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CES 2015 - Two themes stuck out this year in the consumer SSD world at CES 2015, Silicon Motion and 3bit per cell NAND flash.
At the ADATA suite we found these two topics merging together in the new ADATA SP320 SSD, the first retail branded product with a SMI SM2256 controller. Paired with the new Silicon Motion controller is 3bit per cell (TLC) NAND. ADATA didn't tell us what flavor of TLC rests under the cover. At this time the pool is fairly shallow but in the coming months several NAND flash fabs will deepen the pool.
The SP320 will ship in four capacity sizes, read up to 560 MB/s and write up to 510 MB/s, both sequential . No word on the random performance or price but we expect both to be low considering the low cost consumer placement of this product.
In 2015 the trend is to focus on higher SSD adaption rates, trying to displace HDDs and that can only be achieved by giving consumers larger capacity at better prices than what we have now. The SP320 puts ADATA on the right track to make that happen.
CES 2015 -ADATA had a working reference Seagate SandForce SF3700 SSD on display at CES 2015. The SF3700 has run over the expected release date, but with manufacturers highlighting the SF3700 in working demo's we know the controller is coming closer to market. Speculation is that shipping products will be ready around June, which is around the Computex trade show.
The demonstration was powered by a SandForce SSD placed on a PCB adapter board which allows an M.2 SSD to work over a standard PCIe slot. The SF3700 controller on display, commonly referred to by the code-name Griffen, communicates over a PCIe 2.0 x4 connection, though a x2 variant is also under development. The Griffen controller can communicate via either the AHCI or the NVMe protocol across the PCIe connection.
An important distinction between earlier demo's is the fact that the working demo was running without a heat sink. This points to continued optimization of the power consumption metrics, which relate directly to heat generation. The SF3700 has several key technologies, such as DEVSLP functionality, to allow it to operate within a very low power and thermal envelope.
The Jaguar codename on the demo board refers to a reference PCB design offered by SandForce, not the actual Griffen controller. The board contains 512GB of Toshiba A19nm flash. The SF3700 controller itself still bears LSI branding, a holdover from SandForce's parent company before the Seagate acquisition.
Read on for the performance results...
CES 2015 - Today we spoke with Silicon Motion (SMI) on several topics, but later learned more details that helped to piece a puzzle together. Analyst reports show that 3bit per cell (TLC) will quickly overtake 2bit per cell (MLC) NAND in the future. Samsung dominates the 3bit per cell area, but SanDisk has also started shipping products with the technology. Toshiba will soon follow suit, the company actually produces TLC wafers with SanDisk in the Flash Forward joint venture. It's been stated that Micron will have TLC ready for consumer SSD devices as early as Q2 2015, and the technology is already utilized in other product types from Micron/Lexar/Crucial, such as SD cards.
Silicon Motion's upcoming SM2256 controller was designed exclusively to usher in the TLC era, and today we saw the controller working inside this laptop with Samsung TLC flash. At this time only two companies selling to the channel use Samsung NAND flash - Samsung and Seagate.
Samsung already has two existing low cost consumer SSD products on the market with 3bit per cell flash, the 840 EVO and 850 EVO. This leaves us to wonder why Silicon Motion would spend valuable engineering resources with Samsung TLC NAND. Enter Seagate and the the company's strategic alliance with Samsung for guaranteed Samsung flash, as seen with the Seagate 1200 SSD. Did we inadvertently just capture a quick look at what may be an early test of a Seagate consumer SSD that uses a Silicon Motion controller today?
A rumor floating around CES 2015 is that Intel will soon announce a low cost consumer SSD that also uses a Silicon Motion controller. Intel didn't invest with Micron in 16nm lithography manufacturing, choosing instead to bring in SK Hynix flash as a stopgap until the IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technology) 3D NAND transition takes place sometime in mid to late 2015. Today we observed a Silicon Motion SM2256 controller paired with SK Hynix TLC NAND flash. SK Hynix acquired Link_A_Media Devices more than two years ago, but from a finished product point of view, the LAMD products have stalled.
In summary, not only do we feel we've caught a glimpse of a Seagate product, but also a potential product for Intel as well.
CES 2015 - Over the last year we've often discussed Silicon Motion's rise in the SSD controller space. The fabless semiconductor's SM2246EN controller was well received, first by smaller SSD manufacturers, and now by NAND flash fabs.
This week, SanDisk announced the new SSD Plus that is priced less than $70 in 128GB. The SSD Plus won't break any performance records but is clearly designed to break price barriers. SanDisk didn't brief media before introducing the SSD Plus at Storage Visions 2015, but since that time we've learned that Silicon Motion is inside with a custom variant of the SM2246EN controller.
Getting one NAND fab company to use your controller is a big step for a controller maker that was virtually unheard of one year ago. Getting two is big news for investors. Just days after the SanDisk announcement, Crucial, a division of Lexar and also a NAND flash manufacturer, announced the new BX100. Again, this new low cost consumer SSD with 16nm MLC flash is managed by a Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller.
They say when it comes it comes in threes. Analysts have recently come forward to state that Intel, a partner with Micron/Crucial/Lexar, has chosen a Silicon Motion controller for an unannounced consumer SSD that should break cover in the coming months. Most likely Intel will brand the new product in the 300 Series family, a low cost series that again is designed to increase the adoption rate of solid state storage technology, replacing mechanical hard drives.
None of this is all that radical when you know the history of the SSD market. SandForce quickly came to power but acquisitions and long product delays have left the door open for Silicon Motion to get a foot in the door. Now that Silicon Motion is sitting at the table, we think the real objective is for the company to use SM2246EN as a stepping stone for SM2256, a flash controller that takes advantage of new 3bit per cell technology that will further reduce the cost of solid state storage technology to consumers.
At this time, the NAND flash fab companies are also focusing engineering resources on high margin enterprise products. SMI provides reference designs, controller hardware, and firmware. This provides a low 4-month turn around, speeding time to market, which is opening more doors for the company.
CES 2015 - Get ready ladies and gentleman. The time has come for your dreams to be fullfilled. For the first time Phison Electronics displayed what may be the first 2TB consumer SSD in a 2.5" form factor. This isn't a 15mm z-height SAS SSD from the enterprise world, but a true to name, 2.5" drive. From what we can tell, the internals should even fit in a 7mm z-height case like the new Corsair Neutron XT that also uses the new Phison S10 controller.
As you are well aware now, Phison is a controller maker that also included firmware for customers who's names you are more familiar with, such as Patriot, Corsair, My Digital SSD and so on. The new S10 controller was already rolled out in the Corsair Neutron XT SSD and more recently the Patriot Inferno.
Neither the Neutron XT nor the Inferno were announced in a 2TB class but we have to wonder how long it would be before one of these innovative companies breaks the mold and delivers the first 2TB SSD that power users, enthusiasts, and prosumers are demanding from SSD manufacturers.
The tag on the top right Toshiba A19 Toggle 2 NAND package shows an overprovisioned capacity size of 1920GB. The actual PCB is a 3/4 size (in relation to the length of the 2.5" form factor casing used on SSD products). This reduces the cost of manufacturing slightly. Any cost reductions are welcome since the majority of the cost goes into the NAND flash on consumer SSDs. We can blindly say that 2TB of NAND flash is going to cost quite a bit.
Phison was able to achieve this landmark density by using Toshiba A19 (second generation 19nm) flash that is stacked 16 die per package. There are eight packages total, four on each side. There is also at least a single DRAM package of unknown density, and we suspect there is a second DRAM package on the other side, but we didn't get a chance to verify this.
CES 2015 - Today Phison showed us a glimpse of the future. The company's new S10 controller was on display running Toshiba A19 TLC NAND flash.
The S10 has already entered the market with products from Patriot, Corsair and others but those products use more expensive MLC flash.
SanDisk, Toshiba's NAND flash manufacturing partner in Flash Forward, is already shipping the Ultra II SSD with Flash Forward TLC NAND. The Toshiba TLC has yet to ship in a consumer SSD so this is exciting news because it means the company is closer to bringing the flash to market.
Once more TLC flash products hit the market we will see lower cost products and even higher capacity product emerge. We fully expect to see 2TB SSDs from several several companies by the end of 2015.
CES 2015 - We learned today that Samsung plans to release two small form factor products from the 850 EVO product series. This news comes on the heels of Samsung's new portable USB 3.0 SSD that uses the same 3D V-NAND technology found in the company's successful 3bit per cell 2.5" form factor products.
The 850 EVO series won high praise from product reviewers for performance, endurance and warranty length that are all above other products in the price class.
The mSATA form factor gained popularity in notebook and small form factor systems three years ago. There are a number of existing systems in customer hands, many that shipped with smaller, slower solid state drives from system builders.
When Intel released the 9-Series chipset, system builders adapted the new M.2 form factor that offers varying size lengths, allowing for more customization at the device level.
From what we can tell, the mSATA model will scale to 1TB of capacity and the M.2 will go to 500GB after overprovisioning. Since neither product is official at this time, the capacity sizes may change. The 840 EVO mSATA scaled to 1TB and is extremely popular with our readers.
CES 2015 -Toshiba has announced a new SSHD (Solid-State Hybrid Drive) featuring Toshiba's A19nm NAND. We actually found the Toshiba SSHD hiding out in another manufacturers booth, so we had the chance to grab a few pictures. Please note that these may not be final production run models. The Drive Revision number AAA indicates that this is likely not the final product. The new series consists of two drive models. The MQ02ABD100H features 1TB of capacity, and the MQ02ABF050H we found comes with 500GB of capacity.
The 500GB model pictured above comes with a slim 7mm z-height, and the 1TB model features a 9.5mm z-height. SSHDs have a small complimentary amount of NAND, and hot data is dynamically placed on the faster NAND media. This provides tremendous performance advantages, while still delivering plenty of capacity. Both models can be used for high-performance computers, but the 500GB model is also an obvious fit for mobile applications.
This new revision differs from previous Toshiba SSHDs, which used separate controllers to manage the HDD and the NAND. On the new models the onboard NAND is also controlled by the drive's HDD controller chip. Merging these functions will reduce design complexity and also likely draw less power, and with the mobile-oriented design of the 500GB this will help to improve battery life. Yes, we asked to remove the PCB for a closer look at the new implementation, but that request was denied. Toshiba is the only HDD manufacturer with NAND fabrication capabilities, they actually invented NAND, and flash will comprise nearly half of their revenue by the end of the fiscal year. It would be natural to assume there will be more refined integration between Toshiba NAND and HDDs in the future.
CES 2015 - Hardware specialist Crucial has shown off its MX200 and BX100 solid state drives (SSDs), with increased storage capacities and faster read and write speeds.
The MX200SD will be available in 250GB ($139.99), 500GB ($249.99), and 1TB (469.99) capacities, with 555MB/s and 500MB/s read and write speeds. In addition, the Crucial MX200 is the only consumer SSD product with Dynamic Write Acceleration, making data transfers even faster.
The BX100 SSD will be available in 120GB ($69.99), 250GB ($109.99), 500GB ($199.99), and 1TB (399.99) storage capacities, promising 535MB/s and 450MB/s sequential read and write speeds. It is the first Crucial drive that will make use of the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller, helping make the SSD perform better and consume less power.
Toshiba have just announced their release of the MQ03ABB300 to the market, the industry's first 2.5-inch HDD to achieve 750GB per platter - using a total of 4 platters to achieve 3TB total storage.
Using perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology, this advancement by Toshiba is a great data-storage addition to any traveling laptop, especially if you plan to use this device as your main system. Other options include form-factor computer system implementation, NAS storage or small portable HDD functions.
Set as an upgrade to their 4-platter 2TB MQ01ABB200 drive, this 3TB option provides the same low energy consumption values but with 50 percent more storage space.