Maxiotek MK8115 DRAMless Controller Preview

DRAMless SSDs continue to spread across the industry. SSD manufacturers originally designed DRAMless SSDs for point of sale and other light-use environments, but technology advancements have made this class suitable for use in entry-level and mainstream PCs.

Maxiotek hasn't revealed much information about its new MK8115 dual-processor controller. Maxiotek's website has a press release with little information, and it doesn't feature a product page for the MK8115 or any other flash processor under development. This is fairly common for a company coming out of stealth mode, but Maxiotek isn't as new as the name leads you to believe.

We've all heard of JMicron, but few have experienced their flash controller products. The first affordable consumer SSDs came to market with early JMicron-designed controllers, but the early models received mixed reactions. Now JMicron spun the controller team off as a separate entity with a new name and fresh slate. I'd say it's about time to forgive and forget JMicron's early stumbles as we approach the 10-year anniversary of the OCZ Core and other early JMicron-powered consumer SSDs.

Here we are nearly a decade later, and Maxiotek has a new DRAMless controller that focuses on the entry-level market in its freshman outing. The new MK8115 is a DRAMless design that supports a wide range of memory technology, from planar (2D) NAND to the latest Micron 3D. This is a product we've seen under development for the last three years, and now it's finally ready to come to market. Maxiotek is very confident in this release, and early signs are positive.

Specifications

Maxiotek didn't publish performance or any other specifications, but the company already has a design win with the MK8115 controller. Adata chose the new silicon for the upcoming Ultimate SU700 SSD and will release the drive in three capacities ranging from 120GB to 480GB. The MK8115 supports a 1TB option, but the NAND shortage has delayed bringing those products to market.

We chose to use the Ultimate SU700's published specifications for the performance comparison chart. Amazon lists two of these models, but the high-capacity model is not available at the time of writing. The Adata Ultimate SU700 specifications indicate 560 MB/s of sequential read throughput across the entire capacity range. The sequential write performance begins at 320 MB/s for the 120GB model and then increases to 520 MB/s for the 240GB and 480GB drives. Random performance reaches up to 80,000 read/write IOPS, but the two low-capacity models drop off due to reduced NAND parallelization.

The Maxiotek MK8115 is a dual-processor design that uses a pSLC layer to cache incoming write traffic. This technique increases performance and allows the SSD to outperform hard disk drives easily. The programmed SLC buffer also increases endurance and reduces costs at all levels. The obvious cost saving comes from the lack of a DRAM component, but there is more to the story. Forgoing the dedicated DRAM channel reduces controller R&D and manufacturing costs compared to controllers designed with DRAM.

The MK8115 employs a flexible and programmable ECC parity scheme to increase data reliability and throughput. Virtual Parity Recovery (VPR), a proprietary hardware-based redundancy protection mechanism, strengthens reliability and adds another layer of protection to the power-fail protection circuits.

Data security comes in two forms. The hardware-based AES-256 is fairly standard in the industry, but the MK8115 also employs standards-compliant SM4 encryption.

A Closer Look

We received two reference design boards directly from Maxiotek. The drives arrived before the Adata Ultimate SU700 announcement, but we had to go back and forth with Maxiotek to learn more.

The MK8115 controller is quite a bit larger than most of the DRAMless controllers we've tested from Phison, Silicon Motion, and Marvell. The large package will help with heat dissipation, but it also increases manufacturing costs. Maxiotek didn't reveal the manufacturing process for the new controller.

Like many of its previous products, Maxiotek designed the MK8115 for Micron NAND. I have to admit I'm a bit giddy to use the same SSD controller to compare 16nm 128Gbit TLC to the new 3D 384Gbit NAND, so let’s get to testing.

Features

Design

  • 4-channel NAND flash memory controller
  • Up to 8CE per channel
  • 3.3V/1.8V/1.2V power supply
  • 12x12mm2 TFBGA package
  • Provides 24 pins GPIO shared by manual and automatic self-diagnostics

SATA Controller

  • Compliant with Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 3.2
  • Support 1-port 1.5/3.0/6.0Gbps SATA I/II/III interface
  • Support ATA-8 command set
  • Support Partial/Slumber/Device Sleep and dynamic power management
  • Support S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology)

NAND Flash Controller

  • Supports 4 hardware channels with 8 CE pins per channel to NAND flash memory
  • Supports Toshiba/Intel/Micron/Hynix/Sandisk 2D-SLC, 2D-MLC, 3D-MLC, and 3D-TLC NAND
  • Enhanced endurance by dynamic/static wear-leveling
  • Maxiotek’s hardware-based V.P.R (Virtual Parity Recovery)

Security

  • Supports AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard)
  • Supports SM4

Firmware

  • Supports transparent Download Microcode SATA firmware update
  • Supports 1/2/4/8 banks selected free
  • Supports 1/2/3/4 channels selected free
  • WriteBooster (pSLC Write Mode)

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  • das_stig
    Makes sense to use dramless ssd's if you want a good blend of mass storage over speed.