Welcome to another addition of our Weekly Hardware Sales round-up that I affectionately call Mik's Piks. I have been away on paternity leave, but am now back with some sweet deals. I found a Xion case, some HyperX RAM, Zalman CPU heatsink, an XFX HD 7870, and Crucial 240GB SSD.

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We've seen a lot of discussion spurred about Kingston's silent decision to switch their mainstream consumer-targeted SSDNow V300 drive from synchronous to asynchronous NAND. In fact, on one of our PC builds that recommended the drive, a reader encouraged us to run updated performance benchmarks to validate the impact of the NAND switch. A recent article published down the road by Anandtech went at the V300 fiercely, referencing user AS-SSD benchmark data from forums to highlight the theoretical performance hit.

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Upon publication of Kristian's post on Anandtech, I called our Kingston contact to press on a few points and also give a chance to defend their position. Unsurprisingly, Kingston supported the product readily; switching the NAND supply was in favor of price, and is the reason we've seen the V300 as low as $60-$70 on some retailers, they said. The 19nm Toshiba Toggle-Mode 2.0 NAND in the original V300 either became more scarce or was too expensive, and so the company switched to Micron's 20nm asynchronous NAND for cost reasons. 

I wanted to give everyone a quick update as to why the hardware features have been quiet since the unveiling of our dual- vs. single-channel RAM test a couple weeks back. There's been a lot of fuss lately about asynchronous NAND finding its way into a specific Kingston SSD that was previously known to use synchronous NAND. Most of the discussion was relegated to forums, where users ran somewhat haphazard benchmarks to determine that the new model of the V300 (using asynchronous NAND) was severely underperforming versus the earlier model that used a higher-quality NAND supply. I'll get into what this means briefly in a moment.

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In short, it looks like the NAND type in the older V300 was Toshiba's 19nm Toggle-Mode 2.0 supply, which I've confirmed by opening our drive; the new NAND used in the newer iteration of the V300 -- which has no listing in the specs to make the difference clear -- is Micron's 20nm asynchronous NAND. The switch to asynchronous NAND allows the drive to be produced for much cheaper, but has an inherent performance detriment. If you're unsure of what I mean by "asynchronous" and "synchronous," it boils down to this:

We return once again to our regular weekend-ly hardware sales round-up. A somewhat sizable gaming case and power supply sale was spotted in the middle of last week, so if you missed that, check out the post here -- some of the deals still apply. For this weekend, we found 16GB of ADATA RAM and 4GB of Patriot RAM on sale, a 240GB PNY SSD marked down to $120, and WD's 1TB Blue HDD with a $5 instant discount (which is big for a hard drive, sadly).

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We took a short break from weekend hardware sales round-ups to post a ton of Titanfall coverage, including two new PC build guides for those looking to get into system building. The builds were $797 and $506, so they appeal to mid-range and ultra-budget audiences pretty well. With all that out of the way, we're now back to our regularly-scheduled weekend hardware sales round-up; this weekend includes an Intel 530 SSD sale, mechanical keyboard, headset, and some RAM.

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We realized not long ago that we've got -- I believe the technical phrase is -- a lot of cables. Shelves upon shelves. Throughout our years working on editorial content, we've had to learn about all the pros and cons of different interface versioning and cable standards.

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Questions have often come up during our testing, for instance: Is a so-called "SATA 6Gbps cable" actually better than a "SATA 3Gbps cable?" What's the difference between DVI-D, DVI-I, DVI-A, and DVI Dual-Link? In this video and article, we'll talk about all the major cable standards, their differences, and identify some of the up-and-coming standards.

 

This weekend's hardware sales round-up focuses on CPU and motherboard sales, with Intel's mainstream flagship i7-4770K on sale alongside AMD's 220W FX-9370; motherboards were also located on sale, ensuring you'll be able to put these powerful CPUs to use immediately.

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Jumping into the new year, we've got looming hardware announcements at CES and cool-down from last week's sales, so things are finally slowing down for a moment. The calm before the storm, as it were. Regardless, for our regular weekend sales round-up, we've spotted some good sales -- including a $130 8-core CPU, SSDs, and video cards.

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SSDs have faced numerous challenges since their fairly recent beginnings. Initial SLC (single-level cell) SSDs were out-of-reach for most consumers, and as evolving Flash memory types allowed production of more affordable consumer SSDs (MLC, TLC), we saw serious endurance concerns. Endurance and stability concerns have subsided as controller manufacturers learn to cope with the hurdles, though we now face other obstacles -- like endurance on TLC and brushing up against the SATA bus bandwidth cap. Other features, like data integrity and redundancy, often hold greater value than pure speed.

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Speed is now a largely irrelevant metric for comparison when looking at high-end consumer SATA III SSDs; no SATA III-powered SSD can exceed the 6Gbps cap (which translates to about ~550MB/s in real-world use, accounting for overhead). Going forward, SSD controllers (this is true for Samsung, OCZ, SandForce, etc.) are not the limiting factor for speed -- it's the bus. Time to move to PCI-e.

The SandForce 3700 series controllers are now officially announced and are already in the hands of manufacturers. On a top-level, the new controller should:

  • Bring more PCI-e SSDs to the consumer market at better prices.
  • Improve overall I/O performance (especially on PCI-e, where the bandwidth isn't a bottleneck).
  • Improve endurance (lifespan) of the drive.
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    With LSI Corporation's (NASDAQ: LSI) new SandForce SF3700 controller impending Q1/Q2 mass production next year, it looks like manufacturers will finally be able to bring PCI-E SSDs to mass consumption and TLC endurance concerns may fade. In this write-up, we'll look at the SF3700 SSD controller's (specifically SF3729/SF3739) specs, SHIELD feature, and PCI-e modularity - specifically as it pertains to Samsung's existing 840 Pro and XP941 controllers.

    With the year fast coming to an end, and Black Friday approaching, sales have been more promising with each passing week. This week I found a cheap 23" monitor, 240GB SSD for $160, a video card on sale, and a case.

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