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Solid-state drive (SSD) vendors have a new trick up their sleeves: bait and switch. Earlier this year, Kingston quietly replaced the synchronous NAND originally found in its V300 SSD with slower, less expensive asynchronous NAND, and now PNY has been caught doing something similar.
According to our friends over at Tweaktown, one of the site’s loyal readers wrote in to apprise them of the fact that a 240GB PNY Optima SSD, bought by him following the site’s thumping endorsement of the said product, had a different controller than their review unit.
“When I received it, I noticed that it had a SandForce-style firmware revision, ‘541ABBF0’. The firmware version on the printed label read ‘5.4.1’ (not the "N0307A" in the picture from your review), and the 5.6.0 firmware update on PNY's website (which I successfully applied) used the standard SandForce flasher. There does not appear to be a SMI firmware update (or any acknowledgement that such a variant exists) on PNY's website,” the unnamed reader told the site that had given the 240GB Optima an overall rating of “95%” in an exhaustive ten-page review published in April.
When the site approached PNY for a response, the company quickly fessed up to shipping some Optima SSD units with LSI Sandforce controllers instead of the Silicon Motion (SMI) controllers found inside the review unit. And to exonerate itself of any wrongdoing, the company drew the site’s attention to one particular sentence that can be found in the Optima’s product description on some sites like Newegg: “The PNY Optima SSD line utilizes multiple qualified controllers to offer the best available solution to our customers."
Here’s the rest of the reply: “Yes we did ship some Optima SSD's with SandForce controllers, but only if they meet the minimum advertised performance levels (in most of the benchmark tests, LSI controllers outperform SMI controllers). The readers assumption that PNY has abandoned SMI controllers is wrong as we have been shipping mostly SMI controllers, but also utilizing LSI to fill in the gaps.”
It is difficult to gauge the effect of this silent controller switch on the drive’s performance in absence of definitive benchmarks. However, we did find a couple of user-supplied benchmarks over at the AnandTech forums.
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