You may already be familiar with the Micron Crucial M550 line of SSDs (if not, familiarize yourself with our full capacity roundup here). Today Micron is pushing their tech further by releasing a new M600 line. The M600's are the first full lineup from Micron to use their 16nm flash (previously only in their MX100 line). Aside from the die shrink, Micron has addressed the glaring issue we noted in our M550 review – that issue being the sharp falloff in write speeds in lower capacities of that line. Their solution is rather innovative, to say the least.

Recall the Samsung 840 EVO's 'TurboWrite' cache, which gave that drive a burst of write speed during short sustained write periods. The 840 EVO accomplished this by each TLC die having a small SLC section of flash memory. All data written passed through this cache, and once full (a few GB, varying with drive capacity), write speed slowed to TLC levels until the host system stopped writing for long enough for the SSD to flush the cached data from SLC to TLC.

The Micron M600 SSD in 2.5" SATA, MSATA, and M.2 form factors.

Micron flips the 'typical' concept of caching methods on its head. It does employ two different types of flash writing (SLC and MLC), but the first big difference is that the SLC is not really cache at all – not in the traditional sense, at least. The M600 controller, coupled with some changes made to Micron's 16nm flash, is able to dynamically change the mode of each flash memory die *on the fly*. For example, the M600 can place most of the individual 16GB (MLC) dies into SLC mode when the SSD is empty. This halves the capacity of each die, but with the added benefit of much faster and more power efficient writes. This means the M600 would really perform more like an SLC-only SSD so long as it was kept less than half full.

As you fill the SSD towards (and beyond) half capacity, the controller incrementally clears the SLC-written data, moving that data onto dies configured to MLC mode. Once empty, the SLC die is switched over to MLC mode, effectively clearing more flash area for the increasing amount of user data to be stored on the SSD. This process repeats over time as the drive is filled, meaning you will see less SLC area available for accelerated writing (see chart above). Writing to the SLC area is also advantageous in mobile devices, as those writes not only occur more quickly, they consume less power in the process:

For those worst case / power user scenarios, here is a graph of what a sustained sequential write to the entire drive area would look like:

Realize this is not typical usage, but if it happened, you would see SLC speeds for the first ~45% of the drive, followed by MLC speeds for another 10%. After the 65% point, the drive is forced to initiate the process of clearing SLC and flipping dies over to MLC, doing so while the host write is still in progress, and therefore resulting in the relatively slow write speed (~50 MB/sec) seen above. Realize that in normal use (i.e. not filling the entire drive at full speed in one go), garbage collection would be able to rearrange data in the background during idle time, meaning write speeds should be near full SLC speed for the majority of the time. Even with the SSD nearly full, there should be at least a few GB of SLC-mode flash available for short bursts of SLC speed writes.

This caching has enabled some increased specs over the prior generation models:

Note the differences in write speeds, particularly in the lower capacity models. The 128GB M550 was limited to 190MB/sec, while the M600 can write at 400MB/sec in SLC mode (which is where it should sit most of the time).

We'll be testing the M600 shortly and will come back with a full evaluation of the SSD as a whole and more specifically how it handles this new tech under real usage scenarios.

Full press blast after the break.

Micron SSD Advances the Portable Computing Experience

Micron's M600 SSD sets new benchmarks for low power use and innovative performance enhancements

Key Messages:

  • Class-leading power efficiency helps extend system battery life
  • Unique dynamic write acceleration technology delivers consistently high write performance regardless of SSD capacity
  • Robust endurance specifications and government-grade hardware encryption provide customer peace of mind

Multimedia Elements:

BOISE, Idaho, Sept. 16, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Micron Technology, Inc., (Nasdaq:MU) today announced a next-generation, client-class solid state drive (SSD) that sets a new bar for low-power, high-performance storage for personal computers. The M600 SATA SSD—specifically designed to take advantage of Micron's leading-edge NAND Flash technology—addresses the storage demands of modern mobile computing applications, including Ultrabook™ platforms and tablets, as well as performance-oriented PC desktops and video capture systems.

"Storage is an important enabler for ultrathin designs in personal portable computing devices," said Greg Wong, founder and principal analyst at Forward Insights. "Micron's M600 delivers the power efficiency and performance that helps to enable instant-on performance and responsiveness as well as the all-day battery life demanded by next-generation computing systems."

To help meet consumers' ever-increasing expectations for longer battery life, the M600 offers class-leading SSD power efficiency. It draws less than 2 milliwatts (mW)i in sleep mode and averages 150mW during active use. Typical laptop hard drives require exponentially more power when idle (130mW) and ten times as much power while they spin their platters to access data during active use (1400mW to 2000mW).ii

Despite its extraordinarily low power use, the M600 offers strong performance. It can read data as fast as the SATA interface allows—with random reads up to 100,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS) and 560 MB/s sequential read speeds for all capacities. The M600 also excels in write performance due to Micron's innovative dynamic write acceleration. This technology switches NAND cells to behave more like higher-grade Flash (from MLC to SLC) on-the-fly, creating a cache that is sized according to drive demands—instead of sacrificing user capacity for a permanent cache. The end result reduces power use and improves write performance as much as 2.8 timesiii over non-cached systems, ensuring that even the lower-capacity M600 SSDs deliver excellent write speeds.

This unique write architecture also helps the M600 achieve greater longevity. For example, the 1TB M600 is warranted to reach up to 400TB total bytes written (TBW), which is five times more than typical client drives.iv That's enough endurance to write 220GB a day, every day, for five years—dramatically more than a normal client workload and enough to make even the most cautious user stop worrying about SSD wear-out.

The M600 is also equipped with powerful self-encryption technology designed to meet strict government standards—ensuring valuable mobile data is secure even in the event of theft or loss. The M600's AES-256-bit hardware encryption engine actively encrypts data without performance degradation and complies with the TCG™ Opal 2.0 standards and the Microsoft® eDrive protocol, making it easy to enable using management tools or within Windows 8.v

The M600 uses Micron's 16nm process technology— their most advanced Flash technology and winner of TechInsights' Most Innovative Memory Device and Semiconductor of the Year. The drive features a host of quality and reliability features that Micron customers have come to expect, including RAIN onboard fail-over protection, client-class power-loss protection for data at rest, and adaptive thermal monitoring, which dynamically adjusts power consumption based on system temperature—ideal for ultra-small, thermally constrained systems.

"The M600 sets a new bar for power, security and efficiency in client SSDs and delivers on our vision to provide the most advanced storage solutions," said Darren Thomas, vice president of Micron's storage business. "OEMs expect Micron to deliver leading-edge SSDs that give their products an advantage and a noticeably better user experience. The M600 fulfills that promise."

The M600 SSD uses Micron's 128Gb NAND to enable a wide range of capacities in tiny configurations. The M600 is offered in 128, 256 and 512GB mSATA and M.2 module configurations. The gumstick-sized M.2 module is offered in both 80mm and 60mm versions (2280 and 2260) to provide versatile options for ultra-slim tablet systems. The M600 is also available in a 2.5-inch, 7mm form factor, which is available in capacities from 128GB to 1TB.

The M600 SSD is currently in production and is sold directly to OEMs and to system builders and businesses through Micron's extensive distribution network. For additional information on the key features of the M600, visit