What is a SSD Controller


I know quite a few things about hardware but SSDs are a bit of a mystery to me.

I have looked on some parts websites and I am mostly confused about the controller part ;

Why exactly should I care about whether it is a Intel or SandForce or anything?
Is the controller built in the drive itself?
-Will the controller impact on motherboard compatibility issues?
Is it as simple to install as a standard HDD (plug and play)?

I do have a recent machine with Asus Sabertooth X58. This thing has a Marvell Sata3 controller that gave me some problems / performance issues. I am wondering whichever this crazy Marvell controller thing has anything to do with an eventual SSD "controller". I'm not sure if this is clear enough..

Feel free to redirect me to any relevant thread that I have missed, as I have dug quite a bit into forums without finding precise enough answers.

Thanks a lot
4 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about what controller
  1. Best answer
    A SSD is actually 2 or more drives in a raid setup and that is where the controller comes in , all SSD's have a controller that makes the seperate drives into one. If you have ever heard anything about a raid setup you know that one of the reasons they setup a raid is for speed. That is why SSD's are so much faster than conventional hdd's.Sandforce makes really good controllers and a lot of companies use them , while Intel makes thier own for thier ssd's. The controller is built into the drive and for the most part there are no compatability issues , but you can come across one but it is rare. SSD's are plug and play just like conventional drives. Of all the controller chips the one you here about most with problems is the Marvell. Unfortunatly I think all the motherboard manufacturers use Marvell , but I do think that there is a trend to try and get away from thier chips.
  2. Thanks for the reply!

    Just one more thing. You are saying that Marvell controllers may be less reliable. That controller is the SSD's own controller, not the sata controller of the board right?

  3. Best answer selected by dessma.
  4. I disagree with most of what Inzone said. All storage devices have controllers. HDDs & SSDs both have them. The controller is the electronic equivalent of a driver in software. Simply put, it "controls" the electronic interface between the HDD or SSD and the rest of the system. SSDs are faster than HDDs mainly because electronics are faster than mechanics.....much faster. Sanforce and Marvell are two major manufacturers of controller chips. If you read the reviews for both you MUST conclude that the Sanforce controllers, while faster than Marvell, are much more trouble prone. Both companies are trying to control their problems with firmware upgrades but the results are mixed. There's an article on Toms comparing the failure rates of HDDs & SSds. The conclusion is that they are about the same, however what they are actually comparing is the failure rates of the controllers which should be the same. Only time will provide the proof of what is intuitively true. That being that SSDs are much more reliable over time because of the complete absence of fragile moving parts.
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