Specifications, Pricing and Availability
The G.Skill Phoenix is currently being offered in 50 and 100GB capacities, but there may be additional drives added to the line-up. As you can see, G.Skill has actually reduced the read and write speeds given by other manufacturers, but in doing so gave the program and version number used to determine how the data was collected. G.Skill is claiming 280MB/s read and 270MB/s write speeds in ATTO, while other manufacturers are claiming 285MB/s read and 275MB/s write speeds without saying how they came up with the numbers. ATTO is the industry standard for these claims and we use it exactly the same way in our reviews. The SandForce SF-1200 is actually limited by the implementation of SATA II on a motherboard with the best boards able to achieve between 285 and 287MB/s read speeds. I think when G.Skill tested their drive for a rating in ATTO they done themselves a disfavor by not using a GIGABYTE X58A-UD7 like we use for all our storage product tests in 2010; our numbers were a bit higher. What is interesting in this section, though, is that G.Skill hasn't announced a 200GB drive and we will get to that in just a minute.
When it comes to the rest of the specifications, everything looks like another Team SandForce product except for the typo that claims Sustained Writes Up To 100MB/s; this should be 200MB/s or someone didn't test the drive right back at the shop. Typo aside, we see plain SandForce SF-1200, at least forsomeone who has nearly a dozen SandForce drives can see plain. But really, there isn't anything plain about the fastest SSD on the market today in this capacity.
For the most part, before any product gets tested in the TweakTown U.S. Lab it gets a photo shoot first. We start out with the package, then the drive and finally crack the top open to check out what is inside. The entire review pretty much follows the flow just like we do in the office. It wasn't until the G.Skill Phoenix's case was cracked open that we learned the Phoenix wasn't just another plain Team SandForce drive.
Upon entry the first thing we look at with a drive is the model number on the controller. The familiar 1222 was present indicating a consumer class SandForce SF-1200 was on the PCB, but things looked different on the memory. Every SandForce drive we have tested or even seen on display to date has used Intel 3xnm NAND flash, but the G.Skill Phoenix has Samsung memory. From previous experience I have retained the knowledge that Samsung makes a few different flash modules and the version called the D Die is the most common. The highly sought after stuff is called Samsung M Die and you can tell the difference by looking for the D or M at the end of the product number string on each module. The G.Skill Phoenix arrived with Samsung M Die, the good stuff!
Admittedly I am not an expert when it comes to flash memory, but from time to time I hear things from manufacturers press releases and check out the DRAM exchange market every couple of weeks to see where pricing is headed. To be completely fair, G.Skill never made any mention of the memory used in the Phoenix and the M Die reputation did not come from them. Others have told me before that Samsung M Die is expensive, in high demand and difficult to obtain in high quantity. RunCore started out using M Die in their Pro IV SSDs, but had to change over to D Die because the cost was too high to be competitive with other manufacturers pricing and a steady supply was too difficult to maintain.
The odd thing is that G.Skill changed the Falcon to the Falcon II because the ECO controller allowed for a wider range of memory to be used with the Barefoot ECO. The Falcon II and every other SandForce drive we tested have used the same Intel 29F64G08CAMDB flash. I have not been able to find a datasheet for the Intel flash to verify the speeds or latency timings, but I was able to find a datasheet for the Samsung M Die. Even with that document there is really no telling what speed or timings G.Skill is using in their Phoenix and for the most part we don't care as long as it produces faster real world performance in our computers. We can point to the exotic memory and wonder if the exotic memory choice is why G.Skill has yet to announce a 200GB product. We should also point out that G.Skill has never made a claim to which flash is used in the Phoenix and at any point can change the Build of Materials (BOM) list.
At this time G.Skill does have a bit of a pricing advantage on some of the other 100GB SandForce SSDs we have previously looked at. Newegg is showing the 100GB Phoenix at 369.00 USD. Just a few weeks ago we were excited to see the A-DATA S599 Team SandForce drive priced at 385.00 and before that we were accepting of the Corsair Force F100 at 400 to 430 USD. Since the CES rumor pricing was 500 to 550 USD for the 100GB Team SandForce drives, it is safe to say that we've come a long way since January. At this time Team SandForce has drives at Newegg in 100GB capacity for 359.99 to 409.00 USD, so the G.Skill Phoenix is on the lower end of the pricing scale and ready to compete for your money. Newegg did not list the 50GB Phoenix at the time of writing. The Phoenix is covered by a two year warranty.
Let's check out the G.Skill Phoenix package, drive and then move on to see if the Samsung M Die flash is able to give consumers what they are after; faster real world performance.