Samsung's vertically stacked NAND was introduced in June of 2014, heralding an era of increased capacity with (theoretically) reduced endurance concerns when compared against TLC. The NAND type takes a page from Intel's 3D transistor book and stacks NAND vertically, making for greater density in “apartment high-rise” fashion.
The SSD market has grown exponentially over the past few years, the product of reduced NAND cost and increased capacity at affordable prices. TLC and VNAND saw rapid gains in drive capacity at the cost of some endurance, though controller advancements have offset this downside considerably; TLC and VNAND also both offer the endurance required for the majority of consumer use case scenarios. As SSD cost has plummeted to below $0.50 per gigabyte, we've seen inclusion of SSDs in most system builds within the mid-range or better categories.
Samsung's 850 EVO and 850 Pro have been around for a little while now, with the 850 Pro debuting 3D NAND (also called “VNAND”). The company's 850 Pro capped at 1TB of storage, but has been refreshed in 2TB capacities as of today; the 850 EVO – a cheaper alternative for consumer-class usage – has also been refreshed to 2TB.
Following the comparatively bombastic launch of the HyperX Predator SSD, an M.2 SSD fitted to a PCI-e adapter, Kingston this week launched its “Savage” SATA SSD. The Savage SSD assumes the modern branding efforts fronted by HyperX, which has streamlined its product lineup into a hierarchical Fury, Savage, Beast/Predator suite. These efforts eliminate long-standing names like “Genesis” and “Blu,” replacing them with – although sometimes silly – names that are more cohesive in their branding initiative.
The new Savage SSD sees integration of the Phison PS3110-S10 controller, usurping the long-standing HyperX 3K SSD and its SandForce 2nd Gen controller from Kingston's mid-range hot-seat. HyperX's Savage operates on the aging SATA III interface; this ensures claustrophobic post-overhead transfer limitations that can't be bypassed without a faster interface, largely thanks to information transfer protocols that consume substantial bandwidth. 8b/10b encoding, for example, eats into the SATA III 6Gbps spec to the point of reducing its usable throughput to just 4.8Gbps (~600MB/s). This means that, at some point, the argument of SATA SSD selection based upon speed loses merit. Other aspects – endurance and encryption, for two easy ones – should be held in higher regard when conducting the pre-purchase research process.
The first consumer-priced PCI-e SSDs are finally trickling to market. OCZ's RevoDrive was one of the only consumer-facing PCI-e SSDs, priced out of range for most gamers and facing somewhat widespread endurance and stability issues as the device aged. During a period of SandForce domination, the industry waited for the third-generation refresh of the SF controllers to introduce widespread PCI-e SSDs. The third gen controllers promised what effectively would act as an interface toggle, allowing manufacturers to purchase a single controller supply for all SATA and PCI-e SSDs, then “flip the bit” depending on demand. Such an effort would reduce cost, ultimately passed on to the user. This controller saw unrelenting delays, giving rise to alternatives in the meantime.
Then M.2 became “a thing,” bringing smaller SSDs to notebooks and desktops. The M.2 standard is capable of offering superior throughput to SATA III (6Gbps) by consuming PCI-e lanes. Pushing data through the PCI-e bus, M.2 devices circumnavigate the on-board SATA controller and its abstraction layers, responsible for much of the overhead showcased in peak 550MB/s speeds. The M.2 interface can operate on a four-lane PCI-e 2.0 configuration to afford a maximum throughput of 2GB/s (before overhead), though – as with all interfaces – this speed is only awarded to capable devices. Each PCI-e 2.0 lane pushes 0.5GB/s (GT/s). Some M.2 devices utilize just two PCI-e lanes, restricting themselves to 1GB/s throughput but freeing-up the limited count of PCI-e lanes on Haswell CPUs (16 lanes from the CPU, up to 8 lanes from the chipset).
About a year ago, we published a piece notifying our readers of hoax HDMI-to-VGA passive cables proclaiming that they did absolutely nothing for the buyer; we called them “fake,” indicating that a passive cable is electrically incapable of transforming a signal, and therefore could not serve as a digital-to-analog adapter without some sort of active conversion taking place. There are a few hardware-side exceptions, but they are rare.
It was in this same content that we mentioned “SATA III cables” vs. “SATA II cables,” noting that the two cables were functionally identical; the transfer rates are the same between a “SATA III” cable and a “SATA II” cable. The difference, as defined by the official SATA specification, is a lock-in clip to ensure unshaken contact. Upon being taken viral by LifeHacker, statement of this simple fact was met with a somewhat disheartening amount of resistance from an audience we don't usually cater toward. Today, we had enough spare time to reinforce our statements with objective benchmarking.
The GTC 2015 show floor was home to several technology demonstrations, ranging from gaming graphics / consumer tech to self-navigating vehicle AI. GTC is a more enterprise-driven show than most that we attend, evidenced by ASRock's server rack presence and a heavy saturation of Quadro FX cards, but it's still important to gamers.
Aside from the obvious -- which would be the Titan X unveil -- GTC showcases technology that inevitably works its way down to the consumer market. We visited PNY at the show to look at the upcoming CL4111 Client SSD, the existing CS2111 XLR8 gaming SSD, and a host of graphics adapters.
PAX East’s doors opened at 9AM this morning to press, shortly followed by an impassible, amorphous mass of excited PAX-goers. At Intel’s booth, a monolithic Lian Li case housed Intel’s first NVMe consumer SSD, using PCI-e to interface with the device.
CES has officially ended and the floor was busy. We pushed, elbowed, headbutted, and bit our way through the crowds. Our first destination was Samsung, right in the middle of it all and with their own building-inside-a-building booth construction. After looking around their booth with all the TVs, mobile phone tech, and business options, we managed to find some things that gamers care about.
HyperX is known for producing enthusiast RAM and SSDs, and at this year’s show, Kingston unveiled two new SSD products: the M.2/PCIe Predator and SATA III Savage. If these names sound familiar, it’s because Kingston recently switched-over its system memory kit branding to the same Fury, Savage, Beast/Predator naming scheme.