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PNY SandForce based Optima SSD - The Switch Side Discussed

By: Chris Ramseyer | Editorials in Storage | Posted: Jul 1, 2014 2:00 pm

A Change from PNY USA?




This next section will cover PNY's official statements and what the Optima product page now states about the Optima series. Writing product reviews involves a lot more than just testing and writing content. I'd say that 85 percent of the work involved is research and spotting fine details that are often hidden in the text. Sometimes it's actually more important to find what a company doesn't say rather than listening to what they do say.


I'm not going to say the highlighted portion above wasn't in the product description when we wrote the original review, but I will say it would be difficult for a seasoned reviewer to miss the highlighted section when researching the product.




PNY has several regional websites broken up by country. Would it be possible for PNY to change the product description on every Optima product page in the world in a short time? Yes, they could, but did they? Hell no, they didn't! I don't read French, but Google Translate does.


Our latest generation of SSD has been designed to meet all performance requirements of mobile users. They offer both storage performance and endurance for all applications: the gaming, photo / video or system startup.


Optima SSDs are entry-level SSDs do not overlook performance. These flash drives in 2.5" SATA III 6Gbps support the encryption and are able to ensure the system startup and applications in just a few seconds, while preserving your data. The Optima ™ line considerably reduces the overall consumption of the machine while providing design 7mm (spacer included) to gain maximum weight capacity of 120GB to 480GB.


That is more in line with what I remember the official Optima US product page saying, but I can't prove it, so I'm not going to stake my reputation on the claim. If you look at other PNY websites around the world, you will find the quoted text above on all or nearly all of them, other than the USA page.




There is also a page from PNY's UK website, this time in English, and once again, it omits the new revelation about using multiple controllers in the Optima Series. This is a bit redundant, but we just want to make sure Google Translate isn't used as an excuse for our findings.



The Official Response


Surprisingly, we haven't heard much from PNY directly about this topic, and we wanted to investigate the matter fully before reaching out. Maximum PC's Paul Lilly, a veteran of the industry, reached out to PNY for a comment and received a reply.


"The PNY Optima SSD line is an entry-level and value driven product. As our website states, the Optima SSDs utilize multiple qualified controllers to offer the best available solution to our customers. We do not and have not specified any one particular brand of controller, however we do feature performance specifications which include using synchronous flash and random read/write speeds of up to 60k," PNY told Maximum PC.


In other words, it's all about the performance claims. Pricing and availability may dictate which controller PNY uses at any particular time, and while two SSDs from the same product family might sport different parts, performance should be comparable.


This is similar to the statement PNY provided when the controller swap first came to light. What people found sketchy, however, was that every Optima SSD sent out to reviewers used SMI controllers, while those in the retail sector were found to be using LSI (SandForce) controllers. PNY offered up an explanation for that as well.


"All the reviews units were shipped simultaneously and those Optima SSDs were built with SMI controllers - one of the newer controllers currently available on the market. However the current set of Optima SSDs are being built with LSI controllers, a very reputable line which meet all advertised performance specifications," PNY added. "Either way, consumers should have peace of mind that they are receiving a solid product built with tier 1 synchronous flash. PNY has been completely transparent about the use of multiple qualified controllers which grants us the ability to offer consumers the best possible value and performance."


This response opens a few other doors that we want to explore. The first is, given the product description found on all PNY websites throughout the world NOT in the USA, the assumed original description still stands.




The next is PNY's new claim of locking down the NAND flash to Tier 1 Synchronous Flash. Our original Optima sample with an SMI controller uses synchronous flash, and the Optima we purchased with a SandForce controller uses synchronous flash, but the official product specifications on PNY's own websites state SLC, MLC, or TLC NAND flash.


Why would PNY be so direct when talking about the flash now when the product page clearly leaves the door open for a change? In our original review, we touched on the flash options and stated these are the same specifications from Silicon Motion (for the controller), and we thought PNY just copied the specifications over. At the time, we wouldn't have imagined writing this article or thought PNY would switch the controller, but we now have to wonder if PNY would be so bold as to eventually populate the Optima with TLC flash later, and if so, what controller would the drive use then?


Also, the official statement makes it sound like Optima has switched completely over to SandForce controllers when our initial response from PNY stated, "Yes we did ship some Optima SSDs with SandForce controllers, but only if they meet the minimum advertised performance levels (in most of the benchmark tests, LSI controllers outperform SMI controllers). The reader's assumption that PNY has abandoned SMI controllers is wrong as we have been shipping mostly SMI controllers, but also utilizing LSI to fill in the gaps."


The two statements contrast each other. Is PNY filling in the gaps or did they change the build of materials?

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