Silicon Motion has announced the official launch of their first generation of PCIe 4.0-capable NVMe SSD controllers. These controllers have been on the roadmap for quite a while and have been previewed at trade shows, but the first models are now shipping. The high-end SM2264 and mainstream SM2267/SM2267XT controllers will enable consumer SSDs that move beyond the performance limits of the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface that has been the standard for almost all previous consumer NVMe SSDs.

The high-end SM2264 controller is the successor to Silicon Motion's SM2262(EN) controllers, and the SM2264 brings the most significant changes that add up to a doubling of performance. The SM2264 still uses 8 NAND channels, but now supporting double the speed: up to 1600MT/s. The controller includes four ARM Cortex R8 cores, compared to two cores on SMI's previous client/consumer NVMe controllers. As with most SSD controllers aiming for the high end PCIe 4.0 product segment, the SM2264 is fabbed on a smaller node: TSMC's 12nm FinFET process, which allows for substantially better power efficiency than the 28nm planar process used by the preceding generation of SSD controllers. The SM2264 also includes support for some enterprise-oriented features like SR-IOV virtualization, though we probably won't see that enabled on consumer SSD products. The SM2264 also includes the latest generation of Silicon Motion's NANDXtend ECC system, which switches from a 2kb to 4kB codeword size for the LDPC error correction.

The SM2264 controller will be competing with in-house controllers used by Samsung and Western Digital for their flagship consumer SSDs, and against the upcoming Phison E18 controller. Phison's E16 controller was the first consumer PCIe 4.0 controller to hit the market, but is now being outclassed by a second wave of PCIe 4.0 controllers that come much closer to using the full potential of a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. The SM2264 controller is currently sampling to drive vendors, but we don't have an estimate for when products will be hitting the shelves.

Silicon Motion Client/Consumer NVMe SSD Controllers
  SM2263(XT) SM2267(XT) SM2262EN SM2264
Market Segment Mainstream Consumer High-End Consumer
Manufacturing
Process
28nm 28nm 28nm 12nm
Arm CPU Cores 2x Cortex 2x Cortex R5 2x Cortex 4x Cortex R8
Error Correction 2kB LDPC 2kB LDPC 2kB LDPC 4kB LDPC
DRAM Support LPDDR3, DDR4
-XT: None
LPDDR4, DDR4
-XT: None
LPDDR3, DDR4 LPDDR4, DDR4
Host Interface PCIe 3.0 x4 PCIe 4.0 x4 PCIe 3.0 x4 PCIe 4.0 x4
NAND Channels, Interface Speed 4ch
667 MT/s
4ch
1200MT/s
8ch
800MT/s
8ch
1600MT/s
CEs per Channel 4 8
-XT: 4
4 8
Sequential Read 2400 MB/s 3900 MB/s 3500 MB/s 7400 MB/s
Sequential Write 1700 MB/s 3500 MB/s 3000 MB/s 6800 MB/s
4KB Random Read IOPS 300k
-XT: 280k
500k 420k 1000k
4KB Random Write IOPS 250k 500k 420k 1000k

For the more mainstream product segments, Silicon Motion's SM2267 and SM2267XT controllers are the replacements for the SM2263 and SM2263XT. These will help bring entry-level NVMe performance up to about the level that used to be standard for high-end PCIe 3.0 SSDs. The SM2267XT is the DRAMless variant of the SM2267 and also has half as many chip enables (CEs), which allow for a much smaller package size suitable for use on small form factors like M.2 2230. The SM2267(XT) controllers are still manufactured on the cheaper 28nm process. The SM2267 and SM2267XT controllers are in mass production and the first products using those parts have also entered the supply chain: we already have a sample of ADATA's Gammix S50 Lite with the SM2267 controller on our test bench.

The SM2267 will be competing against a mix of older 8-channel controllers like the Phison E12, and newer 4-channel solutions as seen in the SK hynix Gold P31. We expect this to be the most important consumer SSD product segment going into 2021 as these drives will not carry the steep price premium currently seen on high-end 8-channel PCIe 4.0 SSDs, and they'll still be plenty fast for almost all use cases. The DRAMless SM2267XT variant will be competing against controllers like the Phison E19T for entry-level NVMe SSDs that carry little or no price premium over SATA drives. These low-cost NVMe controllers are also increasingly popular for portable SSDs; the performance increases of the SM2267XT over the SM2263XT will not matter for drives using 20Gb/s USB to NVMe bridge chips, but will be helpful for Thunderbolt SSDs.

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  • danbob999 - Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - link

    A good PCIe 3 drive is still much better than a bad PCIe 4 one. The SM2267 doesn't really have a purpose IMO. The problem is that many customers will think that a SSD must be fast because it's PCIe 4. Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - link

    An expensive gen3 drive may still be better than a SM2267 drive, though I really doubt you could say it's MUCH better; my early test results from the ADATA S50 Lite have it beating a 970 EVO Plus as often as it loses to the Samsung, and that's with the S50 Lite limited to PCIe gen3 speeds (testing them on the gen4 system isn't complete yet). I think SM2267 drives will be able to compete very well against Phison E12(S) drives if the prices end up being reasonable. Reply
  • danbob999 - Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - link

    definitely not in large writes however. With only 4 channels the S50 Lite probably have a write speed of something like 250 MB/s when the SLC cache is full. Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - link

    It's not that bad, because the speed of each channel can be significantly higher on the newer controllers. Though I don't know yet whether the NAND on the S50 Lite can also go all the way up to 1200MT/s. Reply
  • danbob999 - Thursday, October 22, 2020 - link

    not sure if that's really the bottleneck anyways. Reply
  • HideOut - Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - link

    You are missing the point. That controller is to be the low end of the spectrum, replacing the cheap Dram-less drives with newer drives that cost the same as current cheap ones, but are as fast as the old Fast/pro type Gen 3 ones, then their newer Pro like gen 4 is 7.5G/sec fast. Youll be able to get 970 evo performance @ budget prices soon. Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - link

    A good PCIe 3 drive might cost a lot more than a slightly slower entry-level PCIe 4 drive, though. Reply
  • danbob999 - Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - link

    The S50 Lite has a MSRP of $150. The SPG SX8200 Pro is being sold at $135. So the cheaper drive is the better here. Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - link

    They will, but that's true of much technology - see all the smartphones with 8 weak cores, GPUs with over-provisioned RAM, etc.

    I'd look at this is more a reduction in the cost of good PCIe 3 drives, with nominal PCIe 4 compatibility to keep the OEMs happy.
    Reply
  • deil - Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - link

    if you dont know nothing about current industry, how you define "good"? higher numbers -> better, pcie3.0 vs pcie4.0.... 3 GB/s vs 6GB/s
    they can read & compare and on those basic tables, there is no info it will go on fire on first install.
    Reply

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