The flash memory used in everything from smartphones to SSDs is about to get a lot more efficient in the wake of the latest advance from Intel and Micron. The companies announced today that they have successfully shrunk NAND flash memory so it can be manufactured using a 20-nanometer process. The practical upshot of all this is that future devices are likely to be packing more memory for less money.
We’ll say this for the Plextor M2 Series SSD: It’s a huge step up from Plextor’s last SSD. The M1S Series SSD we tested in our June 2010 roundup used Marvell’s “Da-Vinci” 88SS8014-BHP2 controller, which suffered from instability and slow writes. We gave that drive a 5 verdict. To our great relief, the M2 series SSD instead uses Marvell’s newer 6Gb/s SATA controller, the 88SS9174-BLD2—marking the third appearance of a Marvell 9174 controller in this roundup.
Nobody panic. Intel is still coming out with its much-delayed third-generation solid-state drive. The 320 Series will use 25nm NAND and Intel’s latest controller, on 3Gb/s SATA, and will focus on what made Intel drives great: high read speeds and random writes, and rock-solid reliability. Intel, recognizing that 250MB/s read speeds ain’t gonna cut it in 2011 (and holy cow, do we love typing that), is also bowing to popular demand and releasing an SSD with 6Gb/s SATA capability, but rather than design its own controller for that, Intel is using a third-party component. Intel wouldn’t officially tell us which controller, but thanks to the mysterious and powerful technol-ogy known as screwdriver, we can say with confidence that it’s Marvell’s 88SS9174-BKK2.
At first blush, the Crucial m4 seems virtually indistinguishable from its predecessor, the Crucial RealSSD C300. After all, it’s available in the same capacity with the same Marvell 9174 6Gb/s SATA controller and same amount of DRAM cache—256MB for the 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB versions, and 128MB for the 64GB drive.
Some amount of wheeling and dealing got OCZ access to special firmware for its last-gen SandForce drives, enabling faster random-write performance than the competition. Despite OCZ’s recent acquisition of Indilinx, it seems there’s still a spark to OCZ’s relationship with SandForce, as the company was able to get us an SF-2200 drive before anyone else. Since the Vertex 3 is the first SF-2200–powered SSD we’ve tested, we don’t know how it compares to the rest of the SF-2200 field, but we do know it kicks the pants off of most every other SSD we’ve reviewed.
Been putting off building that new system until the next generation of SATA III solid state drives start shipping? Well, you can stop dreaming and start building. OCZ this week announced that it's begun shipping its new Vertex 3 SATA III SSDs to its reseller network, so if you can't find one in stock now, you soon should be able to.
If you're strictly a home user, you've probably never heard of a Virident, which specializes in enterprise-class storage solutions, particularly solid state drives. The company's newest SSD, called "tachIOn," is one such product. The tackIOn takes advantage of the PCI-E interface to deliver sustained performance of up to 300,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS) with a 4KB block size on mixed read and write workloads. This, Virident says, is several times faster than competing PCI-E based SSDs.
Chip makers Intel and Micron are in the process of seeing how low each company can go, and it has nothing to do with the Limbo. Instead, it has everything to do with shrinking NAND technology even further with the goal of doubling down the density of their flash chips by the time summer rolls around. Aside from being impressive from a technological point of view, lower density chips ultimately lead to lower cost solid state drives (SSDs).
Like most memory makers, G.Skill also dabbles in solid state drives, which is proving to be a more lucrative business than the struggling DRAM market. G.Skill's latest SSD is the just released Phoneix EVO, a SATA II based drive built around the SandForce SF-1222 controller. It also sports "high quality 2xnm NAND flash chips," which G.Skill claims were strictly selected from key suppliers to guarantee top reliability and stability.
You'd have a hard time arguing that any company is more active in the solid state drive space than OCZ. In addition to a dizzying number of SATA-based SSD lines, OCZ also offers SSD options in USB 3.0, HDSL (High Speed Data Link), and PCI-Express, covering just about all the bases. It's easy to believe, then, that OCZ just shipped its one millionth SSD, and as far as we know, they're the only company to have done so.