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.
Back in the day (as in, before solid state drives), Western Digital's VelociRaptor line was the cat's meow in terms of high speed storage. Fast and expensive, VelociRaptors were the tool of choice by power users willing to drop a bit of extra coin for better performance. Flash forward to today and you'll find SSDs are the popular option among power users, but just like billionaire InGen CEO John Hammond brought back dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, Western Digital has injected new DNA into its VelociRaptor line and is now shipping its most capacious mutation to date.
HGST, the company formerly known as Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, is wasting no time in showing new owner Western Digital how it rolls in the storage space by unveiling what it claims is the world's first 4TB enterprise-class hard drive family. The Ultrastar 7K4000 represents a new generation of 512e Advanced Format drives and offers up oodles of storage space for both traditional enterprise customers and the ever growing cloud/Internet market.
Western Digital would like nothing more than to finalize its proposed takeover of Hitachi's hard drive business, and to facilitate the process, WD agreed to transfer an asset package to rival Toshiba to ease concerns of regulatory agencies. The package includes equipment and intellectual property (IP) that will enable Toshiba to build and sell 3.5-inch hard drives for desktops, consumer electronics (things like DVRs), and near-line (business critical) applications.
If you've built or upgraded a rig recently, you probably struggled with whether to spend your money on oodles of storage (mechanical hard drive) or raw speed (solid state drive). You're not alone. Ultrabook makers find themselves in the same boat, and rather than choose one over the other, hybrid hard drives may provide the compromise between cheap(er) storage and fast performance they're looking for.
Now is not the time to be dealing with a faulty hard drive needing to be replaced, nor has it been for the past several months. That's because severe floods in Thailand in late 2011 left HDD manufacturers in bad shape, ultimately leading to a shortage of hard drives and higher costs for consumers. Relief is coming, but not for at least a couple more quarters, according to IHS iSuppli.
A new year means a fresh start, and a fresh start entails putting 2011's skyrocketing HDD prices behind us, right? Not quite. Seagate released its quarterly financial results yesterday, and although the report left investors cheering -- Seagate pocketed $3.2 billion in revenue despite last year's catastrophic floods -- things are looking a bit bleaker for end users. Seagate fully expects the hard drive shortage to continue until the end of 2012 as manufacturers struggle to catch up to consumer demand.
Blaming lackluster sales on the Thailand floods is the new black. Of course, the rising waters definitely affected washed-out HDD manufacturers with facilities in the Asian country; sales forecasts for PCs in general have also been reduced thanks to skyrocketing storage costs. Now, even AMD and Nvidia have started blaming the HDD shortage for a dip in quarterly GPU revenues. In case you're new here, we'd like to point out that GPUs don't use HDDs.
Western Digital's hard drive operations in Thailand spent part of the company's second fiscal quarter ended December 30, 2011 waterlogged after severe flooding ravaged the area, but if it was time to sink or swim, WD chose the latter. Remarkably, the hard drive maker still managed to ship 28.5 million HDD units during its second fiscal quarter, pulling in $2 billion in revenue and profiting $145 million.