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Silicon Motion SM2246EN SSD Controller Preview

By: Chris Ramseyer | SSDs in Storage | Posted: Sep 2, 2013 1:01 pm

Specifications and Availability




We've noted for several years now that manufacturer claimed performance is only a reference point and has little to do with the true user experience. The Silicon Motion reference design proves our theory. SilMo claims 540 MB/s sequential read and only 410 MB/s sequential write speeds. The claimed random read performance is only 80K and the random write performance is only 75K. I stress [em]only[/em] because drives like the Samsung 840 Pro, OCZ Vector and even some of the highest performing LSI SandForce based drives only deliver an 80K Mark rating in PCMark Vantage, but the SilMo reference design broke into the 90K Mark range.


Raw performance aside for a minute, the new SM2246EN packs a lot of other technology into a small package. Silicon Motion's experience with other products surely played a role in getting the average power consumption down to just 60mW. The new controller also hits all of the encryption buzzwords as well, TCG Opal and eDrive (not listed in the image above), both are hardware encryption standards that are gaining popularity with both business notebook users and those looking for addition protection over a simple BIOS login screen password.




On to the big list, the new controller design supports existing NAND flash as well as future NAND like SanDisk's 1y flash with a 19mm x 19.5mm die. The Silicon Motion reference design sent to manufacturers (and in a roundabout way, us) uses 19nm Toshiba Toggle 2.0 flash with 16KB page sizes and 64Gb dies. If you don't own a NAND flash fab, the Toshiba NAND used is about the best you can choose for performance, since Samsung doesn't sell their 4-plane NAND on the spot market. We get the feeling after speaking with Silicon Motion that MLC products will be rare compared to the large number of SSDs coming in 2014 with TLC NAND.




I would hate to toss out a specific number, but TLC NAND flash should be relatively low price from Toshiba / SanDisk and 4-channel controllers are historically low-cost controllers. LSI SandForce and Marvell currently make a 4-channel controller that's used for cache products and even USB thumb drives. Going back to the early days of SSDs, the Indilinx Barefoot and Barefoot Evo were 4-channel designs and cost much less than the Intel X25-M, a 10-channel design.


Silicon Motion's press release states mass production should occur in the third quarter of 2013. The company is excited about CES 2014; it's already listed on the Silicon Motion website. We might actually see more from Silicon Motion in 2013, but I suspect SSD manufacturers will make a big splash at CES in January.


That leads us to what we should expect. At the time of writing, Silicon Motion states the new controller supports up to 512GB of flash. The 4-channel design won't take us to 1TB, the mark most of us want to find in an SSD costing less than $500. A 512GB class SSD with good performance and priced at 50c per GB would make for a nice consolation prize though.

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