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Review of the ASUSTOR NAS AS4004T: 10 Gbps for the people

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Connect two Gigabit interfaces implemented even in home network storage for quite some time — unusual this approach is not called. But 10 GB/s until recently seemed to be only a lot of professional equipment, the cost of which is prohibitively high for the average home user. A couple of new NAS ASUSTOR proves that times are changing. A two-Bay NAS ASUSTOR ASUSTOR AS4002T and chetyrehmetrovy AS4004T, like many others, have two Gigabit interface, but in addition they have a third — desjatilopastnye. The cost of innovations clearly indicates their home purpose. We learned to chetyrehvetvevogo NAS and found out whether or not rush to change their outdated Gigabit file servers to a modern solution.

#Supplied

 

Supplied ASUSTOR AS4004T

The device comes in a cardboard white box with plastic carrying handle. Box with the drive is very light so that to bring it home in their hands will not be easy. Inside, in addition to the drive, was found to have the following accessories:

  • power adapter with removable power cables two standards;
  • two Ethernet cable to connect the NAS via Gigabit interfaces (category 5);
  • one Ethernet cable to connect the NAS via dezetilirovanny interface (category 6);
  • set of screws for mounting drives form factor 2.5 inch;
  • CD-ROM with software and user manual;
  • brief printed manual in several languages.

It is noteworthy that the manufacturer has not abandoned the CD-ROM in scope of supply, but the current version should be downloaded from the corporate website. Note also the presence of complete delivery of all the necessary cables that provide every type of connection device.

#Specifications

Feature / Model ASUSTOR AS4004T
HDD 4 × 3,5”/2,5” HDD or SSD interface SATA3 6GB/s
File system Internal hard drives: EXT4
external storage: FAT32, NTFS, EXT3, EXT4, HFS+, exFAT
RAID level Single disk, JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10
Processor Marvell ARMADA-7020 1.6 GHz
Operational memory 2GB DDR4
Network interfaces 2 × Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45
1 × 10Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45
Additional interfaces 2 × USB-A 3.1
Protocols CIFS / SMB, SMB 2.0 / 3.0, AFP, NFS, FTP, TFTP, WebDAV, Rsync, SSH, SFTP, iSCSI/IP-SAN, HTTP, HTTPS, Proxy, SNMP, Syslog
Customers Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2012
Mac OS X 10.6 and later
UNIX, Linux
iOS, Android
Cooling system Single fan 120×120 mm
Power Consumption, W Work: 31,5
sleep mode: 17,1
Dimensions, mm 170 × 174 × 230
Weight, kg 2,2 (without HDD)
Estimated price*, RUB 26 000

* Average price in “Yandex.Market” at the moment of writing of article

Системная плата ASUSTOR AS4004T

Motherboard ASUSTOR AS4004T

A two-Bay NAS ASUSTOR ASUSTOR AS4002T and chetyrehmetrovy AS4004T have the same hardware — these devices differ only in the number of installed disks. Below we will talk about the model AS4004T ASUSTOR as it was in our lab, but in General much the same can be said about ASUSTOR AS4002T.

Структура Marvell ARMADA-7020

The structure of Marvell, ARMADA-7020

The device is running a 64-bit processor Marvell ARMADA-7020 (88F7020), built on microarchitecture ARMv8 Cortex-A72. It is a modern dual-core SoC, running at a clock frequency of 1.6 GHz and low power consumption. Outside it is covered with a small aluminum radiator, which squares are still missing and on the adjacent chip RAM.

Радиатор процессора и модули оперативной памяти Samsung K4B2G1646Q-BCK0

CPU heatsink and memory modules Samsung K4B2G1646Q-BCK0

The processor works with RAM DDR4 DRAM memory modules are soldered directly on the motherboard. Replace them or increase the RAM capacity from ASUSTOR AS4004T will not work. The total volume of the modules is 2 GB. In this instance the used IC SEC K4A8G16 DDR4 SDRAM manufacturing company Samsung Semiconductor Inc..

Гигабитные сетевые контроллеры Marvell E881512

Gigabit network controllers Marvell E881512

Integrated graphics processor Marvell ARMADA-7020 can not boast, so the video outputs on Board ASUSTOR AS4004T not provided, as there is no other multimedia outputs. But there is dezetilirovanny Ethernet interface that is implemented using the capabilities of the SoC. However, a pair of Gigabit network ports on the motherboard of the NAS has two relevant controller Marvell E881512.

 

USB-controller Realtek RTS5412 (left) and the flash module Toshiba TC58NVG2S0FTA00 (right)

Interfaces USB 3.1 on-Board NAS provides controller Realtek RTS5412. Well, to store the firmware on the motherboard of the device has a removable NAND-Modul ADATA capacity of 512 MB, assembled on a single chip Toshiba TC58NVG2S0FTA00.

In General, the chipset novelties fairly predictable: nothing supernatural, but completely corresponds to the specifications and technical characteristics. Unless the manufacturer had to save on some components and solutions to achieve an acceptable cost home NAS with ten Gigabit Ethernet interface. For most ordinary users, this savings will not affect comfort and performance. Is that ASUSTOR AS4004T not suitable for those who require a video output.

#Appearance

Externally, the model is similar to AS4004T ASUSTOR NAS, which, in General, expected. The manufacturer has decided to abandon the metal casing, as in other models, so the new NAS is made in a plastic case consisting of two halves, which is mounted on the metal chassis. The outside metal can be seen only from behind — in this part of the case has a plastic coating.

 

Appearance ASUSTOR AS4004T

All major plastic components of the device is matte, with slightly pronounced surface roughness. Only the removable front panel and a vertical panel with indicators are the paint. Note that the lateral and front surface of the housing from ASUSTOR AS4004T not flat, but faceted, which gives the new product a certain playfulness — as this device clearly shows that it must be at home, not in the server.

Вид снизу

Bottom view

Without discs ASUSTOR AS4004T is very light and compact. There is no difficulty to choose a seat at the table next to the computer or on the bookshelf. While the NAS will rely on four rectangular legs, glued to the bottom surface of the housing.

 

The front panel

The front panel has magnetic mount and is only a feature. Behind it lies the disc compartment with the vertical placement of slides. To his left is the led panel that informs the user of activity of disks, network interfaces, and USB ports, and power status. Here is one of the two USB 3.1 ports and power control button.

Задняя панель

Rear panel

Almost the entire area of the rear panel is a grille, behind which inner side fixed with 120 mm fan. To the right is a second USB 3.1, three network interface RJ-45 (two one Gigabit and ten Gigabit), recessed inside the reset button to factory, as well as Jack for external power adapter placed on the plastic part of the case loop for laying and fixing of the cable. In the lower part of the housing there is a connector for attaching a security lock such as the Kensington.

In General, the appearance of new items though can not be called original, but can be attributed to the universal type. Such a device will easily fit into any interior, and even places will take a bit. As for interfaces, indicators, and buttons, and this indicator model ASUSTOR AS4004T deserves a positive assessment.

#Installation of hard drives and internal structure

 

Slide hard drives

As in the case of housing, the slide hard drives ASUSTOR AS4004T have the most simple design. They are completely made of plastic, but it does not require installation disks nor any fasteners. With this type of saddle we met when meeting with other NAS manufacturers. For fixing the disk in the sled are used side plastic plate with the pins and rubber bushings for the damping arising from the vibrations. Plate is easily removed and installed, so that the whole process of installation hard disk drives are unlikely to take more than a couple-three minutes.

 

Disc compartment

The disc compartment slides fixed in place by a simple lock that is opened by turning the plastic knobs on the front of the sled. An additional lock with a key is not provided. Note that the slides are partially framed structure with lots of holes, so that the cooling disks, no problems should arise. In case air is delayed by a fan through the holes and slits of the front panel and through the ventilation grille at the bottom of the hull. Well, it pushes out through the fan grille on the rear wall.

 

The internal structure of the body. The location of the motherboard

To open the device ASUSTOR AS4004T the user is not required. For mounting drives is not necessary, and to increase the amount of RAM in this case is impossible. However, if you want, you make it very easy. It is sufficient to Unscrew on the rear panel, four screws and slide the plastic half relative to the other. Inside the device has a rigid metal frame to which side is attached to the motherboard. A few cables are routed so that they are not even visible. While inside the case there is enough free space and the disk compartment walls have holes for free air circulation. Cooling system Board and installed inside the hard disk no problems should arise.

#Work with the device

   

Application Control Center ASUSTOR AiMaster and to locate and configure the NAS ASUSTOR

To install and configure the NAS, you can use the supplied CD, but it is better to carry out this procedure via Internet service start.asustor.com. To find the NAS on the network even in the absence of the PC via the smartphone, using an app AiMaster designed for initial setup of the NAS ASUSTOR and management. You can also find a connected to a local network drive using the proprietary app ASUSTOR Control Center. During the installation process the user will be prompted to mount your disk space and fully configure the NAS.

 
 

The initial installation of the operating system. ADM and configure NAS

During initial setup, the device will automatically download and install the latest universal for all ASUSTOR NAS version of the operating system ADM (ASUSTOR Data Master). Last time we met with ADM version 3.0, but at the time of testing for ASUSTOR AS6404T was available ADM 3.2. Fundamental differences, it is not received.

 
 

The ADM interface 3.2

Multi ADM interface remains the same. It is adapted for work with mobile devices, so even on a small smartphone screen all the menu items and icons are well readable. The usability of the ADM interface is no different from any other OS, where there is a choice of which to adjust the size of Windows and installation of widgets.

 

Configuring EZ-Connect

   

Mobile client AiData

To connect to disk space on the NAS via the Internet the easiest way by using services EZ-Connect. It does not need to configure the router. You just need to register on the manufacturer’s website and get the ID ASUSTOR Cloud ID with which the user will have access to the files and folders of the NAS as a desktop computer, and a smartphone. For the latest under Android OS and iOS has different apps for accessing and working with data. Note that in the app AiData integrated service Dropbox Box.net and Google Drive.

 

Library apps ASUSTOR

In the software Arsenal ASUSTOR is a mobile application for managing multimedia data, the program for work with CCTV cameras, the app to control the settings of the NAS. Library of built-in applications will also delight the user with its diversity: there are a lot of different media players, office programs and utilities for backup.

 

Configuring disk space

 

Setting the aggregation function ports

As for the features, disk space, network settings and services, here the ADM 3.2 gives the user a full range of capabilities, which will be enough for both home and corporate user. We wrote earlier about AES encryption with 256-bit key, and about the organization on the basis of the NAS ASUSTOR web server, and about the aggregation of network ports, so will not be repeated. You can read about it in the description of ADM version 3.0. In its capabilities and usability of the ADM is in no way inferior to the specialized OS leading players in the NAS market.

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Peripherals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Specifications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming Mode выключен

Gaming Mode is turned off

 
Gaming Mode включен

Gaming Mode included

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

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

#Appearance and internal structure

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Software

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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Overview NVMe SSD Crucial P1: NVMe on SATA price

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Overview NVMe-ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro: do no harm

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Specifications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Appearance and internal structure

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

#Software

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

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

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

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

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

SOURCE

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