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Western Digital Bets Big on RISC-V with Own Processor, Other Innovations

Image credit: Western DigitalImage credit: Western Digital

At the RISC-V Summit, Western Digital (WD) announced three open-source innovations related to the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA): a new open source RISC-V CPU core, an open standard initiative for cache coherent memory over a network, and an open source RISC-V instruction set simulator.

WD Developed Its Own RISC-V CPU Core

WD announced that it has built its own RISC-V core, which it calls “SweRV,” and that it intends to open source it. The CPU core features a two-way superscalar design, 32-bit in-order architecture, and nine stage pipeline.

The company claims performance of 4.9 CoreMarks/MHz, a clock speed of up to 1.8GHz on a 28nm CMOS process technology. WD will initially use the processor in its flash controllers and SSDs. WD expects the open sourcing of the core to “drive development of new data-centric applications such as Internet of Things (IoT), secure processing, industrial controls and more.”

Other RISC-V Innovations

WD also announced the “OmniXtend,” which is a new open approach to providing cache coherent memory over an Ethernet fabric, according to the company. It’s a memory-centric system architecture that provides open standard interfaces for access and data sharing across different types of processors, including CPUs, GPUs, machine learning accelerators, FPGAs, and others. The OmniXtend solution also offers support for future advanced fabrics that connect compute, storage, memory, and I/O components.

Finally, the company announced its open sourceSweRV Instruction Set Simulator (ISS), a program that simulates the execution of instructions on the SweRV processor. WD itself used the ISS to validate the design of the SweRV core with more than 10 billion instructions executed. WD expects the SweRV core and its corresponding simulator will advance the adoption of the open source RISC-V ISA.

Western Digital Bets on RISC-V ISA

Western Digital is one of the founding members of the RISC-V Foundation, which was created back in 2015. The foundation also includes companies such as AMD, Google, IBM, Nvidia, NXP, and Qualcomm.

Last year, WD committed to shipping over one billion RISC-V cores in its storage devices, per year. Eventually, the company aims to replace all the microcontrollers in its products with RISC-V cores, which should double the number of shipped RISC-V cores to over two billion a year.

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Best CPU Coolers 2018: Air and Liquid

Whether you’re aiming for ultimate overclocks or just a PC that doesn’t get noisy under load, choosing the right CPU cooler is an important decision in any PC build or upgrade that can make a big difference in temperatures and noise. If your existing cooler can’t keep your chip’s temps under control, that could mean slower performance and / or a shorter lifespan for your precious CPU, and no one wants that.
That said, you don’t have to splurge on a massive tower cooler or closed-loop liquid chiller with a giant radiator unless you’ve got an extremely high-end CPU (like AMD’s Threadripper chips or high-end Intel Core X models) and /or you’re trying to push your CPU right to the edge of its overclocking limits. A budget-to-mid-range cooler is usually best for most builders, whether that be an air cooler with a stack of metal fins, or liquid-filed AIO with a one-or-two-fan radiator.
If you’re unsure whether you want air cooling or a liquid-cooled AIO, there are a few things to consider. Big air coolers tend to take up more internal space in your case, particularly when it comes to vertical clearance off the motherboard. They can also be louder and less efficient at moving heat away from your CPU and out of the chassis, though that’s not always the case. Air coolers also tend to cost less than AIOs, though that line is blurring as well.
AIO coolers can move more heat with fewer fans, thanks to an internal pump that moves heated liquid to a radiator, which gets mounted on one of the outside edges of your chassis. AIOs need less clearance above the CPU, so they can be a good option for slim cases, though you’ll still need a place to mount your radiator. AIO coolers can get expensive, particularly for powerful models with big 360mm radiators. But compact 120mm models can sometimes be found at similar—or even lower—prices than good air coolers. Again, AIO coolers can be quieter than air coolers, but you shouldn’t assume that’s the case. Be sure to check the results of our acoustic tests in our reviews before buying.
Why Trust Us
We’ve tested hundreds of coolers over the years, from massive RGB-lit luxury AIOs to tiny to low-profile models built for slim home theater PCs (HTPCs). We install each cooler in our test system and measure airflow, temperature, and noise at multiple settings.
Below you’ll find our favorites, broken out by size type and size. Note that most modern coolers support most modern CPUs and sockets. The main exception is AMD’s high-end Threadripper chips and their TR4 socket. Because these CPUs are larger than anything else in the consumer processor market, they require a larger contact plate for cooling. For this reason, you generally need coolers specially designed for Threadripper chips. We include picks for these as well.
Quick Shopping Tips
When choosing a CPU cooler, consider the following:
Own a recent Ryzen CPU? You may not need to buy a cooler, even for overclocking. All Ryzen 2000-series processors and some older Ryzen models ship with coolers, and many of them can handle moderate overclocks. It you want the best clock speed possible, you’ll still likely want to buy an aftermarket cooler, but for many Ryzen owners, that won’t be necessary.
If opting for a large air cooler, be sure to check clearances before buying. Big coolers and low-profile models can bump up against tall RAM and even VRM heatsinks sometimes. And tall coolers can butt up against your case door or window, even if your case isn’t very compact. Be sure to check the dimensions and advertised clearances of any cooler before buying.
Remember that, all else being equal, more fans=better cooling, but more noise. The coolers that do the absolute best job of moving warm air away from your CPU and out of your case are also often the loudest. If fan noise is a problem for you, you’ll want a cooler that does a good job of balancing noise and cooling. We test for this in all our reviews.
RGB lights can be nice, but make sure there’s a way to turn them off. Many coolers these days include RGB fans and / or lighting. This can be a fun way to customize the look of your PC. But be sure there’s a way, either via a built-in controller or when plugging the cooler in to a compatible RGB motherboard header, to turn the lights off without turning off the PC. Chances are there will be times (say, when you’re watching a movie in the dark) when you’ll wan to turn off the RGBs, but leave your PC running.
Best Big Air CPU Cooler
BE QUIET! DARK ROCK 4

PROS
Strong air-cooling performance
Quality build and design
Quiet operation
Supports most current CPU sockets
CONS
Premium price
Not as quiet as other coolers
VERDICT
The Dark Rock 4 is an excellent, if spendy, heatpipe air cooler. It will be a majestic presence in any PC build designed to show it off.
REVIEW
Amazon India
₹8441.41
VIEW
Amazon India
₹10062.25
VIEW
Alternate:

Noctua NH-D15 SE-AM4
$89.95
Newegg
Best Mid-size Air CPU Cooler
COOLER MASTER MASTERAIR MA410M
EDITOR’S CHOICE tom’s Hardware

PROS
Excellent cooling performance
Mid-size cooler occupies less space
Thermal probe provides thermal load display via RGB lighting
CONS
Fans kick up a bit more noise than others by comparison
VERDICT
The Cooler Master MasterAir MA410M impresses as an excellent-performing, mid-size heatpipe cooler accompanied by RGB lighting capability and a quasi-rugged stance atop any gaming build.
4.5/5
REVIEW
Amazon India
₹7835
VIEW
Best Low-Profile Air CPU Cooler
REEVEN RC-1001 BRONTES

PROS
Cheap
Quiet
Performs as well as larger rivals while occupying less space
CONS
No support for 130W CPUs including Intel LGA 2011x sockets
VERDICT
At only $40, the Reeven RC-1001 Brontes blows away the competition by matching the performance of larger downdraft style coolers, while occupying a minimum amount of space. Thanks to its small size, the Brontes should be a perfect choice for all but the smallest of cases.
4/5
REVIEW
$34.99
Newegg
Best AMD Threadripper Air CPU Cooler
NOCTUA NH-U14S
EDITOR’S CHOICE tom’s Hardware

PROS
Excellent performance
Very low noise levels
Simple, secure installation
CONS
Premium price
Tall cooler height poses compatibility issues in smaller cases
VERDICT
For those looking for a high-quality, high-performing, low-noise air cooling solution for AMD Threadripper, the Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3 makes the decision easy.
4.5/5
REVIEW
Amazon India
₹8799
VIEW
Amazon India
₹14530
VIEW
Amazon India
₹22026
VIEW

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HTC Vive Wireless Adapter Review: No Tether, No AMD

On its own, HTC Vive, with its room-scale VR capability, offers an immersive VR experience that transports you into virtual worlds. However, there’s an ever-present cable you must keep track of that keeps you tethered to the real world. The Vive Wireless Adapter solves that problem and allows you to forget about the physical world and experience VR without worrying about stepping on or tripping over a wire.

The freedom that the Vive Wireless Adapter offers makes the headset feel like a whole new product. It is wonderfully freeing to play a game like Sword Master VR, where you’re constantly spinning around to engage opponents that sneak up on your flank, or Space Pirate Trainer, where you’re always moving frantically. VR is all about immersion, and to me, the tether cable dangling at my feet has always been the biggest distraction from the virtual world.

The wireless kit gives you the freedom to step into a new world and ditch the physical anchor that keeps you tied to reality, and there’s no question that once you cut the cord, you won’t want to go back to a wired VR experience. The problem is, the wireless system doesn’t always work the way it should.

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We absolutely love the untethered VR experience and would love to recommend it to anyone. However, right now, this product isn’t right for everyone, because it struggles with compatibility issues, particularly with Ryzen systems.

We experienced several problems with the Vive Wireless Adapter when it was connected to a Ryzen-powered system, including but not limited to signal drops that resulted in blank frames, complete loss of image signal and noticeable latency. Performance was strong on two Intel-powered systems we tried, but after a software update, we also experienced problems connecting to the Vive Pro from these computers. In other words, if you use a Ryzen-powered computer or connect to a Vive Pro rather than a regular Vive, you may want to wait for updates.

HTC VIVE WIRELESS ADAPTER

PROS

  • No tripping hazards
  • Less risk of equipment damage
  • Unobstructed movement

CONS

  • Short battery life
  • Compatibility issues with Ryzen, Vive Pro

VERDICT

The Vive Wireless Adapter upgrade kit is a fantastic upgrade that existing Vive owners should strongly consider, but compatibility issues with AMD hardware (and the company’s own Vive Pro) hold it back.

3.5/5

$299.89Newegg

Wireless Vive Adapter Specs

Dimensions 7.87 x 3.81 x 1.59 inches (200 x 96.65 x 40.43mm)
Weight Adapter: 125g
Battery: 230g
Battery Life Up to 2.5 hours
Common Interfaces For Vive: HDMI, USB, DC
For Vive Pro: Proprietary single port
For battery: USB

The Technology Behind the Wireless Vive Adapter

HTC’s Vive Wireless Adapter is the product of a three-way collaboration between HTC, DisplayLink and Intel.

DisplayLink created the video compression technology that enables the transmission, which it first introduced to the world at CES 2017. DisplayLink’s solution can handle data transmissions up to 24Gb/s, which is approximately four times the bandwidth needed to drive a Vive headset. Theoretically, it should provide ample bandwidth to scale up to future high-resolution headsets. Indeed, DisplayLink said the technology could scale to support dual 4K displays at up to 120Hz, which means it could be adapted to support other headsets, such as the Pimax 5K+ or Pimax 8K ultra-wide headsets.

Intel also played a critical role in developing the Vive Wireless Adapter. The company adapted its WiGig technology to enable wireless communication from the host PC to the untethered headset. Intel introduced WiGig at IDF 2014 and touted it as a wireless peripheral dock of sorts, but the technology failed to gain traction in that market. With the emergence of VR headsets, Intel saw an opportunity to revive the development of its high-bandwidth wireless data transmission solution.

Setting up the Vive Wireless Adapter

HTC’s wireless upgrade kit is a four-part solution, which includes a receiver that you attach to the headset, a WiGig PCIe card to install in your computer, a WiGig wireless Link Box and an external battery pack to power the device.

HTC’s instructions, which you can find here, suggest installing the WiGig card first. The expansion card features a PCIe x1 interface, which should make it compatible with any PCIe slot in your motherboard as long as it supports PCIe Gen3. HTC noted that some motherboards might have compatibility issues and suggests trying a different slot if that occurs.

With the expansion card installed, attach the wireless Link Box tether to the thread on the back of the card, and position the camera to look over your play area. The camera features a standard ¼ thread so that you can attach it to a tripod, or you can use the included mount, which can attach to any LCD monitor.

Receiver Attachment

The wireless receiver features two large antennas, which protrude from each side of the device. On the top, you’ll find a power button shaped like the Vive logo and an LED status light. The bottom of the receiver features touch fastener straps and a leather strap that wraps around the rear of the Vive’s head strap to secure it in place.

The wireless adapter includes a 12-inch-long tether cable to replace the 10-foot tether that comes with the Vive. The shorter cable attaches to the top of the wireless adapter and stretches across the top strap to the Vive headset. HTC left enough slack in the cables so that you can still adjust the fasteners on the top strap.

To remove the old cable, slide the port cover towards the front of the headset until it separates from the device and carefully remove one plug at a time. When you replace the cable, make sure to place the USB cord in the central port, not the accessory port on the side.

Vive & Vive Pro Support

HTC designed the Vive Wireless adapter to support the original Vive headset and the Vive Pro. The company ensured that the receiver device would work with the fabric head strap or the Deluxe Audio Head Strap for the original Vive without any additional accessories, but you do need additional parts to hook it up to a Vive Pro (more on that in the next section).

There are two slots on the bottom of the wireless adapter that hooks onto the rigid section of the Deluxe strap. The receiver also includes a hook that enables you to hang the receiver on the cable routing loop on the stock Vive’s fabric strap.

Vive Pro Owners Need More Parts

If you have a Vive Pro, the setup process is slightly different, a little bit more involved and more expensive.The Vive Pro requires an additional purchase on top of the adapter. The $60 Vive Pro Attach Kit includes a short Vive Pro cable, a cushion for the rear of the head strap and a replacement for the bottom section of the Vive Wireless adapter.

The new bottom section features a different style of hook and fastener strap, which are compatible with the Vive Pro’s rigid strap. You must remove the original plate, which is held with three screws, and replace it with the Vive Pro-compatible part.

The Vive Pro upgrade kit also includes a foam piece that should be used to replace the triangular section found on the Vive Pro’s rear. Implementing the cushion adds support to the overhead strap and gives you a place to secure the wireless adapter. It also provides a barrier between your head and the receiver, which can get hot during extended use.

The Vive Wireless Adapter features a set of ports on the top for the original Vive’s 3-in-1 tether cable, which allows the short tether to stretch across the top of your head. The Vive Pro’s single cable connects to the bottom of the wireless adapter, and the cable runs along the side of the head strap like the stock Vive Pro tether cable.

External Battery Pack

The Vive Wireless Adapter gets its power from a lithium-ion battery, but HTC didn’t cram the cells into the wireless receiver. Instead, HTC opted for an external battery source, which has pros and cons. Leaving the battery cells out keeps the weight down, which is especially important for a head-mounted device. But a head-mount option would have been nice to have in order to condense the setup into one piece.

It’s easy to forget about the battery pack when you pull the headset off, which could lead to damage to the cable, battery pack, or wireless receiver. Moreover, using a tethered battery pack to untether your headset from the battery pack’s USB cable seems somewhat counterintuitive and at least a little bit ironic.

The Vive wireless adapter’s battery pack is a standard HTC PowerBank with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 compatibility, which slips into a plastic holster that you can attach to your belt or your pocket. The tethered battery doesn’t really get in the way, but it does limit your wardrobe options. The pack weighs 230g, which is more than enough to bring your pants to the ground while you’re playing if you don’t have a belt on. Don’t expect to use a wireless Vive headset with sweatpants or PJs on.

The included PowerBank holds enough juice to keep the Vive running for close to 2.5 hours, and after blowing through a battery, I would welcome a much larger pack. HTC does offer extra PowerBanks, and I recommend picking up at least one, so you always have a charged pack ready.

Vive Wireless Utility

The Vive Wireless Adapter requires an app to function. The Vive Wireless utility enables you to pair your transmitter with a receiver, while the software monitors the signal strength of the transmission. The software installation also includes the drivers that enable the WiGig and DisplayLink hardware in the wireless adapter

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Gigabyte Z390 Designare Review: High-End Excellence

Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 gets too little attention on the PC side, compared to its ubiquity on modern Macs. But that doesn’t mean every creative type prefers macOS or overpaying for someone else to design their system. Gigabyte’s Z390 Designare uses Intel’s latest Thunderbolt 3 controller to add DisplayPort 1.4 passthrough from discrete graphics cards, adds a couple PCIe switches to allow builders to choose between SLI or a single card plus dual NVMe cards connected directly to the CPU, and even adds 1.73Gb/s Wi-Fi to its dual Gigabit Ethernet. The only shortcoming we could find with this board is a 50MHz CPU overclocking deficiency on our test CPU, that only has 250MHz of room to overclock anyway.

Specifications

Socket LGA 1151
Chipset Intel Z390
Form Factor ATX
Voltage Regulator 13 Phases
Video Ports HDMI 1.4, (2) Thunderbolt (DP 1.4, 1.2)
USB Ports 10 Gbps: (2) Type-C (via Thunderbolt), (2) Type A
5Gb/s: (4) Type A; (2) USB 2.0
Network Jacks (2) Gigabit Ethernet (1x PCIe share), (2) Wi-Fi Antenna
Audio Jacks (5) Analog, (1) Digital Out
Legacy Ports/Jacks (1) PS/2
Other Ports/Jack DisplayPort In (for Thunderbolt passthrough)
PCIe x16 (3) v3.0 ( x16/x0/x4, x8/x8/x4, x8/x4*/x4*)
(*4-lane slot switchable from PCH to CPU)
PCIe x8
PCIe x4
PCIe x1 (2) v3.0
CrossFire/SLI 3x / 2x
DIMM slots (4) DDR4
M.2 slots (2) PCIe 3.0 x4^ / SATA*
(^Excludes ports 4-5, 0 : *4-5, 1)
U.2 Ports
SATA Ports (6) 6Gb/s (M.2-1 takes pts 4-5, M.2-2 pt 0 or 1)
USB Headers (1) 10Gb/s Type-C, (1) v3.0, (1) v2.0
Fan Headers (5) 4-Pin
Legacy Interfaces System (Beep-code) Speaker
Other Interfaces FP-Audio, RGB-LED
Diagnostics Panel
Internal Button/Switch ✗ / ✗
SATA Controllers Integrated (0/1/5/10)
Ethernet Controllers WGI211AT PCIe, WGI219V PHY
Wi-Fi / Bluetooth Intel 9560 802.11ac 2×2 (1.73Gb/s) / BT 5 Combo
USB Controllers JHL7540 Thunderbolt 3 PCIe 3.0 x4
HD Audio Codec ALC1220
DDL/DTS Connect
Warranty 3 Years

Power users, primarily computing enthusiasts who want to run professional applications from their PC, have always been a core part of the system builder community. It wasn’t so long ago that these users were rejecting clear side panels in favor of quiet cases, and the motherboards within those cases were nearly as dark when powered up as when powered off.

But as show system builders mingled flashing lights with gaming themes to promote the idea that a PC could look as flashy as is fast, that type of ostentatiousness was roundly rejected by those who didn’t want to see what was going on inside their case anyway. And then the tempered glass case trend happened. Tinted tempered glass combined the tasteful style of professional machines with a hint of the flashiness of traditional gaming PCs, while keeping the noise inside. Gigabyte’s Designare is a board designed for just that kind of build.

The Z390 Designare is packed with features that focus on creative types, like DisplayPort passthrough to support 8K resolutions via one of its two Thunderbolt 3 headers (assuming your graphics card can handle it). Buyers also get a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports and 1.73Gb/s Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 5.0, giving users the option to set the machine up as a network hub while alsosupporting their 8K display and a bunch of Thunderbolt 3 external drives with up to 40Gbps of total bandwidth.

There’s a bunch of other features jammed into the I/O panel of the Designare. You get a pair of USB 2.0 ports for a keyboard and mouse, a PS/2 port for a legacy keyboard or mouse, a pair of (red) USB 3.1 Gen2 ports for drives up to 10Gbps, and four (blue and yellow) USB 3 Gen1 ports for drives or other devices up to 5Gbps.

Gigabyte also has internal storage gurus covered. The PCIe x16 slots are delivered in a configuration that supports x16/x0/x4 and x8/x8/x4 configurations (via CPU/CPU/PCH controllers). And its third x16-length slot can be configured (via a firmware setting) to use the CPU’s PCIe controller, thereby circumventing the PCH’s limited bandwidth. Choosing this setting causes the third slot to steal four lanes from the second (x8/x4/x4), but sets up a perfect configuration for a single graphics card and two PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe drives. This might even be a better choice for three-way CrossFireX. Nvidia owners will be stuck with the default CPU/CPU/PCH connections however, since GeForce drivers require at least eight lanes per graphics card for SLI to be enabled.

Fewer slots mean fewer resource problems when it comes to M.2. Though the Z390 Designare has only two M.2 storage slots, its slots steal resources from only three SATA ports. The upper storage slot’s heat spreader conceals all six two-lane PCIe pathway switches for the modes discussed in the preceding paragraph. Above it, the CNVi Wi-Fi module appears in an odd location given its I/O panel antenna connectors. Below these slots are headers for front-panel audio, one RGB LED strip, a dual-port USB 2.0 front-panel header, two (of five) PWM fans, an Intel-spec front-panel button/LED group, and a front-panel extended group that supports a beep-code speaker and a legacy-spaced (three pin) power LED.

The Z390 Designare’s 12+1 phase voltage regulator is one iGPU-phase short of the 12+2 unit found on the Z390 Aorus Master, though we’re not sure that Intel’s integrated GPU needed the extra phase to begin with. Few high-end buyers have integrated GPU overclocking in mind. Other layout features include USB 3.0 and 3.1 Gen2 headers located above the top x16-slot’s center line, and forward-facing connectors for the six SATA ports and supplemental PCIe power. These features are all designed to ease card installation. Things that lack practical purpose in a finished build, such as power and reset buttons, have been omitted here. And while Gigabyte also omitted the Port 80 LCD display to reduce gaudiness, its occasionally-useful functionality for reporting error codes or temperatures has also been removed.

The Z390 Designare includes the usual driver and applications disc, hardware manual and software guide in the box, along with a Wi-Fi antenna, four SATA cables, a G Connector for easy connection of front-panel button and LED leads, and a cable to link a graphics card’s mini DisplayPort output to the motherboard’s DisplayPort input (for Thunderbolt 3 passthrough).

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Sony G Series Professional SSD Review: Endurance Comes At A Price

Sony isn’t the first name that comes to mind when we think of SSDs, but the company does have a few of them under its belt. The fact is, the company’s SSDs aren’t for most consumers as much as they are for the media professionals or prosumers. It isn’t surprising, then, that the Sony G Series Professional SSD is packed with endurance and boasts a ten-year warranty, much like the Samsung 850 PRO and SanDisk Extreme Pro that debuted four years ago.

Sony has adopted the endurance marketing tactic to convey its reliability to the prosumer market. As a media recording device with sequential read/write throughput of 550/500MB/s, the SV-GS48 excels. But beyond a big price tag, the SV-GS48 has little to offer for the typical PC gamer that doesn’t need higher endurance or the long ten-year warranty.

Product TBW DWPD Warranty
Sony G Series Professional SSD 480GB 1200 0.33 10 Years
Corsair Force MP510 480GB 800 0.44 5 Years
Samsung 860 PRO 512GB 600 0.33 5 Years
Samsung 860 EVO 500GB 300 0.16 5 Years
WD Blue 3D 500GB 200 0.18 3 Years
Crucial MX500 500GB 180 0.1 5 Years

Sony developed the SV-GS48 for media recording first and foremost. Specifically, Sony designed it for Atomos on-camera, portable recorders, and Blackmagic recorders. A sturdier connector that could stand the test of time with constant use is imperative for media professionals, so Sony beefed up the SATA connector: The G Series is rated to withstand up to 3,000 repeated insertions and removals. The G Series also has data protection technology that preserves the data on the drive, even if it is disconnected improperly or in the case of a power loss event.

Wear adds up quickly if you’re recording terabytes of video a month. Consumer drives with ratings of 100-400TBW can die within a year or two of constant use with extreme workloads. That’s why Sony included beefy ECC algorithms to help extend drive life beyond the norm. The 480GB model offers 1200TBW (terabytes written) of endurance, while the 960GB has a 2400TBW rating. That’s double the Samsung 860 PRO and almost a petabyte more than the newest 1TB Phison E12-powered M.2 SSDs.

Sony also optimized the firmware for extended sequential write workloads. This enables consistent write performance, which in turn allows users to record 4K RAW footage in high-end recorders. But it comes at a cost: due to the firmware tuning, 4K random performance is lower than the average mainstream SATA SSDs for desktop PCs.

Specifications

Product G Series Professional SSD 480GB G Series Professional SSD 960GB
Pricing $299.95 $533.35
Capacity (User / Raw) 480GB / 512GB 960GB / 1024GB
Form Factor 2.5″ 9.5mm 2.5″ 9.5mm
Interface / Protocol SATA 6.0 Gb/s / AHCI SATA 6.0 Gb/s / AHCI
Controller N/A N/A
DRAM DDR3L DDR3L
NAND Flash Toshiba 2D 15nm MLC Toshiba 2D 15nm MLC
Sequential Read 550 MB/s 550 MB/s
Sequential Write 500 MB/s 500 MB/s
Random Read N/A N/A
Random Write N/A N/A
Encryption N/A N/A
Endurance 1,200 TBW 2,400 TBW
Part Number SV-GS48 SV-GS96
Warranty 10-Years 10-Years

Sony rates the G Series for up to 550/500 MB/s of read/write throughput but doesn’t disclose random performance. Sony’s G Series Professional SSD comes in two capacities of 480GB and 960GB. They currently retail for $299.95 and $533.35, which is roughly double the price of the Samsung 860 PRO.

A Closer Look

Sony’s G Series Professional SSD connects to the host system or video recorder via the SATA 6Gb/s interface. It features a sleek black brushed metal finish and comes in a 2.5” 9.5mm form factor. It is slightly thicker than most modern mainstream SSDs, which are 7mm thick, but this isn’t a concern for its target market.

Sony isn’t disclosing the controller model, but we were able to track down the DRAM and NAND. The SV-GS48 has 512MB of DDR3L DRAM from SK Hynix and Toshiba’s planar 15nm TLC NAND flash. In all, there are eight 64GB NAND emplacements on the PCB. The SV-GS48 exposes 446GB of usable capacity after formatting

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Corsair H115i RGB Platinum Review: Bigger, Bolder, Brighter…Not Best

Corsair is hot off its announcement of the new Platinum line of coolers in the H100i RGB (240 AIO) and H115i RGB (280 AIO) lines. Corsair has illuminated the big H115i RGB Platinum model with full-coverage RGB accents in a pair of 140mm LED fans and bright backlighting for the CPU block faceplate. A larger radiator should automatically result in a higher performing liquid cooler, right?

With so much attention focused on customized lighting options, the H115i RGB Platinum with its 280 radiator (27% larger than typical 240 AIO’s) barely keeps up with some of the smaller 240 AIO’s currently available on the market today – including one from Corsair itself.

Corsair appeals to the masses by offering support for all current AMD and Intel desktop CPU sockets, including the Threadripper platform. The pump itself is technically PWM capable, but you can only control the pump speed via the included micro-USB to 9-pin motherboard header (sorry, there isn’t an adapter for USB type-A).

Otherwise, we’re met with the normal cooler-mounting kit we’ve become used to. The cooler also has snap-fit mounting brackets that slide around the waterblock rather than being secured with screws.

Specifications

Thickness 1.11″ / 25.1mm (2.28″ / 57.9mm w/fans)
Width 5.50″ / 140mm
Depth 12.7″ / 322mm
Pump Height 1.46″ / 37.08mm
Speed Controller Software, BIOS
Cooling Fans (2) 140 x 25mm
Connectors (1) SATA
(2) 4-pin PWM
(2) 4-pin RGB
(1) micro USB
Weight 83.7oz / 2372g
Intel Sockets 2066, 2011x
AMD Sockets AM2(+), AM3(+) AM4, FM1, FM2(+), TR4
Warranty 5 years

The base of the H115i RGB Platinum comes adorned with a rectangular patch of pre-applied thermal paste on the satin-finished copper cooling base. The mounting bracket seam is visible from the side. The mounting brackets slide into grooves at the base of the block, snapping into position on either side. As usual, a pair of 90-degree swivel fittings help make installation and tubing placement a bit easier.

A large 280 radiator cooling field needs proper airflow to achieve thermal dissipation Zen. Corsair ships a duo of ML140 PRO RGB LED fans to do the job. They use a 4-pin connector for lighting control, but the plugs are more proprietary and do not interconnect well with the normal RGB 4-pin cables found on many motherboards and other coolers. It seems Corsair would like to nudge you to use its ecosystem of lighting and fan control devices.

Installing the Corsair H115i RGB Platinum is rather straightforward, assuming your PC chassis supports a 2x140mm radiator. An RGB pigtail provides lighting connectivity between the pump housing and fans, while also providing PWM control using a 2-way splitter. The fans can be controlled by motherboard fan headers or a standalone fan controller instead.

Corsair’s iCUE software controls the RGB lighting effects, fan speeds, pump RPM, firmware updates, and peripheral and accessory customization. We used iCUE to update the H115i RGB Platinum’s firmware upon software install and device recognition. This resulted in a slightly increased pump RPM with the Extreme profile setting, which is where it remained throughout testing.

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Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G Review: Turing Goes Semi-Passive

Update, 11/23/18Due to depleted inventory of GeForce GTX 1080 Ti cards and falling prices on third-party Turing-based models, we are revisiting our impressions of Gigabyte’s GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G and updating value comparisons throughout the review.

Just weeks after the launch of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti cards, previous-gen 1080 Ti boards based on the Pascal architecture have almost completely disappeared.

Perhaps that’s alright, though. The least-expensive GeForce RTX 2080 now sells for $750 (£585 in the UK), which is still higher than the price Nvidia told us to expect when its Turing-based line-up debuted in the U.S., but substantially less expensive in the UK. And the Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G we’re reviewing today even includes a copy of Battlefield V. Clearly, Nvidia’s board partners are trying harder to drum up interest in GeForce RTX 2070 and 2080 (the 2080 Ti remains woefully overpriced).

When we originally published our review of the GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G, it was priced around $830 (£750 in the UK). In the weeks that followed, however, it fell to $750 (£585 in the UK). Those prices are far more attractive compared to Nvidia’s own Founders Edition design. After all, Gigabyte offers a highly-capable Windforce 3X thermal solution, a semi-passive fan mode for absolute silence at idle, configurable lighting, and a four-year warranty.

Meet The GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G

Despite the GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G’s commanding size, it’s not that heavy of a graphics card. Nvidia’s Founders Edition weighs 2.8 pounds (1.3 kg). The Zotac Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 AMP dips in at 2.5 pounds (1.2 kg). Meanwhile, our scale claims the Gigabyte card weighs just 2.12 pounds (0.98 kg). Less heft usually means a lighter heat sink cooling the GPU. But good fans can help counter a lack of mass.

The GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G measures 11.3 x 4.4 x 2 inches (28.7 x 11.3 x 5 cm), meaning it occupies three expansion slots worth of space on your motherboard (along with a bit of room above/behind the card due to its backplate). For some enthusiasts, this isn’t an issue. The extra width is used for a taller heat sink, which improves cooling. Gamers with smaller cases or multiple GPUs will have a harder time accommodating such a configuration though, especially when it exhausts waste heat out the card’s top and down toward the motherboard through vertically-oriented fins.

Gigabyte uses plastic gratuitously across its shroud, which houses three 82mm fans. These fans blow down through an array of aluminum fins split into three sections. The section closest to the display outputs sits up over the PCB. It doesn’t make contact with any on-board components, but rather helps dissipate thermal energy from four heat pipes touching the TU104 processor. The middle section rests on top of Nvidia’s GPU. Six pipes cross through it. Below the fins and heat pipes, a plate mounts to the PCB. Thermal pads between it and the GDDR6 modules help cool Micron’s memory. The third section is the largest, extending from the power circuitry out over the PCB’s back edge by almost a centimeter. It also has four pipes passing through, along with a shaped metal plate underneath drawing heat from the VRMs through pads.

The trio of fans, the six copper heat pipes, and the direct-touch sink combine to form what Gigabyte calls its Windforce 3X cooling system. As part of this system, the outside fans spin counter-clockwise, while the middle fan rotates clockwise. Turbulence is purportedly kept to a minimum, generating less competing airflow from adjacent fans. Then, at idle, the fans stop spinning altogether through a feature that Gigabyte calls 3D Active Fan. Enthusiasts who prefer to maintain lower idle temperatures can disable 3D Active Fan through Gigabyte’s Aorus Engine software. Frankly, the fans make so little noise at idle that we’d prefer to keep them spinning (even though the semi-passive mode is one of this card’s competitive advantages).

The Nvidia and Zotac cards we already reviewed are big and heavy, justifying base plates that help keep both cards rigid. Gigabyte’s doesn’t weigh as much, so it doesn’t run quite the same risk of flexing in a mobile LAN box. However, the GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G’s thermal solution moves a lot more relative to its PCB when you press on one side of the fan shroud or the other.

Gigabyte does add a metal plate to the back of its Gaming OC card. Seven screws keep it pinned up against the PCB, with thick chunks of thermal pad behind the GDDR6 memory and power circuitry helping circumvent hot-spots.

Up top, Gigabyte’s GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G hosts a single NVLink connection covered by a think piece of plastic, a company logo in the middle, and GeForce RTX branding on the other end. Downloadable RGB Fusion software allows you to control the color and effect of LED back-lighting the Gigabyte logo, similar to what we saw on Zotac’s Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 AMP. Eight- and six-pin power connectors are rotated 180 degrees to avoid conflict with the form-fitted heat sink, and special white LEDs mounted to the PCB light up to tell you if something is wrong with the auxiliary power. We only saw these illuminate at boot.

Display outputs on Gigabyte’s card match the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition: you get three full-sized DisplayPort 1.4 connectors, one HDMI 2.0 port, and VirtualLink support via USB Type-C. A fairly free-flowing grille isn’t functionally significant, unfortunately, since the cooler’s fins move air perpendicular to the bracket.

  GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G GeForce RTX 2080 FE GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FE
Architecture (GPU)
Turing (TU102) Turing (TU104) Turing (TU104) Pascal (GP102)
CUDA Cores
4352 2944 2944 3584
Peak FP32 Compute
14.2 TFLOPS 10.7 GFLOPS 10.6 TFLOPS 11.3 TFLOPS
Tensor Cores
544 368 368 N/A
RT Cores
68 46 46 N/A
Texture Units
272 184 184 224
Base Clock Rate
1350 MHz 1515 MHz 1515 MHz 1480 MHz
GPU Boost Rate
1635 MHz 1815 MHz 1800 MHz 1582 MHz
Memory Capacity
11GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6 11GB GDDR5X
Memory Bus
352-bit 256-bit 256-bit 352-bit
Memory Bandwidth
616 GB/s 448 GB/s 448 GB/s 484 GB/s
ROPs
88 64 64 88
L2 Cache
5.5MB 4MB 4MB 2.75MB
TDP
260W 225W 225W 250W
Transistor Count
18.6 billion 13.6 billion 13.6 billion 12 billion
Die Size
754 mm² 545 mm² 545 mm² 471 mm²
SLI Support
Yes (x8 NVLink, x2) Yes (x8 NVLink) Yes (x8 NVLink) Yes (MIO)

What lives under the GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G’s hood is already well-known. We dug deep into the TU104 graphics processor and its underlying architecture in Nvidia’s Turing Architecture Explored: Inside the GeForce RTX 2080. Gigabyte takes the same graphics processor with 2,944 of its CUDA cores enabled and bumps the typical GPU Boost rating up slightly to 1,815 MHz in Gaming mode and 1,830 MHz in OC mode (versus the Founders Edition card’s 1800 MHz). Eight gigabytes of GDDR6 memory move data at 14 Gb/s, matching Nvidia’s reference design. As you might expect, then, performance comparisons between the two models fall within a single-digit percentage variance.

How We Tested Gigabyte’s GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G

While many users will attach Gigabyte’s card to a system with the latest Intel or AMD processor, our graphics station still employs an MSI Z170 Gaming M7 motherboard with an Intel Core i7-7700K CPU at 4.2 GHz. The processor is complemented by G.Skill’s F4-3000C15Q-16GRR memory kit. Crucial’s MX200 SSD remains, joined by a 1.4TB Intel DC P3700 loaded down with games.

As far as competition goes, we can assume that GeForce RTX 2080 and all of the partner boards based on the same design are bested by GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and Titan V, both of which we have in our test pool. We also compare GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, Titan X, GeForce GTX 1080, GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, and GeForce GTX 1070 from Nvidia. AMD is represented by the Radeon RX Vega 64 and 56.

Our benchmark selection now includes Ashes of the Singularity: EscalationBattlefield 1Civilization VIDestiny 2, Doom, Far Cry 5,Forza Motorsport 7, Grand Theft Auto VMetro: Last Light ReduxRise of the Tomb RaiderTom Clancy’s The DivisionTom Clancy’s Ghost Recon WildlandsThe Witcher 3 and World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.

The testing methodology we’re using comes from PresentMon: Performance In DirectX, OpenGL, And Vulkan. In short, these games are evaluated using a combination of OCAT and our own in-house GUI for PresentMon, with logging via AIDA64.

All of the numbers you see in today’s piece are fresh, using updated drivers. For Nvidia, we’re using build 411.51 for GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and 2080. Zotac’s Gaming GeForce RTX 2080 AMP is tested on 411.70, while Gigabyte’s GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming OC 8G employs 416.34. The other cards were tested with build 398.82. Titan V’s results were spot-checked with 411.51 to ensure performance didn’t change. AMD’s cards utilize Crimson Adrenalin Edition 18.8.1, which was the latest at test time.

Interestingly, there is a bug in The Witcher 3 that was introduced a couple of builds ago. It causes flickering through our benchmark scene, where the background appears to go white and come back. This issue doesn’t seem to affect performance, but it’s certainly distracting. Nvidia released a hotfix driver on October 28 to address it

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PC Power & Cooling Silencer 1050W PSU Review: Affordable Yet Powerful

As the sun sets on profitable GPU-based cryptocurrency mining, the prices of high-capacity power supplies are in free-fall. Supply was simply too high as demand dropped off precipitously. As a result, this isn’t the best time for a manufacturer to introduce an enthusiast-oriented PSU. That isn’t stopping PC Power & Cooling, though. Fortunately, the brand’s Silencer 1050W serves up solid performance at a palatable price. It’s consequently able to attack its competition head-on.

The fully modular Silencer 1050W boasts an efficient High Power platform under its hood. In fact, this platform seems new and improved, since it offers better benchmark results than any of the other High Power models we’ve tested in the past.

PC Power & Cooling’s name is steeped in legend. The company offered one of the first independently regulated PSUs, along with the first redundant power system. It was also the first to hit 1kW of capacity. PC Power & Cooling sold to OCZ back in 2007. Seven years later, FirePower Technology acquired OCZ’s PSU division, which of course included PC Power & Cooling. But the brand hasn’t been particularly active lately, so we were pleasantly surprised when it asked us to review the Silencer 1050W.

The Silencer family includes two models a mere 150W apart in capacity, but priced much differently: the FPS1050-A5M00 we’re looking at today has a list price of $180, while the FPS1200-A5M00 is listed for $288. You pay more than $100 for 150W extra watts. That’s downright crazy.

The Silencer 1050W also features a single +12V rail, 100% Japanese capacitors rated at 105°C, and a 50°C maximum operating temperature for continuous output. PC Power & Cooling isn’t clear whether that spec covers full load, though. In our experience, it’s hard for even high-end PSUs to deliver full power continuously at 50°C. Recently, Seasonic had to de-rate its venerable Prime Ultra models, clarifying that continuous full load delivery is only possible at 40°C. They drop to 80% of their maximum-rated output at 50°C. If a capable platform like the Prime Ultra can’t muster a continuous full load at 50°C, you know the task isn’t an easy one.

Specifications

Manufacturer (OEM) High Power
Max. DC Output 1050W
Efficiency 80 PLUS Platinum, ETA-A (88-91%)
Noise LAMBDA-S++ (30-35 dB[A])
Modular ✓ (Fully)
Intel C6/C7 Power State Support
Operating Temperature
0 – 50°C
Over-Voltage Protection
Under-Voltage Protection
Over-Power Protection
Over-Current (+12V) Protection
Over-Temperature Protection
Short Circuit Protection
Surge Protection
Inrush Current Protection
Fan Failure Protection
No Load Operation
Cooling 135mm double ball-bearing fan (RL4Z B1352512H)
Semi-Passive Operation
Dimensions (W x H x D) 152 x 87 x 182mm
Weight 2 kg (4.41 lb)
Form Factor ATX12V v2.4, EPS 2.92
Warranty 10 years

This is an 80 PLUS Platinum-certified power supply; on the Cybenetics scale, it satisfies the ETA-A and LAMBDA-S++ requirements. Given the Silencer name, we were expecting a better LAMBDA rating. But we wouldn’t call this PSU noisy, either.

A double ball-bearing fan cools down the internals. A fluid dynamic bearing would have been quieter, but it wouldn’t have matched the DBB fan’s reliability in ambient environments warmer than 40°C. Thankfully, there is a semi-passive mode. It’s only a bummer that this mode cannot be turned off.

There are certainly smaller 1050W power supplies out there, so we’d consider this model portly. We do like its 10-year warranty though, matching the coverage you get from Corsair and EVGA. Only Seasonic offers longer warranties (on its Prime models). Still, we think that decade-long guarantees are overkill. They’ll only create problems for the companies offering them, which will eventually be passed down to customers.

Power Specifications

Rail 3.3V 5V 12V 5VSB -12V
Max. Power Amps 25 25 87.5 3 0.3
Watts 130 1050 15 3.6
Total Max. Power (W) 1050

The minor rails are stronger than they need to be for a typical enthusiast PC. Meanwhile, the +12V rail can deliver up to 87.5A. Fifteen watts of capacity from the 5VSB rail should suffice for a majority of users.

Cables & Connectors

Modular Cables
Description Cable Count Connector Count (Total) Gauge In Cable Capacitors
ATX connector 20+4 pin (600mm) 1 1 16-22AWG No
4+4 pin EPS12V (650mm) 1 1 16AWG No
8 pin EPS12V (650mm) 1 1 16AWG No
6+2 pin PCIe (2x600mm) 3 6 16AWG No
SATA (500mm+155mm+155mm+155mm) 3 12 18AWG No
Four-pin Molex (500mm+150mm+150mm) 2 6 18AWG No
AC Power Cord (1700mm) – C13 coupler 1 1 18AWG

It is nice to see thicker wires being used on the ATX, EPS, and PCIe connectors. The number of PCIe and peripheral connectors is adequate. Moreover, the distance between SATA and four-pin Molex connectors is ample at 15cm. It’s about time that a PSU gave us enough slack between those connectors, leaving nothing for us to complain about in this department.

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Low-Cost Meets Eight Cores: MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk Review

While the H370 and B360 chipsets launched mid-2018, Intel reserved its high-end Z390 to be paired with its new “ninth generation” Core-i-series LGA 1151 processors. What seemed to be a strategic move to assure motherboard manufacturers the time to beef up their voltage regulators for the new eight-core CPU models hasn’t trickled down to the newly-launched low-budget models, however. The MAG Z390 Tomahawk might be the perfect board for a less-complex CPU, but it’s not up to the task of pushing our Core i9-9900K to its performance potential.

Specifications

Socket LGA 1151
Chipset Intel Z390
Form Factor ATX
Voltage Regulator 9 Phases
Video Ports DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4
USB Ports 10 Gbps: (1) Type-C, (3) Type A, (2) USB 2.0
Network Jacks (2) Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Jacks (5) Analog, (1) Digital Out
Legacy Ports/Jacks (1) PS/2
Other Ports/Jack
PCIe x16 (3) v3.0 (x16/x4/x1)
PCIe x8
PCIe x4
PCIe x1 (2) v3.0
CrossFire/SLI 2x / ✗
DIMM slots (4) DDR4
M.2 slots (2) PCIe 3.0 x4^ / SATA*
(*Shares ports 2, 5-6; ^5-6)
U.2 Ports
SATA Ports (6) 6Gb/s (Port 2 shared w/SATA M.2-1, 5-6 w/M.2-2)
USB Headers (2) v3.0, (2) v2.0
Fan Headers (7) 4-Pin
Legacy Interfaces Serial COM Port, System (beep-code) Speaker
Other Interfaces FP-Audio, RGB-LED, D-LED, TPM, Chassis Intrusion
Diagnostics Panel
Internal Button/Switch ✗ / ✗
SATA Controllers Integrated (0/1/5/10)
Ethernet Controllers WGI211AT PCIe, WGI219V PHY
Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
USB Controllers
HD Audio Codec ALC1220
DDL/DTS Connect
Warranty 3 Years

A great many compromises go into making a Z-series board inexpensively, but most of those aren’t immediately apparent from a promo shot. We still see a dozen RGB LED’s grouped in fours, with eight behind the board’s surface and four more under the edge of the PCH heat sink. We still see three PCIe slots at x16 length. And we still see maximum leveraging of the Z390’s integrated features expressed as two USB 3.1 front-panel header, two NVMe M.2 slots, six SATA headers, and a Key-E “style” slot that supports CNVi wireless modules exclusively (it’s not like you can see the lackof PCIe or USB2.0 pathways for that).

Out back are four Gen2 USB 3.1 headers, again leveraging the chipset’s integrated features, along with a pair of USB 2.0 for your keyboard and mouse…or mouse and printer if you’re using the PS/2 port for your keyboard. We even get two ports for Intel Gigabit Ethernet controllers, along with the standard five-analog one-digital audio connections, DisplayPort and HDMI. And it’s not like gamers who use graphics cards care that the HDMI for integrated graphics supports 4k at only 24Hz.

Additional attention to the slots reveals that only one of these has a metal cover, which is intended to brace the slot against the weight of a heavy graphics card. The other long slots only have four and one lane in an x16/x4/x1 fixed configuration, because the pathway switches needed to add configuration options also add cost. We also have to question why a board designed with full clearance for longer cards at the center PCIe x1 slot has a closed-end connector…since an open-ended connector would have allowed users to install cards with larger interfaces (such as x4) in the same x1 mode as supported by the bottom slot.

To this point, we haven’t seen anything to dissuade budget-minded performance enthusiasts from buying the MAG Z390 Tomahawk, rather than one of MSI’s higher-priced models. The board even has a similar set of front-panel headers as its higher-end siblings, primarily missing the Gen2 front-panel USB 3.1 header that typically matches higher-priced cases. The lower edge features HD-Audio, one (of two) RGB LED strip, digital LED strip, three (of six) PWM-style fan, legacy nine-pin serial, and a pair of front-pane USB 2.0 headers with two ports each. The front-panel button/LED group remains the standard set by Intel around two decades ago, and a row of four pins above it are there for people who still use beep-code speakers.

It’s not until we look at the top that we see the most brutal of cost-saving efforts in the nine-phase voltage regulator, of which only six phases are devoted to CPU cores. Our familiarity with MSI products causes us to question whether we can even power eight cores with six of its phases, but users can rest assured that MSI has figured out a way to make it work: The board defaults to Intel’s theoretical 95W TDP by throttling back the frequency of its Core i9-9900K CPU.

MAG Z390 Tomahawk users can configure their board nearly any way they’d desire since there aren’t any major conflicts in component space. All card slots support cards of any length thanks to the forward-facing SATA ports and secondary front-panel USB 3.0 headers, and while the cooler of a graphics card in the bottom slot could smash the cables beneath it flat, most of the cables designed to fit those headers (apart from those of some fans) can survive that treatment. On the other hand, builders won’t likely put a high-end card in the bottom slot because it has only one lane.

The MAG Z390 Tomahawk includes a driver disc and documentation, two SATA cables, an 80cm RGB LED extension cable, an MSI VIP card and case badge, and documentation

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Samsung 1TB 860 QVO SSD Review: QLC Comes To SATA

Samsung leads the SSD industry, largely due to the huge lead the company opened up in the race to 3D flash. Along the way, Samsung established a reputation as an SSD powerhouse and has consistently set the standard for performance, quality, and support. But it isn’t the first to bring a QLC SSD to market. Companies like Intel and Micron/Crucial already have QLC SSDs, but we knew it was only a matter of time until the SSD giant joined in.

The 860 QVO features Samsung’s newest V4 QLC V-NAND paired with the SATA interface and its well-established MJX controller. Together, these components deliver over 550/520MB/s of sequential read/write throughput and up to 97,000/89,000 random read/write IOPS. However, performance is only one part of the equation: the 860 QVO uses lower-quality QLC flash that is supposed to bring lower prices and higher capacity to the masses, but the company’s pricing isn’t as competitive with other options as we expected.

Update: Due to an error, we adjusted the ranking to 3.5 after publication.

2018 marked the introduction of QLC SSDs, but they will truly thrive in 2019. Enthusiasts aren’t very enthusiastic, though. QLC flash has inherently lower native write speeds and lower endurance than the TLC or MLC flash found in most modern SSDs. But, like the move to other types of flash before it, QLC should pave the way for larger storage devices and lower prices, which is always good for us. The Intel 660p is a prime example. At launch, it set the new low bar for value NVMe storage. Crucial’s P1 followed soon after.

We finally learned about the 860 QVO when Samsung announced it earlier this year, and we were finally given a name at Samsung’s Tech Day event last month. During the announcement, Samsung briefly listed the 860 QVO on a slide alongside a 980 QVO but didn’t provide more detail about the mystery 980 model. As with SSDs based on other types of flash, we expect models with higher performance and endurance to come to market alongside cheaper and slower models, so it’s logical to conclude the 980 QVO will be a higher-performance model. Samsung hasn’t announced a launch date.


For now, we have the 860 QVO in our hands. Other NVMe QLC SSDs preceded it to the consumer market, but the QVO is the first SATA QLC model.

Samsung had to dig into its firmware and tweak it a bit more to maintain a high level of performance with the more-complex V4 64-layer QLC V-NAND. The Samsung 860 QVO includes Intelligent TurboWrite technology, just like the 860 and 970 EVO models. This feature assigns a portion of the flash to run in SLC mode, thus creating a fast cache that absorbs incoming data to speed operations.

All QVO SSDs come with a static 6GB write cache that doesn’t change regardless of conditions, but they also have a larger intelligent write cache of 36-72GB (depending on drive capacity). This intelligent cache dynamically expands and contracts based on the amount of data stored on the drive. This provides impressive performance for inbound writes, but if the drive doesn’t have enough free space the intelligent cache will not be available, leaving you with just 6GB of static cache. On the 1TB model, the intelligent cache evaporates after there is less than 168GB of free space. We have reached out to Samsung for specifics about the other capacities and will update as necessary.

Specifications

Product 860 QVO 1TB 860 QVO 2TB 860 QVO 4TB
Pricing $149.99 $299.99 $599.99
Capacity (User / Raw) 1000GB / 1024GB 2000GB / 2048GB 4000GB / 4096GB
Form Factor 2.5″ 7mm 2.5″ 7mm 2.5″ 7mm
Interface / Protocol SATA 6.0 Gb/s / AHCI SATA 6.0 Gb/s / AHCI SATA 6.0 Gb/s / AHCI
Controller Samsung MJX Samsung MJX Samsung MJX
DRAM 1GB LPDDR4 2GB LPDDR4 4GB LPDDR4
NAND Flash Samsung QLC V-NAND Samsung QLC V-NAND Samsung QLC V-NAND
Sequential Read 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s
Sequential Write 520 MB/s 520 MB/s 520 MB/s
Random Read 96,000 97,000 97,000
Random Write 89,000 89,000 89,000
Encryption AES 256-bit, TCG/Opal V2.0, IEEE1667 AES 256-bit, TCG/Opal V2.0, IEEE1667 AES 256-bit, TCG/Opal V2.0, IEEE1667
Endurance 360 TBW 720 TBW 1,440 TBW
Part Number MZ-76Q1T0 MZ-76Q2T0 MZ-76Q4T0
Warranty 3-Years 3-Years 3-Years

The Samsung 860 QVO launches on December 16. The 1TB model will retail for $149.99, the 2TB model for $299.99, and the 4TB model for $599.99. All capacities are rated for up to 550/520 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput and up to 97,000/89,000 random read/write IOPS.

The QVO offers much higher endurance figures than the QLC-powered Intel 660p and Crucial P1. The QVO spans from 360TBW for the 1TB model up to 1,440TBW for the 4TB drive. What it doesn’t have, however, is a five-year warranty. Instead, Samsung covers the SSD for just three years. But that’s expected considering the drive is in a lower tier than the 860 EVO and competes against the cheapest SSDs in the market, all of which also feature two- to three-year warranties.

Unlike most SSDs, Samsung’s 860 QVO features an AES 256-bit hardware encryption engine. It is TCG and Opal 2.0 compliant and also supports the IEEE1667 spec, meaning you can use it with Windows BitLocker, too. BitLocker is a big advantage if you want top-notch data security and don’t want to lose out on performance.

Software & Accessories

The 860 QVO works with Samsung’s latest Magician SSD toolbox. Magician allows you to update the firmware, enable encryption options, monitor the health of your Samsung SSD, and more. Samsung also provides its Data Migration software, which allows you to clone over your data from an existing drive to your new SSD. You can download both from Samsung’s website.

A Closer Look

Samsung’s 860 QVO comes in a standard 2.5” 7mm form factor and connects to the host via a SATA 6GB/s connection. It has a sleek-looking full metal casing.

Inside the case, the 1TB model has one of the smallest PCBs we’ve seen, similar to the 860 EVO. The PCB hosts a single SSD controller, DRAM package, and NAND package. The 2.5” form factor seems like overkill given the size of the components, but the large case is needed to ensure compatibility with existing standards.

We see the same MJX controller as the one found in Samsung’s EVO and PRO models, so compatibility and stability should not be an issue in most environments. The controller also supports LPDDR4 DRAM to improve power efficiency. Each QVO capacity point features a 1MB:1GB DRAM to flash ratio, meaning the 1TB model has a 1GB LPDDR4 DRAM package while the 4TB model has 4GB of LPDDR4. Memory products still command a premium during the ongoing shortage, so the DRAM allocation is an interesting choice considering most companies are using less DRAM to reduce costs. The Intel 660p, for example, only needs 256MB of DRAM for the 1TB model.

The flash has a die density of 1Tb, and there are a total of 8 dies stacked into a single package. The 1TB SSD provides 931.5GB of usable capacity after formatting. It is striking that Samsung can cram in 1TB of its V4 QLC flash into a single package and still deliver solid performance. Typically, SSDs need several flash packages working in concert, thus exploiting the benefits of parallelism, to reach similar levels of performance