GIGABYTE’s Aorus Gen4 AIC SSD 8 TB Launched: Up to 15 GB/s

After originally showcasing it at Computex a bit earlier this year, GIGABYTE has officially introduced its quad-SSD PCIe 4.0 adapter card, the AORUS Gen4 AIC. Designed house up to 4 NVMe SSDs, the card is essentially a multi-way M.2 adapter, allowing a PCIe 4.0 x16 slot to be used to drive four x4 SSDs. Fittingly, with so many high-end SSDs on a single board, the card also features an active cooling system to ensure that the drives run at consistent speeds even under high loads. Fully populated with PCIe 4.0 SSDs, the card is rated to provide up to a staggering 15 GB/s of throughput – at least, if you can come up with a workload that can saturate such a setup.

GIGABYTE’s Aorus Gen4 AIC SSD 8 TB is a PCIe 4.0 x16 board with eight PCIe Gen 4 re-drivers. The card in turn carries four 2 TB M.2-2280 SSDs based on Phison’s PS5016-E16 controller, which remains the only client SSD controller with a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. The card also features a sophisticated cooling system comprising of a large copper heatsink, a 5-cm ball bearing fan, and a baseplate, along with eight thermal sensors to monitor everything. That monitoring, in turn, is provided by the Aorus Storage Manager software, which can also configure the cooling on the card and supports three fan operating modes, including Silent, Balanced, and Performance.

When running in RAID 0 mode, the Aorus Gen4 AIC SSD 8 TB offers up to 15 GB/s sequential read/write speeds, as well as 430K/440K read/write IOPS. It goes without saying that this is a throughput-focused card, as outside of the difficulty in even coming up with that many IOPS in a client workload, RAID modes don’t really improve IOPS.

While the sequential performance of the Aorus Gen4 AIC SSD 8 TB looks extremely attractive, there is a caveat. The only enthusiast-class PCIe Gen 4-supporting platform today is AMD’s Ryzen 3000, and these CPUs only support 24 PCIe 4.0 lanes: x16 for an add-in-card, x4 for an NVMe SSD, and x4 to connect to the chipset. As a result, to make full use of the card you have to give up a board’s sole PCIe 4.0 x16 slot for the SSD, which makes this a niche product for systems that don’t need a powerful dGPU. Otherwise, installing the drive into a PCIe x16 slot controlled by AMD’s X570 chipset would cause it to be bottlenecked by the PCIe 4.0 x4 link between the chipset and the CPU.

That said, the Aorus Gen4 AIC SSD 8 TB can show itself in all the glory either in a workstation based on AMD’s EPYC 7000-series processor with up to 128 PCIe Gen 4 lanes, or, presumably, in a future high-end desktop based on next-generation AMD Threadripper CPU.

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Source: GIGABYTE (via Hermitage Akihabara)

Sony’s Micro LED-Based Ultra-HD TVs Available to Consumers: 2K to 16K Resolutions, up to 790-Inches

Sony this month started to offer its Micro LED-based displays to well-funded consumers. Officially branded as Crystal LED direct view display systems (aka CLEDIS), these ultra high-end products were previously only available for commercial installations. Designed to offer superior contrasts, brightness levels, and viewing angles, Sony’s Crystal LED TVs are designed to replace projector-enabled home theaters and will be available in 2K, 4K, 8K, and 16K versions with sizes of up to 790 inches.

Sony’s Crystal LED display systems rely on bezel-less Micro LED modules that are built using 0.003-mm² individually-controlled LEDs. The modules offer up to 1000 nits peak brightness, around 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, up to a 120 Hz refresh rate, as well as nearly 180° viewing angles. According to Sony, such a display can cover 140% of the sRGB color space or around 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.

Since the micro LED modules are rather large – even though they’re the fraction of the size of a normal LED, the large number of micro LEDs adds up – the size of a Full-HD Crystal LED display system is around 110 inches in diagonal. Meanwhile the 4K unit doubles that, to 220 inches. Since we are dealing with devices that are designed to replace projection-powered home theaters, such sizes are well justified, but they are naturally too large for an average home.

Sony’s Consumer Crystal LED Display Systems
  Full HD 4K 8K 16K
Number of CLED Modules 18 72 288 576
Diagonal 110-inches 220-inches 440-inches 790-inches
Dimensions (W×H) 8 ft × 4 ft
2.43 m × 1.22 m
16 ft × 9 ft
4.87 × 2.74
32 ft × 18 ft
9.75 × 5.48
63 ft × 18 ft
19.2 × 5.48
Approximate Price of CLEDs at $10,000 per unit $180,000 $720,000 $2,880,000 $5,760,000

Sony’s Crystal LED-based display systems for residential installation will be available through a select group of individually trained and certified Sony dealers. The devices will be supported by Sony’s technicians, who will be able to remotely monitor displays after their installations to provide ongoing service.

Sony is not publicly quoting prices for its consumer Crystal LED products, but there are estimates that each module costs around $10,000 per unit. This would mean that a Full-HD version, which consists of 18 modules, costs over $180,000, whereas a 4K system will be priced at over $720,000.

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Sources: Sony, TechHive

Western Digital Reveals 18 TB DC HC550 ‘EAMR’ Hard Drive

Marking an important step in the development of next-generation hard drive technology, Western Digital has formally announced the company’s first hard drives based on energy-assisted magnetic recording. Starting things off with capacities of 16 TB and 18 TB, the Ultrastar DC HC550 HDDs are designed to offer consistent performance at the highest (non-SMR) capacities yet. And, with commercial sales expected to start in 2020, WD is now in a position to become the first vendor in the industry to ship a next-generation EAMR hard drive.

18 TB Sans SMR

The Western Digital Ultrastar DC HC550 3.5-inch hard drive relies on the company’s 6th Generation helium-filled HelioSeal platform with two key improvements: the platform features nine platters (both for 16 TB and 18 TB versions), and they using what WD is calling an energy-assisted magnetic recording technology (EAMR). The latter has enabled Western Digital to build 2 TB platters without using shingled magnetic recording (SMR).

Since we are dealing with a brand-new platform, the Ultrastar DC HC550 also includes several other innovations, such as a new mechanical design. Being enterprise hard drives, the new platform features a top and bottom attached motor (with a 7200 RPM spindle speed), top and bottom attached disk clamps, RVFF sensors, humidity sensors, and other ways to boost reliability and ensure consistent performance. Like other datacenter-grade hard drives, the Ultrastar DC HC550 HDDs are rated for a 550 TB/annual workload, a 2.5 million hours MTBF, and are covered by a five-year limited warranty.

MAMR? HAMR? EAMR!

The research and development efforts of the hard drive manufacturers to produce ever-denser storage technology has been well documented. Western Digital, Seagate, and others have been looking at technologies based around temporarily altering the coercivity of the recording media, which is accomplished by applying (additional) energy to a platter while writing. The end result of these efforts has been the development of techniques such as heating the platters (HAMR) or using microwaves on them (MAMR), both of which allow a hard drive head to write smaller sectors. With their similar-yet-different underpinnings, this has lead to the catch-all term Energy-Assissted Magnetic Recording (EAMR) to describe these techniques.

Being a large corporation, Western Digital does not put all of its eggs into one basket, and as a result has been researching several EAMR technologies. This includes HAMR, MAMR, bit-patterned media (BPM), heated-dot magnetic recording (HDMR, BPM+HAMR) and even more advanced technologies.

At some point in 2017, the company seemed to settle on MAMR, announcing a plan to produce MAMR-based HDDs for high-capacity applications. Still, while the company focused on MAMR and, presumably for competitive reasons was publicly downplaying HAMR for a while, WD did not really stop investing in it.

Ultimately, having designed at least two EAMR technologies, Western Digital can now use either of them. Unfortunately, for those competitive (and to some degree political) reasons as before, the manufacturer also doesn’t really want to disclose which of those technologies it’s using. So while the new Ultrastar DC HC550 HDDs are using some form of an EAMR technology, WD isn’t saying whether it’s HAMR or MAMR.

As things stand, the only thing that the company has said on the matter is telling ComputerBase.de that the new drivers do not use a spin-torque oscillator, which is a key element of Western Digital’s MAMR technology.

Here is an official statement from Western Digital:

“The 18 TB Ultrastar DC HC550 is the first HDD in the industry using energy assisted recording technology. As part of our MAMR development, we have discovered a variety of energy assisted techniques that boost areal density. For competitive reasons, we are not disclosing specific details about which energy assist technologies are used in each drive.”

With MAMR apparently eliminated, it would seem that WD is using a form of HAMR for the new drives. However at least for the time being, it’s not something the company is willing to disclose.

IOPS-per-TB Challenge

Ultimately, whether HAMR or MAMR, the end result is that WD’s EAMR tech has allowed them to increase their drive platter density and resulting drive capacities. Density improvements are always particularly welcome, as it should allow the HC550 to offer higher sequential performance than existing 7200 RPM hard drives. However, since the new storage devices feature a single actuator that enables around 80 IOPS random reads, IOPS-per-TB performance of the new units will be lower when compared to currently available high-capacity 10 – 14 TB HDDs (think 4 IOPS-per-TB vs. 5.7 – 8 IOPS-per-TB) and will require operators of large datacenters to tune their hardware and software to guarantee their customers appropriate QoS.

Unlike Westen Digital’s flagship 20 TB shingled magnetic recording (SMR) hard drive for cold storage applications, the company’s 16 TB and 18 TB nearly HDDs use energy-assisted conventional magnetic recording (CMR), which ensures predictable performance both for random read and write operations. As a result, while the Ultrastar DC 650 SMR HDD will be available only to select customers that can mitigate peculiarities of SMR, the Ultrastar DC 550 hard drives will be available to all clients that are satisfied with their IOPS-per-TB performance and will have qualified them in their datacenters.

Samples & Availability

Western Digital will ship samples of its EAMR-based Ultrastar DC HC550 16 TB and 18 TB hard drives to clients late this year and plans to initiate their volume ramp in 2020. One additional thing to note about the 16 TB EAMR-enabled HDDs is that these drives will likely be used primarily for technology validation, as there are commercial 16 TB CMR+TDMR available today that do not need extensive tests by operators of datacenters.

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Source: Western Digital