Oh how time flies when you are having fun. It was my intention to write up the latest installment of The State of Solid State as soon as I returned from CES. That didn't happen because of Battlefield 3, it was DICE's fault and because of DICE I'm going to have to let the cat out of the bag early. 2012 is not going to be an exciting year for performance SSDs. The focus for 2012 is value and market share for manufactures. It is time for the big price squeeze that inevitably will push some companies out of the market entirely and prop others to superstar status.
You may remember this chart of the SF-2200 Series Client Launch article from about a year. Listed on the far left is the SF-1222, the reigning champion of SATA II, first released in 2010. Just to the right is the challenger, SF-2141. The new SandForce controller is essentially a four channel 2281 with a 64GB capacity limit. On paper the 1222 and 2141 have nearly identical performance other than the IOPS. The newer 2141 doubles sustained read 4K IOPS (from 30K to 60K) and has a 6x increase in burst write 4K IOPS. The new 2141 does still have that 4 channel limit and we'll explore what that means today while testing the new ADATA S396 30GB SSD.
The new ADATA S396 30GB SSD will cost around $60 when it reaches e-tail shelves sometime in the next two weeks. If you do not already have an SSD, the ADATA S396 is built for you. Personally I think if you don't have an SSD now then the issue is not something a new product release can fix. You either have a defect, don't value your time or you have no idea what the hell an SSD is. Then again what do I know about actually buying an SSD with real money.
Still, the idea of low cost, low capacity SSDs has been around for quite a while. The problem has always been low cost and low capacity size means low performance. To make matters worse most of these low cost products shipped with bottom of the barrel controllers and that ruined the user experience all together. Most people who purchased drives in that category ended up switching back to their low cost, low performance platter drive that offered 500GB of capacity.
Today we're going to see if the new ADATA S396 with the all new SandForce SF-2141 controller is able to redefine the extreme value SSD market and deliver a good user experience.