We recently covered Intel’s DC P4800X data center drive, with takes on the technology from two editors in video and article form. Those content pieces served as a technology overview for 3D Xpoint and Intel Optane (and should be referenced as primer material), but both indicated a distinct lack of any consumer-focused launch for the new half-memory, half-storage amalgam.
Today, we’re back to discuss Intel’s Optane Memory modules, which will ship April 24 in the form of M.2 sticks.
As Intel’s platform for 3D Xpoint (Micron also has one: QuantX), Optane will be deployed on standardized interfaces like PCI-e AICs, M.2, and eventually DIMM form factors. This means no special “Optane port,” so to speak, and should make adoption at least somewhat more likely. There’s still a challenging road ahead for Intel, of course, as Optane has big goals to somewhat unify memory and storage by creating a device with storage-like capacities and memory-like latencies. For more of a technology overview, check out Patrick Stone’s article on the DC P4800X.
Revisiting an article from GN days of yore, GamersNexus endeavored to explain the differences between Western Digital’s WD Blue, Black, Red, and Purple hard drives. In this content, we also explain the specs and differences between WD Green vs. Blue & Black SSDs. In recent years, Western Digital’s product stack as changed considerably, as has the HDD market in general. We’ve found it fitting to resurrect this WD Blue, Black, Green, Red, and Purple drive naming scheme explanation. We’ll talk about the best drives for each purpose (e.g. WD Blue vs. Black for gaming), then dig into the new SSDs.
Unchanged over the years is Western Digital’s affinity for deferring to colors as to identify products, where other HDD vendors prefer fantastic creature names (BarraCuda, IronWolf, SkyHawk, etc.). As stated above, Western Digital has seriously changed its lineup. The WD Green drives have been painted blue, as they’ve been folded into the WD Blue umbrella. Furthermore, the WD Blue brand has seen the addition of an SSHD offering and SSDs in both 2.5” and M.2 form factors. This in no small part thanks to Western Digital’s acquisition of SanDisk—another notable development since our last article. With that, the WD Blue brand has expanded to become Western Digital’s most comprehensive mainstream product line-up.
Other changes to the Western Digital rainbow include the expanding of WD Black, and confusingly enough, WD Green brands. Starting with the latter, Western Digital rebranded all WD Green HDDs as WD Blue, selling WD Blues under two different RPMs, but recently reentered the SSD market with both. However, the WD Green SSDs are currently unavailable, perhaps due to the global NAND shortage. Likewise, the WD Black series has spilled over into the realm of NVMe/PCIe based storage and WD Black HDDs have expanded capacities up to 6TB; that’s quite a change from the 4TB flagship model we covered back in 2014. Lastly, there is WD Purple, of which we will retroactively cover here.
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.
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.
Seagate's year started off with a declaration of significant downturn in its revenue and profits, and the company now faces additional challenges from a Class Action consumer complaint. The complaint has been levied against the company for “breach of consumer protection, unfair competition and false advertising […] and unjust enrichment,” something which law firm Hagens Berman contests should yield rewards for affected consumers.
It seems that every time we hear from Seagate, it's about an advancement in density (capacity per square-inch) for hard disk drives. The meteoric rise of solid-state drives has certainly created a market split for consumers – “mainstream” notebook users may never again need magnetic storage internally – but media professionals and gamers generally still rely upon an HDD for archiving. Seagate's newest push has been in the helium-filled drive space and has been a continued effort for a few years now.
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.
We've often remarked that naming structures and product branding can be a confusing space, especially when looking at things like ASUS' motherboards. Western Digital's hard drives follow a somewhat standardized branding scheme of “black is best,” then the company uses “blue,” “green,” and “red” for its other HDD options.
Today, we'll compare the WD Blue vs. WD Black and Green hard drives, then let you know which one is “best” for gaming purposes. These are the drives we're primarily looking at:
With the hard drive storage market slimmed-down to just a few major players – Hitachi now owned by WD – the market has felt relatively stagnant for the past year. Seagate recently announced that its SMR 8TB HDD, branded as an “archive HDD,” will soon be available for $260.
“I'm not dead yet!” may be an appropriately pulled quote in the instance of mechanical hard drives. Despite the SSD revolution (SSDs explained here), there's still a place in the world for magnetic storage – and it will likely remain that way for a long, long time; after all, we're still using tape drives in some industry sectors.
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