Solidigm client SSD fresh out of the box for longer

Solidigm has launched an updated and affordable gumstick-format client/gaming SSD with data-aware caching that preserves consistent fresh-out-of-the-box performance.

Update; pricing added at end of article. August 12, 2022.

The P41 Plus is a 512GB, 1TB or 2TB capacity drive in the M.2 2280 format with OEM-only 2230 and 2242 size options. It is a DRAM-less drive, relying on the host’s memory, built from 144-layer 3D NAND in QLC (4bits/cell) format, has an SLC cache, and a PCIe 4 x 4 lane NVMe interface. View it as a re-invented and refreshed Intel 670P product. Freely downloadable Synergy software is needed for the drive to operate at its full potential.

Solidigm P41 Plus

Sanjay Talreja, general manager, Client Products and Solutions Group at Solidigm, provided the announcement statement: “The Solidigm P41 Plus delivers performance that matters to end-users while delivering incredible value. Powered by innovative software, the Solidigm P41 Plus provides an exceptional combination of price and performance, in addition to a software-enhanced user experience, that makes our value proposition unique.” 

Le’’s get the performance basic numbers out of the way before looking at the wider picture.

  • Random read IOPS: 390,000 – 26 percent more than 670P
  • Random Write IOPS: 540,000 – 59 percent improvement over 670P
  • Sequential Read bandwidth: 4.125GB/sec – 15 percent better than 670P
  • Sequential write bandwidth: 3.325GB/sec – 23 percent more than 670P
  • Endurance: 512GB –200TBW, 1TB – 400TBW, 2TB – 800TBW (0.4 DWPD) with five-year warranty

These are not high PCIe 4 drive numbers, which tend to be around 1 million read IOPS, 700K write IOPS and 7GB/sec sequential read and write bandwidth. But this, Solidigm stresses, is a value SSD – remember the  “incredible value” comment above. Its performance is tuned for realistic mixed read/write workloads at low queue depths and it won’t drop off as the drive fills.

Why not?

Hinting caching

The key is the Synergy software running in the host PC, notebook or gaming system. Solidigm’s Deno Dean, product line manager for the Client Group, told us in a briefing that typical SSD controller firmware “has no knowledge or concept of file type. What type of file it is? How big is the file? Is it a one meg file or a ten gig file? Is it an mp3 file? Or is it a media file or a boot file? So it it takes all blocks with the same priority.”

This could result in the SLC cache getting filled up with, for example, an 8GB Blu Ray video download, and all the previous data evicted to QLC, where it takes longer to access. The Synergy software has AI attributes and continuously monitors the I/O stack to see what file types and size of data is being accessed on the drive. It then provides hints to the P41 Plus controller’s firmware about what data should be in the SLC cache to keep performance at an optimum level.

Avi Shetty, Solidigm’s senior director of Client Strategic Planning and Marketing, said “It gives the hints back to the firmware, asking the firmware: ‘Hey, retain this file in SLC. Do not move it to QLC. Or this file in the QLC area is important’. We move it back to SLC as a result.”

He said “All the important commonly used high priority workloads, as well as datasets from an end user, are always in SLC – and the beauty about this is it’s continuous learning. It’s not just a fixed lookup table. … it continuously monitors the user behavior and, as a result, adapts.”

And Solidigm is doing this optimization for mixed read/write performance at a queue depth of 1 or 2. Having inspected and run trace analysis on real-life SSD workloads, it found that this is the normal situation – not 100 percent reads or writes.

The net result is that the drive performs very nicely indeed in real life scenarios and Solidigm has the charts to prove it. Here is a PC Mark 10 full system drive benchmark chart: 

The P41 Plus is significantly faster than the earlier Intel 670P. Notice the additional performance jump when the Synergy software is used (rightmost bar). It’s seen in the next chart as well, which looks at Final Fantasy XIV game load time:

A “rhombus” chart looks at the mixed read/write IOPS performance as the drive fills up:

Without the Synergy-enhanced caching (gray line) we see the typical fresh-out-of-the-box performance hit as the drive becomes a quarter full and it then stays at that now sluggish level as the fill level increases. But when Synergy is used (purple line) the performance stays high until the drive is more than half full and then it tails off, creating a rhombus-like outline on the chart.

Solidigm is working with platform partners to bring the P41 Plus SSD to users. Shetty said “We are working with all our platform vendors in this area – AMD, Intel, Google – and, with all our major OEMs. Expect products, expect systems, notebooks, desktops, all-in-ones, two-in-ones, from our various OEMs in both commercial and consumer scenarios coming out pretty much at the end of Q3.”

Also, “By the end of August, early September, you will see the products available in all worldwide retailers, Newegg for example, and … regional partners. And then worldwide system integrators as well.” Shetty mentioned NZXT and Maingear as example SIs.

We can also expect new features to be added to Synergy over time as Solidigm’s software engineers develop it.

Comment

An extraordinary amount of work has gone into the making of this drive. It is no entry-level product based on a slowed-down mainstream product. Rather it is a carefully designed and optimized product for the value market segment, making it a much better than average cheap SSD. 

We think this Synergy software can be used for other SSDs in Solidigm’s range. The idea of shaping cache data set occupancy to match operating data characteristics and tuning it for specific users’ activities over time seems to us to have general relevance to all users. It’s not just for PC/notebook/gaming system users wanting a dependably consistent and affordable drive. 

Bootnote

The 2230 form factor will only be offered in the 512GB and the 1TB capacities. The Synergy software provides drive health check monitoring facilities as well as caching acceleration.

Solidigm said the P41 Plus will go on sale on August 22 with expected retail pricing as follows. 

  • 512GB : $49.99
  • 1024GB : $89.99
  • 2048GB : $169.99