This year, the SSD market has been rather sedate. After dramatic price crashes in 2018, the market has leveled out and retail SSD prices have been fairly consistent for months. Only a handful of products have launched using the new 9x-layer 3D NAND, and there's been just one major new SSD controller launch so far in 2019. The whole industry is gearing up for the PCIe 4.0 transition, but it's off to a slow start. That gives us the chance to fill in some gaps in our SSD coverage by taking a closer look at several drives that we were unable to review at launch. This is the first in a series of reviews that will look at drives that aren't brand new but are still worth a second look.

First up is the TeamGroup L5 LITE 3D, a SATA drive that was consistently on the leading edge of last year's price drops and remains within a few dollars of the cheapest products currently available. The L5 LITE 3D was one of the first drives to cross some notable price thresholds: less than $20 for 120GB, $30 for 240GB, $50 for 480GB and $100 for 960GB. It's not staying below those levels all the time, but it's also not going more than a few weeks without going on sale. Given the pricing and the "lite" in its name, one could easily assume that it is an entry-level DRAMless product, but it actually uses the more mainstream Silicon Motion SM2258 controller platform with a full-sized DRAM cache. Team has even gone with a nice full metal case instead of using plastic or cheaping out on the connectors as we saw with the Mushkin Source, so the product as a whole doesn't give the impression that it was subjected to rigorous cost-cutting measures.

TeamGroup L5 LITE 3D SSD Specifications
Capacity 120 GB 240 GB 480 GB 960 GB
Controller Silicon Motion SM2258
DRAM Buffer Yes
NAND Flash 3D TLC NAND
Form-Factor, Interface 2.5-inch/7-mm, SATA 6 Gbps
Sequential Read 470 MB/s 500 MB/s
Sequential Write 300 MB/s 400 MB/s 420 MB/s 480 MB/s
4kB Random Read IOPS 30k 65k 70k 80k
4kB Random Write IOPS 40k 70k 70k 70k
Warranty 3 years
Write Endurance 30 TB
0.22 DWPD
60 TB
0.22 DWPD
120 TB
0.22 DWPD
240 TB
0.22 DWPD
Current Retail Price $24.99
(21¢/GB)
$33.99
(14¢/GB)
$53.99
(11¢/GB)
$97.99
(10¢/GB)
 

It appears that the secret to Team's aggressive pricing on this model boils down to two main factors: a 3-year warranty that's more typical of entry-level drives than mainstream drives, and using whatever memory is cheapest at the moment. We've seen reports of up to four different variants of the L5 LITE 3D in the wild, as distinguished by their firmware version. Given that the L5 LITE 3D's price has dropped by more than 60% since it was introduced, that many revisions isn't as ridiculous as it might seem at first glance. We don't appreciate when mainstream SSDs make major BOM changes without changing the model name, but it's more forgivable for an entry level drive, especially when the SATA bottleneck limits the performance impact that changing NAND can have.

Our 480GB sample reports firmware version Q0410A and based on the serial number it appears to have been manufactured in late October 2018. The DRAM on the drive is Micron DDR3 but the sole NAND package bears Team's logo rather than that of one of the NAND manufacturers. That NAND package also bears the marking "DHCM80A1", but that doesn't shed much light on whose NAND lies beneath. It's possible this drive was built with lower-grade flash memory, but either way we didn't detect any new errors during our testing. The write endurance rating of just over 0.2 DWPD for 3 years is definitely lower than mainstream SATA drives.

For this review, we're primarily focusing on comparing the L5 LITE 3D against other TLC SATA drives of similar capacity. The Mushkin Source is fairly typical of recent DRAMless SATA SSDs and uses the DRAMless variant of the same Silicon Motion controller that Team is using. The Crucial MX500 and SanDisk Ultra 3D are mainstream SATA drives from two of the top tier brands. We've also thrown in results from an entry-level NVMe SSD (MyDigitalSSD SBX), Team's high-end NVMe SSD (MP34), and the Samsung 860 PRO to show the current limits of what a premium SATA SSD can achieve.

AnandTech 2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.6
Spectre/Meltdown microcode and OS patches current as of May 2018
AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer, Heavy, Light
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  • flyingpants265 - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Why promote this drive without mentioning anything about the failure rates? Some Team Group SSDs have 27% 1-star reviews on newegg. That's MUCH higher than other manufacturers.. That's not worth saving $5 at all... Is Anandtech really that tone-deaf now?

    -I would not recommend this drive to others -- 5 months, dead.
    -Not safe for keep your data.Highly recommend not to store any important data on it
    -DO NOT BUY THIS SSD! Total lack of support for defective products! Took days to reply after TWO requests for support, and then I am expected to pay to ship their defective product back when it never worked!?
    -Failed and lost all data after just 6 months.
    ...
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    "Is Anandtech really that tone-deaf now?"

    Definitely not. However there's not much we can say on the subject with any degree of authority. Obviously our test drive hasn't failed, and the drive has survived The Destroyer (which tends to kill obviously faulty drives very early). But that's the limit to what we have data for.

    Otherwise, customer reviews are a bit tricky. They're a biased sample, as very happy and very unhappy people tend to self-report the most. Which doesn't mean what you state is untrue, but it's not something we can corroborate.

    * We've killed a number of SSDs over the years. I don't immediately recall any of them being Team Group
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Ryan, I appreciate your response. Question: which SSDs have given up the ghost when challenged by the "destroyer"? Any chance you can name names? Might be interesting for some of us, even in historic context. Thanks! Reply
  • keyserr - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Yes anecdotes are interesting. In an ideal world we would have 1000 drives of each model put through its paces. We don't.

    It's a lesser known brand. It wouldn't make too much sense if they made bad drives in the long term.
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    I don't usually keep track of which test a drive was running when it failed. The Destroyer is by far the longest test in our suite so it catches the blame for a lot of the failures, but sometimes a drive checks out when it's secure erased or even when it's hot-swapped.

    Which brands have experienced a SSD failure during testing is more determined by how many of their drives I test than by their failure rate. All the major brands have contributed to my SSD graveyard at some point: Crucial, Samsung, Intel, Toshiba, SanDisk.
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Billy, I appreciate the reply, but would really like to encourage you and your fellow reviewers to "name names". An SSD going kaplonk when stressed is exactly the kind of information that I really want to know. I know that such an occurrence might not be typical for that model, but if the review unit provided by a manufacturer gives out during testing, it doesn't bode well for regular buyers like me. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    You can read every article, I remember a lot of them discussing the death of a sample (Samsung comes to mind). But it really isn't indicative of anything: sample size is crap, early production samples (hardware), early production samples (software). Most SSDs come with 3 years of warranty. Just buy from a reputable retailer, have a brand that actually honors warranty and make sure to back up your data. Then you're fine. If you don't follow those those rules, even using the very limited data Billy could give you won't help you out in any way. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    To add: I don't just mean the manufacturers' names, but especially the exact model name, revision and capacity tested. Clearly, a major manufacturer like Samsung or Crucial has a higher likelihood of the occasional bad apple, just due to the sheer number of drives they make. But, even the best big player produces the occasional stinker, and I'd like to know which one it is, so I can avoid it. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Saturday, September 21, 2019 - link

    One test sample isn't sufficient to conclude that a certain model is doomed. Reply
  • bananaforscale - Saturday, September 21, 2019 - link

    This. One data point isn't a trend. Hell, several data points aren't a trend if they aren't representative of the whole *and you don't know if they are*. Reply

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