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Gear & Apps

Samsung Drops World’s Largest Hard Drive (& Affordable Alternatives)

By Kishore Sawh on August 20th 2015

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Data storage must be the bane of many a photographer’s existence. The reason is that largely there is little forecasting ability because the parameters keep changing. The size of individual files any given camera is capable of rendering changes almost quarterly. Canon’s 5DS shooting its 50MP files is on the larger end of the spectrum for now, but in the game of top trumps that is camera stats, another company is going to drop a 60MP camera before you’ve even had a chance to shoot the 5DS.

Then, of course, card storage capacities have to change with it, and all this ends up meaning you’ll need to have larger and larger storage units to keep this hundredweight of data. These hard drive storage units then have to become larger in physical size and capacity, or change their form factor. Trying to keep up with it all is like running in a race where the finish line keeps moving.

[REWIND: Samsung T1 External SSD – Tiny & Blazing Fast| Review]

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2014 was the year Samsung came into the major public’s view as the leader in storage and became the first company to announce a 3D NAN flash chip which has a 3-bit MLC (multi-level) architecture. In the latter half of that year, the 32-layer V-NAND chip went into production and to market. But that was then, and this is now. The 32-layer is so, well, last year. Last week, Samsung began production of 48-layer 3D chips for SSDs (double the 24 that was available less than two years ago). They weren’t the first to announce it as Sandisk and Toshiba had earlier this year, but they were the first to act on it. In a press release recently, Young-Hyun Jun, Samsung Electronics President of the Memory Business had this to say,

With the introduction of our 3rd generation V-NAND flash memory to the global market, we can now provide the best advanced memory solutions, with even higher efficiency based on improved performance, power utilization and manufacturing productivity, thereby accelerating growth of the high-performance and the high-density SD markets.

This is clearly the point and what Samsung is hoping to do – accelerate high-performance SSDs and bringing down the price of SSDs overall, giving us more access to non-volatile storage. One way to do this is to come out with something extreme that pushes the boundaries, and they did just that, releasing what is being touted as the world’s largest capacity HD at 16TB. Romantically named the PM1633a, the drive is a monster made possible by the company’s new 3D NAND chips that hold up to 32GB (which is 32 chips per TB), and a total of 512 chips together to make the 16TB drive.

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This is probably enough for most people’s casual shots for a lifetime, though casual shooters would not spend the supposed $5-7k price tag attached. Its physical size is also about double the thickness of the typical 2.5” drives found in most laptops, but in theory, I guess you could get an enclosure and use it as a massive external SSD. It’s also not the only new drive in the line-up, as there’s the PM 1725 and PM953 which are lower capacity but really designed to be used within the confines of a computer system enterprise, and man are they attractive when they can write 5GB in under 5 seconds.

But what if you don’t have $5000 to drop on an SSD? Well, here’s what I would get for now:

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Samsung T1 SSD (pictured above) – Not long ago, I reviewed this unit, which I have come to adore. It’s tiny, looks great, works better, and you can get the $250GB version for less than $140 (and now an amazing $99 from B&H)!

240GB SanDisk Extreme Pro – great for upping your computer performance for photo apps and storage and gets you 240GB for about $120.

Crucial MX200 – 500Gb for $179 – ‘Nuff said. Though, I still think the versatility, stability and size of the T1 from Samsung is what I will continue to go with.

What’s your SSD of choice?

Source: SamsungTomorrow,

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About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    It’s important to understand the advantages and limitations of flash-based storage.

    Advantage is obvious: all solid state, no seek times, really fast transfers, etc. Small, cool, and quiet.

    So here’s the part no one wants to hear: the disadvantages. Most affordable drives are composed of MLC or TLC memory… that’s “multiple” and “triple” bits per cell, which means, in MLC, each flash cell stores four levels of charge for two bits worth; in TLC, each flash cell stores eight levels of charge, for three bits worth.

    This means that this kind of memory wears out faster and also, that its data retention is worse. The average rated MLC these days handles at least 5,000-10,000 program/erase cycles per cell; the average TLC is more like 1,000 program/erase cycles at a minimum. Not as bad as that sounds, because all flash controllers do write-leveling… if you write the same data to the same logical address on a drive, it’s actually going to a different location, one that hasn’t been used as much. In practical terms, if you had a 16TB TLC drive and you write 1TB of data per day, it should last as long as 40 years. Wear leveling these days is pretty sophisticated… if you have “permanent” data on your SSD, it’ll eventually get moved to more often used cells, to free them up for transient files. Here’s a real-world wear test conducted on a Samsung SSD with 1000 P/E cycle rating done in 2003, based on 10GB of data per day: http://us.hardware.info/reviews/4178/hardwareinfo-tests-lifespan-of-samsung-ssd-840-250gb-tlc-ssd-updated-with-final-conclusion. The drives exceeded expectations considerably, but of course, that’s not a statistically large enough sample to assume that would be typical. Still, it does relate those numbers to real-world use.

    The other thing that’s even less assured is data retention. Manufacturers do specify their P/E cycle rating, at least the chip makers do… hopefully it’s in your SSD or CF or SD or USB flash drive spec as well. They don’t all specify retention, but it’s probably less than most people expect. The average drive these days is rated at retaining data “up to ten years”. In short, maybe ten years, maybe much less. For 34nm MLC or TLC flash, the data retention time is more like “up to five years”. It was always pretty well understood, at least in the early days of flash, that memory cards and USB sticks were never intended for long term storage. That’s become a little less well understood in the era of SSDs, since as a drop-in replacement for HDDs, people expect similar levels of performance OR better levels of performance. It’s not common knowledge that some elements are worse.

    In short, do not expect flash-based media to be suitable for archives.. that SSD that’s been on a shelf for a year may be ok, or it may have errors. SSDs make great boot drives. I still use HDDs .. and RAID .. for things I’d like to see around for a long time. And I do regular backups, onto HDD and HTL Blu-ray disc. Never have your important data in just one place.

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  2. Dave Haynie

    It’s nice to see that this kind of storage will eventually be affordable.

    I currently have a 16TB external RAID (effectively about 12TB storage) and a 6TB internal RAID. The point of that much storage today isn’t to store just the best stuff, but have everything I’ve shot at my fingertips… video too.

    And these days, it’s not hard to fill a 32GB or 64GB memory card in a single day of shooting — and that’s with 16Mpixel and 20Mpixel cameras. I have some “keeper” composite shots, composed of 30-60 individual shots, that can top out at 500-1000MB for an one 16-bit TIFF. But I’ve been shooting composites for at least 15 years, and one thing to keep in mind: the stitching software just keeps getting better and, even more, more controllable — lots of artistic control of what gets left out, what gets in the merge, dealing with lighting issues, etc. So a composite I did ten years ago will definitely benefit from current tools… thus, all the original raw photos for that need to be accessible, if not necessarily online full time.

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  3. Peter Nord

    Somehow it comes to mind that the delete button is your friend. Outside of keeping commercial work, should there be a discussion of how many photos to keep around. Does anyone have 16TB of masterpiece work? If you kept only the really good stuff, 1TB? 1GB? 100MB? How many photos of your children/grandchildren etc. do you really need?

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    • Stephen Jennings

      Good point.. I mean I could cull thousands of photos I’ve never edited and have not looked at in years. Just sitting on the drives doing nothing for anyone. It’s just so taboo to delete images.

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  4. Colin Woods

    That little 1TB SSD looks nice. Maybe Santa will remember me this year, though I have already asked him for a soft top Aston Martin Vantage. We’ll see which one I get.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      There are only so many cars to go around Colin, and I’m ahead of you on the list for an E-type. PS – the T1 is brilliant. Cheers

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  5. Alexander Europa

    I’m really glad that SSD technology is finally becoming more commonplace which is causing the prices to drop. I’ve been thinking about starting to use SSD drives for my annual archive drives since, in theory, they will last 100+ years without corrupting as long as I don’t exceed the read/write limitations (which won’t happen with an archival drive).

    Anyone have any input or thoughts on this? I also have a cloud-based archive of all of my photos (SmugMug).

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  6. Peter Schmidt

    The Samsung T1 series is pretty great.
    Btw what laptop skin are you using on your macbook, it looks pretty cool ? :)

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Peter, here’s the link to the skin company called D Brand. Their skins are about the most accurate available and seem to take some roughing-up – not exactly the cheapest but… have fun. https://dbrand.com/shop

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