In examining the flash industry over the past eight years, I don’t think many would argue that there has been insurmountable growth, paired with enough growing pains and obstacles along the way to frustrate even the best in the business. Flash technology has grown so fast that today it would be seemingly impossible to find anyone not tied to flash in some way. Within the business, you could harness exabytes of differing opinions yet, in this lies one thing all would agree upon; single level cell (SLC) flash reigns supreme. It is the best. If you are looking for endurance, it is untouchable. Our report of the Mach Xtreme MX-ES Ultra Flash Drive speaks to the first SLC flash drive that we have reviewed and, at least for those new to an understanding of flash memory, promises to provide us with a very educational report.
Today’s flash products contain SLC (single level cell), MLC (multi level Cell), or TLC (triple level cell memory). In digital storage, the smallest element of storage is the bit. SLC can store 1-bit. MLC can store 2-bits and TLC can store 3-bits. SLC memory is capable of higher performance, higher endurance, and lower power usage, but unfortunately is significantly more costly than MLC, just as MLC is significantly more costly than TLC memory. It was only a few years ago that the storage world believed the move from SLC to MLC memory would mean the failure of the industry, whereas today, I would have no hesitation to guess that TLC flash will take over the industry within the next year or so. From a consumer retail perspective, it is of very low value in comparison, has been proven reliable, is high performing and also allows much greater storage in a significantly smaller space.
The Mach Xtreme MX-ES Ultra is a USB 3.0 metal encased flash drive, and is one of only a few flash drives available with a 5 year warranty. Its performance is listed at 210MB/s read and write data transfer speeds.
Power listings also detail the MX-ES Ultra as consuming 0.6W idle and up to 1.8W active. Mach Xtreme is the only company that we are aware of to market a SLC flash (or pen) drive and the MX-ES Ultra is their second, building upon their former generation MX-ES flash drive series. There is a definite void in the industry for SLC flash drives and this is because of the high cost to bring them to market.
Pricing for the MX-ES Ultra can be found right now at $39 (16GB), $61 (32GB) and $114 (64GB) which is roughly $2/GB, and actually cheaper than we might have expected for the price of SLC memory. Nevertheless, these prices are higher than a typical flash drive and with good reason; it is professional grade when considering performance, reliability and endurance.
Let’s take a look at a few benchmarks…