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.

Micron Prepping MX300 With 3D TLC NAND For April

In addition to launching a new series of enterprise SSDs, Micron has also updated us on their plans for their consumer and OEM client business. While it’s interesting and all to read about enterprise drives, most of you probably won’t need the performance or be able to shell out the big bucks for them. To that end, Micron is planning on a number of releases for their Crucial consumer brand, the big one being the MX300.

With a pedigree that stretches back years from the M4, M500, M550, MX100 and MX200, the MX300 will be the first to utilize TLC. Prior to that, all drives had used the faster and more durable MLC. This won’t be any plain old TLC though as the MX300 will be using Micron’s first 3D TLC NAND. This TLC will come in 384Gbit dies and feature better performance and endurance compared to the planar TLC found in the BX200. No word has been revealed about the controller, but I would expect the Marvell 88SS1074 since that controller is optimized for TLC and the M series have always used Marvell controllers. I would expect the MX300 feature some kind of SLC NAND cache as well.

In addition to the MX300, Micron will also be releasing 2 OEM client SSDs as well. While not targeted to consumers, they still might be available in retail channels. These are the 1100 and 2100 series, both with unknown NAND. We can make some guesses about controllers as one is Marvell M.2 SATA and likely the 88SS1074 and the other is Silicon Motion Industries M.2 PCIe, likely the 2260.

Micron also expected 3D NAND to hit the data center lineups later in the year. There is no timeline yet on when we might see Intel and Micron’s vaunted 3D XPoint. Hopefully, we will be able to bring you some performance numbers for the MX300 once it launches later this month.

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.

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.

Sony Enters SSD Market with Budget Offering

As SSDs become ever more mainstream, more and more mainstream companies are starting to jump into the market. So far, we’ve already seen AMD and Panasonic jump aboard with OCZ based SSDs and the market is getting a little more crowded with a new entrant. Sony has just announced their first consumer SSD, the simply named SLW-M. The drive comes in 2 capacities so far with 240 and 480GB options to test out the waters.

Based off of the Phison PS3110-S10 controller, the SLW-M uses Toshiba A19 TLC NAND backed by a 128MB DRAM cache. Phison is likely providing the whole solution to Sony with firmware and design bundled in. While sequential speeds are standard at 560 MB/s read and 530 MB/s write, the use of TLC with the already budget S10 controller reveals the budget nature of this drive. Expect performance to be similar to the OCZ Trion 100 but maybe a bit lower unless pseudo-SLC caching is enabled as well. Compared to HDDs though, the SLW-M should still be light years ahead.

One advantage Sony has is the pricing which is at $90 and $150 respectively for the 240 and 480GB models. While a bit higher than comparable drives, we can likely expect retail pricing to be a bit lower if history has taught us anything. Accessories include Sony’s SSD ToolBox which is a rebranded Phison ToolBox, Acronis True Image 2015 and a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter. Most importantly, the drive carries Sony’s brand which still carries a lot of weight in the Asian markets the drive currently sells in.

OCZ Introduces Trion 150 SSD Series

OCZ already showcased their Trion 150 series SSD during CES 2016 in Vegas and now it has been officially introduced. The new Trion 150 series replaces the current Trion 100 series and it is built with Toshiba’s 15nm Triple-Level-Cell NAND technology for even better performance on a budget.

Making the move from traditional mechanical hard disk drives to the faster solid state drives is simply something everyone has to experience. The difference is like day and night, but not everyone has the budget to get the flagship SSDs on the market. That is where these drives come into play as they still offer a great performance but don’t come with the heavy price.

The Trion 150 with its Toshiba controller and 15nm TLC NAND can bring you speeds of up to 550 MB/s reading and 530MB/s writing while the random performance still provides up to 91K IOPS reading and 64K IOPS writing. These specifications will decrease your boot time as well as any data access significantly and an SSD is an upgrade that every system should get. The OCZ Trion 150 will be available in capacities of 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB which should cover most people’s needs.

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.

The new 15nm Toshiba TLC NAND 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 at once, but that’s a problem for 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.

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.

“Our Trion 100 series solid state drives quickly became a top seller for us and are popular among end users seeking a performance boost over hard drives at a very reasonable price,” said Steve Fingerhut, Sr. Vice President and GM of SSD BU, at Toshiba America Electronics Corporation. “We are continually looking for ways to improve both SSD real world performance and value to end users and are pleased to introduce the new Trion 150 series which leverages the latest Toshiba 15nm Triple-Level Cell NAND flash to deliver an even better storage solution for value-oriented mobile and desktop users.”

The Trion 150 is expected to be on par if not below the Trion 100 pricing, so that is great news for consumers. I also really like the new drive design, a little fresher than the previous. We will naturally have full reviews of this series ready for you shortly.

MyDigitalSSD BP5e Bullet Proof 5 Eco 240GB SSD Review

Introduction


In today’s storage review, I’m taking a closer look at a solid state drive from a company that we don’t test quite as often, but it isn’t the first MyDigitalSSD drive have tested either. The newest MyDigitalSSD drive is the BP5e that stands for Bullet Proof 5 Eco and it is a 7mm slim solid state drive that will fit into pretty much any system for a performance boost over a mechanical hard disk drive. The new BP5e series comes in capacities from 240GB and up to 960GB, and the large size is one that becomes more and more popular due to decreasing prices. I’m however taking the 240GB drive for a spin today, a perfect entry-level drive.

There were a few hints in the first paragraph such as Eco and mechanical drive replacement, so you might already have guessed that this isn’t a new flagship drive but rather a budget drive for those that wish something that is faster than a traditional hard disk drive, but don’t want to spend a lot of money at the same time.

The new MyDigitalSSD BP5e drive is built with Triple Level Cell (TLC) NAND which lowers the production cost at the same time as it increases the possible capacity on the same size, but it does come with a few drawbacks. TLC NAND doesn’t have the same endurance as MLC and the performance of long-lasting copies will be affected, how much will be shown in our benchmarks on the following pages.

The TLC NAND is made my Toshiba and it is their TLC Toggle 2.0 NAND. It is paired with Phison’s newest S10 controller (PS3110-S10) with the latest firmware for optimal performance. The two coupled should provide some great reading speeds as well as writes. The drive is rated for up to 565MB/s speeds, but that’s just when reading.

MyDigitalSSD ships each BP5e drive over-provisioned for improved Random Read/Write performance and IOPS, extended performance endurance to minimize sluggishness as the drive fills with data, prolonged drive life, added drive reliability, and low power consumption.

The BP5e in itself is a very simple drive composed of a black two-piece snap-together enclosure with a sticker on the top. Inside we find a 2/3-long PCB that only utilizes the one side with four Toshiba TLC NAND chips, the Phison S10 controller, and a Nanya 128MB DDR3 cache chip.

Feature Highlights

  • Unequaled price to performance ratio
  • PHISON PS3110 controller
  • Toshiba TLC Toggle Flash
  • Large storage capacity
  • Easy installation
  • High-speed SATA 6Gb/s (SATA III) interface – Backward compatible to SATA 3Gb/s (SATA II)
  • Withstand extreme shock and vibration
  • Support DDR3 I/O interface
  • Power management supported
  • NCQ command set. TRIM, RAID, and SMART support
  • 2-year warranty

Specifications

Packaging

The package is quite colourful and presents a full-colour image of the drive itself along with the name and what it can do right on the front.

The rear of the box has a little more information about the drive itself along with a feature list and a capacity sticker to show what model is inside.

Inside the box, we only find the drive itself and no other accessories. Not like we need a long installation guide to connect a storage drive, it’s not rocket science. A penny saved on production can make the difference in the retail pricing.

 

ADATA Premier SP550 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


I’ve had the pleasure to review several new drives with triple-level-cell (TLC) NAND recently and today it is time to take a closer look at ADATA’s Premier SP550 solid state drive. The drive is equipped with said TLC flash and an SMI controller to provide an affordable performance upgrade. The ADATA Premier SP550 is available in capacities from 120GB and all the way up to 960GB, I’m however taking a closer look at the 256GB model today.

Let us start with the basics. The ADATA Premier SP550 is a 2.5-inch solid state drive with a 7mm height that makes it a perfect fit for ultrabooks. ADATA also packed a drive spacer along for notebooks that require a 9.5mm drive. This makes it suitable for almost any system, mobile or stationary.

As previously mentioned, the SP550 utilities TLC flash and an SMI2256 controller that comes with all the features that you want and a couple more. The drive naturally supports the basics such as NCQ, SMART, TRIM and Garbage collection, but it also features a low-density parity check error correction code (LDPC ECC) and RAID engine. The drive also supports SLC Caching and comes with a DDR3 DRAM cache buffer for sustained transfer speeds. All that along with Data Shaping technology should ensure data integrity and stability.

The endurance is rated for 90TB total bytes written (TBW) and the SP550 has a mean time before failure rating of 1.5 million hours. The 240GB model is rated for a sequential read performance up to 560MB/s and a sequential write performance up to 510MB/s. That is pretty good for a small drive that’s TLC based. The random performance is rated for 75K IOPS on both read and write operations. Part of the good performance rating comes from the intelligent SLC caching algorithm of the drive that allows NAND flash memory to operate in SLC mode and boosts SSD read and write performance.

A feature not mentioned above is the DevSleep, or Device Sleep, that in supported systems will send the drive to an even deeper sleep state where it consumes close to zero amount of power. Instead of keeping a data channel open for a wake-up signal, the DevSleep uses a power signal to wake the drive back up.

ADATA also got an SSD toolbox that makes maintenance of the drive an easy thing. You can quickly and conveniently configure, optimize, and monitor SSDs, from overall status to specific drive health and lifespan info. Speaking of lifespan, the ADATA Premier SP550 is backed by a 3-year warranty.

Inside the two-piece encasing, we find a 2/3 sized PCB where we see that nothing but quality components were used. The NAND is rom SKhynix, the cache from NANYA, and the controller from Silicon Motion.

Features

  • TLC flash with SMI controller Capacity Model Number EAN Code
  • Advanced LDPC ECC Technology
  • RAID Engine & Data Shaping for ultimate protection
  • Intelligent SLC Caching for improved performance
  • High TBW for extended drive longevity
  • DEVSLP (Device Sleep) supported

Specifications

  • Capacities: 120GB / 240GB / 480GB / 960GB
  • Controller: SMI
  • NAND Flash Memory: Toggle TLC (3-bit MLC)
  • 7mm 2.5-inch SATA 6Gb/sec (SATA III) interface
  • ECC Capability: Advanced hardware LDPC engine
  • Dimensions (L x W x T): 100.45 x 69.85 x 7mm *Varies depending on exact configuration
  • Operating Temperature: 0~70°C
  • Storage Temperature: -40~85°C
  • Shock Resistance: 1500G/0.5ms
  • Weight: 68g / 2.4oz
  • MTBF: 1,500,000 hours
  • Warranty: 3 years

Package and Accessories

ADATA packed the SP550 in a simple white box that has a transparent window showcasing the included drive itself. The front also features all the relevant features that the drive sports.

The rear of the box has all the details in multiple languages as well as the rated speeds.

Inside the box we find the drive itself as well as a 9.5mm drive adapter and a quick start guide.

Micron Forecasts Surprise Loss In Current Quarter

Being one of the biggest DRAM and NAND manufacturers in the market, Micron have chugged along steadily, with the rise of smartphones and tablets helping offset the losses on the PC side. This is set to change very soon though with them forecasting a loss in the current quarter (Q4 2015), the first in a long while. The loss comes due to the naturally weak first quarter of the year, increased investments, pricing pressure and low demand.

Overall, they are expecting to lose between $50 to $120 million, or about 5-12 cents per share. This comes as revenues are expected to fall about $200 million short of analysts expectations. This comes after the company have made a number of acquisitions including Tidal Systems for their SSD controller and Inotera for their DRAM business. Micron is also investing heavily into TLC NAND, 3D XPoint and 3D NAND so it’s not as bad as it first may seem as the investments will hamper their fiscal results, but ultimately should pay off if the investments go as expected.

Coupled with the expected low PC demand, they are also facing heavy pricing pressure from competitors that has led huge price drops for both SSDs and DDR4 over the past few months. This is great news for consumers making DDR4 based systems much more affordable and open to a mini price-war involving Micron and their competitors. With increasing expenses in a time of falling revenues, it’s not surprising that Micron is facing some immediate trouble. The incoming investments though should help bump Micron back into the black soon enough and we will be monitoring this story closely as it develops in the near future.

Do you own any Micron products yourself? The company portfolio includes Crucial for consumer based memory and storage, Micron themselves for enterprise and business class products and Lexar Media who manufacturer flash memory for cameras and recording equipment.

Crucial BX200 960GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


It has been almost a year since Crucial introduced the BX100 SSD and set a new standard for how much SSD you could get for your money; bringing large capacity and fast storage in the reach of more people who were dissatisfied with the slow performance of their mechanical hard disk and didn’t want to sacrifice capacity with a smaller SSD. Today I’m taking a closer look at the next step on Crucial’s goal as they just released the Crucial BX200 SSD in three capacities and at a more than good price.

The Crucial BX200 is the perfect entry-level SSD for anyone who wants to take the step away from mechanical storage, but it isn’t exclusive for those people. It could also be a great choice for people who purchase their third, fourth, or fifth SSD as you get more capacity than you are used to. The Crucial BX200 is 13 times faster than a hard drive and at the same time it is 40 times more energy-efficient. It also boots your system a lot faster and almost instantaneously on a modern operating system. Even older systems will reap the benefits of the fast boot times and it also decreases your application and game loading times significantly.

The BX200 isn’t just Crucial’s first drive to use Micron’s 16nm TLC NAND, it is the first overall drive to use Micron’s new TLC NAND. Triple-Level-Cell NAND is capable of storing more bits per cell and thereby reduce both power consumption and costs, but it does cost a little performance and endurance. The two downsides to this should however not be anything that any normal user ever will notice nor be affected by.

Crucial also used a newer controller in the BX200 over the predecessor. The new BX200 comes with a SiliconMotion SM2256 controller where the BX100 used the SM2246. The Crucial BX200 comes with a good performance rating, both when it comes to sequential and random performance. The sequential read performance is rated to 540MB/s reading and 490MB/s writing. The random performance is rated to 66K IOPS reading and 78K IOPS writing. These figures are almost all better than the predecessor, only the random read performance went down a little bit.

As previously mentioned, TLC NAND does affect performance a little bit, but not much and when used the right way it’s barely noticeable. In return, you get a great efficiency and low power consumption where the 480GB model is rated for just 150mW power draw when active, 65mW when idle, 4.6W maximum, and just 10mW when DevSleep is activated.

The Crucial BX200 comes with a mean time before failure (MTBF) of 1..5 million hours, same as the BX100 and MX200 series do. The total bytes written (TBW) rating is set to 72TB. The most important factor in this area is however the warranty and Crucial are backing the BX200 with a 3-year warranty. My personal opinion is that this is more than enough as you’re most likely going to upgrade to a newer drive after that time.

The BX200 comes in a default 2.5-inch form factor and with a height of 7mm. It is available in three capacities, 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB and the drives come with a respective MSRP of £66.49 ($84.99), £116.99 ($149.99), and £234.49 ($299.99). The drives all come with a 9.5mm adapter bracket to make it better suited for laptops that require this size and they all come with a copy of Acronis True Image HD included. Acronis True Image is a very useful cloning and backup program to have and it makes the move between your old and new drive a lot easier. A few clicks, a little wait, and you’re ready to rock on with faster speeds.

Crucial also updated the Crucial Storage Executive at the same time as they released the new BX200. The SSD Toolbox helps you to keep the firmware updated and shows you the drive’s status and health. It also enables encryption reset and burst performance with momentum cache mode. New in this version is the user configurable over provisioning for enhanced endurance and performance, something quite a few people will welcome the ability to manage themselves.

Inside the SSD we find a simple PCB that is well utilized with 16 Micron 16nm TLC NAND chips, two Micron Cache chips, and the Silicon Motion SM2256 SSD controller.

The casing is the simple snap-together casing that we’ve seen a lot on SSDs over the past couple of years and it works completely without screws and eliminates another weak point in that direction.

Advanced Features

  • Multistep Data Integrity Algorithm
  • Thermal Monitoring
  • SLC Write Acceleration
  • Active Garbage Collection
  • TRIM Support
  • Self-Monitoring and Reporting Technology (SMART)
  • Error Correction Code (ECC)
  • Device Sleep extreme low power mode (DEVSLP)

Packaging

Crucial’s SSDs always come in a beautiful wrapping and it is no different this time. The front of the box displays the drive itself, the series, and the capacity size that has been packed inside.

The rear of the box contains a little more information such as the drive size and what’s included in the box. It also provides all the different certification logos and a link where to find more resources for the drive.

Inside the box is a 9.5mm drive adapter next to the drive itself as well as a leaflet with your Acronis True Image HD software activation code.

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.

Corsair Silently Launched Force LE SSD Product Page

As I was surfing around the internet tonight, looking what’s new and what I might have missed, I came across a product page that I hadn’t seen before. I quickly checked my press releases and couldn’t find anything there either and that is rare. The new product that Corsair silently listed on their website is the Corsair Force LE solid state drive built with the latest TLC NAND technology.

Triple-Level-Cell NAND allows for bigger drives at a lower cost without sacrificing much performance, allowing more users to enter the world of SSDs and reap the benefits of solid storage over mechanical ones. The Corsair Force LE is listed with great features such as SmartECC and SmartRefresh for reliable data retention and error correction, low power consumption thanks to TLC and DEVSLP power saving mode as well as dynamic wear-leveling and garbage collection. Corsair’s SSD Toolbox software is also listed to be compatible with these new drives.

You will be able to get the Corsair Force LE with 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB capacity and the series is rated for up to 560MB/s sequential reads and 530MB/s writes. The random QD32 performance is rated at 85K IOPS reading and 60K IOPS writing; those aren’t bad figures at all.

The drive is backed by a 3-year warranty and the 960GB model has a TBW rating of 240TB, 0.87 drive writes per day (DWPD). There was no price or availability listed on the product page.

Micron Buys Tidal Systems – Acquires In-House SSD Controller

Right after announcing their 16nm TLC plans, Micron has acquired an SSD controller firm. Tidal Systems, made up of engineers from Link-A-Media Devices (LAMD) and SandForce was founded last year and has managed to create 2 of their own SDD controllers already. With in-house controllers, Micron will be able to iterate more quickly and provide a more unified SSD platform.

For the longest time, Micron has had to rely on third-party controllers to power their SSDs. While Silicon Motion does provide a somewhat complete controller and firmware package, Micron’s main supplier Marvell does not. This has meant that Micron has long had to write their own firmware for most of their SSDs. With the controller now in-house as well, Micron has room to reduce costs and also build on their long expertise in writing firmware.

Tidal Systems also brings their expertise around Low-Density Parity Check (LDPC) to the table. As NAND transitions to use TLC (Triple-Level Cell) and QLC (Quad-Level Cell) on ever smaller lithographies, the number of errors is sure to go up. With LDPC, SSD makers will be able to offset some of the error and endurance issues.

Even with Tidal Systems in-house now though, don’t expect any Micron drives to ship with the new controllers anytime soon. Toshiba took quite a while to integrate their OCZ controllers with their drives. With this purchase, it only leaves SanDisk as a major NAND and SSD producer without their own controller. It is critical though that SanDisk has been able to do the most with Marvell controllers, leveraging their in-house firmware to eek out performance that rival’s Samsung’s.

Thank Tom’s Hardware for providing us with this information 

Micron to start selling TLC SSDs this quarter

Micron Technologies is finally moving into the TLC (Triple-Level Cell) NAND market, with shipments of consumer SDDs starting in Q4 this year. TLC is generally cheaper than MLC, holding up to 3 bits compared to the 2 with the older technology. This allows for cheaper SSDs as it requires fewer NAND dies to reach a certain capacity compared to MLC. By Q3 2016, Micron is expecting about 50% of their SSDs will be using TLC.

Along with Intel, Micron’s joint venture IMFT has largely focused on shrinking the process with MLC in order to gain die savings. IMFT was one of the earliest NAND producers to reach 20 and 16nm. On the other hand, SanDisk/Toshiba and Samsung have long been using TLC in their SSDs, preferring to move to new processes slower. Samsung for instance, released their first TLC  drive back in 2013 and SanDisk their’s in 2014.

Combining their leading 16nm process with TLC should offer great savings for SSD buyers. TLC does come with a number of drawbacks though, most notably lower endurance and performance. TLC generally only can last 1,000 P/E (program/erase) cycles while MLC dos much better at 3,000. Even with only 1,000 cycles though, TLC should be more than enough for most consumers, especially if a bit of extra NAND is set aside. On the performance front, a caching system like those used in the Samsung 840/850 EVO or SanDisk Ultra II can mitigate most of the issues. Micron first trialed their caching system with the MX200 which should be a great starting point to work from for the TLC drives.

Micron has not yet revealed any details for their TLC drives. Intel too, given their joint IMFT venture may be trying out TLC drives in the near future. Combined with 3D XPoint and 3D NAND from SanDisk/Toshiba, 2016 should be a pretty good year for SSDs.

First 2TB Consumer SSDs Are Now Available

Samsung announced that they would be releasing 2TB versions of their popular 850 Evo and 850 Pro families a couple of months ago, but thus far no one has spotted the drives out in the wild. That is up until now, they have been spotted in shops, are available through Samsung directly, and can be ordered from multiple online shops with others taking pre-orders until stock arrives.

While 2TB SSDs aren’t anything new in themselves, this is the firs time that we get this capacity on the consumer level and at a more reasonable price. Both drives are built with 40nm V-NAND, but not the same type. The Evo drive is built with TLC Toggle while the Pro is built with MLC Toggle NAND. The new Samsung 2TB drives are using 2GB LPDDR3 Cache to help with the performance and utilize the Samsung MHX controller.

The two series aren’t far from each other when it comes to performance. The Pro can read with 550MB/s where the Evo only does 540MB/s in sequential operations and the random performance of the Pro is 2K higher and comes in at 100K IOPS. The write performance is identical on both series with 520MB/s sequential and 90K IOPS random 4K.

I mentioned earlier that these drives come at a reasonable price, whether that is true or not probably depends on your absolute needs. The Samsung 850 Pro can be had for around 900 Euro while the  Samsung 850 Evo is a little cheaper and can be had for around 720 Euro. Those prices are actual list prices and might variate depending on the retailer. The MSRP for the drives has been set to $1000 and $800 respectively.

Toshiba Introduces Q300 and Q300 Pro SSDs

Toshiba announced two new internal solid state drive series with large capacity and great performance. The two new drives are the Q300 series built for a balance of performance and value and the Q300 Pro series aimed at the enthusiasts and gamers. Both drives are built with Toshiba’s own controllers and NAND, and they use Adaptive Sized SLC cache technology to increase the performance.

The Toshiba Q300 series is built with Triple-Level-Cell (TLC) NAND and it uses the TC358790 controller. The Q300 comes with capacity options up to 960GB, making it an ideal upgrade from that old, slow, and loud mechanical hard drive. This SSD delivers quiet operation, low power consumption, and tough shock resistance for greater long-term durability. All in a 7mm 2.5-inch design and backed by a 3-year warranty.

The Toshiba Q300 Pro series is built for those that need that extra bit of performance. It has a Toshiba TC58NC1000 controller and Toshiba’s own 2-bit MLC NAND on the insides. That brings greater performance over the TLC NAND, but also a capacity reduction and the Q300 Pro is only available up to a size of 512GB.

The sequential performance is almost equal between the two drives. The Q300 can read with 550MB/s and write with 530MB/s while the Q300 Pro reads and writes with 550MB/s and 520MB/s. When we look at the random performance, we see that the drives aren’t so equal anymore. The Q300 has a random performance rating up to 87K/83K IOPS read/write where the Q300 Pro does 92K/63K IOPS.

The endurance rating is another place where the two differentiate. The 512GB Pro model has an endurance of 320TB total bytes written while the Q300 480GB drive only has a rating of 120TB total bytes written. That is a difference. The Pro model also consumes less power, making it a more optimal choice for notebook users. The last difference between the two is the warranty and the Q300 Pro offers an additional 2-years, making it 5-years in total for the Q300 Pro versus the 3-years for the Q300.

The new Toshiba Q300 and Q300 Pro series SSDs are available now. The MSRP for the Q300 Pro Series is $124.99 for 128GB, $199.99 for 256GB, and $389.99 for 512GB. The Q300 Series has an MSRP of $99.99 for 120GB, $159.99 for 240GB, $309.99 for 480GB, and $449.99 for 960GB.

ADATA Launches the Premier SP550 SATA SSD

ADATA launched their newest drive, the ADATA SP550 SATA3 SSD, that is said to bring a great performance vs cost ratio. The drive is built with SMI’s SM2256 controller that comes with plenty of features as well as triple-level cell NAND, SLC Caching, and DDR3 cache, which when coupled should create an amazing drive.

The ADATA SP550 is available in four different capacities, 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB, a choice for everyone. The drive comes in a standard 2.5-inch 7mm form factor and is bundled with a 9.5mm adapter to make it compatible with laptops that have the bigger slots. The SMI2256 controller also supports DevSleep, which is another bonus for laptop and netbook users as it will draw a lot less power when idling. Besides DevSleep, you also get LDPC ECC (low-density parity check error correction) and RAID engine for enhanced data protection, stability, and reliability.

One of the things that ADATA highlight on this drive, besides the performance vs cost ratio, is the overall lifetime thanks to the TBW rating that it comes with. The two smallest drives have a 90TB TBW rating while the 480GB can write 180TB and the 960GB version has a total bytes written rating of 360TB. The read performance is rated up to 560MB/s on all models and 510MB/s write performance, except the 120GB version that only can 410MB/s when writing. The 4K random performance is rated to 75K reading and writing for the 3 largest models while the small one only does 60K reading and 70K writing.

The three small drives are already listed for purchase while the 960GB still has to be dispatched. The 120GB can be found starting at €54, the 240GB from €90 and the 480GB starting from €180. So a fair guess would be 360 Euros for the 960GB version, when available. The drives are backed by a 3-year warranty.

OCZ TRION 100 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


I recently took a closer look at the TRION 100 480GB solid-state drive from OCZ and today the time has come for the 240GB TRION 100. The TRION 100 series is the new value series from OCZ where you don’t get the fastest drive on the market, but instead an unbeatable value for very little money. A lot of good things have come from OCZ since they became a part of Toshiba, and the TRION 100 is surely one of them.

This TRION 100 SSD is a cost-effective performance upgrade that creates an optimal mix of value and performance for both notebooks and desktop systems. The drive is based around a Toshiba SSD controller and also uses Toshiba’s A19 TLC NAND. It is the first OCZ drive series to feature TLC NAND and the first consumer SSD on the market with Toshiba’s TLC NAND.

Ultrabooks, laptops, and netbooks can all benefit greatly from this drive over a mechanical solution. The TRION 100 is OCZ’s first drive to feature DevSleep, making it a perfect companion in a mobile system with its lower power consumption. It only consumes 6mW in DEVSLP mode, 830mW while idle, and 4.8W when active. But the drive is equally great for desktop upgrades on a budget. Home theater PCs, family PCs, and even entry-level gaming rigs can get a great performance boost from this drive for a low cost.

OCZ is now basing their endurance rating on the JEDEC industry standard instead of the previously used worst-case scenario. This 240GB model is rated for 60TB Total Bytes Written (TBW) or 55GB per day and a Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) of 1.5M hours.

The series is also backed by OCZ’s amazing ShieldPlus warranty where you got a no-hassle, no trouble customer service if the worst case should happen. All you need is the serial number and you’ll get a replacement and a return label for the old one. That is a warranty that everyone should provide and the TRION has 3-years of it.

This might be a value series, but the TRION 100 still performs pretty good with a sequential performance up to 550MB/s while reading and 520MB/s while writing. The random IOPS come in at 90K for reading and 43K for writing.

The drive is assembled without any screws or other parts. The cleverly designed chassis allows the PCB to slide right on in and into position after which the two part case can snap together. No need for any screws at all.

The PCB fills about two-thirds of the drive and it is only one side of it that is used. The controller is a Toshiba TC58NC and each of the four TLC NAND packages is 64GB big. We also see a Nanya 128MB RAM chip.

The TRION 100 supports SMART, NCQ, TRIM, Idle Garbage collection, and the aforementioned DevSleep. It is backward compatible to earlier SATA revisions.

Being a budget drive, we only find the drive in itself and the installation manual inside the box. Notebook users won’t need any mounting kits as the 7mm high drive just slides into the appropriate slot. Neither will most desktop users as there aren’t many PC cases out there that don’t support 2.5-inch drives natively by now.

Features

  • Next Gen TLC Technology: Built with premium Toshiba TLC NAND flash
  • Toshiba Controller & Firmware: Leverages Toshiba SSD controller technology
  • Performance Made Affordable: Superior Balance of price and performance
  • Better Battery Life: Optimized for lower energy consumption for longer battery life
  • World-class Quality and Reliability: 100% Toshiba technology built into every drive, keeping data secure
  • ShieldPlus Warranty: Provides an elite, worry-free customer service experience

Samsung Launches 2TB 850 Pro and 850 EVO SSDs

Super sized SSDs are not new as both SanDisk, Intel, as others have launched 2TB SATA SSDs already. However, those drives have all been enterprise or server oriented. Samsung has just announced the first 2TB consumer SSDs, with the new drives coming from the current 850 Pro and 850 EVO families. Pricing is set at $1000 and $800 respectively which in the grand scheme of things is quite reasonable. Of course, those prices are the MSRP and retail pricing will likely be different.

While the 840 and 840 EVO has experienced ongoing problems for a while, the 850 Pro and 850 EVO have not yet suffered any documented slowdown issues. Both the 850 Pro and Evo are based on Samsung’s 3D V-NAND technology, using MLC and TLC respectively. Most users will do fine with the EVO though the Pro has a longer warranty, more stated durability and is faster.  The 2TB drives are limited to 2.5 inch SATA for now, but M.2 and mSATA may be coming shortly.

While priced 8-10x more than a similar sized HDD, the speed increase of an SSD can be well worth it. For those needing lots of fast storage, the larger drives will reduce drive count, eliminate RAID difficulties and reduced shuffling of files. As HDDs start hitting a capacity wall, it offers a chance for SSDs to finally catch up. Maybe 2016 will be the year that SSDs and HDDs finally reach price parity. I for one, can’t wait till my entire system is on NAND.

Plextor Demonstrates M7V TLC SSD With SLC Mode at Computex 2015

Computex 2015 – The last drive displayed by Plextor was running on a test-bench to showcase the performance straight out. The new TLC based SSD with SLC mode is called the Plextor M7V and it is a perfect mixture of aesthetics and performance.

The live benchmark shows us some great performance figures from the SATA-based drive in CrystalDiskMark. Note the great 4KQ32 read results that easily is the double of what other drives perform. The 512K score is also higher than many other drives and easily adds 25-30% on top.

Story Develops – iPhone TLC and MLC Memory Tests

Yesterday we reported on initial tests of Apple’s TLC and MLC memory capabilities. This was due to the news being released that Apple had disabled all TLC memory in various iPhone models due to a high failure rate – without any warning to consumers or word of a replacement.

Through these findings, we were able to determine that TLC is a much faster ‘burst’ option of flash memory. Greatly out performing MLC in the beginning to middle of a ‘zero fill’ test on a 64GB iPhone 6, but falling off majorly toward the end. The conclusion of this information is that TLC memory is good for opening applications quicker and processing small amounts of data, whereas MLC will provide you a steady rate of transfer or speed no matter what the task. If you’re looking to run multiple applications at once – MLC is for you.

New data has come to light thanks to ‘Gforgames’ reporting on further findings where the TLC results are quite interesting. This goes to prove that you shouldn’t always judge a product just one method of testing – look into it further before making a choice. A random fill test was completed, seeing random amounts of data poured into the same iPhone models as reported on yesterday, this time the results were significantly in MLC’s favor – seeing a steady upwards curve in transfer speed, whereas TLC stayed consistent for the most part, with a slight decline toward the higher sized transfer files.

Following these results, they also reported that while these transfers were happening, memory usage of each device was quite interesting. Below you will see a MLC operational phone pouring most of it’s resources into the data transfer (left image). This is comparable to the TLC alternative which you can see has over 200mb of inactive memory sitting idle (right image).

We will continue to report on these findings as the story develops.

Images courtesy of Chiphell

Apple’s iPhone 6 TLC and MLC Put to the Test

We recently reported on Apple disabling TLC Memory in their iPhone 6 Plus models due to a high failure rate in their devices – further slowing down people’s phones and causing major outrage within clued up users. In further developments, we’ve gotten our hands on some testing and results looking into exactly how these changes will affect you. Is there a real difference betweel TLC and MLC flash in the iPhone 6 and will it make major differences to performance?

Experienced Hong Kong hardware testers HKEPC have just completed a detailed review and have found that a number of iPhone 6 64GB samples, including space gray, silver and gold colors may contain either HYNIX MLC, TOSHIBA MLC or SanDisk TLC flash memory. Put simply, it’s not obvious to know (simply by looking at the model) whether your iPhone 6 will have TLC or MLC memory at all – it seems to be almost random across the board and very hard to trace.

Without further adieu, here’s the first batch of results, showing a Zero Fill test comparison between MLC and TLC memory on the iPhone 6, 64GB model.

At first glance, these results are fairly obvious and there is no real need for explanation. However, HKEPC’s tests discovered that TLC utilization in the iPhone is optimized for fast access for processes like quickly opening applications. Its performance ranks above double MLC’s for the most part, drops off majorly toward the end of testing. This shows that if you’ve got multiple applications all fighting for a share of TLC memory, it might slow down to crawling pace. As the quote goes – “slow and steady wins the race”. However, if you’re using TLC for simple applications and not loading up your phone – it’s a far superior alternative.

We haven’t seen reports as to if Apple will be replacing iPhone’s under warranty that have had their memory randomly shut off without warning – we will continue to report as the story develops.

Images courtesy of Chiphell and eTeknix

Samsung SSD 850 Evo Spotted at IFA 2014

IFA is a really large electronic show with devices from all sorts of categories, from refrigerators to pc components, and everything in between. We’ve reported on some of the incredible monitors seen at the show, like the 98-inch TV with an 8K resolution from LG, or the one of a kind 5K monitor from Dell, and now a new SSD has been spotted there as well.

The Samsung SSD 850 Evo has been rumoured for some time, and now we know it to be a fact. Samsung had it at their booth, though they didn’t make any official announcement regarding it. This is the first drive aimed at the consumer market to feature the new 3bit 3D V-NAND flash technology; the same used by its big brother, the Samsung 850 Pro.

We don’t know many facts about the drive yet, but according to the French site Lesnumeriques, it will use TLC flash instead of MLC flash as used in the Pro model. While able to deliver the same performance, it uses more power and thereby putting more stress on the chips, effectively decreasing the lifespan in comparison. It seems like a logical move though, as it won’t be something that will affect many home-users and they shouldn’t notice any real-world difference before the drive would need be replaced.

More details about availability, pricing and final specification should emerge soon, and we will make sure to keep you updated.

Thank you Lesnumeriques for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Lesnumeriques