We had our Phison PS5012-E12 reference design NVMe SSD for a few months before publishing the first preview article that you can read here. When we published the article, the company already improved the E12 firmware and was ready to show updated performance at Flash Memory Summit. Today we're testing the 11.0 reference design firmware to see the improvement and to get a better understanding of when the timing for retail availability.
The performance you see today isn't the final representation of retail products that will soon follow. Phison plans to release one more performance-focused firmware before turning everything over to customers to validate. I suspect we will see retail SSDs based on the E12 architecture in the next month from companies that bring Phison-based products to market early, like MyDigitalSSD.
A number of companies utilize Phison controllers and they all need a replacement for the E7-based drives that had so much success in 2017. In 2018, Phison's partners released E8-based SSDs, a mainstream 4-channel controller but low Toshiba 15nm MLC flash availability left a void in the high-performance tier for these companies' product stack. The E12 will be a true replacement for the E7 and put these companies back in the premium SSD market.
We will likely see MyDigitalSSD release an E12-based SSD first. The company runs lean and efficient so new product introductions can happen in what seems like a weekend with most of the prep work taking place weeks in advance. Corsair, Patriot, and many of the others take a little longer but they also include more value-add features like toolbox software, more complex packaging, and so on.
The new company in the Phison family has the ability to shake up all of the others. Inland Professional ships Phison controllers in very low cost SATA and NVMe products. The SATA III drive we reviewed in my return article to TweakTown was one of the bestselling SSDs on Amazon, and the E8-based NVMe model isn't far behind. Both sell for less than any comparable model from the other Phison partners. It will be interesting to see if they can keep the momentum.
Phison has a generic specification sheet for the PS5012-E12 reference design. This is kind of like a target as the series moves through development. We often see the numbers increase when companies build retail products.
The E12 reaches up to 3,200 MB/s sequential read and up to 3,000 MB/s sequential write speeds. Random performance at optimal worker and queue depth is a blistering 600,000 IOPS for both reads and writes.
So far we've only seen the E12 paired with 64-layer BiCS FLASH from Toshiba. This is Toggle2 media and we suspect the first retail SSDs with the controller will use the same. Things will get more interesting with Toshiba's first Toggle3 flash, the 96-layer BiCS4 variant. Toggle3 increase the memory's bus speed to 800 MT/s.
A Closer Look
We used the same drive in our test last month. While in San Jose for FMS 2018, Phison took the drive back to the office to flash with the latest 11.0 firmware. On the component side, this drive features the PS5012-E12 8-channel controller and Toshiba BiCS FLASH 64-layer TLC memory. It is a 1TB drive, 1024GB but after overprovisioning users get 960GB. The reserve space allows the controller to manage data more efficiently to keep performance high under heavy workloads.
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