The ugly truth is that the SSD market has been tough for almost all the typical PC component vendors lately. With Samsung, SanDisk, and Micron/Crucial being serious about the client market, it's not easy for other companies to find a way to provide any substantial advantage over the big brands. The fab owners will always enjoy a cost advantage, which is why we have seen a few companies backing off from the market and many more for whom SSDs have become just another series in the pool of products. 

This is what could be said to have happened at Corsair. While the company has never been super aggressive on the SSD side, the past year or so has been very quiet. There have been a couple of new releases, such as the Force LS and Force LX, but nothing close to the exclusive deal Corsair scored with Link A Media (LAMD) two years ago.

One way to perceive whether a company is serious about a specific model is with the media sampling process. If there is no embargo and only one capacity is available for review, then historically the product has not been a substantial or interesting release. If, on the other hand, there is an official release date and the manufacturer samples several of the available capacities, then this can be a sign that the product might be a bit more special. This is never a hard and fast rule, and it is always welcome to be surprised.

From the title, the Neutron XT from Corsair is a member of the latter case. This is the first time Corsair has offered us the full set of drives since the original Neutron and Neutron GTX, and the Neutron XT is the first drive to ship with Phison's new S10 controller.

Phison actually sent us reference design samples of the S10 prior to Corsair, but we were asked to review the Neutron XT first (as Corsair is a household name while Phison is pretty much the opposite). However, Phison asked us to save the technical analysis of the controller and its architecture for the separate reference design article, so I'll keep to the basic details for now; stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of the S10 in the next two weeks.

The biggest change in the S10 compared to the S8 is the upgrade to a quad-core CPU architecture. Three of the cores are dedicated to internal flash management (garbage collection, wear-leveling etc.), whereas one will handle the host operations. The NAND channel count remains at eight like in the S8, which seems to have become the standard for client-grade controllers. Capacity support goes as high as 2TB and the S10 design can also support TLC NAND, although that is not fully ready yet.

Corsair Neutron XT Specifications
Capacity 240GB 480GB 960GB
Controller Phison PS3110-S10
NAND Toshiba A19nm MLC
NAND Density 64 Gbit per Die 128 Gbit per Die
Sequential Read Up to 560MB/s
Sequential Write Up to 540MB/s
4KB Random Read Up to 100K IOPS
4KB Random Write Up to 90K IOPS
Encryption N/A
Warranty Five years
Availability December

EDIT: Corsair had an error in the reviewer's guide, so the warranty is actually five years similar to the original Neutron series.

Corsair is offering the Neutron XT in three capacities: 240GB, 480GB and 960GB. The Neutron brand has always been more of a high-end enthusiast/gamer brand, so it makes sense to skip the 120GB model because the majority of the target population will be aiming at 240GB at a minimum.

On the NAND front Corsair is using Toshiba's A19nm MLC NAND. The 240GB and 480GB models are equipped with 64Gbit dies to provide higher parallelism and performance, whereas the 960GB model has enough NAND on its own to provide the necessary parallelism and performance with a 128Gbit die.

Like many platforms on the market, the S10 features a page-level parity scheme that Phison calls 'Page RAID ECC Parity' to protect against NAND failures. Unfortunately Phison couldn't disclose the parity ratio (i.e. how much NAND is dedicated to parity), which makes calculating the exact over-provisioning impossible, but I was told that the feature only provides page-level protection and can't tolerate a full block or die failure. 

Corsair is not announcing pricing yet because the drive is not officially launching until early December, which would subject the prices to fluctuation. However, I'll make sure to update this article with the pricing information once that becomes available. 

Test Systems

For AnandTech Storage Benches, performance consistency, random and sequential performance, performance vs transfer size and load power consumption we use the following system:

CPU Intel Core i5-2500K running at 3.3GHz (Turbo & EIST enabled)
Motherboard ASRock Z68 Pro3
Chipset Intel Z68
Chipset Drivers Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel RST 10.2
Memory G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-1600 4 x 8GB (9-9-9-24)
Video Card Palit GeForce GTX 770 JetStream 2GB GDDR5 (1150MHz core clock; 3505MHz GDDR5 effective)
Video Drivers NVIDIA GeForce 332.21 WHQL
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1080
OS Windows 7 x64

Thanks to G.Skill for the RipjawsX 32GB DDR3 DRAM kit

For slumber power testing we used a different system:

CPU Intel Core i7-4770K running at 3.3GHz (Turbo & EIST enabled, C-states disabled)
Motherboard ASUS Z87 Deluxe (BIOS 1707)
Chipset Intel Z87
Chipset Drivers Intel 9.4.0.1026 + Intel RST 12.9
Memory Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 2x8GB (9-10-9-27 2T)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
Graphics Drivers 15.33.8.64.3345
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1080
OS Windows 7 x64
Performance Consistency & TRIM Validation
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  • hojnikb - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    At this point, we have a better chance of finding Loch Ness Monster than getting sf3700 :) Reply
  • eddieobscurant - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    epic !!! Reply
  • glugglug - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    Any endurance testing done?

    I have a Neutron 512GB (not GTX) and am pretty disppointed at what the wear leveling indicator from SMART data is telling me..... it looks like the 512GB Neutron has an expected write endurance of only 100TB?
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    I haven't done any endurance testing, but Corsair is rating the Neutron XT at 124TB (according to The Tech Report). Note that the SMART data isn't usually an indication of an expected failure as the threshold has been set by the manufacturer for warranty reasons, so they can determine whether you've exceeded the endurance rating. In that light 100TB is pretty good because most drives are rated at around 70TB or so. Reply
  • Joepublic2 - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    I'm disappointed to see them dropping the 5 year warranty on the Neutron line. I bought a Neutron and a Neutron GTX for myself and a few dozen for various clients primarily due to the 5 year warranty. Expected endurance figures mean nothing to me as a user if the company isn't willing to back it up with a appropriate warranty. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - link

    Actually, there was an error in the reviewer's guide, so the warranty is indeed 5 years similar to the original Neutron series. I've updated the article as well. Reply
  • glugglug - Sunday, November 23, 2014 - link

    That is very reassuring.

    One other disturbing thing is the raw read error rate reported in SMART. It starts out looking good after a cold boot, then gradually drops to a value of "1" as the system gets a higher uptime. I think this is actually calculated wrong, being a direct mapping from the raw value, which is always identical to the "Soft ECC Correction Rate" raw value (sitting at ~250,000 after about a month of uptime), instead of being calculated based on the rate of change in that raw value like its supposed to be. Corsair SSD Toolbox labels that counter as "informational only", while CrystalDiskInfo, Stablebit Scanner, & other tools complain when the nominal value crosses the apparent manufacturer suggested threshold of "6" after a week or so.

    Restarting Windows does NOT reset the counter -- it gets reset only by a cold boot.
    Reply
  • extide - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    That wear leveling indicator has very little to do with ACTUAL flash lifetime. It is mostly to do with giving the manufacturer the ability to determine when warranty has expired. Reply
  • sonicmerlin - Monday, November 17, 2014 - link

    It's really kinda cool these things have quad core processors now.

    On a side note, does anyone know when someone other than Samsung is going to release 3D NAND?
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - link

    IMFT (i.e. Micron and Intel) is next year and so is SK Hynix. Toshiba/SanDisk is H1'16. Reply

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