Chris Ramseyer's Blog
Tonight I threw a bunch of SSDs in a single chart, all 512GB class drives. None of the information present is new. I just wanted to see how different 512GB drives compared to each other. It would be a shame to just keep the data to myself.
Since Flash Memory Summit 2014, we've known that Samsung will eventually release an 850 EVO product to follow up the successful 850 Pro that hit the market just a few short months ago. The information didn't come from word of mouth or rumor, Samsung flat out told us that 850 EVO was on the horizon and coming very soon.
While companies are setting up at IFA, a German trade show like CES, website digitalversus.com snapped the first public showing from Samsung. I guess that means it's time for us to talk about it.
First things first. Samsung's 3-bit per cell market competition comes from Samsung itself. The 840 EVO is a wildly successful product and extremely popular with everyone from enthusiasts to grannies. Samsung doesn't need to come out with a V-NAND version but who am I to complain about a superior product coming to market.
Just a few weeks back we were able to test Toshiba TLC from our hotel room at Flash Memory Summit. As I sit here writing this, I'm testing a retail version of TLC NAND from SanDisk. The SanDisk version is called X3 or by the Ultra II's spec sheet SanDisk 1Ynm, X3 ABL Toggle. With a few hours into testing it looks like Ultra II is faster than 840 EVO.
It looks like the SanDisk Ultra II could be the reason why Samsung is preparing for 850 EVO well before we expected to see it. The 850 EVO should carry over some of the amazing features found in the 850 Pro. Even with 3-bits per cell (TLC), the 850 EVO should have very good endurance since the flash is built on older 3xnm lithography the flash is also very fast. If Samsung kept the flash at 4-planes, lanes running to and from the flash like highways in and out of a city, 850 EVO could very well be one of the fastest consumer SSDs on the market. We say this because even the 850 Pro 128GB managed keep pace with the fastest consumer SSDs on the market.
It's difficult not to get excited about the 850 EVO and what it brings to the table. TLC flash is the future for consumer SSDs but until recently we had to question the performance offered. Both Samsung and now SanDisk have managed to make TLC nearly as fast as leading MLC SSDs, at least fast enough for us to recommend the products based on performance and price. If the 850 EVO manages to also have MLC like endurance numbers before resorting to exotic error correction methods that consumer power and increase latency, that will be a very good thing.
Samsung is currently exhibiting at IFA but next week Samsung will be in San Francisco at Intel Developer Forum. Hopefully we get some solid news on availability and pricing soon.
Over the coming days we'll talk at length about Samsung's new V-NAND technology, pricing and our take on the future of V-NAND, including 3-bit per cell (TLC) V-NAND. If you missed it, we've already covered the new Samsung 850 Pro SSDs in 1TB capacity size and 128GB capacity size but look for more exciting coverage to follow.
At the 2014 Samsung SSD Global Summit we recorded the full presentation given to leading technology press. The presentation is broken into 4 sections but we left them in two vidoes, exactly as presented to the global media.
IT Market Trends
3D-V NAND: The Future of Flash
Samsung SSD Leadership
The New Samsung SSD
Stay tuned for more indepth coverage from Paul Alcorn and me as we start to break down Samsung latest enterprise and consumer products.
With PCM8's long test and our notebook battery life test both in our full review, our current SSD testing takes around two and a half days per drive. Normally that isn't much of an issue but when we have ten new drives in for review the time adds up. Between Jon and our Facebook fans, the pressure is on to post some early numbers on the new SanDisk Extreme Pro and Crucial MX100.
These two drives are world's apart. The Extreme Pro is SanDisk's new flagship SSD with a groundbreaking 10-year warranty and the best SATA III performance we've measured to date. The MX100 is Crucial's new economical / mainstream replacement for the M500 that breaks new ground in consumer SSD pricing (256GB for $109 and 512GB for $219).
Let's take a look at some early numbers.
I've been fairly quiet about the Kingston bait and switch fiasco on the V300 but by not taking a stand, others have taken the same approach. If you are not aware, Kingston originally released the V300 SSD with 25nm synchronous NAND flash but a year after the reviews hit the web, changed to 20nm asynchronous NAND flash. Kingston wasn't the first company to pull a bait and switch, OCZ Technology, the former OCZ, once changed the build of materials sheet on an older product from 3Xnm NAND to 25nm NAND. This caused the available user capacity to shrink.
You can now add PNY to the list of companies playing switcheroo. We recently posted a review of the PNY Optima, giving it a glowing recommendation and praising the new Silicon Motion controller inside.
Today I received an email from a reader that purchased the Optima based on my recommendation. Sadly, the reader didn't receive the same product we reviewed under the Optima label just a few weeks ago.
Hi, I recently bought a PNY Optima 240GB SSD after reading your review on TT.
When I received it, I noticed that it had a SandForce-style firmware revision, "541ABBF0". The firmware version on the printed label read "5.4.1" (not the "N0307A" in the picture from your review), and the 5.6.0 firmware update on PNY's website (which I successfully applied) used the standard SandForce flasher. There does not appear to be a SMI firmware update (or any acknowledgement that such a variant exists) on PNY's website.
I've attached the results of a simple benchmark (on a SATA-II interface, unfortunately).
Anyway, I just thought that I'd let you know that it appears that at least some of the units that PNY is selling is not SMI.
It's quite an accusation but one that PNY confirmed just moments after being asked.
As mentioned in the product description of Optima, "The PNY Optima SSD line utilizes multiple qualified controllers to offer the best available solution to our customers."
Yes we did ship some Optima SSD's with SandForce controllers, but only if they meet the minimum advertised performance levels (in most of the benchmark tests, LSI controllers outperform SMI controllers). The readers assumption that PNY has abandoned SMI controllers is wrong as we have been shipping mostly SMI controllers, but also utilizing LSI to fill in the gaps.
Just as Kingston, PNY is using the "advertised specifications" as a tool to justify what most of us would consider nefarious. Sadly, we no longer have faith in PNY or Kingston SSDs as both companies have acted with poor judgment and misled SSD product reviewers, our readers and the buying public. Even though both product changes should meet the advertised specifications, they are not in line with the products we and others tested. Hopefully other companies will not follow their lead.
Just moments ago we received word from Samsung regarding the state of 3D V-NAND. The press release (below) states that the exciting new NAND flash is now in mass production.
Before we get to the press release we want to point out the size of the wafer used. We believe this is a 450mm wafer, 150mm larger that any wafer I've ever held or seen. The move from 200mm to 300mm wafers took place in 2000 and reduced the cost of each die by 30 to 40%. Lithographer Chris Mack claimed in 2012 that the overall price per die for 450 mm wafers would be reduced by only 10-20% compared to 300 mm wafers, because presently over 50% of total wafer processing costs are lithography-related.
We just spoke with Samsung and learned 3D V-NAND is on 300mm wafers.
XI'AN, China - May 9, 2014 - Samsung Electronics, Co., Ltd., a global leader in memory semiconductor technology, today announced that its memory fabrication line in Xi'an China has begun full-scale manufacturing operations. The new facility will manufacture Samsung's advanced NAND flash memory chips: 3D V-NAND.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman and CEO Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon hosted a plant inauguration event, which welcomed a large number of attendees including government dignitaries such as Zhao Zhengyong, Secretary of Communist Party of China Committee of Shaanxi province, Lou Qinjian, Governor of Shaanxi province, and Young-se Kwon, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the People's Republic of China. Other honored attendees included Samsung suppliers and customers.
Construction of the new manufacturing facility took only 20 months since Samsung broke ground here in September, 2012. The total area of the facility is approximately 230,000 square meters, situated on 1.14 million square meters of land.
In remarks delivered during the ceremony, Dr. Kwon said, "The city of Xi'an was the starting point of the Silk Road, which had performed a key role in bridging cultures from the East and the West. We expect that our new facility in Xi'an - the fruit of close cooperation with China, will mark the crowning of a 21st century Silk Road."
Shaanxi province governor Lou Qinjian congratulated Samsung at the event, noting that the new Xi'an fab highlights the special partnership and efficient cooperation between China and Korea, as he also promised the province's ongoing support.
By commencing operations of its Xi'an fabrication line, Samsung has secured a solid memory production base in China, a market where approximately 50 percent of global NAND flash is generated from production bases operated by many IT companies here. It is also laying the foundation for a more stable supply of memory products to its customers.
Samsung plans to complete construction of its entire Xi'an complex, which includes an assembly facility and test line, by the end of this year.
About Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Is a global leader in technology, opening new possibilities for people everywhere. Through relentless innovation and discovery, we are transforming the world's of TVs, smartphones, tablets, PCs, cameras, home appliances, printers, LTE systems, medical devices, semiconductors and LED solutions. We employ 286,000 people across 80 countries with annual sales of U.S. $216.7 billion. To discover more, please visit www.samsung.com.
If you read our SSD reviews on a regular basis you've heard about my six year old Lenovo T61p notebook. If not, then here's the story. The T61p has an amazing keyboard and a 1920x1200 pixel display that makes writing reviews on pleasant. The Core2 Quad processor is fast enough for video and picture editing and overkill for all of the tasks performed while writing reviews. The only area on this notebook that needs a performance boost is the storage system. The T61p shipped with a small mechanical hard drive and is limited to SATA 1.5, 150 MB/s speeds. With an SSD, the 150 MB/s throughput limit comes into play but with the high random access times on modern SSDs, you can't tell a difference between the T61p and a new Lenovo W530 in day to day use other than the lower resolution screen on the newer W530.
If a six year old notebook can feel as fast, if not faster than a brand new notebook just by installing a 100 Dollar SSD why would anyone want to spend 1200 Dollars on a new workstation class notebook? It seems we're not alone in this line of thinking. In a recent report by Jim Handy for Forbes online, Jim speculates that SSDs play a role in Intel's sagging processor sales.
In many corporate environments IT managers have found that they can postpone the costly process of refreshing the staff's PCs by a year or longer by simply replacing the hard drive (HDD) in employees' PCs with an SSD. Since the PC is between 2-3 years old at that point the HDD is usually pretty small (say 80GB) and an SSD of a similar capacity will cost around $100, which looks pretty good in comparison to a $600-1,000 price tag for a notebook PC.
What do you think? Are you ready to shell out for a new notebook or desktop build or does your SSD provide enough performance to prolong your upgrade cycle?
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday - At the State Fairgrounds... It could be an obnoxious commercial on the radio but I'm a bit excited to see this. We just saw that Amazon has the Seagate 600 Pro 240GB SSD for $119.99. This is Seagate's upper tier model SATA model with host power loss protection, higher grade NAND flash over the consumer focused 600 non-Pro and has a five year warranty.
I didn't expect to see a drive like the 600 Pro reach this price point for some time but this just goes to show that the market is changing rapidly. Setting the stage, the 600 Pro isn't a budget SSD or even a drive designed for the mainstream market. This is a real deal kick ass drive designed for entry-level enterprise use. Just days ago we reviewed an entry-level 256GB class SSD that cost $89.99 and now this premium model for a even less than 50 Cents per GB of total NAND flash.
Can it get any better than this?
Be sure to read Jon's RAID Report on two Seagate 600 Pro 200GB drives.
Several motherboard manufactures have started leaking photos of next generation motherboards to the web. Binding NDAs or nondisclosure agreements as they are known means you can look but you can't touch. In this case you can't really read anything either because the specs are locked away for manufactures and media to know and or you to speculate on. I don't write motherboard reviews so I'm not briefed on the ins and outs on new products. If I asked I could get the information but then I'd be locked down by an NDA like everyone else who's been briefed.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that PCIe based M.2 and SATA Express are on nearly all of the leaked images we've seen. We wrote the first performance preview for socket M.2 a year ago with product in hand. A few months ago we also wrote a preview for SATA Express using a prototype ASUS Z87 motherboard.
GIGABYTE posted images today of motherboards with the model names blurred but clearly we're looking at next gen hardware that should hit the market just after Computex (June). Four images are on the company's Facebook page and all four models appear to show two SATA Express connectors.
It's unclear at this time if the Intel chipset handles both SATA Express ports or if companies are using the ASmedia PCIe bridge. The GIGABYTE boards up for show and not-tell don't appear to have M.2 onboard but other leaked images from ASUS and ASRock show M.2 capability. We've were also the first to show ASRock's Fatal1ty 990FX Killer AM3+ motherboard with two lane socket M.2 onboard a few months back. We're glad to see ASRock bringing the interesting connector over to the Intel side as well.
Both SATA Express and M.2 bring increased throughput performance to the storage system. Not only does the PCIe spec increase bandwidth beyond SATA III specifications but it also introduces full duplex reads and writes. Computex is a little over a month away so you'll have to wait till then before we can show performance without an adapter. If you want to get a head start on native PCIe based storage have a look at the new Plextor M6e review. The drive is currently on Newegg for $299.99 in 256GB capacity size.
SanDisk today announced new 1Z, 15nm NAND flash in a press release (see below). This is an aggressive step for SanDisk since we're just starting to hear about upcoming products with new 1Y (19nm, 19mm x 19.5mm die)flash on consumer SSD products. The move from 1Y to 1Z should produce significantly more die per wafer reducing the cost of flash and thus end products.
In the press release, SanDisk states 1Z will scale a large product segment, from portable flash products to enterprise SSDs. This will not happen over night but it's a clear indication that SanDisk is able to shrink the lithography one more time until moving to 3D or stacked NAND.
MILPITAS, Calif., April 22, 2014 -SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ: SNDK), a global leader in flash storage solutions, today announced the availability of its 1Z-nanometer (nm) technology, the most advanced NAND flash process node in the world. The 15nm technology will ramp on both two bits-per-cell (X2) and three bits-per-cell (X3) NAND flash memory architectures with production ramp to begin in the second half of 2014.
"We are thrilled to continue our technology leadership with the industry's most advanced flash memory process node, enabling us to deliver the world's smallest and most cost effective 128 gigabit chips,"� said Dr. Siva Sivaram, senior vice president, memory technology, SanDisk. "We are delighted that these new chips will allow us to further differentiate and expand our portfolio of NAND flash solutions."�
The 15nm technology uses many advanced process innovations and cell-design solutions to scale the chips along both axes. SanDisk's All-Bit-Line (ABL) architecture, which contains proprietary programming algorithms and multi-level data storage management schemes, has been implemented in the 1Z technology to deliver NAND flash solutions with no sacrifice in memory performance or reliability. SanDisk's 1Z technology will be utilized across its broad range of solutions, from removable cards to enterprise SSDs.
SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ: SNDK), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company, is a global leader in flash storage solutions. For more than 25 years, SanDisk has expanded the possibilities of storage, providing trusted and innovative products that have transformed the electronics industry. Today, SanDisk's quality, state-of-the-art solutions are at the heart of many of the world's largest data centers, and embedded in advanced smartphones, tablets and PCs. SanDisk's consumer products are available at hundreds of thousands of retail stores worldwide. For more information, visit www.sandisk.com.