By Jeremy Laird on May 29th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.
Want it cheaper? Want it faster? This week, I can offer both. But not quite at the same time. I speak of SSDs and the first part of the puzzle is Crucial’s upcoming MX100. It replaces the existing M500 as Crucial’s value SSD. And may I remind you the 240GB M500 can currently be had for a preposterous £80/$110? The MX100 sports 16nm NAND memory, doesn’t replace the higher performing M550 and I can only assume its raison d’etre is to be even cheaper. Meanwhile, the first looks at quad-channel SATA Express are popping up (cue 1GB/s SSDs), Nvidia has a new driver out that promises to make your graphics card eleventy-two times faster. Ish. And some other stuff including yet more cheap 4K panels, including one with G-Sync support, and a hot looking gaming lappie from Gigabyte.
So, the Crucial MX100. There’s not a great deal more to add. It will début Crucial’s (or more accurately Micron’s) new 16nm NAND memory. Die shrinks usually equate to cheaper memory. I also note there’s a new Marvell SSD controller that’s been announced and might appear in the MX100. And given the MX100 replaces the M500, well…
Current M500 pricing might reflect Crucial’s keenness to shift lingering inventory before the new drive comes out, but it would be odd if the MX100 was much more expensive. You’d also expect it to be a bit faster than the drive it replaces.
Anyway, given that the 240GB M500 is my go-to pick for people looking for a cheap but reasonably fast and capacious SSD at the moment, news of the MX100 is worth a shout out. The MX100 will be officially launched at the Computex show in June, I assume retail availability shortly thereafter.
My advice is probably to hold fire on an M500 until the official announcement, see what the pricing is looking like and if it’s not the good news I’m expecting, snag an M500 before they disappear.
Meanwhile, Anandtech has an early look at an Asrock Z97 motherboard that sports an M.2 (ie SATA Express) SSD socket that supports four PCI Express lanes. You can read the full skinny on Anandtech (and there are some slightly complex PCI Express lane-sharing issues to get your head around re resource competition with graphics cards).
But the really short version goes like this: You’ll get 1GB peak speeds in both directions and the random access numbers look a bit better than what we’ve seen from plain old SATA SSDs, but not spectacular.
Next up, Nvidia’s latest graphics driver, the nattily named 337.88 WHQL, is out. Nvidia is claiming some spectacular performance increases (eg. 71 per cent in Total War: Rome II). Cherry picked, highly specific scenarios, no doubt.
Likewise, your mileage will vary and this driver is bound to break something somewhere (set a restore point before diving in to be safe). But a quick trawl of forum-post feedback suggests this is more than just your usual, run-of-the-mill driver drop. It may well do some good things for your games, like fix performance issues with anti-aliasing for 2-3GB cards in Watch Dogs, for instance. Assuming you have an Nvidia GPU, of course.
Oh, yeah, while we’re talking Nvidia, you can now buy a Titan Z dual-GPU, 5,760 shader monster for about £2,350/$3000, if that’s your bag. Or you could just buy two Titans for £1,600 and have the same gaming experience. Whatever.
4K super synced
Of course, if you’re thinking Titan Z you must be thinking 4K. After all, this week is seeing a flood of 28-inch 4K TN gaming panels for prices that positively piffle next to the Titan Z. I assume they all use the same 3,860 by 2,160-pixel panel which, interestingly, may set new standards for viewing angles for TN technology.
Anyway, AOC’s new U2868PQU does 60Hz over DisplayPort, has a fully adjustable stand (hurrah!) and is yours for £499 / E650 / $775. I’m hoping to have a look at it soon (and particularly at those viewing angles). Fingers crossed it sucks. Because if it’s any good I’ll have to bloody buy one. And I need all available funds for funnelling into house and car projects.
Acer’s offering (again TN, 28-inch, 4K) is the XB280HK and its party trick is to add Nvidia’s G-Sync to the mix. Yup, we’ve been through the whole G-Sync is a dead-end thing. But FreeSync isn’t here yet, so if you want GPU-synced refresh 4K – and I reckon that actually makes a lot of sense given that syncing allows smooth gaming at sub-60Hz frame rates and frames will be at a premium given the GPU load – the Acer makes a lot of sense.
Slight snag is pricing. No word on what the premium will be for the G-Sync gubbins.
Thin-and-light gaming grunt
Something else that’s grabbed my attention is Gigabyte’s new 15.6-inch thin-and-light gaming portable, the revised Ultraforce P35W v2.
It’s 20mm thick, 2kg, metal chassis, has a 1080p IPS-type (well, wide viewing angles claimed) panel, 4K out, support for up to four SATA SSDs and two mSATA SSDs, Core i7 processors and (the important bit) an Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M GPU with 6GB of memory.
The latter is 1,344-shader version of GK104. Factor in clockspeeds and you’re probably looking at desktop GTX 760 performance. The only price I can find is $1,599 Stateside with a Corei7-4710HQ, 8GB memory and a magnetic rather than solid state drive. Not exactly dirt cheap, but then proper gaming laptops never are.
If anyone is genuinely interested, let me know and I’ll request a sample from Gigabyte and have a closer look. Until next time, chaps.