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.
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:
Samsung's 900-series SSDs marked the arrival of VNAND (NAND Flash explained here), a new NAND type that expanded capacity vertically to theoretically drive down the cost per gigabyte metric. Today, the company officially announced its 960 series SSDs, including the Samsung 960 Pro and Samsung 960 EVO. Both devices modernize their architecture by supporting NVMe on their new VNAND-based SSDs.
We think NVMe is one of the next big standards, as the standard SATA interface has reached its cap with data transfer rates. Intel and Samsung have both made moves to build the NVMe market and achieve higher throughput than was possible on a SATA bus.
Recapping some of the most recent hardware news for the past two days, we visit topics centering on liquid cooling for video cards and a side topic discussing Micron's newest 32GB mobile 3D NAND.
For GPUs, ZOTAC has just announced its “ArcticStorm” GTX 1080 card with waterblock, providing full coverage over the VRAM, FETs, and GPU itself. Standard G1/4 threaded fittings include barbs to support 10mm inner diameter tubing, and microfins are spaced at 0.3mm apart. For a more visual understanding of microfins and spacing, check our liquid cooler tear-down. A metal backplate is included with the card.
We don't have a price on Zotac's ArcticStorm just yet, but have reached-out to ask.
This is primarily a video project that revisits our popular SSD Architecture post from 2014. All of that content remains relevant to this day – SSD architecture has not substantially changed at a low level – but it's been deserving of a refresh. NAND Flash comprises the actual storage component of the SSD, and impacts more than just capacity; endurance, speed, and the cost-per-GB metric are all impacted by NAND Flash selection. The industry has slowly reached parity between TLC and MLC NAND devices for the mainstream and gaming segments, with VNAND getting a steady push through Samsung's channels. As for how MLC and TLC actually work, though, we turn to our content.
With this update, we've introduced a 3D animation to help visualize the complexities of voltage states and program/erases occurring on the disk actively. The original graphics and text of our architecture article can be found on this page.
Memory manufacturer Corsair has signaled its re-entry to the solid-state drive market with an updated Neutron series of SSDs. The new Neutron XTi SSDs operate on the Phison controller that's been going around – and has seemed to replace most of the fading SandForce market dominance – to enable SATA III transactions at maximum interface allowance. Corsair uses MLC NAND (two bits per cell), which offers better endurance to TLC alternatives at a rough 30% price-hike per gigabyte.
The Neutron XTi ships in 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB capacities. Corsair also notes in its release to the press that the drive will “become Corsair's first 1920GB SSD,” meaning that there's a ~2TB model forthcoming. Price is not yet determined for the 2TB model, but the 960GB (~1TB) model lands at $330.
U.2 (pronounced Udot2, lest Bono exercise legal force) has made a major appearance on PC platform updates from motherboard vendors, including Gigabyte with new X99 and Z170X motherboards at PAX. The form factor used to be called SFF-8639 (SSD Form Factor) and was targeted almost entirely at server and enterprise markets. In a move toward greater user-friendliness, the interface has rebranded as “U.2,” easier to remember with the M.2 interface also proliferating across the market.
This “TLDR” article explains the U.2 vs. M.2 vs. SATA Express differences, with a focus on PCI-e lane assignment and speeds or throughputs.
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