AnandTech | Samsung SSD XP941 Review: The PCIe Era Is Here

Mini PCI-Express Connector on Inspiron 11z Mot...
Mini PCI-Express Connector on Inspiron 11z Motherboard, Front (Photo credit: DandyDanny)

I don’t think there is any other way to say this other than to state that the XP941 is without a doubt the fastest consumer SSD in the market. It set records in almost all of our benchmarks and beat SATA 6Gbps drives by a substantial margin. It’s not only faster than the SATA 6Gbps drives but it surpasses all other PCIe drives we have tested in the past, including OCZ’s Z-Drive R4 with eight controllers in RAID 0. Given that we are dealing with a single PCIe 2.0 x4 controller, that is just awesome.

via AnandTech | Samsung SSD XP941 Review: The PCIe Era Is Here.

Listen well as you pine away for your very own SSD SATA drive. One day you will get that new thing. But what you really, really want is the new, NEW thing. And that my friends is quite simply the PCIe SSD. True the enterprise level purchasers have had a host of manufacturers and models to choose from in this form factor. But the desktop market cannot afford Fusion-io products at ~15K per card fully configured. That’s a whole different market there. RevoDrive has had a wider range of products that go from heights of Fusion-io down to the top end Gamer market with the RevoDrive R-series PCIe drives. But those have always been SATA drives piggy-backed onto a multi-lane PCIe card (4x or 8x depending on how many controllers were installed onboard the card). Here now the evolutionary step of dumping SATA in favor of a more native PCIe to NAND memory controller is slowly taking place. Apple has adopted it for the top end Mac Pro revision (the price and limited availability has made it hard to publicize this architectural choice). It has also been adopted in the laptops available since Summer 2013 that Apple produces (and I have the MacBook Air to prove it). Speedy, yes it is. But how do I get this on my home computer?

Anandtech was able to score an aftermarket card through a 3rd party in Australia along with a PCIe adapter card for that very Samsung PCIe drive. So where there is a will, there is a way. From that purchase of both the drive and adapter, this review of the Samsung PCIe drive has come about. And all one can say looking through all the benchmarks is we have not seen anything yet. Drive speeds which have been the bottle-neck in desktop and mobile computing since the dawn of the Personal Computer are slowly lifting. And not by a little but by a lot. This is going to herald a new age in personal computers that is as close to former Intel Chairman, Andy Grove’s 10X Effect. Samsung’s PCIe native SSD is that kind of disruptive, perspective altering product that will put all manufacturers on notice and force a sea change in design and manufacture.

As end users of the technology SSD’s with SATA interfaces have already had a big time impact on our laptops and desktops. But what I’ve been writing about and trying to find signs of ever since the first introduction of SSD drives is the logical path through the legacy interfaces. Whether it was ATA/BIOS or the bridge chips that glue the motherboard to the CPU, a number of “old” architecture items are still hanging around on the computers of today. Intel’s adoption of UEFI has been a big step forward in shedding the legacy bottleneck components. Beyond that native on CPU controllers for PCIe are a good step forward as well. Lastly the sockets and bridging chips on the motherboard are the neighborhood improvements that again help speed things up. The last mile however is the dumping of the “disk” interace, the ATA/SATA spec as a pre-requisite for reading data off of a spinning magnetic hard drive. We need to improve that last mile to the NAND memory chips and then we’re going to see the full benefit of products like the Samsung PCIe drive. And that day is nearly upon us with the most recent motherboard/chipset revision from Intel. We may need another revision to get exactly what we want, but the roadmap is there and all the manufacturers had better get on it. As Samsung’s driving this revolution,…NOW.

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Intel looks to build ultra-efficient mobile chips Apple cant ignore

English: Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel
Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During Intels annual investor day on Thursday, CEO Paul Otellini outlined the companys plan to leverage its multi-billion-dollar chip fabrication plants, thousands of developers and industry sway to catch up in the lucrative mobile device sector, reports Forbes.

via Intel looks to build ultra-efficient mobile chips Apple cant ignore (Apple Insider)

But what you are seeing is a form of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) being spread about to sow the seeds of mobile Intel processors sales. The doubt is not as obvious as questioning the performance of ARM chips, or the ability of manufacturers like Samsung to meet their volume targets and reject rates for each new mobile chip. No it’s more subtle than that and only noticeable to people who know details like what design rule Intel is currently using versus that which is used by Samsung or TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.) Intel is currently just releasing its next gen 22nm chips as companies like Samsung are still trying to recoup their investment in 45nm and 32nm production lines. Apple is just now beginning to sample some 32nm chips from Samsung in iPad 2 and Apple TV products. It’s current flagship model iPad/iPhone both use a 45nm chip produced by Samsung. Intel is trying to say that the old generation technology while good doesn’t have the weight and just massive investment in the next generation chip technology. The new chips will be smaller, energy efficient, less expensive all the things need to make higher profit on consumer devices using them. However, Intel doesn’t do ARM chips, it has Atom and that is the one thing that has hampered any big design wins in cellphone or tablet designs to date. At any narrow size of the design rule, ARM chips almost always use less power than a comparably sized Atom chip from Intel. So whether it’s really an attempt to spread FUD, can easily be debated one way or another. But the message is clear, Intel is trying to fight back against ARM. Why? Let’s turn back the clock to March of this year in a previous article also appearing in Apple Insider:

Apple could be top mobile processor maker by end of 2012 (Apple Insider, March 20, 2012)

This article is referenced in the original article quoted at the top of the page. And it points out why Intel is trying to get Apple to take notice of its own mobile chip commitments. Apple designs its own chips and has the manufacturing contracted out to a foundry. To date Samsung has been the sole source of the A-processors used in iPhones/iPod/iPad devices as Apple is trying to get TSMC up to speed to get a second source. Meanwhile sales of the Apple devices continues to grow handsomely in spite of these supply limits. More important to Intel is the blistering growth in spite of being on older foundry technology and design rules. Intel has a technological and investment advantage over Samsung now. They do not have a chip however that is BETTER than Apple’s in house designed ARM chip. That’s why the underlying message for Intel is that it has to make it’s Atom chip so much better than an A4, A5, A5X at ANY design ruling that Apple cannot ignore Intel’s superior design and manufacturing capability. Apple will still use Intel chips, but not in its flagship products until Intel achieves that much greater level of technical capability and sophistication in its Mobile microprocessors.

Twin-track development plan for Intel’s expansion into smartphones (The Register, May 11, 2012)

Intel is planning a two-pronged attack on the smartphone and tablet markets, with dual Atom lines going down to 14 nanometers and Android providing the special sauce to spur sales. 

Lastly, Ian Thomson from The Register weighs in looking at what the underlying message from Intel really is. It’s all about the future of microprocessors for the consumer market. However the emphasis in this article is that Android OS devices whether they be phones or tablets or netbooks will be the way to compete AGAINST Apple. But again it’s not Apple as such it’s the microprocessor Apple is using in it’s best selling devices that scares Intel the most. Intel has since its inception been geared towards the ‘mainstream’ market selling into Enterprises and the Consumer area for years. It has milked the desktop PC revolution as it helped create it more or less starting with its forays into integrated micro-processor chips and chipsets. It reminds me a little of the old steel plants that existed in the U.S. during the 1970s as Japan was building NEW steel plants that used a much more energy efficient design, and a steel making technology that created  a higher quality product. So less expensive higher quality steel was only possible by creating brand new steel plants. But the old line U.S. plants couldn’t justify the expense and so just wrapped up and shutdown operations all over the place. Intel while it is able to make that type of investment in newer technology is still not able to create the energy saving mobile processor that will out perform an ARM core cpu.

Apple A5 from the Apple TV 3 – and an iPad 2! » Chipworks

Pictures of the two different A5 chips
From: 9to5mac, the two Apple A5 cpus in question

Not only did Apple roll out a new processor that was not what it was advertised to be, but it also snuck in a new process technology for the manufacturing of this new A5. The previous generation A5, part number APL0498, was manufactured on Samsung Semiconductors’ 45 nm LP CMOS process. This new A5 processor is manufactured on Samsung’s new 32 nm high-k metal gate, gate first, LP CMOS process technology.

via Update – Apple A5 from the Apple TV 3 – and an iPad 2! » Technology Blog » Chipworks.

Check out the article at the Chipworks website, just follow the link above. They have a great rundown of what they discovered in their investigation of the most recent Apple A5 chips. These chips are appearing in a newly revised AppleTV but have also appeared in more recently manufactured Apple iPad 2 as well. There was some amount of surprise that Apple didn’t adopt a shrunk down die ruling for the A5X used in the iPad 3. Most of the work went into the integrated graphics of the A5X as it was driving a much higher rez ‘Retina’-like display.

Very, very sneaky of Apple to slip in the next generation smaller die size on a ‘hobby’ product like the Apple TV. This is proof positive that when someone says something is a hobby, it isn’t necessarily so. I for one am both heartened and intrigued that Apple is attempting to get a 32nm processor out there on their ‘low power’ low cost products. Now that this part has also been discovered in the more recently constructed Apple iPad 2 units, I wonder what kind of heat, battery life differences there are versus an early model iPad 2 using the A5 part number APL0498?

Keeping up with the Samsungs is all important these days and Apple has got to keep its CPU die rulings in step with the next generation of of chip fabrication giants. Intel is pushing 22nm, Samsung has been on 32nm for a while and then there’s Apple sitting 1 or 2 generations behind the cutting edge. I fear this may have resulted in some of the heat issues that were first brought to people’s attention by Consumer Reports weeks after the introduction of the iPad 3. With any luck and process engineering speed, the A5X can jump ship to the 32nm fabrication line at Samsung sooner rather than later.

Samsung: 2 GHz Cortex-A15 Exynos 5250 Chip

Like during the Cold War, there’s always a technology arms race going on in the background. This arms race literally is between licensees of ARM Holdings Inc. ARM cpu architecture. Samsung vs. Apple and now Samsung is starting up work using the latest ARM Cortex A15 cpu. While there are some interesting new features available within the A15 Samsung appears to be aiming straight at the performance high end. Read On:

Samsung also previewed a 2 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 application processor, the Exynos 5250, also designed on its 32-nm process. The company said that the processor is twice as fast as a 1.5 GHz A9 design without having to jump to a quad-core layout.

via Samsung Reveals 2 GHz Cortex-A15 Exynos 5250 Chip.

Deutsch: Offizielles Logo der ARM-Prozessorarc...
Image via Wikipedia

More news on the release dates and the details off Samsung’s version of the ARM Cortex A15 cpu for mobile devices. Samsung is helping ramp up performance by shrinking the design rule down to 32nm, and in the  A15 cpu dropping two out of the four possible cores. This choice is to make room for the integrated graphics processor. It’s a deluxe system on a chip that will no doubt give any A9 equipped tablet a run for its money. Indications at this point by Samsung are that the A15 will be a tablet only cpu and not adapted to smartphone use.

Early in the Fall there were some indications that the memory addressing of the Cortex A15 would be enhanced to allow larger memories (greater than 4GBytes) to be added to devices. As it is now memory addressing isn’t a big issue as memory extensions (up to 40bits Large Physical  Address Extensions-LPAE) are allowed under the current generation Cortex A9. However the Instructions are still the same 32 bit Instruction Set longtime users of the ARM architecture are familiar with, and as always are backward compatible with previous generation software. It would appear that the biggest advantage to moving to Cortex A15 would be the potential for higher clock rates, decent power management and room to grow on the die for embedded graphics.

Apple in it’s designs using the Cortex processors has stayed one generation behind the rest of the manufacturers and used all possible knowledge and brute force to eek out a little more power savings. Witness the iPad battery life still tops most other devices on the market. By creating a fully customized Cortex A8, Apple has absolutely set the bar on power management on die, and on the motherboard as well. If Samsung decides to go the route of pure power and clock, but sacrifices two cores to get the power level down I just hope they can justify that effort with equally amazing advancements in the software that runs on this new chip. Whether it be a game or better yet a snazzy User Interface, they need to differentiate themselves and try to show off their new cpu.

Samsung develops mini-card SSDs may drop 1.8″ HDD

Industry insiders in Taiwan today have claimed Samsun is dumping it’s 1.8″ Hard Drives in favor of providing devices like the Mini Card based Solid State Disk drives.

The Mini PCI Express or Mini Card form factor is available as an expansion slot on many PCs. Samsung is manufacturing Flash Drives in the Mini Card format using it’s latest Flash chips. Compared to traditional 2.5″ Flash Drives from Intel and others, Mini Card devices are going to consume a little less battery power. I wonder if any netbook sized laptops have the MiniCard expansion slots built in. It might prove to be a good marketing direction if enough manufacturers decide to add open slots to their motherboard designs. I also know that Samsung manufactuers 1.8″ Hard Drives and at one point that was the preferred form factor for netbook devices. It was also heavily used by Apple iPods. Getting rid of a SATA or PATA disk controller is a good thing. Hopefully connecting to the Bridge chips through PCIe might provide better throughput than going through a disk controller then through the same Bridge chips.

Mini PCI Express Card aka Mini Card
Mini PCI Express Card aka Mini Card

The denser memory also permits a level of storage that isnt normally found in this class with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities coming on launch. All of them use just 0.3W of power and so contribute little to the total power drain.

via: Electronista