Up until recently, Patriot Memory seemed to have moved back from the SSD scene and become focused on phone accessories and portable devices for their retail makeup. Today is a new day, however, and Patriot enters the SSD arena once again. Read on as we put the new 480GB Patriot Ignite to the test in our first review of a Patriot SSD for some time.
As with many third-party SSDs in previous years, Patriot’s drives have typically been SandForce driven. Recently, Phison has become recognized as a solid competitor in the SSD controller game through their offering of great performance at a decent price. The end result seems to be a much closer look at Phison by SSD manufacturers, Patriot included with the introduction of their new Ignite SSD family.
In fact, all three of Patriots latest SSDs utilize Phison controllers. Their lower tiered Blaze and Torch SSDs both utilize S9 controllers while the Ignite is powered by Phison’s latest S10 controller. This drive marks the second S10 powered SSD we have tested, thus providing us with an indicator of how it should perform as seen in our Corsair Neutron XT review. Let’s dive in and see how this SSD stacks up against the competition!
IGNITE SPECIFICATIONS, PRICING, AND AVAILABILITY
The Ignite is a SATA 6Gb/s SSD that comes in a 7mm 2.5″ form factor. As it is Patriot’s highest tier SSD, it only comes in two capacities, 480GB ($214.99) and 960GB ($404.99). If you are considering smaller capacities, you should consider Patriot’s Torch and Blaze SSD families. In terms of performance, the Ignite is rated for up to 560MB/s and 545MB/s sequential read and write speeds. 4K random read is rated for up to 80K IOPS and random write for up to 75K IOPS and there is no endurance rating provided, which is still typical of many consumer SSDs.
Feature wise, it supports TRIM, NCQ, and includes intelligent advanced wear-leveling and ECC Recovery at 115bits/2KB. It has AES 256-bit Encryption support. End-to-end data path protection (ETEP), Smart ECC and Smart Refresh are also standard. ETEP is typically a feature of enterprise SSDs that protects the whole data path within the SSD controller as the data travels from the host to the NAND.
Smart ECC implements multiple levels of ECC correction from read retry and BCH ECC parity to LDPC ECC and RAID ECC parity. Smart Refresh is a feature that monitors block ECC health and enables the controller to refresh blocks when necessary to improve data retention. Further, there is no DevSleep support contained in the Patriot Ignite family. To top everything off, the Ignite has a 2,000,000 hours MTBF rating and comes with a 3 year warranty.
PACKAGING AND COMPONENTS
When we first looked at the external packaging for the Patriot Ignite, it seemed odd that external packaging seemed to be a stark contrast to the SSDs design. While the drive is black and bright red, the packaging is of a dark blue and white theme. It soon hit me, however, that they are going after the American flag colors, red, white, and blue. The front of the package contains a window to view the drive within. The text on the front describes the size and interface of the drive, and also relates it as being both Mac and PC compatible. Documentation also mentions Linux compatibility as well.
On the packaging back, we see a duplication of the information on the front, along with acknowledgement that it comes with a 3 year warranty and was made in Taiwan. Once opened, we find the SSD and a single paper with most of the drive’s specifications and installation instructions.
The shell of the Patriot Ignite is made of aluminum and branding on the front depicts the SSDs name, the dot of the “I” being a flame design, following their SSD theme of fire. The back has the same info as the front with capacity and interface listed, as well as a warranty void warning.
This SSD is one of the hardest I have ever disassembled. More companies are utilizing clamping cases rather than ones that require screws to reduce cost, however, they usually still have screws to secure the PCB to one side of the casing. This isn’t the case for the Patriot Ignite. The Ignite’s case also secures the PCB, while it is a bit hard to take apart, this showing how a little bit of cleverness can aid in keeping costs down even more.
A quick overview of the PCB reveals a similar reference design that we have seen in the Neutron XT SSD that we reviewed last November, however, Patriot has gone with different NAND flash memory. On the front of the PCB, we find the Phison SSD controller, a DRAM chip, and four NAND packages. On the base, there are another four NAND packages.
The Phison PS3110-S10 is a 32-bit quad-core eight channel SATA III 6Gbps controller. Based on what we saw at CES, we should be seeing a lot more SSDs with this controller throughout the year.
Patriot acknowledged that, instead of the A19 toggle NAND we have seen used with this controller before, they decided to use Micron’s 16nm asynchronous MLC. This came to us as quite a surprise as the drive is their largest capacity and highest performing model. Asynchronous NAND typically doesn’t perform up to par compared to synchronous and toggle mode NAND. We will soon see how this choice of different NAND will really effect this drive’s performance or not in our testing!
There are eight MLC NAND packages in total, 64GB each. Once formatted the end user will have 447GB usable space. We can also see that they are using a 512MB NANYA DDR3 DRAM cache IC that runs at 1333MHz.
Good article, but I just noticed what I think is a typo from your spell checker.
“Alas, the Ignite also contains many error correcting features along with
end-to-end data path protection to aid in data reliability, and it does
have AES 256-bit encryption to top that off, unlike many others.”
From the context, I’d guess you meant “Also” instead of “Alas”. “Alas” implies regret, disappointment, sadness, and so on.
I wouldn’t agree with the reviewer’s statements about async NAND causing the lower bandwidth in the PCMark recovery phases, as its latency didn’t rebound properly either.
Async NAND normally has reduced peak read bandwidth vs sync, but in this case the Phison controller’s parallel channel operations or some form of interleaving along with those features avoid this as seen in the AS-SSD tests which can’t be fooled by the controller’s data compression acceleration.
The reduced bandwidth and increased latency in the recovery stages is most likely either a marginal TRIM implementation or a very lazy one to avoid big stutters / latency from the drive doing garbage collection, which instead appears to cause longer-term performance degradation. Since we never seen those numbers properly settle like the other drives, how long the TRIM process takes to fully complete is unknown. TRIM is drive-controlled vs OS controlled–the OS simply passes the command (if supported) and then the drive is on its own to do the TRIM processing at its leisure. In this case it seems like the drive’s firmware performs TRIM very slowly as a background process, which affects both drive response and peak bandwidth (despite it being a quad core controller).
Unfortunately Patriot is very bad for releasing SSD firmware updates in a timely matter (if at all). Despite the impressive ability of the Phison S10 controller to minimize the compromises of async vs sync flash, I’d buy this architecture from another manufacturer if another product comes along at a similar price until Patriot proves itself to be taking the SSD market seriously again. A classic example of Patriot’s behavior is that 3+ years later, the finally released firmware beyond the TRIM-broken 5.02 firmware (TRIM-fixed 5.04 was released and then pulled) for their Pyro Sandforce based drives a few months back. This is YEARS too late, and their site only provides a download for their Pyro drives; their other (higher end) Sandforce-based drives which should use the identical firmware release (Pyro SE and Wildfire) are no longer even listed in the downloads section. Apparently even spending a premium for Patriot’s higher end offerings means nothing to them, so I’ve basically blacklisted using them for any of my work until they prove themselves worthy of anything more than a plug-n-run-away install.
Silicon Power produces drives with Phison controllers (albeit randomly interchanged with SF-based drives under the same product name), and they have a much better track record for supporting them with firmware updates. If they produced a similar S10-based drive, that would be my recommendation.