TEKQ Rapide Thunderbolt 3 External SSD Review

Flash-based external direct-attached storage (DAS) devices have evolved rapidly over the last few years. Starting with simple thumb drives that could barely saturate USB 2.0 bandwidth, we now have high-performance external SSDs that take advantage of …

JEDEC Publishes UFS 3.0 Spec: Up to 2.9 GB/s, Lower Voltage, New Features

JEDEC Publishes UFS 3.0 Spec: Up to 2.9 GB/s, Lower Voltage, New Features

JEDEC this week published their UFS 3.0 specification, which is intended to bring numerous performance, power and feature set-related improvements to the standard. The version 3.0 of the spec doubles the per-lane performance of an eUFS device to 11.6 Gbps, which increases the peak data transfer rate of a storage device to 23.2 Gbps. At the same time, the new standard introduces a 2.5 V VCC power supply mode that enables lower power consumption and support for the latest types of NAND. Finally, the UFS 3.0 spec contains features designed specifically for automotive applications that enable standard support for extended temperature ranges as well as “refresh” operation to boost reliability.

One of the key improvements of the UFS 3.0 (JESD220D) specification is the usage of MIPI’s M-PHY 4.1 physical layer as well as the recently released MIPI UniPro 1.8 protocol to form the interconnect layer (IL). The new IL supports data rates of up to 11.6 Gbps (HS-Gear4) per lane as well as QoS features to enable a more reliable link through monitoring and training of the communication channel. All UFS 3.0-compatible devices are required to support HS-G4 (11.6 Gbps) and HS-G3 (5.8 Gbps), which means that they all will be faster than UFS 2.0/2.1-compliant devices that do not necessarily support HS-G3. UFS 3.0 storage devices will continue to feature up to two full-duplex lanes, which means a theoretical maximum bandwidth of up to 23.2 Gbps (2.9 GB/s) when HS-G4 is used. The MIPI M-PHY 4.1 standard continues to use 8b10b line encoding, so accounting for the encoding overhead, the actual achievable bandwidth by an embedded UFS device will be considerably lower than the theoretical one — 15 Gbps (1.875 GB/s) is something that is reasonable to expect.

The upcoming eUFS 3.0 storage devices will require three different power rails: 1.2 V for VCCQ, 1.8 V for VCCQ2, as well as 2.5 V/3.3 V for VCC. The addition of 2.5 V for VCC is to enable support for the latest and upcoming generations of NAND flash with higher bit densities (including 3D NAND with higher amounts of layers as well as 3D TLC NAND).

The UFS 3.0 standard also supports a number of features particularly suitable for the automotive industry. UFS 3.0 devices may support a native predefined low/high temperature event notification which will simplify development of UFS-based automotive applications. Extended temperature ranges (-40°C, 105°C) will be optionally supported by host controllers. Furthermore, the latter might also adopt a standard “refresh” function to extend data retention by moving data from cell to cell to keep charges at sufficient levels.

Another important innovation of the UFS 3.0 spec is enhanced support for RPMBs (replay protected memory block). The new standard supports multiple RPMBs with multiple RPMB keys. Furthermore, RPMB regions can now be configured at manufacturing, simplifying their usage for device makers.

To simplify development of UFS-based applications going forward, JEDEC also released JESD223D —  a functional specification of a UFS host controller interface (UFSHCI). This spec defines features and registers that have to be supported by UFS 3.0 host controllers and enable usage of a standard driver for all applications featuring UFS 3.0-compatible storage devices.

The UFS 3.0 standard greatly speeds up performance and capacity of storage subsystems inside smartphones, tablets, media players, VR headsets, automotive and other applications that are going to use it. Meanwhile, it is not clear when this might happen. There is at least one company who has been offering UFS 3.0 controllers since Q2 2017, but it looks like the latest mobile SoCs from Qualcomm, HiSilicon, MediaTek and Samsung do not support the new spec. That said, expect applications based on the new standard to be released in the coming years, just not in 2018.

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Best SSDs: Holiday 2017

Best SSDs: Holiday 2017

It’s been only two months since the last update to this guide, but with the holiday sales starting it’s time to check where SSD prices are at. There haven’t been many new SSD product releases lately and the rollout of 64-layer 3D NAND is proceeding slowly. We don’t expect any new releases of significance before the end of the year. Most brands are saving up their announcements for CES in early January. As a result, our recommendations have barely changed.

Western Digital Stuns Storage Industry with MAMR Breakthrough for Next-Gen HDDs

Western Digital sprang a big surprise yesterday with the announcement of microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) as the foundation for the next generation of high-capacity hard drives.  Hard drives may be on the way out for client computing systems, but they are still the storage media of choice for data centers. As recently as last year, heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) was expected to be the next major technology update in the hard drive industry, but this potentially falls by the wayside for MAMR. This article presents a detailed analysis of Western Digital’s MAMR announcement.