Tag: sata

Toshiba’s OCZ Storage wants to kill off SATA for SSDs

Toshiba’s OCZ Storage is hatching up a cunning plan to kill off SATA for storage by making improvements to PCIe hardware.

PCIe has been around for a while and it offers more bandwidth than SATA. While there are solid-state drives that use PCIe for this purpose, it has not really taken off because of video card requirements.

Toshiba’s OCZ Storage has hatched up some bootable solid state drives which it claims can kill off SATA bottlenecks. It uses a high-speed PCI Express architecture coupled with a sophisticated workstation-grade RAID array that virtualises the SSD controllers.

Toshiba’s OCZ Storage Solutions has come up with a PCIe-based RevoDrive 350. By using PCIe the drive can push 1.8 1.8GB/s in sequential performance transfer speed and 140,000 4K random write IOPS. The drive uses Toshiba’s NAND memory built on the 19nm process node.

Daryl Lang, Senior Vice President of Product Management for OCZ Storage, said that the new RevoDrive 350 is uses Toshiba flash and OCZ’s proprietary Virtualized Controller Architecture (VCA) 2.0 and can improve performance while reducing the burden on host resources.

“This next generation PCIe SSD is the ideal solution for performance-minded users looking to maximize both bandwidth and density for the complete gamut of gaming, content creation and workstation applications,” he said.

OCZ claims its RevoDrive 350 can withstand up ot 50GB of host writes per day for 3 years, which is the length of the warranty.

The RevoDrive 350 is available 240GB ($530), 480GB ($830), and 960GB ($1,300) capacities with support for both Linux and Windows. 

Intel announces 910 Series SSD for datacentres

Intel has continued its push for solid state drives, launching its new 910 Series datacentre drives with PCIe interface.

Intel is attempting to address the needs of growing trends in cloud computing and virtualisation, and is hoping that the benefits of its new SSDs will have datacentre staff ripping out HDDs straight away in favour of the 910.

400GB and 800GB varieties will be available, offering the standard benefits of an SSD such as increases in performance and endurance with 25 nanometre NAND flash memory.  

While consumers may be still be put off by the relatively large price tags of an SSD in mainstream devices, for businesses the cost is likely outweighed by a need for reliability and high performance. Prices are  $1,929 for the 400GB version and $3,859 for the 800GB drive.

Intel maintains the devices can prove cost effective with the ability to allow up to 10 full read writes a day for five years, with a thirty-fold endurance improvement over standard MLC-based flash products.

By replacing multiple 15K rpm HDDs in the datacentre, Intel says that it can save on space and power consumption, but also reduce latencies and improve storage scalability.

ThePCIe enabled 910 SSD Intel will expand on previous SATA-based offerings from Intel in the datacentre, such as the 700 SSDs.

In terms of performance, at the top end the 800GB version will reach up to 2 gigabytes per second sequential reads and 1GB/s writes.  It will also reach 180,000 4K random read IOPS, and 75,000 4K random write IOPS.

The SSDs will be available from “mid-2012” according to Intel.

Lite-On targets small business with E200 solid state drive

Optical storage maker Lite On has made its first move into the UK solid state drive market with the E200.

Aimed at small to medium business users it is attempting to push for more widespread SSD use, which are becoming more and more affordable.

Although a UK price has not yet been agreed, we are told, the SSD will be released in 80GB and 160GB flavours.

The 2.5 inch SSDs will be shipped with a 3.5 inch bracket meaning that the storage devices will be easy to put into a notebook or desktop.

The E200 will have sequential read and write speeds of up to 503 Mb/s and 265 Mb/s.  Random read and write speeds are 71,000 IOPS and 64,000 IOPS.

The drive also supports the latest SATA 6GB/s and uses a Marvell controller.   This means fast boot up times, as you would expect from an SSD, and less faffing around for office workers and those using business PCs.

Lite On is also promising reliable performance over a long period to combat any slow down with heavy usage of the E200.  True Speed certification standards mean that this should not be a problem, with efficiency staying the same throughout its lifespan.

With SSD prices dropping the popularity of the storage devices looks set to increase this year, both in the consumer space and for businesses.

Sapphire announces AMD FX mainboard

Sapphire has introduced a mainboard which runs on the AMD FX CPU family called the Pure Black 990FX.

The 990FX is an ATZ mainboard that sports the AMD 990FX and SB950 chipsets. Sapphire has put in four dual channel memory sockets, which support up to 16GB of DDR3. When the modules are available, Sapphire says, it will support up to 32GB. Four USB 3.0 ports – two at the back and two on the front panel, plus eight USB 2.0 ports at the back as well.

There are eight SATA 3GB ports which support AHCI and RAID just on the edge of the board, and one more SATA port on the back with an eSATA connector. As you might expect, the Pure Black 990FX has optical and SPDIF outputs on the back panel along with standard I/O configuration for on-board HD 7.1 audio.

On the board, there are six PCI-Express Gen2 slots for expansion, which lets users bung in either six single slot cards or three dual slot cards for high end graphics cards. There is a 4-pin Molex connector on the edge of the board for extra power when running multiple cards.

Sapphire is aiming the board at the hardware enthusiast market, so there’s stuff like a digital debug display, push button reset for the BIOS and start and system reset buttons. The company says it’s the first board that sports its SAPPHIRE.QBIOS, which is packed full of overclocking features. Along with that, the board ships with Sapphire’s Mainboard Trixx software to fiddle with system parameters and keep the CPU, memory and  chipset ticking along.

The Pure Black 990FX has a dual BIOS and S_BIOS which lets users update and back up the kit from a BIOS screen, so you don’t need to boot from an external disk. There are even voltage test pads for serious hardware tinkerers.

We build a fab Intel Media PC

We decided to go and build  a PC using the Intel Sandy Bridge 2nd Generation Core processors and the new LGA 1155 socket. The processor is the i5 2nd Generation Core – 2500K Unlocked version. When paired with the H67 chipset on this motherboard it means that Graphics Overclocking is enabled. Early reviews jumped the gun because Intel was forced to a chipset recall, as we explain later on in this review.

This is one of Intel’s so called Media platforms. It is a micro ATX motherboard and its specification is designed to take advantage of the Intel 2nd Generation Core processors and their HD graphics support.  This platform uses  the Intel Series 6 chipsets – in particular the H67 Express Chipset designed to support HD audio, SATA both 6Gb/s (2) and 3Gb/s (3+1 eSATA), 2 PCI Express connectors and one PCI connector,  Intel PRO 10/100/1000 network connection,  2 USB 3.00 and up to 14 USB 2.0. The DH67BL also has the Intel Rapid Storage Technology for RAID 0,1,5 and 10, an optional extra for this chipset. 

Intel board

The H67chipset was  recalled due to the Cougar Points fault, which affects the 3Gb/s SATA ports only. The degradation is slow and take one to two years to exhibit fully, however it is enough for the whole H67 chipset motherboards including non-Intel ones using this chipset, to be recalled. TechEye therefore did a before and after test of this platform with the replacement H67 B3 Revised chipset too, which is supposed to have fixed this, in order to get the full picture and deliver a fair review to our readers.

Intel

The system we built used a standard Gigabyte ATX case, an Antec  Basiq 550W power supply, 4 GB of DDR3 1333, an Intel 80GB SSD, SATA DVD Blue-Ray drive, a Seagate 500GB SATA hard disk as backup to test the 3Gb/s SATA channels. The operating system was Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit edition. We used exactly the same processor and peripherals on both revisions of the motherboard, seating them in exactly the same way with Intel Fan Heat Sink DHA-A and Arctic Silver 5 heat sink compound.

It is worth noting that the Integrated Graphics only supports up to DirectX 10.1 though DirectX 11 was installed.

The comparison of the before and after for the 3Gb/s SATA channels using the Seagate 500GB SATA did show a very slight degradation for the original motherboard. This was not exactly calibrated however and simply compared several read specs of the Seagate 500GB SATA. It showed that in a couple of weeks on the original H67 it had degraded by a few tenths of percentage.  The benchmarking software can vary that much from test to test, so it was run several times but the trend was always downwards. On the new B3 release there was noticeable improvement from the outset for the same drive of several per cent and it has not degraded at all as yet. I therefore conclude that this issue has been resolved.

For the B3 revision the BIOS was updated to the most recent versions as were all the drivers. This may also account for some of the improvements.

Sandy Bridge and the saga of the faulty motherboards
The story of the new Intel 2nd Generation Sandy Bridge processors with the  LGA 1155 and the corresponding Intel motherboards has been an on-going saga this year. In December 2010 we were asked to review the DP67BG with i7 and the DH67BL with i5. Due to delays we did not get everything set to do this review until the time of the recall of the H67 and P67 Express Chipset Motherboards in late January. We at Techeye felt that we were not happy reviewing this product after that, unless we could also review the replacement motherboards with the revised chipsets in a before and after capacity. So we have waited for replacement motherboards and have done thorough checks on the faulty version and the new replacement for comparison. We felt this was only fair to our readers as many early reviews of these platforms were glowing and yet they still turned out to be all faulty.

The problem was not with the processors at all, as our tests show, but with the H67 chipset on the motherboards and not just Intel’s motherboards but all using this chipset. It was the Cougar Points on the SATA controller. This did not affect Channel  0 or 1, usually reserved for the boot devices but with time all the other channels would degrade in performance.  The significance of this was somewhat downplayed, many saying it was a minor  fault and would not show up with any significance for one or two years but this is still a critical fault. Product recalls are very expensive and the degradation was faintly noticeable in our investigation in as little as two weeks. It therefore looks like the early version was simply an unfinished product, not ready for release and it has to beg the question, was this more likely the result of marketing strategies overruling some of the quality assurance concerns?

In conclusion the replacement B3 H67 and P67 chipsets do appear to fix the problems. It is unfortunate that it had to come to this and perhaps some may not be so quick to get there first with such new hardware releases in future. Hopefully many lessons have been learned and we can look forward to more rigorous quality assurance in future. The B3 H67 and P67 chipset is the finished product that should have been the first to market release. The original releases have been shown to be more of a prototype. Our results show the B3 version to be a stable and fast platform for both we reviewed.

Conclusions
Though the on board graphics (Intel HD Graphics Family) is only DirectX 10.1 compatible this platform is excellent for all but high end gaming and 3D design. With the DVI-I and HDMI display options, Graphics Overclocking with the B3 H67 Chipset, Realtek High Definition  audio output including Toslink optical connector, the extra USB ports and MicroATX size board this makes it a very versatile platform for all media manipulation and development. It would also make a very good basis for a Home Theatre PC.

Specifications
Intel Core i5-2500K Processor Key Features
·    4-Way Multi-Task Processing
·    Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
·    Intel Smart Cache
·    Graphics Overclocking Enabled with Intel H67 Express Chipset (and H67 B3 Revised)
·    Integrated Memory Controller
·    Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility
·    AES-NI
·    Built-in Visuals
Intel Desktop Board DH67BL (Media)
·    2nd generation Intel Core Processor support (LGA 1155)
·    Intel H67 Express Chipset (revised to H67 B3)
·    Support for processor graphics included in all 2nd generation Intel Core processors
·    Intel Rapid Storage Technology for RAID 0, 1,5 and 10
·    Dual-channel DDR3 with four connectors for 1333/1066 MHz memory support (32 GB max)
Supports  1.2 V to 1.8 V memory voltage control for maximum DIMM compatibility
·    Gen 2.0 PCI Express* x16 graphics connector
·    Two PCI Express* x1 connectors and one PCI connector
·    Two SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports and three SATA 3.0 Gb/s ports, with one port compatible with an eSATA extension
·    One eSATA 3.0 Gb/s port
·    Two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports: 5.0 Gb/s signalling rate
·    Fourteen Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports: Six back panel ports and eight additional ports via four front internal headers.
·    Integrated Intel PRO 10/100/1000 Network Connection
·    Ten-channel Intel High Definition Audio with multi-streaming capability: Features internal S/DIF header and front panel audio header with 7.1 Analogue output and one Toslink optical output from back panel
·    DVI-I + HDMI*: Supports dual independent display and allows for the most flexible display output for Intel processors with Intel® HD Graphics.
·    MicroATX Form Factor

Benchmarks
NovaBench Score 673
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate
Intel Core i52500K 3.30GHz @ 3301 MHz
Graphics Card: Intel(R) HD Graphics Family

4004 MB System RAM (Score: 157)
– RAM Speed: 12947 MB/s

CPU Tests (Score: 474)
– Floating Point Operations/Second: 102768688
– Integer Operations/Second: 422686308
– MD5 Hashes Generated/Second: 1183689

Graphics Tests (Score: 28)
3D Frames Per Second: 99

Hardware Tests (Score: 14)
– Primary Partition Capacity: 74 GB
– Drive Write Speed: 94 MB/s

SiSoftware Sandra Lite 2011 SP1
Display
Connection    Local Connection

Processor Arithmetic
Combined Score    70.75GOPS
Result ID    Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-2500K CPU @ 3.30GHz (4C 3.6GHz, 3.6 GHz IMC, 2 x 256kB L2, 6MB L3)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Processor Multi-Media
Combined Score    181.90MPix/s
Result ID    Intel(R) Core(TMA) i5-2500K CPU @ 3.30GHz (4C 3.6GHz, 3.6 GHz IMC, 2 x 256kB L2, 6MB L3)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Memory Bandwidth
Combined Score    17.40GB/s
Result ID    Intel Core (Sandy Bridge) DRAM Controller; 2 x 2GB Kingston 99U5471-002A00LF DIMM DDR3 (1.33GHz) PC3-17000 (9-9-9-24 4-33-10-5)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Physical Disks
Combined Score    251.74MB/s
Result ID        INTEL SSDSA2M080G2GC (80GB, SATA300, 2.5” SSD)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Video Rendering
Error (335)    Direct3D 11 Devices: Intel(R) DH Graphics Family. Display call failed. Try another interface or update video drivers.
Combined Score    21.64MPix/s
Result ID    Intel(R) HD Graphics Family (12 SM4.1 850MHz, 64MB, DDR3 1.33GHz 128-bit, Integrated Graphics)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Overall Score
Combined Score     1087 (total)
Finished Successfully    Yes

Plextor launches speedy SSD at CeBIT

Plextor showed TechEye its newest generation SSD today, the SSD M2S.

It supports the new SATA 6 GB/s interface thanks to its server grade Marvell 88SS9174 control chip alongside NCQ. The SSD M2S also features a 128 MB DDR cache buffer and, so claims Plextor, has a one-of-a-kind algorithm to manage memory blocks and keep reading errors reduced.

Next to its bad block algorithm, it also makes sure data is written into memory blocks uniformly.

This is supposed to increase the SSD’s life span, while keeping it from slowing down after its been in service for a longer period. The amount of memory wipe-outs is also apparently decreased. Needless to say, it also supports Windows 7 TRIM command.

Continental punters will be happy to know the SSD M2S will be launched in the next couple of days in Germany and Austria and will be available from Alternate.de.

It comes with capacities of 64 GB (€169.90), 128 GB (€299.90) and 256 GB (€589). Sequential read speed varies from up to 370 MB/s to 480 MB/s, depending on size. Plextor says it offers a three year warranty in the EU, Switzerland and Norway, defect SSDs will be replaced within five days.

Intel resumes Sandy Bridge shipments, bug fix nearly ready

Intel has announced that it is resuming some shipments of the Intel 6 Series Chipset, which was originally taken off the market last month due to a design defect.

Intel said that after discussing the problem with PC manufacturers, it decided to resume shipments of the chipset, but only for PC configurations that are not affected by the defect.

Intel reported the problem at the end of January, weeks after the launch of the greatly anticipated Sandy Bridge processors. The bug affects the SATA ports of the Sandy Bridge Cougar Point support chips, which can cause degradation over time and result in inferior performance.

The resumption of shipments could have a positive impact on Intel’s financial results, given the $700 million cost Intel predicted for the disaster, but Intel is being cautious and not further revising its outlook for the first quarter and full year.

Intel has also begun manufacturing a new version of the support chip, which contains a silicon fix that should address the defect. It plans to start shipping these in mid-February, on target for a complete replacement of the line by April.

ARM flexes muscles with strong full-year earnings

The little Cambridge chip that could, ARM, has announced its fourth quarter and full year 2010 results – and of course, they’re looking sharp.

Capitalising on a market that Intel, AMD and others ignored for too long, as well as lucrative contracts flying in from all sides, has seen its Q4 results strengthen 28 percent year on year at $179.6 million. Total full year revenues were similarly high, reaching $613.3 million or a 29 percent increase on 2009. Licence revenues rose 46 percent from 2009 to $65.4 million, or 35 percent of group revenues.

Licences are a tidy earner for ARM, with server and smartphone contracts bringing in the moolah. 35 were signed in Q4 alone, including Nvidia licensing the Cortex-A15 for use in mobile computing, and an architecture licence to develop chips for PCs and workstations. A “major semiconductor company” signed a subscription licence for a legion of ARM processors, which will be rolled out across the unnamed giant’s portfolio.

CSR signed the dotted line for Cortex-A9 and Cortex-A5, for in vehicle and navigation devices, while three other unnamed semiconductor companies signed agreements to get their hands on a range of ARM processors. Royalty revenues were strong too: total dollar royalty revenues in the fourth quarter increased 26 percent to $93.9 million – or 52 percent of group revenues.

Profit was $56.2 million (£34.9 million) in Q4 compared to $32.3 million (£20.1 million) the year before. Adjusting for share-based payments and restructuring charges ARM found its normalised profit, pre-tax at $76.7 million (£47.6 million) in the quarter – up from $52 million (£32.3 million) for the same quarter in 2009.

Fully diluted earnings per share in 2010 were, under IFRS, 6.36 pence – up from 3.11 pence for full-year 2009. The normalised fully diluted earnings per share for the year hit 9.34 pence over 2009’s 5.45 pence per share.

Intel finds bug in Sandy Bridge chipset

Intel has identified a defect in some of its chipsets and is implementing a fix for it, which will cost the company millions, lowering its financial outlook for the year.

The problem lies in the Serial-ATA ports of some of its Cougar Points, the Intel 6 Series of support chips, where the ports “may degrade over time”, resulting in lower performance of SATA connected devices. This chipset is employed with Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge processors, marking the first major setback for the Second Generation Intel Core processors.

Intel said it will work with its partners to ensure that returns of the defective models are accepted and that repairs and replacements will be offered.

The updated chipset, which contains a silicon fix for the design error, will ship in February and the replacements should be completed by April.

The stalled shipments, returns and replacements will have a significant negative impact on revenue for the company over the coming months. For the first quarter Intel expects its revenue to drop by $300 million, while total costs for discontinuing the current production line and issuing replacements will be in the region of $700 million.

Despite this, the acquistions of the wireless solutions business of Infineon Technologies AG and security software firm McAfee will help boost its revenue for the first quarter of 2011. Intel revised its forecast upwards slightly from between $11.5 billion to $11.7 billion, plus or minus $400 million.

Intel said that no other products are affected by the bug.

Micron announces fast, high-capacity SSDs for laptops

Micron has announced a lineup of fast, high-capacity solid-state drives (SSDs) designed for the NAND Flash-based laptop market.

The new SSDs, which will be available in 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch forms, use Micron’s 25-nanometer NAND Flash technology and offer capacities from 64GB to 512GB.

They will have read speeds of up to 415MB/s and write speeds of up to 260MB/s, which Micron claims are over 17 percent and 20 percent respectively faster than the fastest C300 drive, Micron’s previous model.

The drives also tout SATA 6Gb/s interface support, low power use, light weight and shock resistance to ensure data remains intact and protected.

They will be part of Micron’s RealSSD range with the name C400 and will also be sold under the m4 name from Micron subsidiary Crucial. 

Mass production is expected in February and they should be available for retail in the first quarter of this year. Prices have not yet been revealed.