It just so happens that those SSD makers who still haven’t got their own controller development teams, but don’t want to lose sight of the enthusiast SSD market, don’t have much of a choice today. A suitable option for them, which allows organizing the assembly of truly productive NVMe drives, is offered by only one company — Silicon Motion, which is ready to supply complete solutions from its controller and ready-made firmware to everyone. Other companies also have publicly available basic chips for assembling NVMe drives, for example, Phison or Realtek, but it was Silicon Motion that took the lead in this area, offering partners not only more functional, but also significantly faster solutions.
At the same time, among the huge variety of NVMe drives built on the basis of Silicon Motion controllers, not all models may be of interest to enthusiasts. This company produces a wide range of chips with fundamentally different levels of performance, but only selected platforms can provide performance worthy of SSD for advanced or maximum configurations. In particular, last year we spoke very warmly about the SM2262 controller: by the standards of 2018, it really looked very attractive, allowing drives based on it to compete on equal terms with the best consumer NVMe SSDs from first-tier manufacturers, including Samsung, Western Digital and Intel.
But this year the situation has changed somewhat, as leading manufacturers have updated their high-end mass models. In response to this, Silicon Motion began to offer partners an improved version of last year’s controller, SM2262EN, which also promises an increase in performance parameters — primarily in write speed. It turns out that it is drives based on this chip that should be of interest to buyers today who expect to get a modern and fast NVMe drive at their disposal, but at the same time do not want to overpay for owning an A-brand product.
Until recently, not many manufacturers have used the new SM2262EN controller in their products. In fact, the choice was reduced to two options: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro and HP EX950. But now a third drive based on this chip has appeared — its production has been mastered by Transcend. With this new product, called Transcend MTE220S, we are going to get acquainted in this review.
The input to this acquaintance is as follows. HP EX950 is not shipped to Russia, and ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro did not show any special trump cards in our recent testing, offering performance at the level of drives on the previous SM2262 controller. And this means that, despite the appearance of a new version of the Silicon Image controller, we have not yet seen any NVMe SSDs that could compete with the fresh Samsung 970 EVO Plus. Whether the Transcend MTE220S turns out to be more interesting than the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro is what we’re going to find out in this review. But it should immediately be emphasized that even if this SSD does not shine with speed parameters, it can still be quite interesting. After all, Transcend was going to sell it at a surprisingly low price — at least low for a full-fledged drive with a PCI Express 3.0 x4 interface, DRAM buffer and 3D TLC memory.
We already talked about what the SM2262EN controller is in detail when we got acquainted with the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro. On the technical side, this chip is built on two ARM Cortex cores, uses an eight-channel interface for managing flash memory, has a DDR3/DDR4 buffer interface, and supports the PCI Express 3.0 x4 bus with the NVM Express 1.3 protocol. In other words, this is a modern and fully functional solution for NVMe drives, which also has very good theoretical performance and supports advanced error correction methods.
Initially, the SM2262EN controller was introduced back in August 2017, at the same time as the «simple» SM2262, but was presented as its «advanced» version, the supply of which was supposed to begin later. Apparently, Silicon Motion was going to hold it off until 96-layer TLC 3D NAND hit the market, to then offer accelerated end-to-end solutions along with denser flash memory. However, such a plan fell through due to changing market trends: NAND chips began to rapidly become cheaper, and memory manufacturers decided to delay the introduction of new technologies. As a result, Silicon Motion got tired of waiting and released the SM2262EN as an update to the SM2262 as part of a 64-layer TLC 3D NAND platform.
At the same time, if you believe the formal specifications, the version of the platform with the SM2262EN controller still promises an improvement in performance: up to 9% for sequential reading, up to 58% for sequential writing, up to 14% for random reading and up to 40% for random writing. But if you believe in these numbers, then with great caution. The developers speak directly — SM2262EN does not imply any alterations in the hardware structure, it uses exactly the same architecture as the regular SM2262. All the advantage relies on changes in the software part: platforms with a new controller use more sophisticated recording and SLC caching algorithms. In other words, we are talking about some attempt to cut corners, and not about the fact that the engineers managed to make some kind of breakthrough in the mechanisms of work.
We already saw what this means in practice when we tested the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro based on the SM2262EN controller. This drive was only faster than its predecessor based on the SM2262 chip in benchmarks, but did not offer any noticeable improvements in real performance. However, with the Transcend MTE220S, the story is somewhat different. This drive has no close relatives in the lineup, and for Transcend it is a completely new model. Against the background of the fact that earlier in the model range this manufacturer had only entry-level NVMe SSDs, the passport characteristics of the MTE220S look very impressive.
|Form factor||M.2 2280|
|Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x4 — NVMe 1.3|
|Memory chips: type, interface, manufacturing process, manufacturer||Micron 64-layer 256-Gbps TLC 3D NAND|
|Buffer: type, volume||DDR3-1866,
|Max. sustained sequential read speed, MB/s||3500||3500||3500|
|Max. sustained sequential write speed, MB/s||1100||2100||2800|
|Max. random read speed (blocks of 4 KB), IOPS||210 000||210 000||360 000|
|Max. random write speed (blocks of 4 KB), IOPS||290 000||310 000||425 000|
|Power consumption: idle / read-write, W||N/A|
|MTBF (mean time between failures), mln h||1.5|
|Recording resource, TB||260||400||800|
|Overall dimensions: L × H × D, mm||80×22×3.5|
|Warranty period, years||five|
Interestingly, the declared performance of the Transcend MTE220S is somewhat lower than the speeds that ADATA promised for its similar drive based on the SM2262EN controller. Apparently, this is due to the fact that, although the MTE220S uses the same hardware and software platform, its design differs from the reference one. For its drive, Transcend designed its own circuit board, where, in order to reduce costs, it abandoned the use of a 32-bit DRAM buffer interface in favor of a more economical, 16-bit connection. As a result, the random read and write speed limits are reduced, and this is especially noticeable in the 512 GB version of the drive.
However, SLC caching on the Transcend MTE220S works exactly the same as on other drives with the SM2262EN controller. The cache uses a dynamic scheme when a part of the TLC memory from the main array is transferred to the accelerated one-bit mode. The cache size is selected so that about half of the free flash memory works in SLC mode. Thus, at high speed on the MTE220S, you can write an amount of data that is about a sixth of the space available on the SSD, then the speed will decrease significantly.
This can be illustrated by the following graph, which shows how the performance of continuous sequential write changes on an empty Transcend MTE220S with a capacity of 512 GB.
In accelerated mode, when recording occurs in SLC mode, the 512 GB version of the MTE220S provides performance at the level of 1.9 GB / s. In TLC mode, the flash memory array is significantly slower, and after the free space in the SLC cache is exhausted, the speed drops to 460 MB / s. The graph also shows the third speed option — 275 MB / s. Sequential write performance drops to this value when there is no free flash memory left, and in order to put some additional data into it, the controller first needs to transfer the cells used for the SLC cache to regular TLC -mode. As a result, it turns out that the average speed of continuous recording on the Transcend MTE220S 512 GB “from beginning to end” is about 410 MB / s, and it takes at least 21 minutes to completely fill this drive with data. This is not a very optimistic figure: for example, the same Samsung 970 EVO Plus can be fully loaded to the eyeballs in just 10 minutes.
At the same time, the Transcend MTE220S SLC cache has the same unique feature that we found back in the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro. Data from it is not transferred to conventional memory immediately, but only when it is filled by more than three-quarters. This allows you to achieve higher read speeds when accessing files that have just been written. This feature makes little sense when using an SSD in real life, but it helps the drive a lot in synthetic benchmarks, which just practice “write-read” scenarios.
How it looks in practice can be estimated from the following random read speed graph when a file is accessed not only immediately after it was created, but also when some more information was written to the SSD after this file.
Here you can clearly see the moment when the controller moves the test file from the SLC cache to the main flash memory, since the speed of small-block reading at this moment drops by about 10%. It is with this reduced speed that users will deal in the vast majority of cases, since there are no algorithms for moving data back from TLC memory to SLC cache in the Transcend MTE220S firmware, and files can linger in the SLC cache only if if the drive remains more than 90 percent free during operation.
In other words, in terms of working with the SLC cache, the Transcend MTE220S differs little from other drives based on the SM2262EN controller. But this does not mean at all that it is similar to the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro in everything. Transcend’s offer has a weighty advantage of a different order — higher rewriting volumes allowed by the warranty conditions. Without losing it, the drive can be completely overwritten with data 800 times, and the 256 GB version more than 1000 times. Such indicators of the declared resource allow us to hope that the manufacturer buys flash memory of the highest quality grade for the MTE220S, and this means that the real reliability of the drive can suit even those users who still treat TLC 3D NAND with great distrust.
⇡ # Appearance and internal structure
For a detailed acquaintance, according to tradition, the model Transcend MTE220S with a capacity of 512 GB was chosen. She did not present any surprises with her appearance, this is an ordinary drive in the M.2 2280 form factor, which works through the PCI Express 3.0 x4 bus and supports the NVM Express version 1.3 protocol. However, the type of packaging and delivery of the MTE220S evoke stable associations with cheap consumer goods. The company even sold the budget bufferless SSD MTE110S in a full-fledged box, and the novelty in question, which is positioned as a higher-level solution, was packed in a blister, in which, in addition to the actual M.2 drive card, there is nothing at all. All this is very similar to the form in which microSD cards are supplied to the market, and, obviously, serves the purpose of reducing overhead costs. However, hardly anyone still chooses an SSD by packaging.
The SSD itself does not differ in expressive appearance. Its design does not provide for any heatsinks, and the sticker does not have a layer of heat-conducting foil. And in general, the Transcend MTE220S looks more like an OEM product than an enthusiast solution. This impression is emphasized by the textolite of the printed circuit board of a forgotten already green color and a purely utilitarian label that does not have any signs of design and contains only service information.
The layout of the MTE220S board cannot be called typical — apparently, Transcend engineers modified it for some own needs. At least, the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro drive we reviewed earlier, despite using a similar hardware platform, looked completely different. However, Transcend’s novelty has retained the double-sided arrangement of components, so the MTE220S may not be suitable for the «low-profile» M.2 slots that are found in thin laptops.
The flash memory array housed on the 512GB MTE220S is packed with four Transcend-branded chips. It is known that inside each of these microcircuits there are four 256-gigabit crystals of 64-layer Micron TLC 3D NAND memory of the second generation. Transcend purchases such memory from Micron in single wafer form, but cuts, tests, and packs the silicon dies into chips, allowing for additional manufacturing savings.
You should also pay attention to the DDR4-1866 SDRAM chip located next to the SM2262EN base controller chip. It acts as a buffer for storing a copy of the address translation table, but the important thing here is that the drive in question has only one such chip, manufactured by Samsung, with a capacity of 512 MB. We specifically draw attention to this, since other SSDs with the SM2262EN controller have a fast DRAM buffer usually consisting of a pair of chips half the size. As a result, the Transcend MTE220S works with the DRAM buffer via a 16-bit rather than a 32-bit bus, which, in theory, can somewhat harm performance during small-block operations. However, the influence of this factor should not be overestimated: a 32-bit RAM bus is a unique feature of the SM2262/SM2262EN platform, while other SSD controllers use a DRAM buffer with a 16-bit bus and do not suffer from it at all.
To service its own drives, Transcend releases a special SSD Scope utility. Its capabilities are almost typical for software products of this class, however, some of the usual functions are not supported for some reason.
SSD Scope allows you to monitor the overall health of your drive and assess its health by accessing SMART telemetry. The utility provides simple performance tests, as well as checking the firmware version and updating it.
The utility also has a built-in tool for cloning the contents of disks, which allows you to quickly and painlessly transfer the operating system and installed applications to a freshly purchased SSD. Plus, SSD Scope can manage the transmission of the TRIM command to the drive.
For SATA drives, SSD Scope can also offer to check the flash array for errors or perform a «secure erase» procedure on the flash memory called Secure Erase. But with the Transcend MTE220S, both of these features don’t work for some reason.
⇡ # Testing methodology
Testing is carried out in the Microsoft Windows 10 Enterprise x64 Build 16299 operating system, which correctly recognizes and maintains modern solid state drives. This means that in the process of passing the tests, as in normal everyday use of the SSD, the TRIM command is supported and actively involved. Performance measurement is performed with drives in a «used» state, which is achieved by pre-filling them with data. Before each test, the drives are cleaned and maintained using the TRIM command. Between individual tests, a 15-minute pause is maintained, allotted for the correct development of garbage collection technology. All tests use randomized incompressible data.
The partition within which the speed of operations is tested has a size of 32 GB, and the duration of each test is forty seconds. Such parameters, in particular, will allow you to get more relevant results for those SSDs that use various SLC caching technologies.
Applications and tests used:
- Iometer 1.1.0
- Measuring the speed of sequential reading and writing data in blocks of 128 KB (the most typical block size for sequential operations in desktop tasks). Testing is carried out at different request queue depths, which makes it possible to evaluate both realistic and peak performance parameters.
- Measuring the speed and latency of random reads and writes in 4 KB blocks (this block size is used in the vast majority of real operations). The test is carried out twice — without a request queue and with a request queue with a depth of 4 commands (typical for desktop applications that actively work with a forked file system). The data blocks are aligned with the flash memory pages of the drives.
- Establishing the dependence of random read and write speeds when the drive is working with 4-kilobyte blocks on the depth of the request queue (in the range from one to 32 commands). The data blocks are aligned with the flash memory pages of the drives.
- Establishing the dependence of random read and write speeds when the drive is working with blocks of different sizes. Blocks from 512 bytes to 256 KB are used. The depth of the request queue during the test is 4 commands. The data blocks are aligned with the flash memory pages of the drives.
- Measuring performance under a mixed multi-threaded load and establishing its dependence on the ratio between read and write operations. The test is performed twice: for sequential read and write operations in 128 KB blocks, performed in two independent threads, and for random operations with 4 KB blocks, which are performed in four independent threads. In both cases, the ratio between reads and writes varies in 20 percent increments.
- Investigation of SSD performance degradation when processing a continuous stream of random write operations. Blocks of 4 KB and a queue depth of 32 commands are used. The data blocks are aligned with the flash memory pages of the drives. The duration of the test is two hours, instantaneous speed measurements are taken every second. At the end of the test, the ability of the drive to restore its performance to its original values is additionally checked due to the operation of the garbage collection technology and after the TRIM command has been processed.
- Crystal Disk Mark 6.0.2
- Synthetic benchmark that provides typical SSD performance measured on a 1 GB area of the disk «on top» of the file system. From the entire set of parameters that can be evaluated using this utility, we pay attention to the speed of sequential read and write, as well as the performance of random reads and writes in 4-kilobyte blocks without a request queue and with a queue of 32 instructions deep.
- PCMark 8 Storage Benchmark 2.0
- A test based on emulating real disk load, which is typical for various popular applications. On the tested drive, a single partition is created in the NTFS file system for the entire available volume, and the Secondary Storage 2.0 test is carried out in PCMark 8. As test results, both the final performance and the speed of execution of individual test traces generated by various applications are taken into account.
- Real file load tests
- Measuring the speed of copying directories with files of different types. For copying, a standard Windows tool is used — the Robocopy utility, as a test set, a working directory is used, including office documents, photographs and illustrations, pdf-files and multimedia content with a total volume of 8 GB.
- Measuring the speed of archiving files. The test is carried out with the same working directory as the copying, and the 7-zip archiver version 9.22 beta is chosen as a tool for compressing files. The Deflate method is used to reduce the impact of processor performance.
- Research of archive unfolding speed. The test is carried out with an archive obtained by measuring the archiving speed.
- Evaluation of the speed of launching a game application. Measures the performance of the disk subsystem when executing a script captured when launching Far Cry 4 and loading a custom save level into it. To minimize the impact of processor and memory performance, all delays that occur due to their fault were removed from the test scenario.
- Evaluation of the startup speed of applications that form a typical working user environment. The performance of the disk subsystem is measured when executing a script captured when running an application package that consists of the Google Chrome browser, Microsoft Word text editor, Adobe Photoshop graphics editor, and Adobe Premiere Pro video editor with working files. To minimize the impact of processor and memory performance, all delays that occur due to their fault were removed from the test scenario.
⇡ # Test bench
With the release of Coffee Lake Refresh processors, we decided to once again update the test system, which is used to measure the performance of NVMe SSD models. Still, such drives are primarily bought by enthusiasts moving to new platforms, and therefore it is logical to use the latest platform in test tests.
As a result, a computer with an ASRock Z390 Taichi motherboard, a Core i7-9700K processor with an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics core and 8 GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM is used as a test platform. Drives with an M.2 interface during testing are installed in the corresponding slot of the motherboard connected to the chipset. Drives in the form of PCI Express cards are installed in a PCI Express 3.0 x4 slot, which also works through the chipset.
The volume and speed of data transfer in benchmarks are indicated in binary units (1 KB = 1024 bytes).
A separate explanation should be made regarding the closing of the Meltdown and Specter processor vulnerabilities. Existing patches significantly reduce the performance of SSDs, so measurements are taken with deactivated OC patches that serve to close these vulnerabilities.
⇡#List of test participants
From the looks of it, the Transcend MTE220S should be a solid mid-range player. Therefore, for today’s test, we have selected the most common NVMe SSDs currently available in stores. These are both Samsung’s advanced solutions and Intel, Western Digital or ADATA drives. In addition, the tests included the predecessor of Transcend MTE220S, bufferless NVMe drive MTE110S with HMB technology.
As a result, the list of tested models looks like this:
NVMe driver versions used:
- Intel Client NVMe Driver 18.104.22.1687;
- Microsoft Windows NVMe Driver 10.0.16299.371;
- Samsung NVM Express Driver 22.214.171.1242.
⇡#Sequential read and write performance
The new Transcend MTE220S manages to demonstrate a relatively good linear read speed. Moreover, in the absence of a request queue, its result is not even worse than that of Samsung’s flagship drives. But linear recording is not such a favorable load for this SSD. When we got acquainted with the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, we noted that the SLC caching algorithms of the SM2262EN controller are not built in the most efficient way. And the result of Transcend MTE220S partly confirms this. The fact is that, although the dynamic SLC cache of this drive has a relatively large volume, a significant part of it remains filled with data after previous write operations.
⇡#Random read performance
The Transcend MTE220S does not show any particularly impressive random read performance. When working with queues of small depth, it behaves like a mid-level offer, but as pipelining increases, speed characteristics slip towards budget solutions. In this new Transcend repeats the behavior of the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro — a drive built on the same hardware platform.
⇡#Random write performance
Approximately the same as with reading, the situation also develops when the SSD in question processes arbitrary write operations. The Transcend MTE220S delivers a mid-range performance that lags behind competitors from top-tier manufacturers Samsung, Western Digital and Intel. Trying to speed up read operations using the SLC cache, the SM2262EN platform does not allow caching algorithms to unfold at full strength when writing data. And in the end, it turns out that it cannot offer the convincing performance inherent in flagship SSDs either with random reading or random writing.
⇡#Performance under mixed load
Drives built on controllers developed by Silicon Motion are traditionally characterized by good performance when working with a random stream of commands. And this emphasis often makes them very winning solutions, because mixed operations are the most common disk load in modern multi-threaded operating systems. Transcend MTE220S is a positive example in this respect. Like its sister drive ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, Transcend’s SSD occupies the top positions in the above charts, ahead of even the venerable Samsung 970 EVO Plus.
⇡#Performance in CrystalDiskMark
When we got acquainted with the first drive based on the SM2262EN controller, ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, we paid a lot of attention to the fact that the platform created by Silicon Motion engineers was specially optimized for various popular benchmarks. Indeed, it is rather difficult to evaluate differently the fact that files written to SSD are delayed in the SLC cache in the hope of repeated access to them. After all, it is the benchmarks that behave in this way: first they create a file for testing, and then they measure the speed when accessing them. And the Transcend MTE220S under consideration today does exactly the same. This is exactly what explains the fantastically high results shown in the CrystalDiskMark screenshot, especially in terms of small-block read speed.
However, don’t be fooled. If we are talking about the work of the Transcend MTE220S with files that were recorded on it not just now, but some time ago, then it will not demonstrate such high speeds. Above, we clearly showed that the small block read performance of this drive when accessing regular files is about 20% lower than when working with files that were created immediately before testing.
⇡#Performance in PCMark 8 Storage Benchmark 2.0
PCMark 8 scores the Transcend MTE220S quite highly. This is partly due to the SM2262EN controller’s efficient approach to handling mixed operations, and partly due to its accelerated read algorithms focused on achieving high benchmark results. Nevertheless, even apart from such optimizations, the Transcend MTE220S is a very good mid-range solution that looks quite decent against the background of other modern drives. At least we have no doubts that Transcend’s new product is at least as good as last year’s Samsung 970 EVO. At the same time, we will not deny that the updated Samsung 970 EVO Plus is a higher-level solution, but the MTE220S does not pretend to be the flagship solution, because it is a relatively inexpensive NVMe SSD.
The integral result of PCMark 8 should be supplemented with the performance indicators given out by the drives during the passage of individual test tracks, which simulate various variants of a real load. The fact is that with a diverse load, flash drives can behave in some special way.
Curiously, if you compare the performance of Transcend MTE220S and ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro — two drives built on a similar element base, you can see noticeable differences in their behavior, which appear in Adobe Photoshop. In this application, the ADATA variant gives the best performance.
⇡ # Performance under real load
In file operations, the Transcend MTE220S is faster than its bufferless predecessor, the MTE110S, but it lags behind the new NVMe SSDs released by leading manufacturers this year.
But in the role of a system drive on which the operating system, applications and games are installed, the Transcend MTE220S performs relatively well. No, he is not up to the leaders. But nevertheless, the best results can only be offered by Samsung drives, which belong to a slightly different level in terms of positioning. It turns out that the MTE220S may well prove to be a good compromise between price and performance. And this is not at all surprising: Silicon Motion platforms always turn out to be well suited for “domestic” loads, and the Transcend MTE220S confirms this once again.
⇡#Degradation and restoration of performance
Observing the change in the write speed depending on the amount of information written to the disk is an important experiment that allows you to understand the operation of the internal algorithms of the drive. In this test, we load the SSD with a continuous stream of requests to randomly write 4-kilobyte blocks with a queue of maximum depth and along the way monitor the performance that is observed. In the graph below, the dots represent the instantaneous performance measurements that we take every second, and the black line shows the average speed observed over a 30-second interval.
The first 80 GB of data that is written to the SLC cache of a clean drive does it at a fairly high speed — at the level of 260 thousand IOPS. After the cache is full, write performance drops to 110k IOPS. This value is maintained until the flash array runs out of free space, after which performance degrades further.
Overall, these write performance figures are not outstanding. We have already said that with large amounts of data, recording on the Transcend MTE220S is performed at a relatively low speed. Here we see confirmation that this drive is also adversely affected by near-server scenarios. And it’s not just that the speed of instantaneous recording can vary significantly from time to time. It’s just that many modern NVMe SSDs, even consumer-grade ones, can offer better random multi-threaded write performance under continuous workloads.
Now let’s see how the speed characteristics are restored to their original values due to the operation of the garbage collection technology. To investigate this issue, after completing the previous test, resulting in a decrease in write speed, we wait 15 minutes, during which the SSD can try to recover itself through garbage collection, but without help from the operating system and the TRIM command, and measure the speed. Then the TRIM command is forcibly sent to the drive — and the speed is measured again, which makes it possible to verify that the SSD is able to fully restore its passport performance using TRIM.
We were prepared for the TRIM handling of the Transcend drive in question to be questionable. By testing an ADATA analogue, we already know that the SM2262EN controller approaches the operating system command to release flash memory pages for future operations very creatively. TRIM activates garbage collection only in the main memory array, but this command does not apply to the contents of the cache, as follows from the results.
The algorithms for transferring data from the SLC cache to the main TLC memory array of the Transcend MTE220S work with a long delay, so it turns out that even after TRIM, a relatively small amount of space is free in the cache (about 6.5 GB). In other words, all the traditional advantages of dynamic SLC caching in the Transcend MTE220S are neutralized by cache release delayed in order to improve results in benchmarks.
Let’s now look at how hard it is for the SM2262EN controller to handle TRIM. When the operating system informs the drive that some sectors are being retired by the file system, the SSD controller must consolidate these sectors and clean up the freed flash memory pages for future operations. Such a regrouping requires rewriting and clearing areas of memory, and this not only takes a noticeable amount of time, but also seriously loads the controller with work. As a result, after deleting large amounts of data from the disk, SSD owners may experience temporary slowdowns or even “freezes” of the drive. In practice, this can cause serious discomfort, because no one expects that an SSD, the main advantage of which is an instant response to external influences, will freeze for a few seconds.
Therefore, we added an additional study to the methodology, which allows us to track how imperceptibly for the user this or that SSD serves TRIM commands. The test method is very simple: immediately after deleting a large file — 32 GB in size — we check how the drive copes with random data read operations, controlling both the read speed and the waiting time that elapses from the moment of each data request to the response of the drive.
After deleting a 32 GB file, the drive needs about 3 seconds to bring itself back to normal. During this period, he ceases to respond to external influences almost completely. Response time rises to tenths of a second, and performance drops to zero even when reading. The behavior is not pleasant, but in fairness it should be noted that there are practically no drives that are not subject to such an effect among consumer models.
⇡ # Checking the temperature regime
The SM2262EN controller does not get too hot. When we tested an ADATA drive based on it, we never managed to throttle it. Nevertheless, this experience cannot be extended to the Transcend MTE220S without practical verification. The fact is that ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro was equipped with an aluminum heat-distributing plate, while Transcend MTE220S does not have any special means for cooling. Won’t MTE220S users have to fit some custom heatsinks of their own?
Testing should answer this question, in which we monitored the temperature regime of the drive when it was loaded with sequential operations with a request queue depth of 32 commands. The measurements were carried out on an open stand, there was no additional air flow to the SSD.
Unfortunately, the half-terabyte version of the Transcend MTE220S that we tested was prone to overheating under certain conditions. The critical temperature for this drive is a temperature of 75 degrees, and when it is exceeded, throttling is turned on, and performance drops. Achieving such heating, as it turned out, is relatively easy with continuous recording of about 100 GB of data, which takes about a minute and a half.
But during intensive reading operations, throttling is not observed. The drive gradually warms up, but without any negative effects in the form of a drop in performance. Nevertheless, it is still better to operate the Transcend MTE220S with additional cooling. Fortunately, modern motherboards often offer ready-made solutions for removing heat from M.2 drives installed in them.
With the SMI SM2262EN controller, on which the Transcend MTE220S drive discussed in this review is based, we have already met in detail earlier. And today’s testing did not add any new strokes to the formed picture. Therefore, we have to admit that the Transcend MTE220S is the twin brother of the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, with differences in PCB design and appearance.
In the review of the ADATA drive, we spoke rather impartially about the SM2262EN controller, but in fact, if you do not demand much from it, everything is far from being so bad. As a detailed examination shows, the SM2262EN platform differs little from the regular SM2262 platform. It only introduces some ambiguous optimizations aimed at improving performance in synthetic benchmarks, but they have almost no effect on speed during normal SSD use. In other words, the developers did not mess up anything, which is good, since the old SM2262 controller was not bad or not fast enough. Even if drives based on it do not set any records by today’s standards, nevertheless they continue to look like solid NVMe solutions of the middle class.
This is how we can characterize the Transcend MTE220S. This new product definitely cannot be attributed to the leading mass NVMe SSD, since it is obviously weaker than the «exemplary» Samsung 970 EVO Plus. But in fact, the MTE220S is not going to aim at the laurels of the flagship. In his case, a successful combination of consumer characteristics should play, among which an affordable price is of no small importance.
Transcend made a bet on the maximum reduction in price that is possible for a full-fledged NVMe SSD with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, an eight-channel controller, modern multilayer TLC flash memory and a DRAM buffer. And if we correctly understood the manufacturer’s intentions, then as a result of all the tricks, the new Transcend MTE220S should be sold even for less money than the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, which will allow it to play against very inexpensive NVMe SSDs from other companies. And in this market segment, Transcend’s offer really looks good, because in terms of speed it can be compared with much more expensive offers like Intel SSD 760p or Western Digital Black SN750.