MyDigitalSSD Introduction

The consumer SSD market is quite similar to the DRAM market. There are only a handful of NAND manufacturers (most of which make DRAM as well) but there are dozens, if not hundreds of SSD OEMs. Compared to DRAM there are obviously more components involved because on top of the NAND you'll also need a controller and possibly DRAM as well. Thanks to Marvell, Phison and especially SandForce you don't need a huge team of engineers to make an SSD because you can buy and license everything from third parties. Even manufacturing can be outsourced so basically what you're left with is distribution and marketing. That, of course, is if you choose the easiest route, which isn't necessarily the ideal option because there are already plenty of other companies using the exact same strategy.

MyDigitalSSD is one of the not-so-well-known SSD companies. They don't have a presence on NewEgg or many of the other major online stores, though you can find some of their products at Amazon. Since MyDigitalSSD doesn't have the resources it takes to build their own controller or firmware, they are left with using commercial controllers, SandForce and Phison in this case. Unlike many other SSD OEMs, MyDigitalSSD's aim is to provide something for everyone. Typically SSD OEMs, regardless of how big they are, only offer a few products that are almost without exception 2.5" SATA drives. MyDigitalSSD's approach is totally different as they offer SSDs ranging from standard 2.5" SATA drives to PATA SSDs and half-slim SATA SSDs. We don't often see such form factors used but there are laptops that rely on some of these uncommon SSD solutions. Of course if you're buying in volumes big enough (like Apple), then anyone will build you whatever you like; that makes finding upgrade parts difficult, so MyDigitalSSD is specifically targeting that market. 

MyDigitalSSD sent us their 256GB SATA 6Gbps mSATA SSDs in for reviewing. Complete specifications are in the table below:

  SMART BP3
Capacities (GB) 64, 128, 256 32, 64, 128, 256
NAND 25nm synchronous MLC (IMFT?) 24nm Toshiba Toggle-Mode MLC
Controller SandForce SF-2281 Phison PS3108-S8
Sequential Read 550MB/s 560MB/s
Sequential Write 530MB/s 470MB/s
4KB Random Read 35K IOPS 30K IOPS
4KB Random Write 86K IOPS 45K IOPS

MyDigitalSSD's SMART SSD is a standard SF-2281 based mSATA SSD and there are other OEMs such as Mushkin and ADATA offering similar products. What is more interesting (at least from a novelty standpoint) is the BP3 ("Bullet Proof 3"). It uses a new SATA 6Gbps controller from Phison, a company that's more known for their USB flash stick controllers. Our first encounter with Phison was with Crucial's v4 SSD, which wasn't very pleasant as the v4 was one of the slowest SSDs we have reviewed in years. As far as the specs go, the PS3108 seems to provide a much needed improvement to the random IO performance segment; we'll see how the PS3108 holds out in real world in just a second.

There aren't all that many commercially available mSATA SSDs because most are sold directly to OEMs, so most SSD manufacturers have chosen not to have a retail mSATA SSD lineup. MyDigitalSSD doesn't have presence at NewEgg or other major online resellers, but they do have their own store called MyDigitalDiscount which is also at Amazon. I took MyDigitalSSD prices from MyDigitalDiscount whereas the rest are from NewEgg:

Price Comparison (1/21/2013)
Capacity 60/64GB 120/128GB 240/256GB
MyDigitalSSD BP3 $65 $100 $180
MyDigitalSSD SMART $85 $140 $270
Crucial M4 mSATA $70 $115 $185
Mushkin Atlas $95 $110 $210
ADATA XPG SX300 $80 $125 $260

In terms of pricing, the BP3 is very appealing. It's easily the cheapest mSATA SSD that I could find and by a fairly large margin. The SMART, on the other hand, is one of the most expensive mSATA SSDs so MyDigitalSSD is clearly trying to position the BP3 at the low-end while offering the SMART for the high-end.

Meet the Drives
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  • ssj3gohan - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Aside from my usual remarks on using the wrong methodology for idle power consumption (use a DIPM-enabled testbench!), the mSATA slot uses 3.3/1.8V, while your 2,5" adapter provides this power from 5V via an LDO. LDOs are power converters that step down voltage linearly, i.e. 5V 1A in -> 3.3V 1A out (current is conserved), contrary to switching converters that, apart from efficiency losses, try to do this conversion losslessly.

    This means that when you measured 5V 0.1A for the BP3, the actual drive consumed 3.3V 0.1A, i.e. 0.33W instead of 0.50W.
    Reply
  • magao - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I recently bought a new notebook specifically because it had an mSATA slot. It came pre-populated with a 32GB cache drive and 500GB hard drive.

    I immediately replaced it with a 1TB drive and the largest mSATA SSD I could get (128GB OCZ Nocti). I put the OS on the hard drive, then configured the SSD as 32GB cache, the rest (~80GB usable) as data.

    The stuff I use all the time was then installed onto the SSD (source code repositories, etc). Lots of small files -> SSD.

    The OS + 16GB hibernate file are on the hard drive, which means that's space not being taken up on the limited SSD space. Instead the 32GB cache (which is about the same size as the OS + hibernate file combined) ensures the most-used blocks on the hard drive are cached. Of couse, the page file is on the SSD.

    Writes to the hard drive are largely sequential as the caching essentially does write-combining.

    I've used symlinks to move various settings to the SSD e.g. web browser cache, etc.

    I periodically use Resource Manager to check disk activity. There is some write activity to the hard drive, but it's pretty minimal. Right this instance there are only 5 files listed as either reads or writes to the hard drive. I almost never notice that the hard drive is in use - nearly everything performs at SSD speeds.

    Would I prefer to have an all-SSD system? Sure? Can I afford it? Well, I could, but I can get better bang for my buck by using the setup above, with very similar results.
    Reply
  • tk11 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I recently bought one for a Lenovo x230 that I chose in part because it featured an empty mSATA slot. For anyone willing to take the time to install a mSATA SSD for use as the system drive it's a very compelling feature. Reply
  • magnusoverli - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Hello.

    First post at AnandTech... :-)

    You say that you cannot see why any desktop users would adopt the mSata-standard, and although I can see that it was not initially meant to be a perfect match, I think it may be. It all depends of course on the individual users´ needs and other hardware.

    I recently built a new server for multimedia streaming and backup purposes, and went for the ASUS Maximus V Gene mobo. It enables me to have the OS on an "onboard" msata-slot, and leaving all sata slots for data drives. This is, for me, the perfect combination of performance and flexibility.

    I can see that others have commented and touched on related topics, but just wanted to let you know that desktop/server-systems and msata really is a beautiful thing!

    M
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Except, as noted above, mSATA is set to be replaced by M.2 this year. That's where more SSDs and motherboards are likely to head in the future. Reply
  • magnusoverli - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Granted that msata is a standard that is about to fade out, isn´t that the reality for just about any standard that has become, or is about to become, mainstream.

    Also, how long does it take before a new standard is introduced, before it is ready for the main stage? There are only a very few users standing by being ready to upgrade when the first products hits the shelves.

    Also, I think that one should maximize the usage of current technologies (within budget) and not stay on the side-lines, always waiting for the next big thing.

    But, hey.. That´s just me! ;-)
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    DDR1/2/3, DVI/HDMI/DP, SATA 1 through 3, USB 1 through 3.
    All the important standards are either very long lived (5 years for DDR3 now) or are backwards compatible or can be easily used with simple adapters. That is not the case with mSATA. It was niche to begin with, it stayed niche even when there was a big demand for fast, small storage in ultrabooks and tablets and now it is being phased out.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    But can you use the six SATA headers on the motherboard simultaneously with the mSATA slot? The fact is, mSATA does not add SATA connectivity, it takes one port just like a regular SATA port on the mobo does. It's of course possible that there is a third party SATA controller that provides a few extra ports but those exist without mSATA as well.

    Not trying to belittle mSATA and the comments here have been mind-opening, I seriously hadn't heard that people actually use mSATA SSD in desktops. Sure I've seen a few but it's good to heat that mSATA SSDs aren't just decorations.
    Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Assuming SATA Express will bring us performance of Today's top SSD in RAID, which still isn't fast enough for Apps to pop out, Startup and Shutdown to be less then 2 seconds,

    is software the limitation now? Or we need faster CPU?
    Reply
  • Zink - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    I'm running a mSATA drive from Adata in my Lenovo laptop and I love being able to pull the optical drive and run three drives in a normal laptop. Boot drive + data drive + hotswap drive for temporary projects. Reply

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