For every season, there is a spin. Intel’s first consumer SSDs, the X-25M series, didn’t have the fastest performance, but they gained a reputation for reliability. We had high hopes for Intel’s 320 Series SSDs, which turned out to be really great 3Gb/s SATA drives, at a time when everyone else was shipping 6Gb/s drives. When Intel did ship a 6Gb/s SATA drive, the 510 Series, it used a Marvell controller, not an Intel one. Well, Intel has finally released its second 6Gb/s consumer SSD series, and it’s powered by… SandForce?
Yep. The 520 Series may ship in Intel’s familiar 7mm aluminum chassis with a 2mm black spacer, but inside it’s running the same SandForce SF-2281 as everyone else. It does use 25nm Intel synchronous NAND and Intel-validated firmware, which Intel says makes it better, faster, and more reliable than plain-Jane SF-2281-based drives.
Remember Indilinx? The company’s Barefoot SSD controller was the first really good solid-state controller. It was one of the first controllers to offer Trim support, as well as sustained read and write speeds near 200MB/s, and it ruled the roost until SandForce’s SF-1200 controller leapt ahead of Barefoot’s capabilities. The company’s next-gen controller was delayed, and in March 2011 OCZ bought the company. It’s been nearly a year, but OCZ finally has a consumer drive with the new Indilinx Everest controller. Was it worth the wait?
The 512GB Octane drive sent to us by OCZ contains 16 256Gb 25nm Intel synchronous NAND modules, two 2Gb Micron DDR3 SDRAM cache modules (512MB total), and, of course, the Indilinx Everest controller, all in a standard 2.5-inch SSD form factor. In CrystalDiskMark, it averaged 445MB/s sustained reads (35–40MB/s slower than the SandForce drives we’ve tested) and 315MB/s sustained writes (15MB/s faster). Its single-queue-depth 4KB random writes were competitive at around 5,600 IOPS, but at QD32, it only put out 22,000 IOPS—Samsung’s 830 Series does 35,000 and the Patriot Pyro SE does over 90,000. The Octane’s maximum response time in Iometer, at 429ms, is a bit worrying, too—its competitors have max response times of around 40ms. The Octane’s video encoding performance was within seconds of the other drives, and its PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7 scores, though lower than the rest, weren’t too shabby.
It’s been nearly two years since we saw the first 2TB drives hit the market. You’d think we would have gotten 3TB drives months ago. It’s not that hard, is it? Turns out, it’s pretty complicated. We’ll get into all that in a second, but in the meantime, here’s what you need to know: Western Digital’s new 3TB Caviar Green drive is the first internal bootable 3TB drive to hit the market. It’s not the first 3TB drive—Western Digital and Seagate both have external versions—but it is the first bootable 3TB drive.
So, why are we only now seeing bootable 3TB drives? Because most computers are running on kludged-together legacy systems, that’s why! Hard drives have historically been divided into 512-bit sectors. Your drive’s master boot record, which tells the BIOS where everything is on a given drive, is 32-bit, so it can only address a number of sectors equal to one 32-bit integer’s worth. Two to the 32nd power is 4,294,967,296; multiply that by 512 bytes and you get 2.19TB, which is how big a partition can be before the MBR runs out of room to figure out where everything is. To overcome this obstacle, your PC needs to meet a laundry list of requirements: It needs a 64-bit OS, a motherboard that supports UEFI (the successor to the BIOS), and support for GPT partitions rather than MBR.
eSATA ports are starting to become more mainstream in mid to low end motherboards, and OCZ thinks the time is right to start adding on non hard drive based peripherals. Its new lineup of memory sticks will do just that and come in 8, 16, and 32GB capacities. The new drives will both communicate and receive their power from the eSATA port. To ensure backwards compatibility they have also included a rear mounted mini USB connection which will allow users to plug the device into laptops or other USB only machines.
No official benchmarks are have been taken by us, but the company is reportedly boasting read speeds of up to 90MB/s, and writes speeds as fast as 30MB/s. No comment has yet been made on pricing, but it will likely be in the same ballpark as its USB brethren.
It certainly is an interesting idea, but I can’t help but wonder if this type of device is really necessary with USB 3.0 right around the corner. USB 3.0 has a maximum theoretical throughput of 4.8Gbps which would easily max out most flash memory keys several times over.
Would you be interested in an eSATA flash drive? Hit the jump and let us know.
We’ve been waiting several years for eSATA (external SATA, that is) to show up. This month we’re happy to see the first eSATA drive actually arrive to market. If you’re looking for an external backup drive that’s much faster than a standard USB or FireWire drive, Christmas has come early.
Big companies rarely take chances, and Seagate—the world’s largest drive maker—is no exception. It has always played second fiddle to Hitachi when it comes to the 7,200rpm hard drive capacity war, and even though Seagate drives are reliable and semi-speedy, they’ve never delivered industry-leading or even outstanding performance. Well, those days are over.
Most people don’t keep up with the backup drive game, and we don’t blame them. It’s about as exciting as a “You’ll never believe what happened to me last night in Oblivion” story. The Cliff Notes overview is that WD’s Dual-Option Media Center drive has ruled the roost for a long time. We loved its high capacity and somewhat-easy-to-use software, but what really set it apart from the competition was its front-mounted USB port and 8-in-1 media reader.