Just a few years ago, a hundred bucks bought you a choice between a decent-sized mechnical hard drive or a pitifully small amount of solid-state storage. Thankfully, the budget solid-state storage space has ballooned over time. Smaller processes, multi-level cell NAND, and die stacking have all driven down costs. Now, even the thriftiest of builders can enjoy the benefits of flash storage. The advent of breakneck-speed PCIe drives that cost hundreds rather than thousands of dollars is also keeping SATA drive prices from getting too out-of-hand.
But even among mainstream SATA SSDs, there’s a lot of stratification. Most manufacturers offers at least a couple of distinct product lines, segmenting their offerings by target audience. We're turning our attention to the low end today.
Here's Kingston’s HyperX Fury 240GB, first announced in the summer of 2014. Kingston reserves the HyperX branding for its gaming-oriented products, and the Fury is no exception. Targeted at “entry-level gamers,” the MLC-based Fury takes its place just above the cheaper but controversial V300 series. Presumably the V300 is for mere gaming interns.
The Fury comes in 120GB and 240GB configurations, each powered by SandForce’s SF-2281 controller. The SF-2281 has been the brains of many an SSD over the years, including a few we've covered ourselves. The standout feature of this venerable controller is DuraWrite, SandForce's proprietary on-the-fly compression scheme which purports to improve endurance and write speed by shrinking compressible data before committing it to the NAND.
Inside the Fury, you'll find 16 NAND packages, each contributing 16GB of storage. With a little arithmetic, we see that the 16GB excess in conjunction with the usual GB vs GiB terminology shenanigans makes for a good 30-ish gigabytes of overprovisioning. Each package contains a single 128Gb Kingston-branded MLC NAND die. With only 16 total NAND dies, the Fury's performance will likely suffer, as most controllers need at least 32 dies hooked up in order to reach their peak speeds. The Fury 240GB comes with a three-year warranty and is rated to withstand a comfortable 641 TB of writes.
Next, we have the SanDisk Ultra II 960GB. The Ultra II is also available in 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB variants. It fits roughly in the middle of SanDisk’s consumer SSD lineup, and it's the company's only consumer product built with TLC NAND.
Within the Ultra II lie eight NAND packages, each with a 128GB density. The packages are loaded with 128 Gbit SanDisk TLC dies, so the 8-channel Marvell 88SS9189 controller inside the Ultra II should be able to leverage high interleaving over each channel to improve speeds. This controller has also been around the block, most notably inside both iterations of Crucial's MX-series SSDs.
The Ultra II's TLC NAND puts it at a theoretical disadvantage when compared to the MLC-based Fury, but there's more to speed than bits per cell. The additional I/O parallellism afforded by the 960GB Ultra II’s NAND configuration should even things out. Additionally, SanDisk employs a caching system called nCache to boost the drive’s write performance. Simply put, nCache dedicates a portion of the NAND to running in SLC mode. Writes hit this SLC cache first, then are transferred to TLC during idle time by way of an efficient on-chip copy mechanism. The Ultra II uses the second revision of nCache, but the big idea is the same as the original, which we’ve talked about in some depth before.
The Ultra II 960GB also comes with a three-year warranty. SanDisk doesn’t provide an endurance rating for it in terms of bytes written, instead claiming a mean time between failure of 1.75 million hours. Given that we tortured the TLC-based Samsung 840 EVO beyond 300 TB, we’re not too worried about TLC endurance.
Finally, we have the OCZ Arc 100 240GB. We’ve already covered this drive in detail, so to summarize briefly, the Arc 100 is an entry-level MLC SSD positioned just above the new TLC-based Trion series in OCZ's lineup. It surprised us by punching above its weight at a budget price point, earning it a TR Recommended award. This time around, it'll make a good reference point and provide some context as we examine the two other drives. On to the benchmarks!