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Transcend's SSD370 solid-state drive reviewed

Planar MLC flash remains alive and well

As we discussed recently, triple-level cell (or TLC) NAND is all the rage in SSDs these days. Many SSD manufacturers are hopping aboard the TLC train, hoping to cut costs and fatten their margins. But some customers are loath to buy in because of the perceived speed and endurance compromises TLC brings with it. Fortunately for those pickier enthusiasts, the MLC SSD market is still very much alive. Players both large and small continue to update and refine their MLC offerings as processes mature and new NAND makes its way down the assembly line.

Transcend Information is one of those players. The last time we reviewed one of the company's SSDs was way back in 2009, but Transcend hasn't been twiddling its thumbs in the meantime. The company has built a stable of 2.5", M.2, and even portable SSDs while we've been busy elsewhere.

Today, we're looking at Transcend's SSD370 series of 2.5" SATA 6Gbps solid-state drives. More specifically, what we have on hand are the 256GB and 1TB SSD370S drives—the "S" suffix simply designates versions enclosed in aluminum rather than plastic. Maybe it stands for "shiny." Transcend offers the SSD370 in an array of sizes, from a wee 32GB to an imposing 1TB. Check out the vital statistics below.

Transcend SSD370
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max Random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
32GB 230 40 20k 10k
64GB 450 80 40k 20k
128GB 550 170 70k 40k
256GB 560 320 70k 70k
512GB 560 460 75k 75k
1TB 560 460 75k 75k

A peek inside the drives reveals a delightful mix of components. Vertical integration has its upsides, but I frankly get tired of seeing the same name on every surface when I crack open a Samsung drive.

The 256GB drive sports a Transcend-branded controller, Samsung cache chip, and Micron NAND flash.

The 1TB drive features the same controller, but it's got two Samsung DRAM chips and SanDisk NAND in place of Micron's. Transcend does not specify a specific vendor, node, or chip when referring to the SSD370's NAND internals; the baseline guarantee is that you're geting "Synchronous MLC NAND Flash" that performs up to Transcend's expectations for the product line. Even so, the company tells me that the NAND used will be either Micron 16-nm flash or SanDisk 15-nm chips, as needed. The company also says that the chips used will not be from larger or older nodes.

So what's the deal with the Transcend controller? They call it the "TS6500," but don't fear, it's not made by Cyberdyne Systems. It's actually Silicon Motion's SM2246EN controller, which pops up in drive after drive with impressive regularity. This time around, however, it's running Transcend's custom firmware, which probably explains the decision to rebrand.

All versions of the SSD370 come with a three-year warranty. Transcend claims an endurance spec of 280 terabytes written for the 256GB drive, or 1180 terabytes for the 1TB drive. Ordinary consumer workloads won't hit the TBW spec in any timeframe worth worrying about.

Storage labs update
TR's storage labs have gotten another upgrade. Perhaps the most practical upgrade imagineable. In their previous lives, the storage rigs could roam free as open test benches, unmolested by local fauna. Sadly, we've had to cage the rigs for their own safety.

We asked Fractal Design for some help cat-proofing our storage setups, and they delivered magnificently. A pair of handsome windowed Define R5s now protect the machines from the feline elements. A few sentences can't do these cases justice, so read our extensive review to find out why the R5 won a TR Editor's Choice award. Thanks again to Fractal Design for helping us protect our storage rigs from curious cats.

With introductions and announcements out of the way, let's get personal with the SSD370. Read on to see how it fares in our test suite.