2021 CES Consumer Storage – Business Quick Magazine

2021 CES Consumer Storage – Business Quick Magazine

The 2021 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was a virtual event and very different from past physical events.  The show had a focus on ADAS and autonomous vehicles, IoT and especially technologies for enhancing health and safety, brought front and center due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The exhibits were virtual and many companies, normally exhibiting or at least having meetings in hotel suites in Los Vegas were not participating in the 2021 show.  

In particular, storage companies such as Seagate and Western Digital were mostly absent from the 2021 show, but others were at the show, including companies like Kioxia, Kingston, OWC, Biwin, Quantum and NetApp.  Let’s look at some of the storage and memory products shown at the 2021 CES as well as some technological developments, particularly on immersive video, that will drive future storage growth from the CES as well as the 2021 IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics (ICCE).  

We shall do so in two parts, with this blog looking at consumer-oriented solutions and the second blog focusing on immersive video developments as well as enterprise and data center storage.  

The USB Implementers Forum was at the 2021 Pepcom event, talking about USB Gen 4 (USB4).  This was based on the Thunderbolt 4 protocol from Intel.  USB4 includes two-lane operation using existing USB Type-C cables and up to 40Gbps operation over 40Gbps certified cables.  It also supports multiple data and display protocols that effectively share the maximum aggregate bandwidth and backward compatibility with USB 3.2, 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3.  USB4 also offers up to 100 W power via USB power delivery (PD) 3.0.  The Samsung Galaxy S20 series were reported to be the first smartphones to receive certification based on the USB PD 3.0 specification.  The roadmap supports USB performance up to 80Gbps in the future.

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Kioxia was showing their consumer and enterprise-oriented products at the 2021 CES, based upon the companies BICS Flash technology.  We will cover Kioxia enterprise products in our second 2021 CES blog.  Consumer oriented products included the company’s first PCIe 4.0 client SSD for notebooks, desktops and workstations.  The XG7/XG7-P series of consumer SSDs (shown below) was originally announced in November 2020.  

Built for demanding PC environments, the XG7/XG7-P Series with storage capacities of up to about 4 TB offers 2x the sequential read speed and approximately 1.6x the sequential write speed of the PCIe Gen3 based XG6 Series.  The product uses an in-house controller vertically integrated with the flash memory and incorporating advanced NVMe feature support.

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Kioxia was also showing their XFMXPRESS PCIe/NVMe-based small form factor SSD designed for compact embedded and removable storage.  This is a PCIe Gen 3X2 and NVMe 1.3b device with capacities up to a bit over 1 TB.  The company said that JEDEC standardization is underway on this device, shown with important physical dimensions in the figure below.  

In addition to these products, Kioxia supplies Managed UFS and e-MMC flash, SLC NAND and scalable 3D QLC and TLC flash memory to many companies for their consumer products.  The company had an infographic about the role of flash memory in connected IoT devices for consumer, industrial, agricultural and civic applications.

Kingston Digital was showing some new products at the Pepcom event as well as in a virtual CES exhibit associated with the 2021 CES.   The company also discussed its upcoming NVMe SSD roadmap.  Kingston introduced its Workflow Station products, shown below.  The Workflow Station and readers (which plug into the workflow station dock) is meant to serve customers such as content creators who need to transfer video, photos and audio from multiple sources at once with USB 3.2 performance.  

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The workflow readers, like the one shown below, can be used standalone, connecting to a laptop via a USB-C cable, or plug into the dock.  These readers provide USB miniHub, SD or microSD reading (UHS-II and UHS-I card) capability.  The Workflow station works with Windows and Mac OS’s.

Kingston also introduced new client and data center U.2 NVMe SSDs.  These included its first PCIe NVMe Gen 4.0 SSD as well as an external USB 3.2 SSD.  Following are a list of these Kingston SSDs and the image below shows the NVMe SSDs and the XS2000 USB 3.2 external SSD.

·       Ghost Tree: The upcoming High-Performance Gen 4.0, 8-channel SSD codenamed “Ghost Tree” is targeting speeds of 7.0GB/s read and write, with capacities ranging from 1TB-4TB. 

·       NV Series: The latest Gen 3.0 x4 SSD offers capacities up to 2TB. 

·       XS2000: This is Kingston’s all-new USB 3.2 Gen 2 x2 external drive with 500GB – 2TB capacities The USB Type-C interface allows for data transfers up to 2.0GB/s.

·       DC1500M: The Data Center 1500M is an update to the DC1000M, adding support for multi-namespaces. The U.2 NVMe SSD is designed to support a wide range of data- intensive workloads including cloud computing, web hosting and virtual infrastructures. 

OWC was also at Pepcom as well as having a CES exhibit.  The company announced four new products.  These were the OWC Envoy Pro FX, Thunderbolt Dock, the USB-C Travel Dock E and the U2 Shuttle.  The Thunderbolt Dock and the Travel Dock provide multiple interface connectivity, including wired Ethernet as well as memory card access for Thunderbolt enabled computers.  The Thunderbolt Dock enables Thunderbolt 4.0 connectivity, while the Travel Dock now includes a wired Gigabit Ethernet port with Thunderbolt 3.0 connectivity.

The OWC Envoy Pro FX portable SSD (see image below) supports up to 2.8GB/s data rates and is dust/drop and waterproof.  The cool-running aluminum cased drive’s Thunderbolt/USB cable works with all Macs and PCs made since 2010 as well as iPad Pro, Chromebook and Surface devices.

The OWC U2 Shuttle for a 3.5” drive bay (see image below) combines four NVMe M.2 SSDs into a swappable massive capacity flexible RAID ready storage product, supporting RAID 0, 1, 4, 5 or 6 via various RAID utilities.  As for many OWC products, this one is targeted at video editors, audio producers, photographers and graphic designers.

At the 2021 CES and at the accompanying Showstoppers, 25-year old China-based Biwin Storage Technology Co., Ltd. talked about the launch of the company’s own brand of Biwintech memory and storage products (see image below) as well as its HP brand consumer storage products, produced and marketed by Biwin, under license.  The company also announced its new BIWIN Huizhou Science and Technology Campus with more than 110,000 square meter of production lines for chip manufacturing and the production of memory modules, memory cards and SSDs.  The company said that it would be expanding further into Europe in 2021 and that it provides memory/storage for wearable products for an established wearable product company.

Samsung had a big presence at the 2021 CES with a lot of focus on its C-Labs internal and external product collaborations.  There was one storage product featured in the Samsung exhibit.  It was the 870 EVO/QVO SATA consumer 2.5-inch form factor SSDs.  An image of the Samsung 870 QVO SSD is shown below.  The EVO drives use three level cell (TLC) 3D NAND flash, while the QVO SSDs use four (quad) level cell (QLC) 3D NAND flash.  The EVO is available with up to 4TB capacity, while the QVO has up to 8TB capacity.   The company says the 870 series has up to 30% higher sustained write performance, compared to its predecessors.  The EVO version has a 5-year limited warranty while the QVO has a 3-year limited warranty.

Although not officially at the 2021 CES, Western Digital announced a line of four 4TB portable consumer SSDs during the CES, under the SanDisk brand.  The SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD offers up to 2 GB/s read and write speeds with a forged aluminum chassis to act as a heatsink to enable higher sustained data rates.   The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD offers up to 1.05GB/s read and 1.00GB/s write speeds and features up to two-meter drop protection and IP55 water and dust resistance.  The WD_Black P50 Game SSD offers read speeds up to 2.0 GB/s and is provides storage expansion for PCs, PS4 and Xbox One game libraries.  The My Passport SSD is shock and vibration resistant and drop resistant up to 6.5 feed and comes in a range of colors with read speeds up to 1.05GB/s and write speeds up to 1.00GB/s.

Verbatim (a brand of CMC Magnetics out of Taiwan) had a 2021 CES exhibit showing their array of flash, HDD and optical storage products.  H-L Data Storage from Korea also was showing optical storage components as well as drives. 

There were also new non-volatile memory enabled products on display at the 2021 CES including STMicro’s Steller 32-bit automotive microcontroller (MCUs) using phase change memory (PCM).  Using PCM allows going to smaller feature size than NOR flash, allowing larger memories for various automotive applications including advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and enhanced vehicle stability control as indicated in the figure below.

Although the 2021 CES show was virtual and some companies that usually show up, at least at hotel suites in Las Vegas, were not at the show, there were several companies showing storage and memory products to support the next generation of consumer technology.

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