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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  • Flunk - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    DIY upgrades are really what mSATA SSDs are for. They really don't make sense on the desktop. But I would argue that the performance desktop is just as much a niche market. As long as a market exists these products will too.

    As for me I have a ADATA SX300 mSATA SSD (256GB) along with a 750GB HD in an Alienware m14x R2. Great way to get more storage into a system that couldn't fit another 2.5" drive without losing the optical bay. mSATA SSDs are very convenient now.

    Hopefully everyone will standardize on one of the new PCI-E based SSD specs, but that's all future technology for now.
    Reply
  • Kraszmyl - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Considering almost all of dell and lenovos machines that came out recently have msata slots i wouldnt exactly call them rare and im sure the ultrabook people will move to them too.

    That being said i would like to see them on more itx and micro atx boards.
    Reply
  • ssj3gohan - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Yeah, I'm super-happy with the mSATA slots on recent Intel mITX and mATX motherboards. It may seem like a small deal to some, but mSATA saves a lot of space and IMO more importantly: a mess of wires.

    I've been able to build very capable systems with no wires blocking airflow and getting in the way at all in arguably the smallest enclosure commercially available, the mini-box M350. All because of motherboards supporting 19V input and mSATA.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    mSATA is already being phased out for NGFF/M.2, so I don't expect a lot of support for mSATA going forward. Apple, ASUS, and others already skipped mSATA to go their own routes, indicating the perceived issues from those manufacturers.

    M.2 will hopefully bring more standardization and acceptance, and it would be great if ASUS, Apple, etc. used M.2 instead of proprietary connectors -- there are quite a few people that are ticked that UX21A/UX31A had review samples with SF-2281 ADATA drives and then shipping consumer models typically (maybe even only?) used SanDisk U100. Because of the proprietary connector, there's basically no way to upgrade from the U100.
    Reply
  • ssj3gohan - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    I don't necessarily care whether it's NGFF or mSATA, as long as it's a cableless solution and there's sufficient availability of drives. Right now mSATA has good market penetration; I haven't had any problems sourcing tens of crucial m4 mSATA drives, even the most exotic 256GB variant. Same goes for myDigitalSSD's earlier offerings, which seemed to be in stock all the time (very short lead times).

    As soon as NGFF is used or can be used on the desktop I'm perfectly happy using those as the ubiquitous boot drive.
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Exactly!

    mSATA SSDs are a good way to add performance and capacity to a (compatible) laptop. And doing it aftermarket keeps the OEMs from ripping off the customer with their exorbitant upgrade prices.

    I added a 128 GB crucial m4 SSD to my wife's Thinkpad X230T laptop to complement the existing 500GB hdd. It was far cheaper than configuring it with a 2.5" SSD from lenovo (there was no option on their configurator to outlay the laptop with a mSATA SSD instead) and far more versatile, as the single-spindle X230T is now transformed into effectively a 2-spindle machine (still no DVD drive, but we have an ultrabase mobile dock for that).

    I wouldn't buy a modern laptop that doesn't have an mSATA slot today.
    Reply
  • cmikeh2 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    While traditional forms of computing may not necessitate the smaller form factor future products like Intel's Next Unit of Computing with its 4 x 4 inch mobo only supports mSATA. Work in this form factor will allow products like NUC to be worthwhile. Reply
  • digitalzombie - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    "the potential to grap a large share"

    grap -> grab
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the heads up, fixed! :-) Reply
  • kesh - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Just a guess, but wouldn't there be a market for mSATA in embedded computing world?

    I have an ongoing project of turning a broken (slim) CD player to a digital audio player, which has been going slow over a last few years, and when I first saw mSATA, I immediately thought it as the perfect storage solution for my project.
    Reply

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