Toshiba announced their THNSNF SSD series today. The announcement was long overdue as currently Toshiba’s fastest SATA offering is the HG3 series, which was released in January 2010. The name of the new series is certainly not the most user friendly but it should be kept in mind that so far Toshiba has only sold their SSDs to OEMs, so the naming is not that important.
THNSNF will finally bring SATA 6Gb/s support to Toshiba SSDs, and the series is based on Toshiba’s own controller. Toshiba has definitely taken their time developing this controller considering we saw the first SATA 6Gb/s SSDs (Crucial’s RealSSD C300) in early-2010—over two years ago—and the first such SSDs hit retail (albeit with some growing pains) in February 2010. The actual model number of the controller is still unknown, but it’s possible that it’s the same controller (TC58NC5HJGSB-01) that surfaced in IO-Data’s SSDs a couple of months ago. On the other hand, Toshiba is known for quality and reliability with their SSDs, so it’s not that surprising that it took this long for them to test and validate a SATA 6Gb/s contoller—it can easily take over a year of validation to make sure everything works properly.
On top of the brand new controller, Toshiba is also using their own state of the art 19nm Toggle-Mode 2.0 MLC NAND. Some of Toshiba’s 24nm NAND used Toggle-Mode 2.0 interface as well so it’s not brand new, but at 400MB/s it’s faster than what ONFi can provide at this point. Toshiba is in fact the first SSD company to announce SSDs based on sub-20nm NAND, though we should start seeing 64Gb 20nm IMFT NAND soon unless Intel and Micron have issues with the new process node. Here’s the overview of the new Toshiba SSDs.
|Toshiba THNSNF Series Specifications|
|Form Factor||2.5″ 9.5mm||2.5″ 7mm||mSATA|
|Capacities||64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Sequential Write||461MB/s (440MB/s for 64GB)|
|4K Random Read||80K IOPS (50K IOPS for 64GB)|
|4K Random Write||35K IOPS (25K IOPS for 64GB)|
The ‘xxx’ in the model numbers represent the capacity of the drive, so a real model number would look like TNSNF256GBSS for a 256GB 2.5″ 9.5mm THNSNF drive for example. In the light of performance, it seems that Toshiba’s decision not to rush the controller has resulted in good returns. Random write IOPS could be better but other specifications look very, very promising. 440MB/s sequential write for a 64GB SSD would make the THNSNF one of the fastest 64GB SSDs on the market.
Toshiba is also touting the THNSNF series as very power efficient and they claim a power consumption of less than 0.1W in the press release. The press release does not mention how the power consumption was tested but even for idle power consumption 0.1W is extremely low—so far the best we have tested is 0.27W. Utilizing smaller process node NAND obviously helps with power consumption, but Toshiba must have paid a lot attention to power consumption in their controller and firmware design as well.
Today Toshiba is only making a product announcement as the THNSNF series is not even in production yet. According to the press release, mass production will begin in August 2012 and hence availability should be later in 2012. Again, I would like to emphasize that Toshiba has only sold their SSDs to other OEMs, so it’s likely that you won’t see these drives in stores. However, another SSD OEM may buy and rebrand the THNSNF series, which is what Kingston did with their SSDNow V+100 series.
As a final thought, Apple is a huge OEM that has been getting most of their SSDs from Toshiba. All Macs except the MacBook Air come with Toshiba HG3 SSD if the buyer chooses to configure their Mac with an SSD. MacBook Air SSDs are sourced from both Toshiba and Samsung, mainly to avoid component shortage given the popularity of the MacBook Air, though our own testing revealed the Samsung-equipped MBA’s offered better performance. The THNSNF series would be a logical upgrade path for Apple, though on the other hand the availability is later this year; Samsung has been shipping their 830 SSD series for nearly a year now. Now that mobile Ivy Bridge is out, we should see where Apple is going in matter of months, maybe even weeks. Either way, Macs are in need of SATA 6Gb/s SSDs and it’s always possible that Apple will surprise us by going with a totally different brand. Or who knows, maybe they have developed something in the house after the Anobit acquisition?