Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
We can officially say the global flash shortage is over. With just a little oversupply, prices of this precious computing resource have plummeted. Low prices are not the only indication of a market turn. The last time we experienced a condition like this the market expanded with more companies shipping SSDs than ever before.
It works like this. Silent partner SSD manufacturers have more components than they can sell in the retail market, so they look for new customers and more outlets to sell complete SSDs to. Companies like GIGABYTE pay for a complete product, pack it up and then move it through distributors and large online sellers like Newegg and Amazon. At some point, we may see GIGABYTE branded bundles featuring other products, like motherboards or video cards packaged with SSDs.
The GIGABYTE UD Pro uses a mature controller paired with 3D flash. It's a strong entry-level SSD design unlike some of the other products in this class that cause us to question long-term reliability. The series is also a step up from the many DRAMless class SSDs shipping today.
GIGABYTE released the UD Pro in only two capacities, 256GB and 512GB. This series uses a Phison PS5010-S10 8-channel SATA III controller and Toshiba BiCS FLASH (3D) memory. GIGABYTE claims the combination delivers up to 530 MB/s sequential read and 500 MB/s sequential write performance. Random reads come in at 80,000 IOPS for the larger 512GB model and 70,000 IOPS for the 256GB model. Random write performance goes up to 70,000 IOPS for the 512GB and just 40,000 IOPS for the 256GB.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
Despite the entry-level specifications and four-year-old controller technology, the UD Pro carries an out of touch mainstream price at the time of writing. We found both capacities at Amazon for $109.99 and $58.99, respectively. The series ships with a 3-year limited warranty that gives users 100 terabytes of data writes per 256GB of overall capacity.
A Closer Look
The UD Pro has some mainstream features that are always nice to see. The chassis is a full metal design to increase durability. The design also helps to keep the internal components run cooler.
Inside we found a familiar design from the plethora of Phison S10-based products we've tested over the years. What makes the UD Pro different is the 3D TLC. We've tested this controller with planar MLC and TLC but this is the first model we've looked at with 3D TLC.
The design is similar to the new Seagate BarraCuda SSD we're testing in the lab now in a different capacity.
The Kingston DDR3L package may indicate GIGABYTE's manufacturer for this product series. Some of you may have an issue with Kingston from other SSDs that the company released in previous years.
512GB Class Performance Testing
We grabbed seven past and present SATA III SSDs to compare to the 512GB GIGABYTE US Pro. We start with the Corsair Neutron XTI 480GB, possibly the best SSD to use to the Phison S10 controller and Toshiba 15nm MLC flash.
We follow the XTI with three of the best SATA III SSDs shipping today, the Crucial MX500, Samsung 860 EVO and SanDisk Ultra 3D.
The Inland Professional SATA III SSD we tested last month makes an appearance and joins the Toshiba VX500 as the only DRAMless architectures in this review. The Plextor M8V finishes the group and is another entry-level SATA SSD.
Sequential Read Performance
The Phison S10 controller has always produced very good sequential read performance. The GIGABYTE UD Pro with 3D TLC lags behind the Neutron XTI with planar 2D flash by 30 MB/s at queue depth (QD) 2 but with all of these SATA III drives surpassing 500 MB/s, we don't have much to complain about.
Sequential Write Performance
We see a much larger gap in the selected products when writing data. The UD Pro trails all but the Inland Professional SATA III SSD with a gap of 50 MB/s at QD2.
Sustained Sequential Write Performance
3D TLC is significantly faster than older planar (2D) TLC memory. When planar TLC was in the market, we saw sustained sequential write speeds drop to 100 MB/s in 512GB SSDs and even lower in smaller sizes. For many users, the red line is when the transfer speed falls below what you can transfer over a gigabit network, or around 115 MB/s reliably.
The 512GB GIGABYTE UD Pro delivers around 225 MB/s after the initial SLC buffer depletes. The buffer is small in comparison to many of the other drives in the charts today. We often use this performance test to separate premium, mainstream and entry-level SSDs rather than just retail pricing alone.
Random Read Performance
The UD Pro controller features a quad-core architecture and eight channels to the flash, but the drive still has problems reaching the high QD1 random read performance numbers we like to see. We measured just over 6,300 IOPS at QD1, nearly half that of the Crucial MX500 which shares a similar price.
Random Write Performance
It's been a couple of years since we experienced the dramatic waves in the charts. With planar TLC the inconsistent performance created waves in the results, the tests were redesigned to measure burst performance. The GIGABYTE UD Pro has a very small SLC buffer, and that comes through in our tests.
70% Read Sequential Performance
With so many cores, channels and armed with the latest flash technology we expected the UD Pro to perform better in our mixed workload tests. In this section, we look at mixed (reads and writes) sequential data. The UD Pro performs about the same as the Inland Professional SATA III between queue depth 2 and 8. At QD16, the performance takes a sharp downturn, but this is likely an issue with the SLC buffer since we're moving a lot of data with this workload.
70% Read Random Performance
The new UD Pro scored the lowest in our mixed random workload at QD2. The result was even lower than the DRAMless Inland Professional SSD we tested last month. This is a cause of concern for us because the result is nearly half of the Inland, a drive that should be at the very bottom in every test today.
Game Load Time
We think of GIGABYTE as a gaming company and been optimistic the UD Pro would deliver exceptional performance in game-focused tasks. The drive will load your games in half the time of a hard disk drive, but compared to other SSDs, even those that cost the same or less, the performance is lackluster.
PCMark 8 Total Storage Bandwidth
The PCMark 8 Storage Test uses ten popular applications to measure performance across a broad range of workloads. The UD Pro falls near the bottom of this chart as well. The drive narrowly outperforms the $75 Inland Professional SATA III and comes up well short of the Crucial MX500 and Samsung 860 EVO.
PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test
Many of us have started to think of 3D TLC as a true replacement for MLC flash. Some SSDs have proved the assumption but not all controllers operate with the new media the same. In this chart, we have the Corsair Neutron XTI with Toshiba's planar MLC flash and the new GIGABYTE UD Pro with 3D TLC. The Phison drives that shipped with MLC perform really well under heavy workloads, but there is a massive drop off in performance under strenuous conditions with 3D TLC.
The UD Pro does recover from a stressful event but not as well as other drives in the five minute time set for this benchmark.
The Disk Busy Time test from the same suite gives us a better indication of what the drive does under a heavy workload. The latency increases, more likely from a heavy garbage collection and other background activities. This slows the drive down as the processor uses more resources to manage the data.
SYSmark 2014 SE System Responsiveness and Power Tests
The heavy latency hurts system responsiveness. The BAPCo SYSmark 2014 SE test allows us to measure responsiveness across a wide application range. The UD Pro again falls to the bottom of the chart, narrowly outperforming the Inland Professional SATA III but much lower than many of the other drives.
The test also measures the system power of our Lenovo Y700-17 we use for this test. The GIGABYTE UD Pro consumes more power than any other drive in our charts today.
Notebook Battery Life
The high power consumption hurts notebook battery life in our Y700-17. The GIGABYTE UD Pro 512GB allowed the system to run for just 318 minutes using the BAPCo MobileMark 2012 test.
The more companies that enter the market, the better it is for shoppers. Even though the product we tested today may not be the best choice, it's the options that are good. We are now seeing exactly what happened at the tail end of 2011 going into 2012. It was a golden time for SSDs with prices rapidly dropping, and a lot of companies jumped in the SSD pool.
Some estimates show the current oversupply market holding strong until well into 2019. It's a really good time to buy an SSD, but it's still important to stretch your dollar by purchasing a product that will be reliable, lasts you through a couple of systems builds and also delivers the best experience. You can check off some of those boxes with the GIGABYTE UD Pro 512GB, but it's not the drive that gives you everything you should ask for.
Our biggest complaint is the increased latency over products like the Samsung 860 EVO and Crucial MX500. If the UD Pro cost significantly less than either drive we could overlook a bit of the more embossing aspects of this drive. At the time of writing, the UD Pro 512GB cost the exact same as the MX500 and only $8 less than the 860 EVO. GIGABYTE has a strong name and reputation with gamers but it comes from delivering exceptional products. The UD Pro SSD isn't the product GIGABYTE's legacy hangs on, and that's a good thing.