If you're interested in learning more about how SSD's work, be sure to read our SSD Relapse.

A year ago Western Digital acquired SiliconSystems, a manufacturer of solid state storage devices - primarily in the Compact Flash form factor. Companies like Ericsson and Cisco apparently buy tons of industrial grade CF from Silicon Systems for use in their telecom equipment and servers. It’s not particularly fast storage, but it’s reliable and much more expensive than what you stick in your SLR.

The industrial CF business is still doing well for Western Digital, but now it’s time for the company that brought us the fastest desktop hard drives to throw its hat into the consumer SSD race.

Western Digital’s first consumer SSD is called the SiliconEdge Blue. SiliconEdge is the brand of WD’s SSDs, and the Blue label indicates that this isn’t a high performance drive. WD’s color naming scheme is pretty simple to figure out. Green means energy efficient, blue means mainstream and black is reserved for the highest performing drives. In talking to the drive maker I got the distinct impression that we’d be hearing about a Black label SSD in the coming months, but for now it’s strictly mainstream.

MSRP 64GB 128GB 256GB
Western Digital SiliconEdge Blue $279 $529 $999

 

Given the $529 MSRP on the 128GB SiliconEdge Blue, there’s certainly nothing mainstream about the price. Although Western Digital did tell me that the price was purely a suggestion and it expects significantly lower prices from etailers. Even if WD can deliver Kingston-like pricing, we’re still talking about a drive that sells for over $2 per Gigabyte of storage space. It may be mainstream for an SSD, just not for the majority of PC buyers.

Instead, what WD refers to when it calls the SiliconEdge Blue a mainstream drive is its compatibility. When Western Digital set out to build the SiliconEdge Blue, the focus was on compatibility and reliability. Western Digital wanted to build a drive that users could buy and pop in any system without worries of having to update firmware or the drive just not working. There are still systems today that don’t play well with SSDs, often exposing weaknesses either in the HBA (Host Bus Adapter) or in the SSD itself. Most machines are used to dealing with slow hard drives. Installing a drive that has an order of magnitude greater performance is sure to push the limits of any spec. We’ve seen that crop up in more than one case, the most public and unresolved being the use of certain 3rd party SSDs in Apple’s latest MacBook Pros.

Western Digital made it very clear that in order to build the most compatible, reliable drive possible - it often sacrificed performance. While the SiliconEdge Blue will always be faster than a mechanical hard drive, it’s not going to be in the class of the SandForce or Marvell based SSDs.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to back up WD’s claims. SandForce claimed that its drives were bullet proof thanks to their enterprise heritage. I had no problems killing my first SandForce drive in a matter of weeks (granted it was on pre-release firmware). More recently, Micron boasted a 1000 hour validation time on its RealSSD C300 before beginning to ship the drives. It took me even less time to brick my C300.

Every SSD maker claims that they do reliability and compatibility testing and use real world scenarios for validation. It’s not that the companies are lying, it’s that they can’t possibly test every single combination of hardware, software and usage. Smaller companies generally have fewer resources and thus test less. Larger companies, especially those with experience in shipping mission critical hardware, tend to test more. Neither type of company can avoid issues altogether, case in point being the number of times Intel has had to issue firmware updates to fix bugs missed during validation.

Western Digital couldn’t give me any proof or guarantees that the SiliconEdge Blue was more reliable/compatible than the competition. As I’ve said in the past, that’s up to everyone who ends up as an early adopter to find out.

The Controller
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  • The0ne - Monday, March 08, 2010 - link

    Just wanted to say I love those firmware guys at SanDisk! :) Great job guys and keep up the good work. Reply
  • BelardA - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    "SSD will become commoditized (but it won't ever going to be as cheap as mechanical drives!)"

    Yes they will... in a sense. The same way a Quad Core intel will never become as cheap as a $30 Celeron... or a X1900XTX a $500 card turning into a $100 card - as a $75 ATI 5570 is easily faster... something else will come out that is cheaper and faster.

    The HD are hitting the limits of technology. Anything above 1TB are not as reliable as the smaller drives. The densities are too tight and eventually even the smaller drives will be using the same tech.. :( When 4GB drives come out... we'll be seeing even more failures and problems.

    But with SSDs, everything is a matter of price today. Its not impossible to make a 2GB or 4GB SSD drive... but just cost.

    When memory gets around 10ns and mass-production is up to much higher standards... then we'll see SDDs replace HDs. The benefits are very good, its still baby tech. Compare a 1986 HD to a 1990 HD, the 80s drives where every bad in reliability & speed. The 1990 drives don't even compare to the 1995 or 2000 drive.

    The HDs will eventually go away to be replaced by cheaper and faster SSDs... it won't be next year... but I'd project that in 4~5 years, SSDs will make up 50% of the market... Most people just don't need 2~4TB drives. What is needed is a $75 120GB drive, $100~120 256GB and a $150~175 500GB drive. We're not even close to that today.

    And in 1-2 years from now, I expect reliability to be much better.

    WD new drives are not impressive. I'll stick with the intels.
    Reply
  • Voo - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    "What is/will be important is the interface and the optimization of the SSD drives"
    The interface? Well that would be SATA, so that's a moot point. And optimization? That's exactly what they didn't do here. Also just because they know how to build a HDD that won't help them a bit for flash drives.. completely different technology.


    The only thing they could have going for them would be more reliabilty and that's to be seen. At the moment these drives are too expensive and do not offer exceeding performance..

    Also just because you're big doesn't mean you can't fail - wouldn't be a first in the industry..
    Reply
  • Frallan - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link


    Sinca Anand was way to kind to WD I will summarize the testing he has done:

    WD want us to pay through the nose for a drive with mediocre performance because they say that it is "more" compatible then other drives however they will not guarantee this!

    Since WD is trying to butt-feck us I suggest the put this drive where the sun do not shine and usr Dijon mustard as a lube.

    Just my $0.02
    Reply
  • Pessimism - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    only if its grey poupon. Reply
  • BCarr - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    I see newegg is selling the 256gb for $799, better but not quite there, since other brands are selling for $600-$750. Reply
  • c4v3man - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    I agree with the other poster. Samsung SLC SSD's that are the standard of the OEM industry are slower, more expensive, but more reliable than what an enthusiast would purchase. Pretty much the exact same description that these drives have. I'm betting this is primarily targeted at OEM's, and they are simply releasing them into the retail market to start a buzz before they release a WD Black SSD sometime in the future. If anything, this will double capacity of most OEM offerings for little to no increase in cost. With the crazy markup they're offering, they're also justifying their partners charging you an exorbitant amount of money to upgrade to SSD when configuring your system. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    I think WD's marketing/pricing department fell asleep back in 2008. What are they thinking? My only guess is they are banking on pre-built systems where companies such as Dell/HP/etc. already have agreements with them. They want the ram upgrade pricing for their SSD's. Otherwise, what a joke.

    It's always nice to see another player enter the fray, but I'd hate to see these drives selling at MSRP as your only option when buying a system due to the weight WD has in the storage market.
    Reply
  • Pessimism - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    I'll pass. They are the new VIA, delivering one unstable, standards uncompliant product after another. Reply
  • Mr Alpha - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    What if I've read through the SSD Relapse five times already and am interested in learning even more about how SSDs work? Reply

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