One of the hurdles of TLC NAND and VNAND is an inherently lower count of program / erase (P/E) cycles that the SSD can endure. This is the nature of packing more voltage levels into a cell to accommodate for the extra bits each cell can hold (yielding our higher capacity and lower cost). More voltage levels means more granularity required when attempting to read/write data, and the NAND loses its ability to accurately perform those reads / writes as it ages. Controllers have to step in to ensure longer life when using TLC NAND.
After a relaxing time on vacation, I got to come back to traffic court. Yeah. Lucky me... Though I'm sure you are all jealous and want to give your money to government, I have some better ways to spend your cash. This weekend's sales round-up is featuring a PNY Optima 240GB SSD, Intel's G3258 Pentium CPU, an EVGA GTX 750 Ti, and a Rosewill 650W PSU. These deals should definitely get you speeding to your next system. Keep posted to our Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts for sales, hardware reviews, and helpful how-tos.
SSD benchmarks generally include two fundamental file I/O tests: Sequential and 4K random R/W. At a very top-level, sequential tests consist of large, individual files transfers (think: media files), which is more indicative of media consumption and large file rendering / compilation. 4K random tests employ thousands of files approximating 4KB in size each, generally producing results that are more indicative of what a user might experience in a Windows or application-heavy environment.
Theoretically, this would also be the test to which gamers should pay the most attention. A "pure gaming" environment (not using professional work applications) will be almost entirely exposed to small, random I/O requests generated within the host OS, games, and core applications. A particularly piratical gamer -- or just someone consuming large movie and audio files with great regularity -- would also find use in monitoring sequential I/O in benchmarks.
This article looks at a few things: What types of I/O requests do games spawn most heavily and what will make for the best gaming SSDs with this in mind? There are a few caveats here that we'll go through in a moment -- namely exactly how "noticeable" various SSDs will be in games when it comes to performance. We used tracing software to analyze input / output operations while playing five recent AAA titles and ended up with surprisingly varying results.
UPDATE: Clarified several instances of "file" vs. "I/O" usage.
This year has been full of delays in the hardware-time continuum, it seems. It feels like forever ago since Maxwell was announced, with Intel's Broadwell and HW-E / X99 platform similarly far behind us. Each of these devices will finally be shipping by the holidays, or so we're told, but that still leaves a major market segment untouched: SSDs. Other than recent innovations in Samsung's NAND lineup, the SSD market has remained relatively silent since our initial SandForce Gen3 controller analysis.
At the Flash Memory Summit in
To celebrate the middle of Summer (also known as "oh no, its almost time to start the back to school count-down clock"), we take a look at some items to make “homework” much more enjoyable. Our weekend sales round-up features the G710 mechanical keyboard for $120, a case from NZXT for only $55, the last-gen MSI Z87-G41 for $70, and a Mushkin 480GB SSD at $210. Keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts for all of our articles and additional sales throughout the week (and if you don't, we will hunt you down and force you to watch Killer Clowns From Outer Space -- you have been warned).
Conveniently, we recently published an article and accompanying video exploring the future of Flash technology: 3D V-NAND Flash memory. VNAND stands as the next step in the SLC/MLC/TLC progression, except instead of primarily adding additional bits per cell, it's beginning to stack cells in 3-dimensional space -- similar in concept to Intel's 3D transistor architecture. This allows higher cell density in the same square area, but reduces the granular voltage requirements introduced by incrementing the cell levels (an exponential voltage level requirement with each level, from SLC to TLC).
Samsung showcased some of its VNAND concept just before CES, but we didn't have reason to believe it'd make it to market so quickly. The first consumer product to use VNAND, a type of Flash fabricated internally at Samsung, will be the company's 850 Pro. The 850 Pro champions the 840 Pro, released just before CES 2013.
It's felt like an agonizingly slow five years, but SSDs are finally affordable for most PC builds. The 2009 consumer launch saw the arrival of Intel's X25 SSD, built atop SLC architecture and priced accordingly. I remember testing some of the first X25 SSDs and the resulting stack of $1200 paperweights that had accumulated. Thankfully, things have come a long way since then. With the advent of new NAND types that can pack multiple bits into a single cell, affordability and flexibility of use have arrived to the SSD marketplace.
This year in particular has seen the rapid expansion of consumer-ready SSDs, particularly with a refresh of Crucial's budget-class SSDs, ADATA's forward positioning, and Corsair's updated Force lineup. And there's more, too -- Seagate, Samsung,
With all these choices and the beginning price-war, it's an ideal time for consumers to jump on the constant SSD sales and the rapidly collapsing price-point. This buyer's guide will introduce the best SSDs for the price in gaming and enthusiast uses, hopefully helping with tips on selecting an SSD. We're going to stay away from the high-performance / professional marketplace in this guide.