SSD controller in some retail units of company’s Optima drives found to be different from advertised part
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.
So a SandForce and an Indilinx controller walk into a testbed…
Are SSDs approaching commodity status? There are dozens of different consumer SSDs on the market, but with each successive generation it seems there are fewer controllers driving them. This time around the big players are LSI’s SandForce SF-2281 controller (found in OCZ’s Vertex 3 and Agility 3 drives, Patriot’s Pyro SE, Corsair’s Force 3 and Force GT, OWC’s Mercury Extreme Pro, Intel’s 520 Series, and so many more) and Marvell’s 9174, found in pretty much everything else. Samsung’s 830 Series drives have their own controller, but most of the rest of the market has one of two controllers, differentiated only by firmware and NAND choice. Here we examine two new SSDs: one with an off-the-shelf controller and one with a heavily modified one.
There was no dearth of ultrabook announcements at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But it still remains to be seen whether or not all these ultrabooks can go onto capture a large chunk of the notebook market as Intel wants them to. Market research firm IHS iSuppli is among those who expect ultrabook shipments to soar rapidly over the next few years. Having previously predicted “major repercussions for the global electronics supply chain” owing to a boom in ultrabook shipments, the firm has now specifically identified cache solid state drives (SSDs) as a likely beneficiary of such a boom.
Last month, Intel increased the warranty period on solid-state drives in its SSD 320 range from the original three years to five years, making them the first consumer SSDs to have such a long warranty period. Now, Woodstock, Illinois-based Other World Computing (OWC) has taken a leaf out of Intel’s book and extended the warranty on its Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD line to five years. According to OWC, this move has made it “the industry’s first SandForce processor-based 6Gb/s SATA Revision 3.0 SSD offering an enterprise-class level 5 year warranty.” Hit the jump for more.
Intel set a new benchmark for SSD performance when it launched its X25-M range of solid-state drives in 2008. While the chip maker promptly updated the range a year later, even those second-generation X25-M SSDs now look fairly dated when compared to more recent alternatives, of which there are plenty in an increasingly competitive market. Intel on Monday ended a two-year-long wait for its third generation of SSDs by announcing the new Intel SSD 320 series.
A week after it introduced a 96GB model of its enterprise-oriented V+ 100 SSD, Kingston has announced another addition to the SSDNow V Series. Available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB capacities, the SSDNow v100 is targeted at both consumers and small businesses looking for an affordable “upgrade path for desktops and notebooks, short of a total system replacement.”
As you'd expect, the new SSDNow v100 drives feature Windows 7 TRIM support. A major difference between the enterprise-centric V+100 drives and the V100 series is the former's support for “always on” garbage collection across both TRIM and non-TRIM supported operating systems. But as Kingston clearly places a premium on that OS-independent garbage collection feature, the V100 is much more affordable. In fact, at $489.99 (stand-alone unit), the 256GB V100 is by far Kingston's most affordable 256GB SSD till date. The drive is capable of sequential read and write speeds of up to 250MB/sec and 230MB/sec, respectively.
“The SSDNow V100 drives ship as either a stand-alone unit or as an upgrade bundle kit. The desktop bundle kit includes the SSD, cloning software, cables (SATA data and power), and 3.5″ hard-drive mounting brackets and hardware. The notebook bundle includes the SSD, cloning software and a 2.5″ external enclosure allowing the replaced hard drive to be used as extra storage” Kingston said in a release.
When Apple recently updated its MacBook Air family of ultraportables, it switched the range entirely to solid-state storage for the speed boost flash memory provides. But it went against the grain by opting for an onboard storage solution, as opposed to the conventional way of wedging it all into an SSD enclosure. This was done in order to make the Air even more ethereal than before.
In fact, the Blade X-gale ultra-thin SSD modules are reportedly same as the ones inside Apple’s ultraportable notebook. According to MacRumors, not only do both come in identical capacities (64GB, 128GB, and 256GB), but also have the same part numbers. The Blade X-gale drives are capable of a maximum sequential read speed of 220MB/s and a maximum sequential write speed of 180MB/s.
"Delivering a product that enables superior user experience in a smaller footprint is the ultimate goal," noted Scott Nelson, vice president, Memory Business Unit, Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. "The density of MLC NAND enables the creation of smaller form factor high density storage solutions, and Toshiba, as the technology leader for NAND storage solutions, will continue to innovate in this space."
Kingston today introduced the SSDNow V+100 solid-state drive, which features an “always on” garbage collection function, allowing it to be “optimized in both TRIM and Non-TRIM supported operating systems.” With the new SSDNow V+100 series, which is 25 percent faster than the previous generation, Kingston is trying to lure those enterprises that are still on older legacy OS' such as Windows Vista and XP that do not support TRIM.
The company has even added a 96GB option to its SSD range for the first time owing to consumer demand for “an SSD solution that ideally sits both price- and capacity-wise between the 64GB and 128GB drives.” Also available in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities, the drive boasts up to 230MB/s sequential read and 180MB/s sequential write speeds.
The prices are $ 220.00, $ 274.00, $ 390.00, $ 885.00, and $ 1,885.00 for the 64GB, 96GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB stand-alone drives, respectively.
Storage that uses flash memory is quite unlike the hard disk drives used to hold your computer’s data. The latter rely on speedy actuators to read and write information on spinning magnetic platters. SSDs use electrical charges to read and write the state of individual flash memory cells. An SSD’s flash memory is nonvolatile: Unlike your computer’s RAM, an SSD drive retains your data when you switch the power off. And since the handshake is electric, SSDs can access that data in a fraction of the time it takes a mechanical hard drive to do so.
Sounds ideal, right? Actually, the performance potential of SSDs needs to be weighed against some significant drawbacks. We’re going to outline the pros and cons of the technology and how it compares to traditional hard disk storage. We’re also going to put seven leading solid state drives to the test and let the benchmark numbers do the talking. At this stage in the storage race, an SSD is a big investment; we want to help you maximize your return.
While SSDs are getting plenty of attention from us (and everyone else) these days, it's way too early to shovel the dirt over the classic spinning-disk hard disk drive technology, eWeeksuggests. You already know a couple of reasons: capacity and price per GB.
However, even if you can afford to give up some storage capaciy and a lot more cash, there are other reasons to think twice before turning your existing hard disk drive into a paperweight. At last week's DiskCon 2008 storage conference, experts cited by eWeek pointed out that NAND flash memory, the most common type of flash memory in use today, drops in performance with use, and that data retention is much shorter than with traditional disk drives.
So who's really excited about SSDs? Corporate data centers. In one case study described at DiskCon, a data center replaced hard disks with SSDs. The installation used one SSD for read, the other for write, and realized a 10x improvement in read/write speed and 5x less power consumption.
So, how do you feel about SSDs? Are you ready to pony up the extra dough and trade off some capacity to give SSDs a try today, or are you waiting until SSDs' price per GB, capacity and long-term behavior more closely mirror what hard disks provide today? See us after the jump for your chance to put in your feedback.