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Overview SATA SSD Plextor M8V: the original recipe

After the second half of last year all the major manufacturers of flash memory has started to produce multilayer chips with 64 layers, we began to actively look at a variety of SSD, using exactly the same semiconductor base. As you know, Samsung uses in its own storage 3D NAND chips in different levels of integration for a long time, and based on them products cause only positive emotions. But other manufacturers of flash memory, particularly Toshiba, Intel, Toshiba and Sandisk, until recently lagged considerably behind South Korean firms to improve their own versions of the three-dimensional flash memory. To catch up with the leader they did it only when moving to 64-layer design 3D NAND that Samsung competitors received a dramatic improvement compared to previous versions. So today we can say that the key benefits of the products on the basis of the three-dimensional memory manifest itself in any solid-state drive based on the 64 layer 3D NAND, regardless of the memory of some of the manufacturers used in each case. In other words, focusing on products, built on a 64-layer 3D NAND, you are likely to get productive and very reliable drive with a fairly attractive price.

The only problem is that until a new generation of three-dimensional memory is not widespread. Apparently, manufacturers there are some production difficulties that do not allow 64-layer memory to begin expansion on a broad front. And at the moment drives based on this memory, I suggest either only by manufacturers of NAND chips, or their very close associates. For example, if we talk about SATA SSD, the stores are only a few built on a 64-layer 3D NAND mass models: 860 Samsung EVO, Crucial MX500, 545s Intel SSD, Kingston UV500, SanDisk Ultra 3D, R Puls, Western Digital Blue 3D NAND and Toshiba TR200. And half the models on this list available is very limited.

In these circumstances the appearance on the market some new models, built on current versions of the three-dimensional memory, can only be welcomed. Fortunately, the number of suppliers of the SSD gradually join the producers of the second echelon. One of the first to work with the 64-layer memory purchased from Toshiba, Plextor. Being a subsidiary of a major OEM manufacturer Lite-On, Plextor has a strong engineering capabilities, and its SSD each time represent a very original and very interesting on the characteristics of the products. It happened at this time. The first SSD based 64-layer TLC 3D NAND Toshiba (BiCS3), Plextor released, became NVMe drive Plextor M9Pe, which was quite good for an inexpensive solution with PCIe 3.0 x4. But today we will talk about the second brainchild of the engineers of Plextor, which followed M9Pe designed a more public model M8V SATA.

Immediately is to say that from a technological point of view, Plextor M8V – a very interesting and unique solution. The fact that it BiCS3 Toshiba memory operates under control of controller Silicon Motion, which is usually only used memory Intel or Micron. But the developers of Plextor managed to combine the components before us to be seen together never had. That is why Plextor M8V and caught our attention. SATA drives based on BiSC3 memory, tested in the laboratory 3DNews before, used the Marvell or Phison controllers and showed relatively good performance. However, Silicon Motion recent progress in the development of their controllers stronger competitors, so we do not exclude that Plextor M8V will be the best demonstration of the advantages BiCS3 NAND. It only remains to verify in practice.

#Specifications

The basis Plextor M8V elected controller Silicon Motion SM2258. It is not the latest SATA controller the developer, but the most common. The first time we ran into him at the beginning of 2016, and now it is widely used in SSDS with 32-layer 3D NAND flash from Intel or Micron. In addition, it is possible to find promising innovations, for example, Crucial MX500 drive of the latest generation, built on a 64-layer 3D NAND Micron authorship. The popularity of chip SM2258 is due to the best combination of performance and price. This controller relates to a number of relatively low-cost solutions: it is based on a single-core 32-bit RISC processor for interaction with an array of flash memory offers only four channels. However, the finished product usually obtained is quite good from the point of view of performance: this software helps in optimization with a focus on minimal latency when processing mixed operations and technology dynamic SLC caching.

At the same time, together with Toshiba BiCS3 memory one can use the controller SM2258 never tried, and Plextor in this regard – a pioneer. In theory no problems with it should not be. On the one hand, in the controller there is support for technology NANDXtend, within which strong algorithms of error correction based on LDPC codes, which should be a guarantee of the reliability of the platform. On the other – is itself BiSC3-memory is a kind of 64-layer TLC 3D NAND, provides a good level of performance, especially when compared with planar flash memory. In this we see when testing, for example, drive R Puls. Most importantly, unlike the Samsung, Toshiba proposes to install in SATA SSD crystals NAND capacity of 256 GB, which allows to obtain arrays of flash memory with a high degree of parallelism.

The result M8V Plextor boasts of the following set specification:

Manufacturer Plextor
Series M8V
Model number PX-128M8VC PX-256M8VC PX-512M8VC
Form factor 2.5 inch
Interface SATA 6 GB/s
Capacity, GB 128 256 512
Configuration
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 256-GB BiCS3 3D TLC NAND
Controller Silicon Motion SM2258
Buffer: type, volume DDR3L-1600,
256 MB
DDR3L-1600,
512 MB
DDR3L-1600,
1024 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 560 560 560
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 400 510 520
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 60000 81000 82000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 70000 80000 81000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W N/a
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,5
Resource record, TB 70 140 280
Dimensions: D × H × d, mm 100 × 69.85 mm × 6,8
Weight, g 60,0
Warranty period, years 3

To be honest, the Datasheet doesn’t look too promising. Plextor has included in the lineup M8V only version of the small volumes (less than half a terabyte), and this clearly indicates that the company believes the new entry-level product that should find its place in a relatively cheap builds. Does not emit much optimism and announced the terms of the warranty. Three years is a typical value for a storage low level, though allowed amounts of rewriting is relatively good. The hypothetical user is allowed to overwrite the half of the SSD capacity daily.

It turns out that the position of the SATA Plextor flagship M8V attack and does not intend, and this is reflected including in the announced performance. If you believe these numbers, then at the moment M8V Plextor is one of the weakest SATA SSD, built on a 64-layer TLC 3D NAND. Even budget drive Toshiba TR200, in which the array BiCS3 devices is controlled by dual-channel UN-buffered controller Phison S11, the list of passport characteristics promises higher performance.

However, declared by the manufacturers characteristics of the performance not always depict a picture adequately, because they did not report the implementation of the technology rapid entry has become an integral attribute of a modern SSD. To get clarity on this question, we conduct a special test, in which check the performance of continuous serial write on a clean drive. In the case M8V Plextor 512GB dependence is the following.

And here it turns out two important circumstances.

First, the engineers of Plextor hacked at the root one of the important advantages of the controller SM2258 – dynamic SLC caching. In M8V instead implemented quite ordinary static SLC cache, which is not available in the user region of the array of flash memory. And this cache has a relatively small size. The storage capacity of 512 GB with only 4 GB. So, in versions M8V a capacity of 256 and 128 GB SLC cache has a capacity of 2 and 1 GB respectively.

Second, the array of flash memory-based devices BiCS3 works under control of the controller SM2258 clearly not the best way. So, M8V Plextor 512 GB speed direct linear memory writes is about 330 MB/s. But at the same time similar in composition and organization of the array of flash memory for use with the Phison S10 controller produces 450 MB/s (for example, Smartbuy Puls), and the array of the 64-layer devices Toshiba 3D NAND TLC when working with the controller SM2258 able to receive data at a speed of 420 MB/s (e.g., Crucial MX500). It turns out that by combining the Silicon Motion controller with a three-dimensional memory Toshiba, the developers of Plextor’s absolutely nothing won, but rather lost, at least from the point of view of the performance of the linear record.

However, to classify the Plextor M8V among the outsiders also should not be. Write speeds of 330 MB/s is not so little. For example, the new Samsung EVO 860 in polterabayta the volume is even slower array of the flash memory. Besides, Plextor did not skimp on the DRAM buffer, and even more, did it twice more capacious compared to the typical size. This means that M8V can be a good solution for arbitrary melkoplodnyj loads, for which the controller is actively used memory.

#Appearance and internal structure

Discuss in this review the drive exists in two versions: in the traditional 2.5-inch form factor (M8VC) and M. 2 2280 module with SATA interface (M8VG). Both of these modifications are functionally identical. Therefore, getting acquainted with the 2.5-inch model, we automatically generalize all findings to all family M8V.

For the tests we were given the option of drive capacity of 512 GB is the eldest and the most productive model in the family. This SSD 2.5-inch version was not surprised by its appearance: it Plextor have not changed for the last few years. The casing is made of unpainted aluminium, with traces of processing. On the front side of the paint manufacturer’s logo, the back has a sticker with technical information.

 

Note that Plextor does not hide the label nor a release date drive or uploaded at the factory firmware version.

The housing mounted circuit Board, occupying slightly less than half of the internal space. Full Board in modern drives are no longer used: manufacturers of flash memory have learned to do such chips NAND, which can accommodate up to 1 TB of memory a few crystals of NAND, so to squander the PCB makes no sense. Capacious SSD can be done using two or four chip flash memory.

This is the case and Plextor M8V volume of 512 GB. Despite the fact that it is the older version in the lineup, an array of NAND in it, typed four TSOP-chips Toshiba TH58TFT0T23TA2H. Each chip is Packed in four 256-Gigabit semiconductor crystal 64-layer BiCS3-a three-bit memory cells. This means that the four channel array of the flash memory in M8V 512GB uses a fourfold alternating devices in the channels.

 

Manages the array controller SMI SM2258. The design M8V uses exactly the same version controller as in Crucial MX500. That is, no modifications to implement support BiCS3 in a base chip to do not have: compatibility achieved software-only effort. Note that Plextor M8V controller without any pads. However, this is not a problem: SSD temperature during operation remains very low.

In addition to the NAND chips and controller on the motherboard M8V placed and released by Samsung chip DDR3L-1600 SDRAM used as a buffer when melkoplodnyj operations and to store a copy of the table of address translation. 512-Gigabyte drive this chip has a capacity of 1 GB. Plextor often uses in his drives, DRAM buffer is increased in size, and M8V exception to this rule is not.

Interesting also worth noting is the presence of on-Board storage marking CV8-CE512. It is a reference to the name of identical models produced under the brand name Lite-On. That is, M8V, like many other products of Plextor, has a twin brother in the lineup of the parent company.

It is worth noting that the declared capacity of the representatives of the lineup of Plextor M8V multiples of 128 GB. This means that the manufacturer gives a 93 percent capacity of the array of flash memory, and operating system 512 GB SSD will offer 477 GB free space. The remaining one-third of the volume of activated SLC cache, and two-thirds are involved in the technology of garbage collection and wear-leveling, and is also used as a replacement Fund.

#Software

Before the Plextor was paid to software support for their products very much attention. For storage, the company has developed an extensive set of programs, including “conventional” service tool, and additional tools for caching, compression, and data encryption. However, in early 2017 further development of these software tools was abandoned, but at the moment the old version is quite cope with the tasks assigned to them and even remain compatible with new products, in particular with Plextor M8V.

The main utility for SATA SSDS production Plextor is called PlexTool. By today’s standards, it is not rich in functionality and looks too pretentious, but the basic questions about the drive it reply. Using PlexTool can learn General information about SSD, read the contents of SMART, and get control over the flow of the TRIM command.

 

In addition, the utility can upgrade the firmware of the SSD is estimated to test the performance and serve to drive Secure Erase command.

Another utility, PlexTurbo, you can provide an additional level of caching disk operations using the computer’s memory. This gives you the opportunity to increase the speed of operations is often sagastume files and reduce the load on the drive. However, such software solutions are fraught with potential danger: in the event of unplanned outages or failures of computer data that failed to be written from the RAM cache on the SSD, of course, will be lost.

In addition, storage series M8V PlexTurbo utility functions in abbreviated form: the maximum amount of the generated in-memory cache is limited by the size of 1 Gbytes.

Another program from a set of Plextor – PlexCompressor. This utility is an add-on file system which performs automatic compression of unused files, freeing up extra disk space. Moreover, this compression works very selectively. In order not to create excessive load on the CPU, it affects only those files that are not used by the user at least during the last 30 days. In the same case, when this compressed file will be hit, it will be returned to its original state.

The last utility, which you must tell is PlexVault. It proposes to realize the drive’s data encryption. However, you need to understand that we are not talking about hardware-based encryption, which M8V not implemented, and pure software algorithms, which, when their work load on the CPU.

PlexVault can create one or more encrypted containers, and in normal conditions they are visible only in the program authorized users who know the “secret” key combination and password. However, to use such a tool in serious applications, we still wouldn’t advise — at least because the Plextor not share any information about the used encryption algorithms and does not conduct independent audits of its cryptographic solutions.

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Peripherals

Review of the Intel SSD drive Optane 905P and its comparison with Optane SSD 900P and 800P, and Samsung 970 PRO

The question of which of the commercially available solid-state drives should be considered to be the fastest, today there is a definite answer. This answer is, without a doubt Optane Intel SSD introduced last year, the media family information, which uses at its core a fundamentally new nonvolatile memory 3D XPoint. Although the older decisions in the family Optane somewhat inferior to the flagship SSD drives on the basis of conventional NAND memory in linear speeds, they provide a completely different level of performance with very low latency, which is several times less than a traditional SSD. In this lies the magic Optane SSD: lightning fast access to the data provides a completely different experience and making the computers that use such systems of information storage, more nimble and responsive than the configuration with the conventional solid-state drives based on NAND-flash.

We have analyzed in detail the strengths Optane SSD in special review. In a nutshell, the drives of this class are more advanced compared to conventional SSD architecture, which is determined by the memory 3D XPoint. Cells of a memory built on different physical principles: the effect of the phase transition. Thanks to this 3D XPoint in its properties dramatically different from NAND: it allows a direct bitwise and not page access to stored data and before recording, does not require any preliminary preparation of the cells in erase operations. Optane SSD effectively exploit these advantages, and therefore, the revolutionary Intel drives dramatically outperform the flagship SSD with the usual architecture, at least in the speed of processing melkoplodnyj operations.

Meanwhile, even the most complex models Optane SSD belonging to the series Optane SSD 900P, not without serious flaws, which the new technology is not yet able to hack their way to the mass market. The main problem, of course, is the price: the release of 3D XPoint in terms of specific capacity is several times more expensive than NAND. As a result, while Optane SSD drives come only in selected systems of higher price range, and to output successive generations 3D XPoint with a higher density of cells that will not happen before the end of 2019, this situation obviously will not change.

However, nothing prevents Intel to slowly eliminate other problems. And the first step in this direction has already been done. In addition to Optane SSD 900P on the market appeared one series of such drives – SSD Optane 905P. Despite the fact that the index number in its name suggests only minor changes, in fact more than enough. Besides, some of them make a new product considerably more attractive and can not be classified as minor.

First, in a series Optane SSD 905P, a model with increased capacity, which has reached typical consumer drives the magnitude of 960 GB. Secondly, by optimizing the firmware, Intel engineers increased the performance on both linear and random loads. Thirdly, optimization and improved energy efficiency: drives with a new design promises to be less hot. Fourth, taking into account modern trends of the consumer market, Intel has rethought strict appearance XPoint 3D products for the enthusiast, and added them to RGB led lighting. And fifth, the company implemented the possibility of including Optane 905P SSD to your system using the M. 2 sockets and connectors U. 2 or PCIe slots.

Ignore the long list of changes it would be wrong, so we tested Optane SSD 905P, comparing it with other Optane SSD and a classic storage upper level, and are ready to share the results.

#Specifications

A story about what constitutes Optane SSD 905P will be short-lived. The release of this model, Intel added the previously formed Optane family of SSD 900P, so one side of the novelties do not expect any major architectural improvements, and with another – the lineup Optane SSD 905P breadth is no different.

But certain features have Optane SSD 905P still there, although the drive is, like its predecessor, continues to be based on the same seven-channel controller SLL3D own antalovsky development, and as the memory uses the usual two-layer 128-Gigabit chips 3D XPoint of the first generation, which are produced by Intel’s 20-nm technology. The main differences lie in the software part: Optane SSD 905P written new optimized firmware, which on the one hand differs from the viewpoint of power management, and with another – brings the controller to a higher frequency and uses advanced algorithms to service melkoplodnyj operations. This subject benefits Optane 905P SSD in performance and energy efficiency.

While the lineup’s new flagship solutions based on 3D XPoint consists of two models: 480-GB SSD 2.5-inch version 2 with u-interface and 960 GB HHHL card (half length, half height) slot PCIe x4. In sum, with the existing three models Optane SSD 900P it turns out that users are now becoming available versions of “big Optane SSD” volume 280, 480 and 960 GB in the form of a PCIe add-in cards, and a volume of 280 and 480 GB 2.5-inch format. But those modifications that carry the name Optane SSD 905P, promise a slightly better characteristics, which is explicitly reflected in the specs:

Manufacturer Intel
Series Optane SSD 905P
Model number SSDPE21D480GA SSDPED1D960GA
Form factor 2.5 inch U. 2 HHHL PCIe x4 card
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.1
Capacity 480 GB 960 GB
Configuration
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Intel 20-nm, 128-GB 3D XPoint
Controller Intel SLL3D
Buffer: type, volume No
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 2600 2600
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 2200 2200
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 575 000 575 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 550 000 550 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 3.3 V/12,8 6/16,4
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,6
Resource record, TB 8760 17520
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 101 × 70 × 15 68,9 x 17.2 x 168,0
Weight, g 140 230
The warranty period 5 years

The main thing to take from this table: according to the manufacturer’s promises Optane SSD 905P faster than its earlier counterpart by about 10 percent when the write operations and 4 percent in reading. In addition, the updated models have 1-2 watts lower heat dissipation. These measures, of course, is not enough to Optane SSD 905P been able to achieve with sequential throughput of PCI Express 3.0 x4. And catch the best SSD based on NAND-memory speed of linear read and write, he can not. But the improvement is still nice, especially that no additional charges after him was not done. As before, the 480 GB drive is the new version, according to the manufacturer should cost $600, and 960-Gigabyte model priced at $1300.

No significant differences in the other characteristics. In particular, Intel did not increase the allowed resource overwriting the warranty period. The company expects that daily ten-overwrite full capacity within five years, and so it is absolutely excessive restriction for desktop users, and promise even more makes no sense.

But noticeable (including literally) innovation affected the appearance of the older version of the Optane 905P SSD 960 GB. She, unlike his predecessors, got built into the radiator RGB led backlight. But this applies only to the maximum volume of the model. Version of the drive with capacity of 480 GB in the U. 2-the performance of any spectacular design elements not received.

 

Lot of expectations was due to the fact that in the new series Optane SSD 905P a version that can be installed in the M. 2 slot. Moreover, examples of the storage capacity of 380 GB even was shown at Computex. But still selling them there, but Intel has proposed an alternative solution, as can be plugged into the M. 2 slot is “big Optane” volume 480 GB. One of the delivery options Optane SSD 905P in the U. 2-the format comes with a special cable for coupling located on the drive connector SFF-8639 directly with the M. 2 slot.

Since both U. 2 and M. 2 offer only a wrapper for the four lines of PCI Express, the direct switching does not cause surprise. But those users who are deprived of U. 2 ports and did not have available PCIe slots in the end still get access to the flagship Optane SSD large capacity. This is definitely good news for supporters of computers Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX.

#Appearance and internal structure

For testing were selected Optane 905P SSD with a capacity of 480 GB. Because of this, we were able to compare two flagship Optane SSD pertaining to the different model series. However, the performance at Optane from the SSD storage capacity is not affected. The controller used in this device class, the alternation in the memory access, as well as any intermediate buffering is not used, and all operations are maintained synchronously. However Optane 905P SSD 480 GB interesting in its execution, because it is a drive in a rare format U. 2.

Generally, a form factor 2 U. is more a server issue. The traditional 2.5-inch size U. 2 drives with a thickness of 15 mm is selected in order for such SSD was convenient to use in a typical server-side baskets. That is why the dimensions of the Optane SSD 905P not differ from the dimensions of any mechanical drive with a SAS interface. But this does not mean that Optane SSD 905P fail to put in a desktop housing: it is included in both the default location for the SATA SSD.

It is easy to solve the issue with the connection. First option: U. 2-you can connect the drive to the U. 2 port on the motherboard. However, consumer boards, such connectors are rare, so this option will not cover everyone. In this case, fit the second option: you can use the adapter that allows you to set U. 2 drive into the slot PCI Express 3.0 x4 slot on the motherboard. Such adapters are very simple in structure and abundance, for example, Aliexpress.com.

There is a third option: if you carefully comb through Aliexpress.com it is possible to find other adapters, which transform into the connector U. 2 M. 2 slot.

However, if you want to connect 2 U. drive through M. 2, it is better to buy a modification Optane 905P SSD 480 GB unit SSDPE21D480GAM3. To it includes a cable to connect U. 2 drive in the M. 2 slot on the motherboard without the aid of any intermediate links. However, in this case the drive will need external power SATA cable from your power supply will need to stick to “outgrowth” of the interface cable U. 2.

In the end U. 2 version, despite its unfamiliarity, it seems even more convenient option in the form of expansion cards for PCI Express: ways to connect 2 U. drive the system is even more.

Look at 905P Optane SSD 480 GB somewhat peculiar. 2.5 inch aluminum housing, this drive serves as a giant radiator: the top and bottom surface generously plowed deep furrows to increase surface area. However, to say that Optane SSD any noticeable hot, is absolutely impossible. Even with heavy use and without additional cooling air flow case temperature does not rise above 45 degrees.

 

Inside U. 2 version of the Optane 905P SSD 480 GB is the same stuffing, as in the drive Optane 900P SSD 480 GB, which we tested. This means that all the improvements in the newer version do have the software-only nature. From a hardware point of view nothing has changed: the proprietary Intel controller SLL3D manages a seven-channel array of the 35 memory devices 3D XPoint. This means that “raw” memory in the 480-Gigabyte version of the SSD Optane total of 560 GB, and the “extra” gigabytes used to store metadata, the implementation of RAID 5-like parity and replacement Fund. Please note: we are not talking about garbage collection, because 3D XPoint does not require any preliminary preparation for the subsequent recording, and Optane SSD this process is not incorporated.

At the same time 905P Optane SSD 480 GB Intel switched to the use of chips of larger capacity. While in the previous version of drive was installed chips with one or two crystals inside, but now the manufacturer uses including chips, which are stacked four terminal device 3D XPoint. This is what has allowed Intel to fit inside a 2.5-inch enclosures 480-plus GB memory. But larger than 480 GB version, the storage class Optane SSD while possible only in the form of HHHL-boards, which provide chips for more planting space.

 

Speaking about the internals Optane 905P SSD 480 GB, it is worth noting two more interesting details. First, abundant application in the design of the storage pads. They are equipped without exception, all of the chips: not only the controller but also the XPoint 3D chips.

Second, among the fifteen circuits, the components of the circuitry of the drive is not visible the usual chip dynamic memory. And there is nothing strange: any of Optane SSD is really complete without a DRAM buffer. The XPoint 3D architecture is fundamentally different from a NAND architecture at the logical level, and memory array composed of XPoint 3D devices with direct access, does not require complex addressing with the use of a table of address translation. In addition, the XPoint 3D memory is by orders of magnitude lower compared to NAND latency. All this allows you to opt-in to Optane SSD is an additional layer in the form of DRAM.

#Software

Intel traditionally supplies its drives quite functional SSD Toolbox, which is compatible with Intel SSD Optane 905P. In General, it is similar to other similar programs, but you need to understand that because of the peculiarities of XPoint 3D memory are many common service functions of the SSD in this case is not necessary. In particular, Optane SSD no need for special set up or transfer to the drive, the TRIM command, so some of the capabilities of the Intel SSD Toolbox in system with such storage is not available.

 

Nonetheless, the utility allows you to get detailed information about the drive status and the values of its parameters S. M. A. R. T.

 

In addition, the SSD Toolbox has the ability to diagnostic scan, during which you can check the status and operability of a memory array. The scan runs as fast and full mode – the difference is that will affect testing the entire memory array 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 (only on Windows 7).

 

Signature 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.

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Peripherals

Browse SSD WD Black NVMe, version 2018: forget about the past

The transition to the widespread use of 3D NAND TLC – one of the major trends this year at the consumer SSD market, and we got used to it so much that we almost do not touch the news of the appearance of some of the next generation solid-state drives based on multi-layered memory. However, in a continuous stream of similar announcements still come across an interesting and unexpected novelty — the only problem is that sometimes they are difficult to recognize.

That is exactly what happened with the new NVMe-solution company Western Digital, which passed us by almost unnoticed. But, with a translation of the old NVMe drive WD Black to use native 64-layer BiCS3 memory (3D TLC NAND), the company completely redesigned its hardware platform. Therefore, appearing on the shelves at the moment products series WD Black NVMe – does not like the WD Black, whom we met at the end of last year. The new flagship series of drives, Western Digital is not simply moved to a more modern flash memory, but have much better performance. And although Western Digital for some reason decided not to give the updated version a new name, the current WD Black NVMe – this is not a compromise solution, and one of the really advanced SSD, which should be able to compete with ADATA XPG SX8200, Intel SSD 760p and 970 Samsung EVO.

These developments are striking. The original SSD WD Black at best deserved a lenient characteristics of the “consumer NVMe SSD entry-level”. They were based on the public controller Marvell Eldora and staffed with planar TLC NAND, produced by 15-nm process. This configuration gave a relatively low productivity, and, according to our tests, the WD Black has occupied the position of one of the slowest SSD with NVMe interface, competing in this area unless another outsider, Intel SSD 600p. However, the “black” model still enjoyed a certain popularity among buyers as the Western Digital showed a very sensible approach to pricing.

But now Western Digital can count on the success of its flagship drive for another reason. Generally, all of them can be brought under one definition: vertical integration. The fact that in the new WD Black NVMe brand BiCS3 three-dimensional memory manages innovative proprietary controller of its own design. And it means that Western Digital no longer depend on any third-party partners for the release of the WD Black NVMe components she now develops and produces its own. As a result, in the hands of the company were all tools for deep technical optimization of the product, and extremely flexible the price control. And this recipe is usually born and hits like a textbook 970 Samsung EVO.

In other words, “the second coming” WD Black NVMe promises to give us one of the favorite among consumer NVMe SSD, so to avoid what happened the update, we simply could not. The fresh WD Black NVMe already reached the Russian stores, and therefore the time to understand how the new drives are better than their predecessors of the same name and whether they are able to outdo the NVMe offerings from Samsung, which is considered to be the best choice a priori. In addition, the process information we will also answer another burning question: like when you purchase a WD Black not to be trapped and to carry out of the store the correct drive with new stuffing and the best speeds.

#Specifications

A key component of the latest version of the WD Black NVMe sample 2018 is a new internal controller development. Its creation involved the court a team of engineers from SanDisk, Western Digital inherited in the takeover of this company in 2016. It is curious that neither before the transition under the wing of Western Digital, or after him any special achievements on the field controller, the SanDisk did not stand out. Comes to mind only a relatively simple chips that the engineers of this company have created for the budget (U110) and caching (ReadyCache) models. Therefore, the development of high-performance controller for the flagship drive is a kind of experiment.

But the experiment with far-leading consequences. Western Digital says plainly that the resulting chip is a modular solution which the company will, on the one hand, to introduce the private NVMe different price categories, and on the other to develop and modernize for the possibility of integration in future products. The implications of this initiative are well understood: the Western Digital products are immediately unique and has no analogues. The company walks away from any dependence on third-party developers and has focused the optimization of the hardware platform under its own memory with the BiCS architecture, which ultimately may give an advantage in performance and cost of production.

From a hardware perspective, the controller for the new WD Black NVMe is similar to many such decisions of other developers. It is based on dual-core processor (presumably built on nuclei ARM Cortex-R), produced by 28-nm process technology. This means that the computational power of this chip is clearly higher than the dual-core Marvell Eldora, which was used in the previous version of WD Black. However, the leadership Samokovsko controller Phoenix solution the Western Digital challenge is unlikely: South Korean developers prefer pachyderma design.

However, speaking about performance, the developers pay attention to that part of operations that SSDS have traditionally been addressed programmatically in the controller Western Digital delivered to specialized hardware blocks. In particular, reading data from the flash memory and processing of a substantial part of NVMe commands do not create strain on the ARM-core, and due to this, the controller Western Digital quite organically fits into the flagship drives with NVMe interface.

Fully hardware block in the controller is supported, and error correction based on LDPC coding. Moreover, its implementation is a layered three-level character. During normal operation the controller uses a relatively simple algorithm that is not too efficient from the point of view of error correction, but it works very quickly and with a minimum expenditure of energy. More strong versions of the algorithm (they provided two) the chip switches only in case of real necessity, when the resource of the memory cells begins to come to an end.

The controller Western Digital four lines PCI Express 3.0 to communicate with the system and at the level of logical interface supported latest Protocol NVM Express 1.3. The communication of the controller with the flash memory takes place via eight channels, but the chip can be easily switched to a more lightweight configuration. The manufacturer is going to use it as in the flagship WD Black NVMe and NVMe over simple products like SN520, where the external interface and internal parallelism cut in half.

The current version of the controller is focused on working exclusively with three-dimensional BiCS memory, which is produced in factories SanDisk and Toshiba. Therefore, all the current NVMe products Western Digital will soon be fully converted to 64-layer BiCS3 c TLC organization. The old version of the WD Black with planar TLC memory after depletion of inventory will disappear from the market. Not so long ago Western Digital announced the start of mass production of the next generation of its three-dimensional of a memory, BiCS4 with 96 layers, but in a consumer NVMe drives to install this memory company in the near future (at least until the end of the year) are planned.

So it turns out that the hardware component of the modern version of WD Black NVMe has absolutely nothing to do with the last version of the same product. The same can be said about the software part. It is quite obvious that the work with the new controller and BiCS3 memory required a radical rework of the firmware. So do not be surprised, and that at the same time changed the whole logic of the drive, including SLC-caching.

Working with TLC memory as SLC through the intermediate buffer is a standard practice used in all consumer SSDS. But algorithmsuite these operations in different ways. In the new WD Black NVMe to work with the SLC buffer is implemented proprietary technology nCache 3.0 instead of the second version of this technology used in the WD Black original. Essentially, this means that, although SLС cache remained in static storage, in the logic of the SSD added, the direct writing mode in TLC memory (direct-to-TLC). And now the overflow SLC-cache does not entail a significant decline in performance.

Visually it can be represented in the following graph, which shows the performance of the upgraded polterabayta WD Black NVMe continuous sequential write.

The size of the SLC cache is still the same as they were before: with high speed of SSD with the capacity of 500 GB you can record only about 5 GB of data. Accordingly, for every 250 GB capacity WD Black NVMe allotted 2.5 GB of high speed memory, translated in SLC-mode. She manages to provide a linear recording speed of the order of 2.4 GB/s.

In the exhaustion of the volume of the SLC cache, the linear recording speed is reduced to 840 MB/s, which is actually still pretty decent. As an example, it may be recalled that the first version of the WD Black could not reach such a performance even when data is written to the cache. And even more, speed records at the TLC memory NVMe consider the WD Black is faster than 970 Samsung EVO. It’s really a surprise.

It is quite natural that the fundamental difference of the first and second versions of the WD Black is reflected in the official specifications. Now on the Western Digital website are the following characteristics of the flagship product:

Manufacturer Western Digital
Series WD Black NVMe SSD
Model number WDS250G2X0C WDS500G2X0C WDS100T2X0C
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 250 500 1000
Configuration
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer SanDisk 64-layer 256-GB BiCS3 3D TLC NAND
Controller SanDisk 20-82-007011
Buffer: type, volume DDR4-2400,
256 MB
DDR4-2400,
512 MB
DDR4-2400,
1024 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3000 3400 3400
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1600 2500 2800
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 220 000 410 000 500 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 170 000 330 000 400 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,14/9,2
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,75
Resource record, TB 200 300 600
Dimensions: l x h x d, mm 80 x 22 x 2,38
Weight, g 7,5
Warranty period, years 5

Here, everything has changed. Even the model range: it incorporates a modification to terabytes, and volumes were multiples of 250 GB, not 256 GB as it was before. But the greatest changes have affected performance. Speed random operations have a fresh version of “black” on its own SSD controller, Western Digital has tripled the sequential write speed has increased fourfold, and the linear reading of the new version has reached the limitations set by the bandwidth of PCI Express 3.0 x4! Against this background, almost lost incident the permitted resource rewrite, but he also increased about two times, allowing the user to overwrite every day, more than half of the full capacity of the drive.

In the end, specifications and characteristics of the WD Black NVMe does not like testing in a new market, but as a Mature and fully competitive product, capable seriously to compete with the most interesting NVMe flash storage devices from other manufacturers coming in the SSD business much earlier than Western Digital.

#Appearance and internal structure

Up to this point, the narrative became quite clear that after the appearance of the second version of the WD Black NVMe to buy the old version of the NVMe storage drive, Western Digital, not that that makes no sense and is just silly. To distinguish the new version from the old not so difficult even at the stage of superficial acquaintance with the range of products offered to a specific merchant.

WD Black SSD: сверху – новый, снизу – старый

WD Black SSD: top new, bottom old

First, the range of “correct” drives formed from volumes of 250, 500 and 1000 GB at a time before changing the platform Western Digital offered NVMe SSD with a capacity of 256 and 512 GB. Secondly, the end of the article number of the new models become kind of a “2X0C”, but before marking ends in “1X0C”. Thirdly, in the lower part of the front surface boxes new WD Black NVMe added the icon “3D NAND” and a clear indication of an increase in productivity “Up to 3400 MB/s read”.

Changed the look of the drive. The most obvious change: the SSD that Western Digital calls the black is now really black. The first version of the WD Black, oddly enough, had the PCB is blue.

 

SSD got sided design that involves the installation in a “low profile slots. Chips located on the front side are closed by the label. Sticker this is the most ordinary, inside it there are no layers of foil. But it is very informative: here you can find not only the article and serial number, and date of production. In addition, on the label specified and the alternative name of the WD Black NVMe, which is used by the manufacturer in the supply of the SSD using the OEM channels – SN700. By the way, the new version of the WD Black NVMe there is a third person – this drive is also available under the trademark under the name of SanDisk Extreme Pro.

The label hides another characteristic feature of the WD Black NVMe is a special PCB design. Corporate controller SanDisk 20-82-007011 here is the center, and two chips of flash memory divorced at the edges of the M. 2 module. It is made specifically the Western Digital engineers found that with this arrangement at the printed circuit Board is a more simple topology and efficiently solved the problem with the heat sink.

As for the actual chip, the array of flash memory WD Black 500 GB NVMe recruited two chips, each of which concluded with eight 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D TLC NAND-crystal SanDisk. Therefore, eight-channel controller in the present drive uses two-time interleaving of devices in each channel. Usually this is enough for the hardware platform SSD could reveal its full potential.

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

Given the fact that the stated capacity of the considered modifications of the WD Black NVMe is 500 GB, the user in the operating system will be available capacity 466 GB. The remaining 44 GB are used by the controller to the SLC-caching (15 GB), replacement Fund, wear-leveling and garbage collection.

#Software

The Western Digital hard drive always attached the service utility SSD Dashboard, which implements all the basic functions for their service. The new version of the WD Black NVMe, despite the change of controller and memory, it is fully compatible.

The ability of the utility for the last year practically has not changed, and surprise someone, it is unlikely. Nevertheless claims to SSD Dashboard no no: she remains one of the most full-featured service utilities of this kind.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Peripherals

Overview of the NAS WD My Cloud Pro PR2100: the best iron for your money

From a home user network attached storage company Western Digitalusually associated with something simple, not demanding to understand network technologies and offering only a basic set of functions for personal data storage and remote access. But the model number NAS of this manufacturer for a long time already there are models that are not inferior in its capabilities and characteristics to other players in the market for personal file storage. One of these patterns found in our lab. We are talking about a two-Bay NAS WD My Cloud Pro PR2100, which is a whole lot of different interesting features, but costs less than its competitors.

#Supplied

 

The package WD My Cloud Pro PR2100

WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 comes in a compact cardboard box with color printing — this is easy to carry from store to home in his arms, but she handles no. Inside, in addition to the drive, was found to have the following accessories:

  • power adapter with detachable cable;
  • Ethernet cable;
  • a sheet with the sequence of actions by putting the device into operation.

A detailed user manual in Russian and other languages if necessary you can download from the manufacturer’s website. Also note that the WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 comes without pre-installed hard drives and disks with a total capacity of 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20 TB on the user’s choice. In our instance was equipped with two WD Red WD20EFRX adapted to work with NAS, with a capacity of 2 TB each.

#Specifications

WD My Cloud Pro PR2100
HDD 2 × 3.5″ SATA II/III HDD
File system Internal hard drives: EXT4;
External storage: FAT32, NTFS, HFS+J exFAT
RAID level JBOD Mode join drives, RAID 0/1
Processor Intel Pentium 1.6 GHz N3710
RAM 4 GB DDR3L
Network interfaces 2 × Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45
Additional interfaces 2 × USB 3.0
Protocols AFP, NFS, FTP, WebDAV, iSCSI, SSH, SNMP, Samba, HTTP
Customers Windows 7 and more modern, Mac OS X 10.8 and more modern;
iOS 7 and more modern Android 4.0 and more modern
Cooling system 1 × fan 70 × 70 mm
Dimensions, mm 217 × 109 × 148
Guarantee, months.
(with pre-installed HDD / without HDD)
36 / 24
Estimated price*, RUB
(without HDD / 4 / 8 / 12 / 16 / 20 TB)
33 353 / 49 890 / 59 220 / 67 284 / 77 312 / 86 619

*Average price in “Yandex.Market” at the time of this writing.

 

The main motherboard WD My Cloud Pro PR2100

The word Pro in the name of the drive attached for a reason. The fact that the basis of this device is the processor Intel Pentium N3710 is the most powerful Intel Braswell. NAS from other manufacturers, this processor can be found only on the most expensive models, costs and capabilities which significantly exceed those for WD My Cloud Pro PR2100. The processor has the architecture Airmont, made on 14-nanometer process technology and operates with a base clock speed of 1.6 GHz with the ability to increase to 2.56 GHz. He has a 2 MB cache second level, and another difference — very low heat dissipation: only 6 watts.

Центральный процессор со снятым радиатором

The CPU with removed radiator

This processor has an integrated graphics core Intel HD Graphics 405 eighth generation with sixteen actuators operating in the frequency range from 400 to 700 MHz. For home NAS will probably be important that the adapter works with the 4K UHD resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels (2160p) at a frequency of 30 Hz or 2560 × 1600 for 60 Hz, and can also carry out the decoding of data at the hardware level H. 264 (AVC) MPEG-4 Part 2, MPEG-2 and VC-1. He still has the HDMI interface, but the NAS the output is not provided.

 

Memory modules Samsung K4B4G1646E-BYK0

Intel Pentium N3710, like other models of Intel Braswell processors, has an integrated dual channel memory controller. It works with DDR3L-1600 memory, and its maximum amount is limited to 8 GB. On the motherboard WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 coming with eight modules of Samsung K4B4G1646E-BYK0 capacity of 512 MB each. Thus, WD My Cloud PR2100 Pro has 4 GB of RAM DDR3L-1600. To increase the amount of RAM in this case is not possible.

Микроконтроллер ARM STM32F0

The ARM STM32F0 microcontroller

On Board of the NAS has two Gigabit network interface represented by the widespread controllers Realtek RTL8111H with the PCI Express bus. The SATA controller built into the processor. It works with two interfaces 6 GB/s, which fully corresponds to the specifications of the NAS. The external eSATA ports of the novelty, but there is two USB 3.0 ports, which are also implemented with built-in CPU controller. It remains to note that to control the device on the motherboard of processor ARM STM32F0 from the company STMicroelectronics.

Hardware WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 largely very unusual. So unusual to see in a NAS of this class Intel Pentium. But even more amazing to know that this NAS zadublirovanny power connector – just like very expensive models, designed for continuous operation in the big office! Supplied with the device there is only one power supply, but if you want you can always buy a second. In General, the circuitry not only meets the stated technical characteristics, but also deserves profound respect for originality, and elaboration.

#Appearance

 
Внешний вид WD My Cloud Pro PR2100

Appearance WD My Cloud Pro PR2100

Unlike the vast majority, and expensive, and not network drives on the market today, the product is made not in plastic and metal body, painted in Matt black. The device looks expensive and noble. Only front panel with compartments for discs, traditionally made of plastic. Unpainted left only the back and lower part of the body. On the side metal walls, closer to the front panel, placed vents through which air enters the device. Well, on the lower surface of the pinned soft legs that allow the device to slide on a table or shelf, and dampen vibration.

Лицевая панель

The front panel

On the front panel can be seen as a practical matte plastic and decorative glossy. Two-thirds of its area is a disk compartment. Instead of common doors used here, separate opening panels with ventilation grilles for each disk. Under the panels is written numbers, and to inform the user about the activity or malfunctions with an led indicator. To the left of the disk-chamber is placed a decorative panel with the round power control button, the rectangular button to initiate the copy process from the connected external media storage and a USB 3.0 port for connecting to these carriers.

Задняя панель

Rear panel

All other specifications of the interfaces located on the rear surface of the device. In one vertical row they built two connectors to connect power adapters, two Ethernet RJ-45 port, a USB 3.0 port and recessed deep into the body reset button the device. Just above is a hole for attaching a security lock such as the Kensington. Well, almost all of the remaining space taken up by a ventilation grille, behind which hides a 70-mm fan. The cooling system is arranged according to the classical scheme of air sucked by the fan through the holes on the faceplates of the disk skids and side walls, passes through the inside of the shell is heated, cooling the drives and electronic components, and exits through the ventilation grille on the rear wall of the housing.

#Installation of hard drives and internal structure

Unlike most other NAS in the design of the WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 missing disk sled. It deprives him of the ability to install a 2.5-inch hard drives and SSD, but greatly simplifies the Assembly and disassembly of conventional, 3.5-inch disks. In addition, the design without the slide in this case it is harmonious, no unnecessary elements subject to vibration.

 

Disc compartment

The door of the disk compartment have a combined design with large rubber grip in the center, ensuring reliable contact of the disk with the connectors on the Board and not allowing it to vibrate during operation. The quality of execution of each element is worthy of the highest rating discs cling to nothing, neither during installation nor when dismantling.

 

The internal structure of the body

Disassemble your case your WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 the user does not have — the device has no removable memory modules, and disks are installed from the front panel. However, make it quite easy. More interesting. Removing the outer u-shaped casing, we expected to see under it a rigid frame of metal profiles. Imagine our surprise when inside actually showed one case with Tselikov metal panels. Such a structure makes the device extremely rigid and protected from various external influences. To break or damage the metal double wall accidentally will be very difficult. This is another plus in the Treasury of the merits associated with the reliability of WD My Cloud Pro PR2100.

Крепление системной платы

Motherboard mounting

The inner housing can also be disassembled. To one of its sidewalls a vertically mounted motherboard. Additional system Board interface connectors for the hard drives mounted on a transverse metal partition. In General, the internal structure of the novelty causes a feeling that this device was not done in a hurry, and saving on materials and production technologies is not intended in the first place and had no impact on quality and reliability. Cheaper mechanical design sin today almost all manufacturers of NAS and Western Digital, to the surprise of all, demonstrates the opposite. It is very nice.

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