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Maxiotek MK8115 DRAMless Controller Preview

Conclusion

Like it or not, DRAMless SSDs are here to stay, but over time they will get better. These products will move closer to the mainstream as the technology evolves. NVMe technology will help, and advanced features built into Windows 10 will work in conjunction with more advanced DRAMless controllers.

The two Maxiotek MK8115 SSDs outperformed the two other DRAMless products we tested with the same capacity. JMicron brought the first affordable DRAMless consumer SSD to market, so it's fitting that the company's first product after a reboot is also a DRAMless design. A lot has changed in nearly a decade, but here we are with the same talking points. Single-Level Cell (SLC) memory gave way to MLC nearly ten years ago, and now we're on the verge of TLC replacing MLC. We grumbled about MLC then, and we grumble about TLC now. In time TLC technology will improve with better controllers, higher bandwidth interfaces, and endurance-increasing technology improvements. That's when we will grumble about Quad-Level Cell (QLC) NAND!

The new Maxiotek MK8115 controller would be extremely popular if the SSD market weren't suffering a shortage due to the 3D NAND transition. That wouldn't come from its performance or any visual appeal. It would simply be so cheap you couldn't turn it down. If we follow the trend line before the shortage, entry-level 512GB class products would currently cost less than $90. Even with the shortage, we've found some DRAMless 512GB SSDs that sell for roughly $150. That's still palatable, but $80 would be tasty.

We knew the DRAMless category was coming for several years. The purpose of DRAMless SSDs is to change the OEM market by injecting flash into most of the new PCs on the market. The drives are here, but no one could foresee the turbulent flash market. Flash was close to taking over.

Samsung will ramp up 3D NAND production soon as its new fab comes online to churn out 64-layer NAND. That will only get us back to where we were before the shortage. We will have to wait until 2018 to get back on track with annual price reductions. This category will be stagnant until there is ample NAND flash to throw at entry-level products. There will be some flow, like the Maxiotek MK8115 coming to market, but for the most part, these products don't offer enough cost savings due to the inflated cost of flash.

DRAMless products will be ready when flash becomes affordable again. The Maxiotek MK8115 is the fastest DRAMless controller we've tested, but it's still short of entry-level DRAM-based products. There just isn't enough of a price difference currently to take DRAMless SSDs seriously as an aftermarket upgrade.


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  • Ncogneto
    Why are they forcing this on us?
    Reply
  • HERETIC-1
    The sad thing I see about this is it probably costs less than $3 to add Ram,
    but by the time you add manufacturer markup- wholesaler markup-retailer
    markup it's more like $10-which gives us this extra tier in the race to the
    bottom.
    Thro Chris's comment re controller complexity if Ram was added might add
    a little more.....
    Reply
  • TMTOWTSAC
    19919859 said:
    Why are they forcing this on us?

    The usual, so marketing can claim "It's an SSD!" to exploit the reputation built by the SSD as a class, while steadily chipping away at everything that gives SSD's better performance in their specific product.
    Reply
  • daglesj
    Its like VHS recorders in the early 80's weighed 15KG and lasted years. By the time your Dad bought his last one at the turn of the century they weighed 2KG and he threw it out two years later. Reduce the components and make it cheaper every year.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    How very true; a cheap 25 UKP DVD player might last only a few weeks these days. I know someone who went through two of them before finally being persuaded to buy something just a bit better (45 quid Sony or somesuch, faired much better). I have ancient VHS decks that still work fine.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    19920161 said:
    19919859 said:
    Why are they forcing this on us?

    The usual, so marketing can claim "It's an SSD!" to exploit the reputation built by the SSD as a class, while steadily chipping away at everything that gives SSD's better performance in their specific product.

    19920561 said:
    Its like VHS recorders in the early 80's weighed 15KG and lasted years. By the time your Dad bought his last one at the turn of the century they weighed 2KG and he threw it out two years later. Reduce the components and make it cheaper every year.

    19920825 said:
    How very true; a cheap 25 UKP DVD player might last only a few weeks these days. I know someone who went through two of them before finally being persuaded to buy something just a bit better (45 quid Sony or somesuch, faired much better). I have ancient VHS decks that still work fine.

    The Audio and Visual industry did this... started a bit slowly in the '80s.... went full tilt in the '90. Killed off or maimed reputations of what was once great companies. Some learned and while still going throw-away, upped the quality just enough to make it palatable to us consumers. It's why the vintage market exists, despite editorials and articles out there that say that vintage isn't better. (it's why a vintage Pioneer SX-1250 receiver that has analog tuning (160W 8Ω or 200W 4Ω, per channel) commands a price tag of $1000+ in good working and cosmetic condition... MORE than its $900 list price when it was brand new in '76)

    The PC market, is and isn't the same simultaneously. We enjoy the added speed, power, and features greatly
    (look at the price of an IBM 5150, adjusted for inflation, based on today's levels... We can build machines that can do circles around them at the price point they were 35 years ago (this is very good) .... but they aren't built like the tanks they were back then either. Most PC parts just continue to decline in value... The Home Computer market (where the C= 64, C= Vic 20, Amigas, Color Computers, Sinclairs, Ataris, etc. exist) is a little different in prices have stopped going down, and in some cases, have jokers that want 2x - 3x the actual market value.)
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    For a long time my main amp was a NAD 3020i. Finally replaced it with an AVR a couple of years ago, a Yamaha 777 or something, so disappointed at the state of modern AV tech; too complicated, too many issues, it needs updates, etc. The NAD still works fine, but I wanted something with video abilities and 4K support for newer tech (HDTV, 4K later). It doesn't look like anybody makes anything these days that Just Works like the NAD does; the complex functions mean software/firmware is involved, which means bugs, and somehow I don't think sw dev people who work on this stuff have the same degree of design rigour as the hw people.

    Likewise, the bluray player I bought way back is overly complicated, trying to be an uber home media centre, etc. Annoys me that it takes to long just to turn the thing on and off. Seems like every device is trying to be everything, which means they end up being not good at anything. I bought my brother a 4K TV and a bluray player, the duplication of functionality between them is crazy. Add to that the mess that is 4K bluray support on PCs, hardly worth bothering with.

    As for vintage tech, there's no such thing as objective "market value". An item is only ever worth what someone is willing to pay. Auctions for mint ZX80s (especially unused kits) and Jupiter Ace systems can go for really high amounts (I watched an unused ZX80 kit sell for over 1500 UKP); they're hard to find but highly sought after, so people pay a lot. Is an Enterprise 128 worth 160 UKP? Who knows, but that's what I won one for, because I was willing to pay that much to have one for my permanent collection.

    If you want real crazy, remember how much those incrediby rare NES games went for, like $40K or somesuch.

    Thing is, the old stuff I have generally still works ok (I have over a hundred Sinclair systems, amazing the printers still work), whereas I fully expect my AVR to just die not that many yeas after the warranty runs out. I started collecting vintage tech because it was rising in value, now accounts for about a 3rd of my storage space, and of course valuable items like the Spectrum 128K don't take up much space, so the value-stored-per-unit-volume is quite good (better than the SGI stuff I normally deal with).

    I even bagged a couple of Tatung Einsteins, they still work ok. Lots of Acorn systems, Timex, Commodore, etc. The item that's least likely to still work after all these years though is a joystick. :D Most of them were terrible.


    Ian.

    Reply
  • hellwig
    didn't read the article, what I want to know is, what's the easiest way to avoid these DRAM-less devices?

    Sure, I could just buy the most expensive SSD I can find, but that's not a good option (and who's to say people won't sell "premium" SSDs without DRAM anyway)?

    What should I look for in the labeling, product description, etc... to make sure my SSD has DRAM? Now, every time I see an SSD on sale, I have to question why it's less expensive.
    Reply