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Peripherals

Overview NVMe drive, Samsung 970 PRO: MLC decides

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New flagship NVMe drive, Samsung, 970 PRO, got to a very difficult history. If his predecessor, 960 PRO, everything was crystal clear, and it simply was the fastest SSD on the market, now the title of leader among consumer drives categorically went to Optane Intel SSD 900P/905P. Although 970 PRO and faster than the previous version, to compete with intelliskin solution based on a revolutionary memory 3D XPoint he obviously can’t. The main advantage Optane SSD – very high random read performance, and to do something like that, a classic technology NAND not fit because of the page organization of such a memory. This means that now Samsung will have to persuade buyers in the direction 970 PRO not slogans about outstanding performance, and something else.

That something could well be the ratio of performance and price, because to buy some of Optane SSD, you need at least to be constrained in funds. The cost of the 960 and 970 PRO PRO the same capacity more than two times lower. However, there is a significant nuance: consumers chasing the best combination of qualities storage devices, PRO-series, Samsung would rather cheaper, but still fast NVMe drives like 970 Samsung EVO, Intel SSD 760p or ADATA XPG SX8200.

However, the South Korean manufacturer, it seems, still managed to figure out how to present the new PRO 970, to one side he looked organically against other existing proposals, and on the other seemed attractive to buyers. Now as the main advantage of the drive is presented by the fact that it is the only (with a few reservations), the consumer-level drive, which uses a full-fledged modern flash memory with two-bit cells. And it’s true: in the pursuit of increasing data storage density in the array of NAND SSD manufacturers almost universally refused to issue MLC-models and even start to stare at QLC-memory. Though now on sale you can still find options for drives on the basis of a planar 15-nm MLC flash memory by Toshiba and on the basis of MLC 3D NAND first generation, Micron, to regard them as ideological rivals Samsung 970 PRO is absolutely impossible. C drives MLC flash memory Toshiba has completed its life cycle and soon will leave the market, and that with two-bit memory cells, which is offered by ITC, most of the advantages of MLC NAND is actually devoid because of its production waste is used TLC-memory – semiconductor crystals that have not been validated in a three-bit mode.

In other words, those who believe in the benefits of MLC-memory and ready for them to pay a little extra in the near future will really be only one choice – the Samsung 970 PRO. Whether in this case MLC NAND that is artificially and severely limit yourself when choosing – the question is rather philosophical. Yes, this memory is faster and ultimately more reliable. But modern TLC drives successfully compensate for the lower speed of the memory array caching technologies, and their reliability is such that qualitative models quietly transferred the recording to a petabyte of data. That is, Samsung 970 PRO in any case – the solution is not for everyone. However, a certain sense in buying a SSD can really exist. Overpayment compared to the same 970 EVO will be only 20 percent and the gain in consumer qualities invisible does not name.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: a detailed analysis of what exactly Samsung 970 PRO is better competing options built on TLC 3D NAND last generation, the focus of this article.

#Specifications

To talk about how Samsung PRO 970, will not have long. It is assembled at the standard scheme of already known components, which, in fact, makes it fast and reliable solution.

As the basic controller PRO is used in the 970 chip Phoenix. This is a new pachydermia controller internal development Samsung, which she now puts into all of its current NVMe SSD, including in the previously reviewed 970 EVO. This controller is a further development of previously used Polaris with an increased (primarily due to the increase in clock frequency) performance, and support for new versions of the Protocol NVM Express 1.3. It is worth noting that brute computing power Phoenix obviously superior to all similar decisions of other developers. A good illustration of the underlying potential may be the fact that perspective drives the family Z SSD that Samsung is preparing to contrast the Intel SSD Optane will also rely on this chip. In other words, even being used in the flagship (for now) Samsung 970 PRO controller Phoenix bottleneck architecture absolutely is not.

Thus, the performance of the SSD in question is determined primarily by the memory array, which in the 970 PRO is composed of a proprietary 64-layer MLC 3D V-NAND. Turning to the new technology of three-dimensional flash memory, Samsung, contrary to global market trends, decided to save the crystal production c two-bit cells, and it now provides the source material for drives PRO 860 and 970 PRO. It is important to note that interface extension 64-layer MLC 3D V-NAND is made regardless of the TLC 3D V-NAND, and the resulting crystals have a capacity of 256 GB. This allows the manufacturer to form arrays of flash memory with a high degree of parallelism and traditional structure – up to eight channels and two or four striping.

However, as was the case previously – 960 PRO, subjected to 48-layer MLC 3D V-NAND. However, the new flagship model of the drive promises a fairly serious performance boost. In particular, according to the official specifications, the random read speed increased by 15% and the write speed is on the order of 30 to 40 percent. And most of this benefits, especially in terms of write speed, can be attributed to approximately time and a half reduction in the latencies of the devices NAND that occurred in the transition to 64-layer design. As for the growing speed of random reads, then there is a positive role undoubtedly played a new controller Phoenix. However, the claimed performance of linear reading Samsung 970 PRO remained at the same level, the entire bandwidth interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 could use last drive, 960 PRO.

As a result, specifications Samsung 970 PRO is as follows:

Manufacturer Samsung
Series 970 PRO
Model number MZ-V7P512BW MZ-V7P1T0BW
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 512 1024
Configuration
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Samsung 64-layer 256-Gbit MLC 3D V-NAND
Controller Samsung Phoenix
Buffer: type, volume LPDDR4, 512 MB LPDDR4, 1 GB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3500 3500
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 2300 2700
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 370 000 500 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 500 000 500 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,03/5,7–8,5
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,5
Resource record, TB 600 1200
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 80,15 × 22,15 × 2,38
Weight, g 10
Warranty period, years 5

Interestingly, the difference Samsung announced PRO 970 in performance from the more affordable and based on TLC 3D V-NAND drive 970 EVO is not so noticeable: they lie in the range of 8-10 percent. However, you need to understand that the older model that we’re talking about today, is able to give these figures without any tricks like TurboWrite technology. This means that the speed parameters 970 PRO constant throughout the volume of the array of flash memory, and no drop in performance when exhaust volume SLC cache will not be here.

If you continue to compare 970 c 970 PRO EVO, the most important differences will be found, perhaps, in the terms of warranty. On the older model of a consumer NVMe SSD is allowed to write twice as much data, which is equivalent to a full rewrite two thirds of the full capacity of the drive daily for a five-year warranty period. More generous scope of allowed resource overwriting promised only to Optane Intel SSD, which uses the memory running on other physical principles.

However, 970 PRO, 970 is superior to the EVO after all, not all senior lineup was stripped of drives, the smallest and largest volumes. And if the absence of modifications 970 PRO version to 256 GB is still possible to explain the positioning, to understand why Samsung decided not to release the 970 PRO with capacity of 2 TB. Especially if we remember that the modification PRO 960 with a capacity of 2 TB previously existed. Most likely the version that Samsung as a matter of principle not releasing NVMe drives with two-way design, and 970 PRO 2 TB unilateral performance was impossible. Previously, the company, to place four NAND chips on one side of the Board form factor M. 2 2280, embedded DRAM in a single package c controller, but now this practice she refused. Two same chips more than 1 TB of flash memory and 256-Gigabit devices will not fit. However, still want to believe that dvuhterabaytny drive cross delivered completely and later the range 970 PRO still to be completed.

#Appearance and internal structure

As in the case of 970 EVO drives Samsung PRO 970 exist in only one version – in modules M. 2 form factor 2280 that are installed in the appropriate slot on the motherboard and is used for connecting four lines PCI Express 3.0. Any version in the U. 2 or HHHL format is not assumed. However, any significant problem is no longer. All modern systems, and especially the upper price range for which designed Samsung PRO 970, have at least one M. 2 slot.

Another is more interesting: printed circuit Board, on the basis of which going drives series 970 PRO has the same circuit design as the 970 EVO Board. This means that after a recent update NVMe drives Samsung on the basis of TLC and MLC 3D V-NAND have become standardized, and the differences between them are determined exclusively by the type of the installed chipset. As a result, motherboard 970 PRO is located only four chips: the Polaris controller, DRAM buffer and a couple of chips, which is located inside the flash memory. This whole set is mounted on the front side of the circuit Board of the drive, the reverse side has 970 PRO chips free. As a result, 970 PRO, 970 EVO and compliant 2280-S3-M, which means that installation of such devices in thin slots that are found in ultrabooks.

 

On both sides of the Board 970 PRO placed stickers. On the front side of the label with the product name, labelling, items, and rooms, and on the reverse – with the logos of various certifications. The label on the back, is not as simple as it seems at first glance: among other things, it acts as a kind of heat spreader, which helps to cool the device. The fact that one of her layers of copper foil, a material with high thermal conductivity.

A controller installed on the motherboard Samsung 970 PRO, exactly the same as the 970 EVO: this is Phoenix, easily recognizable by Nickel-plated heat dissipating cover. Accompanies him DRAM buffer, high speed LPDDR4 chip with a typical amount rate of 1 MB RAM 1 GB flash memory. Recall that in 960 PRO memory housed in one package (MCM – Multi-chip package) with a controller, but now these semiconductor devices is physically divided into two chips.

Chips flash memory installed on the Samsung 970 PRO, include 8 or 16 crystals (depending on the amount of storage) 64-layer MLC 3D V-NAND. Therefore, eight-channel controller Phoenix PRO 970 uses either a twofold or a fourfold alternating devices in each channel (in 512 and 1024 GB versions SSD, respectively). This in particular explains the fact that a terabyte drive is faster than polterabayta.

The declared volume of the series 970 PRO is a multiple of 512 GB, which means that the user is available, approximately 94 percent of the total amount of installed flash memory. The reserved space is used by the controller for internal needs – for garbage collection, wear-leveling and under the reserve Fund.

In addition, it is worth mentioning that the Samsung 970 PRO, like all other consumer SSDS the South Korean manufacturer that supports the main standards hardware encryption (TCG Opal and Encrypted Drive IEEE1667) and can be used for “transparent” data protection by AES-256 algorithm without any influence on disk performance. The cryptographic engine is compatible including those with standard Self-Encrypting Drive, which means that a convenient hardware-based encryption using BitLocker utility in Windows operating system.

#Software

Drives Samsung has traditionally supplied the brand service utility Magician that, starting with version 5.2, familiar including with the 970 PRO. This utility decided to put an example of what should be accompanied by a consumer SSD, so to make any claim to its functionality or interface is not so easy.

 

Samsung Magician 5.2 allows to obtain General information about the drive, the operation mode, firmware version and the amount of recorded data. Also you can see the state of attributes that are returned in S. M. A. R. T.

 

Utility allows to conduct assessment of the performance of the drive and make sure it is fully compatible with the system in which it is installed.

 

With the help of a Magician can be manually sent to the drive package TRIM commands, and to adjust the amount of Unallocated file system space, turning part of the capacity of the SSD in the additional reserve area.

 

Also using Magician performs management functions hardware-based encryption. And besides, the utility allows you to create a boot “stick” for a complete physical wipe using Secure Erase.

SOURCE

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Peripherals

Overview NVMe drive, Samsung 983 ZET: awesome SSD based on NAND memory with performance like Optane

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Modern solid-state drives for personal computers can be divided into three principally different subgroups according to their level of performance. There is a SATA SSD, the performance of which is limited by the bandwidth of the interface. There is a NVMe SSD, which are a step above, because their performance is no longer determined by the interface, and the bandwidth used in the memory array of the flash memory. Optane is the Intel SSD is an advanced drive built on entirely different principles. It does not apply the NAND chips, and XPoint 3D – non-volatile memory with direct addressing, based on the effect of the phase transition. Due to this Optane SSD offers significantly lower than any flash drives, delays and much higher speed with small data blocks.

I must say that since its inception Optane Intel SSD acts as the object of desire of many enthusiasts. This drive is the best thing that ever happened in the market of data storage systems, and the only major problem preventing him from widely disseminated, is the high price. However Optane SSD perfectly solves another problem of image: it illustrates the potential of promising technologies and clearly shows that Intel is a major innovator, captured the championship in the promotion decisions of future generations on the market media.

However, this role of Intel in whatever was wanted to challenge Samsung, which for many years has been the market leader in SSD, if to speak about sales volumes. In addition, Samsung was able to capture the championship and in terms of performance of traditional solid-state drives with SATA and NVMe, but to Optane SSD with it a fundamentally different memory 3D XPoint to reach for a long time could not. However, since the first appearance of Optane SSD on the horizon the South Korean manufacturer has launched development of a competitor for intelestage flagship, codenamed Z-SSD. And the main intrigue was here that Samsung has set a goal to make the drive, similar to Optane performance, butusing the existing NAND technology, that is, without resorting to the use of memory cells with some other physical principles.

And I must say that in the end Samsung Z-the SSD was not some mythical project, and this materialized in very specific products that are really able to challenge the exceptional status of Optane. Why does this not blow at all angles? The really interesting question, but Samsung for some reason decided not to do based on the technology of Z-SSD drives, which can be interesting for enthusiasts, but targeted exclusively at corporate clients and data centers. However, in the family of Z-SSD includes two of the product, 983, and SZ985, and they come in such performance characteristics, which are not only comparable with the specifications Optane, but even in some aspects superior to them.

That drives on the basis of traditional NAND could be at least as good solutions based on 3D XPoint, it sounds a bit fantastic, so we tried to get some sample of the Samsung Z is the SSD. And we have succeeded in the disposal of laboratory 3DNews got the most simple version Z is the SSD, but even in her case, it will be interesting to see what they are capable of Korean alternative to Optane and how it can be applicable for high-performance desktops. In other words, the main question that is answered by this review, can be formulated as: “do Optane 905P Intel SSD is the fastest drive for extreme configurations, or Samsung really has got something interesting?”

#Specifications

Samsung is not very spread about how the Z drives-SSD at a low level. Nevertheless, a rough picture of how fundamentally provided higher performance and extremely low latency, we still can be, analyzing the cards are ranked in our order of the drive 983 ZET.

And immediately want to tell about the biggest surprise: the Z-SSDS in the face of 983 ZET is not based on any special controller, and the well familiar to us Samsung chip Phoenix. It turns out that a fundamentally new high-performance SSD, which should compete with Intel Optane, uses exactly the same controller as traditional drives Samsung PRO 970 and the 970 EVO Plus, which to the level Optane seriously fall short.

But if you look, there is nothing strange. Controller Phoenix has a huge potential, which drives the 970 series is not fully disclosed. Because it is built on the basis of pachydermia ARM-CPU and has eight channels to work with the array of the flash memory. As we have repeatedly seen in practice, such an Arsenal is quite enough in order to create solutions with a leading level of performance on the basis of MLC and TLC 3D V-NAND.

Z-the SSD should be better than “brothers in controller” because otherwise the filling of the array of flash memory that needs to raise performance to a new level. Itself the Samsung speaks about some special memory, abbreviated as Z-NAND. However, the fact that the Z SSD uses a standard controller, clearly indicates the relationship of the mysterious Z-with the usual NAND 3D V-NAND memory.

Indeed, in a more detailed trial, it appears that Z-NAND, which built Z all-SSD, and Samsung 983 ZET in particular, is a 64-layer three-dimensional V-NAND. But not exactly of the kind to which we are accustomed. It’s not TLC or MLC memory, and SLC single-bit 3D V-NAND, Samsung is specially developed to reduce latency when reading and writing. The second important feature of this memory is a relatively small amount of crystals, which is only 64 GB.

And this means that in a high performance Z-SSD there’s no magic. And there are two objective factors: easy to maintain Nikolaevna single-bit 3D V-NAND array with a very high degree of parallelism, where the controller can use not only all eight channels, but multiple devices alternating in each channel. That simple things really work, indicate the official specifications of the Samsung 983 ZET.

Manufacturer Samsung
Series 983 ZET
Model number MZ-PZA480BW MZ-PZA960BW
Form factor Half-height Half-length (HHHL)
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.2
Capacity, GB 480 960
Configuration
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Samsung 64-layer 64-Gbit SLC 3D V-NAND (Z NAND)
Controller Samsung Phoenix
Buffer: type, volume LPDDR4, 1 GB LPDDR4, 2 GB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3400 3400
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 3000 3000
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 750 000 750 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 60 000 75 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 5,5/9,0
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 2,0
Resource record, TB 7440 17520
Dimensions: D × H × d, mm Of 167.7 × 69,9 × 18,8
Weight, g 330
Warranty period, years 5

The use of SLC 3D V-NAND will solve another problem – this memory is very hardy. In a time when SSD odnolistovoe memory were in Vogue, the flash memory was attributed to the ability to carry more than 100 thousand cycles program / erase. Since then, it took a lot of time, but the endurance of modern memory cells dobitocii should be not worse. The reduction of technological norms shall be compensated as transition to three-dimensional 64-layer structure, and the development of the controller Phoenix powerful methods of error correction based on LDPC coding.

In other words, Samsung 983 ZET could claim to be as “eternal” storage as Intel Optane. Actually, on this hint, and the manufacturer. For 983 ZET stated exactly the same yield like Optane SSD 905P, which means that a tenfold refilling the entire capacity every day over a five-year warranty period or the ability of the drive for a life time to transfer a total of at least 16-18 thousand cycles complete rewrite.

And in the end it turns out that the characteristics of Samsung 983 ZET looks even better than Intel SSD Optane 905P. At least for the representative of the family of Z-SSB claimed a higher linear velocity and higher performance with random reads. The only weak spot in the specifications 983 ZET – the random write speed. However, you need to understand that in passport characteristics indicated an established rate to be achieved in the long-term process of continuous rewrites data. This value makes sense to evaluate the applicability of the drive in server environments, but if we talk about the possibility of using Z-SSDS in desktops, the speed of random writes will be much higher.

Samsung 960GB 983 ZET Optane 905P Intel SSD 960GB
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3400 2600
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 3000 2200
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 750 000 575 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 75 000 550 000
The latency when reading the ISS 20 10
The latency when you record, ISS 16 10

However, despite the very stated specifications, Samsung 983, and Intel SSD Optane 905P considered synonymous still impossible. In these devices uses a memory with a fundamentally different organization, so that, and the other solution has unique features. While Samsung 983 ZET is a classic SSD’s in General work the same way as any other drive with NAND memory, the memory Optane SSD requires no preparation before recording, and assumes a straight line, and not page access. For this reason, Optane SSD is always at a constant rate, regardless of the condition and occupancy of the 3D array XPoint does not require any special maintenance like garbage collection and not needs TRIM commands from the operating system.

#Exterior and interior design

All members of the family Z SSD is enough overall device. Since they are going out of the NAND chips is relatively small capacity, to fit arrays of flash memory required amount in the form factor M. 2 in this case, it would not be possible. It is not surprising that fell into our hands drive Samsung 983 ZET was made in the form of PCIe-HHHL fees-format (half-height).

 

In General, this fee is very very similar to Optane SSD 900P, and not only in size, but the fact that her entire front surface covered by aluminum heatsink, and the rear side of a steel plate. But Samsung the radiator looks brutal: it has no inscriptions, no beveled or rounded corners. But it is painted in a beautiful deep blue color, so Samsung 983 ZET is still not devoid of a certain charm.

It should be noted that the radiator with such a developed profile – more decorative than really necessary element 983 ZET. Heated Z-SSD not so much, and it is clearly less than, for example, members of the family Optane SSD. The temperature of the drive Samsung during long operations rarely rises above 40 degrees.

Fee 983 ZET suitable for installation in a normal PCIe 3.0 with at least four lines and can be used in both standard and low profile enclosures, for which the package provides two different height tie-down strap. They both have vents and a cutout through which the connector discern technology and several diagnostic LEDs, which can be seen on the drive activity.

Let’s look under the radiator.

Here we will find many interesting things, starting with the fact that between the chips, which it needs cooling, and its internal plane leaving a gap in the good mm, filled with thick pads. And he received them, not all of the chip. Half of the chips flash memory at all in any way with the heatsink not making contact, which once again confirms the thesis of its decorative purpose.

In General, the circuitry of the Samsung ZET 983 480 GB controller generates a Phoenix, used them to buffer table address translation chip LPDDR4 with a capacity of 1 GB, and a set of chips of the flash memory. The SLC array 3D V-NAND version 983 ZET with a capacity of 480 GB is assembled of eight chips, each of which has eight 64-Gigabit crystals. Also on the Board of the drive has a large number of free “landing pads” for extra chips, which if necessary can be increased to 32 pieces.

 

Server orientation Samsung 983 ZET gives not only the performance of the basin in the form of a PCIe card half height, but it has hardware protection against power interruptions. The power supply circuit includes three powerful electrolytic capacitor 270 UF, the charge which should be enough for a clean shutdown of the drive in case of sudden blackout of the system. In other words, the current version of the Z-SSD prepared for use in fairly harsh conditions.

However, a Samsung device 983 ZET does not involve a significant reserve of flash memory, which is often present in the server SSD models. In the model of the drive from the user is “hidden” only 13% of the total memory array and it is typical for the mass storage options overhead cells. In the same Optane SSD, the total volume of the backup memory reaches 21 % of the total drive capacity. This suggests that SLC 3D V-NAND really is extremely resistant to wear even under severe loads, and Z-SSD does not require replacement Fund of significant size.

SOURCE

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Peripherals

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-ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro: is a terrible cheap NVMe SSD?

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Personal computers are gradually moving to using SSDs with NVMe interface. Such SSD already ceased to be exotic solutions to individual enthusiasts in pursuit of maximum performance, and took place in the minds of the General consumer. Even in the domestic market, which is a severe inertia, NVMe SSD now is about a quarter of the total volume sales of consumer drives. And if we talk about models with capacity from terabytes and higher, in this segment, the proportion is even higher NVMe SSD – these drives prefer every third buyer.

However, no particular surprise is not the cause. Drives based on flash memory generally much cheaper this year, having lost in the price more than 50 %, and among NVMe devices began to appear a large number of models that try to come close in price to the SATA drives. And sometimes they do it. In some cases, an overpayment for a more modern interface is less than 10-20%, despite the fact that NVMe solutions more compact, more convenient when assembling the system, and most importantly, obviously more productive.

Of course, one of the main initiators of the rapprochement of the prices of SATA and NVMe SSD was the Kingston, which flooded the market with a very affordable NVMe drives A1000 series, and during the year, gradually extending the cost of this proposal to the price of a SATA SSD of the middle class. However, we can say that mass recognition NVMe drives happened only to the efforts of Kingston. There was an inexpensive SSD with a progressive interface and other manufacturers the second or third echelons. And if Kingston A1000 – is largely a compromise solution, which is using for data transfer mini-bus PCI Express 3.0 x2, then other developers began to offer drives with a similar price but with more impressive specs. Here as examples are the previously reviewed drive Transcend SSD 110S with the technology of HMB or a hero of today’s review – ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro.

To do tests of this new ADATA made us of the fact that it is presented as the best option among inexpensive consumer NVMe-based solutions. ADATA is of great love to all kinds of experiments with the platforms of solid-state drives and the XPG SX6000 Pro this plan is excellent successor of the traditions. It is extremely rare unbuffered controller Realtek development, which nevertheless promises quite high for its class performance. In the case of controllers Realtek we have not yet seen, therefore, to give at least some preliminary evaluation of this solution we can’t. So, to get acquainted with the XPG SX6000 Pro will have to carefully and in detail. That is what got this review in which we try to answer the question of whether XPG SX6000 Pro as a good system of SSD for computers the middle class.

#Specifications

So, ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro is a drive-based controller Realtek RTS5763DL. And this is important, because no other SSD manufacturers second tier on the basis of the chip at the time of writing did not exist. Consequently, the drive that we have today – a unique model. However, XPG SX6000 Pro is not the first experience of cooperation ADATA and Reaktek. Previously, the range existed ADATA XPG model SX6000, which used controller Realtek RTS5760, so we can say that the appearance of the updated “professional” drive with a more recent base chip special surprise is not.

But still seems a little strange that when switching to another controller ADATA limited to only appending to the name of the word Pro. And in General the new drive radically different from its predecessor. Moreover, initially XPG SX6000 Pro have been displayed at exhibitions under the name SX7100, and it would be a fairer name. Judge for yourself: in the new model communication with the system takes place through four, and not two lines PCI Express 3.0, and the performance increased about twice. In addition, XPG series SX6000 Pro appeared compatible with the Protocol NVMe Express 1.3, increase of capacities has expanded the model range, and the drives have become more reliable by adding in the firmware technology of error correction in LDPC encoding. Is just not enough in order to increase the index number in the product name?

Formal specification XPG SX6000 Pro got the following:

Manufacturer ADATA
Series XPG SX6000 Pro
Model number ASX6000PNP-256GT-C ASX6000PNP-512GT-C ASX6000PNP-1TT-C
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 Realtek RTS5763DL
Buffer: type, volume No
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 2100 2100 2100
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1200 1500 1500
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 190 000 250 000 250 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 180 000 240 000 240 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W N/a
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 2,0
Resource record, TB 150 300 600
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 80 x 22 x 3.58
Weight, g 8
Warranty period, years 5

Used as the basis XPG Pro SX6000 controller Realtek RTS5763DL is a stripped-down version of the chip RTS5763, representing a complete high-performance controller with DRAM buffer and up to eight channels. However, a senior chip RTS5763 to the final products has not yet reached, and to take the rap for two and have four-channel UN-buffered RTS5763DL, which, however, is also quite good in its niche. Because from the specs it follows that the speed of XPG SX6000 Pro should be higher than that based on the controller Phison E11 Kingston A1000 and than Transcend SSD S110 on the basis of chip Silicon Motion SM2263XT, and its resources – at least not worse.

I must say that now there is a clear trend of transfer budget SSD to QLC-memory. She touched and NVMe storage devices — for example, four-bit memory based Intel and Crucial SSD 660p P1. But ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro, despite the close price, traditional uses TLC memory, which should have a positive impact both on reliability and performance. Moreover, ADATA is used not just any TLC memory, and a good 64-layer TLC 3D NAND production of Micron, which is formed from the small capacitance of the crystal and allows to obtain a memory array with a very decent performance.

However, XPG SX6000 Pro case is not without technology SLC-cache, which in this case is completely dynamic in nature. To illustrate her work with graphics speed continuous sequential write of data to the drive capacity of 512 GB (measurements performed on the free SSD).

In the fast SLC mode, the drive manages to write approximately 174 GB of data, while the write speed is about 1.5 GB/s, that is, the specification value. But then the free space in the array of flash memory ends, and the recording switches to slow TLC-mode. Moreover, simultaneously with the recording of the drive controller is forced to vacate the seat and to summarize data in cells that are written in SLC mode. As a result, the performance droped to around 170 MB/s. But under normal home use such situations will have to face uncommon – they can occur only in the single-step migration to SSD volumes of information that can take over a third free space.

As you can see, SLC-caching quite well compensates the shortcomings of TLC-memory, and the problem is not here. Much trouble in practice is able to deliver the lack of ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro dedicated DRAM buffer, which is needed to store the copy of the table of address translation with fast access. But controller Realtek RTS5763DL ready to provide some compensation technology HMB (Host Memory Buffer). The bottom line is that instead of allocated dynamic memory inside the SSD to store the working copy of the table of address translation controller uses the main memory of the computer. Direct access from the peripheral devices is one of the features of PCI Express, so for drives with the NVMe interface this is not a problem. Everything works out of the box and requires no additional configuration.

However, specific technology implementation HMB may vary. Different drives may ask the operating system to fit your needs different amounts of memory and to dispose of it differently. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of HMB in ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro, we checked the performance of the SSD in case of accidental melloblocco reading, which requires multiple search matches in the table of address translation. The dependence of the speed of random read from the data volume, in which requests are made and allows you to identify which part of the translation table is cached in RAM PC, and under what conditions, the performance of reading ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro does not suffer from a lack of the design of the drive allocated DRAM buffer.

When we tested unbuffered Transcend SSD 110S, convinced that the HMB technology can allow quite effectively cache the most popular part of the table address translation. However, considering today ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro RAM of the computer is used not so intensively. High speed arbitrary transactions are provided only within the smaller, 4-Gigabyte region, so that when the real load may not be enough. In other words, the technology of HMB in XPG SX6000 Pro compensates for the lack of this SSD DRAM buffer only partially. Under severe loads melkoplodnogo nature in which the assumed treatment of large data volumes, the performance of this SSD can drop dramatically.

In addition, this approach, involving the placement of the table of address translation in RAM the PC requires special support from the operating system. At the moment it can only provide Windows version 10 1709 and later, or Linux, starting with the release 4.14. In all other cases (for example, Windows 7) ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro will run “in compatibility mode” – as a very slow, UN-buffered memory.

#Appearance and internal structure

For testing we used an average representative of the model range ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro — of a capacity of 512 GB. On the one hand, this version no longer has artificially limited performance due to lack of parallelism of the array of flash memory, and with another – is quite inexpensive, only the area of 7,5 thousand roubles.

The ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro is a familiar configuration fee in the form factor M. 2 2280, made on a black PCB. Conveniently, all of the chips in this Board are placed on one side: this drive can be installed in low-profile slots M. 2, which are found in some thin laptops.

 

Another positive feature XPG SX6000 Pro is that the manufacturer, despite the budget nature of this model, have paid some attention to the issue of heat dissipation. In the box with the SSD it is possible to detect the heat-spreading aluminum disc with an adhesive layer, which the user can optionally stick on the surface of the chip. However, its small thickness and the sleek profile is unlikely to provide a high efficiency of heat dissipation, but even this option is still better than nothing.

Circuitry, which was used ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro includes five chips. First and foremost is the actual controller Realtek RTS5763DL. Please note — it has a fairly small size, due to its inner simplicity: four-channel architecture and the lack of an integrated controller DDR4/DDR3 SDRAM.

The other four chips is flash memory. They XPG SX6000 Pro have their own marking ADATA, which means that the producer buys TLC 3D NAND in the form of plates of semi-independently and cuts them into individual crystals, testing and packing. This approach allows to reduce the cost of the drive, but you need to keep your eyes open. Despite the fact that the manufacturer of the flash memory in the XPG SX6000 Pro is the company Acer, ADATA determines crystals what quality is acceptable to use in this drive. In other words, formally, considering a drive based on a 64-layer TLC 3D NAND second generation of one of the leading manufacturers, but actually the reliability of such a memory may differ from the same original 3D TLC NAND used in SSDS are more high-class.

The crystals are 64-Micron-layer 3D TLC NAND have a capacity of 256 GB, therefore, the controller Realtek RTS5763DL in ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro storage capacity 512GB works with an array of flash memory with a fourfold alternating devices in its four channels. It is this factor which makes considering the drive is a fairly productive solution for serial operations.

Traditional sticker labeling is ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro on the back. However, very informative, it is no different: it is reported only the name, capacity and serial number of the SSD. Information about the firmware version or the date of production.

#Software

With the service software from ADATA, the situation is far better. Proprietary tool for storage companies exist, but is it extremely sluggish, but its features and interface leave much to be desired.

However, the utility SSD Toolbox with XPG SX6000 Pro compatible and the basic functionality still provides.

 

So, ADATA SSD Toolbox not only provides full diagnostic information about the device, but also allows to check 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 SX6000 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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