Intel SSD 750 Series 1.2 TiB Review

August 31st, 2015 No comments

Today we are reviewing the Intel SSD 750 Series 1.2 TiB, which uses the PCI Express 3.0 x4 interface. Let’s compare its performance with the Kingston HyperX Savage 480 GiB SSD, which also uses the same interface.

The post Intel SSD 750 Series 1.2 TiB Review appeared first on Hardware Secrets.

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Intel Optane brings the storage octane to SSDs

August 19th, 2015 No comments

Intel Optane brings the storage octane to SSDs

With a dense, stackable design, Intel has been promoting the merits of 3D XPoint as being significantly faster than the storage available today. The technology was developed jointly between Intel and Micron, and at IDF 2015 Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that Intel will be bringing 3D XPoint to market in 2016 under its Intel Optane brand.

Optane promises to be 1,000 times faster with 1,000 times the endurance of NAND while being 10 times denser than conventional memory.

Because memory is written at the cell level rather than in block arrays, data can be accessed more quickly and efficiently with Optane’s 3D XPoint technology.

On stage, Krzanich showed that an early prototype of an Optane SSD can access data up to seven times faster than Intel’s leading NAND-based solid state drive. Krzanich says that this is the world’s first live demonstration of 3D XPoint in action.

Form factors

Intel said that Optane products will be available in standard solid state PCIe form factors as well as a DIMM module. The PCIe form factor can be used in form factors spanning Ultrabooks to servers, while the DIMM module can be used in Xeon-based systems for more bandwidth.

Intel did not announce pricing for Optane.

The 2016 availability matches what Micron announced. In late June, Intel and Micron told TechRadar that even though the technology is jointly developed, each company will go to market separately with its own products.

According to Intel, 3D XPoint and Optane is the first memory breakthrough in 25 years since the arrival of NAND.

Intel said that when coupled with Skylake and the new integrated Iris and Iris Pro graphics, gamers will also see speed improvements with Optane, Intel said in a separate gaming-focused session at IDF. Optane can lead to more realistic and immersive gaming experiences with faster refresh rates.

For enterprises, Optane can be used for faster data analysis and real-time analytics.










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SanDisk DIY service helps you upgrade your SSD with live video

August 18th, 2015 No comments

SanDisk DIY service helps you upgrade your SSD with live video

In an effort to get PC users to upgrade their aging hard disk drives to better performing solid state drives, SanDisk is rolling out a new help desk service to provide the tools, software and instructions needed for customers to perform the upgrade. SanDisk calls the service the SanDisk SSD Concierge Service, which provides live video support to customers looking to upgrade their HDDs to replace failing SSDs inside their systems.

The service provides support for all SanDisk consumer solid state drives.

"Once data has been successfully migrated, consumers will have the ability to schedule a video conference via mobile device with a SanDisk technician, who will walk them through the final steps of removing the existing storage device and installing their new SSD," SanDisk said in a statement.

Benefits

There are many benefits to upgrading to a solid state drive, including faster speeds and better system performance. SSDs can also help extend a laptop’s battery life as it runs cooler, doesn’t require a spinning disk and uses less power, SanDisk said.

SanDisk will sell its $39 (£24, AU$53) service package at Amazon and TigerDirect.

Alternatively, if you don’t need SanDisk’s live video support, you can check out our general guide on replacing your existing drive yourself.










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Kingston HyperX Savage 480GB SSD

August 11th, 2015 No comments

Powered by a Phison S10 controller, 256MB of DDR3 cache, and 19nm Toggle-mode NAND Flash, the HyperX Savage is positioned as Kingston’s new high-end consumer SATA SSD.

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ADATA launches XPG SX930 — an SSD for gamers

July 17th, 2015 No comments

productImage4007

If you don’t have a solid state drive in your computer, you are crazy. Prices have decreased dramatically, making it affordable for most consumers. Money is tight? Cut out the Starbucks for a few weeks and drop a Benjamin on the upgrade — it is worth it.

There are many brands to choose from, with comparable speeds, so you want to target reliability. Two of my favorite brands are Samsung and Kingston, but there are solid lesser-known brands too. ADATA is such a brand that targets value, but has a history of dependability too. That company is launching a new SSD, called the XPG SX930, which is aimed at gamers and offers a 5 year warranty. Is a gaming-grade SSD just marketing speak, or should gamers take notice?

“Featuring Enterprise-grade MLC plus NAND flash, the XPG SX930 outperforms other SSDs with excellent durability. It is not only suitable for gaming systems, but also ideal for workstations, which require long-term and stable operation. By applying JMicron controllers, the sequential read/write speed of SX930 is up to 560/460MB/s, and it’s available in 120GB, 240GB and 480GB. In addition, the SX930 is equipped with the innovative and exclusive ‘pSLC Cache Technology’ by ADATA, which can effectively enhance the data transfer speed for the ultimate performance to meet professional gamers’ demands”, says ADATA.

productImage6735

The company further shares “For the optimum efficiency, the SX930 is equipped with a DDR3 DRAM Cache Buffer, improving the random read/write performance up to 2 times when compared to SSDs without a DRAM cache. The SX930 also supports hardware BCH ECC (Error Correction Code) up to 72bits per 1KB, providing high reliability and data protection. And thanks to the support of NCQ, S.M.A.R.T., and Windows TRIM Command, the SX930 can effectively improve the efficiency of data transfer and maintain great stability”.

Capacity 120GB / 240GB / 480GB
Form Factor 2.5 inch
NAND Flash Synchronous MLC Plus
Controller JMicron JMF670H
Dimensions (L x W x H) 100.45 x 69.85 x 7mm
Weight 68g / 2.4oz
Interface SATA 6Gb/s
Performance(Max) 120GB ($80) Performance (ATTO)
Read: Up to 560MB/s
Write: Up to 460MB/s
240GB ($110) Performance (ATTO)
Read: Up to 560MB/s
Write: Up to 460MB/s
480GB ($200) Performance (ATTO)
Read: Up to 540MB/s
Write: Up to 420MB/s
Operating temperature 0~70°C
Storage temperature -40~85°C
Shock resistance 1500G/0.5ms
MTBF 1,500,000 hours

While this drive has solid specs and an attractive appearance — which does matter to PC builders — calling it a gaming SSD is a bit misleading. Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is a good choice for gamers, but no more than most other drives. In other words, I do not think this drive will give you faster load times over say, the Samsung 850 EVO.

What do you think — is this a gaming SSD or just marketing hype? Sound off in the comments.

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ADATA XPG SX930 (120GB, 240GB & 480GB) SSD Review: JMicron JMF670H Debuts

July 16th, 2015 No comments

At Computex ADATA had a variety of new SSDs on display. While most were based on upcoming technologies such as TLC NAND and the PCIe/NVMe interface, the company also displayed an XPG SX930 - an update to ADATA's high-end XPG lineup. The series was in need of a refresh because the SX900 dates back to 2012, so with the SX930 ADATA is hoping to breath new life into its enthusiast SSDs. The SX930 is equipped with JMicron's new JMF670H controller, 'enterprise-grade' Micron 16nm 128Gbit NAND and features a five-year warranty. Read on to find out how JMicron's new controller stacks up against the competition! 

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Interview with Kevin Chen, ADATA’s Vice President of SSD Marketing

July 15th, 2015 No comments

Last year at Computex I had the opportunity to interview ADATA’s President Shalley Chen. At the time, we discussed the SSD and DRAM industries in general as well as ADATA’s strategy especially in the dynamic SSD market. This year I got the chance to sit down with Kevin Chen, Vice President of SSD Marketing, to focus on ADATA’s plans for TLC and PCIe SSDs. Rather than a pure Q&A outlay interview similar to what we have done in the past, I've put together what we discussed in a general written format.

ADATA's SSD Business

Mr. Chen joined ADATA last year and prior to that he served a year as the President of Taiwan IC Packaging Corporation. He was also the Vice President of R&D at Transcend, another SSD company, for nearly a decade and academically Mr. Chen holds a degree in Communication Engineering from National Chia Tung University.

To give some background, Mr Chen explained ADATA’s business model and key partners in the SSD industry first. ADATA’s business model is a so called ‘module house’, meaning that the company doesn’t design or manufacture the chips it uses, but merely does the assembly, validation and marketing of the final product. This stems from the pre-SSD days when the main product for companies like ADATA, Kingston and G.Skill was DRAM modules, which didn’t need much more than assembly and validation to be ready for the store shelves. SSDs are a little more complicated since in addition to the NAND chips an SSD needs a controller and a firmware which ADATA needs to source from a third party because its expertise is not in semiconductors or software/firmware. Some firmware might be optimised in house, but the goal of a module house is to source the controller (with firmware), and source the NAND, and put the two together. Different companies have competing combinations of controller/NAND, which makes the market interesting.

Currently ADATA’s key partners on the SSD controller side are Silicon Motion, Marvell, JMicron and Seagate. The secret behind Silicon Motion’s recent success is that the company offers both the silicon and firmware to its OEM partners like ADATA, who only have to assemble the actual drive, which is what all the module house companies do. That’s essentially why SandForce became so popular among various OEMs, as it was able to deliver one of the first SATA 6Gbps controller platforms that all module house companies wanted to use because the companies didn’t have their own controller or firmware technologies and needed a full solution for easy integration to their SSDs. Many companies, including ADATA, have since switched mostly to Silicon Motion controllers as the SF-2000 series is starting to be a bit long in the tooth and Silicon Motion is apparently able to offer better performance and cost efficiency over other offerings.

SandForce SF3700 engineering sample at CES

Speaking of which, Mr. Chen said that ADATA hasn’t fully abandoned Seagate/SandForce, but the constant delays with the SF3000 series have forced the company to shift its focus to other controller vendors. As we saw at ADATA’s booth this year, the company didn’t have any new SandForce based solutions to show, whereas last year and at CES earlier this year the SF3700 live demo was one of the highlights. Mr. Chen told me that ADATA still has a SandForce engineering team, but the team has been downsized and currently has only three members. Still, ADATA plans to make SF3000 based SSDs when the controller is finally available, but on the other hand it’s no longer relying heavily on SandForce like in the past.

On the Marvell side, ADATA doesn’t design its own firmware. Instead it uses firmware from a company called QSI, which is essentially a firmware house because QSI doesn’t sell or assemble drives – it only makes the firmware and licenses it to its partners. ADATA does, however, have a firmware team for JMicron and SMI controllers that mostly focuses on the industrial side, but Mr. Chen explained that Marvell’s architecture is totally different and would need a specific group of engineers. In addition, Marvell only provides a high level set of tools since the company itself doesn’t do any firmware (although I’ve heard rumors that this is about to change), whereas JMicron is more cooperative on that front.

The New SSDs

We already covered ADATA’s booth and the new SSDs at a high level and one of this year’s highlights for ADATA will be its TLC SSDs for which the company will have a two-product strategy by offering both SP550 and SP560 to the market. The SP550 features Silicon Motion’s SM2256 controller while the SP560 is Marvell based, and ADATA will be sourcing NAND from both Micron and SK Hynix. Mr. Chen explained that the reason behind the product positioning strategy is to offer two levels of performance because the controllers as well as the NAND have different performance characteristics. Mr. Chen didn’t want to speculate which of the drives, SP550 or SP560, will be better because the company is still in the middle of validation and final specifications have yet to be decided. Mr. Chen did however disclose that the SP550 and SP560 will both use NAND from both Micron and SK Hynix, meaning that we will likely see some performance variation depending on the NAND configuration. I suspect this is supply related because there will be a spike in TLC NAND demand in the second half of this year, so using two suppliers guarantees that ADATA won’t run into supply issues.  

Given that there will be numerous TLC SSDs on the market by the end of the year, I asked Mr. Chen what is ADATA’s strength. Mr. Chen replied that unlike many other companies, ADATA does IC sorting (i.e. NAND binning) in-house, which guarantees a high level of quality. Mr. Chen said that many of ADATA’s direct competitors just buy NAND from the open market, which frankly results in varying quality of NAND inside the final product because not all dies are the same despite the matching part number. This aligns with what we've discussed at AnandTech, as NAND binning is important with TLC NAND. TLC is more complex by design than MLC and less tolerant against errors, meaning that only the best dies are qualified as SSD-grade whereas the rest end up in low-cost products like USB sticks and SD cards where quality isn’t as big concern. Additionally, Mr. Chen said that LDPC error correction is a must for long term durability, which is what both the SM2256 and Marvell’s 88SS1074 “Dean” controllers support.

SR1020 engineering sample on display at Computex

On the PCIe side ADATA will have three products. The Marvell “Artemis” based PCIe 3.0 x1 NVMe drive that we saw at the booth will be ADATA’s entry-level offering and is mostly aimed towards replacing the current SATA 6Gbps drives, particularly in mobile devices. For the high performance client segment ADATA will have a Marvell “Eldora Lite” based solution, which will be a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe design with four NAND channels. ADATA didn’t show this drive at its booth, but it’s essentially a lighter and more client-oriented version of the SR1020 that carries the full “Eldora” controller with eight NAND channels.

The first batch of ADATA’s PCIe drives will all be Marvell based with QSI firmware. The reason for this lies in silicon availability because there aren’t any other commercially available controllers shipping this year. Seagate SandForce SF3000 series, Silicon Motion SM2260 and JMicron JMF815 are all scheduled for next year, so in order to provide PCIe drives to the market this year ADATA must rely on Marvell silicon. The only exception would be Phison and its new E7 PCIe controller, but Mr. Chen explained that Phison’s business model differs from the other controller vendors in the sense that it delivers a “turn-key” solution (i.e. a fully assembled drive) to its partners, which doesn’t suit ADATA’s business plan because the company’s strength lies in assembly. ADATA is, of course, keeping a close eye on the controller market and will consider other controllers when they get closer to being finalized.

We would like to thank ADATA and Mr. Chen for their time at Computex. The company has numerous exciting SSDs coming up and we're working closely to get our hands on them. The SP550 and SP560 should be available within the next couple of months, and ADATA will begin PCIe SSD production at full pace in the second half of 2015, so stay tuned for our reviews.

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Kingston HyperX Predator 480 GiB vs. Kingston HyperX Savage 480 GiB SSD Review

July 13th, 2015 No comments

Today we are comparing the performance of the Kingston HyperX Predator 480 GiB SSD, which uses the PCI Express 2.0 x4 interface, and the Kingston HyperX Savage 480 GiB, which uses a SATA-600 port.

The post Kingston HyperX Predator 480 GiB vs. Kingston HyperX Savage 480 GiB SSD Review appeared first on Hardware Secrets.

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How to upgrade the SSD in your business Ultrabook

July 10th, 2015 No comments

How to upgrade the SSD in your business Ultrabook

Introduction

If you bought a business notebook, chances are the hard drive or solid state drive on your system is upgradeable.

Upgrading your drive gives your business Ultrabook a new lease on life. You can replace a malfunctioning drive, or you stand to gain faster performance with a high speed drive or more storage capacity. If you’re replacing an internal hard drive for a solid state one, you’ll benefit from much faster read and write speeds.

Unlike consumer Ultrabooks, business Ultrabooks and mobile workstations come with a removable bottom panel. This panel gives you access to the RAM and SSD inside your laptop. Here are two methods for installing a new drive and transferring your data over:

Before you begin

Before you begin, you’ll need to open your Ultrabook and see what type of solid state or hard drive your system contains. There are three popular types of drives available today – SATA solid state drives or 2.5-inch SATA hard drives, mSATA SSD and M.2 SSD.

Types of drives

The procedure for opening your system varies by device and device manufacturer. Systems – like the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 – with non-removable batteries will have a large panel covering the entire bottom of the laptop. This panel can be removed by unscrewing all the visual screws on the bottom of the notebook.

HP EliteBook Folio 1020 G1

On business Ultrabooks – like the Dell Latitude 12 7000 (E7250) – with a removable battery, you may have to take off the battery first. On the Dell, once I removed the battery, I gained access to two screws that secure the bottom cover. Once the screws are off, I can slide the bottom plate off.

M.2 SSD

After the bottom cover is removed, you’ll have access to your notebook’s internal components, including the SSD, RAM and wireless cards. You’ll want to examine to see if your SSD or hard drive is labeled as a SATA drive, mSATA SSD or M.2 SSD. SATA drives are the largest of the three, and are sized like a traditional 2.5-inch hard disk drive.

M.2 format drives are narrow, but long, while the rectangular mSATA SSD are wider but shorter. For comparison, the EliteBook Folio 1020 G1 uses the M.2 format while the Dell Latitude 12 7000 uses the mSATA format.

After you determine what type of drive your system utilizes, you can order a new drive – either of the same size and capacity as a replacement, an upgrade with a faster speed or a capacity upgrade with more storage – of the same type as the one in your notebook.

For those who have the need for capacity, Samsung recently announced a 2TB SATA SSD, while the mSATA and M.2 formats go up to 1TB and 512GB, respectively.

Option 1: cloning

1. The cloning method

Cloning a drive saves time in that it creates a twin of whatever is on your existing system. Once the drive is cloned, you can pop the new drive into your system and be up and running with all your apps, programs and files in place – there is no need to reinstall programs, and this saves time as you don’t need to enter in serial numbers.

Before you clone your drive, be sure that your new drive is at least as large as the drive you’re looking to replace.

For example, my Dell Latitude 12 7000 (E7250) comes with a 256GB mSATA format solid state drive. For the cloning to work, I’d need another mSATA SSD with at least a 256GB capacity. For this scenario, I purchased a new Samsung SSD 850 EVO drive in a 1TB capacity.

In addition to the new drive, you’ll need free software and some cheap hardware. There are a number of options available for drive cloning software, and you’ll need either a hard drive docking station or a cheap enclosure for your drive.

I recommend that you use a drive enclosure, but the process works the same if you’re using a drive dock. With the drive enclosure, at the end of the cloning process, if your old drive is good (meaning you’re upgrading to a larger capacity SSD and not replacing a faulty drive), you can use it as an external drive and connect the drive in the enclosure over USB to store or backup data.

For my process, I chose an inexpensive mSATA (there are also SATA and M.2 enclosures) for under $20. The enclosure connects my new Samsung 1TB SSD to my Latitude via a USB 3.0 cable, so the process didn’t take too long.

mSATA with drive enclosure

If you’re cloning a Windows 8 or later system, you’ll need cloning software that supports GTP. For this process, I chose to use the free Macrium Reflect cloning software, but there are other free and paid cloning software available on the market.

Macrium Reflect

When I first load Macrium Reflect, the software asks if I want to create a recovery media in case something goes wrong. Even though this is an optional step, it’s advisable that you complete this process just in case.

The cloning process is fairly intuitive using the Macrium Reflect software. You’ll want to select the cloning option in the Reflect software, and you’ll want to be sure to clone over all the drive partitions on your existing drive. Once the cloning is finished, you can swap the new drive into your laptop, and you should be ready to boot up.

Removing and replacing your drive

Depending on your drive and your manufacturer, your internal SSD may be affixed to your system with screws. Even though the SSD board on my Latitude has two screw openings, Dell only screwed the SSD onto the motherboard using one of the screw openings.

You’ll want to remove the screws that attach the SSD to your notebook’s motherboard. The SSD will then pop up slightly, and you’ll need to gently pull the card out from the connector so that you don’t damage the system.

SSD unscrewed

Once the card is out, you can attach your new drive by sliding it gently, but firmly into the connector. You’ll want to push the drive down so it lies flat with the motherboard, and then replace all the screws to secure the drive.

Option 2: starting fresh

2. Starting anew

If you’re looking to start fresh and work off of a clean build of Windows, you won’t need to clone your drive. I prefer this method as I can always copy over files that I need later, and I can start clean and install only the software that I want. Over time, old software that you may not need anymore may slow down the system, and starting fresh cleans this out so you’ll have a fast machine to work with.

If your system doesn’t ship with a recovery USB drive or DVD, you’ll want to first create the Windows recovery media. Essentially, this creates a copy of Windows that you can install onto your new drive. Systems running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 won’t have serial numbers for Windows installation so you won’t need this as it won’t be found on the bottom of your notebook, unlike systems running Windows 7 or older.

On my Dell Latitude 12 7000 (E7250), I chose to create the recovery media to a USB drive. For this process, you’ll need a USB drive with at least 4GB of storage. Using the Dell Backup and Recovery software that’s preinstalled on my system, I was able to create my recovery USB drive with my Windows install. If you have a laptop with a different brand, be sure to look for the manufacturer’s version of the backup and recovery app.

Recovery

After the recovery USB or DVD is created, you’ll want to shut down your system, remove your battery (if your system comes with a removable battery) and remove the bottom cover. Follow the instructions above on removing and replacing your SSD to remove the drive in your system and replace it with the new drive you ordered.

Once the new drive is in place, you’ll want want to replace the bottom cover and battery, insert your USB recovery drive into the USB port and power up the system for Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 machines.

Once your laptop begins booting up, it will enter a recovery mode with on-screen instructions for formatting the new SSD drive and reinstalling Windows. Be sure to remove the USB drive before you reboot your system after the recovery is complete. After you complete the process, you’ll have a fresh installation of Windows.

Now, you’ll have a fresh copy of Windows, and you can install any programs that you need.

What to do with your old drive

Remember that old drive that shipped with your system? If you’re just upgrading it for performance or capacity, and not replacing a faulty drive, you can use an SSD enclosure. There are housing for the three different types of SSD formats that you can order. Once you install the drive into the housing, you can connect the unit to your laptop and it will act as an external drive – it’s similar to having a high capacity USB flash drive or a compact external hard drive.

Once you do this, you can transfer any file you need from the old drive, or you can format the drive and use it as a USB flash drive.

USB flash drive

In my case, my Latitude shipped with a 256GB drive, and I installed a 1TB SSD into my laptop. This means that I’ll have 1TB of storage on my computer, and I can have a zippy USB 3.0 external SSD drive to backup my files.

Drive storage

If you wish, you can just leave the old drive alone in case the new drive doesn’t work out for you, or if the new drive fails. Whatever the case, a hard drive or solid state drive enclosure is a simple, inexpensive way for you to “recycle” and reuse your old drives as an external drive.










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OCZ Trion 100 (240GB, 480GB & 960GB) SSD Review: Bringing Toshiba to the Retail

July 9th, 2015 No comments

It's been a year and a half since OCZ went bankrupt and Toshiba acquired its assets. In this time we have seen OCZ transition all of its products to Toshiba NAND and we have also discussed how Toshiba has helped OCZ with its quality/validation processes, but quite frankly we haven't seen anything truly concrete coming out of the partnership. The Trion 100 is here to change that as it's the first Toshiba built drive that will retail under OCZ's brand and it also the first TLC NAND based SSD from the Toshiba-OCZ organization. Can it match the competition? Read on and find out!

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