Three components are needed for every SSD. The controller is perhaps the most talked-about piece. After all, the second element, firmware, sits on the controller side, often changing the way the processor behaves over a drive's life. The third element is flash memory, the puzzle piece responsible for holding your data. Sometimes a model will launch with one type of flash, only to be updated with new NAND as the older technology becomes obsolete.
Today we're testing three flash types on the same controller and same generation of programming. For the most part, flash is the variable. The two other significant components that affect performance are held equal. Kinda makes for a dreary-sounding article, right? To the contrary, aside from Samsung's drives, any of the SSDs you consider for the rest of 2015 and early 2016 will use the flash we're covering. And just to be certain we hit all of the important angles, we're testing across three popular capacities: 256GB, 512GB and 1TB.
You may wonder just how much difference flash makes in an SSD. That's what we're going to demonstrate. Factors like write endurance need to be considered, and we usually talk about that in product reviews since the variables tend to change over time (think increased yields and refinements to the manufacturing process). Price also plays a role. At this year's Computex, we were told that Toshiba A19 MLC currently costs around 30% more than Micron's L95B (16nm MLC). When Micron shifts production over to 3D at the end of 2015, that could change. When Micron moved to 20nm from 25nm, a shortage increased NAND spot prices and retail drive prices increased for a few months. Flash is the most expensive component in client SSDs, so it's important for us to keep a watchful eye on trends and new technology as it moves into products you may want to purchase.