PCIe 4.0 SSD With Chinese 128L 3D TLC NAND Hits 7.5 GBps

Asgard AN5 PCIe 4.0 SSD
Asgard AN5 PCIe 4.0 SSD (Image credit: Asgard)

Asgard, a Chinese memory and storage manufacturer, has announced the company's first PCIe 4.0 SSD. With its blazing speed, the AN4 could easily rival some of the best SSDs that are currently on the market.

The AN4 is based on Innogrit's IG5236 Rainier controller and YMTC's 128-layer 3D TLC (triple-level cell) NAND chips. YMTC (Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd) produces the 128-layer TLC NAND with the company's proprietary Xtacking 2.0 technology. The process consists of producing the interconnects and NAND stacks on separate wafers. YMTC then fuses the wafers together by aligning the millions of little holes with an optical system.

To remain cool during operation, the AN4 features a robust heatsink with a dissipation area up to 8cm². Asgard claims that the heatsink helps reduce operating temperatures by up to 30 degrees Celsius. The vendor rates the AN4 with sequential read and write speeds up to 7,500 MBps and 5,500 MBps, respectively. The drive's random performance remains a mystery.

Asgard touts the AN4 with a high endurance rating, but the exact TBW (terabytes written) values are a mystery. The SSD comes with a limited five-year warranty. Asgard didn't share the pricing either, but confirmed that the 1TB model will hit the shelves in early August, while the 2TB  and 512GB models are in the planning stage.

Asgard AN4 PCIe 4.0 Performance

One user from the Bilibili forums have already put the Asgard AN4 1TB SSD through its paces. The AN4 adheres to a double-side PCB design with four NAND chips that carry the YMN09TC1B1HC6C part number. 

The reviewer noted that the AN4 supports a maximum payload size (MPS) up to 512 bytes, which theoretically allows a transfer rate up to 7,500 MBps. Other SSDs with support for a 256-byte MPS top out at 7,150 MBps. The right motherboard is required to hit these values, though. He highlighted that only AMD motherboard support MPS up to 512 bytes, while Intel Z590 motherboards are limited to 256 bytes.

The Bilibili user compared the AN4 to other similar drives with the same Innogrit IG5236 Rainier controller with different TLC NAND chips. He pitched YMTC's 128-layer NAND against Micron's 176-layer B47R NAND and Kioxia's 96-layer BICS4 NAND.

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SSDSeq Q128T1 Read (MBps)Seq Q128T1 Read (MBps)4KiB Q32T16 Read (MBps)4KiB Q32T16 Write (MBps)4KiB Q32T1 Read (MBps)4KiB Q32T1 Write (MBps)4KiB Q1T1 Read (MBps)4KiB Q1T1 Write (MBps)
IG5236 + YMTC 128L7,475.55,472.73,551.24,787.7710.9604.182.56294.0
IG5236 + Micron 176L7,468.15,584.51,633.64,154.5712.9600.677.33290.8
IG5236 + Kioxia 96L7,013.35,009.73,180.92,207.5709.1760.487.66306.5

The AN4 got very close to Asgard's advertised specifications on CrystalDiskMark. However, the real star of the show is YMTC's 128-layer 3D TLC NAND.

In terms of sequential read speeds, YMTC's NAND was only a tad faster than Micron's NAND, but offered up to 7% better performance than Kioxia's NAND.

When it comes to sequential write performance, Micron outperformed YMTC by 2%, but YMTC beat Kioxia with a 9% margin.

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Different Workloads
SSDPCMark 10PCMark 10 Bandwidth (MBps)PCMark 10 Average Memory Time (μs)Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker Loading TimeSPECWorkstation 3.1 Media and EntertainmentSPECWorkstation 3.1 Product DevelopmentSPECWorkstation 3.1 Life SciencesSPECWorkstation 3.1 EnergySPECWorkstation 3.1 General OperationsPuget Systems PhotoshopPuget Systems After EffectsPCMark 10 Baseline (MBps)PCMark 10 Degrade (MBps)PCMark 10 Steady (MBps)PCMark 10 Recovery (MBps)Chia Single Plot (Minutes)
IG5236 + YMTC 128L3,601581.49479.8119.1811.212.797.428.89891,16672624518758138.6815
IG5236 + Micron 176L2,352379.967210.3377.579.262.526.826.659841,15466425416928039.7044
IG5236 + Kioxia 96L3,878616.85439.3838.0411.592.528.098.369841,1515911088848740.957

The YMTC 128-layer NAND came in first place in 10 out of the 16 different tests. It performed consistently well in PCMark 10's Drive Performance Consistency Test, which is a torture test that runs between 10 to 20 hours and puts more than 23TB of drives on the SSD. In other workloads, such as game loading or Chia plotting, YMTC was only marginally faster than Micron and Kioxia.

The general conclusion is that YMTC has caught up to veteran players, such as Micron and Kioxia, in regard to performance. However, there are still two unknowns with YMTC's 128-layer NAND. Performance is great, but endurance and pricing is just as important. For the meantime, we don't know just how durable YMTC's NAND is or whether if it's cheaper or more expensive than its rivals.

Zhiye Liu
RAM Reviewer and News Editor

Zhiye Liu is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Although he loves everything that’s hardware, he has a soft spot for CPUs, GPUs, and RAM.

  • escksu
    Interesting.... Lets see how much it cost.
  • mdd1963
    "...Asgard touts the AN4 with a high endurance rating, but the exact TBW (terabytes written) values. "

    That second half seems a tad...unfinished. (Perhaps what is missing is, '..are unknown' based on some of what follows about other missing precise specs....?