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The 2018: SSDS

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In the last few years to talk about what is happening in the SSD market in the final articles was not very easy. Major changes of global character, on which to focus in such reporting, it was very little, and everything had to be kept to a review published during the year specific products that are, however, rarely able to offer any fundamental change in architecture or performance.

However, 2018 is much more eventful, which can be called a turning point in the development of the whole SSD market. We may not have witnessed the emergence of some innovative technologies like 3D XPoint happened at least three very important things that will certainly have a strong influence on what will now happen with solid-state drives over the next years. First, all the NAND manufacturers have ceased production of the planar flash memory and have relied on memory with three-dimensional layout. Second, flash memory has finally stopped growing for 2018 showed a significant drop in prices that made and continues to make solid state drives more affordable mass product. And thirdly, 2018 was the year of the appearance of four-bit (QLC) memory, which soon needs to be available in consumer SSD high capacity. Look at these events in more detail.

#64 layer 3D NAND is becoming a mass

Three-dimensional NAND is no longer a new technology, but until recently really the full release of this flash was only the Samsung. Other manufacturers experimented with 3D NAND, but did not do much betting on their multi-layered products of the first generations. The reason was that despite the fact that 3D NAND in any case allows to increase the storage density, the benefits of a memory begins to emerge fully only after the transition to 64-layer design. Production of 3D NAND is more complicated and costly than the production of a planar flash memory. In addition, the release of 3D NAND requires conversion of the production lines, so in the end, made for aggressive 15/16-nm norms planar memory has a lower cost than 32 – or 48-layer 3D NAND. In the case of 64-ply memory investment is already paying off, and this fact has pushed all manufacturers to a long-awaited transition to large-scale production of 3D NAND.

A pioneer in the implementation and promotion of three-dimensional flash memory, Samsung company, delivers the end products, based on 64-layer 3D NAND, even with the third quarter of 2017. In the past year, it gradually expanded the range and volumes of supplies of a memory, seeking to maintain its 35 percent market share and ranks the leading manufacturer of NAND. In addition, in the second half of 2018, the company began the gradual introduction of memory of the fifth generation, with a 96-layer design. However, the overall slowdown in the growth of the NAND market and falling prices halted the process. It is obvious that in 2019, the majority of flash products will use 64-layer memory, though speaking specifically about Samsung, the company has already started delivery storage 860 series EVO with a 96-layer memory, and soon this way will update and 970 EVO.

The second largest manufacturer of flash memory, SK Hynix, focused primarily on the supply of chips for mobile devices, but, nevertheless, he made a bid for the production of multilayer memory. Designed this firm the technology is designed to produce 72-layer memory, and that this 3D NAND is the major share of SK Hynix products. It should be noted that the company intends to expand its presence in the segment of SSD and memory to solid state drives account for up to 20% in the structure of supply. In the future, the plan is to expand this type of product transition to the end of the year 96-layer design of chips.

Flash memory with 64 layers already by mid-year became the main type of products supplied by the company Toshiba. Moreover, in the near future, Toshiba is going to continue to increase the supply by expanding the production base. It is worth Recalling that in the middle of the year, the company introduced to the market debut drive XG6, which was tested more dense, 96-layer memory, but according to reports, the delivery of a variety of 3D NAND continue to carry only a pilot character, and before the mass distribution of a 96-layer memory of the Japanese manufacturer is still far away.

Approximately the same situation is and Western Digital, its 64-layer memory widely used in their own drives around the end of 2017, and the company is now ready to start production of the 96-layer memory. However, a rapid transition should not wait – at the moment, Western Digital has decided to limit capital investments in development of production and, consequently, this will limit the availability of its 96-layer 3D NAND on the market over the next few quarters.

Since the beginning of last year, has full supply 64 layer 3D NAND and Micron. Drives based on it are widely presented both under its own brands of Crucial and Micron, and in range of numerous partners. Along the way, Micron is preparing to transition to the memory issue of the third generation with 96 layers, but now the emphasis is on increasing the density of storage by increasing the number of layers, and through the implementation of four-bit cells QLC. In this regard, one should not expect a quick switch to release 96-layer and memory from Micron. In addition, the company’s strategy involves the reduction in the supply of 3D NAND to third-party SSD manufacturers, so the term prevalence Micron memory in solid state products of third-party companies may even decrease.

In the beginning of 2018, Intel broke off a partnership with Toshiba to develop advanced technologies of flash memory, however 64-layer and a 96-layer 3D NAND are not affected. It is therefore not surprising that 64 layer 3D NAND is also widely represented in the assortment of Intel: about the middle of last year, this memory has become dominant in a flash products of this company. Intel is now busy with expansion of production at its factory in Dalane, and the promotion of the 64-layer 3D NAND QLC. As for increasing the number of layers and the release of SSDs on the basis of the memory of the third generation, this will clearly not happen in the near future.

#Is a long-awaited reversal of the price trend

What all manufacturers of flash memory has prepared its production facilities to produce a 64-layer 3D NAND around the same time in the beginning of 2018, has played with them quite a cruel joke. In the previous few quarters, the demand for NAND chips exceeded supply. And it was connected at one end with the rapid increase in the consumption of flash memory data centers and mobile market, and with another – with the limited supply of such memory due to the fact that the producers were engaged in re-equipping its plants with a view to their transfer to the production of three-dimensional memory. Since the beginning of 2018, the situation began to radically change.

In the past year, manufacturers of smartphones has decreased the need for flash memory. New models of vehicles stopped aggressively increase the internal storage capacity, flagship smartphones were sold worse than expected, and the entire consumer electronics market has finished growing as fast as before, rate. On this is superimposed the decline in PC sales, exacerbated by including owing to the shortage of Intel processors.

However, speeding producers of flash memory had become unstoppable. After a reorientation to the production of 3D NAND, they continued to increase production throughout 2018. Ultimately, the annual increase in production of NAND chips in a capacitive equivalent reached polutorakratnoe size.

Поставки чипов NAND

The supply of NAND chips

It is quite natural that to absorb all this excess capacity on a flash memory the market was not able to, and all of this caused a deep crisis of overproduction of NAND chips. The proposal was to significantly exceed demand, and the price of flash memory has gone down.

Изменение стоимости чипов памяти производства Samsung

The change in the cost of memory chips made by Samsung

Изменение стоимости чипов памяти производства SK Hynix

The change in the cost of the memory chips production SK Hynix

And it was a very pleasant surprise for buyers, because after the flash, which after a long period of constant appreciation was losing in price from 10-15 % over the quarter, stretched, and prices on solid state drives. So, if you look at the dollar prices of a popular mass SSD, you will notice that in 2018, they declined by about half.

Изменение цены Samsung 860 EVO 500GB на Amazon.com

Change 860 Samsung EVO 500GB on Amazon.com

Изменение цены Crucial MX500 500GB на Amazon.com

Change Crucial MX500 500GB on Amazon.com

In fact, now SSD are cheaper than ever in its history, which should have a positive impact on their distribution. Moreover, a pleasant trend does not end, and further reduction in price of SSDs will continue. It is projected that in 2019 the price of NAND chips will fall by another 25-30 %. And there is a logical explanation. Memory consumption by manufacturers of smartphones and tablets is not increased, the PC market is still in decline, and data centers is capable of generating such a high demand to absorb the entire produce flash memory. Especially considering the fact that all of its manufacturers continue capital investment in production and do not give up their plans to introduce QLC-cell and 3D NAND with a large number of layers, that once again raise the density of chips and will increase the supply of flash memory.

Also now in the equation adds two more unknowns, a trade war between the US and China, plus the forthcoming launch of Chinese enterprises for the production of NAND-owned Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC).

If in 2018 the average unit price of GB capacity of the SSD has dropped from $0.35 to $0,23, in the next year it may drop to the value of about $0,16, especially given the emergence of market drives, built on QLC 3D NAND. I think the cost to buy terabyte SATA SSD for $100 will be possible in mid-2019.

#QLC the emergence of 3D NAND

It was the beginning of distribution QLC 3D NAND, we tend to be the third most important event in 2018. This memory stores four bits of information in the cell, allowing it to increase storage density by 33% relative to the usual TLC 3D NAND. Moreover, this change does not require any special modifications in the production process: everything you need to increase the density of the cells, in fact, implemented on the software level. Moreover, Samsung, Micron and Intel, which has already started the implementation of their drives QLC 3D NAND, used for output of four-bit memory of the same processing line, as in the case with 3D TLC NAND. The ability to store the cells for more bit – on the one hand, the result of the “aging” process and improve the quality of semiconductor crystals, and on the other – a consequence of the introduction of the SSD controllers more advanced algorithms of digital processing and error correction.

Clearly, the need for recognition in cell QLC NAND 16 levels of voltage instead of 8 to TLC is detrimental to reliability. And so far, QLC 3D NAND manufacturers declare three times lower endurance compared to TLC 3D NAND and the worst data security in an off state. This makes modern drives with four-bit memory more suitable for low loads and scenarios of type WORM (write once, read many). But it is worth mentioning that a similar road traveled by the TLC memory. Her first choices were not too reliable and gave buyers a well-founded suspicion. Now TLC 3D NAND is going to take place durable and high quality toppings. that in the near future will completely replace MLC-memory.

The same stages of adoption, must go through the QLC 3D NAND. Moreover, its distribution is directly linked future expansion of the habitat SSDS in personal computers. Estimates today, solid-state media identified only in 55 % of their existing user systems, but the prospects for significant price reduction, it is expected a convincing increase this share up to 90% by 2023. And drives on the base of QLC-memory may play an important role, because this memory significantly reduces the cost of SSD.

In addition, QLC 3D NAND solves another problem: it allows you to increase the capacity of solid state drives, including those made in a compact form factor. As example, the 2-terabyte version of the drive the Intel SSD 660p, which not only has a standard size M. 2 2280, and the same is made in a unilateral design. And speaking of 2.5-inch drives, the Samsung series 860 QVO there is already a model with a capacity of 4 TB, but the manufacturer promises that if there is demand lineup may be supplemented by versions for 8 and 16 TB.

However, it is impossible not to mention that QLC 3D NAND not only loses TLC 3D NAND from the point of view of endurance, but also significantly worse performance. This is due to the increase in the volume of crystals and more complex processing procedure stored in the data cells. However, the old rule that any SSD is faster than HDD, a priori, thus is not broken. The developers have learned quite effectively to mask the shortcomings of the slow flash memory using SLC caching, and this approach is working successfully in case of QLC drives based on 3D NAND. Moreover, the pilot model on chetyrehbalnoy memory – Intel SSD Crucial 660p and P1 is a NVMe SSD, it is normally protruding against the cheap TLC alternatives with high-speed interface.

#Flourishing NVMe, SATA sunset

Definitely talk about what drives advanced close to to displace old SATA SSD, is clearly premature. The demand for SATA hard drives remains very high and this is not surprising, because this interface is standard for systems of past generations, and the Park of such systems is huge. Additionally, SATA SSDS offer higher capacity, easier going in RAID and just cheaper. Therefore, such decisions would remain in the sale for many years.

However, the phrase about the decline of the SATA in the title not just. The fact that any sort of evolutionary development of such storage for a long time not happening. SATA SSDS have reached their “ceiling” a couple of years ago and all new models released in the last year, offer at best all the same as their predecessors. At worst, their characteristics degrade over taken by most manufacturers rate on the translation of the SATA proposals in the budget segment. As a result, the bulk of the SATA novelties, which appeared in 2018 – it drives with those or other technical defects: either unbuffered or limited parallelism of the array of flash memory, or both.

Against this background, would like to highlight only two of the SATA product which was released last year. The first is 860 Samsung EVO, which is a further development of the 850 EVO in a new controller and a new 64 – or 96-layer flash memory.

Samsung 860 EVO

860 Samsung EVO

And the second Crucial MX500 – drive, assembled on the basis of the 64-layer flash memory Toshiba and a good controller SMI. From the point of view of the performance of these SSDS, at least not inferior to their predecessors (true, except for the 500 GB EVO 860), and offer enough for everyday use and reliability.

Crucial MX500

Crucial MX500

But NVMe drives were able in 2018 to take new heights. A year ago, the benchmark for consumer NVMe SSD was made by Samsung EVO 960, demonstrating better performance compared to any other option, then in 2018, all changed radically. And despite the fact that the South Korean manufacturer has updated its core offering, releasing improved 970 EVO, today is the best in terms of price and performance NVMe SSD must be sought not in the range Samsung. There are currently at least two alternative platforms, storage devices on the basis of which can offer at least the worst consumer qualities.

First developed by Western Digital and is used in the latest version of WD Black NVMe SSD, which, together with the new corporate controller received and the original 64-layer TLC 3D NAND. In sum, as Western Digital was surprisingly attractive offer, which also often sold at more profitable than Samsung, price.

WD Black NVMe

WD Black NVMe

However, the main star in consumer NVMe SSD was still not the WD drive. Public controller that can compete with the decisions of Samsung and Western Digital suddenly released Silicon Motion, which immediately opened the way for the emergence of high-quality products by the manufacturers of the second-the third echelon. And they were not long in coming: again all was ADATA, offered on the basis of the 64-layer TLC 3D NAND, Micron drives, and the XPG Ultimate SX8200 Gammix S11, which provide performance at least not worse than the 970 Samsung EVO, but at a much more affordable price.

ADATA XPG Gammix S11

ADATA XPG Gammix S11

By the way, the efforts of Silicon Motion on consumer drives and there are still one interesting class of products – budget NVMe SSD with the price approaching the average SATA SSD, but with significantly higher performance. First, such products were already mentioned Intel and Crucial SSD 660p P1, which uses a new 3D QLC NAND produced by Intel and Micron, respectively. Secondly, appeared on the shelves and curious unbuffered NVMe SSD based on TLC 3D NAND. Makes them particularly interesting is the fact that the lack of DRAM buffer for NVMe storage devices often is not a problem. Progressive models get support for HMB (Host Memory Buffer), which allows for connected PCI Express storage to use for their needs the main memory of a computer, and this largely negates the lack of a platform own SSD DRAM.

Crucial P1

Crucial P1

In the end, NVMe drives for 2018 become faster, more diverse and more accessible. But it is obvious that the ongoing process will go on. Bandwidth interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 leaves space for growth, the improvement in performance when melkoplodnyj operations can be carried out at the expense of technology improvement of flash memory. And here we should recall the existence of a product such as the Intel SSD Optane, which cannot be called a massive decision due to the prohibitive high cost, but which shows the potential of the NVMe interface in reducing the latency of operations. Of course, the Optane SSD performance is largely determined by the use of innovative memory 3D XPoint direct, and not page access. However, comparable results are achievable and on the basis of the classic SSD NAND to confirm it in your Samsung drive family Z-SSD.

In other words, in 2018 only laid the Foundation for the further development of NVMe SSDS, and ahead of us a lot of interesting events.

#Meanwhile in Russia

In the final part of the reporting material we decided to talk about how global market trends solid state drives lay on the Russian soil. The fact that the domestic market SSD has its own specifics, connected with at least two circumstances: that against the cheaper NAND here is played by the gradual reduction of the national currency, as well as the excessive conservatism of the Russian buyers, which refer to any new technology with a strong distrust.

However, despite the negative economic factors, a significant drop in the price of SSDs could feel and consumers in Russia. According to the report of the analytical Agency GfK Rus, collect and process sales data SSD retail channels, unit price of the GB average SSD for the period from January to December 2018 fell from $0.5 to $0,26, that is almost half.

However, the Russian buyer noted this nice trend in its own way. Instead against the background of lower prices to start to move to SSD with a larger capacity, our customers decided to use a cheaper SSD for savings spent on components of the budget. As a result, while a year ago the average price of purchased in stores SSD was about 5900 rubles, by the end of 2018 the average check for a new SSD dropped to 3800 rubles.

However, in fairness it should be noted that the overall sales of SSDS in Russia during that time has grown in quantitative terms, more than 80 %. In other words, falling prices still affected the penetration of SSDs in the system and increased the mass introduction of SSD. Another thing is that the most popular option was, and still drives 120-128 GB. In 2017 and in 2018 they hit 51 % of all sales (in units).

However, the shift of interest of buyers in the direction of a more capacious models are still observed. Share SSD with the capacity of 240-256 GB compared to 2017, the company grew in sales from 32% to 35%, and the relative number of sold drives of polterabayta for the same period increased by a quarter and reached the share of 7 %. Noticeable strong increase in demand for products of higher capacities, although their sale in the General background remains small. Along with this has significantly decreased the number of sold retail SSD with a capacity of 64 GB or less. Attention to this category is supported only by family caching drives Intel Optane Memory. Classical same SSD with the same volume, actually, is not present to buyers the slightest interest.

Gradually begin to fight their place in the market and high-speed drives with NVMe interface. According to the collected statistics, such SSD on average 45 % more expensive than SATA models (with the same capacity), but nevertheless, every twentieth Russian buyer SSD went in 2018 from the store with NVMe product. Moreover, these buyers are more willing to spend on a more capacious modification. All this led to the fact that by the end of last year the share of NVMe drives in the Russian market in monetary terms increased by one third and reached 12 %.

The three most popular in the Russian market of manufacturers of SSD over the past year has not changed, but Russian buyers again showed their distinctive character. The fact that in Russia, this trio consists of Samsung, Kingston and Western Digital, which at year-end took 32 %, 15 % and 11 % of domestic market of solid state drives, respectively (in monetary terms). At the same time on the world market, the three leaders include Samsung, Western Digital and Toshiba, and Kingston products in popularity is only in seventh place. The reason for this imbalance is obvious: in the Kingston range is dominated by the budget proposals, and in Russia, the company maintains a very aggressive promotional strategies.

However, the percentage Kingston even on the Russian market over the past year has fallen dramatically. As in the whole world, in Russia the systematic increase of its influence can boast of only those producers who has its own manufacture NAND flash memory: Samsung, Western Digital, Intel. Manufacturers of the second and third tier gradually losing ground to the giants. But to this rule there is one interesting exception. To increase the impact on the Russian market are SSD ADATA to offer in 2018, a very strong lineup, which included the best ratio of price and performance drives with SATA and NVMe.

Another interesting trend of the domestic market is that in 2018 it began to be traced to the specialization of producers in certain price segments. So, Samsung and Intel has taken the leading position as providers of high quality and expensive products, while Western Digital, Kingston, ADATA and many manufacturers of the second-the third echelon began to primarily focus on sales of low-cost mass models. Due to this, the number sold in the past year, SSD Kingston could even surpass Samsung.

Why it happened, it is easy to understand if you look at those drives which have been most popular among domestic buyers. The most popular SSD proved to be A400 Kingston 120 GB of cheap unbuffered storage device on the basis of the two-channel controller Phison S11.

Kingston A400

Kingston A400

Second place in sales took the WD Green SSD 120 GB – approximately the same characteristics unbuffered model, like the Kingston A400, but on my controller the Western Digital/SanDisk. A full drive with a DRAM buffer and an eight-channel array of a flash memory able to hold the sales only third place, and 860 Samsung EVO 250 GB. Curiously, in the amount of purchased retail copies A400 Kingston 120 GB bypassed 860 Samsung EVO 250 GB is half that is a great illustration of how important it is for Russian users low price. For comparison it is worth mentioning that according to the statistics of the online store Amazon.com buyers from the opposite hemisphere the most popular models are polterabayta and terabyte Samsung EVO 860, and the notorious Kingston A400 120 GB is in the list of preferences only the fifteenth place.

Full top 10 SSDs on the results of Russian sales for 2018 is as follows:

  1. A400 Kingston 120 GB;
  2. WD Green SSD 120 Gbytes;
  3. 860 Samsung EVO 250 GB;
  4. Samsung 850 120 GB;
  5. A400 Kingston 240 GB;
  6. WD Green, SSD 240 GB;
  7. Kingston SSDNow 120 GB UV400;
  8. Ultimate SU650 ADATA 120 GB;
  9. Silicon Power Slim S55 120GB;
  10. Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB.

In the above list, there is no drive interface NVMe, but this is not surprising, given their considerably higher cost. However, the noteworthy and the most popular in Russia, high-performance model with a modern interface. So, the most sold NVMe SSDS for the year was 960 Samsung EVO 250 GB.

Samsung 960 EVO

Samsung EVO 960

In second place – 970 Samsung EVO 250 GB, and the third – 970 Samsung EVO 500 GB. In other words, the South Korean manufacturer has managed to capture just has an overwhelming advantage in the segment of NVMe drives in Russia. Most popular NVMe SSD from some other supplier – 760p is the Intel SSD 256 GB, but the number of copies sold, he concedes 960 Samsung EVO 250 GB exactly four times.

#Conclusion

Our story about the development of the situation with solid-state drives in 2018 is almost not affected by new solutions like Optane Intel or Samsung SSD Z SSD. And it is quite natural: in the past year, such nicoletia drives never gave me reason really remember them. They continue to exist in your parallel world, staying for its exorbitant cost ofonly niche solutions primarily for the server market. Besides as reduce the cost classic SSD, these drives separation from reality is becoming more and deeper. Apparently, the imminent recognition Optane Intel and Samsung SSD Z SSD can not wait: at the moment, 3D technology XPoint and Z NAND look unsuitable for use in consumer media.

The main plot on the market of SSDs in 2019 will obviously be a further decline in SSD prices and increasingly confident displacement of their mechanical hard drives. It is obvious that in the coming year, the cost of flash memory will fall below the psychologically important level of $0.1 gigabytes that will be a clear signal to the emergence of SSD with the capacity of 8 TB. In addition, cheaper entry-level models will come to the point that users will get the opportunity to purchase polterabayta SSD for the price of a terabyte HDD, and it will be another weighty argument in favor of a total rejection of the use of traditional mechanical hard drives.

From a technological point of view, no special breakthroughs are not yet in sight. SATA hard drives will remain popular for a long time and sunset this area in 2019 is clearly not threatened. As for NVMe models, they will probably continue to gradually move in the direction of utilizing all of the capabilities of the interface, which consumer drives while clearly not fully disclosed, even when using four lines of standard PCI Express 3.0.

So, 2019 seems to be a battleground for pricing but not for the technological war. However, certain new items, we still wait with great anticipation. So, in the near future will appear the next novelty from Samsung, as well as a curious hybrid drive Intel, combining the XPoint QLC 3D and 3D NAND. 3DNews traditionally will continue to follow closely what is happening in the SSD market.

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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.

SOURCE

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Peripherals

Budget NVMe SSD Samsung EVO vs 860: review of the ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite

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As follows from statistics that are eager to share key SSD manufacturers, the supply of the usual 2.5-inch SSD with SATA interface as a percentage is gradually decreasing, and come to the fore more advanced products with NVMe interface. Yet SATA hard drives hold the lead in sales, but, in the unanimous opinion, the change has to happen in the course of this year, and should facilitate this ongoing active reduction of prices on the NVMe model.

What NVMe drives are getting cheaper now much more active than a traditional SATA SSD, it is not surprising. Initially on high-speed products using the PCI Express bus architecture, manufacturers have established additional fees. Now, however, they have to give. As NVMe segment grows, it comes to an increasing number of players who do not want to lose its sphere of influence promising direction and are prepared to wage aggressive fight. However, the current situation is that the fight over the attention of buyers due to the speed or functionality of NVMe products today are capable of very few. Leading positions in consumer NVMe SSD in terms of speed and functionality firmly seized offers Samsung. As we have repeatedly seen in the tests, a couple of Samsung PRO 970 and the 970 EVO Plus demonstrates a very convincing superiority over any alternatives, and any large or small competitors of South Korean company failed to construct any similar performance decision. As a result, most firms have no choice but to try to attract users and to get involved in a fierce price war.

This, of course, plays into the hands of buyers. A characteristic feature of today was the fact that among the variety of NVMe SSD formed a significant number of proposals with prices more specific to models with the SATA interface. Simple example: right now the stores are just a few options NVME drives, which are cheaper than the popular SATA model 860 Samsung EVO. And among them not only based on QLC 3D NAND solution in the face of Intel SSD 660p and Crucial P1 — included in this list and SSD c three-dimensional TLC-memory, using both a cut-down PCI Express 3.0 x2 (for example, Kingston A1000 and its similarity on the basis of the controller Phison PS5008-E8) and a full-fledged PCI Express 3.0 x4 (for example, Transcend MTE110S and analogs on the controller SMI SM2263XT).

We try not to overlook this kind of budget, but not trimmed on architecture NVMe SSD, which promise is clearly the best combination of price and performance than SATA drives. Today we consider it necessary to draw attention to one very interesting product – ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite. This SSD is the cousin of the recently reviewed ADATA XPG SX6000 Prowhich produced a very good impression against other budget proposals with NVMe interface. But now ADATA a little dance with the configuration and offers about the same thing, but noticeable 15% cheaper. As it turned out — we just try to find out in this review. After all, if you believe the manufacturer, the new ADATA XPG Lite SX6000 does not change either the base controller or the type of flash memory. And if this is true, then we have a very attractive model that is extremely affordable NVMe SSD to PCIe 3.0 x4, based on TLC 3D NAND and obviously superior in speed, any SSD with SATA interface.

#Specifications

Speaking about ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite, we do often will do the references to XPG SX6000 Pro. The manufacturer does not deceive when he says that it’s close relatives. Both the drive are based on the same controller Realtek RTS5763DL and use the same three-dimensional 64-layer TLC 3D NAND second generation manufactured by Micron. Why ADATA has released two (almost) identical drive on a different price and how did she seriously throw off the price of the Lite model? The answer to these questions is very simple: the cheaper versions applied a cheaper memory, which, on the one hand, has a lower gradation in quality of semiconductor crystals, and with another – increased to 512 GB, the volume of the crystals. The first reduces the resource and the second performance. And here before us there SX6000 XPG Lite, at first glance, the same as the XPG SX6000 Pro, but really – is completely different.

However, if we talk about the architecture of the considered innovations, in the address XPG Lite SX6000 difficult to make any special claims. Moreover, at first glance, this drive is almost too good to be one of the most affordable NVMe SSD on the market. Although controller Realtek RTS5763DL that serves as its basis, is found in the mass drives are extremely rare, this chip is quite worthy to occupy this place.

In essence, the budget RTS5763DL indicates only one thing – he is deprived of the DRAM controller, which eliminates the feasibility of the drives on the basis of traditional buffering table of address translation. But it is supported by buffering non-traditional, technology-based HMB (Host Memory Buffer). This means that RTS5763DL in Windows operating system 10 is capable of use for their needs part of the normal RAM that is available to him through the DMA mode of the PCI Express bus. Regarding other features, the controller is quite typical: it has four channels to communicate with flash memory, supports LDPC coding for error correction and uses four lines PCI Express 3.0 to enable the system. In other words, it is quite possible to compare with the same SMI SM6263XT, which created a long NVMe SSD.

Nevertheless, do not forget: XPG SX6000 Lite developers saved on the flash memory. Increased to 512 GB size crystals 3D TLC NAND is not as scary as QLC, but nevertheless negative influence of this factor can be seen even in passport characteristics.

Manufacturer ADATA
Series XPG SX6000 Lite
Model number ASX6000LNP‑128GT‑C ASX6000LNP‑256GT‑C ASX6000LNP‑512GT‑C ASX6000LNP‑1TT‑C
Form factor M. 2 2280
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Capacity, GB 128 256 512 1024
Configuration
Memory chips: type, interface, process technology, manufacturer Toshiba 64-layer 512 GB TLC 3D NAND
Controller Realtek RTS5763DL
Buffer: type, volume No
Performance
Max. sustained sequential read, MB/s 1800 1800 1800 1800
Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s 600 600 1200 1200
Max. speed of random read (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 100 000 100 000 180 000 220 000
Max. speed random write (blocks 4 KB) IOPS 130 000 170 000 200 000 200 000
Physical characteristics
Power consumption: inaction/read-write, W N/a
MTBF (mean time between failures), million h 1,8
Resource record, TB 60 120 240 480
Dimensions: Ghvhg, mm 80 x 22 x 3.58
Weight, g 8
Warranty period, years 3

If we compare the characteristics of the ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite specifications with the XPG SX6000 Pro, it becomes immediately clear that the low cost of new items will be traceable in all aspects. Diminished even the declared speed that drives manufacturers usually try to inflate all possible ways, given the technology SLC-cache, and as deep pipelining of requests. Thus, performance in reading has lost 12-15 %, and the record is 17-20 %.

That performance has decreased due to the decreased degree of parallelism of the array of flash memory (this is caused by the transition to a more capacious crystals), it is easy to see and the reduction in the rates of direct entry to bypass the SLC cache. In order to clarify how the ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite technology works rapid entry, we carried out a standard experiment with a continuous filling of the 512-Gigabyte version of the SSD by sequential writing. The results can be seen in the graph below.

SLC-caching ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite works on a simple dynamic algorithm — on-the-record in high-speed mode uses all available free memory. Therefore, clean the drive in SLC mode, able to record about 170 GB (one-third of the total). Performance at SLC record reaches 1.2 GB/s but then it drops sharply to about 130 MB/s, and with a very strong scatter in the instant figures. For comparison, the speed of the array of flash memory XPG SX6000 Pro was 20-25% higher. This way is manifested the penalty associated with a halving of parallelism of the array of flash memory from a cheaper model of drive. In the result in order to fill the 512 GB version of the ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite completely, you need to spend about 45 minutes. And it is very long: for example, 970 Samsung EVO Plus a similar volume can be completely down in 10 minutes.

At the same time, it should be noted: dynamic caching is good because it maximally protects the user from seeing the true speed of the array of flash memory in TLC mode. If you leave the drive has enough free space, even a slow SSD like XPG SX6000 Lite will be able to provide acceptable write speed. However, there is another “but”. This drive doesn’t have its own DRAM buffer is used for buffering tables of address translation memory system, the speed of XPG SX6000 Lite when working with large volumes of data can be reduced even for this reason. As practice shows, a significant drop in the speed parameters from XPG SX6000 Lite (like XPG SX6000 Pro) occurs when random operations on files or groups of files larger than 4 GB.

In other words, we should not forget that the ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite is still a budget NVMe drive, and if you decide to save, you will have to put up with some features. Moreover, such compromise in this case is considerably greater than in the case of XPG SX6000 Pro. And it’s not only about performance. For example, a cheaper version of the SSD you’ll be the worst warranty and lower the declared resource of the flash memory. While for XPG SX6000 Pro warranty period is 5 years on the Lite version is only reduced to three years warranty, is not peculiar to drives with NVMe interface, including model on the base of QLC-memory. In addition, for SX6000 XPG Lite warranty may only 480 times overwrite the amount of drive, while the ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro during operation, you can completely overwrite 600 times. However, as we know, such requirements have a formal character and to practice have a rather distant relationship.

In fairness it should be noted: some ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite is still superior to the XPG version of SX6000 Pro. Lineup of this new product includes four representatives, and the minimum capacity of the SSD is only 128 GB. However, the performance of the younger of the modifications is at a very low level. The 128-Gigabyte model, where the array of flash memory runs in dual channel mode, is unlikely to please the owners of superiority over SATA SSDS. That is why capacity XPG SX6000 Pro began with a 256-Gigabyte mark.

#Appearance and internal structure

For testing we used a representative lineup ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite with a capacity of 512 GB. On the one hand, this version has the sufficient degree of parallelism of flash memory and promises good performance, and on the other is a little more than 5 thousand rubles.

First look at this SSD enough to understand that this is really a close relative of the XPG SX6000 Pro. As Pro memory, new XPG SX6000 Lite is a unilateral module in the form factor M. 2 2280 with a black PCB, but also equipped with the same set of components distributed across the Board is absolutely in the same way. Differs only in the range of chip flash memory, which on XPG SX6000 Lite 512 GB turned out to be two and not four, as on a more expensive SSD.

 

Actually, in this lies the main feature of XPG SX6000 Lite. If XPG SX6000 Pro used chips collected most of ADATA 256-Gigabit 64-layer semiconductor crystals TLC 3D NAND, purchased from Toshiba, now on-chip flash memory emblazoned marking SpecTek. And this is a clear sign, well describing the complexity of the drive, because SpecTek, a subsidiary of Micron, through which American manufacturer of semiconductors, so as not to tarnish his reputation, sells products with reduced quality grades. However, the TLC 3D NAND chips, which are mounted on XPG SX6000 Lite, belong to the category of Full Spec for SSD (100%), that is, they are pre-tested and still recognized by the manufacturer fit for use in SSDs.

Each chip flash memory contains within itself the four semiconductor crystal TLC 3D NAND with increased up to 512 GB capacity, and this means that the four-channel controller Realtek RTS5763DL in poltorabatko drive is able to use only a two-fold alternation of the devices in the channels. That is why the model number XPG SX6000 Lite performance with growth increases up to a maximum versions of the SSD capacity of 1 terabyte.

All circuitry ADATA XPG SX6000 Lite fits in three chips. In addition to the flash memory on the Board is a basic and controller Realtek and no more additions and are not required. On the Board are empty “landing pad” under additional chips flash memory, but they are utilized exclusively for the senior modification. Usual same chip dynamic memory here is not needed at all, because we consider the SSD relies on the unbuffered architecture and technology HMB.

Although XPG SX6000 Lite and is among the most affordable NVMe SSD, which finds a direct reflection in its hardware design, ADATA suddenly paid some attention to the heat sink. The SSD comes complete with aluminum heat distribution plate with an adhesive layer, which the user can optionally attach to the surface of the chip.

However, its small thickness and the sleek profile is unlikely to provide a high efficiency of heat dissipation, but even this option is still better than nothing.

#Software

With the service software from ADATA, the situation is far better. Proprietary tool for storage companies exist, but is it extremely sluggish, but its features and interface leave much to be desired. Moreover, a number of users who activated the zoom function of the interface in Windows, in General, she can not use.

However, the basic functionality utility ADATA SSD Toolbox still provides.

 

So, in addition to issuing full diagnostic information about SSD, ADATA SSD Toolbox allows you to inspect the flash memory drive, send him a package of TRIM commands, or perform the automatic adjustment of operating system settings (disabling Superfetch, Prefetch and Defrag).

 

Also using ADATA SSD Toolbox to upgrade the firmware and perform a Secure Erase procedure.

 

In addition, after registration, acquired XPG SX6000 Lite on the manufacturer’s website you can get the key to a popular program for cloning data Acronis True Image HD 2013/2015.

SOURCE

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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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