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The 2018: SSDS

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In the last few years to talk about what is happening in the SSD market in the final articles was not very easy. Major changes of global character, on which to focus in such reporting, it was very little, and everything had to be kept to a review published during the year specific products that are, however, rarely able to offer any fundamental change in architecture or performance.

However, 2018 is much more eventful, which can be called a turning point in the development of the whole SSD market. We may not have witnessed the emergence of some innovative technologies like 3D XPoint happened at least three very important things that will certainly have a strong influence on what will now happen with solid-state drives over the next years. First, all the NAND manufacturers have ceased production of the planar flash memory and have relied on memory with three-dimensional layout. Second, flash memory has finally stopped growing for 2018 showed a significant drop in prices that made and continues to make solid state drives more affordable mass product. And thirdly, 2018 was the year of the appearance of four-bit (QLC) memory, which soon needs to be available in consumer SSD high capacity. Look at these events in more detail.

#64 layer 3D NAND is becoming a mass

Three-dimensional NAND is no longer a new technology, but until recently really the full release of this flash was only the Samsung. Other manufacturers experimented with 3D NAND, but did not do much betting on their multi-layered products of the first generations. The reason was that despite the fact that 3D NAND in any case allows to increase the storage density, the benefits of a memory begins to emerge fully only after the transition to 64-layer design. Production of 3D NAND is more complicated and costly than the production of a planar flash memory. In addition, the release of 3D NAND requires conversion of the production lines, so in the end, made for aggressive 15/16-nm norms planar memory has a lower cost than 32 – or 48-layer 3D NAND. In the case of 64-ply memory investment is already paying off, and this fact has pushed all manufacturers to a long-awaited transition to large-scale production of 3D NAND.

A pioneer in the implementation and promotion of three-dimensional flash memory, Samsung company, delivers the end products, based on 64-layer 3D NAND, even with the third quarter of 2017. In the past year, it gradually expanded the range and volumes of supplies of a memory, seeking to maintain its 35 percent market share and ranks the leading manufacturer of NAND. In addition, in the second half of 2018, the company began the gradual introduction of memory of the fifth generation, with a 96-layer design. However, the overall slowdown in the growth of the NAND market and falling prices halted the process. It is obvious that in 2019, the majority of flash products will use 64-layer memory, though speaking specifically about Samsung, the company has already started delivery storage 860 series EVO with a 96-layer memory, and soon this way will update and 970 EVO.

The second largest manufacturer of flash memory, SK Hynix, focused primarily on the supply of chips for mobile devices, but, nevertheless, he made a bid for the production of multilayer memory. Designed this firm the technology is designed to produce 72-layer memory, and that this 3D NAND is the major share of SK Hynix products. It should be noted that the company intends to expand its presence in the segment of SSD and memory to solid state drives account for up to 20% in the structure of supply. In the future, the plan is to expand this type of product transition to the end of the year 96-layer design of chips.

Flash memory with 64 layers already by mid-year became the main type of products supplied by the company Toshiba. Moreover, in the near future, Toshiba is going to continue to increase the supply by expanding the production base. It is worth Recalling that in the middle of the year, the company introduced to the market debut drive XG6, which was tested more dense, 96-layer memory, but according to reports, the delivery of a variety of 3D NAND continue to carry only a pilot character, and before the mass distribution of a 96-layer memory of the Japanese manufacturer is still far away.

Approximately the same situation is and Western Digital, its 64-layer memory widely used in their own drives around the end of 2017, and the company is now ready to start production of the 96-layer memory. However, a rapid transition should not wait – at the moment, Western Digital has decided to limit capital investments in development of production and, consequently, this will limit the availability of its 96-layer 3D NAND on the market over the next few quarters.

Since the beginning of last year, has full supply 64 layer 3D NAND and Micron. Drives based on it are widely presented both under its own brands of Crucial and Micron, and in range of numerous partners. Along the way, Micron is preparing to transition to the memory issue of the third generation with 96 layers, but now the emphasis is on increasing the density of storage by increasing the number of layers, and through the implementation of four-bit cells QLC. In this regard, one should not expect a quick switch to release 96-layer and memory from Micron. In addition, the company’s strategy involves the reduction in the supply of 3D NAND to third-party SSD manufacturers, so the term prevalence Micron memory in solid state products of third-party companies may even decrease.

In the beginning of 2018, Intel broke off a partnership with Toshiba to develop advanced technologies of flash memory, however 64-layer and a 96-layer 3D NAND are not affected. It is therefore not surprising that 64 layer 3D NAND is also widely represented in the assortment of Intel: about the middle of last year, this memory has become dominant in a flash products of this company. Intel is now busy with expansion of production at its factory in Dalane, and the promotion of the 64-layer 3D NAND QLC. As for increasing the number of layers and the release of SSDs on the basis of the memory of the third generation, this will clearly not happen in the near future.

#Is a long-awaited reversal of the price trend

What all manufacturers of flash memory has prepared its production facilities to produce a 64-layer 3D NAND around the same time in the beginning of 2018, has played with them quite a cruel joke. In the previous few quarters, the demand for NAND chips exceeded supply. And it was connected at one end with the rapid increase in the consumption of flash memory data centers and mobile market, and with another – with the limited supply of such memory due to the fact that the producers were engaged in re-equipping its plants with a view to their transfer to the production of three-dimensional memory. Since the beginning of 2018, the situation began to radically change.

In the past year, manufacturers of smartphones has decreased the need for flash memory. New models of vehicles stopped aggressively increase the internal storage capacity, flagship smartphones were sold worse than expected, and the entire consumer electronics market has finished growing as fast as before, rate. On this is superimposed the decline in PC sales, exacerbated by including owing to the shortage of Intel processors.

However, speeding producers of flash memory had become unstoppable. After a reorientation to the production of 3D NAND, they continued to increase production throughout 2018. Ultimately, the annual increase in production of NAND chips in a capacitive equivalent reached polutorakratnoe size.

Поставки чипов NAND

The supply of NAND chips

It is quite natural that to absorb all this excess capacity on a flash memory the market was not able to, and all of this caused a deep crisis of overproduction of NAND chips. The proposal was to significantly exceed demand, and the price of flash memory has gone down.

Изменение стоимости чипов памяти производства Samsung

The change in the cost of memory chips made by Samsung

Изменение стоимости чипов памяти производства SK Hynix

The change in the cost of the memory chips production SK Hynix

And it was a very pleasant surprise for buyers, because after the flash, which after a long period of constant appreciation was losing in price from 10-15 % over the quarter, stretched, and prices on solid state drives. So, if you look at the dollar prices of a popular mass SSD, you will notice that in 2018, they declined by about half.

Изменение цены Samsung 860 EVO 500GB на Amazon.com

Change 860 Samsung EVO 500GB on Amazon.com

Изменение цены Crucial MX500 500GB на Amazon.com

Change Crucial MX500 500GB on Amazon.com

In fact, now SSD are cheaper than ever in its history, which should have a positive impact on their distribution. Moreover, a pleasant trend does not end, and further reduction in price of SSDs will continue. It is projected that in 2019 the price of NAND chips will fall by another 25-30 %. And there is a logical explanation. Memory consumption by manufacturers of smartphones and tablets is not increased, the PC market is still in decline, and data centers is capable of generating such a high demand to absorb the entire produce flash memory. Especially considering the fact that all of its manufacturers continue capital investment in production and do not give up their plans to introduce QLC-cell and 3D NAND with a large number of layers, that once again raise the density of chips and will increase the supply of flash memory.

Also now in the equation adds two more unknowns, a trade war between the US and China, plus the forthcoming launch of Chinese enterprises for the production of NAND-owned Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC).

If in 2018 the average unit price of GB capacity of the SSD has dropped from $0.35 to $0,23, in the next year it may drop to the value of about $0,16, especially given the emergence of market drives, built on QLC 3D NAND. I think the cost to buy terabyte SATA SSD for $100 will be possible in mid-2019.

#QLC the emergence of 3D NAND

It was the beginning of distribution QLC 3D NAND, we tend to be the third most important event in 2018. This memory stores four bits of information in the cell, allowing it to increase storage density by 33% relative to the usual TLC 3D NAND. Moreover, this change does not require any special modifications in the production process: everything you need to increase the density of the cells, in fact, implemented on the software level. Moreover, Samsung, Micron and Intel, which has already started the implementation of their drives QLC 3D NAND, used for output of four-bit memory of the same processing line, as in the case with 3D TLC NAND. The ability to store the cells for more bit – on the one hand, the result of the “aging” process and improve the quality of semiconductor crystals, and on the other – a consequence of the introduction of the SSD controllers more advanced algorithms of digital processing and error correction.

Clearly, the need for recognition in cell QLC NAND 16 levels of voltage instead of 8 to TLC is detrimental to reliability. And so far, QLC 3D NAND manufacturers declare three times lower endurance compared to TLC 3D NAND and the worst data security in an off state. This makes modern drives with four-bit memory more suitable for low loads and scenarios of type WORM (write once, read many). But it is worth mentioning that a similar road traveled by the TLC memory. Her first choices were not too reliable and gave buyers a well-founded suspicion. Now TLC 3D NAND is going to take place durable and high quality toppings. that in the near future will completely replace MLC-memory.

The same stages of adoption, must go through the QLC 3D NAND. Moreover, its distribution is directly linked future expansion of the habitat SSDS in personal computers. Estimates today, solid-state media identified only in 55 % of their existing user systems, but the prospects for significant price reduction, it is expected a convincing increase this share up to 90% by 2023. And drives on the base of QLC-memory may play an important role, because this memory significantly reduces the cost of SSD.

In addition, QLC 3D NAND solves another problem: it allows you to increase the capacity of solid state drives, including those made in a compact form factor. As example, the 2-terabyte version of the drive the Intel SSD 660p, which not only has a standard size M. 2 2280, and the same is made in a unilateral design. And speaking of 2.5-inch drives, the Samsung series 860 QVO there is already a model with a capacity of 4 TB, but the manufacturer promises that if there is demand lineup may be supplemented by versions for 8 and 16 TB.

However, it is impossible not to mention that QLC 3D NAND not only loses TLC 3D NAND from the point of view of endurance, but also significantly worse performance. This is due to the increase in the volume of crystals and more complex processing procedure stored in the data cells. However, the old rule that any SSD is faster than HDD, a priori, thus is not broken. The developers have learned quite effectively to mask the shortcomings of the slow flash memory using SLC caching, and this approach is working successfully in case of QLC drives based on 3D NAND. Moreover, the pilot model on chetyrehbalnoy memory – Intel SSD Crucial 660p and P1 is a NVMe SSD, it is normally protruding against the cheap TLC alternatives with high-speed interface.

#Flourishing NVMe, SATA sunset

Definitely talk about what drives advanced close to to displace old SATA SSD, is clearly premature. The demand for SATA hard drives remains very high and this is not surprising, because this interface is standard for systems of past generations, and the Park of such systems is huge. Additionally, SATA SSDS offer higher capacity, easier going in RAID and just cheaper. Therefore, such decisions would remain in the sale for many years.

However, the phrase about the decline of the SATA in the title not just. The fact that any sort of evolutionary development of such storage for a long time not happening. SATA SSDS have reached their “ceiling” a couple of years ago and all new models released in the last year, offer at best all the same as their predecessors. At worst, their characteristics degrade over taken by most manufacturers rate on the translation of the SATA proposals in the budget segment. As a result, the bulk of the SATA novelties, which appeared in 2018 – it drives with those or other technical defects: either unbuffered or limited parallelism of the array of flash memory, or both.

Against this background, would like to highlight only two of the SATA product which was released last year. The first is 860 Samsung EVO, which is a further development of the 850 EVO in a new controller and a new 64 – or 96-layer flash memory.

Samsung 860 EVO

860 Samsung EVO

And the second Crucial MX500 – drive, assembled on the basis of the 64-layer flash memory Toshiba and a good controller SMI. From the point of view of the performance of these SSDS, at least not inferior to their predecessors (true, except for the 500 GB EVO 860), and offer enough for everyday use and reliability.

Crucial MX500

Crucial MX500

But NVMe drives were able in 2018 to take new heights. A year ago, the benchmark for consumer NVMe SSD was made by Samsung EVO 960, demonstrating better performance compared to any other option, then in 2018, all changed radically. And despite the fact that the South Korean manufacturer has updated its core offering, releasing improved 970 EVO, today is the best in terms of price and performance NVMe SSD must be sought not in the range Samsung. There are currently at least two alternative platforms, storage devices on the basis of which can offer at least the worst consumer qualities.

First developed by Western Digital and is used in the latest version of WD Black NVMe SSD, which, together with the new corporate controller received and the original 64-layer TLC 3D NAND. In sum, as Western Digital was surprisingly attractive offer, which also often sold at more profitable than Samsung, price.

WD Black NVMe

WD Black NVMe

However, the main star in consumer NVMe SSD was still not the WD drive. Public controller that can compete with the decisions of Samsung and Western Digital suddenly released Silicon Motion, which immediately opened the way for the emergence of high-quality products by the manufacturers of the second-the third echelon. And they were not long in coming: again all was ADATA, offered on the basis of the 64-layer TLC 3D NAND, Micron drives, and the XPG Ultimate SX8200 Gammix S11, which provide performance at least not worse than the 970 Samsung EVO, but at a much more affordable price.

ADATA XPG Gammix S11

ADATA XPG Gammix S11

By the way, the efforts of Silicon Motion on consumer drives and there are still one interesting class of products – budget NVMe SSD with the price approaching the average SATA SSD, but with significantly higher performance. First, such products were already mentioned Intel and Crucial SSD 660p P1, which uses a new 3D QLC NAND produced by Intel and Micron, respectively. Secondly, appeared on the shelves and curious unbuffered NVMe SSD based on TLC 3D NAND. Makes them particularly interesting is the fact that the lack of DRAM buffer for NVMe storage devices often is not a problem. Progressive models get support for HMB (Host Memory Buffer), which allows for connected PCI Express storage to use for their needs the main memory of a computer, and this largely negates the lack of a platform own SSD DRAM.

Crucial P1

Crucial P1

In the end, NVMe drives for 2018 become faster, more diverse and more accessible. But it is obvious that the ongoing process will go on. Bandwidth interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 leaves space for growth, the improvement in performance when melkoplodnyj operations can be carried out at the expense of technology improvement of flash memory. And here we should recall the existence of a product such as the Intel SSD Optane, which cannot be called a massive decision due to the prohibitive high cost, but which shows the potential of the NVMe interface in reducing the latency of operations. Of course, the Optane SSD performance is largely determined by the use of innovative memory 3D XPoint direct, and not page access. However, comparable results are achievable and on the basis of the classic SSD NAND to confirm it in your Samsung drive family Z-SSD.

In other words, in 2018 only laid the Foundation for the further development of NVMe SSDS, and ahead of us a lot of interesting events.

#Meanwhile in Russia

In the final part of the reporting material we decided to talk about how global market trends solid state drives lay on the Russian soil. The fact that the domestic market SSD has its own specifics, connected with at least two circumstances: that against the cheaper NAND here is played by the gradual reduction of the national currency, as well as the excessive conservatism of the Russian buyers, which refer to any new technology with a strong distrust.

However, despite the negative economic factors, a significant drop in the price of SSDs could feel and consumers in Russia. According to the report of the analytical Agency GfK Rus, collect and process sales data SSD retail channels, unit price of the GB average SSD for the period from January to December 2018 fell from $0.5 to $0,26, that is almost half.

However, the Russian buyer noted this nice trend in its own way. Instead against the background of lower prices to start to move to SSD with a larger capacity, our customers decided to use a cheaper SSD for savings spent on components of the budget. As a result, while a year ago the average price of purchased in stores SSD was about 5900 rubles, by the end of 2018 the average check for a new SSD dropped to 3800 rubles.

However, in fairness it should be noted that the overall sales of SSDS in Russia during that time has grown in quantitative terms, more than 80 %. In other words, falling prices still affected the penetration of SSDs in the system and increased the mass introduction of SSD. Another thing is that the most popular option was, and still drives 120-128 GB. In 2017 and in 2018 they hit 51 % of all sales (in units).

However, the shift of interest of buyers in the direction of a more capacious models are still observed. Share SSD with the capacity of 240-256 GB compared to 2017, the company grew in sales from 32% to 35%, and the relative number of sold drives of polterabayta for the same period increased by a quarter and reached the share of 7 %. Noticeable strong increase in demand for products of higher capacities, although their sale in the General background remains small. Along with this has significantly decreased the number of sold retail SSD with a capacity of 64 GB or less. Attention to this category is supported only by family caching drives Intel Optane Memory. Classical same SSD with the same volume, actually, is not present to buyers the slightest interest.

Gradually begin to fight their place in the market and high-speed drives with NVMe interface. According to the collected statistics, such SSD on average 45 % more expensive than SATA models (with the same capacity), but nevertheless, every twentieth Russian buyer SSD went in 2018 from the store with NVMe product. Moreover, these buyers are more willing to spend on a more capacious modification. All this led to the fact that by the end of last year the share of NVMe drives in the Russian market in monetary terms increased by one third and reached 12 %.

The three most popular in the Russian market of manufacturers of SSD over the past year has not changed, but Russian buyers again showed their distinctive character. The fact that in Russia, this trio consists of Samsung, Kingston and Western Digital, which at year-end took 32 %, 15 % and 11 % of domestic market of solid state drives, respectively (in monetary terms). At the same time on the world market, the three leaders include Samsung, Western Digital and Toshiba, and Kingston products in popularity is only in seventh place. The reason for this imbalance is obvious: in the Kingston range is dominated by the budget proposals, and in Russia, the company maintains a very aggressive promotional strategies.

However, the percentage Kingston even on the Russian market over the past year has fallen dramatically. As in the whole world, in Russia the systematic increase of its influence can boast of only those producers who has its own manufacture NAND flash memory: Samsung, Western Digital, Intel. Manufacturers of the second and third tier gradually losing ground to the giants. But to this rule there is one interesting exception. To increase the impact on the Russian market are SSD ADATA to offer in 2018, a very strong lineup, which included the best ratio of price and performance drives with SATA and NVMe.

Another interesting trend of the domestic market is that in 2018 it began to be traced to the specialization of producers in certain price segments. So, Samsung and Intel has taken the leading position as providers of high quality and expensive products, while Western Digital, Kingston, ADATA and many manufacturers of the second-the third echelon began to primarily focus on sales of low-cost mass models. Due to this, the number sold in the past year, SSD Kingston could even surpass Samsung.

Why it happened, it is easy to understand if you look at those drives which have been most popular among domestic buyers. The most popular SSD proved to be A400 Kingston 120 GB of cheap unbuffered storage device on the basis of the two-channel controller Phison S11.

Kingston A400

Kingston A400

Second place in sales took the WD Green SSD 120 GB – approximately the same characteristics unbuffered model, like the Kingston A400, but on my controller the Western Digital/SanDisk. A full drive with a DRAM buffer and an eight-channel array of a flash memory able to hold the sales only third place, and 860 Samsung EVO 250 GB. Curiously, in the amount of purchased retail copies A400 Kingston 120 GB bypassed 860 Samsung EVO 250 GB is half that is a great illustration of how important it is for Russian users low price. For comparison it is worth mentioning that according to the statistics of the online store Amazon.com buyers from the opposite hemisphere the most popular models are polterabayta and terabyte Samsung EVO 860, and the notorious Kingston A400 120 GB is in the list of preferences only the fifteenth place.

Full top 10 SSDs on the results of Russian sales for 2018 is as follows:

  1. A400 Kingston 120 GB;
  2. WD Green SSD 120 Gbytes;
  3. 860 Samsung EVO 250 GB;
  4. Samsung 850 120 GB;
  5. A400 Kingston 240 GB;
  6. WD Green, SSD 240 GB;
  7. Kingston SSDNow 120 GB UV400;
  8. Ultimate SU650 ADATA 120 GB;
  9. Silicon Power Slim S55 120GB;
  10. Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB.

In the above list, there is no drive interface NVMe, but this is not surprising, given their considerably higher cost. However, the noteworthy and the most popular in Russia, high-performance model with a modern interface. So, the most sold NVMe SSDS for the year was 960 Samsung EVO 250 GB.

Samsung 960 EVO

Samsung EVO 960

In second place – 970 Samsung EVO 250 GB, and the third – 970 Samsung EVO 500 GB. In other words, the South Korean manufacturer has managed to capture just has an overwhelming advantage in the segment of NVMe drives in Russia. Most popular NVMe SSD from some other supplier – 760p is the Intel SSD 256 GB, but the number of copies sold, he concedes 960 Samsung EVO 250 GB exactly four times.

#Conclusion

Our story about the development of the situation with solid-state drives in 2018 is almost not affected by new solutions like Optane Intel or Samsung SSD Z SSD. And it is quite natural: in the past year, such nicoletia drives never gave me reason really remember them. They continue to exist in your parallel world, staying for its exorbitant cost ofonly niche solutions primarily for the server market. Besides as reduce the cost classic SSD, these drives separation from reality is becoming more and deeper. Apparently, the imminent recognition Optane Intel and Samsung SSD Z SSD can not wait: at the moment, 3D technology XPoint and Z NAND look unsuitable for use in consumer media.

The main plot on the market of SSDs in 2019 will obviously be a further decline in SSD prices and increasingly confident displacement of their mechanical hard drives. It is obvious that in the coming year, the cost of flash memory will fall below the psychologically important level of $0.1 gigabytes that will be a clear signal to the emergence of SSD with the capacity of 8 TB. In addition, cheaper entry-level models will come to the point that users will get the opportunity to purchase polterabayta SSD for the price of a terabyte HDD, and it will be another weighty argument in favor of a total rejection of the use of traditional mechanical hard drives.

From a technological point of view, no special breakthroughs are not yet in sight. SATA hard drives will remain popular for a long time and sunset this area in 2019 is clearly not threatened. As for NVMe models, they will probably continue to gradually move in the direction of utilizing all of the capabilities of the interface, which consumer drives while clearly not fully disclosed, even when using four lines of standard PCI Express 3.0.

So, 2019 seems to be a battleground for pricing but not for the technological war. However, certain new items, we still wait with great anticipation. So, in the near future will appear the next novelty from Samsung, as well as a curious hybrid drive Intel, combining the XPoint QLC 3D and 3D NAND. 3DNews traditionally will continue to follow closely what is happening in the SSD market.

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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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Peripherals

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Specifications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Exterior and interior design

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

 

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

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

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

Let’s look under the radiator.

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

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

 

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

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

SOURCE

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