests will check electrical and mechanical performance and are basically identical. The short will only test small parts of the area where the long test will test the entire surface of the disk with no time limit.


TRIM

TRIM, also know as a Trim command, is a way for the operating system to inform a solid state drive which blocks of data are no longer considered in use and can be wiped. Internally, SSD operations are quite a bit different from HDD operations and TRIM was created because of that. The typical way in which operating systems handle deletes and formats would result in progressive performance degradation of write operations on SSDs.

With TRIM, the SSD is able to handle the garbage collection itself and free up the cells for new writes. We all know that a deleted file in the operating system doesn’t mean a deleted file on the drive, not until the physical location of the file has been overwritten. A mechanical drive handles a write and an overwrite action the same way, but an SSD doesn’t. It would first need to erase the area before it can write there again. It also means that a deleted file is gone ones the Trim command has processed the area.

There are manual tools to trigger the Trim command, but they’re aren’t needed if you got a modern operating system. There are independent tools for it and pretty much any SSD toolbox and software also has a button to send the command to the drive. This is a thing that we can expect to see removed from such software in the future as it’s fully automatic now.


Garbage Collection

Garbage collection is basically the same function, except that the garbage collection is performed on a drive level where TRIM is an operating system function. In return, it means that it also works on systems that don’t support TRIM and helps to keep the performance up.

I could go a lot into detail about how it works, but then we’re missing the point of easy information in this article. Without TRIM or garbage collection, the SSD doesn’t know what files have been marked as deleted and aren’t no longer needed. Those deleted data might still be moved around on the drive itself when it is optimizing and that will result in a lot of extra writes. There are many ways this is implemented in drives and it comes down to the drive itself, the controller, and manufacturer how exactly it works.


Wear Leveling

There are two types of wear leveling, dynamic and static. Static is also sometimes referred to as global wear leveling and it is this type that we usually find in solid state drives. Dynamic wear leveling, on the other hand, is mostly found on flash drives. Both types will attempt to use all physical flash equally so one chip doesn’t burn out before the rest and render the drive useless. Where the static will do this on the entire drive, the dynamic will only do this with memory blocks that get replacement data. The static wear leveling is a little slower but gives the drive a longer life expectancy. It doesn’t just help to prolong the life of the drives, it also helps with a more even performance.


DevSleep

DevSleep, DevSlp, or Device Sleep are all words for the same thing and it is the newest and most effective way for drives to enter a low-power sleep mode. In traditional low-power modes, the SATA link still needed to remain powered on to allow the device to receive a wake-up signal again. With DevSlp, the rarely used 3.3 V power connection is used instead to send the signal, allowing the drive to enter an even deeper sleep state by turning off more functions. The return is an even faster response time when it wakes up again and less power consumption. This is particularly useful for notebook users.


PFM+, IPS, and more

These are all synonyms for basically the same function, so I’ll stick with one that is present in one of the drives that we’ve recently reviewed: Power failure management plus (PFM+) that is present in OCZ’s Vector 180 series. With different names, they all perform the same function: get as much data safely to the storage drive in case of a power failure. There are extra capacitors in the drive that store currency in order to flush more data to the flash cells before all the power is gone. The capacitors also ensure that all metadata is safe and that the drive will continue to operate normally after a power loss, i.e. the NAND mapping table won’t be lost, which can brick the drive or at least slow down the next boot up as the drive has to go through a recovery process. This used to be a feature reserved to enterprise class drives, but we see it enter more and more enthusiast drives too.


ECC

ECC or Error Correction Code is present in a lot of devices and it is no different for solid state drives. It is an extra code that allows the drive to correct minor errors in sector reads and to recover data from sectors that have gone bad while storing that data in the spare sectors. It is basically what it says it is. It corrects errors.

Low-density parity-check (LDPC) is the go-to standard today for multiple reasons that I won’t go to much into here. In the past, it was rather BCH that was used, but that isn’t an effective method for modern SSDs. To say it short, LPDC allows you to correct more errors for the same ratio of user data to ECC parity. With ECC, fewer actions have to be repeated in case something goes wrong which in return gives a better overall performance.

Angelbird SSD2go Pocket USB 3.0 External Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


I recently had the pleasure to review the Angelbirds SSD wrk internal drive that did very well, so I was pretty excited when I got told about the new SSD2go Pocket. An external, On-The-Go Solid State Drive with the same power as an internal one while maintaining a tiny form factor and of course portability. With the native UASP support and connecting through the USB3 interface, it allows this drive to take full advantage of the 5GB/s bandwidth and should see it take off like a rocket in comparison to other external flash-based drives. The SSD2go pocket is available in three sizes; 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB, and comes bundled with software and music that further increases the overall value.

The SSD2go pocket is the first and only external USB drive to support both TRIM and SMART for Mac right out of the box. This is an important factor considering how popular the Angelbird drives are among musicians and other artists who have their preferred work area on Macs.

This drive doesn’t just promise us great performance and features, it is a little piece of art at the same time. The slightly curved design in combination with the magnificent finish on the coating turns this external drive into a stylish accessory rather than just a tech-gizmo. The rounded corners and shape in combination with the tiny pocket size of just 89×69.9×10.4mm allow this drive to slide right into your pocket, even when you’re wearing tight jeans.

It’s really hard to describe the feeling you’ll have when you unpack the SSD2go pocket and hold it in your hands for the first time. It has an almost magical attraction, you can’t stop looking at it, inspecting every millimetre to see if you can find the tiniest error in the finish. But you won’t, it is like it was made with magic. Those who have had the luck to hold one the SSD2go models in their own hands will know what I’m talking about.

The external finish isn’t just beautiful to feel and look at, the SSD2go Pocket is also an incredible durable drive. It is enclosed in a CNC machined aluminium housing that has been glass pearl blasted and hard anodized. Angelbird also used the far more robust type A USB connector on the drive instead of the more common used Type B-micro connector and retracted it further into the drive to protect it. The overall result is an almost indestructible drive.

While words may be just that to you, it’s worth checking out the video below. An uncut extreme-test of the SSD2go Pocket performed outside the Angelbird headquarters by Roman Rabitsch, the CEO of Angelbird. I would still like to challenge Angelbird to the tank test we’ve seen on performed on the G710+ keyboard.

When we couple all of the above with the great quality control Angelbird is running, we know we don’t have much to worry about. Each component is carefully inspected and pre-tested before assembly to ensure the production fulfils the highest standards. They’re also ISO certified to fulfil the fine production standards of medical technology. The drives pass through further quality controls such as automated optical inspection, in-circuit tests, bin-in inside a climate chamber, and of course a function test. The function tests will be repeated before the products are sent out to the customer to make sure that each and every device works.

Performance wise this 512 GB model promises us some impressive write speeds up to 390 MB/s and read speeds up to 450 MB/s. The IOPS are rated to 38.800 which is really good for an external drive and it has an access time of 0.9 ms. The power draw is only 0.8 watts in idle and 3.41 maximum, so this drive won’t suck your laptops battery dry nor need any external power supply. Backed by a 5-year limited warranty, the SSD2go Pocket has a mean time before failure (MTBF) rating of over 2 million hours and the total bytes written (TBF) are rated to 1048TB of data.

A further bonus is added to this drive by the pre-loaded content. You’ll get a full version of Parallels 10 (Mac) and Bitwig Studio 1.0 (Win, Mac, Linux) as well as the System Reflection Backup tool. It also includes PureMix Audio Production video tutorials as well as music provided by the artist themselves free for remixing. Artists featured at the time of release are Marshall Jefferson, CeCe Rogers and Trash, but the library will be expanded with new artists and content.

If you’d like to have a truly personal drive, you can add a personal touch to your Angelbird SSD2go pocket with a customized engraving. Of course, you will need to order the drive at Angelbirds’ own webshop for this as the retailers can’t predict your future engraving wishes.

ADATA Launches ISMS312 SATA III Disk On Module (DOM) SSD in the UK

Disk on a Module, or DOM for short, might be a concept many are familiar with but few have had their hands on. I’m using four DOMs myself, three in custom NAS’ and one in my route. I can honestly say that it’s awesome to use such small devices as OS Disk in automated systems like that.

ADATA now launches the ISMS312, a high-performance industrial SATA III 6Gbps 7-pin Disk-On-Module (DOM), which is suitable for embedded storage systems, industrial computers, medical and network infrastructure devices by providing the best balance between performance and cost. It also features the industrial grade S.M.A.R.T. and capability of customization for industrial application.

The ADATA ISMS312 is a high-speed MLC NAND flash, providing excellent performance and reliability with a sequential read/write speed up to 250/40MB per second and MTBF of up to 1 million hours. In addition, the ISMS312’s low 1.15W power consumption can save power and significantly extend the lifespan of the devices it supports. And thanks to the industrial grade operable temperature range of -40°C to +85°C, the ISMS312 can work in harsh environments for long-term operation. The ISMS312 is available in both horizontal and vertical pin orientations to accommodate a wide variety of system form factors.

To fulfill performance and cost-saving demands for various industrial applications, ADATA has developed the A+ SLC solution to effectively improve the SSD’s performance, stability, and lifespan by more than three times compared to a typical MLC format, bringing it closer to SLC grade but with a cost savings approaching 80%. Therefore, the ISMS312 is the best choice for customers seeking the best value for budget and performance in a high-quality upgrade solution.

The drive features S.M.A.R.T. to monitor the drives state, including NAND flash and device status. It also supports SSD life left and wear-leveling factor, which helps to prolong the lifespan of SSD.

The value-added “ADATA SSD Toolbox” software helps users check the SSD’s information and configure system settings quickly. Featuring high stability and durability, ADATA’s ISMS312 SATA III 6Gbps DOM provides industrial consumers with the best value proposition for reliable data security at a competitive cost and is available in capacities of 8GB, 16GB and 32GB.

It’s great to see more DOM’s reaching our markets, as there haven’t been that much to chose from so far and this new ADATA DOM sounds very promising.

 

Transcend Announces its Latest M.2 Solid State Disk Series

Transcend has just announced its latest M.2 Solid State Disk lineup featuring a next generation SATA III 6 GB/s MTS, up to 512 GB and ultra compact dimensions.

The company states that the latest M.2 SSD lineup comes in three M.2 form factors, namely Type 2242 for the MTS400, Type 2260 for the MTS 600 and Type 2280 for the MTS800 respectively. While all three variations have the same width and thickness, the height can be deduced from the SSD’s type. Therefore, the MTS400, MTS600 and MTS800 measure in at 42/60/80 mm x 22 mm x 3.5 mm.

In terms of specifications, the MTS400 offers up to 256 GB, while the MTS600 and MTS800 offer up to 512 GB respectively. The storage solutions feature a powerful Transcend TS6500 controller, a DDR3 DRAM cache, as well as read speeds of up to 560 MB/s and write speeds of up to 310 MB/s.

Transcend has also stated that the M.2 SSD lineup comes with full support for the SATA Device Sleep Mode, or DevSleep, in addition to Intel’s Smart Response Technology (ISRT). Having both technologies present, Transcend is looking to provide a battery saving and fast booting hard disk solution. This is achievable by completely powering off the SATA interface when it is no longer required, while also having an outstanding response time of 20 ms, offering instant-on capabilities.

Other features present in the M.2 SSD lineup consist of TRIM and NCQ support, built-in EEC, wear levelling and intelligent block management, as well as enhanced S.M.A.R.T. commands, power shield mechanism and excellent shock resistance.

The company is said to offer a three-year warranty for all M.2 SSDs, while the price range varies depending on capacity. Therefore, the 32 GB version is said to have been priced at $39, the 64 GB version at $59, the 128 GB at $99 and the 256 GB at $169. As stated previously, the MTS600/800 also comes in the 512 GB version, which the company associated a price of $319.