As solid-state storage continues to displace mechanical drives, so too does the constriction of the HDD market continue. As part of their ongoing plan to stay profitable and financially stable, Seagate has opted to shut down its HDD manufacturing facility in Suzhou, China. The Suzhou plant was one of Seagate’s largest production assets, and its resultant closure will acutely reduce the company’s HDD output.

However, this isn’t unforeseen, as last year Seagate announced its intentions to augment manufacturing capacities from around 55-60 million drives per quarter to approximately 35-40 million drives per quarter in accordance with their continued restructuring initiative. As part of that effort, Seagate reduced global employee headcount by 8,000 last year. Moreover, the closing of the Suzhou facility will see the layoff of a further ~2,200 employees.

Optane is Intel’s latest memory technology. The long-term goal for Optane is for it to be used as a supplemental system memory, caching storage, and primary storage inside PCs. Intel claims that Optane is faster than Flash NAND, only slightly slower than DRAM, has higher endurance than NAND, and, due to its density, will be about half the cost of DRAM. The catch with all of these claims is that Intel has yet to release any concrete data on the product.

What we do know is that Lenovo announced that they will be using a 16GB M.2 Optane drive for caching in a couple of their new laptops during Q1 2017. Intel also announced that another 32GB caching drive should be available later in the year, something we’ve been looking into following CES 2017. This article will look into what Intel Optane actually is, how we think it works, and whether it's actually a viable device for the enthusiast market.

PNY announced their CS2030 line of M.2 NVMe SSDs this week. The CS2030 will be available in two capacities at 240GB and 480GB, and both drives will follow the M.2 2280 form factor.

The new CS2030 drives will utilize a Phison PS5007 controller with MLC NAND Flash memory to provide sequential read speeds of 2,750 MB/s and sequential write speeds of 1,500 MB/s for the 240GB model. The larger CS2030 480GB version will provide sequential read speeds of 2,800 MB/s and sequential write speeds of 1,550 MB/s.

We recently prolonged the life of GN Andrew’s Lenovo laptop, a task accomplished by tearing the thing down and cleaning out the dust, then re-applying thermal compound. This brought temperatures down well below 80C on the silicon components, where the unit was previously reaching 100C (or TjMax values and thereby throttling). The laptop has lived to work many more long render sessions since that time, and has been in good shape since.

That’s gotten us a bit of a reputation, it seems, as we just recently spent a few hours fixing a Dell Studio XPS 1640 and its noise issues.

The 1640 had a few problems at its core: The first, loud noise during idle (desktop); the second, slowing boot times with age; and the third, less-than-snappy responsiveness upon launching applications.

Newegg’s Techmas and pre-holiday sales continue throughout the month of December. Throughout this weekend, you can pick up an ADATA 256GB SSD, Seasonic Modular 650W Power Supply, and an iFixit toolkit if you need a good set to tackle a late 2016 PC build. We also have identified a couple different kits of G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 16GB (2x8) DRR4 RAM, presently down-priced for EOY Christmas sales.

Hardware news has, somewhat surprisingly, maintained its pace through the late months of the year. We normally expect a slowdown in December, but with AMD’s onslaught of announcements (Instinct, Ryzen, Vega), and with announcements leading into CES, we’ve yet to catch a break.

This week’s hardware news focuses on the RX 460 unlocking discovered by Der8auer, new SSDs from Corsair (MP500) and Zadak, and TSMC’s fab expansion.

Video below:

Albeit in the midst of troubling SSD news, Corsair fans may rejoice. After a seeming lack of focus in the SSD market, Corsair has announced the immediate availability of the new Force Series MP500 M.2 solid-state drives. Although laggardly, Corsair now joins other companies like Samsung, Plextor, Toshiba, and Intel in leaving behind the limited SATA III 6Gb/s connection in favor of NVMe via PCIe x4.

Corsair avers the new MP500 Force Series to be the fastest drive they have yet produced, with sequential read/write speeds rated at 3000/2400 MB/s and random 4K read/write speeds at 250,000/210,000 IOPS, nominally. Theoretically speaking, system boot times, large file transfers, and game load times will see improvement over using a single SATA 6Gb/s connection. This also puts the drive in somewhat parallel performance with the Samsung 960 EVO.

The MP500 series will utilize a Phison PS5007-E7 NVMe memory controller in conjunction with the high bandwidth afforded by PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 lanes. The MP500 conforms to the M.2 2280 form factor and sports a black PCB with a black cover hiding the NAND (and so we haven’t yet identified the modules used). Although not particularly relevant, it does coincide with the recent motherboard color trend and should please users aimed at achieving a uniform aesthetic, in comparison to the overdone green PCBs. The Phison PS5007-E7 controller supports SLC/MLC/TLC and 3D NAND (V-NAND), although we are currently unable to ascertain the specific NAND type used in the Corsair Force MP500. The Force Series MP500 range will offer 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB capacities priced at $110, $170, and $325, respectively.

SSDs are ostensibly a victim of their own success. Competitive pricing has made SSDs more accessible at the consumer level in addition to a proliferated demand in other market segments, such as the obvious smartphones and laptops. Both of these segments have seen the implementation of NAND flash-based storage for increasing capacity while minimizing the form and footprint of devices, not to mention power savings and noise reductions.

In the midst of running another half-dozen thermal tests on upcoming liquid-cooled graphics benchmarks, we took a break from the (increasingly hot) test room for an Ask GN episode. Considering the video set is about 9-10C cooler than the test lab, it was a welcomed break.

This episode’s questions primarily focus on increasing SSD prices, game and driver optimization for GPUs, some brief computer history, and benchmarking. About half of the discussion somehow relates to game benchmarking or testing, with a few interesting tidbits from our previous computer history discussions.

Regardless, video and timestamps below:

We've been following sales closely for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and following our "Best GPUs Under $200" guide, we figured it'd be good to revisit gaming's third favorite component: SSDs.

Solid-state drives have become remarkably affordable over the past few years. When we posted our first SSD architecture discussion piece, back in 2014, SSDs of 240-256GB capacities were easily between $100 and $200, depending on drive. Large capacity SSDs (480GB+) were not really affordable for most users. With this year's sales, we're seeing SSDs in excess of 500GB capacity available for nearly $100. Huge change, considering they were easily 3x that price just a few years ago.

Here's the shortlist of the best SSD sales for Black Friday, particularly focused on gaming:

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