The solid-state storage market is experiencing another pricing revolution right now. NAND flash is the most expensive ingredient in the SSD recipe, and that flash starts its life on a silicon wafer. Prices on those wafers are fixed, so the easiest way to decrease cost is by making more dies per wafer. Micron recently started selling 16nm flash to third parties, and that's what's spurring the current rush to the bottom. As I'm sure you can imagine, Micron gets more dies per wafer from its 16nm node than 20nm lithography.
The Phison S10 controller with special BCH (Phison's term) allows Patriot to use asynchronous MLC NAND packaged by another company. Because there's an outside agent packaging the flash, we really don't know the quality of the die inside. Micron (the M in IMFT) keeps the best pieces for Lexar, Micron and Crucial products, then sells the rest. Of that reminder, the highest-quality NAND goes into synchronous flash, while the leftovers trickle down to asynchronous flash for low-cost SSDs and thumb drives.
Fortunately, the controller's CRC/ECC algorithms ensure the NAND at least lasts as long as Patriot's warranty. The more the ECC has to work, the more power the drive consumes. And SSDs use more power at the end of their life as read retries increase. If the flash is already low-quality, you reach that point sooner than later.
With that understood, Patriot's Ignite wasn't designed to be a powerhouse. Its low price, currently less than $180 for the 480GB model, gives users a better experience than any hard drive can provide and a decent amount of capacity. In fact, what really sets this product apart from many low-cost SSDs is its heavy workload performance. The Ignite lags behind other products in our 100% consumer workloads, but does much better under more taxing tests. It's odd for a low-cost SSD to favor demanding over light usage, but there we are. Perhaps not surprisingly, Phison plans to develop the S10 controller for entry-level enterprise-oriented devices as well.
Our measured random and mixed workload performance really hurts the Ignite, though. If you want to gamble, we do know Phison is planning an update to improve random I/O, and that should facilitate better mixed workload performance. The company tells us to expect something in the mid-May time frame. However, we aren't certain how much the update will help an SSD with asynchronous flash, and we don't even know for sure whether Patriot will turn it into a new firmware for the Ignite.
To that end, I'm surprised that Patriot, Corsair and Mushkin all released products with the S10 so early in its life. The controller is stable and delivers impressive numbers. But early reviews won't accurately represent the products if they incorporate extra features and performance optimizations.