Date: Tuesday , June 18, 2013
Corsair continues their transition to new NAND with the switch of the Corsair Neutron GTX to 19nm Toshiba MLC. At launch the Neutron GTX was a stellar performer and Corsair had a period of exclusive access to the LAMD 'Amber' LM87800 controller. This gave Corsair an advantage over their competition and the Neutron GTX enjoyed wide popularity. Things have changed considerably since then, other new SSDs have come to challenge the Neutron GTX's supremacy (most notably the Samsung 840 Series) and now another competitor is also utilizing the same LM87800 controller.
Unfortunately for Corsair this competitor takes the shape of Seagate, the second largest storage company in the world. Seagate isn't known for its consumer SSDs, but with the launch of its Seagate 600 Series of SSD's it is looking to gain a foothold into the consumer SSD market. Seagate has a long history with LAMD spanning back to Seagate's Pulsar line of enterprise SSDs. Seagate even provided LAMD with funding in the early days. Utilizing the same LAMD controller and Toshiba NAND in the Seagate 600 provides a considerable opponent with a vast global distribution network and tremendous resources.
The Neutron GTX has been a solid performer with its LAMD Amber LM87800 controller and 24nm Toshiba MLC, but the realities of the NAND market necessitate a switch to a smaller NAND geometry. This allows Corsair to deliver a product that is still competitive in the market in price, but there is a juggling act to keep performance close to the same. With the sudden emergence of Seagate with a very similar SSD there is considerable pressure to keep performance on par with the original 24nm Corsair GTX.
We recently revisited the new version of the Neutron Series switch to new SK Hynix NAND, and found that there was a loss of some steady state performance with the new NAND. As NAND shrinks the price drops. When new steppings switch to mass production manufacturers have to walk the tightrope between providing the right performance and the right value for customers. Most die shrinks lead to lower performance, less endurance, and higher bit error rates. From an endurance standpoint, there is no change. The new 19nm Toshiba is also rated for 3,000 P/E Cycles.
The performance specifications of the Neutron GTX have changed with the new 19nm NAND, with 550/470 MB/s of sequential read/write speed on tap. The previous generation of Neutron GTX sported a sequential write speed of 510 MB/s. The Maximum random 4K write speed is still rated for 85,000 IOPS, however the random read IOPS are not listed for either version of the SSD.
One of the best characteristics of the LAMD Amber controller is its broad range of compatibility. The Amber controller can work with Toggle, ONFI, MLC, SLC, and TLC NAND. This wide range of compatible NAND makes a great building block for the SSD, and eases the transition to the smaller 19nm Toshiba Toggle NAND.
Seagate has essentially brought a very similar architecture to the Neutron and Neutron GTX family. The Seagate 600 utilizes the same controller and NAND, yet has Seagate's own custom firmware. This provides differentiation between the SSDs, and for Corsair that is important.
One area that Corsair still holds a convincing lead is in the warranty department. The Seagate 600 is only warrantied for 3 years, an increasingly popular trend among SSD manufacturers with the new smaller NAND architectures. Corsair bucks this trend and keeps the five-year warranty with the Neutron GTX.
With the same endurance and warranty, and a lower price, let's see how the slightly lower specifications of the Corsair Neutron GTX stacks up against the new competitors.