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Overview NVMe SSD-drive Transcend MTE220S: cheap – not so bad

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It just so happens that the manufacturers of SSDs, which until now has not got its own teams of controllers, but do not want to overlook the market for SSD enthusiasts, no particular choice today. Suitable option for them, allowing to organize the Assembly really productive drives with the NVMe interface that offers only one company is Silicon Motion, which is ready to deliver integrated solutions from your controller and firmware ready for everyone. Public base IC to build NVMe drives and there are other firms, for example, the same Phison or Realtek, but that Silicon Motion has taken the lead in this area, offering partners not only more functional, but much more fast acting solutions.

At the same time, among the huge variety of NVMe drives based on controllers Silicon Motion, of interest to enthusiasts can imagine not all models. This company produces a wide range of microchips with a fundamentally different level of performance, but performance worthy of an SSD for advanced or maximum configuration, can provide only selected platforms. In particular, last year we spoke about the controller SM2262: by the standards of 2018, he really looked very attractive, enabling drives based on it act on an equal footing with the best consumer NVMe SSD manufacturers of the first echelon, including Samsung, Western Digital and Intel.

But this year the situation has changed, as leading manufacturers have updated their mass top-level model. In response, Silicon Motion began to offer our partners an improved version of last year’s controller, SM2262EN, which also promises increase in performance – primarily in recording speed. It turns out, that storage devices based on this chip should be interested buyers who expect to get a more modern and fast NVMe drive, but do not want to overpay for the possession product A brand.

Until recently, the new controller SM2262EN used in their products is not so many manufacturers. In fact, the choice boiled down to two options: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro and HP EX950. But now appeared the third storage device based on this chip – it has mastered the production of the company Transcend. With this new product, called Transcend MTE220S, we’re going to explore in this review.

Inputs to this familiarity are. HP EX950 not available in Russia, and ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro in our recent testing nothing trumps not demonstrated, suggesting that the performance of drives on the last controller SM2262. And this means that, despite the emergence of new versions of the Silicon Image controller, no NVMe SSD that would be able to compete with fresh 970 Samsung EVO Plus , we have not yet seen. Will Transcend MTE220S more interesting in comparison with ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro version, we are going to find out in this review. But it should be emphasized that, even if this SSD and not flash high-speed parameters, it can still be quite interesting. Because Transcend was going to sell it at a surprisingly low price — at least low for a full drive PCI Express 3.0 x4 DRAM buffer and a three-dimensional TLC-memory.

#Specifications

Details about what is a controller SM2262EN, we talked when you met ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro. On the technical side, this chip is built on two ARM Cortex cores, uses an eight-channel interface for controlling the flash memory has a DDR3/DDR4 interface for buffer and supports the bus PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVM Express Protocol 1.3. In other words, it is a modern and complete solution for NVMe drives, which also has a very good performance theoretical performance and supports advanced error correction techniques.

Initially, the controller SM2262EN was submitted in August of 2017, along with the “simple” SM2262, however, was presented as his “advanced” version, delivery of which was to begin later. Apparently, Silicon Motion was going to hold it up to the market introduction of the 96-layer TLC 3D NAND then to offer accelerated comprehensive solutions with a denser flash memory. However, this plan fell through due to changing market trends: NAND chips began to fall in price rapidly, and manufacturers of memory decided to delay the introduction of new technologies. The result is Silicon Motion got tired of waiting and released SM2262EN as an update to SM2262 as part of the platform, oriented to work with a 64-layer TLC 3D NAND.

In this case, according to the formal specifications, version platform controller SM2262EN still promises performance improvements of up to 9% sequential read, up to 58 % – sequential writes, up to 14 % – with random reads, and up to 40% at random writes. But if to believe these numbers with great caution. The developers say directly – no modifications in the hardware structure SM2262EN implies, it uses exactly the same architecture as conventional SM2262. All the benefit is based on changes in the software part: platform with a new controller uses more sophisticated algorithms to record and SLC-caching. In other words, we are talking about some attempt to cut corners, not that the engineers managed to make a breakthrough in the mechanisms work.

What this means in practice, we have seen, when tested ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro based controller SM2262EN. This drive was faster than its predecessor the chip SM2262 only in benchmarks, but offered no noticeable improvement in real performance. However, Transcend MTE220S the story is somewhat different. This drive has no close relatives in the lineup, and to Transcend this brand new model. In light of the fact that early in the lineup of this manufacturer was only NVMe SSD entry-level passport characteristics MTE220S look very impressive.

Manufacturer Transcend
Series MTE220S
Model number TS256GMTE220S TS512GMTE220S TS1TMTE220S
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 256 512 1024
Configuration
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D TLC NAND
Controller SMI SM2262EN
Buffer: type, volume DDR3-1866,
256 MB
DDR3-1866,
512 MB
DDR3-1866,
1024 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3500 3500 3500
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1100 2100 2800
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 210 000 210 000 360 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 290 000 310 000 425 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W N/a
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,5
Resource record, TB 260 400 800
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 80 × 22 × 3,5
Weight, g 8
Warranty period, years 5

Interestingly, the claimed performance Transcend MTE220S slightly below those speeds promised for your similar drive based controller SM2262EN ADATA. Apparently this is due to the fact that although MTE220S and uses the same hardware and software platform, its design differs from the reference. For your drive, Transcend has designed its own printed circuit Board, where in order to reduce abandoned the use of 32-bit DRAM interface buffer in favor of more cost-effective, 16-bit connections. The result is lower top speed of random read and write, and this is especially noticeable in the version of the drive capacity of 512 GB.

However, SLC caching to Transcend MTE220S works exactly the same as other drives with the controller SM2262EN. The cache uses a dynamic scheme when one bit in a crash mode translates the part of the TLC memory from the underlying array. The cache size is chosen so that in the SLC-mode worked about half of the free flash memory. Thus, high speed MTE220S you can record the amount of data, the size of approximately a sixth of the available space on the SSD, then the speed will be significantly reduced.

This can be illustrated by the following graph, which shows how the performance of a continuous sequential write to blank Transcend MTE220S a capacity of 512 GB.

In accelerated mode, when the recording is performed in the SLC-mode, a 512-Gigabyte version MTE220S provides the performance level of 1.9 GB/s In TLC mode, the array of flash memory runs significantly slower, and after the exhaustion of free space in the SLC cache, the speed is reduced to 460 MB/s. On the chart is visible and the third option is speed – 275 Mbps. To the point performance when sequential write is reduced in the case when the free flash memory is longer, and in order to put some additional data the controller you first need to translate the cell is used for SLC-cache in normal TLC mode. The result is that the average speed of continuous recording on a Transcend 512 GB MTE220S “from the beginning to the end” is about 410 MB/s, and to fill up this drive data is necessary to spend at least 21 minutes. It is not too optimistic: for example, the same 970 Samsung EVO Plus you can completely clog the eyeballs in just 10 minutes.

While SLC-cache Transcend MTE220S characterized by the same unique feature we found in ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro. Data is transferred in conventional memory is not immediately, and only when it is filled more than three quarters. This allows to increase the speed of reading when referring to files that were recorded just. This option makes little sense in real-world use of the SSD, but it helps a lot to drive in synthetic benchmarks, which are practicing scenarios of the “record — reading”.

How this looks in practice can be assessed according to the following schedule speed random reads when accessing the file immediately after you created it when following this file in the SSD was recorded some amount of information.

Here very clearly seen the moment when the controller moves the test file from the SLC cache to the main flash memory, because the speed melkoplodnogo reading at this point drops about 10 %. With such a reduced speed and will have the business users in the vast majority of cases, since there are no reverse algorithms move data from TLC memory in the SLC cache in the firmware Transcend MTE220S not provided, and to stay in SLC-cache files just in case, if the drive is in the process of operation remains free more than 90 percent.

In other words, the work of SLC-cache Transcend MTE220S little different from other drives based on controller SM2262EN. But this does not mean that it is similar to ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro in all. The Transcend offers a significant advantage of a different order – a higher allowed by the terms of the guarantee the amounts of rewriting. Without loss of drive can be completely overwritten data 800 times, and the version of 256 GB is more than 1000 times. Such parameters of the declared resources allow to hope for MTE220S manufacturer of purchased the flash memory of the higher gradation of quality, and this means that the actual reliability of the drive can make even those users who still belong to TLC 3D NAND with a large grain of salt.

#Appearance and internal structure

For a detailed acquaintance by tradition the model has been chosen to Transcend MTE220S of 512 GB. No surprises its good looks, it is not presented, it is the usual storage form factor M. 2 2280, which operates via the bus PCI Express 3.0 x4, and supports the NVM Express Protocol version 1.3. However, the type of packaging and delivery MTE220S evoke stable Association with cheap consumer goods. Even budget UN-buffered SSD MTE110S the company sold in a full box, and the novelty is positioned as a solution to a higher level, were Packed in blister packs, in which, in addition to the M. 2 card storage, no nothing. This is all very reminiscent of the kind available on the market microSD card, and obviously serves the purpose of reducing overhead costs. However, hardly anyone still chooses SSD packing.

Not an impressive appearance and consider myself an SSD. In its design there are no radiators, and the sticker does not have a layer of heat-conducting foil. And in General Transcend MTE220S looks more like an OEM product, rather than as a solution for enthusiasts. Emphasizes this impression is PCB PCB is almost forgotten already green and purely utilitarian label, which has no signs of design, and contains only service information.

The layout of the Board MTE220S not be called model — it, apparently, Transcend the engineers have modified for their own needs. At least previously reviewed the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro despite using the same hardware platform, looked quite different. However, the bilateral arrangement of the components of the new Transcend preserved, therefore, for “low profile” slots M. 2, which occur in thin laptops, MTE220S may not be suitable.

 

An array of flash memory located on MTE220S 512GB scored four chips with their own marking Transcend. Know that within each of these circuits is four 256-Gigabit crystal 64-ply Micron memory TLC 3D NAND second generation. Transcend buys such a memory from Toshiba in the form of solid plates, but cutting, testing and packaging of silicon chips in the chip takes over, which allows to achieve additional production savings.

Attention should be paid and a chip DDR4-1866 SDRAM, next to the chip base controller SM2262EN. It serves as a buffer to store a copy of the table of address translation, but it is important here that in the drive there is only one such chip, manufactured by Samsung, with a capacity of 512 MB. We specially pay attention to it, as other SSD controller SM2262EN fast DRAM buffer typically consists of a pair of chips less than half volume. As a result, Transcend MTE220S work with DRAM buffer occurs via a 16-bit, not 32-bit bus, which in theory can hurt performance when melkoplodnyj operations. However, the influence of this factor should not be overestimated: a 32-bit bus for the RAM is a unique feature of the platform SM2262/SM2262EN, while the other controllers to use SSD DRAM buffer with 16-bit bus and absolutely do not suffer from this.

#Software

For service drives its own production the company produces special utility Transcend SSD Scope. It’s almost typical for software of this class, but some familiar features for some reason are not supported.

 

SSD Scope allows you to monitor the overall status of your drive and assess his health, referring to the telemetry S. M. A. R. T. utility available, simple tests of speed and also check the firmware version and its updates.

 

Also, the utility includes a tool to clone the contents of disks, which enables quick and painless to transfer the operating system and installed applications on freshly bought SSD. Plus, the SSD Scope is able to control the transmission to the drive the TRIM command.

 

For SATA SSD Scope may also offer validation of the array of flash memory for errors or performing a procedure “reliable cleaning” flash memory Secure Erase. But with Transcend MTE220S both of these functions for some reason do not work.

SOURCE

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Peripherals

Overview SATA flash drive Smartbuy Impact: late star

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The last time we tried to sidestep any drives on the controller Phison. The fact that this developer, which in the past offered a relatively good performance platform, gradually shifted its focus on ultrabudgetary segment, and its application of controllers based on a particular model of SSD was automatically imply that we are talking about a decision which we certainly recommend not going. Even caught recently in our laboratory NVMe drive Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSDbased on the new chip PS5012-E12 and sold for a significant amount, made according to the test results rather negative impression: it is noticeably inferior in consumer qualities of not only modern solutions, the foremost industry in the face of Samsung, Western Digital and Intel, but actual input from a number of manufacturers of the second echelon.

However, in practice, to write off from the accounts Phison yet. For example, this firm has managed to Shine brightly during the last E3 2019. They were shown there the controller PS5016-E16 as the storage based on it, could make a splash it is compatible with the PCI Express 4.0, and also stated the speed of linear read and write at 5.0 and 4.4 GB/s and performance of random operations, about 700-750 thousand IOPS. The prospect of NVMe SSD accelerated to twice the external interface went very well for the upcoming announcement of the new AMD Ryzen third generation, which among other things needs to support PCI Express 4.0. The result Phison got a chance to be the advanced developer who was the first to raise the performance of storage systems in high-performance computing to the next level. And it seems that this chance it will not miss, because the model on the basis of PS5016-E16 has already submitted to Corsair, Gigabyte, Patriot and others. However, bringing the platform to mind, and preparing final versions of firmware will require some time, so to test the SSD is built on the promise controller, we will later.

Now we want to talk about another curious product Phison, which unlike PS5016-E16 has already reached store shelves in part of serial products. This high – speed SATA controller PS3112-S12. The first models of drives on the basis of this chip was announced a year ago, but such is the style of work Phison – the final stages of debugging is this producer have terribly much time. As a result, the controller appeared clearly too late, when the interest of the enthusiasts have moved on NVMe models and buyers SATA SSD performance began to agitate not in the first place, and the main argument was the price. But nevertheless, the point in the development of the model range of SATA controllers Phison engineers could supply just now.

In PS3112-S12 they gathered all their best ideas accumulated over years of development, and the result was quite an interesting solution which has the chance to stand on a par with such platforms like Samsung MJX, SMI SM2258 and Marvell 88SS1074. This means that many manufacturers third tier, collaborating with Phison, finally have the opportunity to offer the market a worthy of all of the key characteristics of SATA drives, which need a quite democratic price, thanks to a scheme offered by Phison.

As before, in the case PS3112-S12 procurement of flash memory and manufacturing hardware drives Phison involved herself. At the end of the manufacturers responsibility only packaging, marketing and distribution of products, which is a good guarantee of quality of the SSD based on Phison controllers, even if they are offered under little-known brands. Moreover, it is often sufficient to look at any model of SSD, based on a specific chip, and this experience can be transferred to all similar products, because in the end they use absolutely identical hardware and identical firmware.

In the case PS3112-S12 the first product to fall on the Russian market, were drive R Impact. It happened for obvious reasons: Smartbuy is a domestic brand that has a long-standing partnership with Phison and can quickly put the shops in the new products without intermediaries, and multi-stage logistics. For this reason, Smartbuy Impact has an attractive price. Claiming to be among SATA, the leaders in performance, it is much cheaper. Does this mean that we have a model that can be recommended to those who want to buy not too expensive, but a good SATA drive level not lower than 860 Samsung EVO, we will check it today.

#Specifications

Correctly to accept everything that we tell you about Smartbuy Impact, you should try to forget about what platforms SATA SSD Phison company had released before. Indeed, until recently the most actual controller of the developer remained ultrabudgetary PS3111-S11T, who not only was deprived of the DRAM interface, but to work with flash memory had only two channels. It is not surprising that drives, based on it, could boast only a good price but not an acceptable speed.

The new controller Phison PS3112-S12 is a platform entirely different class, there is provided a DRAM buffer, which can be used by modern DDR4 memory, and a full array configuration of flash memory with up to eight channels. In fact, the chip PS3112-S12 can be called the successor to the older controller PS3110-S10, but with numerous improvements. Important: PS3112-S12 got full compatibility with current types of flash memory, including various 3D NAND (MLC, TLC and QLC), as well as support powerful methods of error correction based on LDPC coding.

Simultaneously increased the performance of the controller. While chip PS3111-S11T could provide only 85 thousand IOPS in reading, and the ceiling for PS3110-S10 was the amount of 88 thousand IOPS, the new PS3112-S12 boasts a peak performance Yes 100 thousand IOPS and this, incidentally, is the level Samsung MJX, which is used in modern SATA SSD South Korean company. In other words, from Smartbuy Impact you can really expect too much.

Moreover, in addition to the new and efficient controller Smartbuy Impact is also characterized by a very good flash. It uses a 64-layer TLC 3D NAND (BiCS3) Toshiba with a capacity of crystals is 256 GB, which allows you to collect configuration with a sufficiently high degree of parallelism. In addition, such a memory can be called fast by itself. Recall, for example, changes in the WD Blue SSD, when moved from a planar to BiCS3 memory. Therefore, it is logical to assume that the Impact Smartbuy really able to be among the best modern SATA SSD.

This, in particular, they say, and its characteristics.

Manufacturer Smartbuy
Series Impact
Model number SBSSD-128GT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-256GT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-512GT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-001TT-PH12-25S3 SBSSD-002TT-PH12-25S3
Form factor 2.5 inch
Interface SATA 6 GB/s
Capacity, GB 128 256 512 1024 2048
Configuration
Flash memory: type, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D-NAND TLC (BiCS3)
Controller Phison PS3112-S12
Buffer: type, volume DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 256 MB DDR3L-1600, 512 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s To 560
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s To 520
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS Up to 96 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS N/a
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W N/a
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,8
Resource record, TB N/a
Dimensions: D × H × d, mm 100 × 70 × 7
Weight, g N/a
Warranty period, years 3

However, R does not give clear specifications on the device, limited to stating in a vague manner only the most basic units at the same time for all variants. But perhaps this is correct: the real performance specifications are only indirectly related.

What does matter is how it works in drive technology SLC-cache, playing an indispensable attribute of modern SSD memory with a three-bit or citrenbaum cells. In R Impact, as in other solutions based on Phison controllers, caching is built on the most simple static algorithm. The cache size is about 3.5 GB for each 128 GB of storage capacity.

However, the fact that the size of the SLC cache is not too large, can not survive. The fact that the bandwidth of the BiCS3 memory Toshiba is that its eight-channel array capable of accepting data at a rate exceeding the capabilities of the SATA interface. And that means no drop in performance when exhausted-SLC-cache during linear write will not be noticeable, at least in middle and high in volume versions of SSD.

For testing we have visited Smartbuy Impact 1 TB, and had the speed of a continuous record always was about 510 MB/s – as if it enters data into the SLC cache and beyond. And that, in fact, a very impressive result, because performance outside of the SLC cache is reduced even terabyte Samsung EVO 860. Moreover, a constant speed recording the entire volume of the SSD is likely to be seen on the version Smartbuy Impact of 512 GB. At least polterabayta NVMe drives with an array of flash memory devices collected from Toshiba BiSC3, in live recordings in the array of 3D NAND TLC show speed up to 550 MB/s.

All this makes Smartbuy Impact very promising novelty, which, apparently, can gain popularity no less than memorable Smartbuy Ignition 2. The manufacturer was well prepared for the new Impact came “and hunt with the hounds”: it is the model range includes five devices ranging from a minimum of 128 GB and ending with a spacious 2-TB drive.

The only complaint that can be present Smartbuy Impact at the stage of acquaintance with specifications, for the warranty period. Its duration is only three years, while many SATA drives producers of the first echelon is given a longer, five-year warranty. But Today while not limiting the permitted load.

#Appearance and internal structure

For testing, we chose Smartbuy Impact capacity of 1 TB. As soon as solid state drives after the flash memory is rapidly becoming cheaper, buyers begin to prefer more capacious SSD. For example, buy Smartbuy Impact 1 TB today it is possible for a relatively small amount — from 8 to 9 thousand rubles, which should not be sorry to spend on a roomy SATA SSD with good performance. By the way, a year and a half ago, about as much worth four times smaller storage capacity.

Familiarity with Impact Smartbuy want to start with its packaging. Usually we do not pay to it attention, because the size and color of the box on consumer characteristics has no effect. But on the box Smartbuy Impact among advertising slogans and marketing descriptions you can see an interesting detail – information about the manufacturer.

 

And here frankly stated that considering the SSD is available on the Taiwanese company Phison, which should convince all the skeptics that Smartbuy Impact – this is a good and well-bred product that is designed and manufactured under the strict supervision directly to the authors of the platform, and not some nameless Chinese guest with a “random” internal configuration, and questionable quality.

The SSD itself is encased in a 2.5-inch aluminum body with a thickness of 7 mm, painted in matte black color. Stickers on it uninformative: they contain only information about the volume and article SSD. But information on the approximate release time of the drive can be gleaned from the warranty sticker, for example our instance Smartbuy Impact dated April 2019.

 

Assembled housing without special attention to details: it is obvious that it tried to save. No mounting screws in the construction are not provided, everything rests solely on the latches. Unnecessary luxury is recognized and any thermal pads: IC housing does not come in contact with. However, during the test, problems with excessive heating of the drive arose.

Inside the enclosure we were met by PCB of blue color, it is very typical for all SATA drives manufactured at the enterprises of Phison. No doubt about it: the filling for Smartbuy Impact really are manufactured under the control of the developers of the controller.

 

In addition to the basic chip Phison PS3112-S12, the base component includes a chip DDR3L-1600 SDRAM, we need to cache the table of address translation, and an array chip flash memory. And no surprises here, no doubt. First, it is not quite the usual capacity DRAM buffer. He Smartbuy Impact consists of one 256-megabyte chips produced Nanya, that is, its volume is four times less than standard size. However, according to experts Phison for PS3112-S12 this is enough thanks to special algorithms with dynamic memory.

Second, some different from the usual, and memory chips. Put on them marking indicates that Phison has continued to buy Toshiba flash memory in the form of a solid wafer, dealing with issues of cutting, sorting and packing of the crystals themselves, the forces of the contractor of PTI. All this allows to achieve an additional reduction in the cost of the final product, which ultimately makes Smartbuy Impact not as expensive to manufacture as other SATA SSD of the same class – with a full eight-channel array of the flash memory on the basis of qualitative TLC 3D NAND and DRAM buffer.

The array of flash memory Smartbuy Impact 1 TB assembled of eight chips marked TA7AG55AIV, each of which contains four 256-Gigabit crystal 64-layer TLC 3D NAND. Thus, the flash memory in this drive is operating with a fourfold alternating devices in each channel.

#Software

Any special utility software for Smartbuy Impact is not provided, but to work with it fits the standard tool Phison SATA Toolbox version 1.17×1, which can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

However, the capabilities of this utility is quite limited. In addition to issuing a General information about SSD, this tool can show the transcript of the SMART settings, sending to the drive command, Secure Erase, and perform “optimization”, which is to refer to the drive package TRIM commands.

SOURCE

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Peripherals

Review of WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD: mainstream new rails

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For the last five years, the situation on the market of solid-state drives for consumer level has changed dramatically. More recently, a limit of dreams for many enthusiasts was the SATA SSD of small capacity, and today such proposals are not even to consumer goods, and ultrabudgetary options. The decline in prices for flash memory and as a result, based on her media radically changed the whole situation. Now increasing demand from buyers are not even familiar SATA SSDS and the new-fangled drives with the NVMe interface, which are more compact, easier to use and more productive.

It is quite natural that the growth of this market sector leads to its segmentation. Some time ago any NVMe SSD could be considered the premium product for high-performance systems, but today, among such solutions, there are expensive and fast-acting models, and modifications, offering a balance between speed and price. Many producers, especially if we are talking about major players in the SSD market, try to have in your assortment of not one, but at least a couple of diverse NVMe-devices for personal computers. For example, the Samsung is 970 PRO, 970 EVO Plus and EVO 970, Intel – 760p and 660phave ADATA – XPG SX8200 Pro, XPG SX6000 Pro and XPG SX6000 Lite, and so on. The meaning of this division in the following: older models are intended for those seeking maximum performance, and ready generously to pay it, and cheap NVMe SSDS are a more modern alternative to SATA drives with better performance, but with almost the same retail value.

Models, which can be attributed to the class NVMe SSD, recently divorced abound. And this is logical, because now there are many ways in order to release the drives, the cost of which is lower than the SATA models, and improved productivity. In conditions when flash memory continues to become cheaper, such products allow manufacturers to earn good money, and therefore it is not surprising that the direction of the budget NVMe SSD is on the rise. In the course of actively the controllers are simplified with the reduced functionality, the configuration does not involve the use of DRAM buffer, and even cheap QLC-memory with questionable reliability. However, ultimately benefit consumers, because, despite the variety inherent in the budget NVMe SSD compromises, among them, inevitably found and very decent options.

Today our lab has got a new product from the category budget NVMe SSD – solid state drive WD Blue SN500, which is designed and made by one of the market leaders, company Western Digital. Solutions that created a vertically integrated producers, among which belongs the firm, rarely are unsuccessful. But because WD Blue SN500 interest. It uses exclusively native components Western Digital, which she has developed and produced without any assistance: signature TLC and 3D NAND, and designed within the company with a basic controller. The same components which companies have to buy on the side, such as dynamic memory chips (DRAM), this SSD do not exist. This means that the cost for Blue SN500 low, and the manufacturer, if desired, has the opportunity to make it truly accessible and mass solution.

In other words, WD Blue SN500 is unbuffered NVMe SSD, which seriously pretends to be one of the most popular choices for installation in personal computers average. He made a famous firm, is based on flash memory with good reliability, promises significantly higher performance compared to SATA model, and its recommended price is such that potentially it can be among the most affordable offers with NVMe interface, playing in the same League with the Intel SSD 660p, P1, Crucial, ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro and Kingston A1000. It remains only to check whether cheap NVMe is the solution from Western Digital turned out exactly as expected. That is going to do this.

#Specifications

After the market introduction of the new Blue SN500 NVMe SSD in stock Western Digital was formed two “blue” SSD (SATA and NVMe) and two drives with the NVMe interface (Black and Blue). However, no confusion at this. If we talk about the line Blue, new WD Blue SN500 legally considered as a solid-state device of the third generation under this brand after the two SATA drives on the basis of planar and three-dimensional TLC-memory, which switched to the use of more advanced interface. In the space NVMe products Western Digital hierarchy is even clearer. WD Black SN750 is the flagship device for enthusiasts, and WD Blue SN500 – the low-end model aimed at the mass user.

Quite revealing that SN750 WD Black and WD Blue SN500 in this case are based on the same flash memory. Here and there applied the usual 64-layer TLC 3D NAND (BiSC3) manufactured at the production facilities SanDisk. Despite the fact that Western Digital announced the start of the supply of 96-layer TLC memory a year ago, in any retail products of the company, it has not yet found. The same can be said about QLC 3D NAND. Its production started even earlier, but its use in mass products Western Digital is in no hurry.

The relationship between WD Black and WD Blue SN750 SN500 can be traced not only in the flash memory. These models also use controllers with the same basic architecture. In 2018 Western Digital has translated a series of NVMe drives WD Black to a new controller of its own design. And it was immediately laid modular design: proprietary chip was constructed so that on the basis of its constituent parts can be collected and any other device variants with improved or, conversely, reduced performance and functionality.

Thus, the base control chip, which is the basis of WD Blue SN500, is a derivative of the controller from the older model of the drive, but after deduction of the functional blocks. More specifically, the simplification is to disable half of the channels in the array of flash memory, seizure of the DRAM controller and the narrowing of the external interface to the PCI Express 3.0 x2. This means that in the end, Blue SN500 can be considered as the unbuffered version of the flagship model with the reduced performance of the array flash memory and limited bandwidth of the external bus.

This approach allowed to obtain the necessary for WD Blue SN500 inexpensive controller a little blood, but there was one catch: despite the absence of this SSD DRAM buffer, add support for HMB (Host Memory Buffer) did not work. The use of computer memory for caching the table of address translation would require the addition of some new functional blocks and bother extra the design in the plans of developers is not included. So in the end support, HMB WD Blue SN500 never appeared, and when interacting with the table of address translation, he can only rely on the available in the controller’s own buffer memory with the volume increased to 4 MB. This is another reason why the performance of Junior NVMe models have been limited.

However, WD Blue SN500 still significantly outperforms the “blue” drives with the SATA interface. This follows directly from the specifications.

Manufacturer Western Digital
Series WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD
Model number WDS250G1B0C WDS500G1B0C
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x2 – NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 250 500
Configuration
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer SanDisk 64-layer 256-GB BiCS3 3D TLC NAND
Controller SanDisk 20-B2-007010
Buffer: type, volume No
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 1700 1700
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1300 1450
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 210 000 275 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 170 000 300 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,025/5,94
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,75
Resource record, TB 150 300
Dimensions: D × H × D, mm 80 × 22 × 2,38
Weight, g 6,5
Warranty period, years 5

Generally speaking, the stated performance characteristics WD Blue SN500 look pretty good and the background performance of many NVMe models, at least in terms of velocity random melkoplodnyj operations. One gets the feeling that the developers cut the external interface Blue SN500 to PCI Express 3.0 x2 just for the fact that this drive did not work too good.

Roughly the same conclusion can be drawn looking at the WD Blue SN500 working with its SLC cache in continuous sequential write.

WD Blue SN500 used a simple static SLC cache size is 3 GB of the drive capacity of 250 GB and 6 GB – 500 GB modification. The speed of the linear record in accelerated mode, which we received for polutoraletnego SSD, amounted to slightly more than 1.3 GB/s the Performance of an array of flash memory in normal TLC mode when it is in the area of 750 MB/s. If to speak not about absolute but about relative performance, we can say that the SLC cache WD Blue SN500 small and not too fast, but the speed of the array of flash memory is well compensated. Performance direct writes to the TLC 3D NAND consider WD Blue SN500 can easily compete with the Intel SSD 760p, Samsung 970 EVO and ADATA SX8200 Pro.

However, we should not delude ourselves ahead of time. Symptoms that we are dealing with a drive of this class, it is easy to see in other characteristics. For example a lineup that includes only two drive with a minimum capacity – 250 and 500 GB. Even terabyte version of the WD Blue SN500 not provided, despite the fact that the SATA version of the WD Blue 1 TB SSD exists in nature.

But the manufacturer did not limit the allowed resource overwriting. Warranty for Blue SN500 is given for five years, and the drive is considered to be designed for 600 full rewrites during its life cycle. The same resource is declared for the older model of the drive Western Digital, Black SN750, which is hardly surprising, since SN750 Black and Blue SN500 are based on identical crystals 64-layer TLC 3D NAND.

#Appearance and internal structure

The appearance of WD Blue SN500 — and we have to tests have been the high model capacity of 500 GB — very strange. The fact is that on the Board this drive installed just two chips – controller and one-chip flash memory. However, the form factor of this SSD M. 2 2280, and half of the PCB remains completely empty. It looks as if the drive was originally going to do half as long, but then suddenly caught himself, then what have nowhere to stick the label.

And actually the story with the sticker far from the truth. The fact that WD Blue SN500 is a retail and a bit enhanced on the level of firmware version came out a year ago OEM drive SN520. This product is really produced in the format M. 2 2230, but for the mass market Western Digital saw fit the more popular form factor M. 2 2280. Therefore, for Blue SN500 payment was extended, but its layout remained essentially old. That is why it turned out that a substantial part of the area of the PCB novelties carries only the label — and nothing else.

 

Both chips, which are assembled WD Blue SN500, placed on the front side of the Board. The controller chip has a very small size — it is about four times smaller in size than the controller on the WD Black SN750. But flash memory is the same as on the flagship models of Western Digital, just a little more densely Packed on the chip. The entire array of flash memory Blue SN500 consists of sixteen 256-Gigabit crystals 64-layer 3D TLC NAND (BiCS3) produced by SanDisk, which are stacked in a single chip. And that’s it: chip dynamic memory on the drive is really undetectable, because WD Blue SN500 – cheap and UN-buffered solution, albeit with an NVMe interface.

Will tell you more about external performance WD Blue SN500 nothing special. Unless you can pay attention to the slightly unusual configuration of the knife connector. It has two cut-key: “type B” and “type M”, while familiar to us NVMe SSD usually have only one slot in the position M. This is due to the fact that WD Blue SN500 is not only compatible with M. 2 slots, where supplied four lines PCI Express 3.0 (Socket 3), but with those slots where there is only two such lines (Socket 2).

#Software

The Western Digital hard drive always attached the same brand service utility SSD Dashboard, which implements all the basic functions for their service. It works with WD Blue SN500, but in the usual blue-white, not black gaming notebook, which appears only when you install the WD Black SN750.

Main features of the SSD Dashboard: get information about the installed in the SSD system, including information about the remaining resource and the current temperature; monitoring the performance of the drive in real time; firmware update via Internet or from a file; the operation Secure Erase and delete any data from the flash memory by means of forced vanishing; execute SMART tests and view SMART attributes.

It should be noted that the possibility of interpretation of the parameters SMART, laid in SSD Dashboard, somewhat richer than the information that can be obtained from independent third-party programs.

 

But the branded NVMe driver NVMe drives Western Digital does not exist. So working with them will have a standard operating system driver, in the properties which to increase capacity and performance in popular benchmarks, it is recommended to tick the option “Disable flushing of the buffer cache Windows account for this device”.

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Peripherals

A review of the drive, the Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD: the size of the illumination is not a hindrance

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Today’s review is curious at least for two reasons. First – we SSD released by Gigabyte, which drives absolutely not associated. All the same, this Taiwanese manufacturer of motherboards and graphics cards systematically expands the range of devices, adding a range of new and new types of computer equipment. Not so long ago we tested released under the brand name Aorus, Gigabyte the PSU, monitor and RAMand now is the turn to SSDs.

However, to be completely correct, it is necessary to mention that the Toshiba SSD delivers under its own brand for quite a long time. The first drives with the SATA interface it introduced a year ago, but it was not very interesting budget model c quite ordinary characteristics. Now Gigabyte decided to release a real SSD for enthusiasts with a modern interface NVMe 1.3, flagship performance RGB led branded gaming style. That’s why the Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD, which will be discussed later, and caught our attention.

The second reason that forced us to get more information about this novelty, is that it is based on a relatively new hardware platform, which we have not yet had to face. In the Gigabyte Aorus RGB controller is used PS5012-E12 independent of the Taiwanese company Phison, the development of which in recent times found only in the lower price segments and in high-speed drives do not fall for a long time. But now, apparently, Phison strategy has changed, and the company expects to regain a foothold in consumer drives a higher level.

Actually Phison focused on budget platforms SSD it is not because of some marketing reasons. Her problem was the fact that the process of final debugging and output products to the market, took lots of time, and the proposed Phison decisions were often obsolete. This forced the firm to fight for a place in the market only with the help of low prices, which led to the formation of platforms around its image again.

Such history threatened to repeat itself and with the controller PS5012-E12, as it was first demonstrated at CES 2018 a year and a half ago. However, this time the developers have time to finish your product to its obsolescence. The beginning of deliveries of the platform E12 company Phison announced in September, and now the first actual products based on it and finally got to store shelves.

The appearance of another controller for consumer NVMe drives are very important and need to market the event. Unfortunately, so far nobody has been able to offer a platform for NVMe SSD, which would allow to create a storage class 970 Samsung EVO Plus. New developments of Silicon Motion and Western Digital, as we have seen, are at a lower level. And this means that the South Korean company was able to monopolize the segment of high-performance NVMe SSD, keeping to their flagship drives high prices. That’s why we wait for Samsung EVO Plus 970 and 970 PRO will have some real alternatives, able to do advanced disk performance more accessible to consumers.

On the one hand, characteristics that Phison claims their new controller PS5012-E12, allow us to hope that the power it is at least not worse than Samsung Phoenix. On the other the desire to use this chip in their products have already stated at least two dozen manufacturers of the second and third tier. So, if all goes well, the market for consumer NVMe SSD can be a serious and pleasant for users to change. But don’t be in a hurry, and before you give vent to joy, let us analyze how really good the Gigabyte Aorus RGB platform Phison E12.

#Specifications

Usually the drives on the controller Phison represent typical products, similar to each other in basic characteristics, regardless of which company delivers them to the market. Actually, just like is the case of the Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD – this SSD is used templated hardware and software architecture with a brand-typical set of components. This means that the characteristics of the considered storage device is similar to any other SSD based on Phison controller PS5012-E12, for example MP510 Corsair, Team Group MP34, Silicon Power P34A80 or Patriot VPN100. You may have drives from different manufacturers can be some individual characteristics, but usually they affect only the exterior.

As for hardware designs, in any of the SSD controller Phison PS5012-E12 is applied to one and the same array of flash memory composed of 256-Gigabit devices BiCS3 (64-crystal layer TLC 3D NAND) manufactured by Toshiba. It is worth mentioning that this is a good flash memory, which is able to provide high performance. For example, similar to the array of flash memory used in drives WD Black SN750, which can be described as NVMe solid-solution average. But Western Digital’s own controller, Phison PS5012-E12 is a completely different story.

Until now, Phison had time to check two basic chips for NVMe SSD. First, PS5007-E7, was intended to create a planar drives based on MLC memory, however, despite the eight-channel architecture, was not very productive and was used in a fairly small number of models. The following controller, PS5008-E8, focused on support for 3D TLC NAND and won much popularity, but it was a frankly budget solution with four channels for the organization of the array of flash memory, a stripped-down PCI Express 3.0 x2 and without LDPC coding.

Phison PS5012-E12 on the background of previous chips – the solution to a completely different kind, designed from scratch. Here everything is done in accordance with modern standards. Supported PCI Express 3.0 x4 bandwidth to 3.94 GB/s and NVMe Protocol 1.3. The array of the flash memory is formed on a productive eight-channel scheme. It supports not only modern, but also promising types of flash memory. Support powerful methods of error correction based on LDPC codes. As the DRAM buffer can be used not only for DDR3L and DDR4 memory. Finally, for the production of chips PS5012-E12 used 28-nm process technology by TSMC, while earlier chip Phison ordered from UMC, where they were made on 40-nm standards.

Its new development Phison estimates are so optimistic, that does not hesitate to promise the performance of up to 600 thousand IOPS on deeply pipelined melkoplodnyj operations. And if this number is true, it can be argued that the theoretical power PS5012-E12 is much larger than the SMI SM2262EN, and almost reaches the level of Samsung Phoenix. In reality, however, believe that the performance of the controller PS5012-E12 hard enough. The fact that it is based on the ARM processor with only two cores, while the Samsung solution is based on pachydermia design.

And this is reflected in the characteristics of products that inform providers of final decisions on the chip Phison PS5012-E12. For example, for the drive of Gigabyte come in the following specifications.

Manufacturer Gigabyte
Series Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD
Model number GP-ASM2NE2256GTTDR GP-ASM2NE2512GTTDR
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 256 512
Configuration
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 256-Gbit 3D-NAND TLC (BiCS3)
Controller Phison PS5012-E12
Buffer: type, volume DDR4-2400,
512 MB
DDR4-2400,
512 MB
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 3100 3480
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 1050 2000
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 180 000 360 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 240 000 440 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W 0,272/5,485
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,8
Resource record, TB 380 800
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 22 × 80 × 10
Weight, g 28
Warranty period, years 5

Despite the fact that Phison has touted its platform as a solution to E12 flagship level, the formal characteristics of the performance of the Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD noticeably weaker indicators not only 970 Samsung EVO Plus, but these drives as WD Black or SN750 ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro. And it’s not immediately sets in a positive way in relation to innovations.

Not encouraging, and the work Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD technology SLC-cache. The engineers at Phison in its new platform and are unable to develop a progressive dynamic algorithms and continue to rely on static SLC cache that the drive capacity of 256GB has a capacity of 6 GB, and 512 GB version – 12 GB. Specifications recording speed according to tradition belong to the accelerated mode, if to speak about direct writes to the TLC memory, its performance is about three and a half times lower. We illustrate this with a traditional schedule speed continuous sequential write on an empty Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD with a capacity of 512 GB.

The speed entries in the SLC cache reaches 2.0 GB/s, but this performance is very long, on the main array of flash memory write speed is only about 560 MB/s And this, incidentally, is considerably lower than the speed that produces a similar brand architecture of the array of flash memory WD Black SN750. Ultimately, to fully populate Gigabyte Aorus RGB NVMe M. 2 SSD 512 GB, you need to spend about 15 minutes, while the flagship NVMe drive Western Digital you can record one and a half times faster.

In addition, Phison adopted from Silicon Motion the idea of using SLC cache for “cheating” – increase the measurement speed reading benchmarks. Information included in the SLC cache, linger in it for a while to provide the best performance when accessing files that were recorded just. You can see this with a simple experiment, during which we check the speed of random melkoplodnogo read data from a file created on the Gigabyte Aorus RGB NVMe M. 2 SSD 512 GB, as immediately after the recording and after this the SSD was recorded some more information.

As can be seen from the graph, when a fresh test file is excluded from the SLC cache and then write additional 12 GB data read speed is reduced by about a quarter. This means that the simple benchmarks that measure the performance when using applications with a newly created file will display for the Gigabyte Aorus RGB NVMe M. 2 SSD to significantly inflated performance compared to the performance that is possible in actual use this drive.

In the end, the familiarity with the platform underlying the Gigabyte Aorus RGB NVMe M. 2 SSD leaves a reasonable doubt that the drive is legitimate to put on a par with the flagship NVMe SSD. However, this is obviously not a budget option, because the configuration of these drives does not involve any explicit savings in design. Moreover, if we talk specifically about the Gigabyte drive, it is sold much more expensive alternatives on the basis of the SMI controller SM2262EN, the performance of which can be attributed to the average level.

In addition, the Gigabyte Aorus RGB NVMe M. 2 SSD shows up pretty good warranty conditions. The warranty period is five years, and during this time the drive is allowed to overwrite the approximately 1500 times. This allowed even higher than the flagship drives, the manufacturers of the first echelon.

At the end of the story about the technical characteristics remains to notice an odd detail. The model number of the Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSDS consists of two versions – 256GB and 512GB. No option for 1 Tbyte looks very suspicious: such capacity is not only popular among customers, but could allow to obtain better performance by increasing the degree of parallelism of the array of flash memory. Obviously the reason for its absence lies not in the features of the platform Phison E12, as other manufacturers offer and even dvuhterabaytnye terabyte drives based on it.

#Appearance and internal structure

For testing RGB Aorus M. 2 NVMe SSD AMD has provided elder and more powerful modification with a capacity of 512 GB. The drive was made in a typical form factor M. 2 2280, but its appearance can hardly be called ordinary.

Developers of Gigabyte showed remarkable imagination and has equipped its product with a massive radiator RGB led in a corporate style. Due to this, Aorus RGB NVMe M. 2 SSD not only markedly different from any other platform Phison E12, but is one of the most original NVMe SSD on the market, at least if we talk about the exterior.

Radiator mounted in the Gigabyte Aorus RGB NVMe M. 2 SSD, it seems very effective solution. It is not usual in such cases, a thin aluminum plate, and a fairly massive bar with two sawn along the edges of the grooves.

 

In reality, however, removes heat from drive, it mediocre, because the developers of Gigabyte does not care about its tight fit to the cooled components. Due to the fact that the height of the controller IC is lower than the height of chip flash memory, core chip SSD that radiator is almost not cooled. In addition, no heat sink is forced to do the memory contained on the reverse side of the M. 2 module. In other words, the entire cooling system is more of a decoration.

However, the scenery was quite spectacular: at the center of the radiator flaunts a logo Aorus – head eagle – with RGB led backlight. When the logo cyclically pulsates different colors. Strictly speaking, the backlight can be configured using the utility RGB Fusion 2.0, but this feature is available only for selected models of Gigabyte motherboards. In the compatibility list includes only the fee Aorus Intel Z390 and fee X299 Aorus Master. On any other motherboards algorithm of the backlight control does not work.

Usually all the drives are built on platforms Phison, use the same PCB design, provided by the authors of the controller. However, the Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD received a slightly modified PCB. On the Board added two holes for screw fastening of a radiator and three RGB LEDs, which illuminate the Aorus logo. But otherwise the layout of the printed circuit Board corresponds to the reference.

 

On the PCB the drive is an eight-channel Phison controller PS5012-E12 with concomitant 512-megabyte chip DDR4-2400 SDRAM Hynix production required to store a working copy of the table of address translation. The array of the flash memory formed from four chips labelled TA7AG55AIV which are located on the front side of the Board as on the back. Such chips by order of the Phison company manufactures PTI, which procures semiconductor stuffing directly from Toshiba. End up in every chip flash memory, posted on the Gigabyte Aorus RGB M. 2 NVMe SSD is four 256-Gigabit crystal Toshiba TLC 3D NAND with 64 layers, but the cutting and sorting these crystals of semiconductor wafers in charge of the Taiwan intermediary.

Thus, it seems that the Gigabyte drive should be used semiconductor crystals of relatively good quality. Such a conclusion can be drawn from the stated high-resource SSD with a small volume of the reserve space. After formatting, the owner of a 512-Gigabyte drive will be available approximately 476 GB of storage, 36 GB is a SLC cache, so a replacement Fund is just nothing.

#Software

Today almost all SSD manufacturers offer a utility service that allows you to monitor the status and manage their SSD. Gigabyte this role is assigned to the SSD utility Tool Box, but from the point of view of functionality should be included among the worst examples of similar programs: it is not able to practically nothing.

The only thing you can do with this utility is to see General information about the SSD to access its S. M. A. R. T.-telemetry, and run Secure Erase. The interface also provides the Optimization tab, but to choose it is not available.

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