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.
After writing about SSD architecture just a few weeks ago, following-up with an SSD AMA and news on PNY's controller change, it feels like all eyes are on SSDs right now. Corsair just recently announced its new 512GB Force LX SSD, following-up on the announcement of the 128GB and 256GB models just recently. The announcement comes at a time when new SSDs are being unveiled monthly, all leading into an impending price war in the solid-state drive market.
The new Force LX SSD operates on SATA III and brushes against the throughput limitations of the interface, hovering at around 560MB/s max sequential read. The LX hosts a Silicon Motion (SMI) four-channel controller and 256MB of DRAM, used to cache I/O for accelerated transactions. Corsair is sourcing MLC ONFI NAND for its Flash, though we're not yet sure of the current supplier.
This weekend's sales roundup features an LED controller for $28, case fans at $16, an AMD CPU for $170, and a 1 TB SSD for just $400. If these deals don't whet your appetite for improving your system, first - get a better appetite, then keep posted to our Twitter and Facebook accounts for more sales and deals throughout the week. Also subscribe to our YouTube channel for build tips, interviews, and reviews.
"Scam," "fraud," "shadiness," and "lawsuit" are all words that have been somewhat haphazardly plastered across forums and websites this past week, with particular disdain expressed toward SSD makers Kingston and PNY. The internet's bandwagon mentality almost mandates a perpetuity of rage without necessitating a fundamental understanding of the industry toward which that rage is directed. It is an unfortunate side effect of social media that 'shares' and 'likes' will undoubtedly be attributed toward advocacy campaigns without the sharers ever reading accompanying links -- let alone clicking them.
That's an awful big statement to make without even introducing the topic.
I wanted to put out this quick note for our regular readers. We're hosting an AMA ("Ask Me Anything" about solid-state drives on the "Build A PC" subreddit right now! Kent Smith of LSI's SandForce division is joining me for this question & answer session; we'll do our best to tackle all of the community's burning solid-state drive, NAND, and controller topics.
You can find the AMA here.
This weekend's sales round-up features a 256GB SSD for $105, the new i7-4790 for $295, a Z97 board that comes with a free mouse for $110, and a full-size case for only $60. Next weekend is Father's Day, so grab some good discounts now and watch our Twitter and Facebook feeds for additional savings throughout the week.
SSDs are surrounded by terminology that generally isn't understood beyond a relative level. There's this top-level concept that one type of NAND is superior to another, that synchronous is preferable to asynchronous, that endurance is tied to P/E cycles, but a lot of the knowledge halts there. We've worked closely with several SSD and controller engineers over the past year to educate ourselves on the inner workings of the storage world's biggest recent advancement; now it's time to start organizing that education in article form. Over the next weeks, we'll be releasing several "SSD Architecture" postings (so be sure to like / follow / subscribe) that focus on different aspects of solid-state drives, controllers, and NAND.
This installment includes a video component. The video showcases a discussion with LSI's Kent Smith and spoils the basics of what we'll cover throughout this series. I highly recommend watching the video, especially for those who benefit from visual aids. We covered SSD questions pertaining to varying voltage levels on evolving NAND types (SLC, MLC, TLC), cell decay when an SSD goes unused, P/E cycles and endurance, and "what's next" after TLC for Flash types. That's a lot of stuff. Each item is complex in its own way -- hence the chronicle-like release of in-depth article components.
Today we're talking about top-level SSD anatomy and architecture, defining what "NAND Flash" actually is, evolving NAND types (MLC vs. TLC, what's after TLC), capacity calculations, and providing an "SSD primer" of other basic elements. This is what will lay the foundation for our more advanced articles.