The Controller

Like Seagate, Western Digital didn’t make the controller inside their SSD. The SiliconEdge Blue uses a 3rd party controller but despite my prodding, WD wouldn’t tell me who made it. As SandForce has proven, the actually manufacturer of the controller is not as important as the firmware itself. That being said, I still wanted to know.

Despite having Western Digital’s logo printed on the controller, WD didn’t opt for a custom PCB on its drive:

I’ve seen this PCB somewhere before. Ah yes, PC Perspective’s review of the JMicron JMF618 based Kingston V Series SSD. Based on JMicron internals and manufactured by Toshiba, this is the latest from the company that was responsible for my obsession with weeding out SSDs in 2008. Update: Allyn tells me that the JMF618's unique feature is its support for Toshiba NAND. If you use Samsung NAND that makes the controller a JMF612.

The JMF618/612 are allegedly a lot better than the JMF602 that everyone was trying to push a couple of years ago, but this is my first experience with it. The good news is that Kingston sells its JMF618 based drive for less than $2.20 per GB. This means that we might see etailer pricing on the SiliconEdge Blue at roughly half of its MSRP.

Like most other consumer SSDs, Western Digital sets aside roughly 7% of the NAND flash on board for spare area to be used for cleaning and bad block allocation.

Sitting next to the WD branded JMF618/612 controller is a 64MB DDR2-800 DRAM made by ESMT. That’s not a ton of memory by any means, but it is ridiculously fast memory. By comparison Intel uses 32MB of PC133 SDRAM, offering 1/6 of the bandwidth. With that much memory off-chip, JMicron is most likely using the DDR2 DRAM as a cache for user data in addition to the mapping tables and block allocation algorithms. The more data you store off chip, the more bandwidth you need to service that data.


16 chips x 16GB Samsung MLC NAND Flash

Western Digital claims rights to an exclusive firmware with the SiliconEdge Blue. The initial firmware appears to be supplied by JMicron, but Western Digital has modified it to tune for compatibility. In theory that means that we won’t get the same performance out of the SiliconEdge Blue that we do from Kingston’s SSD that uses the same controller.

The JMF618/612 supports TRIM which is enabled on the SiliconEdge Blue. Western Digital won’t be offering a manual TRIM tool for non-Windows 7 OSes, stating that the performance of the drive never drops to a point where you’d need to manually TRIM it. I can’t say that I agree with that since I managed to make the drive perform quite poorly after hammering on it for a while:

But it does attempt to be fairly resilient and after being TRIMed it manages to stay very close to peak performance:

You can use the SiliconEdge Blue in a non-TRIM aware OS, but I’d recommend sticking with Windows 7 if possible.

Index Scrambling Data to Improve Reliability?
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  • Griswold - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    No, numbnuts. He was just being careful because depending on what performance figure you look at, they're simply faster and in other cases thes dance circles around a spindle drive. A decent or good SSD is always much faster than common desktop HDDs. But not everyone cares about that. Reply
  • DukeN - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    At this point the Intel reliability is greater IMHO as it has already gone through testing by hundreds of thousands of users, if not millions.

    And higher for mediocre performance is just not going to cut it. Maybe in six months when etailers are forced to sell them at 50% off to clear their inventory these will have an impact on pricing for most models.
    Reply
  • mrsushi - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Would be interesting to know how many SSDs has Intel and co. sold.

    Kingston is not my favourite RAM maker, but their SSDs surely look a lot more solid than this WD. WD should wake up and put 5th gear in doing something more original.

    and about SSDs ... I would say that in less than 10 Years, RAM will be dead and buried. All PCs will work directly from SSDs. Its nearly there, start your OS directly where you left it yesterday when you went to bed...
    Reply
  • semo - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    at 50% they still wouldn't be competing with other similar offerings. The MSRP needs to be halved before getting a clearance price... that would be a decent deal today but it won't happen today. So not much point to the consumer from these drives. Decent test bed for the lazy WD I guess Reply
  • pullmyfoot - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    maybe not a million yet Reply
  • semo - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    ... and does anyone know the release date for europe? Reply
  • Conscript - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    when I first started reading this, I thought the 256GB was $529, and I was still contemplating if it was worth it over the 160GB Intel at $429.... then I came ot the end and see that that was the 128GB price and the 256GB is $999? No frakking way WD, good luck selling even one of these... Reply
  • coolkev99 - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    Nice to see WD enter the SSD market. I'd take the plunge on this if they can get the price a bit lower. That's what needs to happen for these drive to truely go mainstream, and it's the only thing holding me back. Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, March 03, 2010 - link

    Why would it be the only thing holding you back? The Randoms on these drives are horrific. I'd rather wait for the new onset of SSDs that are going to put the Vertex2Pro and Intel G2s to shame.
    Reply
  • coolkev99 - Thursday, March 04, 2010 - link

    Did you look at overall performace (PCMark Vantage) even with this "horrific" performace it's almost 50% faster than one of the fastest mechanical drives out there. I HATE hard drive slowness on my systems, chugging just load load an application. It's 2010 for gods sake and were still using more or less 1960's tech. Reply

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