New USB And NVMe SSD Controllers

At CES 2021, Phison gave us the standard updates on their SSD controller roadmap. Essentially the most vital new merchandise coming this yr are a pair of USB flash drive controllers for high-end transportable SSDs, designed to compete towards present options that mix a USB to NVMe bridge chip with an ordinary NVMe SSD controller. Phison can also be planning to introduce a brand new entry-level DRAMless NVMe SSD controller later this yr.

Phison U17 and U18 USB 3.2 SSD Controllers

For transportable SSDs, Phison is introducing the U17 and U18 controllers. The U17 makes use of a USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 (10Gb/s) host interface and a two-channel NAND interface working at as much as 1200 MT/s. The U18 doubles these: USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gb/s) and a four-channel NAND interface. The efficiency specs could look lackluster in comparison with Phison’s NVMe SSD controllers, however they’re fairly near saturating what their respective USB host interfaces can deal with, and efficiency shall be aggressive with NVMe+USB bridge primarily based transportable SSDs. Nevertheless, the U17 and U18 can have a big energy effectivity benefit, decrease value and smaller PCB footprint than present transportable SSDs. Phison will even be offering TCG Opal encryption assist on the U18, enabling a degree of safety they are saying is unattainable to realize with NVMe+USB bridge options.

Phison USB 3.2 SSD Controller Comparsion


Host Interface USB 3.2 Gen2x1 USB 3.2 Gen2x2
NAND Interface 2ch, 1200 MT/s 4ch, 1200 MT/s
Max Capability 1 TB 4 TB
Error Correction 4th Gen LDPC
TCG Opal Help No Sure
Sequential Learn 1000 MB/s 1900 MB/s
Sequential Write 800 MB/s 1700 MB/s
4KB Random Learn (TLC) 185 MB/s 260 MB/s
4KB Random Write (TLC) 260 MB/s 330 MB/s

Phison expects to complete qualification of the U17 and U18 controllers later this month. We’re hoping to get a efficiency preview shortly thereafter by testing their reference designs, and retail merchandise ought to be displaying up throughout the subsequent a number of months.


Phison E21T: Low-Finish NVMe Strikes to 12nm

For NVMe SSDs, the one new controller Phison is speaking about this yr is the E21T, their newest DRAMless NVMe controller. It is a follow-up to the E19T controller, which has seen little or no use in retail shopper SSDs however has really been outselling their high-end E16 PCIe 4.0 controller on account of robust demand from OEMs (particularly from an unnamed buyer with a very fashionable gaming product). With the E21T, Phison is lastly shifting this product phase from 28nm to 12nm fabrication, which permits for efficiency and energy enhancements of about 25% in comparison with the E19T. The fundamental structure hasn’t modified a lot for the E21T: it is nonetheless a 4-channel controller managed by a single ARM core plus Phison’s proprietary coprocessors. Efficiency has elevated considerably, with peak throughput now rivaling the high-end E16 controller (although real-world efficiency on heavy workloads should still be slower because of the downsides of a DRAMless controller design).

Phison is planning to start out sampling the E21T to prospects round June of this yr with mass manufacturing ramping up in This fall—round after we ought to begin seeing PCIe 4.0 SSDs catching on with pocket book OEMs. A lot of the drives utilizing the E21T will in all probability pair it with QLC NAND, and Phison has efficiency projections for what we will count on when utilizing Micron’s 176L QLC.

Phison E21T QLC SSD Efficiency Projections
Capability 512 GB 1 TB 2 TB 4 TB
Type Issue, Interface M.2 2280, PCIe 4.0 x4
Controller Phison E21T
NAND Flash Micron 176L 3D QLC
Sequential Learn 4.5 GB/s 4.8 GB/s
Sequential Write 1.65 GB/s 3.3 GB/s 4.5 GB/s
Random Learn IOPS (4kB) 250k 500k 780k
Random Write IOPS (4kB) 350k 700k 800k

It is seemingly that most of the product traces at the moment utilizing the E16 controller with QLC NAND will swap over to utilizing the E21T in future generations, because the DRAMless E21T shall be a less expensive general resolution. Nevertheless, the 4TB limitation shall be a difficulty for the handful of firms which have already began delivery 8TB QLC SSDs. These 8TB M.2 SSDs at the moment use the E12 controller and its PCIe 4.0 successors are usually not accessible in a reduced-size package deal just like the E12S variant. So 8TB PCIe 4.0 SSDs will in all probability should push the boundaries of NAND packaging by stacking 16 dies per package deal with a view to depart sufficient PCB house for an E16 or E18 controller plus DRAM.

Phison NVMe SSD Controller Comparsion
  E13T E19T E21T E12 E16 E18
Market Phase Mainstream Client Excessive-Finish Client

Course of
28nm 12nm 28 nm 12 nm
CPU Cores 1x Cortex R5 1x Cortex R5 1x Cortex R5 2x Cortex R5 3x Cortex R5
Error Correction 4th Gen LDPC third Gen LDPC 4th Gen LDPC
Host Interface PCIe 3.0 x4 PCIe 4.0 x4 PCIe 3.0 x4 PCIe 4.0 x4
NVMe Model NVMe 1.3 NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.3 NVMe 1.4
NAND Channels, Interface Velocity 4 ch,

800 MT/s
4 ch,

1200 MT/s

1600 MT/s
8 ch,

667 MT/s
8 ch,

800 MT/s
8 ch,

1200 MT/s
Max Capability 2 TB 2 TB 4 TB 16 TB 16 TB 16 TB
Sequential Learn 2.5 GB/s 3.75 GB/s 5.0 GB/s 3.4 GB/s 5.0 GB/s 7.4 GB/s
Sequential Write 2.1 GB/s 3.75 GB/s 4.5 GB/s 3.2 GB/s 4.4 GB/s 7.0 GB/s
4KB Random Learn IOPS 350k 440k 780k 700k 750k 1M IOPS
4KB Random Write IOPS 450k 500k 800k 600k 750k 1M IOPS
Controller Energy 1.2 W 1.6 W   2.1 W 2.6 W 3.0 W
Sampling Q2 2019 This fall 2019 Q3 2021 Q2 2018 Q1 2019 Q1 2020
Retail SSD

This fall 2019 Q1 2020? This fall 2021? This fall 2018 Q3 2019 This fall 2020

For top-end NVMe SSDs, Phison’s E18 lastly began delivery in late 2020. Phison is fairly happy with this controller, and makes a lot of the truth that they’re the one ones to this point hitting a minimum of 7GB/s for each reads and writes. Phison plans for the E18 to be their final flagship PCIe 4.0 controller; they’re already wanting ahead to PCIe 5.0, and the E18 will stay their high of the road controller for in all probability one other two years. This doesn’t suggest Phison is fully carried out with the E18. They’re nonetheless engaged on firmware tuning, particularly round thermal administration and making an attempt to squeeze out a little bit bit extra efficiency at low queue depths. There will even be persevering with firmware updates to assist newer generations of 3D NAND flash reminiscence. Present E18 drives are utilizing Micron 96L TLC, however Micron has began manufacturing of their 176L NAND. Phison expects to complete qualification with that NAND in March, so a second spherical of E18 drives ought to begin arriving in April with 10-15% efficiency enhancements.

Phison’s older E13T controller can also be nonetheless round as a low-cost and low-power resolution for entry-level NVMe functions. It is notably in style as a controller built-in into BGA SSDs, the place it helps displace eMMC storage is gadgets like Chromebooks, tablets, and perhaps even some smartphones.


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