When we tested the Crucial M500 960GB, we spoke of a new era in solid state storage devices - the Tera Era. Advances in NAND flash manufacturing technology has led to smaller dies or higher density. The increased density has changed a lot of what we've come to expect from SSDs.
New products with higher density flash have moved the performance sweet spot to 256GB and 512GB, with 128GB class products performing like 64GB products from yesteryear. At the same time, the density increases have moved high capacity SSDs into the terabyte zone.
By using 16 of Toshiba's new 19nm Toggle 2.0 Type C flash chips, MyDigitalSSD managed to squeeze 1024MB on a single 2.5" form factor PCB. This is only the second such product in this capacity size that we've seen, the first coming from Crucial.
Paired with the massive capacity of flash is a Phison S8 controller. We've used this controller in a couple of different capacity sizes and with both 8K and 16K page size Toggle, Type B and C. Those tests revealed interesting results. The BP4 product lineup produces very high sequential read performance, but at the same time, weak random write performance.
Making up for the lower than usual write performance, the BP4 products deliver exceptional battery life in notebooks thanks to very low idle power consumption.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
The MyDigitalSSD BP4 spans a very wide capacity range, maybe the largest we've seen to date. There are five capacity sizes starting with 60GB and ending at 960GB. These are overprovisioned capacity sizes, the 960GB model we're looking at today actually has 1024MB of flash under the cover.
MyDigitalSSD is very loose with the stated performance numbers - everything measured is in maximum performance figures. The new flash from both IMFT and Flash Forward puts the sweet spot in the 256GB and 512GB class range with the smaller and higher capacity sizes dropping off some. The 960GB BP4 we're looking at today drops off a little more than we expected. This is due to the amount of DRAM on the drive.
MyDigitalSSD used the same DRAM buffer on the 960GB that is on the 240GB and 480GB. At 1024MB, that's a massive amount of table data to keep track of and the larger the buffer, the more of that data can be inventoried faster.
The prices listed on the chart are MSRP. At the time of writing, they do not represent the true cost of ownership for any of the sizes listed. We found the current prices at MyDigitalDiscount.com, MyDigitalSSD's e-tail channel. The new BP4 prices are as follows - 60GB ($59.99), 120GB ($97.99), 240GB ($174.99), 480GB ($349.99) and 960GB ($799.99). If you caught my article published last week, The Great SSD Flash Shortage of 2013 - EOL 25nm, the Pain and the Future, then you know flash and SSDs prices are on the upswing. I'm not saying that MyDigital's price are going to increase, just that there is a really good chance for it to happen. Since nearly every other SSD has already increased, the BP4 product line is at a very good spot right now.
MyDigitalSSD offers a three year warranty on the BP4 product line, but the drive ships without an accessory package. Given the low prices, if you need a desktop adapter bracket or other accessories, you have a lot of wiggle room before getting to the $1 per GB area on most of the capacity sizes.
Officially the BP4 is now part of the new product line called Slim 7 Series. This refers to the new 7mm z-height package for ultrabooks.
MyDigitalSSD BP4 960GB SSD
Our sample drive arrived in a typical white box.
The drive comes packed with adequate protection for shipping.
Aside from the capacity size change, the BP4 we're looking at today looks identical to the previous review products of smaller capacity.
I'm trying really hard to hold back the excitement of another Tera Era SSD. Everyone has milestones in their life and for me 1TB SSDs are significant enough to register on my timeline.
Not only did MDSSD stuff 1TB of flash in the case, they used a 7mm case. We've seen large capacity sizes of 1TB and greater on the enterprise side, but they've all been 9.5mm or even 15mm.
The 7mm form factor still uses standard SATA power and data connectors, so this drive can fit into a very large number of systems.
The largest capacity size BP4 uses a new PCB, one that we didn't find inside the smaller capacity size models. MDSSD needed to use a difference PCB to accommodate the Texas Instruments decoders/demultiplexers. There are eight total, four on each side, right in the middle of the PCB.
There are 16 Toshiba NAND flash BGA chips total on this drive.
Phison supplied the controller for the BP4 product line. Paired with the flash and controller is a single PSC DRAM chip for caching table data. This is the same DRAM chip we found on the 240GB MB4, so MDSSD didn't increase the DRAM size and that might adversely affect the benchmarks results.
We asked Toshiba for the datasheet or at least a new decoder sheet for the new Type C flash. We're yet to hear back. We think there are four die inside each package, but don't quote me on that.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
Desktop Test System
Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation
We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power test as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
For a portion of this review we're just putting the two Tera Era class drives head-to-head. There are two other 1TB class consumer SSDs on the market, OCZ's Octane 1TB (Newegg, $1499, Refurbished) and Mushkin's discontinued SATA II drive. With that said, I feel we have every reasonable TB class SSD in our sample.
It doesn't surprise me to see the BP4 ramping up faster than the Crucial M500 in sequential reads. The BP4 does extremely well when reading data.
Then we get to the sequential write performance. We're actually expecting to see write performance all over the place today. The BP4 is low on DRAM and the demultiplexers inline may have a negative impact on both write performance and battery life.
Benchmarks - Sequential Performance
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has gained popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
Looking at sequential performance a difference way, it's no surprise the BP4 achieves a higher peak sequential read rate.
With ATTO we see different sized writes, but in HD Tune Pro we write to the entire span of the drive. This tells us a different story and not one that I expected to see. The BP4 keeps a much tighter group in the first write test across the span of the drive.
HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes
It may seem excessive until we look at the results, but this is the third sequential write test. This test runs after a number of random writes to the drive. We learned in this test that write performance can dip to less than 50MB/s.
Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time
AIDA64 Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
AIDA64 offers several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by Jmicron.
SSDs feel so much faster compared to mechanical disk drives because of the reduced latency. Now that we're measuring in microseconds, the time difference between the products on the chart is actually very small.
Still, the BP4 960GB has higher read and write latency compared to the M500 960GB.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: RC6
So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.
Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.
The software is used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.
0-Fill Compressible Data
When MyDigitalSSD switched over to new Type C flash, they also released a new firmware that manipulates compressible and incompressible data differently. Oddly enough, write performance doesn't change too much like what we see on LSI SandForce based drives. The big changes come when reading data.
Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
Manufactures like to publish their high queue depth IOPS performance, but in a desktop or notebook environment, it's rare to get anywhere near a queue depth of 16 with a SSD, much less 32. We've highlighted in red the low queue depth numbers and will focus on those.
The BP4 960GB ramps up quickly just like what we saw in ATTO. This drive is the 1QD champion for consumer drives and it keeps that lead all the way to QD4. At that point the 960GB model hits a wall, but that's fine since this is a consumer SSD and not an enterprise SSD.
Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale
The BP4 960GB reaches 20K IOPS at QD1, but it never gets much higher than through the queue depth range.
Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.
The 4K QD1 read performance is about half that of the Crucial M500 960GB. The BP4 scales well, achieving 50MB/s at QD4, but with the low starting point the scaling performance doesn't mean too much for enthusiasts.
The 4K write performance at QD1 is also around half of that produced by the M500. Here though, the BP4 doesn't scale as commands are stacked.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
We're giving you a bigger dose of the new review format coming in a few weeks today. In Vantage, the M500 outperformed the BP4 in seven of eight tests. In most of the tests though, the BP4 was very close to the M500.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article - full instructions are included.
- Brief Methodology
SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.
Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test
Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)
60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB
120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB
240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB
Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.
Using the 50% of available capacity full point as a marker, we see the M500 is faster when data is present on the flash.
Benchmarks - PCMark 8 Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark8
Note: PCMark 8 Storage benchmark is ideal for testing the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives. Using traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games, PCMark 8 Storage highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.
I couldn't help myself, we're wanted a valid Battlefield 3 since the game was released. Last year we met with Futuremark in person while in California for Flash Memory Summit and the company heard our pleas. PCMark 8's HDD test moves beyond MB/s and plots the test results in a value everyone can relate to - time.
The MyDigitalSSD BP4 960GB is behind in every test in this suite, but by looking at the amount of time added, we get a better understanding of the real-world performance differences between the two drives. Second, mere seconds or less differentiate these two products. The widest gap is roughly two seconds, but most of the tests we found a difference that was measured in tenths of a second.
Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
Developer Homepage: Nodesoft
Product Homepage: DiskBench
Download here: http://www.nodesoft.com/diskbench/download
Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB SSD to move a 15GB block of data to and from the target drive. This is part of our real-world test regiment. Roughly 45GB of data resides on the target drive before the '15GB Block' is transfer. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.
Transferring data to and from your high-capacity SSD is undoubted going to happen. This test scales in relevance as the SSD capacity size increases. My line of thought is this, if you have the capacity, you are going to use it. It's hard to install 1TB of software along, your mega capacity SSD is going to hold movies, music and other similar data.
When transferring mixed mode data comprised of real-world files, the MyDigitalSSD BP4 writes the data a little faster than the M500, but reads a little slower.
Benchmarks - Power and Thermal Testing
Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5
Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.
The MyDigitalSSD BP4 960GB doesn't deliver the same amazing battery life that the smaller capacity size models do. The 960GB model has more surface mount components, like the Texas Interments demultiplexers. Still, when compared to the Crucial M500 960GB, the two drives are only a couple of minutes apart.
PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw
That said, the MDSSD BP4 960GB actually uses less power than the Crucial M500 960GB. You read that right - it uses less power, but delivers less battery life. The reason why is because the BP4 960GB is slower, thus it needs to operate for longer periods. We call this Disk Busy Time. When the SSD is working, it's consuming more power, so if it has to work longer than another product, there is a chance of it using more power over time.
Thermal Test - BETA
This is another next-generation benchmark that we're sliding into this review. At this time, it's still beta and needs a little work, mainly a mount and platform for consistent images.
The top thermal image is of the MyDigitalSSD BP4 960GB at idle and the bottom image is 10 minutes into a 4K random write run with IOmeter. At idle the controller is at 48.4C and at load the controller moves to 55.7C. The ambient temperature is 20C for both tests.
We've had a MyDigitalSSD BP4 240GB SSD in a test machine for several months now and it's been a great drive for daily use activities. We're using it as the operating system drive in a system for developing both consumer and enterprise SSD tests. At times, the system has two people working in it (Windows Server 2012), so the queue depths are higher than normal, but from a user standpoint, neither Paul nor I can tell anyone else is working on the same system.
As you can start to see as we roll out new benchmarks, consumer SSDs are so fast that performance is a given. I'm not saying that every SSD reaches the upper limits offered by SATA III, but many of the products out now, even the mainstream products, are fast enough. In our new benchmarks, we're focusing on more of the secondary features. Power states like those offered with the new DEVSLP feature and low thermal emissions increase battery life and reduce your electric bill. Many of the products we've already tested in 2013 were engineered with this in mind.
Of course measuring performance with a microscope is always fine, too. In our performance tests today the MyDigitalSSD BP4 960GB scored well when reading and writing sequential data and well when reading random data, but random writes could use a little help.
With this product though, speed, battery life for the most part and all of other features take a back seat to good 'ole capacity. There's no replacement for displacement, err capacity. The MyDigitalSSD BP4 has 960GB of user capacity and MyDigitalDiscount.com has them in stock for $799.99. It costs a bit more than the Crucial M500 960GB, but at least you can spend your money and get one in just a few days at the time of writing. It's better than being on a wait list.
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