Project: V - The Storage Story

Hey everyone,

When we asked you about bezels and keyboards, we were honestly surprised by some of the responses. More than ever, we are convinced that assumptions harm our products, and asking our community about important decisions is the way to go! This week we have another hard choice to make, and it involves SSDs and accessibility…

One of the biggest hurdles

Along the way, we have come across all sorts of challenges, most of which we have overcome with valuable feedback from the community and endless discussion between our designers and the engineering team. One major issue has been our desire to make the internal components of the V accessible. As most components inside the device are custom-made for the V, upgrading or replacing them was not a realistic expectation. Even so, being able to open the device easily could make repairs faster and safer.

The image above shows a selection from the many suggestions that floated between the design- and engineering teams, trying to work out a method of accessing the V’s internals. First we explored opening up a large part of the device to allow access to all internal components, and when that did not prove feasible (usually over concerns about structural rigidity), we aimed to make the SSD accessible. Being an off-the-shelf component, a user-replaceable M.2 SSD brings tangible end-user benefits such as increased repairability, upgradability, and data security.

In the end, it all comes down to something as seemingly simple as the orientation of the M.2 slot. One solution remains to support a user-replaceable SSD, but it comes at a cost to performance: we would be limited to the SATA protocol instead of the PCIe protocol utilized by today’s fastest SSDs.

Option 1: A user-replaceable M.2 SATA SSD

Modern SSDs that connect through SATA will reach speeds of up to about 550MB/s, which is not as fast as their PCIe counterparts. In return, they tend to offer more storage capacity for your money. In the case of the new V, their main advantage would be that they allow you as the end-user to remove or replace the SSD. Pop open a hatch, and it’s right there!

Option 2: A trapped M.2 PCIe SSD

The first-generation V uses an M.2 PCIe SSD. And even though disconnecting the SSD from the mainboard is straightforward, reaching these components is not. Opening the device is a laborious task that risks damage to the display cover glass. Technically, this solution allows the SSD to be removed, but it’s not in any way user friendly – or indeed, recommended!

Going the same route again offers the benefits of PCIe: speeds of up to about 3000MB/s is typical, and even faster is possible. Although such a measurable difference does not necessarily translate to higher performance in day-to-day tasks, it can offer a noticeable improvement when dealing with large files such as in photo- or video editing, or enterprise applications like large databases.

Option 3: A soldered PCIe SSD

If we cannot reasonably reach the SSD, does it really have to be an M.2 drive? We could solder the flash storage chips to the mainboard to free up valuable space and save a little bit of power. This solution is common in tablets, phones, and other ultra-mobile devices, as it takes very little space. It leaves more room for other components, for example, increased battery capacity.

This solution offers the same performance benefits of PCIe mentioned under option 2.

How best to proceed with storage in the new V?

  • Option 1: I prefer a user-replaceable M.2 SATA SSD
  • Option 2: I prefer a trapped M.2 PCIe SSD
  • Option 3: I prefer a soldered PCIe SSD
  • I have no preference; I simply need a place to store my files

0 voters

Storage capacity

Back in April, we asked you how much memory is the right amount. Now it’s time to ask the same about storage! Much like RAM, having more storage space than you need means it’s just sitting idle, and it won’t offer you any benefits for your money. Of course, running out of storage space is frustrating, but more importantly, it may cause issues with your computer, including slow-downs, crashes, and data loss. In short, we want enough storage capacity, but not too much!

Before answering the following questions, we invite you to look at Explorer, Finder, or your favorite file browser, and see how much drive space you are currently using!

What is the least amount of storage acceptable in an entry-level computer nowadays?

  • 128GB – This is still sufficient for an entry-level device in 2020
  • 256GB – Any less is no longer sufficient in 2020, even for an entry-level device

0 voters

What storage capacity do you think best fits your 2-in-1 use case?

  • 128GB or less
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
  • 2TB
  • 4TB or more

0 voters

More to come

We are looking forward to your feedback and will have a big announcement about the project coming soon. Stay tuned!

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3 Likes

SATA is a no go for me. I’m fine with either trapped or soldered as long as there is some way for data recovery either by removing the ssd, having a data recovery port on the motherboard or something else.

The only reason I want servicability on the tablet is to be able to replace the battery in the long term, something we haven’t seen on other tablets.

If I’m buying the device I am at the very least keeping it for 3.5 years (enterprise tech refresh is around 3 years). Usually I’m able to keep it for 4-5 years. Therefore replacing the battery is critical to keep it in the long term.

256 should be the minimum. If I need more storage I have both cloud storage and my external ssds.

5 Likes

As long as Eve offers reasonable pricing for the storage, I don’t really care if the storage is user-accessible. I personally have no problems with using a SATA SSD since the difference in performance isn’t very noticeable, but the boost in speed can help when transferring files from my V to my main PC.

For storage amount, I honestly don’t think 128GB is enough for most people, although it can comfortably fit most software you would use… 256GB is much better and will be fine for many since it allows you to have all the software you need installed and store the files you have in use, and back up your old files on an external hard drive, which has the bonus of being a safer storage place for your files.

3 Likes

I think 128GB is perfectly acceptable to start with if the drive is user-serviceable, because this allows users with affordable access to aftermarket components potential savings by opting for the minimum-spec’d unit. However, if a user-serviceable hard drive is that significant of a technical hurdle, is it fair to assume that a user-serviceable battery or RAM would similarly not be possible?
At the end of the day, I could live with any of the proposed solutions for storage.

3 Likes

I think least acceptable amount for windows pc/anything is 512 :smile:

Aaah! Soldered storage, my biggest enemy! >:(
Working in a repair shop I have seen SSDs die and that goes for soldered SSDs on that overpriced Pro notebook too.
Worst part is that on these, parts are serialized in the same chip that holds the SSD controller hostage, which means even if you have the tools to solder a new NAND (wokring in a repair shop we have a BGA rework station).
If eventually soldered ssd becomes a necessitiy - and I really hope it doesn’t - I would love to see at least one empty m.2 slot. Is there absolutely no way to have a m.2 2280 slot accessible by the user, i.e. à la Nintendo Switch’s sdcard?
Thing is: giving it soldered SSD = making it cheap. Giving it m.2 NVME = making it perfect, at a price.

2 Likes

Could you give an explanation of why user accessibility is possible with SATA but not PCIe? What’s different about the 2 physically that prevents it?

Also, if so many people wanted a user-serviceable device, what physical limitations (device thickness, battery space, etc) made it impossible to offer that? What specs are so important that you have no choice but to give up on user-serviceability?

1 Like

Only option 1 offers safe and convenient SSD serviceability. (If the new V will be using a soldered SSD) leaving an empty M.2 slot in the V occupies a chunk of battery space, and it may not be practical as a soldered SSD still takes up some room of the V by positioning itself on the mainboard. The form factor of the accessible SSD has not been confirmed yet.

The one implementation we can do to allow the SSD to be reached conveniently requires the M.2 port to be mounted to a daughterboard instead of the main logic board. The connection between the two PCBs does not allow for PCIe’s required bandwidth.

We mentioned the main reason “structural rigidity” on this topic. Our initial goal was to make as many components serviceable as possible. Various designs that allow the back of the V to be opened came to the bottleneck of making the device’s body unstable. Going this route would put the V under the risk of wobbling, breaking, or a noticeable increase in both thickness and weight. Making the SSD accessible remains a feasible solution with trade-offs, and it is the reason why we need your input to help us decide.

2 Likes

While it would be a unique feature for a device such as the V, having user serviceable parts at the cost of build quality and slow read/write speeds wouldn’t be worth it. Perhaps this feature could make it into a different model of V?

I feel that the next version of the Eve V should priotitize these features: excellent build quality, bright and beautiful display, long battery life, front facing speakers, thinner bezels, good cameras, and improved thermal dissipation. I would be ok with not having user replaceable parts, if all of the other features were in the new V.

An external SSD would perform the same functions as a removable one so if we go without this feature it would be alright. With a tablet 2-in-1 form factor, I really wouldn’t expect something like user-servicability unless it’s in a business/enterprise focused model. I think it’s a niche feature for a select few people who require it or find it extremely useful. But for most people, including me, I wouldn’t really need it unless something goes wrong.

I don’t want to compromise build quality, integrity, and aesthetics for removable storage. It seemed like a good and useful feature, but I don’t think people would want the tradeoffs that come with it. I’m fine with not having user serviceable parts if It means having a more powerful and beautiful device.

3 Likes

Sata adds construction complexity (daughter board) and undermines one of the major selling points of the V2 - full 40gbps thunderbolt speed. At 550MB people doing backups/ copying video files etc are looking at 10% of the theoretical data transfer speed. 3000MB is around 60% - slightly faster than the fastest external thunderbolt SSD.

So, for me, the main issue is about repairability and, given then there are no moving parts in an M2 SSD, it’s very unlikely that something will happen to it outside of the warranty period but inside the usage period.

I assume that the battery will be a non-standard shape and therefore hard to replace in the long term?

However, perhaps you could wire things so that mains power bypasses the battery when it is full? My understanding is that many manufacturers route power through the battery at all times and this causes it to +1 the recharge cycle every time it is switched on. After a certain number, the battery reduces its own max charge capacity to protect itself even if the tablet is normally plugged in.

Is there a way to extend the battery’s functional lifespan by reducing the number of charge cycles it records?

1 Like

I think entry level should be 512Mb mid grade at 1Tb and power user at 2Tb soldered chips to maximize battery space and power. Anyone who needs more than 2Tb of space for storage can afford to shell out the extra cash for an external SSD and use the thunderbolt 3.

That has been done in the first generation of the V already, so I guess it’s safe to assume that this feature will make it to the new generation. VERY IMPORTANT feature to increase the longevity of the battery !

Storage capacity: I would say that for an ‘entry-level’ device 128GB is still enough. However, very price sensitive costumers (with less need for ‘enhanced’ specs) would very likely settle for a device priced below the V. The difference in component price from 128 to 256 should not be much nowadays (am I mistaken here?), so I’d opt for the latter as a minimum configuration.
My current V has 256GB, and even though I’m not using it for as extensive tasks as planned for at purchase, I can (and could have in that scenario) manage with that amount. Currently about 40% of the space still free.
Factoring in the increased need for storage in my future device over a planned lifespan of about 4 years I would have to decide between 512GB and 1TB.

Form factor: That’s a tougher one. I would like to have the opportunity to access the SSD, but not necessarily in exchange for performance. I would definitely NOT have the need to regularly exchange the storage, that leaves me with 2 scenarios:

  1. Breakdown. Yes, access would be fantastic in that case. How likely is it though…

  2. I wanna upgrade. If for some reason I need a vastly larger amount of storage, I’d solve this most likely with an external solution. If needing just a bit more (factor of 2, maybe 4), it would probably be the wiser decision to go for a slightly larger capacity from the start, shifting my previously mentioned personal choice towards the 1TB model.

So what would I vote for? Weighting my needs, this would rule out the SATA option. I would need some more pros/cons to decide between the other options: How likely is failure? Is there a workaround/alternative to a repair in that case? Whats the difference in effort/cost for a repair (I assume a lot higher for a soldered one, but I would have to send it in in both cases)? What can you improve in the design if saving space with a soldered option (better port positions, larger battery, …)?

2 Likes

I strongly disagree with that, then you might as well offer a model without storage.

One point that has not been considered WRT storage is security. As in, the computer is broken and needs to be repaired / it is end-of-life and may be resold or gifted to a school or whatever.

Data security requires that you must remove the SSD before the laptop leaves the premises. No removeable storage? the thing will either be shredded wholly (which makes me sad, as a somewhat-environmentally-conscious person) or not be bought in the first place (which makes the manufacturer sad).

1 Like