Final Words

The Phison S10 controller and SSD platform debuted in late 2014, and it is more popular than ever. PNY's CS1311 and CS2211 drives show us how the platform has evolved and what we can roughly expect from this year's S10 drives that use the latest firmware and 15nm NAND. With an entry-level model and a higher-performance mainstream SSD, PNY's latest drives cover the highest-volume segments of the SSD market.

The PNY CS1311, for the most part, squeezes in between two other 15/16nm TLC drives we've tested recently: ADATA's Premier SP550 and OCZ's Trion 150. This goes for both performance and price: the Trion 150 is the highest-performing and most expensive of the three, while the SP550 is slightly cheaper than the CS1311 but they trade places in many benchmarks. The CS1311 has generally better write speeds, which are the SP550's most acute weakness, but the SP550's steady-state write speed is significantly better.

The comparison of the CS1311 against the OCZ Trion 150 is particularly interesting. They both use nominally the same flash (Toshiba 15nm TLC) and the Toshiba TC58 controller on the Trion 150 is clearly a close relative of the Phison S10-X, but the Trion 150 is consistently more power efficient and matches or exceeds the performance of the CS1311 on almost every test. It's clear that there's something custom about the Trion 150 that sets it apart from the rest of the Phison S10 crowd, but it's not clear whether it is differences in the controller silicon or firmware or NAND selection.

Being positioned in the middle of the market, the MLC-based CS2211 has a lot more potential competitors and pricing isn't quite the overriding factor that it is for the entry-level TLC drives. Our test data doesn't have full coverage of the 2.5" versions of the Samsung 850 EVO or the latest firmware revision of the Crucial MX200, but we can still make some important conclusions about how they stack up. At 480GB, the CS2211 is a toss-up against the 500GB MX200. Their prices currently match and they perform very similarly overall. With fixes to its SLC caching the 250GB MX200 is probably a slightly better overall performer than the 240GB CS2211, and at the moment the MX200 is also a few dollars cheaper. The Samsung 850 EVO uses the same controller architecture as the 850 Pro and on most tests is one of the two or three fastest SATA drives in its capacity class. For only a few dollars more, it's a reasonable to pick the 250GB 850 EVO over the 240GB CS2211. The pricing gap is quit a bit bigger at 480GB/500GB, and it might not be worth the premium.

SSD Price Comparison
Drive 480GB/500GB 240GB/250GB 120GB
ADATA SP550 $107.99 $57.99 $37.99
PNY CS1311 $109.99 $59.99 $39.99
OCZ Trion 150 $129.99 $61.99 $45.99
SanDisk Ultra II $129.99 $74.99 $54.79
Crucial MX200 $139.00 $81.72  
PNY CS2211 $134.96 $84.96  
Samsung 850 EVO $149.99 $88.00  

The MLC vs TLC comparison between the PNY drives reveals some interesting patterns. First, the garbage collection routines are very different, as shown by the performance consistency tests. The TLC drive has what seems to be the newer and much more consistent behavior while the MLC drive is widely variable. But for all of that, the MLC drive steady-state average is better. And while it's true that TLC flash generally consumes more power (especially for write operations), the TLC drives did not draw significantly more power than the MLC drives of the same capacity. The MLC drives just get a lot more work done with the same amount of energy.

The new cut-down S10C controller used in the 120GB and 240GB models do not seem to have brought any new performance limitations relative to the full-size S10-X used in the 480GB models and all previous Phison S10 drives we've tested. It's a cost-cutting measure that is quite welcome, especially since it will reduce the incentive for entry-level models to adopt Phison's single-core DRAM-less S11 controller.


ATTO, AS-SSD & Idle Power Consumption


View All Comments

  • alexdi - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    I read this with only one question in mind: does it beat the 850 Evo? Save for a few ticks in power usage, apparently not. The Evo is perpetually on sale. I've yet to see a compelling reason to opt for anything else on a desktop. Reply
  • ingwe - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    Completely agree. I am not tied to it, but I don't see any reason to recommend pretty much anything else. Reply
  • fierywater - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    The CS1311 gets marked down from time to time; I picked up my 480GB one for $100 while the Evo 850 500GB usually doesn't get marked down below $130 (and it was $150 everywhere when I picked up the CS1311). It's plenty fast for real world use, especially as a drop-in replacement for an HDD. I think there's a place for drives like it, although that applies less to the CS2211. Reply
  • lilmoe - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    For the performance and value you're getting with the EVO, $30 is well worth the extra, and hardly an amount worth saving going for the CS1311, or any other TLC drives at that. In the matter of fact, lots of the current consumer MLC drives don't compare to the value, performance, or in some cases, the endurance and features you're getting with the EVO. Reply
  • ATC9001 - Monday, April 18, 2016 - link

    I agree from most "prosumers" which are frequent to read this article, but for the mainstream user, I don't think its worth it (spending the $30+). Any SSD is better than a HDD, but some garbage bargain bin SSDs aren't worth the cheap price (this being the first exception). I know most people (including myself) think the same thing alexdi posted when reading this going to beat the evo? It doesn't, but at the same time it's not far off from it, and $30 bucks can cause it to break a price plane for some mid range users.

    Each person has there own utility curve or price performance idea, and for me, this is the first drive since the 840 EVO was released in which I would say it's not worth the x dollars to just get the evo!
  • Stuka87 - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    Having a quality, reliable drive is not reason enough for you? If you want to buy a drive that has a much shorter life span, go for it. But Anybody that cares about data, is not going to by a TLC drive over a MLC drive. Reply
  • lilmoe - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    FYI, TLC VNAND has better endurance than most 15nm MLC drives... Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    Define much shorter...

    You're talking in broad strokes about a bunch of different things in the same breath. Life span and reliability aren't necessarily the same thing, unless you need drives to be reliable for 15yrs...

    15yrs ago I was wondering if I'd ever fill my 75GB Deathstar, I'm not sure I'd even keep a drive 5+ years. My 2x 850 EVO have been nothing but reliable since I bought them last year.
  • DanoSpumoni - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    Same here. the M.2 850 EVO 500GB is my go to SSD right now. They are in all my computers either in M.2 slots or M.2-> SATA sleds. The performance and reliability is hard to beat. I only buy M.2 SSDs now for future compatibility because they last so long I know they'll outlive the computers they inhabit right now. When the 1TB version drops to ~$150 I'll grab some more... Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, April 15, 2016 - link

    I'm sitting on 2x 1TB, bought at like $310 & $330 IIRC, seen them for $260 lately... Waiting for the 2TB to drop lower and I might add one of those. :D Reply

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