Abundant flash availability, affordably-priced processors and a growing market are encouraging more companies to jump into the SSD segment. Meanwhile, oversupply and low manufacturing costs in Asia make solid-state storage less expensive. Today we're looking at a result of those forces in the form of an entry-level drive from a brand you've never heard of.
Tigo is a division of Tektronix, which was founded in 2000. By 2004, it had become China's largest supplier of memory. Many of the company's products were sold to OEMs and later re-branded. In 2005, Tektronix launched a house brand, Kingtiger, to serve the growing DIY market in Hong Kong and China. In 2011, Kingtiger was re-named Tigo, making it the second-largest supplier of memory products in China and one of the top eight memory suppliers by revenue worldwide in 2013.
Our Tigo sample was hand delivered to us at CES by a company with its own components inside the drive. As far as we know, this model isn't sold in America or Europe yet. But the SSD does allow us to test Silicon Motion's latest SM2256 firmware with SK Hynix's three-bit-per-cell flash.
Tigo offers the T-One in at a single capacity point: 240GB. It features a Silicon Motion SM2256 controller designed specifically for use with TLC flash, enabling advanced LDPC (error-correction) technology to increase the useful life of low-endurance NAND. You can read more about the SM2256 in our deep dive.
The T-One also uses SK hynix's TLC flash. For years, we rarely found the company's memory on non-hynix SSDs. Over the last six months, however, we've seen a lot more drives shipping with SK hynix NAND. It recently increased flash output and plans to bolster capacity over the next several years. In fact, SK hynix has an advanced NAND factory under construction in South Korea now.
Tigo claims the T-One delivers up to 550 MB/s of sequential reads and 480 MB/s of sequential writes. This nearly matches other drives we've tested based on the same SMI SM2256 processor. The performance differences on paper typically come down to how each company tests to generate their marketing numbers.
Pricing, Warranty And Accessories
Unit price is what makes the T-One 240GB special. We found the drive available in China for 399 yuan. That comes out to $61 U.S, which is a bit lower than what you'd find something comparable for in North America or Europe.
Tigo backs its T-One with a three-year warranty, but specifies an endurance rating of just 76 TBW. This is a very small value for a high-capacity SSD, though to be fair it matches Samsung's 250GB 850 EVO. Then again, none of the SM2256-controlled products we've tested so far have an explicit terabyte-written endurance rating.
The T-One ships as a bare drive in a blister pack. We didn't find any software packages available on the company's website.
A Closer Look
It's amazing to see how much SSD packaging has changed in just a few years. Early drives came with extravagant bundles that included branded screwdrivers, SATA and power cable adapters, and complementary software. Now that the focus has changed from high performance to low cost, SSDs often ship in the same plastic common to SD cards.
The back of Tigo's retail-friendly package lists a few specifications and features.
The two-sided card inside has the paper warranty statement and a quality control tag. Aside from the actual SSD, that's the only accessory you get.
The T-One 240GB's chassis isn't notable in any way aside from the hologram that shows this is a genuine Tigo product.
A 7mm enclosure ensures the T-One fits in notebooks that require the thinner form factor. In the future, M.2 will replace 2.5" SSDs. But for now, the two configurations coexist.
Inside, we find the controller paired with Samsung DRAM and eight SK hynix 16nm TLC flash packages. Even more interesting is the printed circuit board that uses metal tabs to hold the drive in place. This is the same design found on most Phison-based SSDs dating back to the S5 controller. We suspect it reduces manufacturing costs because the entire chassis is made from thin, stamped metal and doesn't require screws to keep the PCB secure.
There are a number of components on the board that we don't normally see on low-cost SSDs. The drive can detect power loss events, which accounts for many of the extra surface-mount components.
The 16nm SK hynix TLC flash is still fairly uncommon in the wild. In the past, products designed for this market would ship with memory from Micron, and higher-cost models would include Toshiba's Toggle-mode flash. Now that SK hynix is willing to sell NAND to third-party manufacturers, the availability of cheap flash is on the rise.