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Overview NVMe drive Transcend SSD 110S: happy life without DRAM buffer possible

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Until recently, SSDs with NVMe interface was perceived by many only as niche solutions for enthusiasts of high performance. Despite the fact that the architecture NVMe SSD provides a noticeable increase in speed performance, as is typical for such products form factor M. 2 is compact and easy to use, wide dissemination of such devices has been discouraged by high price. Manufacturers do not hesitate to set for NVMe drives additional and considerable margins, justifying them by the fact that this SSD is premium solutions high-class, interesting only to a small elite of computer community.

However, now the situation is drastically and rapidly changing. A fresh trend that is gradually beginning to determine and direct what is happening in the SSD market global processes, is gaining momentum reduced cost of flash memory. After a prolonged shortage caused by the long and thorny industry transition to 3D NAND, flash memory beginning to grow too rapidly. Today there is no doubt that in the coming months, the industry will face severe crisis of overproduction. That, in turn, will be a valid reason for falling prices of solid state drives: the forecasts say that over the next 12 months the SSD will drop in half or even more. And what’s more, the process in this direction is already underway.

It affects not only the ubiquitous SATA SSD, but the SSD with NVMe interface. For example, the recently released Samsung 970 EVO since the beginning of summer has managed to lose in price quite a noticeable 13 percent. Thinking about the need of lower prices for consumer NVMe products and other manufacturers. Moreover, in the market gradually formed a subclass available NVMe SSD, whose members pretend to begin to dislodge from the typical configuration of personal computers the usual SATA drives and become really massive solutions. The occurrence of this subclass is fueled not only by the fall in the cost of NAND memory, but also the fact that an independent Taiwanese developers of the controllers in the face of Phison and Silicon Motion have begun supplying low-cost basic NVMe-chip that allows you to save on the cost of the other components.

So, in the past few months, in the range from Phison appeared dual-core Quad-channel NVMe controller PS5008-E8, which was taken into use Kingston, Patriot and Corsair, and in response to Silicon Motion has prepared a four-dual core NVMe-chip SM2263XT, which was used in the production of HP and Transcend. Drives built with these platforms, at a price very close to the SATA SSD and because of this attract attention to themselves.

But one of the listed manufacturers cheap SSD interface with the NVMe turned out better? To answer this question we try in today’s test, in which you detail will get acquainted with the Transcend SSD 110S – available standard NVMe storage on the new platform SMI SM2263XT. Through the study of its performance, we compare the results obtained with the performance of one of the cheap USB flash drives on the controller Phison PS5008-E8, and thus determine which of the models NVMe SSD offers the best combination of price and performance.

#Specifications

This year, Taiwanese developer of Silicon Motion controllers have managed to make a giant step forward and brought to market a new range of chips for the base NVMe SSD with a very worthy characteristics. With the senior controller in it, we are already familiar, it is – SM2262, which allowed manufacturers not conducting internal development of proprietary solutions, to get to the big leagues. The most revealing example in this regard ADATA: this company took the reference version of the platform SM2262 with minimal optimizations, and this alone was enough to drive XPG SX8200 Gammix and S11 were able to withstand such eminent rivals as Samsung 970 EVO or WD Black NVMe.

But SM2262 is not the only promising option, which can adopt SSD manufacturers. Along with Silicon Motion and delivers more SM2263XT – a cheaper chip that can be successfully used in low-cost drives with NVMe interface. Compared to SM2262 it has reduced to four the number of channels to connect flash memory and also prednaznachalas for unbuffered solutions, deprived of the DRAM interface.

However, based on SM2263XT is exactly the same as in the older chip, dual-core processor architecture ARM Cortex, which is reinforced with a full set of key specialized units, including corporate engine NANDXtend designed for hardware implementation of algorithms for error correction based on LDPC codes. This means that the platform SM2263XT, despite the retrenchment of the relatively SM2262, has good processing power and therefore can become the basis for a rather interesting incarnation.

Scares is it just the lack of DRAM buffer, but here Silicon Motion offers a curious innovative payment technology HMB (Host Memory Buffer, the buffer on the host side). This means that solutions based on SM2263XT should be similar on unbuffered drives initial level, which we have seen to date. And here’s why.

Most modern SSDs traditionally have three main components: controller, flash memory and DRAM buffer. Fast dynamic memory is required in order to work with the table of address translation is a special data structure, which allows you to map logical addresses of sectors of the disk subsystem is the physical address in the array of flash memory drive. This table is a key element of the SSD appeals which occur during any read operation to find the desired data in the array of flash memory, and any entry to find free space for saving new information.

Quite naturally, for high-speed SSD, it is critical that access this table were performed as quickly as possible, this is due to the placement of its working copy to a dedicated SDRAM in the vicinity of the controller. Typically, the amount of DRAM buffer in SSD is set at the rate of 1 MB per 1 GB of storage capacity. This ratio allows you to arrange table as a binary tree, which can be used to quickly search. Intelligently implemented and placed in the DRAM, the translation table allows, on the one hand, efficiently reduce the latency when accessing the SSD, and on the other to ensure consistency of performance under prolonged heavy loads.

But sometimes developers employ another approach is to use storage tables broadcast not allocated DRAM and native flash-memory drive. This usually is done to reduce the cost of the final product, however, as we saw when meeting with the numerous models UN-buffered, SATA SSD, any good it does not. The flash memory is much slower than dynamic, resulting in delays in melkoplodnyj operations increase substantially, and storage design having a DRAM, generally fundamentally are inferior in performance to the full solutions.

The NVMe 1.2 specification to these two traditional options allocation table broadcast has added a third, “intermediate” option – the technology of HMB, which has found application in SM2263XT. Its essence lies in the fact that the allocated dynamic memory inside the SSD it doesn’t take and store quick working copy of the table of address translation to use the main memory of the computer. Direct access to DDR4 SDRAM connected to the CPU – one of the features of PCI Express, so for drives with the NVMe interface this architecture – it is a natural configuration. Of course, the use of memory is accessed through a PCI Express bus, causes some overhead, and HMB are not can be an alternative DRAM buffer inside the tape drive in terms of performance. But HMB is still significantly better solution than to store a table of address translation in the array of flash memory. That is why this technology has very good prospects in the segment of inexpensive NVMe SSD.

However, there have HMB, another serious limitation to the sole use of a large area of RAM not SSD may be a buffer allocated in the framework of this technology, usually has a significantly reduced size. For example, in modern implementations HMB we are talking about outsourcing to drive several tens of megabytes of main memory PC, while the internal DRAM buffer, located in the SSD may have a volume of from hundreds of megabytes to several gigabytes. Therefore, as part of HMB in memory is only a certain amount of entries in the table of address translation, such as the one to which you target most often. And this, in turn, means that a relatively high access speed storage devices, HMB can demonstrate not always, and if only for calls to a particular piece of data.

However, under typical consumer loads and subject to proper allocation of table entries address translation in RAM and flash memory a serious problem this is. We just need to understand that the technology of HMB is typically a “domestic” decision, and it is obviously not suitable for high load scenarios, the server character involving massive disk operations.

However, the performance of the SSD is endowed with the technology of HMB, can vary greatly depending on whether the drive controller to cope with the processing of the request, without referring to parts tables of address translation in the flash memory. And how all this looks from the outside user may feel that in addition to the SLC cache drive added another level of caching: operations with relatively small volumes of data (recorded and read) from the SSD with the technology of HMB will be held with the usual level of performance, but in adverse cases, the performance melkoplodnyj operations may decline to the level of UN-buffered SSD.

Transcend SSD 110S – one of the first drives of this kind, which used the controller SM2263XT, no DRAM buffer, but support HMB. And this combination could work, especially since the array of flash memory SSD 110S built from well-proven three-dimensional TLC 3D NAND second generation of the company Acer, which has quite high performance and easy to handle crystal size of 256 GB. The result of speed characteristics Transcend SSD 110S look quite “level” and are not given that we are talking about unbuffered model.

Manufacturer Transcend
Series PCIe SSD
Model number TS128GMTE110S TS256GMTE110S TS512GMTE110S
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 128 256 512
Configuration
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D TLC NAND
Controller SMI SM2263XT
Buffer: type, volume No
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 1600 1800 1800
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 400 800 1450
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 90 000 110 000 180 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 90 000 95 000 150 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W N/a
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,5
Resource record, TB N/a N/a 150
Dimensions: D × H × d, mm 80 × 22 × 3,58
Weight, g 8
Warranty period, years 5

However, no capture the imagination of high-speed indicators in the table are not visible. Compared to the flagship models of consumer NVMe drives Transcend SSD slower 110S somewhere twice. Chetyrehbalnoy array flash memory has the speed of sequential operations, the lack of dedicated DRAM buffer somewhat limits the performance of random reads and writes.

But this does not mean that the Transcend SSD 110S no interest. The fact that the manufacturer decided to stick with unusual pricing policy, and this SSD is intended for installation in the M. 2 slot with PCI Express 3.0 x4 is much cheaper than its NVMe-counterparts. In fact, we can even talk about the fact that the Transcend SSD 110S is a NVMe drive with almost SATA price. Moreover, it is clear that the establishment of this drive for low prices is not a one-off event to mark the start of sales. The cost of SSD 110S is low due to cheap controller, and the lack of a DRAM buffer, and therefore, the new Transcend will be one of the most affordable NVMe SSD in the future.

Besides, do not forget that the performance of drives that use a three-bit memory cells, largely depends on the implementation algorithm of the caching. And here Transcend SSD 110S favorably with many expensive alternatives. SLC-cache it is organized by a dynamic principle. That is, the drive can accept high speed not some predetermined amount of data, and to one-third of the free volume. And in most cases, the entry of large volumes of files will occur on the Transcend SSD 110S with a good pace that will quickly and significantly decrease, as is often the case with a static SLC SSD-cache.

In General, to illustrate the work of the SLC-caching you can use a velocity curve continuously recording data on the Transcend SSD 110S with a capacity of 512 GB (measurements performed on the free SSD).

The write speed of the Transcend SSD 110S in SLC-mode reaches about 1.4 GB/s, and to free drive with such performance, you can record about 167 GB of data. In a slow TLC-mode consider SSD only goes after that. Moreover, simultaneously with the recording of new data in TLC-mode controller, you also need to release free – to condense data that have been recorded in a single bit SLC mode. As a result, the write speed is not only reduced to the level of about 130 MB/s but loses any stability. Fortunately, under normal home use such situations will have to face often – they can occur only when continuous recording very large amounts of data.

It is easy to trace and how affects the performance of the fact that in-memory with fast access from the Transcend SSD 110S is only part of the table address translation. It is enough to observe the rate at random melloblocco reading, which requires multiple search matches in the table of address translation. For example, we measured the dependence of the speed of random read from the volume the amount of data, in which queries are performed.

To interpret these results is very simple. As long as the volume of files that the drive controller remains that all the necessary part of the table of address translation is placed in the HMB-buffer in RAM, we see the constant speed random read (queue requests) at 57 MB/s. But as soon as the active part table in HMB buffer fit ceases, the performance immediately drops. In the worst case, the speed of random access can be reduced by about half, to a very modest level 28 MB/s.

Based on these data, we can assume that for his HMB-buffer Transcend SSD 110S reserves a memory region of about 25-30 MB. So with 16 GB set of files it works with good speed and expansion of the capacity up to 32 GB is already leading to a drop in performance. This feature of the architecture of the drive should also be kept in mind.

Incidentally, it is for this reason in the model number of the Transcend SSD 110S no versions of more than 512 GB. The increase of storage capacity inflates the size of the table of address translation, but the amount of RAM that can pick up to fit your needs drive as part of HMB, is limited to a fairly strict framework. Therefore, high-volume models built on such principles, may be too slow in actual operation, and their production impractical.

To the above we must add that the Transcend SSD is given 110S five-year warranty, however, the limitations on the maximum volume of records, which are the conditions it is quite tough. The standard today has become twice higher than the declared resource.

#Appearance and internal structure

For testing we received from Transcend sample 110S SSD capacity of 512GB. This is the most interesting from the point of view of performance, because version smaller volume are low and the optimal degree of parallelism of the array of flash memory, and therefore offer lower performance.

Familiarity with the physical execution of various NVMe drives in the form factor M. 2 is gradually turning into a routine procedure. They differ little from one another in appearance, especially if the manufacturer did not pay any special attention to the heat sink. Transcend SSD 110S is precisely this: for reasons of economy, everything in it is made simple. The drive is a ordinary M. 2 module size 2280, made on the classic green PCB and is designed for installation in a slot with four painted lines PCI Express 3.0.

On the front side of the Transcend SSD 110S pasted a small, not very colorful label with printed model number and serial number of the drive. In General, consider a SSD in your appearance produces rather the impression of product for OEM, not retail products aimed at an audience of retail buyers. Moreover, its previous NVMe SSD Transcend has placed diagnostic LEDs, and now not even them.

On closer acquaintance with the circuitry it is possible to discern some characteristic features of Transcend SSD 512 GB 110S. For example, the fact that the array of flash memory assembled of eight chips, which are posted on both sides of the M. 2 module. This means that such devices have a relatively simple internal organization: there is only two 256-Gigabit crystal TLC 3D NAND second generation Acer. Thanks to this Transcend had the opportunity to save additional money by shifting the Assembly operations chip flash memory on its own production lines. In other words, the company buys from Micron uncut plate and for cutting, testing and packaging does. That is why the marking on the chips looks so weird and does not contain any references to the name of the author of silicon.

 

A four-chip SMI SM2263XT which controls the operation of the array of flash memory, also looks very familiar. He is small for NVMe controller dimensions: dimensions are only 12 × 12 mm, which indirectly indicates its simplified internal structure. However, Silicon Motion did not refuse to supply the younger of the chip in the lineup of heat-dissipating metal cap that has become a hallmark of the controllers in this company.

IC DDR3 or DDR4 SDRAM the Transcend SSD 110S do not. As mentioned above, instead, the drive uses the technology of HMB. However, it should be borne in mind that 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 offer Windows 10 version later than 1709, or Linux, starting with the release 4.14. In all other cases (for example, Windows 7) Transcend SSD 110S will work in “compatibility mode” – as a very slow, UN-buffered memory.

#Software

No special drivers to complete the work Transcend SSD 110S are required. In fact, they are not provided by the manufacturer. In the new builds of Windows 10 technology HMB supports a standard NVMe driver out of the box. No additional inclusion or configuration of this technology is not necessary – all is activated itself immediately. However, there are also disadvantages: to verify the host in-memory copy of the table of address translation or to adjust the allocations under this region impossible. It remains only to rely on the fact that the operating system does everything right by definition.

Does not offer any information on the work of the HMB technology and corporate service utility Transcend SSD Scope. It features typical for software of this class, and the fact that 110S SSD – particular drive, it is not taken into account.

 

SSD Scope allows you to monitor the overall status of the drive and evaluate its health appeal to telemetry S. M. A. R. T. utility available, simple tests of performance, but also implemented a number of service opportunities: scanning the array of flash memory for errors, the procedure “reliable cleaning” flash memory Secure Erase, and check the firmware version and update it.

 

Also, the utility includes a tool to clone the contents of disks, which enables quick and painless “move” to the freshly bought SSD. Plus, the SSD Scope is able to control the flow of a TRIM command.

 

SOURCE

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Peripherals

Overview NVMe SSD Crucial P1: NVMe on SATA price

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Peripherals

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.

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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.

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