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Overview NVMe drive Intel SSD 660p: is it appropriate to QLC-memory SSDS to PCI Express?

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Flash drives, built on the four-bit memory QLC 3D NAND, gradually starting to gain more widespread. Although this memory still makes many users distrust, sooner or later it will become the predominant option used in bulk solid-state storage. And it will happen, obviously, at the most banal reason: due to the higher density of information storage QLC 3D NAND further reduces the cost of SSD drives, allowing in the near future to make available to the mass market, these models of SSD, capacity of which is measured not in gigabytes, but in terabytes.

We have had the opportunity to meet with one of the first SSD on the basis of the QLC 3D NAND, SATA drive Samsung 860 QVO. However, Samsung is not the only manufacturer that began mass production of four-bit memory, and decisions based on it. Own QLC 3D NAND also have Alliance Intel/Micron, and these manufacturers also use it in mass products for the consumer market. And started doing it even before they Samsung.

But to pay attention to QLC products to Intel and Micron have not even because they brought this technology to the mass market first. The fact that these manufacturers have to solve with the help of QLC 3D NAND several different tasks, making them QLC products differ from offers Samsung ideologically. While the Samsung 860 QVO is a simple consumer SATA SSD, which the South Korean manufacturer tried to minimize the price, the strategy of Intel and Micron proved more resourceful. They began to introduce QLC 3D NAND drives with the NVMe interface, not from the bottom, but with a higher price category. This approach is good because it allows to demonstrate the potential of four-bit memory on a bright and clear example, proving that QLC 3D NAND is not necessarily an option for the budget and slow drives with reduced resource. This memory may be appropriate for products of higher rank, which are exactly the QLC-new Intel SSD and Crucial 660p P1.

Along the way, Intel and Crucial SSD 660p P1 solve another task. With their help, the manufacturers want to claim their ambitions in the segment of inexpensive NVMe SSD, which is currently on the rise. Lately we have seen many attempts to bring the cost of high-speed drives with NVMe interface to the indicators of conventional SATA SSD. But they all were connected either with the transition to the unbuffered design, or using controllers with stripped-down functionality, which ultimately is not the best way affects productivity. QLC 3D NAND allows you to do NVMe SSD cheaper the other way, avoiding the obvious structural flaws on the side of the controller.

As a result, in the face of Intel and Crucial SSD 660p P1 we have a very interesting combination of price and performance options. Among NVMe drives they have almost the lowest price, which may well be compared with the cost of the popular SATA models, but promises quite good speed performance, significantly exceeding the specifications of SATA hard drives. It turns out that Intel and Crucial SSD 660p P1 downright begging to be a better alternative for the ageing SATA SSD.

However, if everything comes out so neatly in practice — or QLC 3D NAND still imposes on the performance and other consumer features NVMe SSD an indelible imprint? The answer to this question is the subject of this review, the protagonist of which will be Intel SSD 660p.

#Specifications

The first thing that is of interest in the Intel SSD 660p is a brand QLC 3D NAND Intel authorship. The fact that this memory is slightly different from the already familiar to us QLC-memory, Samsung’s implementation, and this causes some features of the drive from Intel, such as its long, five-year warranty period, despite the common opinion about the extreme unreliability of QLC 3D NAND.

However, used in the Intel SSD 660p flash memory – this is the real QLC 3D NAND, each cell that can have sixteen logic States, thereby achieving the ability to store four bits of information and 33% increase in areal density of data compared to the TLC-flash. Manufactured by Intel, the crystals QLC 3D NAND have a 64-layer structure as the signature TLC 3D NAND second generation, but the capacity of these crystals is increased to 1 Tbit.

At the same time, Intel continues to rely on the design of the cell with vertical floating gate, while Samsung, Toshiba and Western Digital decided to use traps charge. Each approach has its pros and cons, but Intel believes the floating gate of a more appropriate scheme for QLC-memory, since in this case it achieves the best mutual insulation of the cells and prevents uncontrolled run-off charge. In other words, this approach allows Intel engineers to easily circumvent the main problem QLC-memory – low reliability of data storage in the off state.

That is why the company did not cut back the warranty period Intel SSD 660p, as if forgetting that the drive is built on a cheap four-bit memory. However, in the framework of the full five-year warranty manufacturer announces not too generous even for the average user, the resource, implying the possibility of daily overwrite only 10% of the total drive capacity. This means that the array of the flash memory the Intel SSD 660p per life time is allowed to overwrite only 200 times. And it’s really small, even for my Samsung QLC-drives series 860 QVO allows almost twice of write cycles (360), though it gives only a three-year warranty. Drives based on TLC memory from the point of view of official guarantees is allowed to overwrite on average over the lifetime of the order of 600 times.

Nevertheless, you need to understand that everything given in the last paragraph number is the only Declaration that may be far from reality. And to ensure that the reliability the Intel SSD 660p no special claims, in the preparation of this review, we have carefully studied the reviews on the popular foreign online sites. Indeed, despite the fact that this SSD is present in sale since August of last year, no complaints related to his premature failures or problems with data integrity, in reviews buyers not found. On the contrary, in most reviews customers praise 660p for great prices and the opportunity to save money.

Complain users at all otherwise – not too high a level of performance that is often lower than expected. But this is not surprising. QLC 3D NAND is slower than TLC memory, for obvious reason: the controller for digital processing of data read from the four-bit cell, we have to recognize twice as many different States, which, of course, is more complicated computational task. In addition, the effect and a low degree of parallelism of the array of flash memory assembled from QLC 3D NAND devices. The capacity of the crystals in this case is 1 TB, so the design of the drive of 512 GB, for example, involved only four devices, which is obviously insufficient for efficient parallelization of applications.

Base controller for the selected 660p also not flagship. Intel continues to work closely with the company Silicon Motion, and QLC-drive she prefers a dual-core chip SM2263, which is a stripped-down four-channel version of the controller SM2262 used in the popular Intel SSD 760p. For the simplified controller claimed about half the worst computing experience, it is not surprising that the stated performance Intel SSD 660p on the background level solutions 970 Samsung EVO looks doesn’t matter.

But do not forget that the Intel SSD 660p does and is not going to compete with an efficient NVMe models. It is rather a compromise solution, so the official specifications should not cause any surprise.

Manufacturer Intel
Series SSD 660p
Model number SSDPEKNW512G8 SSDPEKNW010T8 SSDPEKNW020T8
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 512 1024 2048
Configuration
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Intel 64-layer 1-Tbit QLC 3D NAND
Controller Silicon Motion SM2263
Buffer: type, volume DDR3L, 256 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 1500 1800 1800
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1000 1800 1800
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 90 000 150 000 220 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 220 000 220 000 220 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,04/4,0
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,6
Resource record, TB 100 200 400
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 80,15 × 22,15 × 2,38
Weight, g 10
Warranty period, years 5

You can even think, if formal specifications do not take into account technology SLC-cache. But this is not so, the technology of rapid entry, the drive is there, but the Intel SSD 660p do not hit records and in any type of operation does not fill the entire bandwidth provided by PCI Express 3.0 x4. However, for the NVMe drive, the unit cost of which is close to $0.17 per Gigabyte, it is quite normal. Intel SSD 660p is not inferior to the characteristics of the most inexpensive NVMe SSD class A1000 Kingston or Transcend SSD 110s.

As for SLC-caching, it is a subject of special pride of developers of 660p. The drive on the base of QLC-memory write speed which is very low, quality this technology means a lot. Judge for yourself: directly in the 3D NAND array QLC polterabayta version of Intel SSD 660p writes data only at a speed of about 55-60 MB/s, and it’s two to three times below the performance of the linear record have a modern mechanical HDD. For this reason, the QLC drive without SLC cache would be completely pointless device, and the size of this cache should be possible as much as possible to the user is not faced with the real speed QLC 3D NAND.

For this reason, the Intel SSD 660p switched to the dynamic circuit SLC-caching, when most of the array of flash memory works in a fast SLC mode, and the translation of four-bit cells in QLC mode occurs only as needed, when entries in a single bit mode in the array of flash memory not enough space. Generally speaking, such an approach is typical for almost all drives on the controllers Silicon Motion, but Intel is still in all of their products use a static SLC cache.

As a result, the linear speed of continuous recording on a clean Intel SSD 660p capacity of 512 GB as follows:

In SLC mode at 660p Intel SSD 512 GB can be translated approximately 50% of the array of flash memory. This allows you to record to the drive in fast mode up to 70 GB. But even in this case performance of the linear record is limited to the value of 900-950 MB/s, not to mention the fact that after filling the cache when the record starts to be produced in the main memory array in chetyrehbalnoy mode, performance is reduced to a very miserable performance. However, despite the fact that Intel SSD 660p – quite slow by the standards of the SSD NVMe models, in most cases, it is still obviously faster SATA-drives.

The algorithms of implementation of SLC-caching from the Intel SSD 660p there are three interesting features. First, the SLC cache, this drive is the static part by volume of 6 GB for every 512 GB capacity SSD. It allows you to store high speed recording even if the volume of SSD almost to the eyeballs busy user files and deploy capacious dynamic cache is not possible.

Secondly, the contents of the SLC cache is transferred to the QLC-memory not immediately, but only during a relatively long downtime of the drive. On the one hand, it slightly reduces the effectiveness of the cache, which may be filled, but with another – allows to speed up and the read operation, if data access to occur immediately after recording them. Especially effective this tactic manifests itself in the benchmarks that measure the speed of reading immediately after the test file.

In addition, Intel came up with something very special – the developers decided to give some control over SLC cache in the user’s hand. Proprietary utility SSD Toolbox to 660p can send the controller a command for the forcible transfer of all information from the SLC cache to the QLC-memory. And this, obviously, allows you to pre-provision storage to record large amounts of data.

#Appearance and internal structure

Lineup of solid state drives Intel has a clear structure. 500-series are SATA drives, 700 series includes NVMe SSD with good performance and 600-series is somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, such drives have an interface NVMe, and on the other provide a low cost and not putting records products. That Intel SSD 660p – a product not of premium level. While the Intel SSD 760p is made on black PCB and has a black label SSD 660p with a green PCB and a plain white sticker is more like a solution for OEM collectors, not enthusiasts.

However, for an inexpensive SSD NVMe appearance does not matter much, much more interesting to look at what components assembled 660p. For testing, we took a version with 512GB. Without a label it is shown in the photo below.

 

Intel SSD 660p made in the traditional form factor M. 2 2280, and in his thin, one-sided version. It clearly shows the advantage of large crystals QLC 3D NAND. Stacking 16 of these crystals flash memory you can obtain IC total volume up to 2 TB, so in theory the reality can be unilateral 660p with 8TB. But while Intel is such a large your SSD is not produced, and therefore the costs of the chips with only two or four crystals 64 layer 3D NAND QLC inside. For example, in the Intel SSD 512 GB 660p uses a chip with two crystals on the Board so photographed it is possible to observe two chip flash memory. Next to them are reserved, loose pads for another pair of chips – they are only required in versions of the SSD capacity of 2 TB.

SM2263 controller that controls a four channel array of the flash memory is recognizable by Nickel plated cap that improves heat sink. Please note the dimensions of this chip compared to the eight SM2262 it was significantly less that clearly alludes to his stripped-down performance.

This is also indicated by the chip DDR3L SDRAM installed on the Intel SSD 660p. Typically in dram, memory is stored a copy of the table of address translation, which requires the volume rate of 1 MB DRAM 1 GB flash memory. However, 660p any tanks the size of the DRAM buffer is 256 MB. Consequently, the translation table is buffered in fast memory not as a whole, and this can limit the drive performance when accessing large data volumes.

It is worth noting that was mentioned in the beginning of the article storage Crucial P1 uses exactly the same circuitry as the Intel SSD 660p. But the manufacturer did not skimp on the amount of DRAM buffer and also did not set a goal to place all the chips QLC 3D NAND on one side of the Board. Therefore, the decision of the ITC differs from the Intel SSD 660p design and obviously has some features in profile performance. Although the Intel drives SSD Crucial 660p and P1 should be similar in performance.

#Software

Intel traditionally supplies your drives and quite functional utility SSD Toolbox, which is compatible with Intel SSD 660p. In features she is largely similar to other similar programs. This utility not only allows you to get detailed information about the status of your drive, but has a whole set of additional tools for tuning and optimizing.

 

For example, it can be sent to the drive package TRIM commands in interface SSD Toolbox, this feature is called SSD Optimizer. With this action service is a utility that can perform not only disposable, but also offline, according to a schedule. In addition, Intel has provided another opportunity for optimization software – forced clear the contents of the SLC cache drive. This is a unique opportunity Intel SSD Toolbox, no service utilities other manufacturers drives, so do not know how.

In the SSD Toolbox there is a possibility of a diagnostic scan, during which you can check the status and operability of the flash memory. The scan runs as fast and full mode – the difference is that affect whether the verification of the entire array of flash memory or only some part of it.

 

Also use the SSD Toolbox to check the relevance used by the drive firmware and initiate the Secure Erase operation.

 

Another trademark feature antalovsky service utilities – System Tuner. With it, you can see the critical settings related to the disk subsystem includes the operating system, as well as to obtain recommendations for changes.

SOURCE

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Peripherals

Overview NVMe SSD WD Black SN750: was tacked, but not vylaviroval

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Past 2018 was for NVMe drives is a period of intense growth. During this time, many manufacturers have developed and introduced products that significantly raise the overall level of operations through the PCI Express bus. The linear performance of advanced NVMe SSD has become closer to bandwidth interface PCI Express 3.0 x4, and the speed with arbitrary operations increased in comparison with the proposals of previous generations at times.

In light of this, it is not surprising that on the market it’s a lot of interesting decisions. The best consumer drives in the past year have consistently breakthrough 760p Intel SSD, WD Black NVMe and ADATA XPG SX8200, and they all looked at the preceding NVMe models as representatives of a completely new generation – so serious was the increase in speed performance. A symbol of change was also the fact that for the first few years, Samsung has lost the title of official supplier of the most interesting mass SSD: proposed to her in the past year, the drive 960 Samsung EVO due to the increased activity of competitors was not the best option. And it seemed that started the intensive growth will not stop in 2019, improving active mass NVMe SSD will continue.

However, the first months of this year tell a different story: it seems that last year’s breakthrough producers spent all their strength, and the maximum that we can see in the near future, is a gradual upgrade last year products. One of the examples is not necessary. Today we’ll meet another NVMe SSD Western Digital WD Black SN750, and this is already the third this year the novelty is created without making any fundamental changes in the basic architecture of the drive. The products we are facing this year, the producers give us fundamentally new approaches and hardware-based solutions. All limited to or change the flash memory on more modern types, or even exclusively optimizations at the level of the firmware.

However, we do not want to say that this approach obviously cannot give good results. There is a perfect example: the new drive 970 Samsung EVO Plus, which is different from the previous one by the replacement of the old 64-layer for a more modern 96-layer TLC 3D V-NAND, unexpectedly set new benchmarks of performance for the market segment consumer NVMe SSD.

But it turns out far not always and not all. For example, a new version of the drive ADATA XPG SX8200, received the title ends Pro, got such optimizations firmware, it would be better if they were never there. The drive was faster than its predecessor only in benchmarks, with real improvements in speed performance or other characteristics it offers.

What did Western Digital, at first glance more like to approach ADATA. The fact that WD Black SN750 is an analogue of last year’s drive WD Black NVMe (it had a model number SN720) with corrected firmware. But let’s not jump to conclusions, who knows how this could affect performance. In the end, Western Digital has presented us with an unexpected and pleasant surprise, when after a slow and unremarkable the first version of the WD Black PCIe second version of WD Black NVMe that changed at all and became one of the best consumer NVMe SSD last year. So as soon as the third version of the “black” drive is Western Digital got to Russia, we immediately decided to test it. Let’s see, maybe from Western Digital again managed to surpass Samsung to do something more interesting than 970 Samsung EVO Plus?

#Specifications

For released last year, Black NVMe drive (SN720) Western Digital is a fully updated hardware platform. The manufacturer approached the development of this SSD with all responsibility: there is even a special proprietary modular controller which, as originally planned, in various forms had gradually extended its habitat to other NVMe SSD company. New Black SN750 we’re talking about today, fits perfectly into the original plan: it is a key component inherited from its predecessor. It again applied the same dual-core 28-nm controller created passed under the wing of Western Digital’s engineering team SanDisk.

However, the tenure of the controller can hardly be considered a bad thing. Chip SanDisk gangbusters manifested itself in Black NVMe sample of 2018 and, despite the relatively small number of cores ARM Cortex-R, without problems provided a very decent performance.

Has not changed compared to the previous version of the SSD and the flash memory. Both then and now, Western Digital uses for its flagship product brand 64-layer BiCS3 memory (3D NAND TLC) with a 256-Gigabit size of the crystals. And this moment, frankly, raises a lot of questions. The fact that the trial delivery more perfect 96-layer flash memory of the fourth generation (BiSC4) Western Digital announced in the middle of last year. And it would be quite natural if today’s versions of the flagship store of the company there would be such a memory. The more that production partner, Western Digital, Toshiba, began shipping drives based on BiCS4 memory back in September of last year (the corresponding model is called XG6). However, something from Western Digital went wrong, and the transition to 96-layer flash memory did not take place, resulting in a new Black SN750 terms of hardware configuration was completely similar to the previous version “black” leader.

In support of his new producer said that serious changes made on the firmware level, and the redesigned software could provide a leap in speed performance. However, it is worth mentioning that the SanDisk controller, based on which the Western Digital drives are characterized by the hardware implementation of many algorithms that are typically handled by software approaches.

And this fact casts doubt on the fact that some optimizations to the firmware performance of another member of the family Black do can somehow dramatically improved. But, apparently, the marketing Department Western Digital our skepticism is not shared. A list of characteristics drawn up like Black SN750 is really noticeable the best product on the background of the last Black NVMe. Passport speed random read and write, as well as performance when melloblocco reading, according to official data, increased by 3-7 %. A performance random write performance increased by up to 40 %, which is mainly and must provide the best new model in the real world.

If to speak about specific numbers, the official specifications WD Black SN750 got the following.

Manufacturer Western Digital
Series WD Black SN750 NVMe SSD
Model number WDS250G3X0C WDS500G3X0C
WDS500G3XHC
WDS100T3X0C
WDS100T3XHC
WDS200T3X0C
WDS100T3XHC
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 250 500 1000 2000
Configuration
Memory chips: type, process technology, manufacturer SanDisk 64-layer 3D TLC NAND BiCS3
Controller SanDisk 20-82-007011
Buffer: type, volume DDR4-2400,
256 MB
DDR4-2400,
512 MB
DDR4-2400,
1024 MB
DDR4-2400,
2048 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3100 3470 3470 3400
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1600 2600 3000 2900
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 220 000 420 000 515 000 480 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 180 000 380 000 560 000 550 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,1/9,24
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,75
Resource record, TB 200 300 600 1200
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 80 x 22 x 2,38 – without radiator
80 x 24.2 x 8.1 – with radiator
Weight, g 7,5 – without radiator
33,2 – radiator
Warranty period, years 5

Given the fact that all improvements in performance are achieved only by patching the firmware, there is a natural question whether a similar improvement is already released WD Black NVMe sample 2018. And unfortunately, the answer is negative. Western Digital refused to directly explain why the firmware SN750 can not be used in SN720, but we believe that the new firmware displays the controller at a higher clock frequency, and to ensure that it does not cause any problems at the production stage to the chips for SN750 subject to more stringent requirements for the quality of semiconductor crystals. In fact, the range of Western Digital recently appeared NVMe is the solution to lower level – Blue SN500, and because of this the company now has a natural opportunity to differentiate the quality controllers of silicon, without increasing the scrap rate.

Along with the increase of frequency controller to improve the performance of Black SN750 could and reorganization of the principles of operation SLC-caching. If we talk about Black NVMe, the SLC cache in the drive was not nearly as effective. The developers used the simplest static scheme, and the amount of flash memory, running at an accelerated rate, were quite small – only about 3 GB for each 250 GB capacity of the SSD. But the new version of Black SN750, unfortunately, in this direction, no significant improvements have not received. SLC-cache re-working a fixed area of the array of flash memory of the same size. Therefore, all the old claims to the SLC cache Black SN750 saved.

As an illustration, we present the traditional graph that shows the performance of the upgraded polterabayta WD Black SN750 in continuous sequential write.

Indeed, this graph is almost identical to the graph of sequential write speed, which we got for WD Black NVMe. And it concerns not only the amount of data, after which a decrease performance, but also the absolute values of speed of record.

But some serious innovation new WD Black SN750 still offers. For example, now in the lineup, a version storage capacity of 2 TB. However, you need to keep in mind that to create the manufacturer had to resort to the use of 512-Gigabit chips instead of 256-Gigabit, and, as often happens in such situations, not the best impact on performance. Even on passport specifications 2-TB drive is slower than the 1 TB.

The second major innovation – the emergence of SSD has a special gaming mode (Gaming Mode), based on enthusiasts who want to get the best possible performance. In it, the drive disables power saving features (Autonomous Power State Transitions) that can minimize delays during the initial passes on the data. Game mode for Black SN750 included in the brand utility Western Digital SSD Dashboard, which is now added a corresponding switch.

However, do not think that Gaming Mode is a sort of magical technology that can qualitatively change the situation with performance. Tests show that the growth is almost imperceptible. Small changes for the better are visible only in synthetic benchmarks and only when melkoplodnyj operations in the absence of the request queue.

Gaming Mode выключен

Gaming Mode is turned off

 
Gaming Mode включен

Gaming Mode included

However for desktop systems we would still recommend to initially activate the Gaming Mode is disabled. Performance increase it provides, albeit small. However, no adverse events, apart from a slight increase of energy consumption, which on the desktop is unlikely to be visible, this mode does not contribute.

As for the warranty conditions and declared a resource in this regard, the WD Black SN750 is completely similar to the previous model. The warranty period is set to the ordinary five years, during which the user is permitted to completely overwrite the drive 600 times. The exception is made only for the younger version with a capacity of 250 GB for the asset is increased to 800-fold overwriting the SSD during the service.

#Appearance and internal structure

As follows from the above, WD Black SN750 is only a minor update last WD Black NVMe with a relatively small list of changes. There is therefore nothing surprising in the fact that the old and new versions of the drive are identical from the point of view of PCB design. Its design has not changed, and to distinguish the newer model from the old, if it is to peel the sticker will be almost impossible.

 

SSD has sided design allowing it to be used in low-profile slots. Corporate controller SanDisk 20-82-007011 located at the center of the Board and two chips of flash memory divorced at the edges of the M. 2 module. It is made specifically the Western Digital engineers found that with this arrangement at the printed circuit Board is a more simple topology and efficiently solved the problem with the heat sink.

We tested the drive capacity of 500 GB, and an array of flash memory on it was typed two chips, each of which was signed by eight 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D TLC NAND-crystals (BiCS3) manufactured by SanDisk. Therefore, eight-channel controller in the present drive uses two-time interleaving of devices in each channel. Usually this is enough for the hardware platform of the SSD were able to develop their full potential.

Next to the controller chip set DRAM buffer needed to quickly work with a table of address translation. It is the only component in the composition of the WD Black SN750, which the manufacturer buys on the side. In this case, used chip SK Hynix with capacity of 512 MB, and a bet is made on relatively high-speed memory – DDR4-2400.

However, nothing new in all this, the same thing we saw when meeting with the WD Black NVMe. But Western Digital has tried no change in hardware configuration to compensate for at least some changes in the exterior. For WD Black SN750 was chosen as the gaming image, and he stresses all the available ways: in the first package and the second on the information sticker on the SSD.

Box for WD Black SN750 made in black color scheme, which replaced the blue-and-white design, which is actively used fixed-width font, and the name of the drive is now written as WD_BLACK.

The sticker on the drive is also designed in the same style, but not without flaws. However, it can be forgiven, because on it the manufacturer had to place a lot of proprietary information, logos and bar codes.

Since Black SN750 clearly focused on enthusiasts, it would be logical if the sticker would be made on the basis of the foil, what resort, some manufacturers to improve the heat dissipation from a chip on Board SSD. But the developers of Western Digital decided to approach the issue of cooling more radically, and for those who are seriously concerned about the cooling, made some modification SN750 Black with a full radiator.

This version is a separate product that costs $20-$35 more expensive. However, Western Digital believes that there is definitely pay for that. Applied after the radiator is not a simple ineffective heat-dissipating lid, which, for example, like to put on their NVMe SSD companies from the third echelon. In Black SN750 it is a massive enough black aluminum bar on the form which worked masters – invited experts from the firm NAS.

#Software

The Western Digital hard drive always attached the same brand service utility SSD Dashboard, which implements all the basic functions for their service. But the release of a new version of the flagship NVMe SSD it is noticeably changed: there appeared new dark version of the interface, which is automatically included in the case if the utility detects in the system gaming Black SN750.

 

The ability of the utility remain almost completely the same, and surprise someone, it is unlikely. In fact, to the usual set of functions added to only switch to Gaming Mode. But this does not mean that we are dissatisfied with something: claims to the program SSD Dashboard no, because it remains one of the most full-featured service utilities of this kind.

Main features of the SSD Dashboard: get information about the installed in the SSD system, including information about the remaining resource and the current temperature; monitoring the performance of the drive in real time; firmware update via Internet or from a file; the operation Secure Erase and delete any data from the flash memory by means of forced vanishing; run SMART tests and view SMART attributes.

 

It should be noted that the possibility of interpretation of the parameters SMART, laid in SSD Dashboard, somewhat richer than the information that can be obtained from independent third-party programs.

 

But the branded NVMe-driver for WD Black SN750 not provided. So working with them will have a standard operating system driver, in the properties which to increase capacity and performance in popular benchmarks, it is recommended to tick the option “Disable flushing of the buffer cache Windows account for this device”.

SOURCE

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Peripherals

Overview NVMe SSD Crucial P1: NVMe on SATA price

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Overview NVMe-ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro: do no harm

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The last two years was quite a difficult period for SSD manufacturer of the second-the third echelon. On the one hand, in 2017, many of them seriously injured because of a serious shortage of NAND chips, and the other in 2018 has intensified the company of the first echelon in the face of Samsung, Western Digital, Micron and Intel, which have been actively squeezed from the market smaller competitors. The changed situation to quickly put everything in its place, with the result that became very clear which of the SSD manufacturers engaged in this business in so far as, and which are expected to take a worthy place in good faith invested in the development of, reputation and marketing.

A good example of a manufacturer of the second echelon, which did not break any of the difficulties — the notorious ADATA. This company has not only firmly established in the market, not yielding its place to the giants, but was able to significantly expand their business while many of its competitors ceased to do solid state drives. For example, last year she managed to increase sales of SSD by about 15 %, with a significant growth was achieved not only in the segment of entry-level products, but sales of productive drives using the NVMe interface.

The reasons for this success are quite obvious: on the one hand, ADATA reached agreement on stable supply of high-quality 3D NAND with Toshiba, and with another – actively worked on the development of its model range, repeatedly choosing good partners developers controllers. In particular, the most accessible storage company, as their controllers, not disdaining work as with well-established firms scale Marvell and Silicon Motion, and with newcomers like Maxiotek and Realtek. Creating top-level products ADATA consistently relied on platform Silicon Motion — and it turned out to be very wise and farsighted decision.

The fact that over the past few years Silicon Motion could become a leading independent supplier of SSD controllers, the extent of whose business it is easy to appreciate the fact that last year the company shipped to consumers in its six billionth chip. However, how good solutions Silicon Motion in engineering terms, to judge better for others achievements. For example, it can boast of supplying chips for storage the leading manufacturers of the level of Micron and Intel. But even more impressive is that, starting with a low-power controllers for budget SSDS, Silicon Motion over a few years could reach that today her chips almost not inferior to the best solutions Samsung and SanDisk, which has long been considered unattainable for other ideal.

That is what was planned originally our story. We were going to talk about how outstanding the SSD can be constructed, if we take the modern and best platform Silicon Motion (SMI) and fill it solid 64-layer TLC 3D NAND production Micron. To assemble this configuration, of course, could any of the SSD manufacturers, but for some reason we are not surprised that this manufacturer once again proved to be the ADATA. This company has managed to surprise us when he offered to drive XPG SX8200, overplayed performance 970 Samsung EVO. But now she was going to Shine even more and to surpass the latest 970 Samsung EVO Plus, which we recently named best mass SSD with NVMe interface.

That’s just the approach of the ADATA at this time, raises serious questions. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

#Specifications

The main reason why new ADATA XPG Pro SX8200 so interested as computer enthusiasts in General and us in particular, controller SMI SM2262EN. The use of this circuit distinguishes XPG SX8200 Pro from the previous version of the flagship NVMe SSD company – XPG easy SX8200. An array of flash memory in the XPG SX8200 Pro is the same as before, but thanks to the introduction of an upgraded version of the controller from the new drive should be much faster – so presents its new ADATA itself.

And there is a certain logic. Controller SM2262 became the first solution to Silicon Motion, allowing NVMe storage devices manufacturers second tier to reach the highest level of performance. Chip SM2262EN was initially positioned as a corporate (Enterprise) version of the conventional SM2262 with additional algorithms, aimed at improving reliability. But as a result of optimization of the original controller Silicon Motion engineers managed to seriously differ in characteristics, the platform, so the developers have deemed it necessary to offer it to the mass market. This made possible the production of such products as ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro or its close analogues – HP EX950 or Transcend NVMe SSD 220S.

Unfortunately, we do not have detailed information about what was key to the significant growth of the performance characteristics in SM2262EN. The developers say that the basic architecture in an updated version of the controller was left untouched. In this, as before, sold eight channels for the organization of the array of flash memory, supports PCI Express 3.0 x4, and the base is a pair of cores ARM Cortex-R. in fact, the changes relate only to the firmware, and its low-level component, that is, algorithms that the controller uses to read and write analog data of the memory cells and for converting it into digital form.

Itself Silicon Motion claims that SM2262EN they were able to increase sequential write speed by up to 60 % and the performance with random reads and writes at 10-15% and 40% respectively. Speaking specifically about ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro features of this model acquired the following form.

Manufacturer ADATA
Series XPG SX8200 Pro
Model number ASX8200PNP-256GT ASX8200PNP-512GT ASX8200PNP-1TT
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 256 512 1024
Configuration
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D TLC NAND
Controller SMI SM2262EN
Buffer: type, volume DDR3-1600,
256 MB
DDR3-1600,
512 MB
DDR3-1600,
1024 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3500 3500 3500
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1200 2300 3000
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 220 000 390 000 390 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 290 000 380 000 380 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,14/0,33
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 2,0
Resource record, TB 160 320 640
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 80 x 22 x 3.5
Weight, g 8
Warranty period, years 5

Leading performance the specs really grown, and now the linear speed of the older version of the XPG Pro SX8200 getting to close to the bandwidth of PCI Express 3.0 x4 not only when reading but also when writing. Prior XPG SX8200 was with this kind of load is slower almost by half. The same applies to performance under arbitrary operations: for the new model claimed a substantially higher speed, and this primarily applies to the record.

The flash memory is completely innocent. We recently tested an updated drive 970 Samsung EVO Plus, there is the growth of productivity was achieved due to the transition to a more modern memory architecture. But ADATA XPG Pro SX8200 the gains in performance achieved in other ways, because it is based on the same memory as the regular XPG SX8200, – 64-layer TLC 3D NAND, Micron 256-Gigabit chips. Updated controller SM2262EN really adapted including for prospective 96-layer memory, but ADATA decided not to wait for the moment when Toshiba will start mass supply of such flash memory on the open market, choosing the widely available and well proven TLC 3D NAND last, the second generation, with 64 layers.

In other words, the incident, the acceleration really is completely determined by the controller, or rather its algorithms, one of which is a rapid entry algorithm, implemented through the SLC cache. As before, he SX8200 ADATA XPG Pro works in a dynamic scheme, that is, the cache is stored in the main array of flash memory, and the amount of information that you can record in accelerated mode, depends on how much free space is on the SSD. However, in the details of implementation have been significant changes.

What has changed, it is easy to see, if you look at the chart speed continuous sequential write on an empty ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro with a capacity of 512 GB.

To start with the fact that the actual speed of writing data into the array of flash memory the new drive compared to the standard ADATA XPG SX8200 above are not always. In fact, the gain in performance is noticeable only when you record in the fast SLC mode. Last SSD based on controller SM2262 in this case, provided the speed of the order of 1.7 GB/s, and now it has grown to 1.9 GB/s While the write speed in normal TLC mode, on the contrary, decreased. Have ADATA XPG SX8200 it was 550 MB/s, the new drive XPG SX8200 Pro gives only 470 MB/s.

In light of these changes the developers had to completely redraw the strategy of SLC cache. If the earlier drive was filled with an array of flash memory in single-bit mode as long as it is allowed free space, moving to a three-bit recording only when the SLC-mode was no longer available, XPG SX8200 Pro volume SLC cache was half the size. That is, high-speed recording is available now only on half of the free capacity of the SSD. But during long operations, leading to a transition in the TLC mode, the drive is not required immediately resort to consolidation of information previously recorded in single bit mode. As a result, the load on the controller became less, and the end of free space in the cache does not, as before, to decrease the linear velocity of up to 340 MB/s, and the result is one and a half times higher.

Therefore, in the above graph, the linear velocity of the continuous recording on a clean 512 GB ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro it is possible to allocate three stages. The first 80 GB is written in SLC mode at speeds of 1.9 GB/s 240 GB Later recorded in TLC mode with a speed of 550 Mbps. And the last 192 GB is appended already at the TLC-mode with simultaneous compaction of the data previously stored in the single bit mode, in this case, the linear speed drops to 300 MB/s. That is, on a qualitative level ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro compared to the XPG SX8200 offers faster dynamic SLC cache which was less than half capacity and in the best case allows you to speed up the entry of data volume equal to about one-sixth and not one-third of the SSD free space.

But the main news in the strategy of caching XPG SX8200 Pro – not a reduction in the amount of flash memory used for recording in the SLC mode, and the fact that the drive now will cache operations not only write, but read. However, the approach used has no advanced prefetch algorithms, and uses the most stupid logic. Information included in the SLC cache when the entry is transferred from it to the TLC memory with high latency, and this leads to the fact that scenarios in which there is a read-only recorded data are serviced much faster than reading the data stored on the SSD earlier.

In real life reading vegetariani data can hardly be considered a common scenario. Therefore, the strategy implemented in ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, the benefit of regular users, most likely, will not bring. But it effectively allows you to throw dust in the eyes, and much raise the performance of drive in benchmarks, because it is primarily the typical measurement of speed of reading references to a newly created test file. This means that most of the results of the tests XPG SX8200 Pro does not match the actual performance of this drive – it is possible to see how fast the reading from the SLC cache, while in everyday use the SSD almost all of the data actually read from the array TLC memory.

Not to be unfounded, we conducted a simple experiment which measured the speed of random read fresh file immediately after its creation and after some time the drive was written additional data.

Interpretation of the results is very simple. While the file is only created, and is still in the SLC cache, the drive ensures speed melkoplodnogo read (blocks 4 KB queue of requests) at 57 MB/s. However, as soon as under the influence of subsequent write operations, the file migrates from cache in conventional TLC memory, the read speed drops by about 20 % to 45 MB/s For the displacement of the source file from the cache on a clean drive is enough to record about 60 GB of data, that is, the transfer of old data from the SLC cache to the array normal memory is then when the cache is filled on three quarters.

From this we can draw several conclusions. First, the usual benchmarks that measure the speed, in terms of specially designed for the measurement file, give for ADATA XPG Pro SX8200 incorrect and inflated speed reading. Second, although the dynamic cache of the drive and requires a sufficiently large volume, in most cases, it is three quarters filled with previously recorded data, which reduces its efficiency in write operations.

Perhaps this statement will sound too loud, but it seems that the optimization of caching algorithms in ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro is focused on increasing the results that this drive shows in the tests, and not on productivity growth in real customer scenarios. Therefore, the assertion that the Pro version of the SSD is much faster than ordinary XPG SX8200, we would put under the question mark, the answer to which will help extensive testing to which we now turn.

But consider that all the improvements in XPG SX8200 Pro will only have a “cheat” character, still not worth it. Because some changes do not associated with indicators performance. For example, ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro in comparison with the predecessor received higher capacities that are multiples of 256, instead of 240 GB. As a result, users get an additional 6 percent of the volume, which respectively cut off from the service area of the drive. However, do not be afraid of decreasing reliability: as shown by tests of endurance XPG SX8200for their older SSD models ADATA acquires from Toshiba first-class memory that is able to carry very high load.

In addition, the model number XPG SX8200 Pro promised and dvuhterabaytny modification that were not previously available. However, now its in the sale too, but at least the manufacturer claims that it is the intention to release it later.

But the terms of the warranty on the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro was exactly the same. The drive is given a five-year warranty, and the amount of resolved entries is calculated so that the entire drive can be overwritten a maximum of 640 times. It is quite typical limitation for today’s leading SSD manufacturers.

#Appearance and internal structure

ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro – drive in the form factor M. 2 2280, which operates via the bus PCI Express 3.0 x4 interface and supports the NVM Express version 1.3. For testing, we took a model with a capacity of 512 GB. Due to a significant decline in prices this volume for a performance SSD with NVMe interface has now become one of the most popular choices among enthusiasts.

For the first look at the selected version of the XPG Pro SX8200 becomes clear that this drive is very much inherited from the previous XPG SX8200. Moreover, the old and the new modification use identical PCB, which is possible due to compatibility insights between controllers SM2262 and SM2262EN. In other words, to distinguish XPG SX8200 Pro in appearance, it is necessary to look at the markings of the controller, namely on the letters ENG and not G, at the end of its model number.

Board the double-sided drive, and memory chips located on both sides of it. This means that this drive is fatter popular NVMe SSD major manufacturers (e.g. WD Black or Samsung NVMe 970 EVO Plus), and therefore it may not be suitable for some slim laptops.

 

Two chips on the drive are DRAM buffer. It is assembled on the basis of a pair of 256 MB chips DDR3-1600 production Nanya. This is a very non-standard solution proposed in the new platforms, Silicon Motion, in which the buffer dynamic memory communicates with the controller by the 32-bit and not 16 bit as in the other SSD, the bus. The result XPG SX8200 Pro gets a definite advantage when working with melkoplodnyj operations, where the controller is required to interact with the table of address translation. Circuitry ADATA XPG Pro SX8200 represented by seven chips — such an abundance of components on the drives of format M. 2 uncommon. But the array of flash memory composed of only four chips, which bear the markings ADATA most. The fact that the company buys from the manufacturer of semiconductors solid plate with crystals NAND and their own cuts, sorts and packs in the chip. If we talk about the storage capacity of 512 GB, then each of the four chip flash memory contains within itself four 256-Gigabit crystal 64-layer TLC 3D NAND production Micron, which allows eight-channel controller to access this array to use double alternating devices in each channel. That is why terabyte version XPG SX8200 Pro can be faster polterabayta – fourfold alternation has the best efficiency in write operations.

It is worth mentioning that the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro has a twin brother – XPG Gammix S11 Pro. This is the same product, but with gaming decor — covers the front side of the Board SSD notched aluminum radiator. And I must say, the cooling for that drive too much will not be because heated during operation, it is quite noticeable. So for XPG SX8200 Pro manufacturer also provided a heat-dissipating plate.

But in this case it has no complicated shape and originally on the drive is not attached. To install it is the user’s responsibility — in that case, if the M. 2 slot, which is supposed to use the SSD does not have a regular radiator.

#Software

With the service software from ADATA, the situation is far better. Proprietary tool for storage companies exist, but it is developing very sluggish, and its capabilities and appearance leave much to be desired. For example, every time during testing we greatly annoys her inability to correctly scale your UI on a 4K monitor in accordance with the settings of the operating system.

However, support for new drives ADATA SSD Toolbox is added in a timely manner.

So, in addition to issuing full diagnostic information about SSD, ADATA SSD Toolbox allows you to inspect the flash memory drive, send him a package of TRIM commands, or perform the automatic adjustment of operating system settings (disabling Superfetch, Prefetch and Defrag).

Also using ADATA SSD Toolbox to upgrade the firmware and perform a Secure Erase procedure.

In addition, after registration, acquired XPG SX8200 Pro on the manufacturer’s website you can get the key to a popular program for cloning data Acronis True Image HD 2013/2015.

SOURCE

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