Western Digital has finally dipped its toe into the SSD pond, a move we’ve been expecting since last year’s acquisition of SiliconSystems. The first consumer SSD to be born of this acquisition is the SiliconEdge Blue. Can one of the biggest names in mechanical hard drives compete in the solid state world?
Western Digital seems to be banking on two things with the SiliconEdge Blue: first, that seeing Western Digital’s name on an SSD will draw consumers, and second, that the strength of its custom firmware and rigorous performance testing will enable it to compete with drives running the high-performing SandForce and Barefoot Indilinx controllers. WD won’t say whose controller the SiliconEdge Blue uses, but it’s not developed in-house and it isn’t SandForce or Barefoot.
As the price of NAND flash memory drops to record lows, more and more hardware vendors are getting into the solid state drive business—and why wouldn’t they? A standard hard drive has lots of moving parts, but a solid state drive is nothing more than a few NAND flash modules, a controller chip, some PCB, and an enclosure. CSX is well known in Europe as a producer of aftermarket RAM for Apple products, and its Diablo gaming RAM has started making waves in the United States. But this 128GB multilevel cell (MLC) SSD marks the company’s first foray into the solid state market.
Single-level cell (SLC) SSDs typically have better write speeds than multilevel cell drives, but MLCs are more common because they’re much cheaper. We’ve tested a few standout MLCs, including Intel’s X-25M, but most of the multilevel cell drives we’ve benchmarked have suffered from poor write speeds.
OCZ has been pretty clear that the delays on their Vertex drives was due to the state of their firmware, and now that they appear to have that part out of the way, they’re boasting some mighty impressive numbers.
The latest version of their firmware speeds up sequential read and write performance, so much that it can keep up with Intel’s X-25E Extreme series. But, the Vertex will feature lower prices and higher capacities.
The Indilinx Barefoot SSD controller that the Vertex uses was initially specified to work at 200MB/s sequential read and 160MB/s sequential write, whereas the latest version was able to blow those old numbers out of the water, now moving at 250MB/s sequential read and 240MB/s sequential write.
Intel has recently slashed the prices on their SLC (Single Level Cell) and MLC (Multi Level Cell) SSDs. This move comes in the wake of the failing economy, but also in the interest of helping to keep their competitors, such as OCZ, at bay.
OCZ claims that their series of SSDs have continued to see delays due to firmware reliability and performance. Reportedly many customers are anxious to buy them, but it is notable that OCZ is doing their best to avoid Seagate’s firmware issues.
Intel is planning for a 128GB SLC drive and a 320GB drive using new 34nm MLC chips in late 2009. For the time being though, their price cuts are mighty significant. Their 80GB model is down fro $585 to $390, 160GB down from $945 to $765 and their 32GB is down from $575 to $415.