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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  • ClownBaby - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    ughh... It nice to see new entries into the market, and continually improving performance, but prices are still outrageous! When will we get some relief with truly affordable SSDs? In my mind, I'd like to see 60gb drives in the >$100 rangs.
  • chrnochime - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    I thought the mainstream OCZ 60GB is already going for ~130 after rebate?

    Regardless, I have more faith in WD with its entry into SSD than any other manufacturer, except perhaps Intel. They are one of the most reliable HDD manu, and I don't see this changing with their SSD.
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    Looks like yet another player in the SSD game, and despite the often cited `yay, more competition = lower prices` rhetoric, SSD`s are just not decreasing in price. Even at half the prices mentioned in the article, it wouldn`t be an improvement in value over what`s currently available... guess I`ll be sitting on the sidelines yet another year...
  • The0ne - Monday, March 8, 2010 - link

    Umm, you want competition so the MARKET could drive the prices down. Right now we have competition but the market isn't really there. As more and more consumers readily shell out hundreds of hard earn dollars for 60GB drives, the market will respond :)
  • wwwcd - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    many money for slow devices
  • iFX - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    Not likeing Intel's business practices I tend to avoid their products which left OCZ which I haven't been impressed with ever. Now WD is here, an established and respected storage company. Might be time to switch to an SSD. =)
  • TemjinGold - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    Hmm... "it just works," seems insanely overpriced, and the body is silver in color. Now what does that remind you of? :D
  • medi01 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    2$ per GB, vs 0,08$ per GB, that makes, what, one to 30?
  • HobHayward - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    If storage size is all you care about then, yes, SSD's make no sense.

    However looking at performance, if speed is what counts, under certain circumstances these drives can perform 2 orders of magnitude or more faster than a traditional hdd. That's worth many times the cost difference to some people.
  • zhopa1 - Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - link

    >>However looking at performance, if speed is what counts, under certain circumstances these drives can perform 2 orders of magnitude or more faster than a traditional hdd. That's worth many times the cost difference to some people.

    So basically, some people value that sometimes, in some circumstances, some SSD drives are faster... there is no useful information in your post...

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