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Benchmarking low-cost SSDs for enjoyable, no revenue (be warned)

Benchmarking low-cost SSDs for enjoyable, no revenue (be warned)

2023-03-27 07:38:12

The worth of Strong-state drives (SSDs) has dropped considerably over the previous couple of years. It is now doable to purchase a 1TB solid-state drive for lower than €60. Nonetheless, at such low worth factors, there’s a catch.

Though low-cost SSDs do carry out advantageous relating to reads, sustained write efficiency might be actually atrocious. To show this idea, I purchased a bunch of the most cost effective SATA SSDs I might discover – as listed under – and benchmarked them with Fio.

Mannequin Capability Worth
ADATA Final SU650 240 GB € 15,99
PNY CS900 120 GB € 14,56
Kingston A400 120 GB € 20,85
Verbatim Vi550 S3 128 GB € 14,99

I did not have the funds to purchase a bunch of 1TB of 2TB SSD, so these ultra-cheap, low capability SSDs are a little bit of a stand-in. I’ve additionally added a Essential MX500 1TB (CT1000MX500SSD1) SATA SSD – which I already owned – to the benchmarks to see how properly these small-capacity SSDs stack as much as an inexpensive SSD with a a lot bigger capability.

Understanding SSD write efficiency

To know the benchmark outcomes a bit higher, we focus on some SSD ideas on this part. Be happy to skip to the precise benchmarks should you’re already acquainted with them.

SLC Cache

SSDs initially used single-level cell (SLC) flash reminiscence, which may maintain a single bit and is the quickest and most dependable flash reminiscence accessible. Sadly, it is also the most costly. To cut back value, multi-level cell (MLC) flash was invented, which may maintain two bits as an alternative of 1, at the price of velocity and longevity. That is much more so for triple-level cell (TLC) and quad-level cell (QLC) flash reminiscence. All ‘low-cost’ SSDs I benchmark use 3D v-nand TLC flash reminiscence.

One approach to quickly enhance SSD efficiency is to make use of a (small) portion of (in our case) TLC flash reminiscence as if it was SLC reminiscence. This SLC reminiscence then acts as a quick write cache. When the SSD is idle, knowledge is moved from the SLC cache to the TLC flash reminiscence within the background. Nonetheless, this course of is proscribed by the velocity of the ‘slower’ TLC flash reminiscence and may take some time to finish.

Whereas this trick with SLC reminiscence works properly for transient, intermittent write hundreds, sustained write hundreds will replenish the SLC cache and trigger a big drop in efficiency because the SSD is compelled to write down knowledge into slower TLC reminiscence.

DRAM cache

As flash reminiscence has a restricted lifespan and may solely take a restricted variety of writes, a wear-leveling mechanism is used to distribute writes over all cells evenly, no matter the place knowledge is written logically. Conserving monitor of this mapping between logical and bodily ‘places’ might be sped up with a DRAM cache (chip) as DRAM are typically sooner than flash reminiscence. As well as, the DRAM can be used to cache writes, enhancing efficiency. Low cost SSDs do not use DRAM cache chips to scale back value, thus they need to replace their knowledge mapping tables in flash reminiscence, which is slower. This could additionally influence (sustained) write efficiency. To be frank, I am unsure how a lot an absence of DRAM impacts our benchmarks.

Benchmark methodology

Earlier than I began benchmarking I submitted a trim command to clear every drive.
Subsequent, I carried out a sequential write benchmark of the complete SSD with a block dimension of 1 megabyte and a queue depth of 32. The benchmark is carried out on the ‘uncooked’ system, no filesystem is used. I used Fio for these benchmarks.

Benchmark outcomes

The chart under exhibits write bandwith over time for all examined SSDs. Every drive has been benchmarked in full, however the knowledge is truncated to the primary 400 seconds for readability (efficiency did not change). The uncooked Fio benchmark knowledge might be discovered here (.tgz).


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It is humorous to me that some low-cost SSDs initially carry out method higher than the costlier Essential 1TB SSD. As quickly as their SLC cache runs out, the Essential 1TB has the final giggle because it exhibits greatest sustained throughput, beating all cheaper drives, however the Kingston A400 comes shut.

Of all a budget SSDs solely the Kingston exhibits the perfect sustained write velocity at round 100 MB/s and there aren’t any intermittent drops in efficiency. The ADATA, PNY and Verbatim SSDs present flakey behaviour and mainly horrible sustained write efficiency. However make no mistake, I’d not name the efficiency of the Kingston SSD, nor the Essential SSD – added as a reference – ‘good’ by any definition of that phrase. Even the Kingston cannot saturate gigabit Ethernet.

The bandwidth alone does not inform the entire story. The latency or responsiveness of the SSDs can be considerably impacted:


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The Essential 1TB SSD exhibits greatest latency general, adopted by the Kingston SSD. The remainder of a budget SSDs present fairly excessive latency spikes and really excessive latency general, even when a number of the spikes settle, like for the ADATA SSD. When latency is measured in seconds, issues are unhealthy.

To place issues a bit in perspective, let’s evaluate these outcomes to a Toshiba 8 TB 7200 RPM onerous drive I had mendacity round.


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The onerous drive exhibits higher write throughput and latency as in comparison with many of the examined SSDs. Sure, aside from the preliminary jiffy the place a budget SSDs are typically sooner (aside from the Kingston & Essential SSDs) however how a lot does that matter?

See Also

As we have proven the efficiency of a tough drive to distinction the horrible write efficiency of a budget SSDs, it is time to additionally evaluate them to a costlier, higher-tier SSD.


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I’ve purchased this Samsung SSD in 2019 for €137 euro, in order that’s fairly a special worth level. I believe the graph speaks for itself, particularly should you take into account that this graph isn’t truncated, that is the complete drive write.

Analysis & conclusion

One of many funnier conclusions to attract is that it is beter to make use of a tough drive than to make use of low-cost SSDs if you should ingest lots of knowledge. Even the Essential 1TB SSD couldn’t sustain with the HDD.

A extra fascinating conclusion is that the 1TB SSD did not carry out that a lot better than the small cheaper SSDs. Or to place it otherwise: though the efficiency of the small, low-cost SSDs isn’t consultant of the bigger SSD, it’s nonetheless fairly in the identical ball park. I do not assume it is a coincidence that the Kingston SSD got here very near the efficiency of the Essential SSD, because it’s probably the most ‘costly’ of a budget drives.

In the long run, my intend was to show with precise benchmarks how low-cost SSDs present unhealthy sustained write efficiency and I believe I succeeded. I hope it helps folks to grasp that good SSD write efficiency isn’t a given, particularly for cheaper drives.


I am not sponsored in any method. All talked about merchandise have been purchased with my very own cash.

The graphs are created with fio-plot, a device I’ve made and keep.
The benchmarks have been carried out with bench-fio, a device included with fio-plot, to automate benchmarking with Fio.

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