Like it or not, DRAMless SSDs are here to stay, but over time they will get better. These products will move closer to the mainstream as the technology evolves. NVMe technology will help, and advanced features built into Windows 10 will work in conjunction with more advanced DRAMless controllers.
The two Maxiotek MK8115 SSDs outperformed the two other DRAMless products we tested with the same capacity. JMicron brought the first affordable DRAMless consumer SSD to market, so it's fitting that the company's first product after a reboot is also a DRAMless design. A lot has changed in nearly a decade, but here we are with the same talking points. Single-Level Cell (SLC) memory gave way to MLC nearly ten years ago, and now we're on the verge of TLC replacing MLC. We grumbled about MLC then, and we grumble about TLC now. In time TLC technology will improve with better controllers, higher bandwidth interfaces, and endurance-increasing technology improvements. That's when we will grumble about Quad-Level Cell (QLC) NAND!
The new Maxiotek MK8115 controller would be extremely popular if the SSD market weren't suffering a shortage due to the 3D NAND transition. That wouldn't come from its performance or any visual appeal. It would simply be so cheap you couldn't turn it down. If we follow the trend line before the shortage, entry-level 512GB class products would currently cost less than $90. Even with the shortage, we've found some DRAMless 512GB SSDs that sell for roughly $150. That's still palatable, but $80 would be tasty.
We knew the DRAMless category was coming for several years. The purpose of DRAMless SSDs is to change the OEM market by injecting flash into most of the new PCs on the market. The drives are here, but no one could foresee the turbulent flash market. Flash was close to taking over.
Samsung will ramp up 3D NAND production soon as its new fab comes online to churn out 64-layer NAND. That will only get us back to where we were before the shortage. We will have to wait until 2018 to get back on track with annual price reductions. This category will be stagnant until there is ample NAND flash to throw at entry-level products. There will be some flow, like the Maxiotek MK8115 coming to market, but for the most part, these products don't offer enough cost savings due to the inflated cost of flash.
DRAMless products will be ready when flash becomes affordable again. The Maxiotek MK8115 is the fastest DRAMless controller we've tested, but it's still short of entry-level DRAM-based products. There just isn't enough of a price difference currently to take DRAMless SSDs seriously as an aftermarket upgrade.
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