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Silicon Motion SM2256 with Toshiba TLC A19 Flash SSD - Exclusive Tests

By: Chris Ramseyer | SSDs in Storage | Posted: Aug 9, 2014 4:50 pm

Silicon Motion SM2256 Controller




Retail products should hit the market with the new SM2256 controller around September or October this year. At this time, we can't say which products will use the new controller, because they are not announced yet, and we honestly don't know.


Key Silicon Motion partners for the SM2246 are ADATA, Corsair, and Fujitsu, just to name a few. We suspect the same group will also take a serious look at the SM2256 after seeing success with SM2246.


Ultra High Performance

-Sequential Read: 524 MB/s*

-Sequential Write: 400 MB/s*

-Random Read: 90,000 IOPS*

-Random Write: 70,000 IOPS*


Comprehensive NAND Flash Support

-1x/1y/1z nm TLC/MLC from all major NAND suppliers

-Extensible to support 3D NAND


Enhanced Security

-Real time full drive encryption with AES

-TCG Opal protocol

-Hardware SHA 256 and TRNG


Host Interface

-Industrial Standard SATA Revision 3.1 compliant

-Industrial Standard ATA/ATAPI-8 and ACS-3 command compliant

-Supports SATA interface rate of 6Gb/s (backward compatible to 1.5Gb/s and 3Gb/s)

-Native Command Queuing up to 32 commands

-Supports SATA device sleep (DevSleep)

-Data Set Management command (TRIM)

-Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.)

-Supports PHY Sleep mode (CFast PHYSLP)

-Supports 28-bit and 48-bit LBA (Logical Block Addressing) mode commands


NAND Flash Support

-Supports ONFI 3.0, Toggle 2.0, and Asynchronous interface

-Supports 1.8V/3.3V Flash I/O

-Supports 8KB and 16KB page size

-Supports 1-plane, 2-plane, and 4-plane operation

-4-channel flash interface supports up to 32 NAND flash devices


DRAM Interface

-16-bit wide DRAM interface

-Supports DDR3/DDR3L


Data Protection and Reliability

-Supports ATA8 security feature set

-Supports data security erase and quick erase

-Proprietary NANDXtend™ error-correcting and data protection technology triples the P/E cycles for TLC SSD devices.

-Internal data shaping technique increases data endurance

-Software/Hardware write protect option

-StaticDataRefresh technology ensures data integrity

-Early weak block retirement option

-Global wear leveling algorithm evens program/erase count and extends SSD lifespan



-32-bit RISC CPU

-High-efficiency 64-bit system bus

-Automatic sleep and wake-up mechanism to save power

-Built-in voltage detectors for power failure protection

-Built-in power-on reset and voltage regulators

-Built-in temperature sensor for SSD temperature detection

-Supports JTAG interface, UART (RS-232) interface, and I2C interface for on-system debug


Upgradeable Firmware

-Supports firmware in-system programming (ISP) function for firmware upgrade


The above specifications are mainly for engineers and marketing material to SSD manufacturers. Sorry for flooding you guys with the small details, but there is some information we need to take a deeper look at.


First on the list is performance. SMI quotes 534 MB/s sequential read, 400 MB/s sequential write with random reads of 90K IOPS and random writes at 70K IOPS. While testing the R&D sample, we fell a bit short in some areas, but did better in others. This is an early look with a launch slated for Q1 2015, so SMI has some time to tune the controller. We're also using low-cost TLC flash, but this controller can be paired with a wide variety of flash in both MLC and TLC forms including 1z and 1y nanometer MLC.


Since the main topic today is TLC flash, we want to highlight Silicon Motion's new NANDXtend technology. Data protection and reliability has typically been a low quiet topic since we all just took it for granted. Without beating around the bush, TLC NAND has significantly lower program and erase cycles than modern MLC NAND. Despite the recent media buzz, TLC has been around for a few years now, and most of us already own a device with the technology inside, even if you don't have a Samsung 840 EVO SSD. Flash drives are a great example. SSDs need to be more reliable than thumb drives, the current primary use for TLC flash at this time.


With lower P/E cycles, controllers need powerful error detection and correction technology to read and write the flash, even in the latter stages of the products life. With an estimated P/E range of 1000 to 1500 cycles, extending the life of TLC is a priority for any controller maker. Silicon Motion claims NANDXtend can increase the life of TLC flash by up to three times. Over the next year, we'll talk a lot about Low-Density Parity Check Code (LDPC), but the important thing to know for now is the SM2256 has it and it's mature enough to be in our hands today.


The SM2256 is another 4-channel controller like the shipping SM2246 found in the Corsair Force LX and other SMI based consumer SSDs. The SM2246 has impressed us ever since we tested the reference design around this time last year. The 4-channel design reduces power consumption for longer notebook battery life, but is also a very good performer when used for day-to-day computing activities. The largest benefit for the target market is the lower cost to design and manufacture a 4-channel controller, as opposed to an 8-channel controller.


When it comes to features, Silicon Motion checked all of the boxes. We've already mentioned an advanced LDPC code, but the SM2256 also supports DEVSLP, AES 256-bit hardware encryption and a slew of standards that are still anything but standard.

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