Welcome the 13TB SSD Server Named Olive

When it comes to storage, SSD’s are gaining traction at an incredible speed. With SSD prices sinking closer to HDDs, there are very few reasons why people would avoid the large speed advantage that upgrading your drives can have. Fixstars wants to move that advantage to a whole new market, with a 13TB SSD drive titled Olive.

Fixstars’ Olive isn’t just a 13TB SSD drive, with it essentially packing the abilities of a server into the 2.5 inch SSD drive. This advantage comes courtesy of an FPGA (field programmable gate array), something which enables you to reprogram the Olive to perform certain tasks. With the ability to share and spread movies, or even collect information from a selection of devices, the Olive doesn’t just have a lot of storage space.

The downside with FPGA’s is that while they can be fast, you have to program any tasks directly onto the hardware, something which isn’t a very common skill in the industry and is limited to just the tasks that are embedded within the FPGA. Thanks to its size though the FPGA could be used for anything you might normally use a server for, such as quickly backing up a system or even acting as an independent server should one of yours fail.

Currently, the Olive only runs 32-bit Linux, with 512MB of RAM and an ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, although it has been suggested that it could be modified to speed up the Olive and enable 64-bit computing in the future.

Still experimental, the Olive hasn’t got a price yet while Fixstars evaluate feedback and decide if there is a market for something so unique.

Intel Demos 3D XPoint at IDF Shenzhen

First unveiled mid last year, 3D XPoint has been hailed as the next step for memory. Created in cooperation between Intel and Micron, the new memory technology is expected to serve as both a DRAM and NAND replacement in the future. While we all knew it would be crazy fast compared to NAND, we got the first glimpse of its true speed this week during Intel’s demo at IDF Shenzhen.

Unlike NAND flash which has to be written in pages and erases in blocks, 3D XPoint is addressable on the byte level. This gives much lower overhead and allows for higher speeds, especially in random performance. During the demo, the Optane device was able to reach 1.9GB/s in sequential performance. Furthermore, even when conducting random operations, the drive was able to hit 464,300 4K random IOPS. That’s about 1.9 GB/s as well, something current NAND-based SSDs, even NVMe ones, can’t reach. 3D XPoint seems almost symmetrical when it comes to read/writes and sequential/random performance.

Even with all the demos out, both Intel and Micron have been mum about a specific timeline for 3D XPoint to finally reach market. So far, all we know is that there will be 3D XPoint based SSDs set to arrive sometime this year. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later.

Plextor M6S Plus SSD Arrives On Market

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

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

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

Seagate Revises Earnings Forecast Down

 

With each year, the decline of hard drives continues on its inexorable course, bringing down the fortunes of the companies that manufacture them. In light of this, both Seagate and Western Digital have sought to diversify their portfolio to include NAND and other flash storage technologies. For Seagate though, the transition appears to have hit them heavily.The firm has cut their revenue projections for the quarter by $100 million.

In addition to the reduced revenue, the more important margins have also shrunk by 4%, though they are still respectable at 23%. Revenue has been dropping steadily over time as well, down 22% year over year. Much of the decline comes from the weakening PC market but some of it also comes from Seagate own market position. In order to boost margins, Seagate has chosen to leave the low capacity HDD market, read 500GB and below, as they aren’t cost competitive against SSDs. This is because it is nigh impossible for a HDD to drop below $40 due to part cost, making low capacity HDDs a bad bargain against SSDs of the same capacity.

The big holdout for HDDs remains high-capacity drives which offer untouchable GB/$. Still, Seagate can’t rely on those forever so the hope is that their own SSDs gain a foot hold in the market. Another consideration is when will their SandForce purchase finally pay off with new SSD controllers. I love SMI, Phison and Marvell as much as the next guy, but give me some SandForce compression magic!

Micron Announces Enterprise 9100 and 7100 NVMe PCIe SSDs

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

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

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

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

PNY CS2211 XLR8 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications

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

Packaging and Accessories

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

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

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

Plextor Announces M7V Value SSD Range

Solid state drives have progressed at an extraordinary pace during the last few years and the latest NVMe products are capable of read speeds well beyond 2000MB/s. In comparison, the traditional SATA interface has a theoretical limit of 6Gb/s and offers significantly lower numbers than extreme M.2 drives. This is evident by the price differences between fairly affordable SATA SSDs and extreme grade NVMe products. Even though SATA drives with capacities up to 500GB can be relatively cheap, it’s still a significantly greater price to capacity ratio when compared to mechanical hard disks.

As a result, enthusiasts often purchase a 250-500GB SSD as a boot drive and mechanical disk for mass storage purposes. This exemplifies the fact that it’s going to be a while before high-capacity solid state drives become the norm and supersede mechanical alternatives. Furthermore, user data demands are increasing at a rapid rate due to 4K video and complex games. Despite this, Plextor is trying to offer more affordable options and decided to launch the M7V range. The drives are available in either an M.2 or 2.5-inch form factor and utilize the SATA3 interface. Plextor will launch 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB products which all use a Marvell 88SS1074B1 processor, wired to Toshiba 15 nm TLC NAND flash memory, and DDR3 DRAM caches of 256 MB, 512 MB, and 768 MB, respectively.

The 512GB M.2 variant features a higher 1GB DRAM cache and each model offers impressive transfer rates. More specifically, each model can achieve sequential reads up to 560MB/s and a maximum write of 500MB/s, 530MB/s and 530MB/s across each capacity. Depending on the capacity, you get a manufacturer rated TBW tolerance of 80 TB, 160 TB, or 320 TB.

Despite the budget focus, Plextor didn’t provide any details about the M7V’s pricing. Although, I expect this information to be revealed soon once it hits retail channels.

Intel Announces 540s and 5400s TLC SSDs

After a 4-year love affair with SandForce controllers, Intel has announced a new series of consumer and enterprise client SSDs that utilize new controllers. Dubbed the 540s and Pro 5400s, the new SSDs will supplement the 530 and 535 as well as the Pro 1500 and 2500 respectively that came before it. In a first for Intel, the new SSDs will use TLC NAND, not of their own making and a third party controller to boot.

First off, the new controller finally moves away from the SF 2281 from years ago. While the SandForce controller is still competitive, the older is showing its age, losing its competitive and lacking support for TLC. For these reasons, Intel has moved to Silicon Motion’s SM2256, their new controller capable of handling TLC. Despite its 4 channel design, the SM2256 has proven more than capable as a budget/mainstream controller in a variety of drives.

This leads right into the next NAND which is the more cost effective TLC. Due to the poor performance of TLC relative to MLC, the 540s and Pro 5400s will utilize a portion of the NAND as an SLC cache, a feature the SM2256 supports. Mirroring the 535, Intel continued to use NAND from SK Hynix, using their 16nm planar 128Gbit TLC. This makes the drives pretty similar to Adata’s SP550 rather than the Crucial BX200, both of whom combine the SM2256 with 16nm TLC NAND. Unless Intel has tweaked the firmware substantially, don’t expect performance to be much different than the aforementioned drives.

All said and done, the 540s and Pro 5400s won’t be the fastest SSDs running around. They will allow Intel to reach a wider market with what are likely to be some for their cheapest SSDs yet. The Pro 5400s offers additional enterprise features like Intel’s vPro and Remote Secure Erase as well as encryption features Opal 2.0 and Microsoft’s eDrive. Prices are not yet available and drives will come in 2.5″ and M.2 form factors.

Lexar 512GB Portable SSD D512 USB 3.0 Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Today we are taking a closer look at fast external storage, more specifically Lexar’s newest portable SSD called the D512. Lexar also offers the drive in a smaller D256 version with 256GB capacity, but I have the pleasure to have to big 512GB model on the test bench today.

Right away we see that we have a small and compact drive which is perfect for a portable unit. On top of that, it is also a very light drive that you barely will notice when you have it packed next to the rest of your items. So we have a strong portable drive right of the start, but what about the performance. Performance has to match and that’s where a portable SSD shines over a flash drive. Both types of drives use NAND technology, but other than that there are big differences.

Lexar’s portable SSD is capable of sequential transfer speeds up to 450MB/s when reading and 245MB/s writing which is pretty nice for a portable storage solution that is as small and light as the D512. The is no official rating for random performance, but we’ll naturally have a look at that once we get the benchmarks rolling.

The tiny D512 provides plenty of space for you while you are on the go and travel about. Whether you want to take along you movie collect, music library, and photos, you’re covered with plenty of storage. It is also an optimal drive to unload all your vacation photos onto from memory cards and portable capture devices.

One of the unique things that come with the D512 is the capacity meter on the front. The first five LEDs act as such and will light up as the drive gets filled with data. This allows you an instant view on the drive fillage as soon as you plug it into your system. The second unique feature works in conjunction with Lexar’s other Workflow products. The new portable SSD uses the same form factor and connector which makes it compatible with the Workflow drive hubs. Just plug the drive in and you are good to go. I love the Workflow system so much and use it almost every day for my work here at eTeknix.

The drive is also highly compatible when it comes to volume setup as it supports both NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. On its own, the drive is fully plug-and-play and doesn’t require any drivers or tools of any sort. This naturally originates from USB standard that is plug-and-play by definition.

Lexar is part of the Micron Group which also means that the drive is equipped with some of the best NAND flash on the market and that has undergone high-grade quality checks before assembly.

Feature Highlights

  • SSD-level performance — up to 450MB/s read and 245MB/s write speeds
  • Sleek and compact design
  • Available in 256GB and 512GB capacity options
  • LED capacity meter displays available storage space
  • Great for use with Lexar Professional Workflow line products
  • Two-year limited warranty

Package and Accessories

Lexar packed the 512GB Portable SSD in a neat white box that shows the drive’s look and basic specifications on the top.

The bottom of the box also has the system requirements, which is a USB port, as well as the basic specification again, but in several languages.

Inside the box, you will find the portable SSD itself as well as a USB 3.0 cable.

Both sides of the drive are covered with a protective plastic film to make sure it arrives scratch-free in your hands. It also gives you that little bit of joy it is to remove the film from your brand new device.

Intel Announces New 3D NAND SSD Lineup

Intel has had a set of super-fast high-speed SSDs based on the cutting edge 3D NAND flash storage chips in the works for some time now, with the first of these drives having been announced on Thursday. This lineup of SSDs combine both amazing speed and capacities of up to 2TB, which may seem impressive, but some customers have been left disappointed, expecting the drives to be capable of up to 10TB.

The drives announced by Intel that make use of 3D NAND include the SD DC P3320, SSD DC 3520, SSD DC D3700 and D3600, which are all targeted at data centers, workstations, storage arrays and other heavyweight business uses. The drives were designed with the needs of enterprises in mind, developing them with a focus on speed, durability and reliability over sheer capacity, which leaves them a long way behind Samsung’s 15.36TB PM1633a SSD.

Intel’s drives make use of Micron’s 3D NAND chips, which only started being shipped last month. These 3D NAND flash storage chips offer improvements in both speed and density compared to typical flash storage as the storage cells are layered on top of one another, instead of side-by-side. That closeness also allows for far higher transfer speeds. In order to capitalize on these speeds, these SSDs connect to PCI Express 3.0 slots, which allows for higher data rates than typical SATA. This has been shown as the drives are capable of data rates of 365,000 input-output per second for read operations and 22,000 IOPS for writes. Sequentially, the read speed is 1600 megabytes per second, and the write 1400 megabytes per second, making it significantly faster than Intel’s previous SSD, the DC S3510. The DC D3700 and D3600 are even able to make use of multiple PCI-E slots in order to boost the speeds even further, offering as much as a 25% speed increase for some operations.

Unfortunately, both the price and the release date for the drives are yet to be revealed, with the only clue being that they would hit the market sometime in the second quarter of 2016.

Synology Releases DS416slim 2.5-Inch 4-Bay NAS

Synology released a new NAS that is a little different that what we’re used to seeing. First off it is very tiny and it is also a bit in reverse, but with good reason. The new Synology Diskstation DS416slim is a NAS for 2.5-inch hard disk drives and drives are plugged through the rear. With its measurements, 18.4 cm x 16.8 cm x 23.0 cm, and its low weight, 700 grams, the DS416slim is a ultra-small NAS that still packs quite a punch.

The Synology DiskStation DS416slim is built around an Armada 385 Dual Core 1.0GHz CPU and comes with 512 MB DDR3 memory. That is enough to allow this tiny unit to perform with up to 170MB/s read and 77MB/s write performance through a link aggregated windows connection. The CPU also features a dedicated hardware encryption engine.

As mentioned above, the DS416slim is capable of link aggregation and that is because it comes with two RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports on the rear panel. Whether you want to configure them for load balancing or failover protection is naturally your choice. The NAS also comes with two USB 3.0 ports for external storage and other devices, one on the front for easy access and one on the rear for more permanent connected devices.

The rear is also where you find the four drive bays that each can hold a 2.5-inch hard disk drive or solid state drive with a height up to 12.5mm. Without any real height limitation, the choice of drives to use is yours. The power consumption is rated at about 17 watts during access and just 11 watts during HDD hibernation, which also makes it a very power efficient NAS. The noise output is rated to 20.3 dBA.

As this is a Synology NAS, it naturally comes with their own impressive DSM operation system. The DSM system also just got a major overhaul and version 6.0 was just released as well. You get tons of streaming and backup options as well as mobile apps and security when you pick a DSM 6.0 powered NAS.

The new Synology DS416slim comes with a recommended retail price of £222.00 including VAT or €248.64 excluding VAT, and it is backed by a 2-year warranty.

Renice Reveals X9 RSATA 2TB Solid State Drive

Solid state drive manufacturer Renice has unveiled its new X9 R-SATA 2TB solid state drive, which is scheduled for an official release in April 2016. What makes this SSD special apart from its generous storage capacity is the fact that it incorporates something called Rugged SATA technology, which was designed as a solution for vibration and shock problems that cause intermittent contact or signal spikes. These issues usually arise because of shock and vibration in the SATA gold finger connector, and as you can probably imagine, they can become quite bothersome.

Due to its incredible storage capacity and reliability, the Renice X9 R-SATA SSD is an ideal candidate for industrial use, especially since it incorporates Renice’s own SATA3 controller named RS3502-IT. This controller guarantees a product lifespan of two to three times longer when compared to similar products, all thanks to its original NAND flash control algorithm. At the end of the day, it’s worth remembering that this SSD offers a viable solution for data loss caused by capacitor aging, and that’s a big deal because no other manufacturers are currently offering such solutions right now. Hopefully, these technologies (or at least variations of them) will be implemented in a wider array of SSDs soon.

OCUK Offers Free SSD with ASUS GTX 970 Graphics Cards

Who doesn’t like to get free stuff? And especially when it is something as sweet as a solid state drive. That is what you currently can get, at least if you purchase one of the participating ASUS GTX 970 graphics cards at Overclockers UK.

For a limited time, and as long as stock lasts – as always – you can get a Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB solid state drive for free on top of the Nvidia based GTX 970 graphics card that your purchasing. It isn’t just some cheap SSD either as it comes from Kingston’s HyperX division. The 7mm slim 2.5-inch SSD delivers a solid performance, and for free, who can complain. You still get the bundled game Tom Clancy’s The Division on top too, making this a very good deal for a well-performing graphics card.

Speaking of the graphics card, the first of the two participating ASUS graphics cards are the GTX 970 DirectCU II OC Strix with 4GB GDDR5 memory, a core clock of 1141MHz, and a boost clock up to 1253MHz. The second card is the GeForce GTX 970 Turbo OC which also comes with 4GB GDDR5 memory, but a slower clock speed. The Turbo OC has a core clock of 1088MHz and a boost clock of 1228MHz.

Which of the two cards you pick for your setup is based on optical preference, amount you want to spend, and probably more things too – but it is safe to say that both are great graphics cards where you get a lot of bang for the buck, especially considering the extras you get in this deal. The DirectCU II OC Strix will set you back £299.99 while the Turbo OC will cost a little less and set you back £275.99.

Will you be picking up one of these deals? And if, which of the two cards will you go for. Let us know in the comments.

Western Digital’s Acquisition of SanDisk Finally Approved

In a deal that has been months in the making, Western Digital today announced that their shareholders had voted to approve the $19 billion purchase of SanDisk.  It was revealed that over 90% of WD’s shareholders voted for the issuing of WD common stock connected to the purchase, while 98% of SanDisk’s shareholders voted to approve the merge. Despite some potential upsets along the way, the takeover of SanDisk is expected to be completed by the second quarter of this year.

Western Digital and SanDisk are both industry leading giants in their fields, with WD focusing on hard drives and disk management software while SanDisk is one of the largest providers of NAND flash memory-based products, including SD cards, SSDs, and USB drives. This purchase gives WD a solid entry into the NAND flash storage sector and should bring together the WD’s experience in the hard drive sector and SanDisk’s SSDs to create great results.

WD CEO Steve Milligan firmly believes that the merger is best for both companies, stating that “This combination brings together two tremendous companies and cultures ideally positioned to capture the growth opportunities in our rapidly evolving industry.” Meanwhile, SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said the merger would allow them to “offer the broadest portfolio of industry-leading, innovative storage solutions to customers across a wide range of markets and applications.”

With SSDs rapidly gaining on HDDs in almost every way, it seems like Western Digital’s purchase of SanDisk will allow them to remain more relevant in a world that is shifting towards NAND flash storage instead of the traditional hard drive they are known for. What this merger will mean for the consumer remains to be seen, however, both companies possess a history of high quality and reliable products, so we can hope it is nothing but good.

SilverStone MMS01 Military-Grade USB 3.0 Enclosure Review

Introduction


If you are living an active lifestyle and still want to carry around your storage while keeping it protected the best way possible, then you need something other than a normal portable storage device. There are many rugged portable drives on the market by now and we’ve had a look at several of them already. But what if you already have a drive and want to turn that into a safe portable storage drive? Then you need something like SilverStone’s MMS01 military-grade USB 3.0 portable enclosure. Today I’m taking a closer look at how this works and how well it works.

SilverStone’s MMS01 is a thick protective enclosure that has been IP65 certified which makes it dust proof and water-resistant. The enclosure doesn’t stop there, it has been tested and proven to be immune or resistant to rapid temperature change, vibration, 1.2-meter drop, salt spray, sand, and fungal growth. You shouldn’t fully submerge a setup like this, but other than that your data’s drive is well secured.

Durability doesn’t mean that we need to sacrifice performance and the MMS01 is bound to show us some great numbers. Powered by the USB 3.0 bus and with UASP support, the only limitation is the 5 Gbps of the USB bus. The enclosure is equipped with a USB 3.0 type B port and the drive is backward compatible with USB 2.0 and 1.1. Thanks to the USB interface, we don’t require any extra drivers or anything and it will work as plug-and-play with both Windows and Mac OS systems.

Inside the enclosure there is room for a drive with a height of up to 9.5mm, allowing you to mount most 2.5-inch hard disk drives. Solid state drives with the thinner 7mm height aren’t a problem either and that is what I’ll be using in my tests today.

With a weight of just 280 gram, the MMS01 is a lightweight unit despite its great protection. This is an important factor when we deal with mobile drives as no one wants to carry unnecessary weight with them. If you are looking for an enclosure that can protect your drive in the harshest environment possible, the MMS01 might be the one to get.

Feature Highlights

  • Super speed USB 3.0 and SATA 6G interface
  • Supports 7mm or 9.5mm thick 2.5” SATA hard drives or SSD
  • Supports UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol) for additional performance
  • Unique anti-vibration silicone sleeve over ABS shell for complete protection
  • Adheres to US military standard (MIL-STD-810G) for thermal, drop, shock, humidity, sand, dust, and fungus resistance
  • Certified IP65 for dustproof and water resistance

Specifications

The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers information and might as such be subject to changes in possible future revisions of the product.

Package and Accessories

The colour scheme on the package fits the military theme originating from the certifications and presents the enclosure well. The front has all the vital features presented for a quick and easy view.

The rear of the package contains more details information about the specifications and a multilanguage description.

Next to the enclosure itself, we find a USB cable, an Allen key to take the enclosure apart and mount the drive as well as a manual inside the package.

OCZ Z-Drive 6000 NVMe U.2 SSDs Get Dual Port Functionality

Enterprises need a whole different level of redundancy than the average consumer and there are many solutions in that regard, may it be RAID setups to prevent data loss and downtime during a drive fail or redundant power supplies, but what to do when you need redundant access to one modern storage drive? You pick one of OCZ’s Z-Drive 6000 or Z-Drive 6300 drives that now are available with dual-port functionality.

The Z-Drive 6000’s addition of dual port connection enables two host systems to concurrently access data from the same storage device or the more likely scenario which is to provides a redundant access path to the drive. The new feature will give the drives SAS-like features such as High Availability (HA) that storage architects have come to rely on.

“OCZ is excited to offer our customers this robust new firmware that enables the Z-Drive 6000 series to be a compelling solution, not only for low latency, high performance compute applications, but now also for storage-class applications where the additional enterprise-class features are required to compliment latency and performance,” said Daryl Lang, Vice President, SSD Product Enablement, Toshiba America Electronic Components.

The now dual-ported Z-Drive 6000 series is an overall amazing storage solution that supports the real-time I/O needs of business-critical enterprise applications and virtual infrastructures which require high bandwidth and low latency performance, but also need redundancy. The redundant data access now also eliminates another single point of failure in systems. Dual-port isn’t the only new addition to the Z-Drive 6000 series that now also features enhancements such as multiple namespaces, non-binary sector sizes, and self-encrypting drive (SED) with Crypto Erase.

 

NVMe drives have taken storage to a whole new level and the Z-Drive 6000 series in a prime example of such a solution. The drives can perform with a sustained I/O performance over 700,000 IOPS for 4K random read and a consistent low latency of just 30 µs. The U.2-based Z-Drive 6000 SSDs are hot-swappable and designed for a wide range of storage infrastructures with capacities available from 800GB to 6.4TB and come as both read-intensive and mixed workload models.

Customers who have deployed final hardware and firmware Z-Drive 6000 SSDs and wish to upgrade to dual port firmware should contact OCZ Product Management for more details. More details on the drives themselves can be found on the official product page.

ASUS Announces VivoMini VM65 Series

ASUS already got a lot of praise for their tiny Mini PCs and they’ve just announced two new systems in the series. The two new systems are called the VivoMini VM65N and the VivoMiniVM65 and they are impressive, compact, 2-liter systems that still pack quite a punch. The systems are built with Intel Skylake i3 or i5 CPUs and come with discrete Nvidia 900M series graphics card to deliver a smooth 4K visual experience and casual gaming. Don’t misunderstand this, it isn’t for gaming in 4K, naturally.

The new system can be equipped with up to 16GB DDR4 memory to be the backbone for the either an i5-6200U CPU in the VM65N and a VM65 uses an i3-6100U CPU. It also only the N model that features the Nvidia GeForce 930M graphics card with 1GB DDR3 memory while the VM65 relies on the Intel HD Graphics 520 iGPU. Both come with ASUS SonicMaster-enhanced audio to make them an ideal choice for a daily computing platform or home entertainment hub.

The tiny 2-liter systems only support one 3.5-inch drive, but you can also mount two 2.5-inch drives via Vivo DualBay adapter, effectively turning them into one as far as the system is concerned. You can get the VM665 series with either a 3.5-inch 500GB or 1TB 7200rpm HDD, 2.5-inch 500GB or 1TB 5400rpm HDD, or 2.5-inch 128GB or 256G SSD out of the box.

The VM65N comes with two USB 3.1 ports that the smaller model doesn’t have, but other than that the connections are the same. You get four USB 3.0 ports, one RJ45 LAN port, HDMI and DisplayPort with UHD 4K support, a card reader, and audio connections.

The price naturally variates based on model and the drives you want it to come with and not all models will be launched in all regions or at the same time. In the United Kingdom the VM65N will launch with a single SKU VM65N-G018Z model that features an i5-6200U CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD, GT930M 1GB GPU, Win 10 64bit OS, Intel Dual Band 802.11ac WiFi+ BT, and with a Wireless Keyboard & Mouse included. This system will then set you back £549.99.

Seagate Reveals 10GBps NVMe SSD

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

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

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

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

SSD Prices Sinking Closer to HDDs

For a long time, while SSDs have often been regarded as the higher performance drives, that performance has placed a premium on capacity. This has been changing recently, with the prices of SSDs dropping faster than their mechanical counterparts. The last quarter alone has seen the prices of SSDs drop by as much as 12%, placing them far closer in pricing than ever.

For the first quarter of 2016, DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, reported that MLC-based SSDs had fallen by around 10-12% and TLC-based SSDs sinking by 7-12%. Following the analysis by DRAMeXchange, the price difference between a 128GB SSD and a 500GB HDD could be as little as US$3 in 2016, with the difference between the larger 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD to shrink to US$7 before the end of the year. While this would still leave the price-per-gigabyte of SSDs at almost 4-times that of HDDs, the trend is certainly in favour of the flash memory drives going into the future, with demands set only to increase and prices to shrink as SSD adoption is expected to grow at its highest annual rate between 2016 and 2022.

While many SSDs still make use of the traditional SATA interface, which makes them easy to switch over to SSDs, the rising star amongst SSDs is those with PCIe interfaces. SATA-connected SSDs are likely to make up the largest share of the SSD market in the near future, it is also anticipated that PCIe SSDs will see the largest growth. These drives, which take advantage of the high-speed of PCIe and the ability for laptop manufacturers to attach them direct provide many advantages have many advantages that will appeal to smaller form-factor PC and laptop developers and enterprises.

All of this is good news for consumers, with prices dropping and adoption rising, SSD manufacturers are battling to roll out increasingly large SSDs that incorporate more and more advanced technology. 3D NAND SSD products may still be a little while off, but 2016 is shaping up to be a very good year for SSDs.

Samsung Start Shipping 15.36TB SSD Drives

Samsung is one of the key companies when it comes to providing memory to everything from your phone to your PC. With their latest revelation being the creation of a 256GB flash memory chip, it was only a matter of time before they made the news again. Today they’ve done just that by releasing to the public the 15.36TB SSD.

Stored within a 2.5-inch enclosure, the latest evolution of the SSD means all that more trouble for traditional hard drives which have slowly been losing out to the SSD’s, winning only on cost per GB (something that solid state technology has been catching up on quickly).

While it would be amazing to plug this drive into your computer or laptop, it may be a while before your everyday device can deal with this drive as it requires a 12Gbps SAS interface, with sequential read and write speeds going up to 1,200 MBps.

While it is currently being released with memory choices going from 960GB to the 15.36TB version, a 480GB version is expected to be released later in the year for those needing a little less storage.

Do you use an SSD? What would you store on an SSD of this size? With no price detailed yet, what do you expect this monster will set you back?

Image courtesy of Gordan Mah Ung.

SSD Reliability Study Shows SLC No Better than MLC

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

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

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

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

GALAX Teases Upcoming HOF PCI-E SSD

GALAX, formerly known as GALAXY, is well-known for their amazing graphics cards that push the hardware to the limits of what’s possible and we have also seen them create the same great things with memory modules. The next logical step for the company is to branch out and enter the SSD market.

During our visit to CES in January, we had a first look at the HOF PCI-E SSD although the details were sparse at the time and we didn’t find out when it was to be released either.

What we do know is that it is a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface and the drive is using NVMe rather than AHCI for its connection. This in return results in a much better performance and the officially given ratings will allow the drive to read with up to 2600 MB/s and write with up to 1300MB/s. The random performance is equally impressive with 300K IOPS at 4K read operations and 200K at write operations.

The PCB itself was hidden from us at the time and we could only see the beautiful casing with signature HOF engravings. That changed today as GALAX published more photos, renderings, and real benchmark results on their Facebook page. While the information still is sparse, we get some more information from just looking at these newly shared pictures.

While the finished product is a full-sized card, the PCB itself seems to fit the HHHL standard (half-height, half-length) which should make it compatible with low-profile brackets. Whether such a solution will be released is another matter, but it does open up the options for modders.

Below are the officially released benchmark results which look pretty good to me, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be tweaked a little more with firmware optimizations. There’s still a little work to be done by GALAX and the HOF PCI-E SSD is now officially classified as “near completion”.

Are you looking forward to this storage drive or do you prefer something less extravagant and smaller such as the newer M.2 type drives? Let us know in the comments.

OCZ Trion150 240GB and 480GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction



OCZ introduced us to the Trion series about half a year ago and the first drive already impressed us with its performance versus value offering and now OCZ is back with the next generation of Trion drives. The newly released Trion 150 series brings the newest in TLC NAND technology coupled with a great controller in order to provide an amazing drive for people on a budget. Today I’m taking a closer look at this series as I’ll be testing the 240GB and 480GB models.

The OCZ Trion 150 SSD is aimed at people who want to make the move from traditional mechanical hard disk drives and into the modern flash-based storage. There is no comparison when it comes to performance and access speeds, the SSD wins this by miles. Traditional storage does however have the benefit of more capacity per dollar and that is where TLC-NAND based drives come into play. They offer a great capacity at a lower price compared to MLC or SLC-based drives.

The new drives are built around Toshiba’s own controller and their latest Triple-Level-Cell NAND. This combination allows the drive to achieve a performance up to 550 MB/s when reading and 530MB/s when writing while the random performance still provides up to 91K IOPS reading and 64K IOPS writing. With a performance like this, you’ll seriously decrease your system’s boot-up times as well as any other loading process. It’s also one of those upgrades every system should have, an SSD.

The OCZ Trion 150 is available in a wide variety of capacities which means that there is a size for everyone’s need. It is available in capacities of 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB. One of the downsides to TLC NAND is that it doesn’t have the same endurance as MLC and SLC NAND, but that isn’t something that should scare you away as a normal user. Despite the lower endurance, these drives will easily outlive their time of operation in most systems and it shouldn’t be something you need to worry about. The Trion 150 has an endurance rating of up to 240TB total bytes written which should be plenty for almost any normal scenario.

The new 15nm Toshiba TLC NAND used in this series is quite a bit better than the previous 19nm thanks to the optimized manufacturing processes and it shows in this drive. Ordinary flagship drives can easily handle write loads of 50GB data at once, but that’s a problem for most TLC drives. They are just as fast with small area writes as the bigger brothers, but when they have to write more than a few GB in one instance, they suffer some performance loss. To combat this, a part of the NAND is being run in SLC mode as a kind of burst area. You can easily copy large amounts of data to the drive at once, but once the SLC cache has been exceeded, the performance will drop a little bit. The good news here is that the new series offers almost twice the write speed that the Trion 100 was able to offer during these scenarios. That’s a bold statement and one that will be interesting to see if the drive can live up to in the tests.

Despite being a budget drive, the OCZ Trion 150 is still backed by a 3-year warranty and it isn’t just a normal warranty either. OCZ gave the Trion 150 the ShieldPlus Warranty for the entire time and it’s pretty much the best drive warranty you can get anywhere. Especially for free and included. In the unlikely event that a drive needs to be replaced, you got a worry-free customer service experience which eliminates all the hassle and cost surrounding traditional support and warranty claims consumers often have to deal with; OCZ has you covered.

OCZ packed the Trion 150 series with the basic features such as Trim, Garbage Collection, and SMART monitoring, but other than that they don’t feature much. They are, after all, basic drives.

As most SSDs these days, the Trion 150 is also built with a snap-together screwless case that holds the PCB in place. The two drives look the same once I got them opened, but there are a few differences. The most noticeable difference is actual not a difference – the amount of NAND chips. Despite the capacity difference, OCZ used the full set of chips in both models. That’s most likely also one of the reasons that these drives promise as great a performance as they do.

Once we remove the PCBs from the case, we also find another difference on the other side. The 480GB model is utilizing a Micron cache chip while the 240GB has a Nanya chip. Both drives use the same Toshiba controller and 15nm NAND chips.

Feature Highlights

  • Next Gen TLC Technology
  • Superior balance of price and performance
  • 100% Toshiba technology
  • Optimized for lower energy consumption
  • ShieldPlus Warranty

Specifications

Packaging

The Trion 150 comes in a colourful box showcasing the drive design as well as the capacity on the front.

The rear of the box lists the drives features as well as little about OCZ and the Trion 150 drive itself.

Inside the box is a reminder not to return the drive to the shop where you bought it and instead handle possible RMAs through OCZ directly as well as a setup guide and naturally the drive itself.

Transcend Introduces MST800 1TB M.2 Solid State Drive

Transcend introduced a new tiny drive with a large capacity as their newest drive available now sports an impressive 1TB capacity in a standard M.2 2280 form factor module. Sadly this isn’t an NVMe drive, but the new MTS800 is still a drive that I’m sure will become very popular due to its size versus capacity.

The MTS800 would be a perfect fit for most ultrabooks and similar thin systems where you still require a large amount of local storage. It is built with MLC NAND which provides a great reliability and performance at the same time. Besides basic features such as SMART and Trim, the drive also supports Global Wear-leveling, Advanced Garbage Collection, and Device Sleep mode.

Being an SATA3 (AHCI) based drive, it does come with some limitations. The speeds are rated for up to 560MB/s reading and 460MB/s writing which still is fast. Customers who want less than 1TB can get the modules all the way to 32GB, so the MTS800 should satisfy almost any users needs.

The small form factor that M.2 is, comes with another benefit when the drives support it like this one does. I’m talking about Intel’s Smart Response Technology (ISRT) which can use an SSD as a cache between a traditional hard disk drive and the system. We know the principle from SSHDs, but they only provide a small amount of NAND buffer where this drive can give you up to 1TB.

Transcend’s MST800 series adds to the MTS400 and MTS600 M.2 SSD models which are available in 32GB to 512GB capacities. The entire MTS series is backed by a three-year limited warranty. Transcend didn’t reveal any official pricing at this time, but with an availability announcement, we’ll know soon enough when they hit the retail market.

Which is your preferred storage form factor? Do you still use the older 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch form factor drives or have you moved onto the NGFF such as mSATA and M.2? Let us know in the comments.

ZOTAC Announces the Sonix PCIe NVMe SSD

During our visit to CES last month, we had a first look at Zotac’s first PCI-Express based solid state drive and we already liked what we saw there. Now Zotac officially announced the new drive and gave it the Sonix branding. The Sonix PCI-Express SSD will initially be released as a 480GB drive, but we can be pretty sure that more options will become available down the line.

Zotac displayed their specifications on the low-end when they first showcased the drive during CES 2016 and the final version got a 100MB/s bump on both the sequential read and write speed specifications. The Sonix 480GB PCIe SSD has a rating of up to 2600 MB/s reading and 1300 MB/s writing. Weirdly enough, Zotac didn’t specify any kind of random read and write performance so far, so we’ll have to wait for independent reviews to learn about those.

The Zotac Sonix is built with a 512MB DDR3 RAM buffer, Toshiba MLC flash memory, and a Phison E7 controller which then is coupled to your system via an NVMe 1.2 PCIE Gen3 interface with x4 lanes. The card in itself is a low-profile card and it also comes bundled with a low-profile bracket for use in SFF systems. Feature wise the drive comes with advanced technologies such as End-to-end Data Path Protection and Dynamic Wear Leveling.

The Sonix isn’t just a great performing drive, it also looks great with its full metal chassis. This is also a feature that will help the drive staying cool by acting as a giant heatsink. Drives of this kind can get quite warm depending on the airflow in your system and it’s a great extra safety to have.

Zotac didn’t reveal any pricing nor official availability date at this time, but I’m sure that we don’t have to wait long for either. Let’s just hope that it will be a competitive price as we definitely need more PCIe NVMe drives on the market.

Western Digital Sticks to SanDisk Buyout as Chinese Investor Exits

Despite a major investor dropping out hard disk giant Western Digital(WD) is forging ahead with their plans to acquire fellow storage firm SanDisk. Originally announced 4 months ago, the original plan was for Western Digital to shell out $19 billion to take over SanDisk. That deal however, was contingent on Western Digital getting a $3.775 billion investment from the Chinese firm Unisplednour for a 15% stake, a deal that has now been terminated.

Under the original plan, WD would have paid $85.10 per SanDisk share, a figure that has dropped to $67.50. WD will be shelling out a bit more stock though since this backup plan was put in place as WD probably didn’t have enough cash on hand without the Unisplendour investment. The Chinese firm dropped its plans to take a 15% stake due to a investigation launched by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to determine if there was a national security risk in letting Western Digital and SanDisk come under Chinese influence.

While the new deal will see WD foot more of the bill, the investment does make a lot of sense. Even as HDDs remain relevant today, NAND and other forms of storage are growing stronger every day. If Western Digital is to remain relevant, it has to diversify and who better than SanDisk, a firm that ranks third in the NAND business along with it’s current and future partner Toshiba.

Samsung 750 EVO SATA SSD Goes Global

After introducing their latest SSD two months ago in China and Japan, Samsung is bringing their latest drive to the rest of the world. Based off of the long-standing TLC tradition at Samsung, the 750 EVO uses the latest planar 16nm TLC NAND to bring a more budget solution to the masses. Coming in the more budget oriented 120 and 250GB capacities, the latest drive will hit lower price points than it’s faster 850 EVO cousin. While the industry is starting to transition to 3D or V-NAND.

While the industry is starting to transition to 3D or V-NAND, planar NAND is still very much relevant and Samsung’s 16nm process is their latest. As the 850 and 850 EVO demonstrated, V-NAND carries a strong speed benefit over planar NAND, leading to better performance. Plain old TLC drives like the 840 tended to be slower than their MLC counterparts. Despite this, the use of the familiar SLC cache allows the 750 EVO manages to mask most of the performance differences compared to V-NAND, allowing it to match the 850 EVO in short, bursty workloads.

Still, a heavier workload would likely overwhelm the SLC cache and cause performance to drop to TLC levels. Other noteworthy specifications include the dual core MGX controller, 256MB of DDR3 cache and improved LDPC ECC and 256Gbit dies. Overall, by releasing a 16nm planar NAND based SSD will help Samsung develop and prepare for the day when 3D-NAND scales down to 16nm or even lower. Hopefully, the 750 EVO won’t inherit the read speed issue faced by the 840 EVO and the still unfixed 840.