Faster than Phison U18: SMI brings the SM2320 controller for external SSDs with 2.1 GB / s

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Faster than Phison U18: SMI brings the SM2320 controller for external SSDs with 2.1 GB / s

Image: Silicon Motion

Behind Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 with 20 Gbit / s is the fastest interface for external SSDs. With the SM2320, Silicon Motion has introduced a new SSD controller with this interface, the portable SSDs with up to 2,100 MB / s and 4 TB storage space.

Faster than Phison U18

As supposedly the fastest single-chip controller for external SSDs, Silicon Motion (SMI) has presented the SM2320. At the top, sequential data transfer rates of 2,100 MB / s reading and 2,000 MB / s should be achieved. That is a bit faster than the Phison U18, which was presented in January at CES 2021, which is supposed to achieve a maximum of 1,900 MB / s and 1,700 MB / s in reading and writing. According to the manufacturer, the Phison U18 is designed for USB flash drives, i.e. USB sticks, while Silicon Motion clearly addresses external SSDs, which usually offer more performance. In both cases it is a single-chip controller that by itself comes with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2. Previously, an NVMe controller always had to be combined with a bridge chip. The solutions thus save space for compact formats.

4 NAND channels in a tiny package

That the SM2320 (Data sheet as PDF) has more power than the Phison U18 and is therefore suitable for real external SSDs, is also noticeable elsewhere in the data sheet. Four NAND channels mean twice as many memory channels as with the U18. However, both manufacturers name a maximum storage capacity of 4 TB. SMI does not provide any information on the performance of random reading and writing.

SM2320 controller with USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 SM2320 controller with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (Image: Silicon Motion)

The SM2320 is available in a 9 × 9 mm compact TFBGA package. A figure shows that the chip is not much wider than the approximately 8.3 mm wide USB-C socket. The two NAND flash packages in the right part of the almost 6 cm long board for an external SSD are considerably larger. Such a board is in the new external SSD Kingston XS2000, which is one of the first products with the SM2320. However, the XS2000 will only offer a maximum of 2 TB of storage space.

The SM2320 controller is compatible with the TCG Opal 2.0 security standard and supports full encryption of user data with AES 128 or AES 256 in real time as well as the use of fingerprint sensors.

SSDs with USB4 should reach 4 GB / s

It can be assumed that after the Kingston XS2000 further external SSDs with SM2320 controllers will reach the market. The upcoming SSDs with USB4 should be twice as fast (4,000 MB / s). Adata was the first manufacturer to announce an external SSD with USB4, which, according to the current schedule, should appear in the first quarter of 2022.

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