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Apple seems to have gotten themselves in a bind with TLC flash, at least if one is to believe the reports that the intermittent crashes and reboot cycles for iPhone 6 Plus users are due to the TLC controller. Apple refuses to comment on the issue, but several sources have speculated the problem lies with TLC NAND. Apple only uses TLC in a select few products, one being the iPhone 6 Plus, which also just happens to be the only model with the issue. Now sources are speculating that Apple is going to abandon the use of TLC NAND entirely.
Apple, as the world's largest flash customer, has a vested interest in using as many types of NAND as possible. This also includes TLC, which some view as a less-desirable form of flash. TLC stores 3 bits per cell, compared to MLC, which stores two. In the dinosaur ages (only a few years back), even MLC was considered unfit for use in mainstream devices. Only one bit per cell NAND (SLC) was considered fit for consumption. Time and clever engineering have radically altered that view, and common MLC NAND powers computers, datacenters, and just about every mobile device inbetween.
Enter TLC. Many of the same concerns have been voiced about TLC, mirroring the initial concerns about MLC. Cost savings for Apple are always a concern, they are in the business of making money, but there are other advantages that go beyond price. In reality, Apple only saves roughly five cents per GB using TLC, but have had to invest millions to utilize it. TLC does have lower endurance than other forms of NAND, but it also stores more data. For Apple this is a desirable attribute that has more traction than the cost savings of slightly cheaper TLC NAND. They can pack more data into the slim device, and that is part of the reason they are very unlikely to abandon TLC. HD Video and high-res images require more storage space, and recent concerns about the safety of data in the cloud are leading to increased storage capacity in mobile devices.
Other World Computing (OWC) has announced a new PlayStation 4 upgrade kit. The current crop of new game consoles are becoming more focused on becoming the hub of the home entertainment system. This leads to a need for more storage, but unfortunately the stock storage capacity of gaming consoles hasn't increased enough.
Swapping out the internal drive on the PS4 usually voids your warranty(**correction - Users can swap drives with any drive without voiding warranty**), but OWC has announced a fix for that problem.
OWC's new Hard Drive Upgrade Kit allows users to boost their capacity up to 2TB, and still retain their warranty. The kit claims to boost performance and features a 5,400 RPM drive in the 2.5" form factor. As an added bonus, OWC includes an external enclosure that allows users to convert the old internal drive into external storage. The kit includes everything you need to backup the data on the existing drive, then transfer it over to the new one. A set of fairly simple instructions is included, and is also available online.
The kit can be purchased with 1, 1.5, or 2TB HGST/Toshiba/Seagate HDD's (different capacity points feature different drives). Interestingly enough, the 1TB will provide the most performance, as it is actually an SSHD. SSHD's merge flash goodness with spinning platters to provide much faster data for commonly loaded data, such as the PS4 OS. Tyler recently took a look at Toshiba's SSHD, and you can get a good idea of the performance boost by reading his Toshiba 1TB SSHD (MQ01ABD100H) Review. The Toshiba drive will definitely boost the speed and load times of commonly accessed games, and we would like to see OWC offer SSHD's for higher capacities as well.
NAS storage is great for storing important data in one centralized location, but this requires network connectivity, which potentially opens a hole for unwanted access. There are robust security features available to protect network connections, but if someone has physical access to the NAS the drives are easy to remove. Most users forgo encryption on NAS systems because of a reduction in overall performance, but QNAP looks to change that with their new NAS accelerated-encryption technology. QNAP's QvPC technology supports the Turbo NAS TS/SS-x53 Pro and TS-x51 products in the new QTS 4.1.1.
QNAP employs the power of their dual/quad-core Celeron processors to boost encryption/decryption tasks, leading to a 50% improvement in performance. The TS/SS-x53 Pro series is powered by a quad-core Intel Celeron 2.0GHz processor with burst speed up to 2.41GHz, 8GB/4GB/2GB energy-efficient DDR3L RAM (expandable to 8GB), and supports 2 or 4 LAN ports that allow users to flexibly deploy optimal network architecture based on different needs and requirements. The class-leading NAS delivers excellent performance that maintains smooth system operations even during intensive data access or heavy multimedia streaming and transcoding.
One of the most challenging aspects of data storage is long-term archival. All forms of data storage have a finite lifespan, and complex storage mechanisms, such as HDDs, have delicate moving mechanical parts that will eventually fail. One of the benefits of optical storage, such as CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray's, is their lack of moving parts and relatively long life time of up to 100 years. The problem has always been capacity, optical storage has reached a diminishing point of returns in terms of data stored due to the limitations of light itself.
A team of engineers at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia have conquered that challenge by enabling storage up to 1,000 Terabytes of data, or 40,000 HD movies, onto a single DVD. The process they developed uses a secondary laser to refine the refraction limit of light, which is around 500 nanometers. Since light cannot shrink below that limit, the current technology cannot write information smaller than 500 nanometers. The Australian researchers employed two 500nm lasers. One actually writes data, and the other blocks the light beam, except for a sliver that is only 9 nanometers in length.
OCZ Storage Solutions has seen their fair share of changes over the last few years, but have finally landed in calm waters at Toshiba with access to a mountain of flash and a wealth of engineering talent. They also recently launched the new OCZ Shop, an online portal that provides their customers direct access to great SSD deals.
In celebration of the new site OCZ is offering free shipping to the US on any order, a free T-Shirt, and Triple VIP reward points until 11/30/2014. There are sections for SATA, PCIe and consumer SSDs. Some of the SSD deals include free power packs and backpacks as well, but there is no clear indication if this is a limited time offer or not. There is also a clearance section which will likely host some great deals in the future.
SSDs are becoming cheaper every day, and a direct outlet might provide a portal for even lower prices. It will be interesting to see if other fab-enabled SSD manufactures follow suit. In the cut-throat SSD industry every competitive advantage is quickly addressed, but usually ends up being great for us consumers in the end.
HDD capacity increases weren't that common in recent years, but recently we have begun to see higher capacity HDD's enter the picture with more frequency. Today Toshiba joins the party with a release of 4TB and 5TB drives for the consumer market. Toshiba's new products will carry a three-year warranty.
Specifics are scant, but we know that they are 7,200 RPM drives based on the tried-and-true PMR (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording) technology. These SATA drives come in the typical 3.5" form factor, and have an MSRP of $299.00 and $399.00, respectively. There are further big capacity increases coming in the near future as new technologies, such as HAMR (Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording) make their debut.
Samsung has teased the 850 EVO since media met in South Korea for the 850 Pro launch. The company is eager to flex its V-NAND advantage in 3bits per cell form but retail availability has been quiet, until now.
Fry's Electronics just broke the 850 EVO cover and put the 1TB model up for preorder. Priced at $499.99 until 10/30/14, 850 EVO 1TB preorders are currently scheduled to ship on November 24.
Fry's Electronics also gave us our first look at the EVO with 3D V-NAND's specifications. 550 MB/s sequential read and 520 MB/s sequential write speeds. It should be noted this drive is marketed at 1TB and not 960GB, so there shouldn't be a large amount of overprovisioning. Samsung's 3D V-NAND uses a 3Xnm process and has enterprise level endurance ratings. Samsung shouldn't have to add overprovisioning to 850 EVO to extend the life of the flash or for increased performance.
WD has announced they are expanding the capacity of the WD Purple line of surveillance-class HDD's up to 6TB. WD Purples are purpose-built HDDs designed to specifically address video surveillance workloads. Video camera recording has unique requirements, and the enhancements in the Purple series reduce dropped frames and allow simultaneous recording of up to 32 high-definition cameras.
Security cameras continue to be used in more and more applications, and the advent of 4K high-definition models has created the need for more capacity. The WD Purple series is tested for broad compatibility with all of the leading video surveillance systems, and proprietary WD technologies boost performance and video recording accuracy.
- AllFrame - In conjunction with ATA streaming, AllFrame reduces video frame loss, improves playback and increases the number of drive bays supported. WD Purple includes exclusive firmware enhancements that enable improved playback and minimize interruptions within a surveillance system.
- IntelliSeek Technology - With low power consumption playing a crucial role in high-temperature always-on surveillance environments, IntelliSeek technology calculates the optimum seek speeds for the system workload, enabling lower power consumption and reducing noise and vibration.
Chris Ramseyer took a detailed look at the original Purple series in this review, and be sure to look to our storage areas for more detailed product analysis of everything storage in the consumer and enterprise segments. The new 6TB WD Purple has an MSRP of $329.99, and WD Purple's are available from 1TB to 6TB capacities.
Something that really piqued our interest at Computex this year was spotting G.SKILL's amazingly fast Phoenix Blade PCIe-based SSD, an SSD capable of pushing a massive 2GB/sec, has been officially released by the company.
G.SKILL reaches these speeds within the Phoenix Blade using four LSI SF-2281 SSD controllers in a RAID0 setup, splashed together with 480GB of MLC flash. This amplifies the bandwidth up over four times the normal SATA 3-based SSDs, thanks to it sitting on an x8 PCIe slot. We have up to 2GB/sec read/writes, and 245,000 IOPS to ensure super-fast transfers.
The Phoenix Blade also supports TRIM and SMART support, which provides users with piece of mind that their data should be safe. We also have CRC data protection, which prevents data from corrupting during file transfers, and a great 3-year warranty from G.SKILL with full technical support from their tech team.
We recently discovered a new SSD controller design company is forming and many of the names involved are familiar. The group is headed up by CEO and co-founder Mike Lee. Mr. Lee's former employer was SK Hynix, where he was the Director of SSD SOC Development for the Link A Media Devices team (LAMD).
At this time, details nearly nonexistent other than a few bits of information scattered around the web. The above image started our hunt for more information. Many in the photo are former SandForce, LSI and Skyera employees and all are now with Tidal Systems.
We've often wondered what affects SandForce ping pong would have on employees. SandForce was first acquired by LSI, then LSI was acquired by Avago and then SandForce was spun off to Seagate. SandForce founder, CMO and former NVIDIA nForce chipset architect Radoslav Danilak started Skyera to focus on all-flash enterprise storage a few years ago. At least a handful of the pre-LSI SandForce team went with him. Skyera already has two products on the market, skyHawk and skyEagle.
We did find a short description about Tidal Systems online:
Leveraging our Revolutionary DATA-Compression and Error-Correction (LDPC) Algorithms to create most Powerful System Controller (SoC) and related firmware/software systems solutions to address fast growing NAND Flash Memory based storage products, which is essential for Cloud Computing; Big Data Center; Smartphone, Tablet PC and all Ultra-Portable Computing Appliance.
In short, they will make flash controllers. We wish the team good luck and hope to be the first to test the new products when ready.