Phison’s U17 flash controller hits the retail market

Crucial introduced the X6 Portable SSD last year as an entry-level alternative to its NVMe-based X8 Portable SSD. Released in capacities up to 2TB, the X6 adopted a 96L 3D TLC version of the BX500 SATA SSD along with an ASMedia ASM235CM SATA to USB 3.2 Gen 1 bridge chip. Today, the company launches a unique high-performance product in the external SSD space within of the same family X6.

Direct-to-USB flash drivers have traditionally been used only in USB sticks, where compactness is the main feature. These controllers have a number of benefits including a significant reduction in bill of materials (BOM) cost and overall device power consumption. However, these drivers have typically been restricted to speeds of around 400 MBps. Leveraging the USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 2×2 interfaces, Phison introduced a pair of high-speed flash controllers with a direct USB interface at CES 2021. The U17, sporting a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) upstream interface and a 2-El interface. Channel 1200 MT / s downstream NAND interface is what Crucial’s 4TB portable SSD is based on.

Critical claims speeds of up to 800MBps for both read and write. This is significantly higher than the 540 MBps numbers possible with external SATA-based SSDs. Officially the X6 units have ‘Micron 3D NAND’ and there is no specification of the generation / layer count. However, Crucial noted that the X6 4TB drives shipping today come with 96L Micron 3D NAND (QLC). As is customary with Micron / Crucial, the NAND generation is likely to be updated in the future to allow Micron to offer even lower prices.

The new 4TB X6 portable SSD is priced at $ 490. At this price, it compares quite favorably to the other QLC-based external SSDs, such as the Sabrent XTRM-Q (although the latter comes with a Thunderbolt interface). The other 4TB external SSDs on the market are from Western Digital, with prices ranging from $ 680- $ 750. Given their 3D TLC flash and the use of an NVMe drive behind a bridge chip, they can offer performance, endurance and much better additional flexibility (such as the ability to save the internal SSD in the event of a bridge chip failure) for professionals. use cases. However, for the average consumer, the price per GB and price / performance ratio are in Crucial’s favor with the new X6 portable SSD based on the Phison U17 controller.

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