Just shy of a year ago, Western Digital acquired solid-state drive maker SiliconSystems. The company’s SiliconDrive SSDs have been listed on WD’s web site ever since, but they’re really not Western Digital designs. Today, however, Western Digital is launching a solid-state drive of its very own: the SiliconEdge Blue.
Targeted at consumer desktops and notebooks, the SiliconEdge Blue uses a new third-party storage controller that apparently isn’t available in any other SSD currently on the market. Western Digital isn’t revealing who makes the controller, noting only that it’s been working closely with the manufacturer on firmware development. This controller isn’t necessarily exclusive to WD, but the company says its firmware tweaks won’t be shared, should other drive makers start using the same chip.
According to Western Digital, the SiliconEdge’s controller has a faster processor core than competing designs. The controller features a garbage collection routine and supports TRIM and Native Command Queuing, which is to be expected of a modern SSD. That’s about all WD is disclosing about the controller itself. WD has even had its name silk-screened onto the chip’s surface to prevent prying eyes from learning the chip’s true identity.
To the left of the controller in the picture is a 64MB DDR2 memory chip from ESMT that presumably serves as the drive’s cache—WD wasn’t willing to reveal cache sizes when we asked. Just below those two chips lies a collection of multi-level cell NAND flash memory chips from Samsung. Our 256GB drive has eight of these chips on each side of its circuit board.
While Western Digital is keeping some SiliconEdge details close to its chest, the drive’s spec sheet is a little more forthcoming. The Blue uses a 3Gbps Serial ATA interface and can purportedly sustain reads at 250MB/s and writes at 140MB/s. WD says the drive’s maximum write speed is 170MB/s, and that the drive can process 5,000 IOPS with random 4KB reads and writes.
We’re currently in the process of completely overhauling our storage test suite, so we haven’t had a chance to benchmark the SiliconEdge just yet. However, Western Digital claims the drive’s performance is competitive with current Intel SSDs, which is very good company to keep. WD is also adamant that it isn’t aiming to have the fastest SSD with the SiliconEdge Blue, suggesting that another SSD is destined to become a part of the company’s high-performance Black family.
Although the Blue may not be the quickest SSD on the block, Western Digital expects it to have broader compatibility than other solid-state drives. WD’s Functional Integrity Test lab has invested more than 130,000 hours in the SiliconEdge, and the drive has endured 40 firmware changes since testing began in October of last year. The test lab only just cleared the SiliconEdge for release, and drives are shipping already.
At least one major e-tailer is supposed to have SiliconEdge Blue SSDs available for sale today. The drives will be available in 64, 128, and 256GB capacities that carry suggested retail prices of $279, $529, and $999, respectively. For reference, Intel’s X25-M G2 160GB can be had for as little as $429. Like the X25-M, the SiliconEdge is covered by a three-year warranty.
We should have a full review of the SiliconEdge Blue and a collection of other new SSD models soon. In the meantime, you can check out some high-res nudies of the Blue in the gallery below.