64-layer flash was the great equalizer allowing Toshiba and Micron to close the performance gap on Samsung's V-NAND technology. The next step builds the stack in 96-layer formations while increasing the memory bus speed again. Today, we look at Toshiba's next-generation high-performance NVMe SSD featuring 96L memory but don't expect to find this one on Newegg soon. The XG6 will go to big box system builders first, and we may see a retail variant at a later period.
The Toshiba XG6 is the replacement for the XG5 but not the upmarket XG5-P currently shipping in high-performance workstations. The new XG6 is faster than both XG5 variants but lacks an important feature many workstation-class users require, a 2-terabyte capacity model for large datasets.
Since you can't buy the new Toshiba XG6 as a standalone purchase, our review will serve as a technology preview of the BiCS4 96L memory and a look at what OEM notebooks and desktops currently ship with from the factory. From time to time, we do see Toshiba OEM SSDs listed on EBay and Amazon from gray market sellers.
At Flash Memory Summit 2018 less than a month back, Toshiba displayed a number of notebooks shipping with these and other Toshiba SSDs. The wall had the big box names like Dell and HP. The existing customers will likely be the first to ship products with the new XG.
Toshiba announced the XG6 in three capacities earlier this year. The series doesn't overprovision the drives from the factory, so users get the full binary capacity unless the system builders use supported NVMe commands to change the user to reserve ratio. The XG6 is one of the few NVMe SSDs that officially supports this command.
We will see XG6 in 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB capacities. The performance claims are the same for all three sizes, with sequential read at 3,180 MB/s and sequential write at a blistering 2,960 MB/s. This improves on the XG5 with 3,000 MB/s, and 2,700 MB/s read and write speeds.
Random performance saw a sizable improvement as well. The XG6 delivers it up to 355,000 read and 365,000 write IOPS performance. Toshiba never listed the random performance on the XG5 because it varies by firmware and application. The OEMs can lower random performance via firmware to increase power efficiency. System builders can still work with Toshiba on custom firmware to achieve specific performance and power efficiency targets.
Toshiba offers the XG6 in two versions, with and without self-encryption drive (SED) technology. That files out the options, but that's not the end of the story.
At the heart of the XG6 is Toshiba's TC58NCP090GSD controller. This is the same controller found on the XG5 and XG5-P. Toshiba doesn't disclose too much about the controller architecture, but we assume it features a standard 8-channel design given the performance. The physical difference between the older and generation and new XG6 is the 96-layer flash.
Toshiba's 96L "BiCS4" memory is the first from the company to utilize Toggle3 specifications. The flash bus speed increases up to 800 MT/s and increases performance without increasing the core clock in the controller. The XG6 utilizes a 3-bit per cell configuration, but the company plans to add a BiCS4 4-bit per cell to the lineup in the future. That memory will not go in the XG6 but instead, it will go in an undisclosed product that we hope to see in the near future.
A Closer Look
We found the top cover plate attached with witchcraft and strong double-sided tape. At first, we thought the cover plate was metal to help dissipate heat from the controller, so we were very careful about removing it. Metal will crease, and it's nearly impossible to get straight again. Once off, we realized it's plastic. It will help to deflect radiant heat from nearby video cards and other hot devices. It won't do much to aid cooling of the SSDs components.
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