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Transcend SSD370 Review

Transcend's premium SSD offering consists of a custom Silicon Motion controller that enables encryption and DEVSLP, but questionable flash makes it a poor choice.

Final Thoughts

Transcend uses the word "premium" next to the SSD370 product name in a number of places on the company's website. We really have to question that claim in all aspects of this product, starting with the controller. The SiliconMotion SM2246EN was designed as an entry-level to mainstream component, at best. Every other company using the four-channel SM2246EN controller in a product places it at the lowest client SSD tier. Some companies even use the controller in embedded applications like digital signage, machinery storage and so on. The SM2246EN is a solid, reliable controller, but calling it a "premium" component is a stretch.

Now let's move on to the flash, where premium could only mean Tier 1 Grade A NAND from reputable SSD manufacturers. The 256GB drive we received did arrive with genuine Micron flash, but the 512GB model contained less-desirable SpecTek flash. This is the first time a company sent a client SSD to me with this flash for review, but we do know that other companies have shipped it in other retail drives. It's funny how that works: Reviewers get the good stuff, but customers get whatever is obtainable at the time.

It has become common for companies to change the build of materials on NAND flash, and even do a complete controller swap. I've broken several stories about it in the past, from synchronous to asynchronous flash and SiliconMotion controllers to older SandForce controllers. Every time, we've heard the same excuse: The build of materials is not guaranteed, and end users will not notice the difference. If that is the case, then why do reviewers get the premium parts 99 percent of the time, and end users get the slower or less-reliable parts?

Our sample drives were shipped well after the initial launch, and in OEM-style packaging. We're confident this represents what Transcend is shipping at this time. Like other nonfab companies that buy NAND on the spot market, whatever is available and within budget is used to make the products.

Fab companies like Samsung, Intel, Micron, SanDisk and Toshiba are always reminding reviewers that they make the flash and always have access to the best flash coming from the factories. Sometimes, it's easy to forget how important that is, since we are almost always given sample drives with premium NAND, DRAM and other components. With SSD prices getting lower and lower, the only way to ensure you get Grade A components in your low-cost SSD is to buy from a NAND-flash manufacturer like Samsung or Crucial.

That doesn't mean the SpecTek flash isn't SSD grade. The -AL in the model number correlates to SpecTek's highest-quality flash, per a document we found on the company's website. We reached out to a few SSD product managers and engineers without telling them the circumstances of our questioning. None said they would use any SpecTek flash in a retail product designed for client use. One engineer even said he would never use it in his own computer system. I pressed further to ask if this flash would be viable for other uses, like digital signage, where most of the data is read and very little write activities take place. All of the people I spoke with said digital signage was an appropriate application.

The Transcend SSD370 scales a wide range of capacity sizes, from 32GB to 1TB. Given the price and limited use, we couldn't recommend the two smallest capacities for anything remotely like what our readers use storage for. The smaller products should be limited to embedded use. Given the questionable flash used in the larger models and no guarantee of getting genuine Micron flash, the others can stay there as well.

Before I conclude, I would like to make a note about the different models. One drive is brushed aluminum, and the other is black plastic. If I hadn't spotted the small difference in the part number on a reseller's site, we wouldn't even know about the difference. Transcend uses the same product page for both models and doesn't do much to educate customers (or reviewers) about the differences. The situation is hokey, at best, to put it nicely.


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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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  • synphul
    Good info to have. More problematic than the confusing product model numbers correlating to plastic vs aluminum bodies I think are the differences in the internals. I'm not sure how this is considered proper practice since changing the controller and the nand flash is basically selling a different quality drive even if the specs are loosely similar. Makes people like myself wonder how they can get away with this and yet nvidia had to answer to a class action lawsuit over the layout of their vram when in fact they did have the full 4gb of vram on the card. It just reeks of bait and switch. Especially when as mentioned reviewers are often given cherry picked units that don't necessarily reflect the common resale market most consumers will be met with.

    It would be nice to see manufacturers give review sites a voucher instead, rather than sending a unit directly for testing. Good for 1 purchase of the part slated for review from the retailer of their choice to ensure it's random and more indicative of the lottery a consumer would face. That is so long as they were confident that a random off the shelf unit would fairly represent their products rather than one specially set aside for review.

    It may not seem like such a big deal but with the guts swapped out for lower cost and potentially lower quality alternatives that's an issue. I wouldn't be happy purchasing a top tier tool set only to find out it included a number of budget store brand replacements in lieu of what I paid for just because it's 'basically' the same. In just about any other scenario this would create great backlash. Why is it just accepted as common practice in the form of ssd drives? Not that I'm sue happy or think lawsuits are the solution in an attempt for gains but some sort of reassurance that the customer is getting what they're told they're buying rather than sold on a song and given something entirely different.
    Reply
  • crabdog
    +1 for this review. It's nice to see someone report the truth and their real concerns without sugar coating.
    Reply
  • Bannereus
    good to see that not every product is top of the line, gives meaning to those that earn top recommendations

    but please fix Section 5. "Test PERIMETERS ..."
    Reply
  • Wisecracker
    ""Paralysis by Over-Analysis""
    (leads to ridiculous conclusions)

    The real-world tests show there is generally one percent or less difference between the drives tested, so the bottom line is ...

    buy whatever SSD (with a 3-yr warranty) that is on sale.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Hey, Kingston did it, and they got off well enough
    Reply
  • fudgecakes99
    i bought one for 160 from amazon 512gb's, on sale. Have yet to boot it as skylate 6700k has yet to be released in america, from the charts i dont' see a major difference save about 70-90 mb's write difference, as someone moving up from a 5200rpm hdd i expect great things.
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    Kingston's V300 went from the top ten selling SSDs on Amazon to off of the list when the info was picked up by review site news teams.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    Disappointing to see price-point win over quality... yet again.

    Manufacturers have been sending cherry-picked "review" units of products for decades, nothing new there... sadly it's to get the best reviews possible while hoping consumers won't be able to tell the difference in the actual product.

    The "product specification may change" disclaimer has been around for a while. Sometimes it is used due to certain components going away, becoming too expensive (for the price point the bean counters and marketing decide on), or (less seen as it means they care about the product and reputation) quality goes south. Sadly it is more often abused just to make sure tier-1/top tier executives get their (large as they can get away with) bonus checks.
    Reply
  • kalmquist
    The Crucial BX100 line uses the same controller as the Transcend SSD370. I've heard no reports of Crucial using cut-rate NAND, and I wouldn't be expect them to since Cruical (aka Micron) makes its own NAND. Recently, prices have been lower for the BX100 than the SSD370. It seems like the BX100 would be a better option for anyone who might consider an SSD370.
    Reply
  • Dark Falz
    I got a 256 and 512 about a year ago, main concern was price. I wanted the MX100 instead but couldn't find any in stock at the time. Have served me fine but definitely weren't worth the money. Has received no Firwmare updates/improvements (which I suppose is not always necessarily a bad thing, look at the 840). The plastic housing doesn't bother me except for the fact there's no temperature sensor in the SMART data, so I can't tell how warm it gets. Will probably upgrade to a 1 or 2 TB when they become more affordable and put this on my laptop instead. It performs much like any other SSD but disappointing to see it fare so badly in the theoreticals (when I bought it, there were not many reviews).
    Reply