CES 2014 SSD RoundUp and a Look at The Year Ahead

Having had a few days to sit back and reflect on this year’s CES experience, I would have to say that it was totally unexpected.  Certainly the number of companies showing off solid state devices has dropped significantly, but of those that remained, some very exciting prototypes were front and center.  If I were to look ahead just a bit, I might be confident in stating that performance will be the name of the game in the SSD industry, and this the result of our new found PCIe performance in form factors that would never have been imagined a year or so back.  Take the OWC Mac PCIe Custom SSD upgrade for example…


OWC 2013 MBA Upgrade

This SSD was not on display, but rather, in the pocket of OWC CEO Larry O’Connor who pulled it our for very few.  As an owner of a 2013 MBA, this SSD made me drool as it contained the LSI SandForce SF3700 processor and would be capable of speeds of 1.8GB/s.  In fact, this is the very first SSD that we have seen containing the SF3700 that would be capable of these incredible speeds, all others having the typical dual keyed M.2 connector limiting performance to 1GB/s or SATA 3.  Having said this, their is still a great deal of work to be done on this controller, one key issue being heat dissipation in systems such as the MBA.


Perhaps the most unexpected SSD device we found was the LaCie Little Big Disk which made its debut at Pepcom 2014, LaCie of course being recently acquired by Seagate.  The Little Big Disk is a ThunderBolt 2 device, capable of 20 Gb/s performance and contains 2 x Samsung XP941 PCIe M.2 SSDs in RAID 0 for performance just below 1.4GB/s.


The key to the LaCie Little Big Disk is that manipulating 4K media requires speeds in the area of 1.4GB/s which is what this is capable of.  The catch just may be what SSD we will see inside the Little Big Disk on release.  Availability of the Samsung XP941 seems to have hit a grinding halt post our review a few months back and word has it that Samsung is holding this SSD close for its present needs.  Check out our extensive XP941 PCIe M.2 reports as they are pretty darn exclusive still (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)!


Perhaps one of the key’s to Samsung success has been their positioning of components within competitor’s hardware, even before their own.  This was seen on Apple’s introduction of the 2013 MBA which was the world’s first ultra with PCIe performance that broke the SATA barrier.  Somewhat interesting perhaps, was the fact that the SSD used within these Ultras was none other than Apple’s arch rival Samsung, a business relationship that delayed Samsung’s own release of their ATIV Ultra with a PCIe SSD.  While the MBA has been out for some 6 months now, the first Samsung product displaying their own XP941 was seen at Pepcom Las Vegas 2014.

Samsung ATIV

I have to admit that I did get my wrists slapped for quickly instally ATTO after discovering the XP941 inside.   I was politely asked to mention that this was a pre-production display sample and much could happen before availability.  As a matter of fact, there has been absolutely no mention of the ATIV containing PCIe M.2 power prior to our discovery.  Here is a closer look at the performance:

Samsung ATTO


Not to be left out in the cold, Marvell also displayed somewhat of a surprise with the official unveiling of their PCIe M.2 SSD controller, named the Altaplus.  The Altaplus is a X4 lane PCIe SSD controller with a product number of 88SS9293.  Although displayed performing at 1.4GB/s, Marvell engineers were comfortable stating that this could be higher once their partners fine tuned this controller with their own firmware expertise.

Marvell PCIe Controller

Shown here, we see the Altaplus inside a new Sony VAIO, the same system in fact that is present using the Samsung XP941 SSD. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come.  In any case, here is a picture of the Altaplus’ speeds:

Altaplus Performance

One comment

  1. blank

    I’m sort of surprised at the low iops from the 9293…ofc it’s still pre-production.

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