Lexar SL500 Portable SSD Review: Silicon Motion SM2320 and YMTC NAND in a Potent Package

Lexar SL500 Portable SSD Review: Silicon Motion SM2320 and YMTC NAND in a Potent Package

Lexar has one Long history To serve the flash-based consumer storage market in the form of SSDs, memory cards, and USB flash drives. Having started as a Micron brand, the company was Acquired in 2017. From Longsys which has diversified its product line-up with regular introduction of new products. Recently, the company announced A number of portable SSDs that target different market segments. The Lexar SL500 Portable SSD is one of the 20 Gbps PSSDs in this set.

The SL500 is able to achieve its price point thanks to the use of a native USB flash controller. Silicon Motion SM2320. The unique aspect is the use of YMTC 3D TLC NAND (versus the usual Micron or BiCS NAND we've seen in previous SM2320-based PSSDs). This review takes a detailed look at the SL500, including an analysis of its internals and a review of its performance consistency, power consumption, and thermal profile.

Introduction and product impressions

External bus-driven storage devices have been increasing storage capacity as well as access speed over the past decade. Advances in flash technology (such as the advent of 3D NAND and NVMe) and the evolution of faster host interfaces (such as Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.x/USB4). As a result, we're seeing palm-sized flash-based storage devices capable of delivering 3GBps+ speeds. While this speed can be achieved with Thunderbolt 4, mass market devices have to rely on USB. Within the USB ecosystem, USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) is quickly becoming the entry level for thumb drives and portable SSDs. Reached USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20 Gbps). A slow start, but recent computing platforms from both Intel and AMD have begun to support it on the host side. Introduction of native USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 flash controllers such as Faison U18 And Silicon Motion SM2320 has enabled PSSD vendors to bring low-cost 20 Gbps external drives to market.

Broadly speaking, there are currently five distinct performance levels in the PSSD market:

  • 2GBps+ drives with Thunderbolt 3 or USB4 using NVMe SSDs
  • 2GBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 using NVMe SSDs or direct USB flash drive (UFD) controllers
  • 1GBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2 using NVMe SSDs or direct UFD controllers
  • 500MBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 1 (or, Gen 2, in some cases) using SATA SSDs
  • Sub-400MBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 1 using UFD controllers

Within each of these levels, there is a further division into entry-level, mid-range and premium based on the choice of interior components. The Lexar SL500 we're looking at today falls into the second category. Lexar cites the extremely thin nature of the PSSD as a key selling point. The packaging itself is spartan – we have a discrete Type-C to Type-C cable with a user guide.

The casing is metallic and exudes a sleek and premium look. However, there is no claim of ruggedness or a specific IP rating. The unit has no screws and disassembly involves removing the plastic tabs from either end and pushing out the inner plastic frame.

The plastic frame is a bit large for the board itself, but this seems to be in keeping with the need to make the outer casing palm-sized. The gallery below offers some insights into the PSSD's case design and internals.

Interestingly, the board has no obvious thermal solution – no thermal pad and no paths from the controller or flash packages to the outer casing. The SM2320 UFD is directly visible on the controller board.

The 1TB version includes four flash packages in a two-way configuration. The packages themselves are from Longsys with no clear indication of NAND inside. Fortunately, we have a publicly available NAND decoder tool for Silicon Motion PSSDs, and it demonstrates the use of YMTC's 128L 3D TLC inside the packages.

This review compares the Lexar SL500 to other 2GBps class PSSDs we've previously reviewed. The internal capacities of these PSSDs are evaluated by CrystalDiskInfo. The SL500 supports full SMART pass-through, with TRIM to ensure consistent performance for the drive's lifetime.

Smart Passthrough – Crystal Disk Info

The table below provides a comparative view of the features of the various storage bridges presented in this review.

Configuration of comparable direct-attached storage devices
Downstream port Local flash 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 NVMe)
The upstream port USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C (Female) USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C
Bridge chip Silicon Motion SM2320 ASMedia ASM2364
power Bus driven Bus driven
Use the case. 2GBps-class, sleek and stylish palm-sized high-performance portable SSD with hardware encryption and Type-C interface. A premium 2GBps class, compact, and robust portable SSD in a gumstick form factor targeting the gaming market
Physical dimensions 85 mm x 54 mm x (4.5 to 7.8) mm 118 mm x 62 mm x 14 mm
The weight 43 grams 115 grams (without cable)
Cable 30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C (Male) to Type-C (Male) 30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C to Type-C
30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A
Smart pass-through Yes Yes
UASP support Yes Yes
TRIM pass-through Yes Yes
Hardware encryption Yes Not Available
Estimated storage YMTC 128L 3D TLC (packaged by Longsys) Western Digital SN750E PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 2280 NVMe SSD
SanDisk / Toshiba BiCS 4 96L 3D TLC
Price $118 210 USD
Review the link. Important X10 Pro 2TB Review WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Review #1 (2020)

WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Review #2 (2021)

An interesting aspect of the Lexar SL500 that sets it apart from the crowd is the availability of 256-bit AES encryption support using Lexar's custom password protection software (which needs to be installed on all machines that access content). access required).

Before looking at the benchmark numbers, power consumption, and effectiveness of the thermal solution, a description of the testbed setup and evaluation procedure is provided.

Testbed setup and evaluation procedure

Direct-attached storage devices (including thumb drives) are tested using a Quartz Canyon NUC (primarily, the Xeon/ECC version). Ghost Valley NUC) is arranged with 2x 16GB DDR4-2667 ECC SODIMMs and a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD – the IM2P33E8 1TB From ADATA

The most attractive aspect of the Quartz Canyon NUC is the presence of two PCIe slots (electrical, x16 and x4) for add-in cards. In the absence of a discrete GPU – which does not require a DAS testbed – both slots are available. In fact, we even added a spare SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the CPU's direct-attached M.2 22110 slot in the baseboard to avoid DMI bottlenecks when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 devices. It still allows for two add-in cards operating at x8 (x16 electrical) and x4 (x4 electrical). Since the Quartz Canyon NUC doesn't have a native USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, the Silverstone SST-ECU06 The add-in card was installed in the x4 slot. All non-Thunderbolt devices are tested via the Type-C port enabled by the SST-ECU06.

The characteristics of the test bed are summarized in the table below.

2021 Anand Tech DAS Testbed Configuration
System Intel Quartz Canyon NUC9vXQNX
CPU Intel Xeon E-2286M
memory ADATA INDUSTRIAL AD4B3200716G22
32 GB (2 x 16 GB)
DDR4-3200 ECC @ 22-22-22-52
OS drive ADATA Industrial IM2P33E8 NVMe 1TB
Secondary drive SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD 1TB
Add-on card SilverStone Tek SST-ECU06 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C Host
OS Windows 10 Enterprise x64 (21H1)
Thanks to ADATA, Intel, and SilverStone Tek for building components

The testbed is only one part of the hardware evaluation. Over the past few years, common direct-attached storage workloads have also evolved for memory cards. High bitrate 4K videos at 60fps have become quite common, and 8K videos are starting to appear. Portable game consoles have also seen a steady increase in game install sizes thanks to higher resolution textures and artwork. With these in mind, our evaluation scheme for portable SSDs and UFDs includes several workloads that are detailed in the respective sections.

  • Simulated workloads using CrystalDiskMark and ATTO
  • Real-world benchmarks using PCMark 10's storage benchmark
  • Custom robocopy workloads reflect typical DAS usage.
  • Sequential written stress test

In the next section, we have an overview of the Lexar SL500's performance in these benchmarks. Before providing closing comments, we also have some observations on the PSSD's power consumption numbers and thermal solution.

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