The ugly truth is that the SSD market has been tough for almost all the typical PC component vendors lately. With Samsung, SanDisk, and Micron/Crucial being serious about the client market, it's not easy for other companies to find a way to provide any substantial advantage over the big brands. The fab owners will always enjoy a cost advantage, which is why we have seen a few companies backing off from the market and many more for whom SSDs have become just another series in the pool of products. 

This is what could be said to have happened at Corsair. While the company has never been super aggressive on the SSD side, the past year or so has been very quiet. There have been a couple of new releases, such as the Force LS and Force LX, but nothing close to the exclusive deal Corsair scored with Link A Media (LAMD) two years ago.

One way to perceive whether a company is serious about a specific model is with the media sampling process. If there is no embargo and only one capacity is available for review, then historically the product has not been a substantial or interesting release. If, on the other hand, there is an official release date and the manufacturer samples several of the available capacities, then this can be a sign that the product might be a bit more special. This is never a hard and fast rule, and it is always welcome to be surprised.

From the title, the Neutron XT from Corsair is a member of the latter case. This is the first time Corsair has offered us the full set of drives since the original Neutron and Neutron GTX, and the Neutron XT is the first drive to ship with Phison's new S10 controller.

Phison actually sent us reference design samples of the S10 prior to Corsair, but we were asked to review the Neutron XT first (as Corsair is a household name while Phison is pretty much the opposite). However, Phison asked us to save the technical analysis of the controller and its architecture for the separate reference design article, so I'll keep to the basic details for now; stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of the S10 in the next two weeks.

The biggest change in the S10 compared to the S8 is the upgrade to a quad-core CPU architecture. Three of the cores are dedicated to internal flash management (garbage collection, wear-leveling etc.), whereas one will handle the host operations. The NAND channel count remains at eight like in the S8, which seems to have become the standard for client-grade controllers. Capacity support goes as high as 2TB and the S10 design can also support TLC NAND, although that is not fully ready yet.

Corsair Neutron XT Specifications
Capacity 240GB 480GB 960GB
Controller Phison PS3110-S10
NAND Toshiba A19nm MLC
NAND Density 64 Gbit per Die 128 Gbit per Die
Sequential Read Up to 560MB/s
Sequential Write Up to 540MB/s
4KB Random Read Up to 100K IOPS
4KB Random Write Up to 90K IOPS
Encryption N/A
Warranty Five years
Availability December

EDIT: Corsair had an error in the reviewer's guide, so the warranty is actually five years similar to the original Neutron series.

Corsair is offering the Neutron XT in three capacities: 240GB, 480GB and 960GB. The Neutron brand has always been more of a high-end enthusiast/gamer brand, so it makes sense to skip the 120GB model because the majority of the target population will be aiming at 240GB at a minimum.

On the NAND front Corsair is using Toshiba's A19nm MLC NAND. The 240GB and 480GB models are equipped with 64Gbit dies to provide higher parallelism and performance, whereas the 960GB model has enough NAND on its own to provide the necessary parallelism and performance with a 128Gbit die.

Like many platforms on the market, the S10 features a page-level parity scheme that Phison calls 'Page RAID ECC Parity' to protect against NAND failures. Unfortunately Phison couldn't disclose the parity ratio (i.e. how much NAND is dedicated to parity), which makes calculating the exact over-provisioning impossible, but I was told that the feature only provides page-level protection and can't tolerate a full block or die failure. 

Corsair is not announcing pricing yet because the drive is not officially launching until early December, which would subject the prices to fluctuation. However, I'll make sure to update this article with the pricing information once that becomes available. 

Test Systems

For AnandTech Storage Benches, performance consistency, random and sequential performance, performance vs transfer size and load power consumption we use the following system:

CPU Intel Core i5-2500K running at 3.3GHz (Turbo & 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 Palit GeForce GTX 770 JetStream 2GB GDDR5 (1150MHz core clock; 3505MHz GDDR5 effective)
Video Drivers NVIDIA GeForce 332.21 WHQL
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1080
OS Windows 7 x64

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

For slumber power testing we used a different system:

CPU Intel Core i7-4770K running at 3.3GHz (Turbo & EIST enabled, C-states disabled)
Motherboard ASUS Z87 Deluxe (BIOS 1707)
Chipset Intel Z87
Chipset Drivers Intel + Intel RST 12.9
Memory Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 2x8GB (9-10-9-27 2T)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
Graphics Drivers
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1080
OS Windows 7 x64
Performance Consistency & TRIM Validation
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  • hojnikb - Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - link

    So pretty much, we're gonna have to wait another year or so to get 3D nand products (ie. mx200).
  • Chrispy_ - Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - link

    Corsair *knows* you're going to test steady state.

    If the drive isn't good at steady state, why risk mass exposure with a bad review when a simple firmware update could make a big difference?

    First impressions matter, and the Neutron XT is now an underwhelming drive unlikely to be able to compete with the MX100s on price.
  • ol1bit - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    I'm on my 3rd SSD.
    1st was Intel 74GB (first one would lock up, got Intel to replace it then was good).

    2nd was Corsair Force Series GT CSSD-F120GBGT-BK, and if my system got to busy, SSD would lock up HD light on solid, hard reset required, tried new drivers, everything and honestly I gave up on this drive, never fixed.

    3rd is Samsung 840 pro 250GB Uber fast, no lockups ever. I'm sticking with them for the foreseeable future!
  • zmeul - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    any word on pricing?
  • dj christian - Thursday, November 20, 2014 - link

    On the Performance Consistency page.

    "Each of the three graphs has its own purpose. The first one is of the whole duration of the test in log scale. The second and third one zoom into the beginning of steady-state operation (t=1400s) but on different scales: the second one uses log scale for easy comparison whereas the third one uses linear scale for better visualization of differences between drives. Click the dropdown selections below each graph to switch the source data."

    Which third one? All show log data and the last one doesn't show linear data.
  • editorsorgtfo - Saturday, November 22, 2014 - link

    My A10-7850K / G.1 Sniper A88X build-in-progress is perfect for an M.2 (NGFF) SSD on a PCIe 2.0 x4 adapter card. The mobo's single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot is ripe for a Radeon R7 250, for Dual Graphics use, and its other x16 slot is PCIe 2.0, running at x4, ready for a bootable SSD to be installed.

    As for adapters, a Bplus M2P4A, a Lycom DT-120, or a (not-yet-released) ASUS Hyper M.2 X4 would fit the bill nicely.

    The LSI SandForce SF3739-controlled cards, such as the ADATA that was shown at Computex 2013 and the Kingston seen at Storage Visions 2014 back in January, or the Kingston HyperX using the Marvell 88SS9293 Altaplus PCIe 2.0 x4 SSD Controller displayed at Computex 2014, or Phison's, or Hynix's controller-in-the-works, etc. have yet to be released to the retail market. Don't they know the world's enthusiasts are just itching to spend their dosh on those gems?!

    Kingston trotted out their native PCIe expansion-slot HyperX "Predator" unit at the 2014 CES show in January, with a SF3739 controller. That's actually the unit I want! So, it's "hurry up and wait" at my house! LOL

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