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MyDigitalSSD SMART 256GB mSATA Solid State Drive Review (Page 1)

MyDigitalSSD aims for the mSATA performance market with the new SMART series based on SATA III SandForce power.
By Chris Ramseyer from Jun 18, 2012 @ 11:51 CDT
TweakTown Rating: 89%Manufacturer: MyDigitalSSD



Up till now MyDigitalSSD has focused mainly on lower cost SSD products produced with Phison controllers in Toshiba factories. The early products made up the BulletProof series and were reliable, low cost offerings, but lacked the gut busting performance offered only by SandForce controlled drives. MyDigitalSSD is still offering the BulletProof series and has even just released a new mSATA model based on the Phison S8 controller, much like the one found in the BulletProof 3 512GB that we reviewed just before Computex.

The BP3 is fast, but over the years we've learned that the only way to get SandForce level performance is to use a SandForce controller. That is where the new SMART series comes in. Based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller and IMFT synchronous flash NAND, the MyDigitalSSD SMART is tapped to compete with similar products on the market from RunCore and MemoRight. The SATA III interface insures performance over 500MB/s as long as your notebook or desktop with mSATA is configured to take advantage of SATA 6Gbps speeds.

The MyDigitalSSD SMART uses SandForce's 0-provisioning, i.e. RAISE free programming so you are able to access more user area, 7% more than RunCore's T50 and MemoRight's MS-701. On the 256GB model were looking at today, that means you have access to 16GB more space than the 240GB available from the competitions products.


This was made possible by ADATA, the actual manufacture of the new MyDigitalSSD SMART products. We rarely go into the details of who actually built a third-party's drive, but MyDigitalSSD didn't do much to hide it. ADATA was the early adapter of RAISE free and so far the only company we know of with SandForce products on the market configured this way. We do know that CoreRise can manufacture SSDs in this configuration, but with a minimum order of 100 drives, we've yet to see any hit retail shelves.

In the Crystal Disk Info image above we see two things that really stick out. The first is the MyDigitalSSD is in fact an ADATA SX300. ADATA has publically talked about this upcoming product, but has yet to get them in e-tail shops. MyDigitalSSD has beaten them to the punch, but we see this several times a year with products manufactured by ADATA and sold to third party resellers.

The second most important piece of information CDI gives us is the firmware used on the SMART/SX300. We've already documented the SandForce 5.0.1 and 5.0.2 firmware issues in the past, but to keep your head from spinning, we'll recap here. The new 5 series firmware has an issue with TRIM. Per the WHQL spec, TRIM has a 70ms window to take place, but with this firmware not all of the TRIM command is passed along. As you write to the drive you are taking up space, as you delete data, the TRIM command isn't cleansing the flash so a full read, erase cycle will take place every time you write to flash that was written to previously. The end result is slower performance than you would normally see with working TRIM in place.

We identified this issue and promptly submitted it to SandForce who then validated the problem. Since then we've had weekly updates from LSI SandForce and the fix is currently in the validation stage. To date, we've held all reviews of products shipped with 5.0.1 and 5.0.2 other than the SanDisk Extreme (where we first found the issue) and ADATA SP900 (the first RAISE free product to arrive). You might of thought we missed several launch day reviews from products like the VisionTek Race or Kingston HyperX 3K, that wasn't the case, we just shelved them until FW 5.0.3+ arrives. After bringing back a nice collection of products from Computex, we now have 19 SSDs on hold in the lab with the issue. Hopefully in the coming weeks everything will be resolved and we can get back to business as usual.

You might wonder why manufacturers would release products with 5.0.1 or 5.0.2 FW knowing that TRIM wasn't working correctly. The truth is most were not aware of the problem and the performance increase from the 5 series FW is very fast. When everything is running at it should 5.0.2 is around 15 to 20% faster than FW 3.3.4 depending on the application. Some companies are even releasing new product SKUs with the same hardware as the previous SandForce SF-2281 based drives, just with the new firmware. The difference is significant and we can see why some are looking to cash in on the increased performance.

Let's turn our attention back to the MyDigitalSSD SMART and take a look at the new 256GB model.

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