The race is on for companies to increase densities with low-cost commodity flash. Micron leads in bit density with efficient 64-layer technology but plans to have 96-layer memory in production before the end of 2018 according to CEO Sanjay Mehrotra.
To date, two controller designers have displayed Micron's 96L memory technology. Our first sighting came at Computex where Maxiotek paired the memory with a low-cost SATA controller. Silicon Motion also displayed working 96L memory just a few doors down from Maxiotek at Computex. The Silicon Motion drive falls on the other end of the performance scale, in the premium NVMe sphere.
We've already detailed the Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2262EN controller in a next-generation preview that also featured Phison's PS5012-E12. Both drives utilized 64L TLC memory with the SMI paired with Micron's exemplary TLC and Phison with Toshiba's Toggle2 BiCS FLASH. In the article, we stated the Phison would likely ship with Toshiba 64L BiCS FLASH, but the SM2262EN would only come with 96L IMFT memory as none of SMI's partners planned to release the updated controller with 64L memory. q
Armed with that knowledge we wanted to test the SM2262EN with Micron's upcoming memory. Today we get to do just that.
Silicon Motion's reference design specifications haven't changed with the memory update. These rarely go through updates as each SSD manufacturer will tune firmware to favor different aspects of performance and that affects the marketing numbers.
The SM2262EN improves on the SM2262 by increasing the write performance. The latest NVMe controller from the company pushes sequential writes to 3,000 MB/s, up from 1,900 MB/s. Random performance increases to 420,000 IOPS read and write from 370,000 read and 300,000 write on the SM2262.
Both controllers share the same 8-channel 4CE design with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface to the host system. Communication comes over the NVMe 1.3 protocol.
Even though very few companies chose to enable real-time full disk encryption on SM2262 released products, the feature carries over to the new SM2262EN. The controller also supports end to end data path protection and SRAM ECC. The controller supports 4th generation NANDXtend ECC technology with 2KB codeword LDCP.
On paper, it looks like the changes could be entirely program related, but the SM2262EN features some internal hardware changes that make it different from the previous version. The latest version includes an additional data path designed specifically for writing data. This bypasses the firmware handling and provides a streamlined path from the host to the flash.
A Closer Look
Our sample with 96L memory doesn't look much different from the 64L sample. We wouldn't even notice the memory change without the updated sticker that proudly shows B27A, Micron's code for 96L TLC memory.
There isn't a lot of information available for B27A. The information is under lock and key behind Micron's password-protected website. We're not too worried about the fine details at this point. Both 64L and 96L feature a 667 MT/s bus speed.
Interestingly enough, the SM2262EN also supports bus speeds up to 800 MT/s. That should make it ready for faster memory should it emerge. Toshiba's BiCS4 supports Toggle3 at 800 MT/s.
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