Introduction & Drive Details
It's been a while since we've heard from Silicon Motion. Not sure exactly what they are cooking up behind the scenes, but whatever it may be, we are sure it will be extraordinary when the time comes. We are getting a bit of a taste of what SMI has been cooking up today. It's the first of its type external SSD controller that eliminates the need for a USB to NVMe bridge chip. That's right, no need for garbage bridge chips that typically kill performance and have broad-ranging compatibility issues.
This is a godsend as we see it. Our language would get a bit salty if we were to say what we really think of commonly used NVMe to USB bridge chips. Eliminating the need for a bridge chip brings more than just better compatibility, reliability, and performance. It also brings lower cost and lower power draw. Later this week, we will see a major brand bring their newest portable SSD to market based on the SM2320 bridgeless controller solution. It will be physically very small, deliver speeds of up to 2,000 MB/s, and carry an industry-best 5-year warranty. It will set a new standard thanks to its SM2320 controller.
Silicon Motion's newest SSD controller is not NVMe it's not SATA, it's CDI, and it shows up in Windows as a SATA HDD since there is no other option. We noticed this when we went to optimize the drive. The good news is that if you run defragment, it will TRIM the drive just like it should. The SM2320 solution includes Silicon Motion's NANDXtend ECC end-to-end data path protection and supports up to 4TB of capacity using the latest TLC and QLC NAND. Additionally, the SM2320 controller solution supports the highest level of data security by providing AES 256-bit encryption, full compliance with the Trusted Computing Group (TCG) Opal specification, and auxiliary Fingerprint Security support.
Looking at CDI, we can see the interface listed as UASP (Serial ATA) with transfer mode showing as SATA 300/600. This is obviously mis-classified by Windows because this portable prototype can deliver up to 2,100 MB/s throughput.
We have no enclosure as this is an OEM prototype. Custom enclosures will be implemented by partners. The drive is DRAMless, and interfaces through a USB Type-C port. We don't know the exact composition of its flash array, but we suspect it is TLC based on its superior performance.
Jon's Test System Specifications - Intel Z590
Note: For USB 3.2 Gen2 x2 SSDs, we test on our Z590 system set to match our Intel NUC 11 specs (4.8GHz, 8-threads, DDR4 3200, balanced power plan).
Synthetic Benchmarks: CDM, ATTO & Blackmagic
CDM testing confirms SMI's stated throughput of up to 2,100 MB/s. Sequential writes look great, coming in at nearly 1,900 MB/s. Excellent. That sequential read is the best we've obtained from a non-RAIDed portable. And NO BRIDGE CHIP required.
Nearly full speed at 128KB transfers is what we like to see, as well as a nice clean pattern without any dips to it as transfer sizes increase. Consistency, and very high sequential read performance that's again the best we've recorded for a non-RAIDED portable.
Blackmagic shows SM2320 based devices capable of tackling even 2160p 60 FPS projects. Amazing really. And yet again, the SM2320 delivers better read performance than any non-RAIDed portable we've recorded.
Real-World Testing: PCMark 10 & Transfer Rates
PCMark 10 Data Drive Benchmark
PCMark 10 provides real-world type performance data that closely simulates actual user experience. This time our Thunderbolt-based contenders leave our USB-based juggernaut in the dust. This is totally expected because of the massive bandwidth afforded by ThunderBolt. Our test specimen is, however, the fastest of the non-ThunderBolt portables that are swimming around in our test pool.
We brutalize portable test subjects with our extremely hard-to-swallow 100GB data block. This data block is the same one we use for our internal SSD testing and is composed of more than 62K files. Amazing results here. This is where the rubber meets the road, and the SM2320 is beating everything not RAIDed, especially where it matters most, serving data to the host. Wow.
Silicon Motion's SM2320XT enables class-leading performance, compatibility, and reliability. We are of the opinion that it is the best all-around portable solution we've seen to date. Now, this is an OEM sample with no branding and even no enclosure. Typically, we are not inclined to give an award for something of this nature, but because of what it does to change the industry and the performance it delivers, we feel compelled to give it our highest award.
- Sequential Speeds
- Straight USB
The Bottom Line
Unmatched portable performance for the USB interface. And NO BRIDGE CHIP.