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Transcend SSD340 256GB SSD Review

Transcend SSD340 256GB SSD Review

The mainstream SSD market is blowing up with products as low as 50 cents per GB. Transcend has the new SSD340 on store shelves, Chris walks us through it.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, May 12 2014 9:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 77%Manufacturer: Transcend

Introduction & Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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VIEW GALLERY - 34 IMAGES

Hot on the heels of a PNY Optima review, we have another low-cost SSD that promises to provide SSD performance without traditional SSD prices. Early SSDs suffered on two fronts: high failure rates and high prices. As with any new technology, time eliminates both of these issues. SSDs are now widely considered more reliable than the technology they replaced, and prices have shrunk to very low levels.

Almost as long as we've had performance SSDs, we've had lower tier mainstream models too. Most of these products shipped with lower quality flash but with the same high performance controller found on the flagship offerings. Some of the products were actually pretty good, but a very large number of them were cringingly bad.

Over time, the industry determined that using lower quality flash is the wrong way to approach the mainstream market. Micron's L85A flash also made the decision much easier to swallow. L85A, known by many as 20nm 128Gb die flash, is now very cheap and plentiful, so third-party SSD manufacturers can take on flash manufacturers in the mainstream SSD market.

Transcend isn't new to SSDs or low cost models designed for broad adoption. The SSD720 we reviewed last year was a solid offering and at times competed for the lowest priced mainstream SSD at Newegg. Transcend is back with a new mainstream SSD, this time using a JMicron controller but one that we've tested and liked in the past.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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Transcend built three capacity sizes for the US market: 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB. A part number exists for a 32GB SDD 340 but we haven't seen it for sale online and suspect it's for emerging markets or embedded applications.

We didn't find any performance information on Transcend's website on the product page or in the datasheet. Newegg's page for the SSD340 256GB, the capacity we're reviewing today, states sequential read performance at 520 MB/s, sequential write speed at 290 MB/s, random reads at 69,000 IOPS, and random write IOPS at 68,000. All but the sequential write speed are higher than the PNY Optima we reviewed just two weeks ago and really liked.

A big reason why we liked the Optima so much has to do with the price, and the Transcend SSD340 comes very close to the same price point. The 256GB model we're testing today costs just $139.99. The 128GB model comes in at $69.99 and the 64GB drive at $57.74.

The Transcend SSD340 ships with a three-year warranty, desktop adapter bracket, screws for securing your drive, a quick installation guide, and a warranty card. Transcend now offers an SSD Toolbox-like software called SSD Scope. SSD Scope includes a disk-cloning feature so that you can easily clone the data from your existing drive to your Transcend SSD. The software is free to Transcend SSD owners, but you must download the software from the website; it doesn't ship with the Transcend drives.

PRICING: You can find the Transcend SSD340 SSD (2565GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Transcend SSD340 SSD (2565GB) retails for $118.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Transcend SSD340 SSD (2565GB) retails for CDN$176.51 at Amazon Canada.

Transcend SSD340 256GB SSD

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Transcend carried over the package design from the previous SSD products from the company. Quite a bit more goes into this than you can see in the pictures. The package has a nice plastic texture that covers the cardboard. It's not something that most will notice, and fewer will actually care about it, but it does show that Transcend tries to deliver a well-rounded product.

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Even though performance data isn't on the product page, we did find it on the back of the retail package.

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Unlike the PNY Optima that we tested the other day and the Crucial M500, two other low cost SSDs, the Transcend SSD340 ships with a decent accessory package.

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Here we get our first look at the drive. The top cover of the drive is plastic and is most of the case.

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The bottom cover is metal and acts as a heat sink for the controller and DRAM.

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The Transcend SSD340 is a 7mm z-height drive, so it works in new Ultrabooks designs that require a very thin SSD.

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The SSD340 also ships with a desktop adapter bracket.

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Inside, we found a JMicron JM667H 4-channel controller. Transcend paired the controller with Samsung DDR3 DRAM and Micron 20nm synchronous NAND flash.

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There are sixteen NAND flash packages in total, eight on each side of the PCB.

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We've seen this controller before on the Kingfast C-Drive we tested a few months ago.

Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

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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 tests as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.

ATTO - Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

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In our sequential tests with ATTO, we achieved just over 516 MB/s sequential read and nearly 220 MB/s sequential writes.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

HD Tune Pro - Sequential Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.55

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The SSD340 scored an average of 428 MB/s sequential read when testing across the full LBA range of the drive.

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The write test delivered a 262 MB/s average in the same test using 64KB blocks.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0

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After a reasonable amount of random writes, we tested the SSD340 with HD Tach using 128KB blocks looking at sequential reads and writes. In this test, we see the drive writing data at roughly 220 MB/s and then dropping to very low speeds.

We've seen this on other SSDs, some of which ended up performing very well in real-world conditions. We need to look at other tests to see if that's the case with the Transcend SSD340.

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, e.g. 4k QD16.

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 can be used several different ways 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

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Incompressible Data

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Compressible and incompressible write performance is the same on the SSD340.

Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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Manufacturers tout their high queue depth IOPS performance, but most of us should be more concerned with low queue depth performance since that's what we use most often. The Transcend SSD340 delivers 8473 read IOPS at QD1 and nearly reaches 12,000 at QD2. The drive peaks at 68,000 at QD32.

Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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Write IOPS reach over 30,000 at QD1 and jump to 46,000 at QD2. The peak write IOPS come at QD16, coming in at nearly 50,000.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage (Drives with Data Testing)

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

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.

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The drive empty performance is very good--83,000 Marks--and that score came in our first test and after TRIM. With half of the total flash filled with data, the performance SSD340 dropped to 40,602 Marks. The performance isn't bad for a low-cost SSD, but then again, there are a lot of very good SSDs entering this price range.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

Heavy Usage Model:

FutureMark's PCMark 8 allows us to wear the test drive down to a reasonable consumer steady state and then watch the drive recover on its own through garbage collection. To do that, the drive gets pushed down to steady state with random writes and then idle time between a number of tests allows the drive to recover.

Precondition Phase:

1. Write to the drive sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 10 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 8 times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by 5 minutes.

Steady state Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Recovery Phase:

1. Idle for 5 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance.

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This is where things go from decent to bad for the Transcend SSD340. The first time we tested an SSD with the new JMicron controller, we didn't have this test ready. This test replaced a handful of our previous tests since it delivers the same information but gathers the data from real-world tests.

With a mixed read / write workload, the SSD340 takes a beating, even after sitting idle. We tested the drive twice and observed the same results in this 24 hours test. To verify the results, we ran the test a third time, this time passing the data through a Teledyne LeCroy SATA protocol analyzer (our new toy in the lab), and the results were identical.

Disk Busy Time

Disk Busy Time shows us how long the drive has to work to achieve the performance from the above. The best scenario is high throughput performance with low busy time. The less the drive works, the less power it consumes. For the most part, this is an efficiency test.

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Here we see the performance in all of the tests. The drive recovers from its worst case performance, but it never really reaches a high level of performance with this mixed workload.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued

Total Access Time

The access time test measures the total latency across all 18 tests. This is one of the, if not the most, important tests we run at this time for consumer SSDs. When your latency is low, your computer feels fast; it's just that simple.

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The access time is what makes your SSD feel fast in your system. Good SSDs feel like they are predicting what you're about to click on, but drives with high access times only feel a little better than mechanical drives. The SSD340 does deliver better performance than a mechanical HDD, but it's still the worst SSD we've tested with this method.

Disk Busy Time

In the final test, we measure the amount of time the drive worked to read and write the data to complete the test. When a drive is active, it uses more power, so the faster it can complete the tasks, the faster it can fall into a low power state.

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Disk busy time shows how hard an SSD is working to deliver the data. The SSD340 has to put forth a lot of effort to complete the tests.

Benchmarks - DiskBench

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

Note: In this test, we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSpeed 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 transferred. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.

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Here we get a really good indication of what is happening with the Transcend SSD340. When the drive has a heavy load, the write speed gets very slow. This is on par with what we saw in HD Tach where the drive dropped to roughly 10 to 20 MB/s.

In this test, we're transferring data to and from the drive. When writing the 15.2 GB chunk of data, the drive writes just 22 MB/s. This did not happen on the other drive we tested with the new JMicron SSD.

Benchmarks - Power Testing & Final Thoughts

Bapco MobileMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

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High disk busy time generally equates to low battery life, but that wasn't the case with the Transcend SD340. The drive lasted 268 minutes in our Lenovo W530, which is middle of the pack when it comes to 256GB capacity size SSDs.

Final Thoughts

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The low-cost SSD market is really heating up and not just because companies are making new products just for this segment. While drives like the PNY Optima and Transcend SSD340 are coming to market, drives like Seagate's 600 Pro, various LSI SandForce models, and for that matter, everything is dropping to roughly 50 cents/GB. This all started around Black Friday, and at that time, we predicted an SSD revolution with new, very low price points. That prediction held true, even when analysts said it wouldn't. Now, 50 cents/GB is normal, and we're even seeing entry-level enterprise drives tip up at this new low.

When shopping for an SSD, the 256GB capacity size is the sweet spot for price, performance, and value. It's a very complicated capacity class, though, because there is a lot competition. Not only do you have new products coming to market, but you also have products first introduced two years ago floating around. The SATA III limit sets the bar pretty low since PCIe based SSDs show us that more sequential performance is possible with the flash we have today.

The SATA III limits the sequential performance, but the random performance is still fair game. Over the last year, we've seen companies put a lot of effort at delivering both low queue depth performance and consistent write performance for better RAID array performance.

Somewhere along the line, things went really bad for the Transcend SSD340. We tested the same controller in the KingFast C-Drive 240GB but with Toshiba 19nm flash. In sequential writes, the KingFast C-Drive delivered 150 MB/s more in ATTO. The mixed workload performance was considerably higher as well. Although we didn't publish the results in this review, the PCMark 8 standard test on the SSD340 was 189 MB/s, but the same test on the C-Drive was 256 MB/s. I don't see the firmware causing an issue like this although we've seen other companies FUBAR the firmware this bad in the past.

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Transcend's website specifically states this model uses synchronous MLC flash, and Micron's datasheet backs that up. The drive performs as if it's running in asynchronous mode. At this point, we're going to have to pass on this model and wait until Transcend updates the firmware to take another look. The performance is ridiculously low compared to other drives on the market. If we didn't test the C-Drive, we'd just chalk this up to the controller and the issues JMicron had in the past. We know this controller can deliver solid performance, but this drive doesn't do anything for JMicron's reputation.

PRICING: You can find the Transcend SSD340 SSD (2565GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: TheTranscend SSD340 SSD (2565GB) retails for $118.99 at Amazon.

Canada: TheTranscend SSD340 SSD (2565GB) retails for CDN$176.51 at Amazon Canada.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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