Just when we thought Micron’s premium flash was reserved only for the best of the best SSDs, Acer’s FA100 showed up. Unlike the high-end and highly power-hungry Crucial P5 Plus and Seagate FireCuda 530 SSDs we recently reviewed, the FA100 is designed to be an affordable and efficient mainstream SSD, but it’s still powered by Micron’s latest flash. Acer designed the SSD to work well with its laptops, but you can also fit it into a standard M.2 slot.
InnoGrit’s Shasta+ DRAM-less PCIe 3.0 SSD controller complements the Micron 176-Layer TLC flash packed on board, making the FA100 unlike any hardware configuration we’ve seen. But it’s especially strange when you consider that it’s marketed by Acer, a company we don’t normally think of as a storage supplier, but as a powerhouse that makes laptops. However, the company is now offering its own SSD lineup through a strategic partnership with SSD maker BIWIN, giving us a unique new take on a mainstream SSD.
|Capacity (User / Raw)||256GB / 256GB||512GB / 512GB||1024GB / 1024GB|
|form factor||M.2 2280||M.2 2280||M.2 2280|
|Interface / Protocol||PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4||PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4||PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4|
|controller||InnoGrit IG5216||InnoGrit IG5216||InnoGrit IG5216|
|Memory||Micron 176L TLC||Micron 176L TLC||Micron 176L TLC|
|Random reading||100,000 IOPS||190,000 IOPS||325,000 IOPS|
|Random write||273,000 IOPS||296,000 IOPS||293,000 IOPS|
|Guarantee||5 years||5 years||5 years|
Acer’s FA100 is available in the US in 250 GB, 500 GB and 1 TB capacities, while the 128 GB and 2 TB models are available in other countries. Priced at just $0.10 – $0.18 per gigabyte of storage, the FA100 is geared for the budget market. The 1TB FA100 is the fastest model in the US, with a sequential read/write speed of up to 3.3/2.7 GBps. The FA100 also provides up to 379,000/293,000 random read/write IOPS.
Acer backs the FA100 with a solid warranty, and the SSD comes with average endurance. The company rates our 1TB FA100 sample as capable of withstanding up to 600TB of writes during the five-year warranty. To live up to its ratings, the FA100 uses 4K LDPC ECC, along with other security schemes, while only 7.4 percent of the flash is reserved for overprovisioning and poor block management. That means more usable space for the end user than most SSDs that put aside about 10%.
A closer look
The Acer FA100 comes in a single-sided M.2 2280 form factor and is fitted with a stylish black PCB. However, the company decided to put a rather repulsive label on it, and it’s upside down compared to most SSDs. On the back, the FA100 has a thin metal heat spreader, similar to the one on Samsung’s 980 Pro, to aid in thermal dissipation.
As mentioned, the InnoGrit Shasta+ IG5216 is the heart of the FA100. It’s a complaint 4-channel PCIe NVMe 1.4 SSD controller designed for a high level of power efficiency rather than pure performance. This controller uses multi-level power management to quickly return to low temperatures after strenuous activity and stay cool when idle. It also supports SMART data reporting, Trim and can be safely erased via Format NVM command. However, it lacks AES 256-bit hardware encryption.
The controller can be linked to sixteen dies of Micron’s B47R 512Gb 176 TLC flash, without the use of DRAM to speed up access to the mapping tables. Instead of saving production costs, the FA100’s controller uses Host Memory Buffer (HMB), which uses the host system’s DRAM to store the mapping tables. This improves the service quality of the device compared to a design that does not take advantage of this NVMe specified feature.
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