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Silicon Power S80 SSD: Brave but for naught

By Ian Chee & Kenny Yeo - 26 Jan 2015

Introduction

A new mainstream player

Competition is a good thing - for consumers. Not only does it encourage innovation, it also helps drive prices down. And the SSD market is now consumed by a great three-way battle featuring Samsung, Crucial and Toshiba. All three brands have their own NAND foundries and firmware development teams; and Samsung and Toshiba even design manufacture their own SSD controllers.

The Silicon Power S80 is one of the few drives in the market to employ a Phison controller.

Even though the market is now dominated by these three big players, that is not to say that there is no room for other players. Based in Taiwan, Silicon Power has had a limited presence in the local scene, but it is a major manufacturer of all sorts of flash memory products including USB flash drives, flash memory cards, DRAM modules and more. The S80 is one of their newer SSDs, and it is aimed squarely at the mainstream SSD market.

Unlike Samsung, Crucial and Toshiba, Silicon Power doesn't have the means to produce its own SSD controller and NAND flash, so it has to turn to outside suppliers. And since the mainstream SSD market is so tightly contested, to ensure it has a competitive edge over its rivals, Silicon Power has turned to an unlikely source for its controller - Phison.

Phison has been building SSD controllers for over 10 years, but most of their early controllers were used in USB flash drives and flash memory cards. In the past few years, the company started making controllers for SSDs, but they saw little action, as the early years of the SSD was dominated by controllers from Intel, JMicron and Indilinx. And truth be told, there are few viable SSD controller solutions in the market right now. Lest you forget, Link_A_Media has been acquired by SK Hynix, and from what we have read, SK Hynix will only sell you a Link_A_Media controller if you agree to also use their memory. SandForce, on the other hand, has been acquired by Seagate and has been very quiet lately. This leaves us with Marvell, who has a tested and proven controller, but they provide only the silicon, and manufacturers must develop their own firmware, which is not a simple task. This explains why many of the smaller players are turning to Phison - apart from Silicon Power, Corsair and Kingston both use Phison controllers in their SSDs.

Like most 2.5-inch SSDs in the market today, the Silicon Power S80 uses a SATA 6Gbps interface.

Powering the Silicon Power S80 is the Phison PS3108-S8, an 8-channel controller that currently also sees action in the Corsair Force LS and the Corsair V310. This is paired with Toshiba’s latest 19nm Toggle-Mode MLC NAND, the same being used in higher tier drives like the OCZ Vector 150, AMD R7 and Plextor M6 Pro. The drive supports the SATA 6Gbps interface. It also has a thickness of 7mm, this means it will fit into most Ultrabooks with no problem. It comes in a blister type packaging and there's no accessories provided.


Test setup

The Silicon Power S80 will be tested on our dedicated storage testbed:

  • Intel Core i5-2500K (3.3GHz)
  • ASUS P8Z77 Pro Thunderbolt (Intel Z77 chipset)
  • 2 x 2GB DDR3-1600 memory
  • MSI GeForce 8600 GTS
  • Windows 7

Our revised benchmark ditches older benchmarks such as HD Tune, and also includes an all-new timing test to better evaluate the drive’s real world performance. The list of benchmarks used are as follows:

  • AS-SSD benchmark 1.7.4739
  • CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1
  • PCMark 7 (Storage suite)
  • Iometer (version 2006.07.27)
  • Timing Tests (Cold start, Reboot, Apps Launching)

Since the Silicon Power S80 is positioned as a mainstream SSD, we have included results of the SSD 850 EVO and SSD 840 EVO from Samsung, as well as the MX100 and M550 from Crucial. These are the most popular mainstream drives in the market right now and the Silicon Power S80 will have to do well against them to stand a chance. All drives tested are 256GB in capacity or sport other similar capacities such as 250GB and 240GB variants.

Here is the list of drives tested:

  • Silicon Power S80
  • Samsung SSD 850 EVO
  • Samsung SSD 840 EVO
  • Crucial MX100
  • Crucial M500
  • Plextor M6 Pro
  • Plextor M6S
  • Performance 6.5
  • Features 6.5
  • Value 5
The Good
Decent sequential read/write performance
The Bad
No accessories provided
Poor read performance overall
Inconsistent performance at high queue depths
Not competitively priced