Mushkin this week said that it had started shipments of its Helix-L SSDs that promise to combine high performance and relatively low prices. The drives use Silicon Motion’s entry-level SM2263XT controller as well as 3D TLC memory.

Mushkin’s Helix-L SSDs are based on Silicon Motion’s SM2263XT controller that is paired with 250 GB, 500 GB, or 1 TB of usable 3D TLC NAND flash memory from an unknown maker. The M.2-2280 drives feature a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, and to save money do not use DRAM cache, as with other cheaper drives. When it comes to performance, the manufacturer says that the SSDs are capable of up to 2.1 GB/s sequential read speed as well as up to 1.7 GB/s sequential write speed, which looks rather good. As for random performance numbers, we are talking about the drives rated for up to 240K/260K random read/write IOPS.

Moving on to the endurance of the Helix-L SSDs, the 250 GB version is rated for 150 TBW (TB Written), while the higher-capacity 500 GB and 960 GB models are rated for 300 and 600 TBW, respectively. These are slightly below TBW ratings of more expensive SSDs based on SMI’s more advanced SM2262EN, which is perfectly reasonable. Meanwhile, Mushkin's Helix-L drives are rated for 1.5 million hours MTBF.

General Specifications of Mushkin's Helix-L SSDs
Capacity 250 GB 500 GB 1 TB
Controller Silicon Motion SM2263XT
Form-Factor, Interface M.2-2280, PCIe 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.3
Sequential Read 2010 MB/s 2105 MB/s 2110 MB/s
Sequential Write 1250 MB/s 1670 MB/s 1700 MB/s
Random Read IOPS 200K IOPS 240K IOPS 240K IOPS
Random Write IOPS 260K IOPS 260K IOPS 260K IOPS
Pseudo-SLC Caching Supported
DRAM Buffer No
TCG Opal Encryption No
Power Management L1.2 power mode support for ultra-low power consumption
Idle: 0.3 W
Active: 5.3 W
Warranty 3 years
MTBF 1,500,000 hours
TBW 150 TB 300 TB 600 TB
Additional Information Link
Launch Price ~$41 ~$63 ~$118

Mushkin’s Helix-L SSDs are already available in the US and will shortly be on sale in other regions. Large retailers like Amazon sell the 250 GB version for $40.99, the 500 GB model is available for $62.99, whereas the 1 TB SKU is priced at $117.99.

Related Reading

Source: Mushkin

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  • The Chill Blueberry - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    Will PCIe 4.0 accelerate such drives or the interface isn't a bottleneck right now anyway?
  • shabby - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    Not these ones, these are the bottom of the barrel ssd's. Im sure some of the samsung ones might go post 3.2gb/sec.
  • Billy Tallis - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    PCIe 4.0 x4 will only really help 8-channel controllers (SM2263XT is four channels), and only if there's plenty of NAND to keep all of those channels busy. There's some variation in how fast the different brands of NAND are, but generally: 1TB drives will show some improvement from PCIe 4.0, but you'll need 2TB to max out what the controller is capable of. And first-gen PCIe 4.0 SSD controllers probably won't be able to come close to saturating that PCIe link.
  • GreenReaper - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    Don't forget that latency may improve as well as capacity - the signalling rate increases, after all. Of course the controller has to support it to start with.
  • Billy Tallis - Wednesday, May 22, 2019 - link

    Any latency improvement would be on a timescale too small to matter for NVMe devices. I don't think the PCIe link itself is a meaningful contributor to latency for anything more complex than mapped DRAM (eg. NVMe CMB).
  • lightningz71 - Thursday, May 23, 2019 - link

    I do expect that the lower end NVMe drives, once converted to PCIe 4.0 x 4 controller chips, will show a significant improvement in certain areas of performance. One of the issue for the low end drives that have no local RAM cache is that they typically used host RAM for indexing and light caching. Coupling this, many of those controllers were only 2x. That's a significant bottleneck in performance there. going to 4v PCIe 4 should make that setup perform much more like a local DRAM cache for the drive. The question will be, what makes for a less expensive to manufacture drive? A drive with an updated controller and no DRAM cache, or a drive with an older controller that DOES have a local DRAM cache?
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, May 23, 2019 - link

    NVMe Host Memory Buffer is used exclusively for caching mapping tables, not user data. Most drives use 20-40MB of HMB, and only make tiny transfers between that cache and the SSD as part of looking up an address or making an update to the cache. This is not bandwidth limited in any way, and the only time it's on the critical path for end-user performance is when the extremely quick HMB lookup precedes a NAND read that will take a few orders of magnitude longer than the HMB lookup. PCIe 4.0 will not help here, because PCIe 3.0 x2 isn't the bottleneck.
  • Valantar - Thursday, May 23, 2019 - link

    Does this support HMB? I would hope so, but IMO it's important to point out if it doesnt.
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, May 23, 2019 - link

    The WD Blue SN500 and its OEM counterpart are the only DRAMless NVMe SSDs I'm aware of that do not use HMB.
  • dromoxen - Thursday, May 23, 2019 - link

    Are these launch prices ( higher) and whats a good indication of where they could sell at in 2-3 months ? (1tb or £p/Gb).
    seem very reasonable

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