SSD340: An Attractive Price, But Not Differentiated
In its high school yearbook, the SSD340 was probably voted "Most Likely to Blend In". Without much to set it apart from a pile of other drives in our lab, it'd be easy to overlook. There's just so much good storage out there.
I have to believe that most enthusiasts start their SSD search on the value end of the spectrum and most choose to stay there when it comes time to buy. In that way, the SSD340 lives its life in a target-rich environment. But it probably has a harder time closing the deal.
Still, armed with JMicron's JMF667H processor and economical L85A flash, the SSD340 does a lot with relatively modest firepower. As such, it does deserve a mention from the crowd of mainstream 256 GB-class SSDs swimming around the $120 price point. Crucial's M500 is the SSD340's closest competitor, which sucks for Transcend because the M500 has one feature the SSD340 lacks: TCG Opal 2.0 and Microsoft eDrive support for hardware-based encryption with Bitlocker. It's a small addition. But given that most performance metrics put the drives on equal footing, it tips the scales in Crucial's favor. Samsung's 250 GB 840 EVO is definitively faster. However, it's also about 15% more expensive. Instead, the SSD340 is going to appeal to folks out shopping for 128 GB drives, who decide to treat themselves to 256 GB for a few dollars more. The same applies to the M500, but that model might not be around much longer.
You do get one cool unique feature: a piece of software called SSD Scope, which is the Taiwanese firm's toolbox. With it, system images can be cloned, TRIM can be sent, firmware updated, and secure erasures performed. I like a good SSD management utility bundled with my SSDs, and Transcend's is surprisingly excellent.
There is one competitor I haven't mentioned yet, which could be a problem for Transcend, and that's PNY with its Optima 240 GB using the SM2246EN processor. We loved four-channel controller last year when we looked at Silicon Motion's reference platform. Now that products based on that chip and JMicron's JMF667H are available, the mainstream segment is loaded with compelling hardware.
With all of the talk about SATA Express and PCIe, it's easy for enthusiasts to adopt a "wait a little while longer" approach to storage. For most, however, that's not a great idea. There's a good chance you won't notice the difference between a fast SATA 6Gb/s SSD and something plugged into M.2. And this is from a guy who tests SSDs all day, every day.
And the SSD340 certainly is quick. But I can't say I envy Transcend right now. Selling drives at the value end of the market must be difficult. But thanks to cheap flash and solid third-party controllers like the JMF667H, those vendors without their own foundation of IP still stand a chance in the aftermarket.