Final Words

Phison's PS3108 and the BP3 are a pleasant surprise. After reviewing the Crucial v4, I didn't have high hopes with the BP3 given the miserable performance of Phison SATA 3Gbps controller, but I was proven wrong. That's not to say that the PS3108 is anywhere close to challenging today's high-end controllers such as Samsung MDX and OCZ Barefoot 3, but at least the performance is no longer from 2009. I also doubt Phison is aiming the PS3108 for high-end market as in general their controllers have been found in low-cost SSDs, and shifting the market target would require big investments and possibly more R&D time as well. The low-end SSD market is also interesting in the sense that there is less competition than in the high-end market: the main options are Samsung's SSD 840, a bunch of SSDs from OCZ, and some SF-2281 based SSDs that compete at the lowest prices. 

Pricing is definitely the biggest advantage of the BP3. It's considerably cheaper than other mSATA SSDs and is in fact cheap in terms of 2.5" SSD prices as well. However, Phison's (and MyDigitalSSD's) long term reliability is a big question mark as Crucial v4 is really the first Phison based SSD from a big SSD manufacturer. If you're willing to be a guinea pig, the BP3 is an affordable mSATA SSD choice and due to its price, I would recommend it over the SMART—and either way, it's still significantly faster than any hard drive you'd have in a laptop.

There is one general thing about the SSD market that I've been wondering for quite a while, though: is there really a market for mSATA SSDs? I see absolutely no reason why a desktop user would pick an mSATA SSD over a regular 2.5" SSD because 2.5" SSDs are usually cheaper and also faster (mSATA form factor is limited to four channels while most controller have eight). Only very few motherboards come with an mSATA slot anyway, so that diminishes the market even more.

The notebook market is fairly limited too as most laptops are still using standard 2.5" hard drives. The manufacturer may offer SSDs in some models or as built to order but those are still 2.5", an empty mSATA slot is a rarity due to space constraints. Popular SSD-only notebooks such as ASUS' Zenbook series and Apple's MacBook Air use custom SSDs, so mSATA is of no use with those either. That basically leaves us with a very limited amount of notebooks that even have mSATA capability to begin with. Out of those systems, most will likely already have an mSATA SSD installed when the system is purchased, so really the market for retail mSATA SSDs is consumers who have bought a notebook with an mSATA SSD (probably a small caching-only SSD) and want to upgrade the SSD and make it the OS/Apps drive. That's not a very big market if you ask me, at least right now.

I may be missing some scenarios where mSATA SSDs are used but I think it's safe to say that mSATA has not really taken off and the market for retail mSATA SSDs is close to non-existent. MyDigitalSSD does have the potential to grab a large share of that market, particularly for cost-conscious users where the BP3 might be attractive, but given the early nature of the controller I'm not sure most people would be comfortable buying the BP3. Looking at the SMART, we generally know what to expect from SF-2281 SSDs, which is good, but the pricing can't compete with other SF-2281 based mSATA SSDs. I would pick Crucial's M4 mSATA SSD over the SMART since it's considerably cheaper, but the BP3 is definitely worth a consideration if you're looking for an affordable mSATA drive and are willing to settle for an unproven drive. 

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  • philipma1957 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    The crucial mSata 256gb is pretty good for asrock z77-itx board and for intels h77 itx board.
    They allow for a small desktop. I would like the 3 mobos I used to allow sata III they only allow Sata II.
  • philipma1957 - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Follow up

    I have these mobos

    ASRock Z77E-ITX LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard

    Intel BOXDH77DF LGA 1155 Intel H77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard

    ASUS Maximus V Gene LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

    all are running with just the crucial msata 256gb ssds .

    I would not mind one with a Sata III slot , I do agree msata is not offered as viable option for the system builder.
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    All I could find is that mSATA is only specified for SATA 1.5Gb/s and SATA 3 Gb/s, not SATA 6 Gb/s. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Forgive me if I missed it, but should there be a benchmark showing performance consistency when factoring 25% spare area? Given AT's recent affinity for such benchmarks, I now expect to see it in every SSD review.

    /rabble rabble!
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    It's not something we test with every drive because for example all SandForce drives behave the same way. I've actually had these drives for nearly six months and tested them long ago but the write up was pushed back by more urgent reviews. I know I may sound lazy here, but I don't consider the BP3 or SMART to be the choice for many already given the fact that mSATA isn't very popular and I see the majority of buyers going with name brands, so I decided not to test performance consistency this time.

    The random write speed is rather slow to begin with, and it gets below 1MB/s when tortured.
  • fugu_ - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    It would have been nice to see performance consistency benchmarks for the drive that used the Phison controller, especially since there are only a handful of options for ~250GB mSATA drives.

    It's great to see any sort of reviews of lesser known drives. At the same time, it's a little disappointing that the perceived popularity of these drives stopped you from doing a more complete review, especially if you've had them for 6 months.
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - link

    Yeah, I know it's not a proper excuse. This spring will be quite busy for me though, have plenty of SSDs to review and at the same time I should study for matriculation exams as well as university entrance exams.

    I know I shouldn't be making excuses, but I hope you can relate to my situation. I try to cut as few corners as possible but performance consistency is just PITA to test (well, the actual testing is fine but making the graphs is just painful because Microsoft can't make Office that's fully compatible with Office for Mac... Anand does the graphs on Mac, so I have to do too or they won't be identical). After that it's time for awful HTML editing which I suck at, so that takes way more time than it should.
  • Per Hansson - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Well if this is the place where we ask you to do performance consistency tests before your exams I'm in :)

    I would just love to see how the most crappy SSD controller of all; the JMicron JMF602 fares in performance consistency.
    I think it would be a nice thing to look back at with what we know today.
    Shockingly SSD's based on such controllers are still being sold!
  • lyeoh - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Yeah I'd like to see the performance consistency for the lower end or even crap SSDs.

    Maybe even a few conventional spinning platter hard drives- low, mid, high.
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    Unfortunately, I don't have any SSDs that old. The "worst" SSDs I have are Crucial v4, OCZ Agility 4 and Samsung SSD 470. I could definitely run something on the V4 and BP3 to see if Phison has done any progress in this matter. Reply

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