The SSD market doesn’t live only off SandForce based drives. Although there are at least a few dozen modifications of consumer grade SSDs on SF-2281 controller, there are also completely different offerings already available in stores, even though they are certainly not as diverse. SandForce implemented a very convenient procedure for adoption of their platform: SSD makers receive not only their controllers, but also a reference PCB layout and a basic firmware. Other SSD controller makers do not offer support like this, which definitely affects their presence in the today’s market.
Nevertheless, second-generation SandForce solutions have a pretty serious competitor, which managed to win its place under the sun first of all due to its exceptional characteristics. It is Marvell 88SS9174 controller, which is undoubtedly the second most popular controller these days, even though it is less widely spread as SF-2281.
Historically, Marvell 88SS9174 came out significantly earlier than second-generation SandForce and for a while it remained the only SATA 6 Gbps controller for consumer SSDs. This controller, just like all its existing competitors, has eight flash-memory channels, but at the same time is based on a dual-core processor with ARM architecture, which allows to flexibly vary its practical characteristics by adding some changes to the firmware. Together with constantly released new hardware modifications Marvell 88SS9174 has remained up-to-date for the last 2 years. However, it is much more difficult to manufacture SSDs on these chips from the engineering prospective: the developers should come up with their own firmware and hardware layout. Nevertheless, many distinguished SSD makers, including Corsair, Intel, Micron and Plextor, prefer Marvell controllers.
In our today’s roundup we are going to discuss a few contemporary SSD models built on Marvell 88SS9174 controller. We will also try to determine whether they should be considered as a serious alternative to SandForce based SSDs. For our today’s test session we invited three solid state drives with 256 GB storage capacity: Corsair Performance Pro, Crucial m4 and Plextor M3S.