Kojima is the creative mind behind the metal gear solid series, based on stealth, action and giant robots, the series has become infamous amongst gamers for both its storyline and the cardboard box; the biggest question is regarding if he still works for Konami.
A month ago we published an article talking about the “leave” Kojima was taking. After a goodbye party, it appears as if he left work. Konami keeps reminding people though that he is just “on leave”. This has gone a step further this week with the Game Awards expecting an appearance from Kojima, only to find that he was stopped by lawyers from Konami.
The host, Geoff Keighley, described the situation as:
“Mr. Kojima had every intention of being with us tonight, but unfortunately he was informed by a lawyer representing Konami just recently that he would not be allowed to travel to tonight’s award ceremony to accept any awards. He’s still under an employment contract and it’s disappointing.”
That’s the second time that someone has had to appear to accept an award in Kojima’s place, with a PR representative from Konami accepting an award from Playstation awards earlier in the week and now Kiefer Sutherland, a voice actor for Metal Gear Solid V, accepted the award at the Game Awards on his behalf.
Is he gone or not? I guess we will await more news before we know for certain.
Once again, the PC gamers out there, myself included, will have to wait. The online component for Metal Gear is here at last, but alas it is only on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Of course, this isn’t bad news, as there are a lot of gamers out there who will be happy to get their hands on this new content! The good news is, the PC version will benefit from extra development time, bringing graphical improvements and more when it finally lands in January.
“All console version METAL GEAR ONLINE servers are now up and running, and a download patch for METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN is already available. The online component is visible from the main game’s menu, allowing users to experience multiplayer action within the main game’s stunning open world locations.” Said Konami
The squad-based competitive multiplayer mode is a welcome addition to this already spectacular blockbuster, and it’s certainly nice to see a developer focus on the single player component first, rather than sidelining it for a tacked-on multiplayer mode.
“The online element introduces Tactical Team Operations and features a ‘class system’ that more uniquely defines the strengths and abilities of player characters on the battlefield.”
As a bonus, the Collector’s Edition content codes are now available for use, giving access to the gold WU S, Pistol and AM MRS-4 weapons, an XP Boost and a Metal Gear Rex Helmet. Day One edition owners can also access their XP Boost content.
LG has unveiled an ingenious accessory called the Rolly Keyboard which easily folds into a solid rectangle shape and unlike flexible keyboards, is extremely sturdy. The Rolly Keyboard is constructed from “impact-resistant” polycarbonate and plastic with two fold-out arms designed to support the weight of a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, there are 4 rows of keys which provides enough room to type freely enough and find commonly used functions. The device features Bluetooth 3.0 and a single AAA battery capable of up to 3 months of prolonged usage. When unrolled, the keyboard automatically pairs itself surrounding devices.
Seo Young-jae, vice president in charge of Innovative Personal Devices at LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company explained this was only the start of things to come:
“LG Rolly Keyboard is just one of the many premium input devices we’ll be unveiling in the coming months as we expand our accessories offerings,”
“The goal was to create a product that could add more value to LG smartphones and tablets at the same time offering a unique design proposition that hadn’t been explored before.”
Over the years, I’ve seen many compact keyboards but most of them feel quite flimsy due to the flexible plastic construction. LG has somehow managed to create an alternative using strong, durable materials. As a result, it’s quite natural to use the keyboard on-the-go and makes LG’s mobile line-up more alluring.
Thank you Cnet for providing us with this information.
Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is set for release around the 18th of December on PC, seeing marketing be ramped up worldwide by Konami in preparation. Given this news, we’ve come across information that Komani Japan has been displaying MGS to the public at an amazing 4K resolution, run through a three-way GTX980 SLI set-up with the CPU and RAM for this system is unknown however.
Earlier this year, the PC specifications were leaked to the public thanks to STEAM making an error. If you’re looking to run the name (in normal resolution) for yourself, you’re going to need at to have the following tech in your rig at a minimum:
OS: Windows Vista
CPU: Intel Core i5 (2.7 GHz) quad-core
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650
We’ve been scouring the internet trying to find a picture of this Tri-SLI, 4k resolution set-up for MGS by Konami but have so far come up blank. If you have any sources, please feel free to send them through to us via a PM to our Facebook page or simply reply in the comments with the information. From looking at the pre-release videos and promotion by Konami, the graphics for this game seem certainly reasonable for the utilization of an i5 and GTX 650, so here’s only hoping that Ubisoft can take some notes in the optimization department for their latest AC: Unity dramatic release.
In one months time, you’ll be able to get your hands on the 5th installment of the MGS series, so if your rig isn’t up to scratch it’s time to get upgrading.
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.
The SSD market today is bursting at the seams with various types of solid state drives catering for every level of budget and with varying degrees of performance including drives that are now pushing the SATA !! interface to its absolute limits along with drives which pack insane amounts of storage compared to those drives which were around only a year ago. Similarly the number of manufacturers on the market is slowly growing, but those who have been in the business for a number of years are those that stand out above the rest and this includes Crucial, OCZ, Corsair, Plextor, Sandisk and Kingston of whom we’re looking at today.
Like the SSD, the HyperX line of products has been around for some time now and when we look at their SSD line up, we are somewhat limited in choice with only one mainstream HyperX drive available – namely the HyperX 3K, which replaced the first generation HyperX, offering a better price point with good levels of performance. Even though the 3K brings a more attractive price point over the [now end of line] HyperX, it is still somewhat expensive compared to drives from a number of other brands and with the launch of the HyperX Fury product line, Kingston have come up with an even cheaper drive to open up the doors into HyperX to a larger group of users.
Designed purely to offer a lower price tag for the budget conscious buyer, the HyperX Fury SSD is built around a SandForce SF-2281 controller with Kingston’s own MLC NAND. This combination of components allows the drive to offer compressible read and write speeds of around 500MB/s and incompressible speeds of 470MB/s read and 220MB/s write. Kingston stress however that this drive is all about offering a compelling price point for an enthusiast grade drive not its out-and-out performance.
Where we find the HyperX 3K coming in a large box with drive bay adaptors, screws and manuals and this all adds up nudging the price of the drive up as well. The Fury restricts this additional cost by shipping in a slim card packet with a plastic cover holding the drive in place. Inside all we get is a 2.5mm shim for installing the drive into 9.5mm drive bays and a HyperX sticker for your notebook or gaming rig.
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.
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.
Hybrid drives are starting to become a commonplace on the component market as a suitable upgrade solution for those wanting a drive with the capacity of a hard drive, but with read speeds that are more in the regions of a solid state drive. Keeping up with this new trend, Buffalo Technology has unveiled a new class of external hard drive which features a DRAM cache to offer faster read speeds to commonly accessed data.
Unlike an internal hybrid drive however, the HD-PGDU3’s cached area is not a true solid state partition with the cached data being held on volatile DRAM memory which is kept alive by an internal battery. Naturally this means that after a period of time the battery will run out of power and the cached data will be lost, however Buffalo do provide a small battery meter and in addition to providing the cache with power, the battery also ensures that there is no data corruption in the event of the drive being disconnected from the host device too early.
Two models of the drive will be available at launch with 500GB and 1TB capacities with both drives offering 1GB of DRAM cache backed by a lithium-ion battery. USB3.0 connectivity ensures the cached data can be accessed as fast as possible with speed of up to 400MB/s on offer.
There is no word on pricing or availability as of yet, but with Computex on the horizon we suspect any further announcements will be made in the coming weeks.
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.
When it comes to working out the specification of your new gaming system or when you’re looking to boost the performance of your existing setup, memory and storage are two of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of getting the most out of what you’ve got. Since the launch of the solid state drive only a few years back, we’ve seen desktop performance rocket up to a whole new level and as the processors and graphics cards progress to new heights, the memory kit is for most of the time forgotten about or underestimated. Whereas selecting the right graphics card for example is pretty easy, selecting the right memory kit for your needs is not as clear cut. When we take every memory kit that is on offer on the market (as well as the SSDs )and throw it all into one basket, the number of hardware combinations and possibilities, as well as price points that there are to choose from is monumental. With such a huge number of products on offer, how are you sure that the kit you’re choosing is the right one for you?
One way of filtering out the select products that would be suitable for your system would be to look around the review sites such as ourselves, where we show you some of the latest performance, mid-range and budget options that there are on the market, giving you an idea of what product you want to be ordering next. Whilst this is all fair and well, we have to be fair and honest and say that not everyone is going to want to go through piles and piles of reviews to see what is best for their needs, either because of the time it takes to read reviews, or because they’re not that technically minded. We therefore see numerous users taking to our forums to ask what would be the best drive or memory kit for them to get for their system for XYZ price bracket, but what if there was an even easier option out there which could guide you through the selection process, showing you only the products which are best suited for your needs; a user with a gaming motherboard would ideally like a gaming memory kit to compliment the performance, whilst a typical home office user may want a budget kit which does what it needs to without burning a hole in the wallet.
Fortunately though Kingston have been busy working away over the last few months to develop a massive database of every motherboard, server, notebook and more; after which they individually select which of their memory kits and SSDs is best suited for that particular users needs with the option on offer to then purchase the hardware directly from Kingston and have it delivered to your door. These selection pages don’t just cover the Windows platform, as Apple systems more commonly than not use very similar desktop components to those used in the rest of the market, we find Kingston offering up a good range of suitable kits for Mac users.
With the next generation of motherboards and processors only a short time away now, the time to upgrade is also very close and if you’re not too sure on how to actually do the upgrade, fear not as Kingston have also got you covered. In addition to the massive web database and product selection tools, they also have a library of setup guides and videos on offer which take you through the upgrade process step-by-step, clearing any doubts or worries that you may be doing something wrong. With technology so far advanced compared to where it was a number of years ago, it is actually far easier to upgrade your system than it used to be.
Kingston don’t just supply the retail market with components, they also cover the OEM market, providing a number of manufacturers products for direct use in their systems and to reflect this, Kingston also list the relevant upgrade kits for each of their OEM partners. Here are just a few of Kingston’s partners:
So if you’re a budding enthusiast who wants to know that they are giving their system the very best, or a non-technically minded home user who wants some guidance, head over to Kingston’s Memory and Storage Search Page where you can find the right product and how to get the best out of your system – oh and did I mention that this information and help is TOTALLY FREE? Surely that deserves us giving Kingston a huge thank you to making your tech experience as good as possible.
OCZ’s RevoDrive line of SSDs have been at the forefront of the enthusiast market for quite some time now and with M.2 drives starting to push past the limits of the SATA specification, OCZ have announced the released of their latest pure PCI Express SSD; the RevoDrive 350.
Built to run through the PCIe Gen 2.0 x8 interface, the 350 offers up to 960GB of raw storage space with sequential speeds of up to 1.8GB/s within reach along with IOPs of up to 140,000 4K random write. To achieve these phenomenal speeds, the 350 play’s host to up to four LSI SF-2282 controllers and a spread of Toshiba’s 19nm NAND following their acquisition not too long ago.
Unlike previous generations of the RevoDrive and OCZ’s other PCI Express based drives, the 350 is built to target a wide-spread of market, ranging from the enthusiast gamer right up to the enterprise market where IOPs and drive longevity is key.
In addition the RevoDrive 350 will only appear as a single drive to the host system rather than multiple drives as seen previously. This is made possible through a new proprietary system known as Virtualised Controller Architecture (VCA) 2.0. In effect this will blend together the multiple controllers to provide greater performance to the system whilst using fewer resources – much like having four cores in a desktop processor.
OCZ’s Senior VP Daryl Lang stated; “The new RevoDrive 350 is built using proven technology with the added benefit of utilizing in-house premium Toshiba flash and OCZ’s proprietary Virtualized Controller Architecture (VCA) 2.0 to deliver highly efficient performance aggregation while reducing the burden on host resources. This next generation PCIe SSD is the ideal solution for performance-minded users looking to maximize both bandwidth and density for the complete gamut of gaming, content creation and workstation applications.”
With its sleek new design and superior performance figures, the 350 certainly looks the part and on paper it sounds great, we’ll just have to wait a little longer to see what the cost will be and when they will be available. We know historically that the RevoDrive has included a strong price tag, but with the price of NAND coming down in addition to being produced in-house, we could potentially see a more desirable price tag when the drive arrives on the shelves.
Following the release of Plextors M6e PCIe solid state drive a few weeks ago, fans and enthusiasts have been eager to get their hands on the 2.5″ SATA version of the new drive due to its high levels of speed and IOPs performance.
Like the M6e, the M6S features the same Marvell ss9188 dual-core controller and Toshiba’s 19nm Toggle-Mode MLC NAND and with its SATA 6GB/s connectivity it is able to offer sequential read and write speeds of up to 520MB/s and 440 MB/s respectively. Available in three capacities, the M6S is fully backed by a three-year warranty and prices will start at €82 for a 128GB drive, €145 for 25GB and €306 for the top performing 512GB drive.
There’s no final word on UK pricing at this moment, but if the pricing of the M6e is anything to go by, it is going to be a competitively priced product within the market. If you missed our review on the M6e PCIe SSD, you can find more information on the drive here: Plextor M6e 512GB PCI Express Solid State Drive Review
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.
Over the last few years, virtually all of the solid state drives that I’ve looked at and put through their paces have been part of the SATA III family of drives and whilst I have seen the performance levels come forward in leaps and bounds, there has always been a certain plateau of performance that was going to be reached eventually. Today’s SATA III SSDs have, for quite some time now, been able to max out and saturate the bandwidth that the interface has had to offer and this has left manufacturers with a strong challenge of how to improve the solid state drive as we know it and squeeze out better IOPs performance and improve the NAND itself to give a better life span as far as read/write cycles are concerned. To say the least we are literally at the limits of what can be done on the SATA III interface – so the real question that one would ask is where do we go from here? One path would be to bring out a new SATA standard – lets call it SATA IV; but to do this would require a lot of work and the cost of the products at the end of it could be potentially jaw dropping, so for now lets wait for a new standard to brew at a lower rate and let it slowly trickle into the market.
So with upgrading the SATA standard out of the question for new, we start to look at how else we can let the SSD run free and this brings us to PCI Express. Having a PCIe mounted drive is not a new concept by any means, after all OCZ got their footsteps into this market years ago with the RevoDrive and even when we look at the latest model, the RevoDrive 3 X2 – the performance that is on offer is way past the levels that we can get from a SATA interface. Whilst PCIe SSDs are not common place on the consumer market at this moment in time, over the last couple of years they have become a popular product in the enterprise market, partly due to the increased bandwidth, but more importantly due to their greater capacities that a single drive can offer and also superior IOPs performance, which in the enterprise market is far more important than sequential speeds.
Coming back down to the consumer level, advances in SSD technology have seen the mSATA interface mature and with the unveiling of the NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) drive late last year, we are now watching drives push past the lucrative caps of SATA III. Once again the gates have been flung wide open as manufacturers start to hop onto the PCIe bandwagon to take storage to the next level.
Coming over to Plextor’s addition to the new trend, the drive that I’m taking a look at today is part of the M6 family of drives, which is home to three different types of drive. The first drive in this family is a traditional 2.5″ SATA drive, whilst a smaller mSATA spin-off provides compatibility with compact devices such as notebooks and ultra-compact desktop systems. The third drive to make up the group is the M6e – a NGFF drive that is mounted on to a PCIe backplane, giving it the freedom to open up the throttle and take speed and performance well over that of SATA.
The M6e comes in a well padded box in an anti-static bag and aside from the drive, Plextor include a quick installation guide and a VIP booklet.
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.
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.
During the middle stages of last year I took a look at a SSD that, in my eyes, set the ball rolling when it came to high capacity drives and with options of up to 1TB on offer, Crucial’s M500 made its statement loud and clear – you don’t need to sacrifice performance for space. To follow in the footsteps of the M500 and to keep Crucial at the forefront of the SSD market, a drive that is able to offer the performance whilst costing less is what is needed. Bring forth the leaner and more refined M550.
Based loosely around the M500, the M550 strives to take the performance and value one step further, with a more powerful single core Marvell controller, paired with 256MB 1066MHz DRAM and up to 1024GB of raw storage. As well as controller improvements, the NAND has seen a rise up to 256Gb dies and as a result of all these improvements, we are now looking at sequential read speeds of up to 550MB/s and 500MB/s write; with read and write IOPs levels of 95k and 85k respectively also available. The key factor though is price and the purchase price is not the only monetary figure that has been put under the microscope. With the market slowly moving over towards the mobile era, system and component manufacturers are looking at ways in which they can reduce the power needs of their products – the end goal being longer battery life but with the same strong performance on tap.
This price per performance factor is where Crucial have focused the M550 at, so in addition to the power usage and to stay one step ahead of the competition, the drives will be available in SATA, mSATA and M.2 formats. The result from these focal points is a wallet that is not only happy at the point of purchase, but also further down the line as the cost of ownership is taken into account.
Like any other Crucial product that I’ve seen, the contents of the box are to the point with little more than a 9.5mm drive spacer included alongside the 7mm slim drive.
When it comes to covering a whole host of market segments with various forms of flash storage, there are not that many vendors that cover everything; from the production of bare NAND right up to a full-blown SSD. Sandisk are one of the few vendors that do just that and we can’t forget that on top of the production of solid state components and drives, they also produce their own memory card, and storage components for mobile devices. Simply put, they cover the flash storage market from virtually every angle and cater for every market segment from OEM through to consumer and on to the business/ enterprise sector.
As solid state storage has developed we have been watching these drives slowly work their way into the enterprise market, replacing mechanical drives in servers to make way for far greater speeds and IOPs performance. Sticking with the business and enterprise market, there is a relatively narrow channel that divides the consumer and enterprise markets and this is filled with the prosumer and SMB user groups. For this group of users, there is the need for a drive that offers all the speed and storage capacities that we get from a mainstream consumer drive, but more importantly the IOPs performance and reliability that is found in the enterprise markets. As the SSD has matured, the market has been able to open up and this has allowed a new breed of drive that offers all the above attributes to come into place, making it ideal for both business notebook and small server environments alike.
In the past we have had a good look at the consumer level solid state drives that Sandisk has on offer; the most recent of these being the Extreme II 240GB which won our coveted Extreme Performance award and some respects, the X210 is a little like the Extreme II, with the same controller being used. To make this a business class drive though, Sandisk have made a few tweaks here and there within the firmware, with the result being far greater reliability and expected lifespan as a result of sacrificing a small amount of performance. In a market segment where lifespan and reliability is for more important than top end performance, the X210 on paper is looking good, and with one drive aimed at serving the entry-level server and business notebook environment, Sandisk aim to have the best of both worlds her with a drive that comes in at a reasonable price.
When it comes to accessories, the X210 is not generally going to come with a box full of adaptors and stickers and even our review sample came in a plain black box with nothing more than foam padding inside. All these accessories are a waste of time at this level, all the user is after is the drive and the drive alone.
Whilst I was at an event in London Last night to see the new DataTraveler Locker+ G3 the Kingston have just released on to the market, there was one or two little extras to see aside flash drives. The more interesting one of these items was a solid state drive that has the word Prototype written across the front of it. Working out what it is that makes this drive worthy of being put on show doesn’t take a lot to work out as we can see that this drive is packing a massive 1TB of storage capacity (960GB after formatting). At this moment in time there is not a lot of information on this drive as it is still in its prototype stages and Kingston have not decided whether not to push it to market under the V-series of drives as the label may suggest. All we know is that we could be looking at the later part of this year in the middle to the end of Q3 before we see this drive being released.
All I can say for now is that I’ll be keeping an eye on this drive as, after CES where we saw ADATA demonstrating their own 1TB drive, the number of 1TB drives that we are now seeing in development is becoming more and more interesting. With the number of drives that we now know to be in development growing, passing the 1TB barrier on a regular basis may not be as far away as we think.
Whilst the capacities of 2.5″ drives are pushing the barrier further and further out, the capacities of the smaller and more compact mSATA drives are also starting to blossom. Since the introduction of Intel’s NUC and the likes of Gigabyte’s BRIX as seen at the top, the way we think about modern computing has been undergoing a rapid alteration. The popularity of these units has resulted in a boom in the sales of mSATA drives and where the sales start to flow, the demand for drives with greater capacities is only a short step away. Whilst we are seeing traditional SSDs typically pack 240GB+ into a slim 7mm frame, mSATA drives are even more compact as seen above with a standard size PCB playing home to a whopping 480GB of storage.
Built around a SandForce SF3700 controller and NAND courtesy of Micron, this new league of drives is set to arrive on our doorstep in the next quarter with rumours that a 1TB drive may be on the horizon in the latter part of this year.
Rounding off the SSD mini line-up for this event we have one of Kingston’s new M.2 SSD’s that falls under the NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) class of drives. Like the mSATA drive above, the M.2 features a SandForce SF3700 controller, although here we find Toshiba 19nm NAND packages in place. The M.2 is set to be available in a range of physical form factors with units coming to market in 42mm, 60mm and 80mm lengths with capacities starting at 16GB and pushing all the way up to 1TB. There isn’t a lot else that we know about these drives currently. but like the mSATA drives above, I’m keen to take a deeper look into the world of NGFF drives and will hopefully be lining up a review on one of these in the not too distant future.
Solid state storage as we know it today is certainly the way forward and this is proven by the fact that it is the storage medium of choice for any enthusiast or performance user. Whilst the speeds are fantastic, there is still a slight cause for concern to be seen when it comes to the amount of storage that these pioneering drives have to offer. Whilst flash storage is considerably cheaper than it was a few years ago, a typical 240GB SSD will set you back around £160-180 (~$260-295 US) and if you want to go any higher than this with a 480GB or even a 960GB drive then you really are starting to look at some serious money. On the flip side, the price of traditional mechanical storage is more affordable than ever and with 4TB drives available for as little as ~£133 (~$216 US) it really is a case of prioritising what is the greater need – is it going to be performance or capacity?
In a desktop system, this dilemma is typically not a problem, as the space is available to accommodate both solid state and mechanical drives and this is what we see many users opting for in the market today. When we move over to notebooks and ultra books however, the story couldn’t be any more different. Speaking for the vast majority of laptops that are out on the market today, storage is very limited and typically we find space for just one 2.5″ drive and no more. For a number of people, this is not really a real issue, as there is of course external hard drives and flash drives that can be used to extend your storage capacity, but when we look at it, this is not necessarily a practical option – especially for those of us who are on the go all the time. One option would be to remove the optical drive and install a 2.5″ drive adaptor in its place and this is good, but not every laptop has an optical drive, so this leads us back round to square one – do you choose performance or capacity?
One option that is available to you is to get a hybrid drive that offers up hard drive capacity but with the read performance of flash storage. The catch is that this isn’t really what we would call a proper solid state and hard drive combo as the flash portion of the drive is there purely to cache the commonly used data, making it quicker to access whilst the remainder of the data is still held on the spinning platters. What we really want is to have a drive that is effectively two in one and that is just what Western Digital have to offer with the Black² Dual Drive – to separate storage mediums, but in one single 2.5″ form factor – what we once thought to be a dream is now a strong reality.
Over the last couple of years I’ve had a look at numerous SSDs from many of the leading manufacturers in the world of SSDs and storage in general, however there has been one vendor that I have not worked with up to this point. This is of course Plextor and as things go, This company is said to be right up there in the rankings with the likes of Kingston, OCZ, Corsair, Sandisk and many more; but flash-based storage is not where this company has its roots buried. Since the formation of the company way back in 1985, Plextor have been making their name well-known in the world of optical storage with their name being made synonymous with high quality optical drives and media that performed way above that of OEM grade drives and media.Back when optical based storage was much more popular than it is today, Plextor’s drives typically demanded a far greater price tag over white box products, however the end-user was prepared to pay the premium due to the fact that Plextor’s products were far less susceptible to errors when burning media, which would otherwise leave you with a pile of coffee mug ‘coasters’ as they were known. As the market has moved on and the popularity of optical media fallen, Plextor branched out to the solid state market with their first SSD, the M1, coming to market in 2009. Since then we have seen the M series of SSDs grow and mature through the M2, 3 and 4 series and on to the current generation M5 drives with all the leading technologies and performance figures that the end-user looks for and demands in today’s performance driven market.
The M5 Pro Xtreme is the pinnacle of Plextor’s SSD design today and over its little brother, the M5 Pro, the Xtreme on paper doesn’t seem to be different, but there have been one or two subtle changes made to give slightly better performance figures over the M5 Pro when handling smaller file sizes (~4K). Considering both use the same third-gen dual core Marvell controller and 19nm Toshiba toggle flash MLC NAND, the performance differences are purely down to the use of sixteen NAND packages on the Xtreme over eight on the Pro and lower level drives.
Inside the box we find a typical set of SSD accessories with two sets of screws and a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, installation and warranty leaflets and a copy of NTI’s SSD Solution for drive cloning and migration to Plextor SSDs.
Earlier in the year we saw Kingston come out with another revision of their popular HyperX line of SSDs. Sadly we wasn’t able to get our hands on one of these new drives at the time, however even though the drive has been on the market for a few months, I’ve managed to get a sample in for review so its time to see how this drive stands in the SSD pecking order. The HyperX 3K, as the name suggests, is part of the HyperX family of products, but over the original HyperX SSD which comes with a blue trim (and which we use in all of our test benches) there are not that many differences in terms of specification. The changes that have been made however, make a huge impact on not only the drives performance, but also its position in the market as far as pricing goes.
When we look at SSDs on the whole, the NAND used has a huge impact on the lifespan of the drive in regards to complete write and erase operations and consequently the price. Early drives to appear on the market typically ran on 50nm silicon and whilst this was great in terms of the total number of write / erase cycles that could be made over all of the NAND, the prices were not favourable to the mainstream market. Like all advances in technology though, silicon has been getting smaller and today we typically see 25nm NAND being used with a life span of 3-5000 cycles achievable. The first generation of HyperX drives used Intel’s 25nm NAND that was slightly more expensive, meaning that it was rated a for a longer lifespan and with the market moving on fairly rapidly, the first generation HyperX drives have quickly been superseded by other vendors. Like the full fat HyperX drives, the first HyperX 3K drives came out with Intel flash on-board but in the same way that Kingston updated their lineup to offer a cheaper alternative, the HyperX 3K lineup has been given a refresh and we now see Toshiba 19nm NAND being used instead of Intel’s 25nm offering.
It takes no expert to guess that the 3K in the newer revisions name refers to the number of write / erase cycles that this drive is built for. With cost in mind, Kingston have chosen to use the cheaper NAND, which carries the lower rated cycles, but as a result they have been able to drop the overall price of the drives whilst keeping the performance up. Smart thinking on Kingston’s part. SandForce’s SF-2281 controller does remain an integral part of the HyperX specification with little more than a newer revision of the popular controller being used.
When we look at the overall package that is available for the money, Kingston’s HyperX drives are almost certainly one of the best dressed. In the well padded box we find [alongside the drive] a 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, two sets of fitting screws, a blue SATA cable, a CD with the user manual on, case badge as well as an external USB3.0 enclosure and cable and a screwdriver with changeable tips. It’s safe to say that they literally give you everything you need; well bar the system to install it into.
To say that there is not a fierce battle going on between vendors in the SSD market would be telling one huge lie. The SSD market as we know it today is as competitive as ever and there is one name that it appears is dominating over everyone else. Since their introduction into the SSD market Samsung have been slowly dropping the prices of their drives making it harder and harder for anyone else out there – especially the smaller manufacturers such as OCZ and Patriot – to get their foot in on the sales.
Most of this price drop ability comes down to the simple fact that Samsung have the capability to produce every single major part of their drives on site and as a result can sell their drives at a price that is far more attractive to the end-user. As a result of this market take over, some of the smaller vendors are slowly pulling out of the consumer market as they can generate the revenue and are instead focussing on the OEM and enterprise markets instead. For Samsung this is even better news at it means that even though their drives may not be the fastest or best performing on the market, with fewer options to choose from, the slightly cheaper drives are more attractive for many users.
As far as budget drive prices go, Samsung’s 840 EVO is currently selling in the UK starting at around £80 for a 120GB model with 250GB reaching up to around £145 and the massive 500GB drives fetching £250. Compared to the other budget drives on the market, some of these prices are very hard to compete with and with brand awareness also a major factor to take into account, with products ranging from washing machines to TVs as well as notebooks, it’s no wonder a large number of entry-level consumers are turning to Samsung for their first step on to the SSD market.
Like any NAS manufacturer, Thecus is always on the hunt to improve compatibility with drives from a large number of vendors. As a part of increasing the spectrum of drives that their systems support, Thecus have today announced that they have added a number of SSDs from OCZ to their compatibility list.
Whilst many people tend to stick with more traditional hard drives as their storage medium, there are a wide range of users who want faster storage solutions and thus they turn to solid state drives to install in to their systems. Over had drives, SSDs offer up superior IOPs performance along with faster read and write speeds and for the likes of data centres, this is crucial.
Keeping the compatibility list up to date, Thecus systems with firmware version 2.04.01.2 will now support OCZ’s Vector and Vertex 4 drives ranging from 128GB – 512GB in the case of the Vector and 64GB right up to 512GB in the case of the Vertex 4.
The update mainly applies to the following models – N12000 / N16000 / W8900 / W12000 / W16000 / N8900 / N8900V / N12000V / N16000V / N12000PRO / N16000PRO , whilst smaller systems should see a compatibility update in the near future.
If you’re in the line to buy a new system from Thecus and you are concerned about drive compatibility, the latest full compatibility list can be found on their website here – Thecus Drive Compatibility List and the latest firmware version can be downloaded from here – Thecus latest firmware.
Since I have been reviewing SSDs, there is one particular brand that as been at the forefront of my testing and who are always willing to send me the latest revision of their most popular drives. This is of course OCZ and since I took a look at the Vertex 3 nearly two years ago, I’ve seen a number of Vertex drives since. One of these drives that I looked at – namely the Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB is one that I still use to this day in my laptop for rendering work when out and about at events and its not skipped a beat on me once – proof that the drives are highly reliable in the long run!
Moving forward to today, the advances in SSD technology as we know are moving quicker than ever and drives are no pouring out of factories quicker that we would have imagined just a few years ago, but the big names in the SSD market are all trying to keep the users on their side by re-kindling and improving on their known product lines in order to try and keep the upper hand.
The Vertex line of drives as highlighted above is again seeing another update and a fresher look at the same time, hoping to keep it as one of the more popular drives in the SSD market. The most recent update that we saw from OCZ was with the slightly older Vertex 3, whilst the Vertex 4 is the more recent of these two drives, the V3 was a huge seller and with the move over to 20nm NAND, the creation of the Vertex 3.20 was made with scope that users of the Vertex 3 would see the update and move across to the better performing drive.
The other key element of the Vertex drives is value. In a market where competition is fierce, being able to bring top level performance down to mainstream prices is a huge factor in sales and this is what the new Vertex 450 is primarily aimed for. Since the acquisition of Indilinx, OCZ have been fitting their own proprietary controllers to their drives reducing the overall cost of the drives, which as we know is great news for the end user. The BF3-M10 controller that we see in use in the 450 is a slightly cut back version of that used on the Vector. Whilst it has a slightly lower clock speed, its clock generator has been optimised for performance and with the teaming of some 20nm NAND, OCZ have built the drive with Vector like specifications – but at a lower cost.
Unlike the Vertex 3.20 which saw a change to the standard OCZ packaging – a blister pack of all things – the 450 sees the return of the ‘standard’ OCZ outfit, with a 2.5″ to 3.52 drive bay adaptor, fitting screws and a copy of Acromis True Image for cloning the contents of your current drive to this with ease.
Press Event: One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of flash storage – Sandisk, who have over 25 years of experience in the trade and now over 5000 employees on their books, have released a new SSD that is set to give the enterprise market exactly what they want – secure data but on a storage platform that is highly reliable.
Over the last few years, Sandisk have been working in the market to provide some of the most reliable drives around and as a result, they now have a 75% market share over flash based storage that is sold to the OEM sector of the market. Naturally the OEM sector is not their only focus and this leads to the enterprise sector of the market and in particular data centres. These customers of Sandisk have a specific demand for their data, they need it secure, fast and most of all on a reliable platform. This is where the new X210 comes in to play, following in the footsteps of the X110, the X210 has been firmware optimised for users who need consistent access to their data such as cloud storage providers and search engine providers.
Based around a Marvell controller, the X210 comes in capacities from 128GB right up to an industry leading 512GB, whilst still providing high random read IOPs of 85k and a sequential read speed of 505MB/s. The 19nm NAND flash that is inside these drives is backed by a 5 year warranty and with the capacity to handle over 80TB of write input, they have a longer life expectancy than the previous generation of drives. With more and more data centres and entry level server users moving over too SSD based storage, the key is finding drives that are also efficient during their lifespan and with a power consumption of <90mW, the X210 is also one of the most power efficient drives that Sandisk have in that sector.
The X210, however, is not just built for the server markets. It is also ideal for business desktop and laptop systems where time is a major factor. With both high read and write sequential speeds, low latency and a 19nm MLC NAND design, the drives are able to offer faster boot times and in the instance of users who do video editing, quicker render times as well.
The X210 series of drives are available now through Sandisk’s commercial business channels and are set to be one of the most cost effective solutions available for a rapidly growing SSD market.