Short URL Addresses May Be Creating Easy Paths To Spy On Your Data

We’ve all seen those huge URL’s, be it for a website or a document you have saved in the cloud, they just seem to go on and on with no sign of ever stopping. Then you spot the tiny URL they offer you instead, short and sweet with only a few letters and numbers to copy and paste before you can open your document anywhere you want. Why not use it? well for starters that small URL may be creating just as easy a path to spy on your data!

Research conducted by Martin Georgiev and Vitaly Shmatikov suggest that looking at the abbreviated “short URL’s” used by companies such as Google, Microsoft, and even bit.ly, a company dedicated to creating and sharing short URL addresses, revealed that using a simple trial and error method they were able to gain access to your cloud storage files.

In particular, Georgiev and Shmatikov were able to find and access files shared through Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive with short URLs. If this wasn’t scary enough, someone could place malicious code in the files that had write permissions enabled, allowing them to infect and spread their effect all through one of your files stored in the cloud. Estimating that around 7 percent of the accounts on OneDrive and Google Drive they scanned were vulnerable to this flaw, it’s scary, to say the least.

More worrying may be companies differing responses to be being alerted about this result, with Google doubling the character length of their short URLs, while Microsoft stated that the vulnerability “does not currently warrant an MRSC case”, while quietly removing the short link function on OneDrive so not to expose others to the problem while they no doubt investigate.

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.

MSI Z170A GAMING M5 (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction

Since the release of Intel’s Z170 chipset, MSI has unveiled a fantastic, feature-rich motherboard range which caters to contrasting user demands. For example, the Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON is an excellent choice for consumers wanting a stylish black colour scheme and great reliability at an affordable price point. In contrast to this, the MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM Edition‘s gorgeous aesthetic design makes it one of the most innovative LGA1151 motherboards on the market. Of course, the iconic dragon styling on many MSI products have become a popular choice among the core gaming demographic. This red and black theme compliments mainstream hardware and retails at very competitive prices across various performance tiers.

The MSI Z170A GAMING M5 is a mid-range motherboard sporting an attractive design and impressive specification. More specifically, the product is capable of housing two PCI-E M.2 storage devices and has support for USB 3.1 Gen2 connectivity. Not only that, the motherboard includes a one year premium XSplit license and Nahimic audio enhancements. As you might expect, many of MSI’s leading technologies are incorporated such as DDR4 Boost, Game Boost and much more. Given this particular model’s astonishing software suite and military class components, I expect to see it rival higher priced offerings rather well. Could this be the best value Z170 motherboard thus far for high-end users? Let’s find out!

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

MSI always does a phenomenal job when it comes to packaging design and the Z170 GAMING M5 is no different. The bold colours and stunning product snapshot contrasts extremely well. This is one of the most eye-catching motherboard boxes I’ve seen and showcases the motherboard’s beautiful appearance.

On the opposite side, there’s a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s key selling points such as support for 3-way crossfire, 2-way SLI and Audio Boost 3.0. This is presented in a slick manner and doesn’t alienate the end-user with technical jargon.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a user’s guide, driver’s disk, metal case badge, I/O shield, SLI bridge, registration details, basic installation guide and four SATA cables. Please note, the press sample I received was previously used by another media so there’s only 3 SATA cables displayed in the photograph. Rest assured, the retail version will include four and be packaged without the need for an elastic band.

Gigabyte P35W v5 Gaming Laptop Review

Introduction


Consumers typically purchase gaming laptops over their desktop counterparts due to portability and requiring hefty processing power on the move. Saying that, it’s exceedingly difficult to offer adequate thermal dissipation in a slim form factor which limits the convenience factor of many flagship gaming laptops. These tend to be rather bulky and difficult to carry around on public transportation where space is quite restricted. Thankfully, efficiency improvements on mobile graphics chipsets and CPUs have enabled manufacturers to create a better balance between performance and size. Granted, the top-tier options with dual GPUs still feel heavy but less extreme alternatives can be surprising portable. For example, the Gigabyte P34W v3 provides a superb gaming experience and weighs a mere 1.81Kg. Back when I reviewed this, the performance to size ratio astounded me. Although, the system’s load temperatures were higher than I hoped and felt like a concession too far.

The latest gaming laptop to prioritize a thin design from Gigabyte is the P35W v5 sporting an Intel i7-6700HQ, ultra fast 128GB NVMe boot drive, and GTX 970M. Unlike the P34W v3, Gigabyte has opted for a 6GB variant of this graphics chip but I can’t see the increased video memory making a substantial difference. On the other hand, some games with high memory utilization might fare better with an improved minimum frame-rate. Another key benefit is the inclusion of DDR4 memory, and a greatly improved battery. As always, you can customize the specification to suit your needs and the standard package utilizes a 1920×1080 display. If this seems a little underwhelming, you can select a 4K panel for an additional fee but this has some drawbacks when it comes to performance. Given the P35W v5’s marvellously thin design, I’m interested to see the thermals under stress and determine if the cooling hardware is up to scratch.

Specifications

  • Name: Gigabyte P35W v5
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz base frequency, 3.5GHz turbo)
  • System Memory: 16GB Dual Channel DDR4 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: Samsung NVMe MZVPV128 M.2 128GB SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): HGST 1TB 7200RPM HDD
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M 6GB
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Display: 15.6-inch 3840×2160 IPS LCD
  • Optical Drive: MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ8G2
  • Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8260
  • Battery: Li-Polymer 11.1V, 75.81Wh
  • Weight: 2.3Kg with Battery
  • Dimensions: 385(W) x 270(D) x 20.9(H) mm
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Warranty: 2 Year
  • Price: £1399

Packing and Accessories

Gigabyte has adopted a fairly understated theme to the packaging which showcases the beautiful display and professional aesthetic design. Furthermore, there’s a brief description about the laptop’s unique selling features but I have to say the translation is confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps, this is because the press sample originates from the factory and I’m sure Gigabyte will update the message for western markets.

The opposite side is almost identical barring another stunning snapshot of the product’s thin profile. This level of uniformity works well and evokes a premium feel. The packaging’s durable cardboard shell and soft inserts protect the item during transit meaning you shouldn’t encounter any cosmetic imperfections.

Included with the laptop is a power adapter, user’s guide, warranty card, driver disk, PowerDVD 12 software, swappable storage bay and light stickers. The swappable storage bay is an ingenious extra which allows you to remove the optical drive and fit an internal 9.5mm SSD instead. This is a great idea because many people use flash storage devices instead of optical media and the ability to easily house a traditional SATA SSD greatly enhances the laptop’s flexibility.

The 4K model contains a removable orange sticker near the lid which can be replaced with either a green or turquoise colour. Gigabyte even provides a complimentary pair of tweezers to obtain a neat finish and customize the theme to your own personal taste. Small touches like this creates the perception every customer’s needs have been attended to.

CPU-Z


GPU-Z

Lexar Announces New 200GB High-Performance microSDXC Card

Lexar released a new memory card for those that need a lot of speed and a lot of storage at the same time as they announced the release of their new 200GB microSDXC card that comes with a 633x speed rating and an SD Class U1 rating.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a 200GB card in this size, but it is the first time that it goes mainstream and becomes an available card for normal people that want that extra capacity in their smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices based on SD cards. The 633x speed rating (633 times 150KB/s) equals to about 95MB/s which is the read speed that this card can perform – far higher than the official U1 rating. The 200GB capacity is enough to store up to 17 hours of 4K and Full HD video, 33,000 photos, or 28,000 of your favourite songs – if you even got a library that size at all.

“Professional and everyday photographers are now more passionate about shooting high-quality video, on everything from digital SLRs to sports and aerial cameras,” said Steffi Ho, product marketing manager, Lexar. “With the Lexar 200GB microSDXC UHS-I card, photographers can continue to capture and store large amounts of content on the go, without having to worry about running out of space.

Lexar also included a USB 3.0 card reader for high-speed card-to-computer transfer of all your captured moments. The card reader is naturally backward compatible with USB 2.0, so a connection to legacy systems won’t be an issue either. The 200GB Lexar High-Performance 633x microSDXC UHS-I card comes with a limited lifetime warranty while the card reader itself has a 1-year limited warranty.

Should your interest be tickled by this news, then the good part is that it’s already available and it isn’t even as expensive as you might think. The new card is currently available for purchase with an MSRP of £109.99.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Human Brain Capable of Holding 1 Petabyte of Data

A new study suggests that the human brain may be capable of storing as much as 1 petabyte of data, and yes that is a lot; it’s even ten times more information that was previously believed. With so much data, it’s no wonder I struggle to find the bit of information in my brain that knows where my car keys are, but that’s a whole different story.

“This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience,” Salk Institute for Biological Studies researcher Terry Sejnowski said. “Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte, in the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.”

The team reconstructed a rat’s hippocampus in 3D, allowing them to study the memory center of the brain. Through this process, they realised that the brain synapses are capable of changing dimensions, altering their memory capacity. While other synapses were duplicating, allowing the reconstruction of connectivity, shapes and volumes of the brain tissue. This also led to the idea that there may be as many as 26 categories of synapses, far more than previously thought.

“This is roughly an order of magnitude of precision more than anyone has ever imagined,” Sejnowski said. “The implications of what we found are far-reaching. Hidden under the apparent chaos and messiness of the brain is an underlying precision to the size and shapes of synapses that was hidden from us.”

The research can now help advance deep learning and neural networking computer techniques, as we discover how the brain can process with unmatched abilities while consuming just 20 watts of power. With a petabyte, and maybe even more at its disposal, the human brain is an amazing thing. If you can’t grasp just how much data that is, just imagine downloading the entire internet, literally all of it, and storing it in your head with room left over! Although I can’t imagine how big the piracy fine would be for doing so.

Fixstars Launches World’s First 13TB SSD

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Fixstars has unveiled the world’s first 13TB 2.5-inch solid state drive, more than doubling the capacity of the next largest SSD of 6TB. There is a catch, however, and it’s a pretty big one: the Fixstars SSD-13000M will be priced at approximately $1-per-gigabyte, putting the cost of the 13TB drive at around $13,000, according to spokesperson Shien Zhu (via PC World).

The drive uses a SATA 6Gbps interface and is based around 15nm MLC NAND flash technology from Toshiba – a minority shareholder in Fixstars – but with a proprietary Fixstars controller that boasts faster sequential read and write speeds of up to 580/520 MB/s. The random read/write speeds are yet to be revealed.

The SSD-13000M will be sold directly via the Fixstars website, and not through other retailers. While Fixstars sees the drive as appealing to enterprise and business customers, anyone with $13k to burn can get their hands on one.

Competitors in the SSD market have indicated that they don’t plan to release a drive to compete with Fixstars’ 13TB drive in the immediate future, with SanDisk launching 6TB and 8TB SSDs this year, and Samsung releasing a 4TB SSD.

Fixstars has also revealed a 10TB iteration, the SSD-10000M, which is also expected to be priced at around $1-per-gigabyte. The release date for both SSDs is yet to be confirmed.

Seagate Releases Largest Consumer NAS HDD Yet

Even with SSDs driving the news cycle more and more, HDDs are still around and kicking. One of two major HDD firms Seagate has just launched their highest capacity NAS HDD with a whopping 8TB of storage space. The drive is oriented towards NAS users with NAS-specific features and RAID and comes with a 3-year warranty.

With 8TB of capacity, the new drive will be perfect for the home NAS in creating a personal cloud or simply for mass multimedia storage. Another major market is the burgeoning SOHO segment as more and more people start running small business’s and working from home.

The drive operates at the standard 7200rpm without resorting any exotic methods like helium fill. Using standard PMR (parallel magnetic recording), it packs 1.33TB per platter with a total of 6 platters. This backed up by 256MB of DRAM cache and connected over an SATA 3 interface, not the SAS commonly used by enterprise. Peak transfer rate should be about 216MB/s though that is a best case scenario unlikely to be encountered in real life. The rest of the lineup includes 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB and 6TB drives for those that don’t need such a massive drive. the only problem for such a large drive is backing up and restoring in case of drive failure.

Mushkin Display Latest Memory Products @ CES 2016

CES 2016: We’re here at the Mushkin suite in Las Vegas, and we’re very happy to see they’ve rolled out several new storage products for 2016. First up we have the Eco3, which features the Silicon Motion SM2256 controller, SATA 3.1 6Gb/s, and read and write speeds of 560MB/s and 515MB/s respectively with up to 87,000 IOPS. Additional features include SLC caching, Enhanced Data Protection Suite and a 3-year warranty.

The Eco3 is said to be exclusive to Newegg, at least for now, but the Triactor is virtually identical and will be available globally. No firm pricing at the moment, but expect it to be fiercely competitive.

The new 2TB reactor features the 2246 Silicon Motion controller and will launch in Q2.

The Striker, an enterprise focused SSD, is expect to launch late Q1. It will feature 565MB/s 88,000 IPS read and 550MB/s 92,000 IOPS write.

Pro camera users will be happy to see their new ICON compact flash cards, featuring 1066x speed with data transfers of 160MB/s and 256 and 512GB models being available in late Q1. Most interesting is that they’re expect to undercut the market prices of popular cards by a big margin, so keep an eye out for these.

Their latest prototype, two SM2246 controllers in RAID. The system will still handle this as a single drive, and performance will take a little bit of a hit, but when it comes to capacity for NAS setups, but expect a fantastic price per gigabyte option somewhere in Q2.

Patriot Introduces New Storage Hardware @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Patriot unveiled a huge array of new storage products during CES this year which really caught my attention. Firstly, the Gauntlet 4 SSD enclosure is constructed from an aluminium unibody case, and lightweight ABS tray. This makes it feel incredibly solid while being light enough to carry around in a backpack. Furthermore, the device supports USB 3.1 Type-C technology to deliver speeds 16% faster in read times and 22% enhanced write times compared to its predecessor. Obviously, this depends on the storage device used, but it’s a great indication of the advancements in performance. The Gauntlet 4 will be available towards the end of Q1 this year with a retail price of $39.99.

The Supersonic Mega USB employs a robust, zinc alloy casing to protect your data even if the most extreme circumstances. Additionally, the high-end Magnum provides read speeds up to 380MB/s and 70MB/s writes while coming in at an affordable price. As expected, the drives are USB 3.1 Gen 1 compliant and include a 5 year warranty.  You can choose from a 128GB model which retails for $49.99, 256GB SKU costing $89.99 and finally, a 512GB capacity with a retail price of $229.99.

If you require more performance, the Supersonic Magnum 2 is a better solution due to the up to 400MB/s read speed and 300MB/s write. This makes it one of the fastest flash drives on the market and a suitable choice for performance users.The Viper range offers large capacities with USB 3.1 connectivity at highly competitive prices. More specifically, the 64GB model will only cost $34.99, while the 128GB drive retails for $54.99 and the 256GB size comes in at $94.99.

Patriot also announced the company’s first PCIe M.2 solid state drive based on the Phison 5007 with MLC NAND. The Hellfire SSD is capable of sequential read speeds up to 3000MB/s and astonishing write rates up to 2200MB/s. This range of NVMe 1.2 compliant drives is very exciting and bound to please users wanting the ultimate in performance. Les Henry, VP of Engineering at Patriot said:

We are very excited to get into the PCIe storage space,” 

“With the launch of Intel’s latest Skylake Processor, we are seeing more motherboards available in the consumer market that support PCIe devices.  Along with the launch of Microsoft Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, which supports PCIe storage devices without the need for additional drivers, we feel this will be the future trend and will allow users to take full advantage of the PCIe storage speeds.“

The Hellfire will be available in 240GB, 480GB and 960GB capacities to suit a wide range of storage demands. Please note, pricing has not yet been revealed, but the product line is scheluled for a Q1 launch.

ADATA Showcase Latest Enterprise, Industrial and Computer Hardware @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Adata have a huge range of products already on the market and it looks like they’ll be keeping that pace up throughout 2016. On display this year, we’ve got their Enterprise Server drives, which come fitted into their new ADATA Flash Array (AFA), a flash media only NAS storage system that can deliver > 1M 4K Random IOPS!

Durability has always been a strong point for ADATA, and their new industrial drive is set to continue that trend.

Much like the new Enterprise Server drive, the Industrial also comes equipped with all the high-end features you would expect from a durable and high-performance drive. The only real thing that changes on most drives these days are capacities go up, price per GB goes down, but that’s a trend I like anyway!

Moving on to their consumer products, we’ve got a great range of braided, and very high-quality overall, USB 3.0 Type-C cables.

Their latest range of power banks, one of the best ranges we’ve seen actually and there seems to be a shape, size and capacity for pretty much everyone here.

ADATA were really proud of their new UE710 ORG UFD drive, and I’m sure many Apple device users will know why. This will be a great device for quickly backing up and transferring files.

The latest durable drive, perfect if you’re storage drive is important, as it’ll survive a lot of water and a fair few drops on the floor without issue.

One of my favourite toys here, the AURA RGB Bulb. Equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, you can dial in any colour or brightness you like from your mobile phone, meaning you can always set the mood just right.

The RC300 is the first dashcam from ADATA, but give their specialty is storage and recording devices, I can’t think of anyone better for the job. The unit is light and compact, but still offers full HD recording.

2TB is certainly impressive, but it’s the “and larger” part we want to see. Another great drive from ADATA here and we can’t wait to try out the rest of their new 3D NAND hardware.

When performance and style are equally important, the new XPG Dazzle memory will deliver on both fronts. Equipped with LED lighting on those aggressive heat spreaders, they’re going to look great in a lot of gaming systems.

There’s a lot of great products on show here today, and we’ve already reached out to ADATA to bring you some in-depth reviews on their latest hardware. Stay tuned for updates over the coming weeks.

OCZ Significantly Broadens ShieldPlus SSD Warranty Program

With more and more of our purchases being online these days, it is ever more important to have a good RMA and warranty policy in case something goes bad. In a major but not unsurprising move, OCZ Storage Solutions has expanded their ShieldPlus warranty program for their SSDs. Tripling the number of countries by going from 33 to 99, it means more OCZ customers will be able to benefit from the advanced warranty program.

ShieldPlus is one of the better warranty programs for SSDs out there right now. When a drive becomes defective, owners merely have to provide the details of the issue as well the serial number. Once technical support confirms the defect is with the drive, OCZ will give the customer a prepaid shipping label and cross-ship a replacement drive within 24 hours for no charge. This is generally better than most policies that require the customer to send the defective product on their own dime.

A few years back OCZ suffered from a high failure rate for their SSDs and the company ended up being acquired by Toshiba. Since then OCZ has fixed their drives up and have made a strong comeback. With the extension of this warranty to more countries, there is all the more reason for users to consider OCZ these days. The ShieldPlus program currently covers the Vertex 460A, Vector 180, AMD R7, ARC 100 and Trion 100.

Microsoft Rushed OneDrive Storage Downgrade

After ending unlimited OneDrive storage and making a number of other controversial changes, Microsoft faced heavy criticism. After a storm of heavy backlash, Microsoft eventually rolled back some of the changes they were planning to implement. Many users felt that Microsoft had rushed things and didn’t properly handle the whole debacle. Now it turns out the rush was due to the fact that “a major publication was going to print something that was very damaging and was not true” about the online storage service.

According to Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela, Microsoft had realized that offering too many users unlimited storage simply wasn’t sustainable and was planning the change. Unfortunately, an external factor forced the issue.

“We had given ourselves a couple more months to get everything lined up, all in one fell swoop. OneDrive for Business, OneDrive for consumer, how we grandfathered people, blah, blah blah.

We just were not ready. But the alternative of having a very damaging, borderline false story run in a massive publication […] We just didn’t do a good enough job in the sprint to beat the story to get the communications in the shape that they needed to be.”

In the end, it looks like Microsoft has mostly figured things out, though some issues remain. Hopefully, Microsoft has learned a lesson about communication and that if they offer users something, they’ll take it and run with it.

Seagate CFO Claims HDDs to Remain Relevant for 15-20 more years

With each passing day, SSDs are growing in capacity and speed while their cost/GB continues to go down. Not surprisingly, HDD shipments have been falling steadily over the last few years as SSDs encroach their territory in storage. Despite the gloomy outlook, Seagate CFO thinks that HDDs will be here to stay, at least over the next 2 decades. Speaking at the Nasdaq 33rd Investor Program Conference David Morton said that:

“I believe HDDs will be along around for at least 15 years to 20 years”

While we would expect an HDD maker to express confidence in their product, HDDs will likely remain relevant for the near future. Despite the huge drops in price, SSDs still remain much pricier than their spinning disk cousins. Another major factor is that HDDs still continue to offer larger capacities in a single drive. With the introduction of HAMR and other technologies, HDDs will likely keep their lead at least till the end of the decade if not longer.

Even if SSDs do surpass HDDs in terms of capacity, hard drives may remain cheaper and thus more widely used for bulk storage. For those with large media collection and services that require immense amounts of storage, hard drives will likely remain cheaper for quite a while. With such an advantage, it seems highly likely that hard drives will be with us for quite a while yet.

OneDrive Placeholders May Be Replaced Back in Windows 10 ‘Redstone’

Windows 10 has so far received a mixed reception since its release, the many positive aspects which have included the return of a usable start menu has somewhat been outweighed by an operating system thin on privacy, and also a lack of communication to users concerning the update schedule. Now, Microsoft hopes to win back consumers by adding improvements within the “Redstone” update and includes a rumour that a feature by the name of “Placeholders” may return.

If you’re not familiar with this feature, Placeholders had been a handy space-saving feature within Windows 8.1 that allowed any file to be accessed from a OneDrive account by simply double clicking on an icon within file explorer, the difference was the file wouldn’t actually be downloaded to your machine until the user specified. Sounds good, well many users thought so until Microsoft took a crowbar and removed this feature from Windows 10 OS.

According to persistent rumours, this feature is set to be repackaged in time for Windows 10 Redstone release, which is due to be offered to consumers around Spring time of next year (2016).  Why had this feature been removed in the first place? It seems not everyone was able to understand how this handy tool functioned, this included consumers wondering why they were unable to update their files from the cloud when they had no internet connection to their data that was stored online, indeed.

It will be interesting to see the path with which Microsoft treads concerning the development of Windows 10.

Silicon Power Introduces the Complete Lineup of Apple Storage Solutions

Apple devices are highly popular, but they do in most cases come with one flaw and that is the upgradability. Luckily there are ways to increase this for the most part and Silicon Power has now introduced a new complete line of Apple storage devices for all sorts of different devices. With USB flash drives, expansion cards, portable hard drives and external SSD, the SP Apple Series is about to satisfy all kinds of memory expansion needs.

The need for extra storage on apple devices is great, especially considering the markups you pay for the models with more storage and the number one complaint from Apple users is “not enough storage available”.

Among the new products is the SP xDrive Z30 Lightning USB drive that features a dual-interface design with both USB 3.0 and Lightning for easy connection to iOS handsets as well as desktop systems. Not every device has a lightning connector and that is where the second new flash drive comes into play, the SP Mobile C80 dual USB drive that features a USB 3.0 and a Type-C USB connector.

The storage issue isn’t limited to portable iOS devices, Mac computers have the same issue. For this, SP introduced the xDrive Series expansion cards L12 and L13 as well as the rugged external Armor hard disk drives. The xDrivev expansion cards are tailored to fit seamless with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models while the A65M and A85M external hard disks offer a shockproof and waterproof design for users on the go.

The final category is for those who need that extra speed and where every second counts. We’re naturally talking about external SSDs for Mac systems. SP’s Thunder T11 external SSD offers a two-channel Thunderbolt interface with a data transmission of up to 10GB/s throughput in each direction. Sadly that doesn’t result in the blazing fast speeds one could hope for with a rating of just 340MB/s reading and 280MB/s writing, but it should improve the latency and access times over the slower USB 3.0 interface.

SilverStone Releases PTS01 USB 3.0 Enclosure for NUCs

Small form factor PCs such as the Intel NUC systems are great and they provide an impressive amount of power in a very compact shape. They do however have one issue most of the times and that is when it comes to storage. Most of the NUCs only support mSATA drives which will increase the costs per GB over 2.5-inch sized drives as well as generally limit the available storage options. SilverStone now released a new drive enclosure that will fix that issue by adding almost any 2.5-inch drive to such a system via a USB 3.0 connection.

Now USB 3 drive enclosures aren’t anything new, but SilverStone’s new PTS01 drive enclosure also matches the layout and compatibility of the NUCs or SilverStone Petit Series chassis. The PTS01 is built with aluminium and steel that both helps with the heat dissipation and keep the drive operating at an optimal efficiency. The enclosure has room for one 2.5-inch SSD or HDD with a height up to 9mm and it connects through a micro USB 3.0 type B cable.

The smart design and compatibility also mean that you don’t have to find a new way to place everything just because you expand with a SilverStone PTS01 enclosure. Being compatible with the NUC mounting options, you can simply put it between the NUC and your mounting system such as the backside of your monitor and forget all about the addition except for the increased storage abilities.

The recommended end-user price for SilverStone’s PTS01 is set to $29.20 USD plus tax and it will be available on December 2nd.

Google Photo Update Helps Save Space On Your Device

We all love taking pictures, first it was that camera you took around and wound up after every shot. These days though you either have that high-definition camera or if you are caught unprepared for the moment you use your mobile phone. The only problem with using your mobile phone to take all those life changing moments on camera is that you often store other things, such as your music or apps on there too. With so many things on your phone, Google Photo hopes to make keeping those memories slightly easier.

Stated in a post on Google+, Google Photos gets several new features in an update released today. First up is its ability to “Free Up Space” via a new button on the settings screen. This button starts to bulk-delete copies of photos, but don’t worry, it only does this to photos that have been backed up.

Users can now also downgrade their photos from “Original Quality” to “High Quality”,  a process which will create a smaller file by compressing your photo, this means you can store more photos, as long as you don’t want to view them in their full glory all the time.

How often do you find your space running out on your phone or tablet? Are these changes welcome additions or just options for those holidays pictures you might take next year?

HP Reveals 9GB/s Capable Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro PCIe Storage Solution

HP’s Z Turbo Drive G2 was an impressive storage solution in itself thanks to the use of a proper NVMe drive, but it is no match for the recently revealed HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro. The Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro is a PCIe storage solution with up to 2TB total storage and transfer speeds of up to 9GB/s. To put that speed into perspective, it is 16 times the speed of an SATA SSD and that on a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot.

HP’s Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro is essentially a hardware RAID controller for M.2 NVMe SSDs and supports up to four of these drives, but is shipped with only two 256GB or two 512GB modules. The specifications and details are limited, but we can see that the M.2 PCIe NVMe SSDs on their own have a performance rating of 2150 MB/s reading and 1260 MB/s writing for the 256GB model while the 512GB model can perform up to 1550MB/s writing. The random IOPS performance is rated to 300K read and 100K write. Going from there, we can use normal RAID speed calculation depending on whether we set the card to RAID 0, 1, 5, or 10. Each NVMe SSD is rated for a 292TB total bytes written endurance.

The HP Z Turbo Drive Quad Pro is planned for availability in November with a price starting at $779 for a card with two 256GB modules. A fully loaded card with 256GB modules will cost $1376 while individual modules start at $299.

Microsoft Ends Unlimited OneDrive Storage Due to ‘User Abuse’

Microsoft’s cloud storage service has proved to be incredibly popular due to its unlimited data policy. However, reports from The Wall Street Journal suggest some users have taken advantage of the unlimited storage and forced Microsoft to cap the data to 1 Terabyte. Additionally, Microsoft decided to remove the 100GB and 200GB options and implement a basic 50GB tier for £1.99/$1.99 per month. On another note, the service’s free storage is now being cut from 15GB to 5GB.

Microsoft released a statement regarding the revised OneDrive policy and said:

“Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 [terabytes] per user or 14,000 times the average,”

Although, the rollout shouldn’t affect existing customers:

“If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage.”

“Current customers of standalone OneDrive storage plans (such as a 100 or 200 GB plans) are not affected by these changes.”

This isn’t a surprising revelation as unlimited storage usually involves a fair usage policy. Microsoft’s was quite naive in offering truly uncapped storage and should have known how some users might behave. Although, I strongly believe if a company advertises unlimited storage, it shouldn’t restrict the amount of data allowed per month.

Microsoft Using Anemic Samsung TLC SSD in Surface Book

With the first Surface Books shipping, we’re getting a better picture of what Microsoft’s new convertible looks like. According to the latest reports, Microsoft chose to use a slower TLC SSD instead of a caster MLC model. While mostly offering a superb SSD performance, the TLC-based Samsung PM951 falls short with its write speeds.

For the 128GB model, the Surface Book clocks a meagre 150MB/s and the 256GB model only manages about 280MB/s. Unlike the popular SM951 which uses MLC NAND, the PM951 sports 19nm TLC which is inherently slower. Due to this, the PM951 has write speeds similar to 2011 and 2012 SSDs from 3-4 years ago like the Samsung 830 and 840. In fact, the 150MB/s speed for the 128GB is pretty much on par with HDDs which is telling.

While TLC is part of the issue, the bigger problem is the lack of NAND parallelism. Each NAND die has speed limits and SSDs gain their superb speeds by writing to many NAND dies simultaneously. As NAND lithography shrinks and denser methods like TLC are used, fewer and fewer NAND dies will be needed for a certain capacity.This all happens before we even consider other limitations like M.2 which limits the number of NAND dies as well.

There are benefits to using TLC and lower lithographies, chiefly the ability to hit a higher capacity at lower cost. In order to compensate the decreased NAND parallelism, we must turn to things like 3D-VNAND and NVME, which can raise costs. On the other hand, the prices OEMs charge for storage should be more than enough to ensure only top end SSDs make it into premium products.

For the Surface Book, the increase to higher storage capacities is pretty insane. For an increase of 768GB of storage, Microsoft charges about $1000 which is well above what Samsung charges. For an increase of a more modest 256GB, there is a $500 price bump. These cost increases would more than cover going to faster SSDs like the SM951 or PM987. Given these prices and the premium nature of the Surface Book, it seems natural that Microsoft would have made sure storage is up to par. Hopefully, Microsoft and other OEMs will take note of this with their future products.

Call of Duty Black Ops 3 Storage Requirement Revealed

We’ve all been there, a brand new game has come out and your Steam/Origin/uPlay/Insert your chosen game utility here folder tells you to make some space, why? Because the new game you want is 40GB+ in size. Now Treyarch Studios has updated the Steam product page with the last piece of the system requirement puzzle, a large 60GB of storage space piece.

This isn’t a huge shock to the system, if you’ve been playing on the PC for longer than an hour you will know that most big titles will require anywhere from 30 to 60GB+ of storage space, just take a look at Grand Theft Auto V with a requirement of 65GB.

It’s not quite clear if the “NUK3TOWN” bonus map is included in that figure considering most of the customers for this game will likely have pre-ordered it, we’ll just have to wait and find out. For those that do not know, here are the system specifications direct from the Steam product page:

Do you think Black Ops 3 will impress the PC community with this new requirement or will it die off in the horde of zombie console gamers? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments.

Western Digital Just Bought SanDisk

Western Digital is one of the leading factors in traditional storage, both for consumers and enterprises alike, but a lot of the future will be in solid state drives and they naturally don’t want to be left out of that race. Western Digital isn’t entirely new to the solid state area and they already have products that utilize NAND. That position should be strengthened even more now that they have acquired SanDisk. The purchase is composed of both cash and stock.

“The offer values SanDisk common stock at $86.50 per share or a total equity value of approximately $19 billion, using a five-day volume weighted average price ending on October 20, 2015 of $79.60 per share of Western Digital common stock. If the previously announced investment in Western Digital by Unisplendour Corporation Limited closes prior to this acquisition, Western Digital will pay $85.10 per share in cash and 0.0176 shares of Western Digital common stock per share of SanDisk common stock; and if the Unisplendour transaction has not closed or has been terminated, $67.50 in cash and 0.2387 shares of Western Digital common stock per share of SanDisk common stock. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies.”

At around 19 billion, this is certainly no small deal. Western Digital will gain a company with 27-years of experience in some of the best and most impressive NAND products and create a stable future for the company where they can compete on all fronts, including the NVMe based drives that we’d all like to have these days. With 15 thousand combined patents between them, they also have a strong foundry against the fierce competition in the storage market.

The transaction is still subject to approval by SanDisk shareholders, but both boards of directors in the two companies have agreed. The deal is expected to get finalized in the third quarter of 2016.