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Testing hard disks with capacity up to 14-16 TB: not only more, but better

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The capacity of hard drives continues to increase, but the pace of growth in recent years has been steadily declining. So, in order to release the first drive with a capacity of 4 TB after the sale there was a 2-terabyte HDD, the industry has spent only two years to conquer the level of 8 TB took three, and to double the volume of 3.5-inch hard disk again was only for five years.

The last breakthrough was accomplished through a list of innovative solutions. Today, even conservatives such as Toshiba, which until recently refused from helium, forced to release the hard drives in sealed enclosures, and the number of plates on the mandrel was increased to nine pieces — though once, a long time, five plates was considered a reasonable limit. In specific niches, the technology of so-called shingled recording (SMR, Shingled Magnetic Recording), in which track sectors on the plate partly overlap. Finally, in order to shift the limit of hard drive capacity from 14 to 16 TB without the use of SMR, manufacturers had to introduce one of emerging technologies, gradually shrinking the list of which we reproduce in the annual final articles, the reading track multiple heads at the same time (TDMR, Two-Dimensional Magnetic Recording). Further movement sooner or later will require more extensive changes to the basics of HDD such as a heated plate with a laser or microwaves (HAMR/MAMR, Heat/Microwave-Assisted Magnetic Recording) at the time of passage of the recording head.

However, you will notice that all of the techniques are aimed primarily at the increase in density and increase in volume on one spindle, although many of them have a beneficial side effect in the form of increased speed of linear read and write data. This parameter modern HDD broke for the border 250 MB/s and is comparable to the early consumer SSDs. But the speed of access to random sectors of the magnetic disks almost never progresses, and in terms of volume, the number of operations per second becomes less. Along with this are higher requirements for fault tolerance, because the more data is stored on one spindle, the more important not to lose them and the longer to recover.

But this challenge from the creators of magnetic storage was the answer. We took three hard drive with volume from 14 up to 16 TB, to see how to adapt technology 64-year-old to the realities of 2019, and noticed several trends. Champion’s examples of modern 3.5-inch drives, produced for rackmount server and storage solutions, have something in common with solid-state drives — from the principles of addressing to direct integration of the flash chips in the local memory stack. And consumer models, in turn, become closer in its characteristics to the server-side counterparts, and even the description “desktop HDD” is not so much to say about the performance and reliability of the device. But the task of this review is not limited to the General words. We intend to figure out how the new trends in design of hard drives are expressed in hard numbers measuring performance.

#Specifications test participants

Before we start analyzing the test results, you should carefully study the characteristics of the devices with which we have to deal with. This time they do not so much as usually happens in our group test, but we have fulfilled the main conditions, without which the comparison hard drives can claim to completeness. In the survey participated the products of all three manufacturers — Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital, and they belong to different categories: consumer and server. The main characteristics that unite them, is the volume at 14 or 16 TB, the sealed housing filled with helium, and a spindle speed of 7200 rpm And for comparison with the heavyweights in testing involved three of the now familiar device of a smaller volume (10 and 12 TB), was designed for use in servers, home or office NAS.

Manufacturer Seagate Toshiba Western Digital
Series BarraCuda Pro Exos X10 IronWolf MG08 S300 Ultrastar DC HC530
Model number ST14000DM001 ST10000NM0016 ST12000VN0008 MG08ACA16TE HDWT31AUZSVA WUH721414ALE6L4
Form factor 3.5 inch 3.5 inch 3.5 inch 3.5 inch 3.5 inch 3.5 inch
Interface SATA 6 GB/s SATA 6 GB/s SATA 6 GB/s SATA 6 GB/s SATA 6 GB/s SATA 6 GB/s
Capacity, GB 14 000 10 000 12 000 16 000 10 000 14 000
The spindle rotation speed, rpm./min 7 200 7 200 7 200 7 200 7 200 7 200
The useful storage density, GB/plate 1 750 1 429 1 500 1 778 1 429 1 750
The number of plates/heads 8/16 7/14 8/16 9/18 7/14 8/16
Sector size, bytes 4096 (emulated 512 byte) 4096 (emulated 512 byte) 4096 (emulated 512 byte) 4096 (emulated 512 byte) 4096 (emulated 512 byte) 4096 (emulated 512 byte)
Buffer size, MB 256 256 256 512 256 512
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 250 249 210 ND 248 267
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 250 249 210 ND 248 267
Average seek time: read/write, MS ND ND ND ND ND 7,5/ND
Fault tolerance
The estimated burden of TB/g 300 ND 180 550 180 550
Unrecoverable read error, the number of cases on the amount of data (bits) 1/10^15 1/10^15 1/10^15 10/10^16 10/10^14 1/10^15
MTBF (mean time between failures), h ND 2 500 000 1 000 000 2 500 000 1 000 000 2 500 000
AFR (probability of failure per year), % ND 0,35 ND ND ND 0,35
The number of cycles Parking the heads 300 000 600 000 600 000 600 000 600 000 600 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 4,9/6,9 4,5/8,4 5,0/7,8 ND 7,15/of 9.48 5,5/6,0
Noise level: idle/search, B ND ND 1,8/2,8 2,0/ND 3,4/ND 2,0/3,6
Maximum temperature, °C: drive on/drive is disabled 60/70 60/ND 70/70 55/70 70/70 60/70
Shock: drive on /drive is disabled ND 40 g (2ms) / 250 g (2 MS) 70 g (2ms) / 250 g (2 MS) 70 g (2ms) / 250 g (2 MS) 70 g (2ms) / 250 g (2 MS) 70 g (2ms) / 300 g (2 MS)
Dimensions: D × H × D, mm 147 × 101,9 × 26,1 147 × 101,9 × 26,1 147 × 101,9 × 26,1 147 × 101,9 × 26,1 147 × 101,9 × 26,1 147 x 101,6 x 26,1
Weight, g 690 650 690 720 770 690
Warranty period, years 5 5 3 5 3 5
Retail price (US without tax) $ From 549 ( From 289 ( From 351 ( ND From 301 ( From 439 (
Retail price (Russia), RUB. From 34 348 ( 17 498 ( 26 320 ( ND 19 784 ( 27 495 (

The first model in our modest collection of hard drives indiscreet volume — BarraCuda Pro 14 TB — is a storage for desktop and DAS, but not simple, and “professional”. On the one hand, this means that the BarraCuda Pro is subject to the typical limitations of desktop hard drives. For example, it is not intended to be combined in RAID arrays, because it is desirable to have TLER (Time-Limited Error Recovery) — configure the firmware that prevents W: a from HDD array because of the long attempts of the microcontroller is considered a problematic sector. In addition, the chassis BarraCuda Pro is ill-suited to work in the shelf or NAS with multiple baskets, because there is no compensation for rotational vibration.

But on the other hand, unlike most other desktop hard drives, HDD of this brand have increased year resource loading — up to 300 TB of overwrites, — ready to work 24/7 and are accompanied by a five year warranty. Performance probably also don’t have to complain (at least, in problems with a predominantly linear data access): with eight plates by 1.75 TB device achieves a sustained throughput of 250 MB/s. in addition, the manufacturer promises that the speed and random access to BarraCuda Pro should be higher in comparison with the ordinary disk drives for desktop computers and energy consumption, in contrast, is lower than that of most 3.5-inch models. However, all statements of Seagate, we’ll see.

In order to conquer such a high turn-density data in the standard perpendicular recording without the use of niche technology SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording), Seagate had to implement one of the promising methods, which we from year to year in writing of our final articles — the so-called two-dimensional recording (Two-Dimensional Magnetic Recording). But contrary to its name, TDMR has nothing to do with the procedure of data recording as such, and is designed to increase the ratio signal/noise in conditions of high track density on a magnetic plate due to the simultaneous reading of track two reading heads: the latter spaced so that the field captures the adjacent track, and to compensate for the interference becomes easier. In the future, hard drives with TDMR will gain even more heads, along with the reliability of read data may increase its speed, but it is the future.

Drives BarraCuda Pro differ in many ways from the related devices of the Junior series without the prefix Pro — from the fact that all manufacturers of desktop HDD standard models stuck in the amount of 6-8 TB. Disk BarraCuda Pro can rather be described as the offspring of server branches Seagate, devoid of functions, associated with arrays. But the price of the device has soared to the level of corporate models, and even higher in Russia 14-terabyte model will not find a cheaper 34 348 rubles, and retail venues in the United States — $549. Even nearline model Seagate of the same size cost less — from $375 or 28 936 RUB.


Seagate BarraCuda Pro 14 TB

The following experiment, a 14-terabyte disk Ultrastar DC HC530 — this drive is nearline class, which represented the best of what the engineers of Western Digital until there is a new model with capacity of 16 TB. But in practice 3DNews he became the first Winchester brand Ultrastar without the usual HGST letters in name: the company moved all server models under its own brand after the assets of HGST are completely dissolved in the combined Corporation. In their key characteristics is a device like a BarraCuda Pro of the same size: inside of a hermetic enclosure Ultrastar DC HC530 are eight useful magnetic platters with a capacity of 1750 GB, and read data from closely spaced paths provides technology TDMR. But for the rest of the parameters and the plurality of additional functions inherent in enterprise HDD, Ultrastar DC HC530 not be put on a par with the desktop models, let BarraCuda Pro and not representative of its category.

So, a useful bit density on the plates Pro and BarraCuda Ultrastar DC HC530 one and the same as the spindle speed, but WD product guarantees a higher sustainable speed of linear read and write data up to 267 MB/s (it is unclear where did the difference, but the tests will show whether it exists in reality). Delays in random access helps to reduce the two-stage actuator new, third generation and a large buffer of 512 MB, and most importantly, Media Cache — reserve areas to blocks scattered over the surface of the plates. The latter feature unites modern nearline disks with solid-state drives, which, too, there is variable correlation between physical sectors and logical blocks. And since 10-terabyte models Ultrastar DC HC330, WD uses for caching write operations have a small amount of flash memory. Note that at the same time with (potentially) extremely high by the standards of magnetic storage performanceproduct WD is characterized by moderate power — in fact, it is the device with the lowest power consumption among all test takers, judging by his passport options.

Drives of this class is constructed with the expectation of continuous operation in conditions of server rack: double-sided mounting of the spindle, the compensation of rotational vibration and other structural features of Ultrastar DC HC530 allowed to bring the design load of the disc up to 550 TB/year, and the time between failures is typical for nearline models of 2.5 million hours. In the unlikely event of a failure while updating the firmware on the controller Board is soldered a spare chip. The drive comes in versions with native access to the marking 4 KB or emulation of 512-byte sectors with the SATA or SAS. In the latter case, an option is also available through data encryption.

The retail price for the WD Ultrastar DC HC530 configuration with SATA port and emulation hereditary 512-byte marking comply with the advanced features and technology of this device: 27 495 rubles in the Russian Internet-stores and $439 on Amazon.


WD Ultrastar DC HC530

To assemble a collection of winchesters with a volume of 14 TB for comparative testing was difficult, and the appropriate device of the third manufacturer — Toshiba — we were never able to get. But instead we got a model of the next generation, to 16 TB. Now all three companies manufacturing hard drives, offer drives of this size, but it is the product Toshiba series MG08 was among them very first. The record of the Japanese company relies on a plate with roughly, if not exactly the same physical recording density in hard disks BarraCuda Pro and Ultrastar on 14 TB, but for the first time, Toshiba was able to pack nine “pancakes” in a standard 3.5-inch case. Not without TDMR technology, which has become essential for conquering new frontiers of capacity. Bandwidth Toshiba MG08 in the operations of the linear read/write should be at the level of the WD Ultrastar DC HC530, but, oddly enough, the manufacturer did not disclose any details about the device performance.

But we know that Toshiba also took measures in order to increase reliability and to reduce the latency of write operations: chip flash memory on Board MG08 in the case of accidental power outage to protect data sent from the host controller to record, but judging by the test results, and even performs the function of the second level cache memory after the buffer DRAM. But this technology (Persistent Write Cache) appears only in the specs of the drives emulate 512-byte markup, which is an additional source of danger during a power failure (and to some extent stealing performance) because of the need to perform the operation read-modify-write when each record logical blocks that do not coincide with the boundaries of physical sectors. But the MG08 series also includes models with native access to 4-kilobyte sectors. Does this mean that the latter does not have flash, or it just removed the backup feature, we do not know. But regardless, PWC, Toshiba MG08, and other storage devices from this company, uses algorithms Dynamic Cache, which, according to the manufacturer, the optimal sharing of buffer space between reads and writes. Any information about them we also do not have.

Other sources of increased fault tolerance in the design of the Toshiba MG08 are mounting the spindle on both sides and the rotational vibration sensors. These drives are designed to record up to 550 TB of data per year, have a standard corporate device time to failure of 2.5 million hours and a five-year warranty period. Available to order several different configurations of the drive with SATA or SAS drives and optional end-to-end encryption. However, for the price we I can not Orient: 16-terabyte disk Toshiba was introduced in January, but it is still a rare beast in retail sales.

Toshiba MG08 16 TB

Now, when we met with the three main parties to the test, look at the hard drives of smaller capacity, with whom we have to compare the new 14-to 16-terabyte model. One of them, the Exos X10 volume of 10 TB, is a nearline storage device that contains seven magnetic platters in a sealed enclosure. Although since the useful capacity of the plate is increased from 1429 to 1750 GB or more, the speed of sequential access to the hard drives must also increase, in this parameter Exos X10 is practically not inferior to the same BarraCuda Pro 14 TB according to the specifications of both drives. Something clearly does not fit the specs of the Seagate hard drives, but we have the opportunity to learn in practice.

In order to increase the speed of operations with any available in a series of Exos have developed a caching mechanism recording AWC (Advanced Write Caching), reducing the response time. In the framework of the AWC write operations are grouped into the buffer DRAM, as happens in any other hard disk, but the buffer keeps a copy of data after they dropped on the plate, and mirror the contents of the buffer can be immediately read by the host controller. In server hard disk Seagate 2.5-inch form factor AWC includes the following in tier — reserved areas on the plate surface, where the data from the DRAM are written in sequential order (Media Cache), and a small amount of nonvolatile memory for saving data from the buffer when power is lost. But Exos X10 flash memory is missing, and maybe Media Cache along with it.

From consumer hard drives for desktop computers and NAS drives Exos series are high performance time between failure (2.5 million hours) and the load (550 TB/year), the ability to operate in a server rack with no limitations on the number of baskets, as well as a five-year warranty period. Hard drive with model number ST10000NM0016 inherited to the test, in addition, refers to Hyperscale-modifications that have reduced power consumption compared to other members of the family of Exos, but are released only with SATA interface and emulate 512-byte sectors. In configurations with SAS connectors among the models Exos there are options and with native access to the 4-Kbyte sectors, as well as function through full-disk encryption.


Seagate Exos X10 10 TB

Hard drive Seagate IronWolf not so long ago appeared in our review of the new representatives of this brand along with solid state storage Seagate network attached storage. The 12-terabyte model IronWolf, apparently, comes with plates with the same density of the physical layout as Exos X10, only here they are one more. However, Seagate estimates the performance of their offspring in sequential read and write is much lower — only 210 Mbytes/s And no sophisticated technology designed to compensate for high latency of the response inherent in magnetic storage devices, not here either.

But all hard drives IronWolf, since the volume of 4 TB borrowed from the Exos series a number of hardware features that contribute to increased resiliency. Block of the magnetic plates of each Winchester balanced in two planes, and the rotational vibration sensors provide stable performance in rack storage or separate NAS with a number of disc bays, up to eight. IronWolf is designed for moderate mode of operation with design capacity of 180 TB/year and is characterized by the time between failures of 1 million hours. As a consequence, and the warranty period from IronWolf is not as long as at more serious models in the catalog Seagate three years.


IronWolf Seagate 12 TB

Badged S300 Japanese company Toshiba has released a series drives for video surveillance systems — these winchesters too devoted to their own review pages 3DNews. Due to the expansion of the data transfer Protocol for ATA Streaming Command Set older model Toshiba S300 guarantee simultaneous video recording from up to 64 cameras, but at its core are typical drives for NAS and DAS with the ability to operate 24/7 and a decent resource MTBF: like IronWolf, it is 1 million hours and a warranty period — the same three years. Thanks to the constructive advantages of the S300 chassis — mounting of the spindle on both sides and active compensation of rotational vibration allowed the installation of more than eight such devices in one rack shelf or stand-alone NAS.

Model S300 chosen for comparison with novelties volume 14-16 TB, built on the basis of hardware chassis server drives MD06ACA-V and contains seven magnetic plates and specs on the device is typical of modern large HDD speed of random read/write 248 MB/s. But from the techniques that are used in the Toshiba server hard drives to reduce latency, the S300 was only a function of Dynamic Cache.

In contrast to all other test participants, S300 even with a thick stack of seven plates without helium and carried out in a standard ventilated enclosure. It seems that for this reason, 10-terabyte model belongs to the highest value of power consumption in consolidated specification table of test participants, and this option, though in itself important only for administrators of data centers that directly detects the temperature of the HDD. Real consumption S300 we’d like to see yourself, but until we take the item note.


Toshiba S300 10 TB


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What SSD to choose in 2019 and why: 21 test drive with capacity 1 TB interface NVMe

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Every year we try to organize large complex testing of solid-state drives by combining such comparisons dozens SSD. In 2019 our testing dedicated terabyte NVMe SSD, since such models most interest.

The reason this is happening is quite obvious. It is sufficient to refer to our last year’s test, where we compared NVMe drives with a capacity of 240-256 GBto discover that the price of SSD has fallen so much that today’s terabaytnye are only slightly more than a factor of four smaller proposals a year and a half ago. In such circumstances, to buy a small drive will fit only the operating system and some frequently used programs, it becomes unsustainable, at least if we are not talking about the configurations, which are collected in a tight economy budget. It is obvious that to live in a system with a fast storage medium it is much nicer when it is possible to put not only a basic set of software, but the library of games that start with the SSD and faster, and spend less time uploading locations or saves in the process.

I think there is no particular need to convince you that a terabyte is, as they say, must have. Understand this and the users themselves. For example, if you look at the statistics of SSD sales in the largest global online store it is possible to find that in the top ten most sold at present, solid-state drives six models have a capacity of 1 TB. In Russia, however, the shift of interest towards terabyte models is not so confident in local circumstances, but still cannot deny the trend: the SSD in the users ‘ systems become more capacious.

It is natural that preference in the first place is given to the drives with the NVMe interface. We already in detail told about advantages of this interface, but most importantly – NVMe drives are optimized for multi-tasking environments, and work through a high-speed bus, thereby be noticeably faster than the SATA counterparts. Benefit from SATA drives even the most budget NVMe SSD, because, firstly, PCI Express provides significantly more bandwidth, and second, the NVMe Protocol itself is designed to work with storage media and flash memory initially, causing minimal overhead during random accesses to data.

On average drives with the NVMe interface is still slightly more expensive alternative to SATA SSD, but the overpayment pays off the best consumer characteristics. Besides SSD manufacturers gradually cut the supply of decent SATA model, the SATA becomes synonymous with cheapness. Why most on the market SATA SSD entail certain trade-offs: such models are often worse NVMe-alternatives not only for speed, but, for example, under the terms of the guarantee. Moreover, modern SATA drives are increasingly using flash memory with reduced quality grades, and controllers that operate without a DRAM buffer, which will eventually trigger increased wear of the NAND cells.

It is appropriate to recall another reason for NVMe drives-1 TB represent the particular interest. The fact that such a capacity allows the best way to open up the performance of today’s arrays of flash memory. If to compare modifications to the same SSD of various sizes, most of all, it turns out that terabyte option offers the highest performance. Moreover, the advantage can be very impressive: popular NVME SSD with a 1TB in comparison with the related 256-Gigabyte versions often give more than twice the best speed linear and random write and random read. This is due to the fact that during the conventional eight-channel architecture arrays of the flash memory, the maximum parallelism is achieved in the case of an Association of 32 NAND devices. And as most common in the present time, the crystals flash memory 256 GB (32 GB), that 1 TB is the volume in which the logical design of a typical SSD eliminates all bottlenecks on the side of the flash memory.

In other words, the testing of NVMe SSD 1 TB promises to be very interesting and useful study, which can differ significantly from the pattern observed last year, when we carried out a comparative test drives four times smaller capacitance. Moreover, the market of solid state drives have been some important changes. Briefly go through the most significant of them.

#What’s new on the market NVMe SSD

The main trend, which this year was clearly observed on the market NVMe SSD is its stratification. If before any of the drives “advanced”, will automatically become the flagship product, today NVMe is no longer a synonym of premium. The whole mass NVMe SSD can be freely divided at least into three levels in terms of price and performance. Thus the gap between the cost of storage from the upper and lower levels comes to two – or even three times the size, but approximately the same can be said about performance. This clearly indicates that the market reaches a certain maturity: the range is wide and varied, and now every customer can pick up his option according to his needs and in accordance with their financial capabilities.

The main contribution in this diversity contributed to the emergence of a large number of new hardware platforms used in the design of NVMe SSD. And here first I want to note the continued proliferation of proprietary controllers for drives. Producers who have the resources for keeping a full engineering teams increasingly develop its own unique platform for NVMe SSD, resulting in gamma on the market of products is not only growing, but becoming much motlier, because drives from different manufacturers are becoming differences not only in details but in some fundamental way.

For example, last own designed from the beginning to the end of the platform for NVMe SSD existed only for Samsung, but today the South Korean company already are not alone. A unique project for NVMe drives appeared and the stranger from the market mechanical media – Western Digital, which was able to seize the engineering team and SanDisk. And in today’s testing we will know the result of their work.

Контроллер SanDisk

Controller SanDisk

At the same time should pay attention to independent developers controllers, which recently also have been able to move forward. A year ago, the drives on chips Silicon Motion and Phison, it was possible to consider only because of their low prices, and now the one and the other team has quite an interesting performance solutions: for example, controllers, Phison and SMI SM2262EN PS5012-E12.

Контроллер SMI SM2262EN

Controller SMI SM2262EN

These chips are often found in topical products manufacturers second-the third echelon, which also adds to the market situation additional shades.

Контроллер Phison PS5012-E12

The controller Phison PS5012-E12

By the way, credit for Silicon Motion and you can put another achievement. She was able to make significant positive changes in the sphere of budget NVMe SSD. The company has developed a pretty good controller SM2263XT with HMB who gave the green light to become available unbuffered NVMe drives, characterized in that the relatively good performance. In addition, in the segment of budget NVMe SSD appeared and one active player – Realtek UN-buffered controllers which also help manufacturers to find the right balance between performance and price SSD. In other words, today cheap NVMe SSD can be considered as a decent option for simple configurations, which is a cut above those budget drives that were on the market a year earlier.

Контроллер SMI SM2263XT

Controller SMI SM2263XT

Major changes occurred with the flash memory used in the drives. For example, MLC memory — as in planar and three-dimensional form — in modern drives have almost completely disappeared. Yes, she could provide a higher performance and better reliability today, however, these arguments no longer seem so significant. Modern TLC memory is seriously advanced in their characteristics, and the actual TLC 3D NAND chips look quite not as mediocre as they seemed a year or two ago. Progress in technological production processes have resulted in a three-bit memory has become much more reliable and much more productive, it is reaching for these indicators to targets that were previously set MLC-memory. In addition, the developers of the controllers have learned to effectively mask the shortcomings of the TLC 3D NAND for advanced algorithms that ultimately made NVMe SSD based on current memory with a three-bit cells are quite wealthy, even if you approach them as advanced products of the highest price category.

Particularly strong progress in operating parameters TLC 3D NAND has occurred in the transition from 32 layer to 64-layer design of crystals. At this point, the NAND manufacturers have been able to improve all major performance parameters of flash memory, and it doesn’t matter, we’re talking about 64-layer TLC 3D NAND chips Micron, Toshiba or Samsung. In any case, this is quite a worthy flagship components.

In addition, the progress goes on and on, and today on sale there are drives based on TLC 3D NAND already with 96 layers. And in some cases they look more interesting compared to previous products, at least if we talk about those SSD with whom we were able to meet in the framework of the conducted test.

96-слойная Samsung 3D TLC V-NAND

96-layer Samsung 3D TLC V-NAND

However, a gradual market penetration of start and the four-bit memory cells, 3D NAND QLC. And despite the fact that at first glance it appears to be a very controversial decision because of the rather low productivity and low yield, some manufacturers, such as Intel and Micron, began to apply it in their budget drives with the NVMe interface.

64-слойная Micron QLC 3D NAND

64-layer 3D NAND Micron QLC

And call this initiative failed, it would be unfair: because of her we got quite reasonable according to the characteristics of budget NVMe drives that do not generally raise serious questions from the mass market.

#Table of characteristics of the tested SSD

In the laboratory 3DNews consolidated testing was attended by twenty-one actual SSD with NVMe interface. All have passed through our hands, the models were made in the format of M. 2 modules, and they all had volume in conditional terabytes, i.e., from 960 to 1024 GB.

A short list of tested models with their main technical specifications, taken from official sources, is given in the following table (picture is clickable).

A more detailed description of participants can be found on the next page.


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The last time we tried to sidestep any drives on the controller Phison. The fact that this developer, which in the past offered a relatively good performance platform, gradually shifted its focus on ultrabudgetary segment, and its application of controllers based on a particular model of SSD was automatically imply that we are talking about a decision which we certainly recommend not going. Even caught recently in our laboratory NVMe drive Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSDbased on the new chip PS5012-E12 and sold for a significant amount, made according to the test results rather negative impression: it is noticeably inferior in consumer qualities of not only modern solutions, the foremost industry in the face of Samsung, Western Digital and Intel, but actual input from a number of manufacturers of the second echelon.

However, in practice, to write off from the accounts Phison yet. For example, this firm has managed to Shine brightly during the last E3 2019. They were shown there the controller PS5016-E16 as the storage based on it, could make a splash it is compatible with the PCI Express 4.0, and also stated the speed of linear read and write at 5.0 and 4.4 GB/s and performance of random operations, about 700-750 thousand IOPS. The prospect of NVMe SSD accelerated to twice the external interface went very well for the upcoming announcement of the new AMD Ryzen third generation, which among other things needs to support PCI Express 4.0. The result Phison got a chance to be the advanced developer who was the first to raise the performance of storage systems in high-performance computing to the next level. And it seems that this chance it will not miss, because the model on the basis of PS5016-E16 has already submitted to Corsair, Gigabyte, Patriot and others. However, bringing the platform to mind, and preparing final versions of firmware will require some time, so to test the SSD is built on the promise controller, we will later.

Now we want to talk about another curious product Phison, which unlike PS5016-E16 has already reached store shelves in part of serial products. This high – speed SATA controller PS3112-S12. The first models of drives on the basis of this chip was announced a year ago, but such is the style of work Phison – the final stages of debugging is this producer have terribly much time. As a result, the controller appeared clearly too late, when the interest of the enthusiasts have moved on NVMe models and buyers SATA SSD performance began to agitate not in the first place, and the main argument was the price. But nevertheless, the point in the development of the model range of SATA controllers Phison engineers could supply just now.

In PS3112-S12 they gathered all their best ideas accumulated over years of development, and the result was quite an interesting solution which has the chance to stand on a par with such platforms like Samsung MJX, SMI SM2258 and Marvell 88SS1074. This means that many manufacturers third tier, collaborating with Phison, finally have the opportunity to offer the market a worthy of all of the key characteristics of SATA drives, which need a quite democratic price, thanks to a scheme offered by Phison.

As before, in the case PS3112-S12 procurement of flash memory and manufacturing hardware drives Phison involved herself. At the end of the manufacturers responsibility only packaging, marketing and distribution of products, which is a good guarantee of quality of the SSD based on Phison controllers, even if they are offered under little-known brands. Moreover, it is often sufficient to look at any model of SSD, based on a specific chip, and this experience can be transferred to all similar products, because in the end they use absolutely identical hardware and identical firmware.

In the case PS3112-S12 the first product to fall on the Russian market, were drive R Impact. It happened for obvious reasons: Smartbuy is a domestic brand that has a long-standing partnership with Phison and can quickly put the shops in the new products without intermediaries, and multi-stage logistics. For this reason, Smartbuy Impact has an attractive price. Claiming to be among SATA, the leaders in performance, it is much cheaper. Does this mean that we have a model that can be recommended to those who want to buy not too expensive, but a good SATA drive level not lower than 860 Samsung EVO, we will check it today.


Correctly to accept everything that we tell you about Smartbuy Impact, you should try to forget about what platforms SATA SSD Phison company had released before. Indeed, until recently the most actual controller of the developer remained ultrabudgetary PS3111-S11T, who not only was deprived of the DRAM interface, but to work with flash memory had only two channels. It is not surprising that drives, based on it, could boast only a good price but not an acceptable speed.

The new controller Phison PS3112-S12 is a platform entirely different class, there is provided a DRAM buffer, which can be used by modern DDR4 memory, and a full array configuration of flash memory with up to eight channels. In fact, the chip PS3112-S12 can be called the successor to the older controller PS3110-S10, but with numerous improvements. Important: PS3112-S12 got full compatibility with current types of flash memory, including various 3D NAND (MLC, TLC and QLC), as well as support powerful methods of error correction based on LDPC coding.

Simultaneously increased the performance of the controller. While chip PS3111-S11T could provide only 85 thousand IOPS in reading, and the ceiling for PS3110-S10 was the amount of 88 thousand IOPS, the new PS3112-S12 boasts a peak performance Yes 100 thousand IOPS and this, incidentally, is the level Samsung MJX, which is used in modern SATA SSD South Korean company. In other words, from Smartbuy Impact you can really expect too much.

Moreover, in addition to the new and efficient controller Smartbuy Impact is also characterized by a very good flash. It uses a 64-layer TLC 3D NAND (BiCS3) Toshiba with a capacity of crystals is 256 GB, which allows you to collect configuration with a sufficiently high degree of parallelism. In addition, such a memory can be called fast by itself. Recall, for example, changes in the WD Blue SSD, when moved from a planar to BiCS3 memory. Therefore, it is logical to assume that the Impact Smartbuy really able to be among the best modern SATA SSD.

This, in particular, they say, and its characteristics.

Manufacturer Smartbuy
Series Impact
Model number SBSSD-128GT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-256GT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-512GT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-001TT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-002TT-PH12-25S3
Form factor 2.5 inch
Interface SATA 6 GB/s
Capacity, GB 128 256 512 1024 2048
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D-NAND TLC (BiCS3)
Controller Phison PS3112-S12
Buffer: type, volume DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 512 MB
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s To 560
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s To 520
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS Up to 96 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS N/a
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W N/a
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,8
Resource record, TB N/a
Dimensions: D × H × d, mm 100 × 70 × 7
Weight, g N/a
Warranty period, years 3

However, R does not give clear specifications on the device, limited to stating in a vague manner only the most basic units at the same time for all variants. But perhaps this is correct: the real performance specifications are only indirectly related.

What does matter is how it works in drive technology SLC-cache, playing an indispensable attribute of modern SSD memory with a three-bit or citrenbaum cells. In R Impact, as in other solutions based on Phison controllers, caching is built on the most simple static algorithm. The cache size is about 3.5 GB for each 128 GB of storage capacity.

However, the fact that the size of the SLC cache is not too large, can not survive. The fact that the bandwidth of the BiCS3 memory Toshiba is that its eight-channel array capable of accepting data at a rate exceeding the capabilities of the SATA interface. And that means no drop in performance when exhausted-SLC-cache during linear write will not be noticeable, at least in middle and high in volume versions of SSD.

For testing we have visited Smartbuy Impact 1 TB, and had the speed of a continuous record always was about 510 MB/s – as if it enters data into the SLC cache and beyond. And that, in fact, a very impressive result, because performance outside of the SLC cache is reduced even terabyte Samsung EVO 860. Moreover, a constant speed recording the entire volume of the SSD is likely to be seen on the version Smartbuy Impact of 512 GB. At least polterabayta NVMe drives with an array of flash memory devices collected from Toshiba BiSC3, in live recordings in the array of 3D NAND TLC show speed up to 550 MB/s.

All this makes Smartbuy Impact very promising novelty, which, apparently, can gain popularity no less than memorable Smartbuy Ignition 2. The manufacturer was well prepared for the new Impact came “and hunt with the hounds”: it is the model range includes five devices ranging from a minimum of 128 GB and ending with a spacious 2-TB drive.

The only complaint that can be present Smartbuy Impact at the stage of acquaintance with specifications, for the warranty period. Its duration is only three years, while many SATA drives producers of the first echelon is given a longer, five-year warranty. But Today while not limiting the permitted load.

#Appearance and internal structure

For testing, we chose Smartbuy Impact capacity of 1 TB. As soon as solid state drives after the flash memory is rapidly becoming cheaper, buyers begin to prefer more capacious SSD. For example, buy Smartbuy Impact 1 TB today it is possible for a relatively small amount — from 8 to 9 thousand rubles, which should not be sorry to spend on a roomy SATA SSD with good performance. By the way, a year and a half ago, about as much worth four times smaller storage capacity.

Familiarity with Impact Smartbuy want to start with its packaging. Usually we do not pay to it attention, because the size and color of the box on consumer characteristics has no effect. But on the box Smartbuy Impact among advertising slogans and marketing descriptions you can see an interesting detail – information about the manufacturer.


And here frankly stated that considering the SSD is available on the Taiwanese company Phison, which should convince all the skeptics that Smartbuy Impact – this is a good and well-bred product that is designed and manufactured under the strict supervision directly to the authors of the platform, and not some nameless Chinese guest with a “random” internal configuration, and questionable quality.

The SSD itself is encased in a 2.5-inch aluminum body with a thickness of 7 mm, painted in matte black color. Stickers on it uninformative: they contain only information about the volume and article SSD. But information on the approximate release time of the drive can be gleaned from the warranty sticker, for example our instance Smartbuy Impact dated April 2019.


Assembled housing without special attention to details: it is obvious that it tried to save. No mounting screws in the construction are not provided, everything rests solely on the latches. Unnecessary luxury is recognized and any thermal pads: IC housing does not come in contact with. However, during the test, problems with excessive heating of the drive arose.

Inside the enclosure we were met by PCB of blue color, it is very typical for all SATA drives manufactured at the enterprises of Phison. No doubt about it: the filling for Smartbuy Impact really are manufactured under the control of the developers of the controller.


In addition to the basic chip Phison PS3112-S12, the base component includes a chip DDR3L-1600 SDRAM, we need to cache the table of address translation, and an array chip flash memory. And no surprises here, no doubt. First, it is not quite the usual capacity DRAM buffer. He Smartbuy Impact consists of one 256-megabyte chips produced Nanya, that is, its volume is four times less than standard size. However, according to experts Phison for PS3112-S12 this is enough thanks to special algorithms with dynamic memory.

Second, some different from the usual, and memory chips. Put on them marking indicates that Phison has continued to buy Toshiba flash memory in the form of a solid wafer, dealing with issues of cutting, sorting and packing of the crystals themselves, the forces of the contractor of PTI. All this allows to achieve an additional reduction in the cost of the final product, which ultimately makes Smartbuy Impact not as expensive to manufacture as other SATA SSD of the same class – with a full eight-channel array of the flash memory on the basis of qualitative TLC 3D NAND and DRAM buffer.

The array of flash memory Smartbuy Impact 1 TB assembled of eight chips marked TA7AG55AIV, each of which contains four 256-Gigabit crystal 64-layer TLC 3D NAND. Thus, the flash memory in this drive is operating with a fourfold alternating devices in each channel.


Any special utility software for Smartbuy Impact is not provided, but to work with it fits the standard tool Phison SATA Toolbox version 1.17×1, which can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

However, the capabilities of this utility is quite limited. In addition to issuing a General information about SSD, this tool can show the transcript of the SMART settings, sending to the drive command, Secure Erase, and perform “optimization”, which is to refer to the drive package TRIM commands.


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Review of WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD: mainstream new rails

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For the last five years, the situation on the market of solid-state drives for consumer level has changed dramatically. More recently, a limit of dreams for many enthusiasts was the SATA SSD of small capacity, and today such proposals are not even to consumer goods, and ultrabudgetary options. The decline in prices for flash memory and as a result, based on her media radically changed the whole situation. Now increasing demand from buyers are not even familiar SATA SSDS and the new-fangled drives with the NVMe interface, which are more compact, easier to use and more productive.

It is quite natural that the growth of this market sector leads to its segmentation. Some time ago any NVMe SSD could be considered the premium product for high-performance systems, but today, among such solutions, there are expensive and fast-acting models, and modifications, offering a balance between speed and price. Many producers, especially if we are talking about major players in the SSD market, try to have in your assortment of not one, but at least a couple of diverse NVMe-devices for personal computers. For example, the Samsung is 970 PRO, 970 EVO Plus and EVO 970, Intel – 760p and 660phave ADATA – XPG SX8200 Pro, XPG SX6000 Pro and XPG SX6000 Lite, and so on. The meaning of this division in the following: older models are intended for those seeking maximum performance, and ready generously to pay it, and cheap NVMe SSDS are a more modern alternative to SATA drives with better performance, but with almost the same retail value.

Models, which can be attributed to the class NVMe SSD, recently divorced abound. And this is logical, because now there are many ways in order to release the drives, the cost of which is lower than the SATA models, and improved productivity. In conditions when flash memory continues to become cheaper, such products allow manufacturers to earn good money, and therefore it is not surprising that the direction of the budget NVMe SSD is on the rise. In the course of actively the controllers are simplified with the reduced functionality, the configuration does not involve the use of DRAM buffer, and even cheap QLC-memory with questionable reliability. However, ultimately benefit consumers, because, despite the variety inherent in the budget NVMe SSD compromises, among them, inevitably found and very decent options.

Today our lab has got a new product from the category budget NVMe SSD – solid state drive WD Blue SN500, which is designed and made by one of the market leaders, company Western Digital. Solutions that created a vertically integrated producers, among which belongs the firm, rarely are unsuccessful. But because WD Blue SN500 interest. It uses exclusively native components Western Digital, which she has developed and produced without any assistance: signature TLC and 3D NAND, and designed within the company with a basic controller. The same components which companies have to buy on the side, such as dynamic memory chips (DRAM), this SSD do not exist. This means that the cost for Blue SN500 low, and the manufacturer, if desired, has the opportunity to make it truly accessible and mass solution.

In other words, WD Blue SN500 is unbuffered NVMe SSD, which seriously pretends to be one of the most popular choices for installation in personal computers average. He made a famous firm, is based on flash memory with good reliability, promises significantly higher performance compared to SATA model, and its recommended price is such that potentially it can be among the most affordable offers with NVMe interface, playing in the same League with the Intel SSD 660p, P1, Crucial, ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro and Kingston A1000. It remains only to check whether cheap NVMe is the solution from Western Digital turned out exactly as expected. That is going to do this.


After the market introduction of the new Blue SN500 NVMe SSD in stock Western Digital was formed two “blue” SSD (SATA and NVMe) and two drives with the NVMe interface (Black and Blue). However, no confusion at this. If we talk about the line Blue, new WD Blue SN500 legally considered as a solid-state device of the third generation under this brand after the two SATA drives on the basis of planar and three-dimensional TLC-memory, which switched to the use of more advanced interface. In the space NVMe products Western Digital hierarchy is even clearer. WD Black SN750 is the flagship device for enthusiasts, and WD Blue SN500 – the low-end model aimed at the mass user.

Quite revealing that SN750 WD Black and WD Blue SN500 in this case are based on the same flash memory. Here and there applied the usual 64-layer TLC 3D NAND (BiSC3) manufactured at the production facilities SanDisk. Despite the fact that Western Digital announced the start of the supply of 96-layer TLC memory a year ago, in any retail products of the company, it has not yet found. The same can be said about QLC 3D NAND. Its production started even earlier, but its use in mass products Western Digital is in no hurry.

The relationship between WD Black and WD Blue SN750 SN500 can be traced not only in the flash memory. These models also use controllers with the same basic architecture. In 2018 Western Digital has translated a series of NVMe drives WD Black to a new controller of its own design. And it was immediately laid modular design: proprietary chip was constructed so that on the basis of its constituent parts can be collected and any other device variants with improved or, conversely, reduced performance and functionality.

Thus, the base control chip, which is the basis of WD Blue SN500, is a derivative of the controller from the older model of the drive, but after deduction of the functional blocks. More specifically, the simplification is to disable half of the channels in the array of flash memory, seizure of the DRAM controller and the narrowing of the external interface to the PCI Express 3.0 x2. This means that in the end, Blue SN500 can be considered as the unbuffered version of the flagship model with the reduced performance of the array flash memory and limited bandwidth of the external bus.

This approach allowed to obtain the necessary for WD Blue SN500 inexpensive controller a little blood, but there was one catch: despite the absence of this SSD DRAM buffer, add support for HMB (Host Memory Buffer) did not work. The use of computer memory for caching the table of address translation would require the addition of some new functional blocks and bother extra the design in the plans of developers is not included. So in the end support, HMB WD Blue SN500 never appeared, and when interacting with the table of address translation, he can only rely on the available in the controller’s own buffer memory with the volume increased to 4 MB. This is another reason why the performance of Junior NVMe models have been limited.

However, WD Blue SN500 still significantly outperforms the “blue” drives with the SATA interface. This follows directly from the specifications.

Manufacturer Western Digital
Series WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD
Model number WDS250G1B0C WDS500G1B0C
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x2 – NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 250 500
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer SanDisk 64-layer 256-GB BiCS3 3D TLC NAND
Controller SanDisk 20-B2-007010
Buffer: type, volume No
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 1700 1700
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1300 1450
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 210 000 275 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 170 000 300 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,025/5,94
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,75
Resource record, TB 150 300
Dimensions: D × H × D, mm 80 × 22 × 2,38
Weight, g 6,5
Warranty period, years 5

Generally speaking, the stated performance characteristics WD Blue SN500 look pretty good and the background performance of many NVMe models, at least in terms of velocity random melkoplodnyj operations. One gets the feeling that the developers cut the external interface Blue SN500 to PCI Express 3.0 x2 just for the fact that this drive did not work too good.

Roughly the same conclusion can be drawn looking at the WD Blue SN500 working with its SLC cache in continuous sequential write.

WD Blue SN500 used a simple static SLC cache size is 3 GB of the drive capacity of 250 GB and 6 GB – 500 GB modification. The speed of the linear record in accelerated mode, which we received for polutoraletnego SSD, amounted to slightly more than 1.3 GB/s the Performance of an array of flash memory in normal TLC mode when it is in the area of 750 MB/s. If to speak not about absolute but about relative performance, we can say that the SLC cache WD Blue SN500 small and not too fast, but the speed of the array of flash memory is well compensated. Performance direct writes to the TLC 3D NAND consider WD Blue SN500 can easily compete with the Intel SSD 760p, Samsung 970 EVO and ADATA SX8200 Pro.

However, we should not delude ourselves ahead of time. Symptoms that we are dealing with a drive of this class, it is easy to see in other characteristics. For example a lineup that includes only two drive with a minimum capacity – 250 and 500 GB. Even terabyte version of the WD Blue SN500 not provided, despite the fact that the SATA version of the WD Blue 1 TB SSD exists in nature.

But the manufacturer did not limit the allowed resource overwriting. Warranty for Blue SN500 is given for five years, and the drive is considered to be designed for 600 full rewrites during its life cycle. The same resource is declared for the older model of the drive Western Digital, Black SN750, which is hardly surprising, since SN750 Black and Blue SN500 are based on identical crystals 64-layer TLC 3D NAND.

#Appearance and internal structure

The appearance of WD Blue SN500 — and we have to tests have been the high model capacity of 500 GB — very strange. The fact is that on the Board this drive installed just two chips – controller and one-chip flash memory. However, the form factor of this SSD M. 2 2280, and half of the PCB remains completely empty. It looks as if the drive was originally going to do half as long, but then suddenly caught himself, then what have nowhere to stick the label.

And actually the story with the sticker far from the truth. The fact that WD Blue SN500 is a retail and a bit enhanced on the level of firmware version came out a year ago OEM drive SN520. This product is really produced in the format M. 2 2230, but for the mass market Western Digital saw fit the more popular form factor M. 2 2280. Therefore, for Blue SN500 payment was extended, but its layout remained essentially old. That is why it turned out that a substantial part of the area of the PCB novelties carries only the label — and nothing else.


Both chips, which are assembled WD Blue SN500, placed on the front side of the Board. The controller chip has a very small size — it is about four times smaller in size than the controller on the WD Black SN750. But flash memory is the same as on the flagship models of Western Digital, just a little more densely Packed on the chip. The entire array of flash memory Blue SN500 consists of sixteen 256-Gigabit crystals 64-layer 3D TLC NAND (BiCS3) produced by SanDisk, which are stacked in a single chip. And that’s it: chip dynamic memory on the drive is really undetectable, because WD Blue SN500 – cheap and UN-buffered solution, albeit with an NVMe interface.

Will tell you more about external performance WD Blue SN500 nothing special. Unless you can pay attention to the slightly unusual configuration of the knife connector. It has two cut-key: “type B” and “type M”, while familiar to us NVMe SSD usually have only one slot in the position M. This is due to the fact that WD Blue SN500 is not only compatible with M. 2 slots, where supplied four lines PCI Express 3.0 (Socket 3), but with those slots where there is only two such lines (Socket 2).


The Western Digital hard drive always attached the same brand service utility SSD Dashboard, which implements all the basic functions for their service. It works with WD Blue SN500, but in the usual blue-white, not black gaming notebook, which appears only when you install the WD Black SN750.

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; execute 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 drives Western Digital does not exist. 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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