The Silicon Motion SM2262EN SSD Controller Preview: Good And Bad Amplified

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018 - SSDs, Teknologi

The Silicon Motion SM2262EN SSD Controller Preview: Good And Bad Amplified

Silicon Motion's second-generation NVMe SSD controllers have all but taken over the consumer NVMe SSD market. Drives like the HP EX920 and ADATA SX8200 currently offer great performance at prices that are far lower than what Samsung and Western Digital are charging for their flagship products. These Silicon Motion-based SSDs are using the SM2262 controller – the high-end member of SMI's current lineup – but they're almost as cheap as the entry-level NVMe drives that use low-end controllers with limited performance. Phison's second-generation high-end E12 controller still hasn't hit the shelves, so Silicon Motion has no serious competition for the SM2262.

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But Silicon Motion isn't standing still. They've prepared an update to the SM2262 controller called the SM2262EN. This was first previewed at the same time that the SM2262 was announced, but Silicon Motion didn't provide much guidance on the timing. The SM2262 controller hit the market with the Intel SSD 760p in January, and the SM2262EN is almost ready for release. With the SM2262EN, Silicon Motion is promising substantial performance improvements that go well beyond what we usually see from firmware optimizations, though the hardware changes relative to the SM2262 are minimal. The updated controller should hit the market in time to compete against Phison E12 SSDs and the first wave of drives with 96-layer 3D NAND.

Silicon Motion NVMe SSD Controller Comparison
ControllerSM2262ENSM2262SM2263SM2263XTSM2260
Host InterfacePCIe 3.0 x4
ProtocolNVMe 1.3NVMe 1.2
NAND Flash Channels88448
NAND Chip Enable lines44444
NAND interface speed800 MT/s667 MT/s533 MT/s
Typical NANDIMFT 64L 3D TLCIMFT 32L 3D MLC/TLC
DRAM SupportDDR3(L),
LPDDR3,
DDR4
No
(HMB*
supported)
DDR3(L),
LPDDR2
DRAM Bus Width32/16-bit16-bitN/A32/16-bit
Controller Package18x16mm
472-ball TFBGA
12x12mm
288-ball TFBGA
18x16mm
472-ball TFBGA
Sequential Read MB/s35003200240024002400
Sequential Write MB/s30001900170017001000
Random Read IOPS420k370k300k280k (HMB*)
120k (no HMB*)
120k
Random Write IOPS420k300k250k250k140k
*HMB = Host Memory Buffer – where an SSD uses system DRAM to save cost by not having any of its own

To assess the new SM2262EN controller solution, Silicon Motion has provided us with a 2TB reference design SSD with their latest firmware, a work in progress as Silicon Motion continues to optimize performance. This is a higher capacity drive than any of the SM2262 SSDs we've tested, and some performance improvement may be due simply to the capacity increase. However, even at 1TB we already have several NAND dies on each of the controller's 8 channels, so adding more dies shouldn't have a huge impact, especially not for sequential transfers.

SM2262EN Engineering Sample Specifications
Usable Capacity2000 GB
ControllerSilicon Motion SM2262EN
Firmware VersionSVN112
NAND FlashIntel 64-layer 256Gb 3D TLC
Form-Factordouble-sided M.2 2280
InterfacePCIe 3 x4
DRAM2GB Micron DDR4-2400 CL16


SM2262 (left) and SM2262EN (right)

This 2TB configuration represents the maximum practical capacity when using 256Gb NAND dies, as it requires four packages with stacks of sixteen dies. The usable capacity is configured as about 2000 GB. The PCB layout is generally the same as for the SM2262 drives we've seen, with one DRAM package and two NAND packages on each side. This drive uses 2GB of Micron DDR4 DRAM, while all of the SM2262 retail drives we've seen use DDR3L.

The switch to DDR4 gives a slight improvement to voltage and latency, and a big boost to throughput—which is probably necessary to make the most of the EN controller variant. The use of DDR4 does add slightly to the cost of the drive, but not enough to prevent this change from carrying over into retail products. The DRAM update still leaves Silicon Motion a bit behind Samsung, which has moved its SSDs to LPDDR4 and reaped significant power savings.

For this review, the 2TB SM2262EN drive is compared against other recent NVMe SSDs, primarily high-end drives. The results from our engineering sample of the upcoming Phison E12 controller are also included, and these two new controller solutions will probably be responsible for the stiffest competition in the NVMe SSD market segment once they are both shipping in volume.

AnandTech 2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPUIntel Xeon E3 1240 v5
MotherboardASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
ChipsetIntel C232
Memory4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920×1200@60Hz
SoftwareWindows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.6
Spectre/Meltdown microcode and OS patches current as of May 2018

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