Large-capacity low-cost SSDs are the Big Foot of the SSD market. Every now and then, someone claims to see one but upon closer inspection, something else is afoot.
Patriot's P200 series isn't just about the massive 2TB capacity model but it's certainly the most interesting. The 2TB drive is the only one in the series to use the new Maxio MAS0902A controller. The 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB capacities in the P200 series ship with the Silicon Motion, Inc SM2258XT, a controller we've tested in a number of SSDs in the past.
The largest capacity sells for just $189.99 and even in the middle of a NAND glut; this is a really good price for a solid state drive. Most SSDs we see at this price point use 4-bit per cell flash (QLC) memory technology and not 3-bit per cell (TLC).
The P200 does have one design flaw that enthusiasts will not appreciate, but it's also what helps Patriot to get the price so low. The series omits DRAM memory used to cache the flash translation layer (FTL) map.
This is where the comparison to Big Foot comes in. Windows needs to know where every piece of data is on your storage devices. For decades that meant hard disk drives (HDDs). Data is sent to the drive, Windows knows where it goes for obvious reasons, it needs to read the data when asked, delete files when you tell the OS to do so and so on. SSDs and even some modern HDDs don't follow the Windows map. These devices have shuffle data around for performance, endurance and other reasons. The flash translation layer is the decoder map between where Windows thinks the data is, and where the drive knows the data actually is.
DRAM, either DDR2, DDR3, or DDR4 is faster but also more expensive than flash. Modern SSDs use a simply formula of 1 megabyte of DRAM for every 1 gigabyte of flash. There are a few exceptions but this is the standard. The DRAM allows the controller to access the map faster and a larger amount of DRAM means more data fits in the faster access area. Imagine looking at a map of the United States and in the first view you can see the entire country. Someone calls out a state, say Iowa. I hope that you can point out Iowa quickly with the full map in your field of vision.
DRAMless SSDs don't use the large DRAM to cache the map. These controllers feature a small, high-speed cache on the controller usually made up of SRAM. The rest of the map is on the slower flash. Now imagine someone calls out a state. In this case, we can see only see Iowa and parts of the surrounding states. The state you need to find is Maine and even though you know where Maine is on the map, you have to move your field of view to find the state and that takes more time than when you can see the entire map at the same time.
The additional time, in computing terms, is latency. Latency or the time it takes to access the data is what makes solid state drives faster than hard disk drives. DRAMless SSDs are still faster than HDDs, but they are not as fast as drives with the DRAM buffer. The reason why we rarely see 2TB DRAMless SSDs is because the more data the drive holds, the larger the FTL map.
The Patriot P200 is the first 2TB DRAMless we've ever tested. It will be interesting to see how the drive fairs against the other 2TB SATA SSDs we've tested over the years.
As we mentioned in the introduction, the Patriot P200 ships in four capacities ranging from 256GB to 2TB. The three smaller capacities use the proven Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2258XT controller. We've tested this controller with Micron 64L TLC memory in the past and found the combination works well together for mainstream users shopping on a responsible budget.
The 2TB model we're testing today differs from the other sizes. This drive uses the Maxio MAS0902A controller. This is the first time we've tested this controller and we are excited to see how it performs with Micron's 64L TLC.
Performance ratings hold steady through the entire product line with 530 MB/s sequential read, 460 MB/s sequential write speeds. Random performance tops at 90,000 IOPS read and 80,000 IOPS write.
Pricing, Warranty, and Endurance
Patriot backs the P200 series with a solid 3-year warranty that is limited by the amount of data you can write to the drive. The 256GB drive covers up to 160 terabytes written (TBW). That doubles to 320 for the 512GB drive and then doubles again to 640 TBW for the 1TB drive. The 2TB model hits a wall at 1,000 TBW so it doesn't double again like the other sizes.
Prices are fair for modern SSDs. The P200 series starts at just $34.99 for the 256GB. That moves to $54.99 for the 512GB and just $94.99 for the 1TB. The 2TB drive sells for just $189.99 at the time of writing with all prices coming from Amazon in the US.