Mushkin has quietly built several high-quality solid-state drives in its Texas manufacturing facility. Many of the Mushkin products sit quietly in the shadows and go unnoticed by the majority of users. Armed with a new state of the art manufacturing facility in Mexico, we expect higher output and a new brand push to get the word out about Mushkin Enhanced design and quality.
The Mushkin Triactor ships with an odd pairing. The drives utilize Silicon Motion, Inc.'s (SMI) low-cost SM2256 4-channel controller and SanDisk's 15nm TLC flash. The controller supports advanced low-density parity check (LDPC) error correction and control code, but it's an older version than the company uses on the newer SM2258. We rarely see SanDisk NAND used outside of company branded SSDs, but after the Western Digital acquisition more of the flash has spread to third-party SSD manufacturers.
Mushkin has built SSDs since the first early consumer SSDs came to market. As a memory manufacturer, Mushkin was alongside OCZ, Corsair, Kingston and Patriot with some of the earliest products available, but the company is one of the lower profile builders. Mushkin doesn't have a NAND flash fab or controller IP, so it has a small fraction of the market share compared to the fab-powered companies like Intel and Samsung. However, the company has a reputation for quality at a low price point, and we rarely hear anyone complain about Mushkin products.
Over the last year, the Mushkin Reactor with MLC flash has been on and off our Best SSDs list. The drive delivers a nice user experience at a price that is hard to overlook. The Triactor with TLC NAND looks to follow the same path. It utilizes quality components with an advanced cost-saving design and dedicated manufacturing. In some respects, the Triactor is a sleeper, but it's time to sound the alarm clock.
The Mushkin Triactor ships in a number of configurations that range from 120GB to 500GB. Mushkin announced a 1TB product, but we've never seen it listed for sale. In the chart above, we listed the standard 7% overprovisioning capacities of 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB. Mushkin also offers a few oddball sizes (250GB and 500GB) with less overprovisioning but nearly identical performance.
As mentioned, the Triactor users an older 4-channel SMI SM2256 controller designed for TLC flash. This was Silicon Motion's first TLC-specific controller. The SM2258 succeeded the SM2256, but came with support for Flash Forward (Toshiba and SanDisk) and IMFT (Intel and Micron) 3D TLC NAND. By using older technology, Mushkin was able to reduce the price of the Triactor series without sacrificing performance.
This is also one of the rare third-party products to ship with SanDisk flash. Our drives arrived prior to the Western Digital acquisition, but since the takeover, we've heard about more companies gaining access to the premium planar flash. Mushkin chose 15nm TLC for this product. Many of Mushkin's products span multiple NAND lithography nodes, so it's possible the company purchased a large amount of flash at a discounted price and the Triactor will have a variable build of materials.
Performance tips the scale at 560 MB/s sequential read and up to 515 MB/s sequential write on the two capacities that we have in for testing. The 120GB model musters 380 MB/s in the sequential write category. The write performance quoted by Mushkin is only 'up to' due to the 3-bit per cell NAND flash. The random performance comes in at 85,000/87,000 read/write IOPS for the 480GB model. The smaller drives see a slight reduction, as specified in the chart.
The Triactor series does not support hardware encryption. In this price class we often overlook the feature and many users on this end of the pricing scale that have access to the feature do not use it.
We only found a few Triactor SSDs for sale at Newegg and Amazon. The 480GB and 240GB drives we are testing sell for $112 and $70, respectively. The 250GB drive sells for $70 and the new 500GB tips the scales at $120.
Warranty And Endurance
The Triactor ships with a limited 3-year warranty that Mushkin capped with a Terabytes Written (TBW) clause. The TBW rating serves as a general indication of how much data you can write to the drive before the warranty expires. The 120GB drive features a 58TBW rating, which is one of the lowest we've seen on a retail SSD. The rating increases to 115TBW on the 240GB and 250GB SSDs and moves up the scale to 230TBW for the 480GB and 500GB Triactor SSDs.
Mushkin used a low-cost blister pack to ship the Triactor, so it ships as a bare drive. This helps to keep costs low for end users.
A Closer Look
Other than the odd pairing of SM2256 and SanDisk 15nm TLC flash, the Triactor is a fairly basic SSD like many of the other products that compete in the low-cost market.
Mushkin's parent company, Avant Technology, always comes up with interesting ways to reduce manufacturing costs without reducing quality. Avant built the Triactor’s edge connector into the printed circuit board. Avant saves a few cents per drive by extending the edge out and embedding the SATA power and data connectors. This design also increases device integrity by removing the fragile plastic soldered component.