Business, Hardware

Mushkin Goes "Made in USA", to Launch Dense SSDs: 480GB mSATA and 960GB SATA

During the 2013 International CES show in Las Vegas, NV, we met with Mushkin representatives to discuss the progress company has made in terms of manufacturing capabilities and the actual products. The meeting took place on the 60th floor of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, a hotel whose architects lost the ability to do math, as the hotel actually doesn’t have floors between 38-59 (the building itself has 43 floors).

Moving on from interesting building characteristics and avoiding the number 4 (pronounced "sì" – the same as death) to please the Asian visitors, Mushkin actually had quite a few announcements to discuss. Firstly, the company no longer purchases SSD and memory from 3rd party vendors and then rebrands it to their own name, as most of its competitors do. This is unfortunately, the way how many of household brands operate these days, as the build quality ends up being not up to par desired specs.

Assembled in the U.S.A. - Mushkin's double-PCB, double-stacked mSATA drive with record capacity: 480GB
Assembled in the U.S.A. – Mushkin’s double-PCB, double-stacked mSATA drive with record capacity: 480GB

Backing the trend of return of manufacturing to United States, Mushkin acquired manufacturing facilities in Austin, Texas – a city which once more is becoming one of the world’s premier manufacturing locations. Controlling its own manufacturing is the reason why the company was able to pump out several very interesting designs, such as world’s highest capacity mSATA Drive: Atlas 480GB. Even though we’re talking about a double-stacked PCB, the Micron chips will gain in density, and as the development progresses, the company expects to increase the compatibility with more notebooks and Ultrabooks. For example, clearance on our Acer Ultrabook is actually enough to fit the 480GB design, while some Dell XPS systems had SSD touching the protective bracket.

For regular SATA SSD users (notebook or desktop or server), Mushkin is preparing yet another ultra-capacity delight – a 960GB SSD from the Chronos series. Currently in prototype stage, the company expects that the new drive will resolve issues that plague high capacity drives that no one seems to talk about in public. The LSI SandForce controller, just like any controller – has to pair meta-data with regular data in order to be able to address all the Flash NAND chips inside the chip array that forms the SSD drive of today.

Austin is my hometown - Mushkin's 960GB SSD is undergoing final QA testing
Austin is my hometown – Mushkin’s 960GB SSD is undergoing final QA testing

The engineering progress on the 960GB drive is progressing well, with performance already on level with first generation 480GB SSD drives of yesteryear. If ultimate performance is what you need, Mushkin is keen on pushing Scorpion, lineup of modular PCIe SSD drives, which combine up to 4 SSD modules with proprietary connectors.

Scorpion made a debut at the 2012 CES and seemingly nothing happened during the whole year. With the manufacturing now firmly in Mushkin’s own hands, the company plans to come to market with this innovative progress (while the company representatives weren’t keen on disclosing the cause the delay, we believe it had something to do with proprietary mSATA connectors).

Scorpion now features a different design, with the brand new controller which supports PCIe 2.0 x8, which should be good upwards of 4GB down and 4GB up. Given the limitations of LSI SandForce controllers, we believe the figures will be somewhere in the 2GB/s range. Furthermore, if an user experiences a power failure, the new built-in capacitors will keep the card alive for a few second, enough to keep the data integrity in check.