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.

ASRock Releases Upgraded BeeBox NUC Mini-PC

ASRock released an upgraded version of their tiny NUC mini PC, the BeeBox. The BeeBox is now available with a quad-core processor, 32GB eMMC SSD and comes bundled with a free copy of Windows 10. The BeeBox is also available in a new silver coloured version now on top of the black, gold, and white versions.

The new quad-core CPU is an Intel N3150 SoC and the NUC comes with 2GB DDR3 1600MHz, upgradeable to 16G. You can add plenty of storage despite the small 0.6l volume of the NUC. You can add both an mSATA SSD and a 2.5-inch drive, allowing you to reach 3TB storage and beyond in the near future with newer and bigger drives.

Beebox is the world’s first mini PC with a Type-C USB port and it is the only one to support triple monitor, H.265 decoding and 4K video playback through two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort. The whole system has low power consumption and is extremely quiet while powered on. It is nearly silent when run in Eco mode where it could be used for light tasks such as torrent downloading. So bedrooms aren’t excluded from the possible locations to place it. Another added bonus is the included IR control so you can control it from the couch or bed.

Have you made the switch to ultra compact systems somewhere in your home or do you still prefer the large systems with endless possibilities everywhere? Let us know in the comments.

Intel 750 Series SSD Firmware Update Improves Boot Times

Intel’s 750 series SSD incorporates astonishingly high read/write speeds but encountered slow boot times compared to traditional SATA storage devices. Thankfully, Intel has released a firmware update today which addresses the prolonged boot problems. To upgrade your SSD to the latest version, all you have to is download the Intel Solid-State Drive Data Center Tool. Once downloaded, launch the installer and you should encounter much more consistent boot speeds.

However, PCIe drives require a longer period to initialize and it’s highly doubtful if the boot speeds will match SATA SSDs. Despite this, the drive’s extra few seconds on boot isn’t going to be a major issue as NVME SSDs are mainly used for professional situations and these machines are on for days at a time. I’m also pleased to see Intel addressing this and PCIe SSDs offer such an enormous performance boost that they could replace SATA drives in the future. Although, the average end-user isn’t going to notice a distinct difference in consumer tasks like games.

If you’re interested in a 750 series SSD, feel free to check out our comprehensive review here

What size of SSD do you currently have and is it M.2, SATA or PCIe?

Thank you The Tech Report for providing us with this information.

QNAP Launches Intel Xeon Quad-Core Powered TVS-ECx80U-SAS-RP Series NAS

QNAP announced a new series of NAS devices for businesses that need nothing but the best, the new TVS-ECx80-SAS-RP series. The new NAS units are built around an Intel Xeon E3-1246 v3 quad core 3.5 GHz processor and come with either 16GB DDR3 RAM or 8GB DDR3 ECC RAM.

A great CPU and plenty of memory is just a small part of what makes this new series so great. QNAP releases four units in this series: The TVS-EC2480U-SAS-RP 24 x 3.5-inch 4U, TVS-EC1680U-SAS-RP 16 x 3.5-inch 3U, TVS-EC1280U-SAS-RP: 12 x 3.5-inch 2U, and the TVS-EC1580MU-SAS-RP with 9 x 3.5-inch and 6 x 2.5-inch bays in a 2U rackmount unit. All four units come with 4 x Gigabit LAN port and are 10GbE ready with optional add-in cards via two PCIe expansion slots. They supports 3.5-inch SAS 12Gbps, SAS/SATA 6Gbps hard drives and SSD, or 2.5-inch SAS/SATA SSD. The hard drives are, of course, hot-swappable and the untis also come with built-in 256GB mSATA modules for SSD caching. USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and HDMI ports are also part of each of these units.

All that hardware I’ve just mentioned is able to deliver an impressive performance with up to 3,800+ MB/s throughput and 268,100+ IOPS. If you should run out of space at some point, QNAP has you covered with their REXP-1620U-RP and REXP-1220U-RP RAID expansion enclosures of which you can attach up to eight of. That in return allows you over 1 Petabyte of raw capcity which is managed from a single unit.

Having a lot of data is one thing, you also need to be able to access it in a proper fashion. The TVS-ECx80U-SAS-RP series is an industry-leading unified NAS that supports Auto Tiering to deliver constant optimization of data across high-performance SSD, 12Gbps SAS drives and high-capacity SATA disks.

“QNAP’s Qtier Technology triggers storage auto-tiering for the TVS-ECx80U-SAS-RP series, allowing the right data to be placed in the right disks at the right time according to the access frequency of stored data,” said Alan Lin, product manager of QNAP. “The new NAS series realizes the optimal storage efficiency and boosts performance, making it the best storage solution especially for environments like virtualization that contain dynamically-changing workloads.”

There isn’t much that you can’t achieve with this new series, may it be your own cloud system or something completely different. You get all the usual features of a NAS unit of this caliber including QNAP’s great Qsirch for efficient searching of data in that giant storage pool.

The new TVS-ECx80U-SAS-RP QNAP NAS models and REXP-x20U-RP RAID expansion enclosures are now available and come with up to 5-years warranty where the first three years are default and included.

 

SilverStone Announces ECM20 Dual M.2 PCIe Card

SilverStone released a new PCIe add-in card that brings a duality of M.2 support to your system, the ECM20. It can connect a PCIe based M.2 SSD via the PCIe x4 connector and at the same time it can connect a SATA based M.2 via the 6Gbps SATA connector on the rear of the board.

No need to worry if the adapter supports your M.2 SSD here, as it supports both kinds. The only difference is where you plug it in and connect it. You can also use both at the same time, so there is no trade-off either. The board is clearly labeled as to where what goes and the M-Key is used for the PCie based M.2 while the B-Key is used for the SATA based M.2 drive. There isn’t any need for extra power cables either, as the PCIe port can provide plenty of power for such two small NGFF drives.

The card is fully plug-and-play and doesn’t require any drivers to be installed. That simplifies the installation a lot and the Silverstone ECM20 also comes with a low-profile bracket for mounting it in smaller chassis types.

There shouldn’t be any compatibility issues due to module length either; We all know that M.2 drives come in a lot of different lengths. The 2280-type is probably the most common supported form factor, but the adapter also supports 2230, 2242, and 2260 modules.

 

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.

SanDisk Flash Drives and SSDs at Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – SanDisk also brought along all their other storage devices such as the impressive 128GB Ultra Fit USB 3.0 drive. This is the world’s smallest high-capacity USB 3.0 drive and it can hold up to 16 hours of Full HD video while not being much bigger than the nail on your thumb. The drive still transfers files at up to 130MB/s, allowing you to transfer a full movie in less than 40 seconds.

The new Z400s SSD was also on display, a perfect balance between performance, capacity, and reliability for replacing your PC’s HDD. It’s build as a cost effective alternative to mechanical HDDs.

If the 128GB capacity from the tiny Ultra Fit drive isn’t enough, then SanDisk also has the 256GB Ultra USB 3.0 drive with up to 256GB capacity.

The SanDisk Extreme 500 is a portable SSD with a capacity up to 480GB that fits right into your pocket while being four times faster than an external HDD. It has a rugged and durable design and it is shock resistant, a perfect combination for when you’re on the go.


SanDisk also had their other drives such as the X300 and X110 in 2.5-inch and small form factor drives with them.

Enterprise users also had their part to look at with the CloudSpeed ECO Gen2 SATA3, Lighting Ultra Gen2 12Gb/s SAS, Optimus MAX 4TB SAS and Fusion ioMemory SX300 PCIe Application Accelerator.

SanDisk Showcase Industry’s First 2TB SATA and Portable SSDs at Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – The highlight for me at the SanDisk booth were the new, and Industries first, 2TB SATA SSD. The CloudSpeed Evo Gen II is optimized for cloud data services, video streaming, social media analytics and content repository.

The CloudSpeed ECO II is intended for data centres, but there is good news for consumers too as the also presented an external 2TB portable drive. Okay, that’s not entirely true as it only holds up to 1.92TB. The SanDisk Extreme 900 portable SSD doesn’t just look good, it’s also fast.

SanDisk set up a demonstration of the drive and we see transfer speeds of up to 714MB/s on sequential reads and 717MB/s on writes.

That is some seriously fast external storage, so fast that it beats what most have as internal storage

Plextor Presents New Entry Level SSD at Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – It has been a while since we’ve had any new drives come from Plextor and that might be because they’ve been busy, not just by getting them ready but also to make the best product possible.

The first new drive presented is the Plextor M6V, a new entry-level value-oriented solid state drive based around the SMI 2246 controller and in capacities up to 512GB.

The Plextor M6V 2.5-inch SATA drive sports transfer speeds up to 535 MB/s read and 455 MB/s write as well as great random performance up to 83K IOPS read and 80K write.

OCZ Shows off Their Storage Drives at Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – A company like OCZ can’t be missed and we did of course stop by their booth to check out the latest storage drives out of their house.

The Trion 100 series is a new and value oriented series for entry-level users, but that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice performance. The Trion 100 series will be available in capacities ranging from 120GB to 960GB and a performance up to 550MB/s on sequential performance and 91K IOPS on random operations. T

Those performance figures come from read operations, but it’s equally impressive on the write performance where it steal breaks the 500MB/s barrier. The drive comes backed by OCZ’s amazing ShieldPlus warranty and is built around Toshiba’s proprietary Alishan controller and A19 TLC NAND flash.

OCZ also brought along their Radeon R7 branded SSD, one that we’ve already reviewed and that scored great. The drive comes with great endurance ratings and is built around the Barefoot 3 M00 controller that I personally am a big fan of.

On the other side of things we have the enterprise-class storage – drives for people that don’t want anything but the best for their critical systems.

There is no doubt that NVMe is the new king in the market and OCZ has ready with the OCZ Z-Drive 6000 series that takes full advantage of the relative new interface.

OCZ is running live demonstrations to show just how great these drives are. One can say a lot, but OCZ also shows how it’s done.

Reaching 345K IOPS on 4K random read performance with 8 workers isn’t something that we see often and that is quite impressive.

OCZ’s Z-Drive 6300 series is built around the NVM Express 1.1b Gen 3. x4 PCI Express connection and comes as both HHHL add-in card and 2.5-inch form factor with SATA Express interface.

Features include Power Loss protection, endurance ratings for 3 full drive writes per day for 5 years and capacities up to 6.4TB. Performance can go all the way up to 2900MB/s at sequential operations and 700K IOPS at random operations.

The XD-JX series is an M.2 sized NVMe based storage drive that boasts almost the same specs as the Z-Drive 6300. We see an endurance rating of 2 DWPD over a 5-year period, 1600MB/s and 300K IOPS performance at just 12W. Capacity is equally impressive with modules that go all the way up to 960GB.

We shouldn’t forget the Intrepid 3000 series either, a standard SATA 3 based 2.5-inch drive designed for Enterprise Applications. The drive is built around the latest generation Toshiba eMLC NAND flash and comes in sizes all the way up to 2TB. Impressive capacity and performance thanks to the use of eMLC NAND.

Last but not least is the Saber 1000 series. This is another drive that is utilizing the OCZ Barefoot 3 controller and the latest Toshiba MLC NAND. The drive features Power Failure management Plus as well as great performance and capacities for Hyperscale Data Centers and other situations where high-IOPS are needed.

 

Addonics Announced M2 Hybrid Controller and M2 SSD Adapter

Addonics is one of those companies that creates gadgets and tools that you didn’t know you need until you see them, then you don’t know how you ever lived without. They have just released two new PCIe x4 controllers for M.2 PCIe and SATA drives, allowing you to utilize your system in a whole different way.

The Addonics Dual Hyper HDD M2 Hybrid Controller (model AD4SAHM2) is a two-port SATA III PCI-e 4-lane host controller combined with two M2 (NGFF) SSD slots. In standard mode, the connected two M2 SSDs and the two SATA hard drives can be set up to operate as four individual drives or combined to form a RAID 0, RAID 1 or RAID 10 group .

The two SATA ports support Port Multiplier and when used with M2 SSDs, the controller can use turn your HDDs into SSHDs by using the SSD for hot data and the HDD for the lesser-used data.

The second new add-on card is the M2 PCIe SSD Adapter (model AD2M2S-PX4) that allows you to install three M.2 SSDs. You can combine of one M2 PCI SSD and two M2 SATA SSDs in size ranging from 32 mm to 110 mm in length. The adapter requires no drivers and will present all three drives individually to your operating system.

MSI to Introduce a M.2 to Turbo Mini-SAS Connector Add-in Card

News has just come down from MSI HQ that they are going to make available mini-SATA add-in cards for M.2 slots. The reasoning behind this is for current and new users of MSI motherboards can fully utilise the new high-speed SSD’s such as Intel’s 750.

In recent global reviews and press of the MSI Z97 motherboards, there was a fair amount negative comments floating around due to the lack of SATA-Express ports. This was down to a corporate decision as there wasn’t an eco system for SATA-Express at the time. The attention turned to the more functional M.2 port, which was then included on the vast majority of the MSI Z97 and X99 range with plenty of M.2 devices on the market to utilise this port. Now with technology forever progressing, it wasn’t long for the SATA-Express to have a successor, in the form of a new connector called SFF8639. This connector runs at 32 Gb/s speeds and there are already SSD’s on the market that are equipped with this connector, such as the Intel 750.

Instead of producing an entirely new range of motherboards with this connector, MSI thought ahead and introduced a M.2 adapter card, equipped with a Turbo Mini-SAS connector. This is similar to the adapter card MSI introduced with SATA-Express, but this particular card is claimed to run at double the speed.

MSI will bundle this new add-in card with selected Z97 and X99 motherboards after an official announcement at Computex 2015.

ASRock Rolls out the 970M Pro3 Micro-ATX AM3+ Motherboard

ASRock has announced one of the very few AMD 9-series chipset based socket AM3+ motherboards in the micro-ATX form-factor, the 970M Pro3.

The motherboard is said to be based on the AMD 970 chip and supports the AMD FX processors with TDP of up to 125W, meaning it excludes support for the FX-9000 series which requires more TDP. The motherboard also offers a 5-phase CPU VRM thanks to the 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS.

In terms of specs, the 970M Pro3 comes with one PCIe 2.0 x16, one PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4) wired to the southbridge, one PCIe 2,0 x1 and a PCI. The board also offers six SATA 6 Gb/s ports, a 6-channel HD audio with ELNA capacitors, Gigabit Ethernet port and four USB 3.0, all of which are driven by a UEFI BIOS.

The ASRock 970M Pro3 is currently available at select retailers and comes with a price tag of under $99.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information

Trouble and Confusion with Intel’s X99 Chipset and SATA Ports

There has been a lot of confusion the past couple of weeks where it first was thought that Intel had pulled back the latest RSTe drivers, but in fact the were just listed wrong as they’re not working or intended to work with the X99 chipsets. There was also the false claim that the normal RST drivers wouldn’t support TRIM in RAID0 mode for SSDs, but Intel has rectified that statement and it should be fully working.

What however doesn’t work, or not as it should, are any SATA port beyond the first six. The X99 chipset supports up to ten SATA3 ports on paper and they also all work. But not for the Intel RST driver and in return this means that you can not setup a RAID over all ten ports. The last four will report as connected to a separate controller using the windows AHCI drivers instead of Intel’s RST.

There was already a similar problem with the previous X79 chipset and the integrated storage controller that lead to manufacturers completely redesigning their boards and reduce the SATA ports. Now it looks like history is repeating itself again and we might expect the same results.

Thanks to Heise for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Heise

Kingston SSDnow M2 SATA 120GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Kingston has a long line of storage options for about every usage you could have. Today I’m taking a look at the SSDnow M.2 SATA Solid State Drive with a capacity of 120GB.

The M.2 modules are also known as the Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) and these thin and compact modules save space in small and embedded systems, ultra-thin devices, or it will just fit snuggly into your motherboards M.2 slot in your desktop system. The caseless design allows easier integration as well as keeping the weight as low as possible; a big factor when used in Ultrabooks and similar devices.

The 2280 module (22mm width, 80mm length) supports advanced garbage collection, wear-levelling and TRIM to keep up the performance over the entire lifetime of the drive; so we should see very stable performance in our tests on the following pages. S.M.A.R.T. is also supported for peace of mind and health monitoring.

At the heart of the drive, we have the Phison PS3108-S8 controller and Kingston equipped this module with a 2GB Nanya NT5CB128M16HP-CG buffer. The NAND chips used are 32 GB Kingston FA32B08UCT1-BC and there are two located on each side of the module.

A drive designed for integrated and portable systems has to be energy-efficient as well. The Kingston M.2 SATA drive also features the DevSleep function that we see more and more drives incorporate. It is relative new to the SATA specifications and is an efficient power management option to minimise power consumption and extend battery life.

For the event that you’d ever run out of battery and your device shuts down unexpectedly, or maybe it just crashes, it features firmware-based power loss protection to maintain the data integrity. This allows the drive to recover in the event of an unsafe shutdown.

The Kingston M.2 SATA drive doesn’t stop there and also supports Intel’s SRT that can combine the capacity advantage of HDD with performance improvements of SSD in dual-storage configuration. Increased peace of mind is added by the free technical support and three-year warranty.

SMART Modular Announces M.2 SATA with SafeDATA

SMART Modular Technologies announced its new M.2 SATA XR+ product family equipped with SafeDATA power loss protection technology. These new SATA3 solid state drives (SSDs) are optimized specifically for high-reliability in networking, telecom and industrial applications and will be available in sizes from 32GB to 512GB.

The standard sized 2280 modules offer the normal SMART, NCQ as well as the SafeDATA technology which combines unique power loss detection and hold-up circuitries with an advanced controller firmware algorithm to flush in-flight data from volatile cache to NAND Flash memory in order to safeguard data against corruption and/or loss during an SPL event. Speeds are rated up to 540MB/s sequential read and 320MB/s while writing.

“SafeDATA technology addresses a growing need in applications where every piece of data is crucial and data loss cannot be allowed,” said Mike McClimans, Sr. Director of SMART’s Flash Product Line. “SMART is proud to introduce a line of M.2 SATA products designed for the specific needs of our OEM customers. In choosing SMART’s M.2 SATA XR+ product with SafeDATA technology, customers can rest assured that their data is safe in mission critical applications.”

The new M.2 SATA XR+ series is available for customer sampling now while volume production is set for Q1 2015. SMART Modular Technologies will also be showcasing this new SSD at Electronica 2014 in Munich this week.

Thanks to Smart for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Smart

New Controller Allows for 5TB Solid State Drives

A common problem with current SSDs, or rather nuisance, is their limitation of 1TB storage. Sage Microelectronics has developed a new controller chip that will allow for drives with up to 5TB capacity. According to the company, the chips are already shipping in volumes so new products with this chip might be on the not-so-distant horizon.

If this sounds too good to be true, it might be. There are some things to take into consideration with this new Controller. While current SSD controllers work directly with individual flash chips, the new Sage S68x will use SD, MMC and eMMC modules instead. It has 10 parallel channels that can host four flash modules each. Using this method with 128GB modules (10 x 4 x 128) would create a first 5TB SSD.

The setup resembles a layered RAID0 setup and there is no mention of any redundancy or failover. This raises the concern of what happens if one of the modules in the array fails on you. The second catch is that drives based on this controller will run on the SATA2 interface with speeds of just 260MB/s reads and 225MB/s writes.

Not mentioned in the release was the other Sage Microelectronics controller chip listed in the product portfolio, the S88x controller. It is designed for the PCI Express 2 bus and will allow for up to SATA3 speeds.

Thanks to TechReport for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of TechReport

Plextor M6S 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Our look over Plextor’s M6- SSD product line has seen us look at their M6e PCIe based M.2 drive, where the limitations of the SATA interface are no match for top end performance and more recently the M6M, a mSATA drive that packs the same components but in a tiny frame, with speeds that set it apart from many other drives in its class. Today we’re looking at the final piece of the SSD puzzle with a drive that looks much more standard if it were, with a 2.5″ chassis and the same ingredient list that we saw with the M6M and M6e.

Available in capacities ranging from 128GB up to 512GB, the M6S offers IOPs speeds of up to 94K read, 80K write with sequential speeds of 520MB/s read and 440MB/s write. Sat at the heart of the drive is a dual-core Marvell 88SS9188 controller giving the drive around 30-50% drop in power consumption compared to the last generation M5S.

Plextor keep their drive bundles very much to the point – you get the drive and a multi-language guide, no more, no less. The box itself is rather bright, with a bold image of the drive on the front of the box with the capacity stuck on below.

Plextor M6M 128GB mSATA Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


A few months ago I took a look at a drive that has managed to slingshot Plextor right back into the enthusiast market with a drive that took the limitations of the SATA III interface and threw it out of the window, using the supreme bandwidth of a PCIe interface to allow it to stretch its legs out and give us some proper next generation performance. Now if you’ve not guessed which drive I’m on about here, I’m referring their M6e PCIe SSD – which uses the latest M.2 NGFF interface to deliver levels of performance that may have dreamed of for quite some time.

Whilst the M6e is a great product to behold, it is not for everybody. Firstly we have to look at the cost and with a 512GB drive fetching over £500 / $800, it is a heavy investment to made and secondly its compatibility list is somewhat limited, knocking many mATX builds and portable systems out of the question. Fortunately though Plextor were not naive enough to force users on to the M.2 platform to enjoy the performance that is on offer from the components of the M6e. Alongside the next generation drive, Plextor have brought two more drive to market that follow are more traditional approach to storage, using the most commonly used interface, SATA, and its compact alternative mSATA. Whilst both the mSATA and SATA drives are not able to offer the break neck speeds that can be achieved through a native M.2 or PCIe interface, they still play home to the same controller and NAND packages, just with a lower headlining above them.

The drive we’ve got to play around with today come in the mSATA form factor and with the M6M product name (the second M representing mSATA) we can easily point out its association with the highly popular M6e. Built around the same Marvell 88SS9188 controller and custom firmware, the M6M comes in capacities ranging from 64GB right up to 512GB, all within the same 50.8 x 29.8 container, allowing them to fit into virtually any device that houses a mSATA port. Offering sequential read and write speeds of up to 520MB/s and 440MB/s with IOPs ratings of up to 94K read and 80K write, the M6M is by no means a basic solution for mSATA devices – it is a workhorse that delivers just as much of a punch as its bigger brothers which are part of the SATA and M.2 groups.

Where most drives come in a sleek box with a colourful presentation on the front, the M6M uses packaging the like it’s from a value RAM production line. The only indication of which drive is enclosed is found on a single sticker attached to the front of the pack. At the bottom of the sticker we do get a short list of performance ratings so we at least know what type of performance we should be expecting once plugged in.

Crucial MX100 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Coming off the back of our look at the 512GB model of Crucial’s new MX100 line of drives, our review today focusses on the mid-range 256GB drive which comes in at a level that many users tend to adopt due to the balance between performance and capacity. As we saw with the 512GB though, Crucial have re-written the pricing rule book with a drive that is priced lower per GB than any other drive on the market and overall costing around the same as a 256GB drive from many other brands.

Keeping with the trend of bargain bucket pricing, the 256GB MX100 comes in with a banker approved price of $109.99 in the states and £78.99 over here in the UK, making it once again the ideal solution for the upgrade market; where users want to get a good boost in their systems performance, but without a hefty price that is associated with many performance products.

Similar to the 512GB drive, the 256GB model utilises Micron’s latest 16nm NAND design with a Marvell 88SS9189 controller at the heart of the drive and performance wise we see the same 550MB/s read speeds, whilst the write speed is a little lower at a more modest 330MB/s. The IOPs performance is also down a little from the top line 512GB drive at 85k read and 70k write, however we do still get the same 72TB lifespan and the same three-year warranty as before.

We know the read speeds that the MX100 has to offer are very competitive throughout the market, so our focus in this review will be aimed more at the write performance. This drive may be cheap, but the last thing we want is a drive that is cheap and cheerful.

Latest Plextor Memory Products at Computex 2014

Next up on our tour of Computex 2014 we’re taking some time out to have a look at Plextor’s storage products to hit the consumer market. As we know from our look at the SSD market over the last few months, there has been a massive revelation in the performance of solid state storage with the new M.2 or NGFF (Next Gen Form Factor) drives that have the capacity to push past the limitations of traditional SATA based drives.

The first drive that we come across is one that we’ve already had a closer look at. Built to run on a PCIe interface the M6e is on of only a few PCIe drives that are available on the consumer market, delivering speeds that are far greater than that of any SATA interface and not requiring any more than a basic amount of knowledge to get them up and running.

Although the M6e, as we saw it in our review, is mainly built on to a PCIe platform, the drive itself is actually a separate component with the card itself simply acting as an interface adaptor. As the latest breed of Z97 motherboards rolls out across the land, users are able to take hold of the M.2 generation of drives, building systems that perform better and faster than before.

In a display cabinet to the side of the running samples shows each of the capacities that the drive is available in as well at the performance figures in both a PCIe format and a native M.2 format.

Further along from the M6e variant of Plextor’s M.2 drives we find three pure M.2 drives on offer, the key difference between each of them being the length and thus the maximum capacity that each drive can hold.

Moving along from the M.2 drives and over to native SATA, the M6Pro, bar a lower set of read and write speeds, is inherently the same drive. Using the same controller and NAND packages, the M6Pro comes in capacities ranging from  128GB right up to 1TB, but what is particularly interesting with these drives is the addition of Plextor’s own PlexTurbo technology. Acting in a similar fashion to that of Intel’s Smart Response, PlexTurbo uses the host systems memory along with the NAND in the drive to create a drive cache that loads at the start of each system boot, giving a stronger level of performance that a standard SSD. The M6Pro is dubbed for release later this year and we’ll be sure to check this drive out when it arrives.

The last drive that we find on display comes in an mSATA format. Known as the M6M, the mSATA drive come in capacities starting at 64GB and rising up to 512GB whilst offering read and write speeds that are as strong as the full fat M6Pro. To show that the M6M is just as strong as the Pro, Plextor have taken two drives and put them together in a dual-mSATA to SATA adaptor and set them up in RAID0 – ideal for blistering gaming performance in a compact system where an M6e is not an option.

Crucial MX100 512GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


The SSD market these days is flooded with high performance drives that are geared to push the boundaries of what is possible both on the SATA interface, but now also on the mSATA and M.2 platforms as the desktop market moves forward in an era where speed is everything and where the focus in my eyes is too concentrated. There are, however loads of options out there on the budget end of the scale and it comes as no surprise, due to the leaking of information from a handful of sources, that Crucial have been working away to update their SSD portfolio to bring a fresher and better performing budget drive to the market.

Set to replace the M500, which I took a look at little over a year ago, the MX100 is Crucial’s answer to the growing demand for budget drives that offer both strong levels of performance and high capacities – 128GB drives, for some users, simply does not cut it any more. Built on a platform comprising of Marvell’s latest 88SS9189 controller with a custom revision of the firmware, specifically for the MX100, the drive features Micron’s latest 16nm NAND design with capacities ranging from 128GB right up to 512GB as we have in this review. Crucial are pushing this drive towards the upgrade market, where users may have a small, older SSD already in their systems, or more commonly as a performance upgrade to a system which is running on an ageing hard drive. Whichever background the user is coming from, with speeds of up to 550MB/s read and 500MB/s write (on the 512GB drive) with IOPs levels of around 90k read and 85k write – again on the 512GB model, users are certainly set to see a significant boost in performance over their current setup.

In addition to high performance levels, Crucial have also made the drive cheaper to run, with a design over the M500 which is reportedly 94% more efficient, requiring around 150mW of power under full load and around 100mW when sat idle and with a high level of endurance that tops 72TB – that’s 40GB of data being written to the drive each day for 5 years straight, a 3-year warranty is added on top – just in case anything does go wrong.

In order to make the upgrade process as easy as possible, a copy of Acronis True Image Home is bundled in with each drive, allowing the users current installation of Windows and all of their data to be moved over to the drive with ease and this can mean that in under an hour you can have your system upgraded to a high performance SSD whilst leaving you with the desktop environment and setup that you had with the older drive. For laptops that require a 9.5mm drive for installation, a 2.5mm spacer is included which can be stuck on to the drive in a couple of seconds.

Seagate Desktop 3.5″ 4TB Solid State Hybrid Drive Review

Introduction


In today’s market, there are countless storage options out there for you to choose for your current system or for a new build that you are planning and in general we find one of two main options being selected for the primary boot drive – this being either a hard drive which offers up large storage capacities, or a solid state drive that mainly offers up the speed.  In the OEM sector, the operating system is typically installed on to a hard drive, whilst custom-built systems from the like of Overclockers UK and PC Specialist use either hard drives or the faster technology that a solid state drive has to offer based on the target audience and the price point.

When we look at where we can boost the performance of a system, be it a pre-built system that is already owned, or one that is in the process of being “spec’d” up, one of the key areas where performance can be gained is through the storage medium, but even in today’s market, the price per GB of storage that a SSD sees over that of a hard drive is still quite high. This premium for SSD performance can in some instances leave users with quite a dilemma; do you choose space or performance?  One option that many say you should go down is to buy a SSD for the boot drive and then a secondary hard drive for the volume, but although the price of entry-level solid state products is far more affordable than it was only a year or to back, by the time you take the price of a hard drive into account, the cost is still fairly expensive for some. Naturally the other logical route that many users see is to simply go down the mechanical drive route and sacrifice performance in favour of purchase cost and the larger volumes that are on offer.

There is a third option that still seems to be pushed to one side of the market, namely the hybrid drive. This type of drive which incorporates both solid state technology along with the volume of a spinning platter has been around for a couple of years now and even though there are a good selection of products on the market, there is this unspoken hesitation that a hybrid drive is not all that good and it is better to just cut your losses and get a SSD. The matter of fact is though that as the technology has matured, the performance benefit that can be seen from a SSHD over a straight forward mechanical drive is far greater than it used to be and the result is a drive which can offer faster read speeds and in turn giving the user a notable boost in the overall system performance – particularly when booting into Windows as an example.

Filtering through the specifications of the desktop SSHDs, we can see that all SKUs come with a 64MB cache on a SATAIII interface along with an average seek time as low as ~8.5ms. For the solid state portion of the drive we get 8GB of MLC type NAND and as a result we can see read speeds of up to 190MB/s on offer when accessing cached data (up to ~156MB/s directly from non-cached data.

OCZ Vertex 460 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Over the last few months, OCZ have been in the limelight with the news of imminent bankruptcy and to be quite honest, for us reviewers and particularly those of use that review their products it has been very had to ignore the facts and what was going on. As a result I was very sceptical that I was going to get any more products from them and these were the last days of one of the best SSDs names out there. Fortunately though, help was on hand and following a buyout from Toshiba, OCZ are once again back in the game. With Indlinx controllers at their heart and now having Toshiba’s own NAND packages spread around, OCZ have now got a stable supply of components for their SSDs and with this set of critical changes taking place, there is no other way to display their come back but to release a new drive.

Following in the footsteps of the Vertex 450, the Vertex 460 is home to the same Indlinx BareFoot 3 M10 controller, however on the NAND front the younger and fresher drive takes advantage of Toshiba’s 19nm MLC NAND packages and the resulting combination sees a drive that on paper looks quite promising. The rated performance figures put it up with some of the class leading drives, although it has been priced in the region of other mainstream drives.

Whilst some people are sceptical that the buyout from Toshiba will help out OCZ in the longterm, OCZ  are still going to run under their own name and the essence of OCZ’s previous products is still going to be there. I personally have high hopes for them and I look forward to seeing a number of class leading products roll off the production line in the near future. There is only one way to see how the rejuvenation process has gone and that is to put the drives to test and see what they are made of.

Bundled in with the Vertex 460, we are provided with a typical OCZ array of extras including a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, a copy of Acronis True Image Home for drive to drive migration, screws for installation and a ‘I my SSD’ sticker.

ADATA Premier Pro SP920 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


In the world of solid state drives, there are a vast number of advantages to be seen and had over the older mechanical counterparts and aside from raw capacity and the consequent price per GB of storage, the SSD is bar far the superior option to opt for when upgrading or building your new system. On the face of it, solid state drive are all about pure speed and whilst they are able to hit the limits of what the SATA III interface can handle, there is a whole lot more to the humble SSD to what lies on the surface and the crib sheets that are laid beside them.

The behind the scenes operations that hard drives rely on are pretty set in concrete and whilst there are some minor differences in performance to be seen, the way in which data is read and written to the drive stays the same with the iconic spinning platters and a read / write head which flickers back and forth hundreds of times a second. Solid state drives as we know by now are much more different and the lack of moving parts as indicated in their name means that everything is electronically altered within the silicon chips that are laid out on the PCB. How this data is read and accessed though does vary and overall we find three types of NAND available; synchronous, asynchronous and toggle. Typically we see most drives on the market offering up asynchronous or toggle mode NAND and this on the basic level comes down to the price. As we know, if you want better and more consistent performance, then you’ll be expecting to pay that bit more and this is exactly the case with synchronous NAND. The performance levels that are on offer on paper may look vastly greater, but in the real world the differences in speed are a lot closer than expected – the real advantage comes in sustained performance. I will go into this all a little later on to explain how it all works.

In the latter part of last week, ADATA gave us all a bit of a tease with an image on their Facebook page that teased us all with a portion of the drive on show with today’s date (2nd April 2014 for those not reading this on the launch date) down the left hand side. Buy why are ADATA keen to do this? Surely the launch of a new drive can’t be that special?

Well in some respects this is just another SSD; it doesn’t offer up a 2TB capacity as I’ve seen some speculate and ADATA haven’t found a way to rip through the limitations of the SATA III interface – nor is it a RAID0 drive within a single 2.5″ frame – damn I love it when people try to spread rumours! What the SP920 is, is in fact a drive that has been designed and built to meet the demands of our home entertainment driven lives and this where the aforementioned synchronous NAND comes into play.

Built around one of Marvell’s latest controllers, ADATA have chosen to use the more expensive NAND in favour of faster and more efficient file transfers from the drive – something which async and toggle mode drives struggle with as the volume becomes more congested with stored data. Multimedia files such as high-definition films and audio files or uncompressed data as we techs refer to them can put a lot of strain on the drive and in some cases we see the performance slowly drop down when being read – especially as the volume fills as mentioned above. This is what the SP920 is made to combat and thus why ADATA are proud to get the enthusiast community wanting more information.

Inside the SP920 packaging we get what is becoming a somewhat new industry standard bundle with a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, 7mm z-height to 9mm drive converter, screws for installation, quick start guide and a copy of Acronis’ drive migration software to make the upgrading process much quicker and less painful.

EXCLUSIVE: OcUK Debuts Wire-free SATA Adaptors

Getting a new and revolutionary product to market is always a challenge, but there are some instances where the product is so revolutionary that it changes the way in which we interact and manage our beloved systems. Following months of planning and r&d, Overclockers UK are proud to announce the launch of their exclusive wireless SATA adapters. Unlike a traditional SATA cable that for some requires meticulous cable management to fit just right in their system, this revolutionary product takes away that need, making the build time for your system much faster.

Each pair of adapters, once installed work just like any other SATA connection, although at this time the speed is limited to SATA 3Gbps. Running on a low power 2.4GHz connection, the adaptors can work up to distances of 2m with a shielded end and micro-antennae to block out any interference from other wireless devices. The plug and play units have an auto sensing channel selection to allow multiple sets to be installed into your system for the ultimate in cable management.

OcUK have got a limited run on these products whilst a SATA II set of adapters is in the development stage to see how the market warms to the concept. For a remarkable price of £199.99 (inc VAT) you can be one of the first to jump onto the next generation of wireless storage devices. I’m also told that bulk orders will see a significant discount. I can see already that this product is going to be a top-level product and I’d already be happy to give this our prestigious Innovation Award. Head over to OcUK with this link where you can get your orders in.

Source: Overclockers UK

Plextor M6S Availability In Q2 Announced

Following the announcement of the new M6 series of solid state drives during IFA last year, Plextor have been busy working away behind the scenes to get the range ready for launch. On top of this they have been continuously tweaking and tuning the three M6 lines in order to optimise their performance and increase reliability. Earlier in the year the M6e was announce – a PCI Express mounted M.2 drive that takes performance to levels that a traditional SATA connection is simply not able to offer. Keep an eye out on eTeknix as I have a full review on the 512GB model this drive coming up very shortly.

The next step for Plextor is the mainstream consumer SATA based M6S and today Plextor have announced that the drives will be available to buy during the second quarter of this year in capacities ranging from 128GB right up to 512GB. Like the rest of the M6 range, the 7mm thin drive packs a Marvell 88SS9182-BNP2 controller along with an array of Toshiba 19nm NAND. Performance wise users can expect to see speeds of up to 520MB/s read and 440MB/s write on offer along with random IOPS figures of 94k read and 80k write to suit.

What’s more the M6 series drives are focussed on the cost of owner ship with reduced power consumption being just one of the key elements that Plextor thought about when they designed the drives. Following in the footsteps of my review on the M5 Pro Xtreme in the early part of the year, along with my experience of the M6e as you’ll soon see, I’ve got a good set of hopes and aspirations for this drive and what it has to offer to the SATA based group of users.

Source & image courtesy of Plextor