Despite the flurry of PCIe 5.0 SSDs on display, Acer licensee Biwin Technology had one of the most interesting drives at CES 2023: The Acer Predator GM7 SSD armed with flash from YMTC, a China-based NAND flash chipmaker caught up in the US-China trade war. This flash maker is now on the US Entity List, meaning all imports and exports to the company have to be reviewed and approved by the US Commerce Department. However, Biwin still hopes to bring this new SSD to the US market — restrictions permitting, of course.
YMTC may seem like an obscure company, but its revolutionary flash architecture has attracted some of the biggest names in the industry, including Apple, which reportedly qualified the flash for use in its own devices and even helped it recruit staff. Given the new restrictions, Apple has reportedly put those plans on ice, but Biwin is still plowing forward with its Acer-branded SSD.
The flash at the center of the dispute is YMTC's 128-layer Xtacking 3.0. This flash has a unique architecture that's built by stacking two different wafers atop one another, with a lower layer using older process node tech for the logic, while a top layer uses a newer, denser process node for the memory array that actually stores the data. This design affords all sorts of performance and cost advantages, all of which make it a promising tech that poses a serious threat to the entrenched flash makers like Micron, Toshiba, and Samsung, all of whom use what we would consider more traditional designs. So naturally, it's rational to assume that the new sanctions blunt the threat.
Biwin receives raw wafers of this flash and packages it itself, thus creating the flash packages we can see on the drive above. The flash operates at 2,400 MT/s and the maximum power consumption for the single-sided M.2-2280 drive weighs in at 5.67W.
The drive is powered by the Maxiotek MAP1602 DRAM-less SSD controller, which is also designed in China. This controller uses Host Memory Buffer (HMB) tech and connects via the PCIe 4.0 x4 interface with the NVMe 1.4 protocol.
The 2TB Acer Predator GM7 is officially rated for up to 7,200 / 6,300 MB of sequential read/write throughput and 1 million random read/write IOPS. The 2TB drive has a 1,300 TBW endurance rating, and drives come with a five-year warranty. The drives will come in capacities of 512 GB ($50), 1 TB ($90), and 2 TB ($160).
Biwin demoed the 1TB drive at its suite at CES, and here we can see the SSD peaking at 5,671 / 4,960 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput. The drive also delivers 688,350 / 795,513 random read/write IOPS in these tests. Of course, these tests are probably with a fresh drive, so you'll have to wait for our review to see how performance shakes out.
Pending regulatory approvals, Biwin still hopes to bring these drives to the US market but doesn't have a firm timeline for availability yet. The company will also make the drives available in other markets that might not be impacted by the sanctions.
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Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.
Apple was originally going to use this same flash before all the political uproar. They will find a use somewhere. Very interested in endurance figures, but as quality was good enough for Apple I would not be concerned buying this. The price is between budget and premium flagships drives. Only place I could find YMTC flash in the past was on aliexpress, will be good to see how they stack up as soon as sanctions are navigated.Reply