Today’s review is on the Super Talent RC8 50 GB USB Flash Drive which just may be the most powerful flash drive on the planet. Who would expect more from a ‘SandForce Driven’ product pushing 8 channels of NAND flash memory?
Lets not confuse things though as this USB 3.0 flash drive is a solid state drive through and through. We hope that the tale told by the RC8 in our report will, not only teach you a thing or two about SSDs but also, provide you with a glimpse of the RC8s capabilities in the near future.
The earliest mention that we can recall of a ‘SandForce Driven’ USB 3.0 flash drive was during our meeting with Peter Carcione, Super Talents Director of Marketing, at CES in Las Vegas. Through many conversations prior to this meet, an idea had evolved where a flash drive could contain a persons complete computing environment and be booted off of virtually any computer. Imagine taking your complete home computer with you on a flash drive and booting that exact system from any computer. Peter then pulled out the first prototype RC8 of the Express RC8 for a few quick shots.
From there, we again met in Computex, Taipei, where I was able to test the new RC8 first hand, these tests published in our Computex Summary which detailed our meet with Super Talent. Our review of the RC8 today coincides with public availability of the Super Talent RC8 USB 3.0 (SF-1200) making it the fastest publicly available flash drive to date.
Super Talent’s USB 3.0 Express RC8 flash drive is available in capacities of 25, 50 and 100GB and pricing is not for the faint of heart as SuperBiz lists them at $109.99, 194.99 and $305.99 respectively. There is no mistaking the fact that these are premium flash drives meant for those looking to transfer data at stealth speeds and very securely. Specifications list transfer speeds at 270MB/s read and 220MB/s write when plugged into a USB 3.0 port and even use in a USB 2.0 port is very fast at 42MB/s read and 32MB/s write as we saw at Computex. It’s good to see the warranty on the RC8 to be an industry leading 5 years.
The heart of the RC8 is powered by none other than the eight channel SandForce SF-1200 processor which addresses all eight channels, if you would believe it, through 4 modules of NAND Flash memory. This is a bit unusual as industry standards ‘usually’ describe a NAND flash chip as being single channel but this NAND is very special, thanks to the hard work of Super Talent engineers. The base memory is Micron 25nm asynchronous 8GB NAND flash memory of which we can see two modules on each side of the printed circuit board (PCB).
Each module is actually a ‘dual die’ configuration which means that two pieces of 8GB Micron NAND flash memory are stacked on top of each other with the end product being a single 16GB dual channel NAND flash memory chip. The RAW capacity of the RC8 flash drive is 64GB (4×16), however, SandForce utilizes 14GB for over provisioning as well as their firmware needs.
I am no doubt going to be condemned by my peers for providing such a ‘basic’ view while attempting to explain ‘channels’ in very laymen terms, however, I believe it is important to understand the workings of a SSD (which this is) in order to grasp how such high transfer speeds are accomplished. This can’t be done without a trip to the start where we compare the way that the hard drive and SSD transport data. As we all know, the hard drive contains a platter that spins at an extremely high rate of speed and information is moved to or from the platter in blocks, much like movers moving one into or out of a home.
This process can be very taxing on the hard drive as a large file mandates several passes in order to store or retrieve the data. Decrease in performance during this process becomes very apparent as can be seen in the HDTune Pro comparison of the HDD and SSD in one of our earliest reports. The SSD, on the other hand, has no mechanical parts and moves information in a single flow as oil would travel through a pipeline. In the data retrieval process for instance, an SSD finds and retrieves it in one ‘swoop’ whereas the hard drive must locate, move the arm into position, wait for the disk to spin to the right spot pick up a block of information, drop it off and then continue to repeat this process until the entire file is retrieved.
Getting back to the SSD, one may hear that it is a 4 or 8 channel SSD, the meaning of this actually being two-fold. First, the SF-1200 processor is an eight channel processor and is capable of moving information to or from the NAND flash memory through eight different channels (or pipelines) at the same time. Secondly, there must be eight channels afforded by the NAND flash memory in order for the processor to address its full complement. Remember, an SSD has no moving parts, unlike the hard drive, and the information is transferred back and forth in a steady flow. In even simpler terms, its quicker to get something moved when it can be moved simultaneously by eight workers vice four, or even one as we would see in a hard drive.
A bit amusingly is the fact that you have unknowingly learned the basics of RAID in that last sentence without even realizing it. Take a look at Rule # 1 in our article, ‘RAID 0 and The SSD – Simple To Build and Lightning Fast‘.