We had several memorable moments at Computex 2014 this past June, but one of the most exciting was hearing about the reemergence of G.Skill in the SSD market. G.Skill played a small role in the infancy of consumer SSDs. The company battled it out with OCZ Technology (now OCZ Storage Solutions, A Toshiba Company), ADATA and Patriot for the lowest priced flagship products. For a time, G.Skill didn't even bother with a two SKU product scheme, it was a flagship or nothing. Eventually that nothing became a reality. When flash became scarce, G.Skill was on the outside, looking in. Without reliable sources of NAND flash, G.Skill quietly left the performance SSD market.
At trade shows like CES, CeBIT and Computex companies do everything they can to attract media to booths. The booth space is very expensive, and on top of that, you have to build large displays, some as large as and as expensive as a very nice house. Women wearing next to nothing: check. All of the professional overclockers pouring LN2 out of massive containers: check. Products that are so outrageous they can't be real: check again. When we first saw the G.Skill Phoenix Blade, we didn't know if it was a marketing gimmick or a product that could actually make it to market.
The marketing gimmick to get journalist to the booth vs. a real product question has been answered. Let's get started!
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
At this time, the G.Skill Phoenix Blade is only offered in one capacity size - 480GB. The drive uses four SandForce SF-2281 controllers with four separate banks of 128GB Toshiba MLC NAND flash. Overprovisioning on each bank reduced the available flash density to 120GB per bank. This increases performance by allocating more space to background operations like garbage collection and wear leveling.
The SandForce SF-2281 controllers are held together by a SBC 208-2 PCIe 2.0 8-lane to SATA RAID controller. We've yet to find a lot of information on this part, even though this is our second time encountering it.
G.Skill's claimed performance is up to 2000 MB/s read and write. CrystalDiskMark performance is also quoted at 1900 MB/s sequential read, 1050 MB/s sequential write speeds. The random performance specification came from IOMETER, 90K random read and 245K random write. We more than doubled the specifications for random read performance during our testing, but we had to get into very high, enterprise level queue depths to do it.
The performance should stay high since the Phoenix Blade passes TRIM to the drives through the SCSI unmap command. SandForce SSD controllers are very good about flash management in this type of environment. There is a reason why client side PCIe to SATA RAID products use SF-2281 controllers.
Newegg already has the Phoenix Blade 480GB in stock. The price at the time of writing is $699.99. Price is important for the Phoenix Blade since it competes directly with the OCZ Storage Solutions RevoDrive 350 480GB, which currently sells for $799.99 at Newegg, a full $100 more than G.Skill's Phoenix Blade in the same capacity.
G.Skill back the Phoenix Blade with a full three-year warranty and includes a half-height adapter for use in 2U rackmount systems. The form factor is an important aspect to consider as well. The Phoenix Blade is a half-height, half-length (HHHL). This is an enterprise term, but one that will perk some potential customers ears with video render farms. The OCZ RevoDrive 350 is a full-height form factor so it will not fit in a 2U server vertically. If you want to render large video files on a separate system, you are looking for two things. The first is a high sequential performance and the second is low price.
G.Skill also lists gamers as potential customers for a product like this. We'll talk about this in the final thoughts, after measuring performance.
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- Page 1 [Introduction & Specifications, Pricing and Availability]
- Page 2 [G.Skill Phoenix Blade PCIe 480GB SSD]
- Page 3 [Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance]
- Page 4 [Benchmarks - Sequential Performance]
- Page 5 [Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities]
- Page 6 [Benchmarks - Mixed Read / Write Workloads]
- Page 7 [PCMark 8 Consistency Test]
- Page 8 [PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued]
- Page 9 [Final Thoughts]