The retail mSATA SSD market doesn't have too many players. Most OEMs, such as Samsung (although that is about to change), Toshiba and SanDisk, only sell their mSATA SSDs straight to PC OEMs. Out of the big guys, only Intel and Crucial/Micron are in the retail game but fortunately there are a few smaller OEMs that sell retail mSATA SSDs as well. One of them is Mushkin and today we'll be looking at their Atlas lineup.

Mushkin sent us two capacities: 240GB and 480GB. Typically 240GB has been the maximum capacity for mSATA SSDs due to the fact that there's room for only four NAND packages and with 64Gbit per NAND die the maximum capacity for each package comes in at 64GB (8x8GB), which yeilds a total NAND capacity of 256GB. Crucial and Samsung have mSATA SSDs of up to 512GB (Samsung offers up to 1TB now) thanks to their 128Gbit NAND but currently neither Samsung nor Micron is selling their 128Gbit NAND to other OEMs (at least not in the volumes required for an SSD). I'm hearing that Micron's 128Gbit NAND will be available to OEMs early next year and many are already planning products based on it.

Since Mushkin is limited to 64Gbit NAND like other fab-less OEMs, they had to do something different to break the 256GB barrier. Since you can't get more than 64GB in a single NAND package, the only solution is to increase the amount of NAND packages in the SSD. Mushkin's approach is to use a separate daughterboard with four NAND packages that's stacked on top of the standard mSATA SSD. There are already four NAND packages in a regular mSATA SSD, so with four more the maximum NAND capacity doubles to 512GB. However, the actual usable capacity in Atlas is 480GB thanks to SandForce's RAISE and added over-provisioning.

The result is a slightly taller design than a regular mSATA SSD but the drive should still be compatible with all mSATA-equipped devices. Mushkin had to use specially packaged NAND in the 480GB model (LGA60 vs LBGA100 in the 240GB) to lower the height and guarantee compatibility. The NAND daughterboard seems to be glued to the main PCB and dislocating it would require a substantial amount of force. I tried to dislocate it gently with my hands but I couldn't, so I find it unlikely that the daughterboard would dislocate on its own while in use.

Mushkin Atlas Specifications
Capacities (GB) 30, 40, 60, 120, 240, 480
Controller SandForce SF-2281
Sequential Read Up to 560MB/s
Sequential Write Up to 530MB/s
4KB Random Write Up to 80K IOPS
Warranty 3 years

The Atlas is available in pretty much all capacities you can think of, starting from 30GB and going all the way up to 480GB. Mushkin gives the Atlas a three-year warranty, which is the standard for mainstream drives. The retail packaging doesn't include anything else but the drive but you don't really need any peripherals with an mSATA drive.

Here you can see the difference in NAND packages. The one on the left is the 480GB model and it's NAND packages cover slightly more area on the PCB but are also a hair thinner. Like many other OEMs, Mushkin buys their NAND in wafers and does packaging/validation on their own. Due to supplier agreements, Mushkin couldn't reveal the manufacturer but I'm guessing we're dealing with 20nm Micron NAND. So far I've only seen Micron and Toshiba selling NAND in wafers and as Mushkin has used Micron in the past (the 240GB sample is a bit older and uses Micron NAND), it would make sense. 

Test System

CPU Intel Core i5-2500K running at 3.3GHz (Turbo and EIST enabled)
Motherboard AsRock Z68 Pro3
Chipset Intel Z68
Chipset Drivers Intel + Intel RST 10.2
Memory G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-1600 4 x 8GB (9-9-9-24)
Video Card XFX AMD Radeon HD 6850 XXX
(800MHz core clock; 4.2GHz GDDR5 effective)
Video Drivers AMD Catalyst 10.1
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1080
OS Windows 7 x64

Thanks to G.Skill for the RipjawsX 32GB DDR3 DRAM kit

Performance Consistency & TRIM Validation
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  • kwrzesien - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    Avago to buy storage chipmaker LSI for $6.6 billion:
  • MichalSuchyn - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)
  • CharonPDX - Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - link

    Spammer seems to be on the increase here - is there any easy way to report spam comments? (I can't find one.)
  • hojnikb - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    Yey another sandforce drive -.-

    Although one interesting point comes from all this...
    Sandforce is actually working on fixing trim, which is nice to hear.
  • Gunbuster - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    I've got a 240GB Mushkin MSATA in my Precision M4700. Runs like a champ.
  • jrs77 - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    mSATA is only of interest when talking either about switching storage in your ultrabook or your thin mITX system. For everything else a standard SATA SSD is better in price/performance.

    And for those ultrabooks or thin-clients performance isn't the first question, but price and silent operation.

    So I'd say that this drive pretty much looses on all fronts, especially vs the Cruicial M500 240GB which is available currently for $144.99.
  • lmcd - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    Or when talking about the mSATA in a larger notebook as the boot drive.
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - link

    I disagree: outfitting a regular laptop with one mSATA baby and a 1 or 2 TB 9.5mm height 2.5" HDD could be very welcome to power users not wanting 17" laptops with 2 drive bays. But of course these mSATA drives have to be priced competitively - there's no reason for them to cost more capacity.
  • Hrel - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    Plextor still seems to be the way to go here. Good to see Mushkin offering a legitimate alternative, but Plextor gets my recommendation for now.
  • whyso - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    Pretty poor drive. The high power consumption kills it in the mobile space.

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