Review of PCIe 4.0 Digma Top P8: Atypical Pison E18

Review of PCIe 4.0 Digma Top P8: Atypical Pison E18

A long time ago, the Digma Mega S3 solid storage device was visited by our lab, which proved to be an interesting budgetary solution based on the modern TLC 3D NAND. With this storage device in mind, it is reasonable to say that Digma was able to convincingly overplay market leaders in a segment of cheap, non-buffer NVMe SSD. However, the manufacturer's ambitions extend far beyond the budget sector, and these are not video recorders, e-books or players also produced under the Digma brand, but hard-core storage devices that use the PCIe 4.0 interface and can compete with Samsung 980 PRO and WD Black SN850.

In fact, the SSD second to third-line manufacturers are not facing any obstacles to the production of modern high-product storage devices. The development of independent controller suppliers – Phison and Innogrit – has been caught up by the characteristics of the market leaders. The PS5018-E18 and IG5236 chips have sufficient computing resources to enable the SSD based on them to take full advantage of the PCIe 4.0 x4 interface in linear operations and to deliver productivity closer to the million IOPS in small-scale loads. This is sufficient to create full-fledged flagship solutions, and therefore brands like Digma are sufficient to negotiate with the designers of these chips, select a good NAND memory and order a serial assembly of the resulting configuration from the ODM manufacturer.

However, despite the seeming simplicity of the approach described, the market is far from being flooded by low-cost high-product models of consumer SSD. Many small producers see little point in competing with the Grands and bypassing successful fast controllers on the side. Others try to save memory and therefore produce fast but controversial consumer products. As a result, every new SSD second-third-line brand with declared characteristics is a kind of "black box" that the flagships have to deal with individually. Today we will meet another such device, the Digma "top" storage device, which is directly called the Top P8.

This model has received a separate review at least because it is technically based on the Phison E18 platform. Most of the new SSDs on such a controller use the 176-layer TLC Memo and look against the backdrop of flagship decisions by market leaders. So, at first sight, Digma Top P8 has every chance of becoming as outstanding as productivity to price, as we have recently considered Netac NV7000.

However, doubts arise from the fact that the Digma Top P8 specifications show weaker indicators than the "Etalon Phison E18", such as Seagate FireCuda 530 or Kingston Fury Renegade. So whether Digma's marketers described their product in a modest way, or whether some non-standard hardware configuration was chosen for Top P8. The intrigue also turns out to be weird: Digma's reservoirs are usually sold cheaper than analogs, but in the case of Top P8 it is not. It is more expensive than some Pison E18-variants of other manufacturers, which makes it so mysterious that Digma Top P8 appears to be thoroughly dealt with in a large survey format.

♪ External appearance and interior device

The first impression is that "Digma Top P8" is nothing like a high-end product. It even appears in a primitive blister, as if it were an SSD initial level, rather than a storage device with the word "top" in the title.

Top P8 performance is also very simple. The storage device is a one-way payment of the M.22280 format without any cooling equipment. On the face of the SSD there is only a sticker with a minimum set of information, the name and capacity of the model, as well as a serial number.

Under the sticker, the most interesting is the hardware platform. The review looks at the SSD volume of 1 Tbyte, and it's collected from six chips, set on a rather bizarre basis. The center is the controller of the Phison PS5018-E18; next to it is the gigabyte buffer chip DDR4-1600 SDRAM, and along the edges is the two chips of the TLC 3D NAND.

In fact, this location of the components on the board is a reference design developed by Phison for fast SSD models, where balancing the electrical load on the controller and aligning the length of the conductors can make sense. But what really surprises us is the marking of flash memory chips. As is usually the case in the SSD on the Phison controllers, it uses a memory cut from silicon plates and packed into chips by Taiwan's PTI forces, but in this case, the marking of these chips begins with the "TA" prefix, not "IA". Which means that the Digma Top P8 storage device uses a memory released by a completely different manufacturer, rather than a Mikron.

A more detailed trial shows that at Top P8, a Phison PS5018-E18 controller controls an eight-channel flash memory array built with 512 Gbit BiCS5 devices. However, it would be unfair to say that Digma saved and chose a completely inappropriate memory for Top P8. The Phison E18 plus BiCS5 combination is not only used in the storage device in question, but also in some models of first-line manufacturers, such as Exceria Pro itself Kioxia.

Digma itself does not, of course, produce Top P8. This storage device, like most other products on the same controller, is produced by PTI under the control of Phison itself. Digma is in charge of sales, marketing and support in this case. Therefore, the quality of Top P8 performance should be in no doubt: this decision is no worse than any other storage device on the Phison E18 platform.

♪ Technical characteristics

The Digma Top P8 passport specifications only capture the controller used, and only the general phrase "TLC 3D NAND" is mentioned for memory. The company thus reserves the possibility of partially changing the configuration later. This will be easy to do, because the performance characteristics for Top P8 are very similar: for example, the speed of random reading and recording are not specified at all.

We have supplemented the official memory specification to the best of our ability, and as a result it has become as follows:

Manufacturer DigmaSerium Top P8 Model Number DGST4001TP83 TDGST4002TP83 TDGST4004TP83TForm factor M22280 InterfacePCI Express 3.0 x4 - NVMe 1.4 Capacity, Gbyte100020004000 Flash-memorial: Type, process, manufacturer Kioxia 112-layer TLC 3D NAND , mil.
Manufacturer DigmaSerium Top P8 Model Number DGST4001TP83 TDGST4002TP83 TDGST4004TP83TForm factor M22280 InterfacePCI Express 3.0 x4 - NVMe 1.4 Capacity, Gbyte100020004000 Flash-memorial: Type, process, manufacturer Kioxia 112-layer TLC 3D NAND , mil.

===Digma Top P8===The Digma Top P8 model series includes storage devices up to 4 Tbyte – a clear indication that the manufacturer has swung to the top segment.

However, in the context of this review, we are talking about a more dynamic model of 1 Tbyte, and it also has more than a threshold to surprise the buyer – a guarantee. Despite the fact that Top P8 is positioned as a non-budget product, the guarantee period is only three years, but during this time the storage device is allowed to rewrite the entire 700 times: the declared endurance of the Digma storage device is higher than that of the average models. This is probably due to the allocation to the swing fund of a larger amount of memory: after formatting the capacity of the terabytether in the OS is 932 rather than 954 Gbyte.

With regard to the Digma performance indicators reported, they are not very complete, but they are also inaccurate, but they are detected at the first "gunning" Digma Top P81 Tbyte test at CrystalDiskMark.

In practice, Top P81 Tbyte produces linear reading and recording speeds of 7 and 5.8 Gbyte/s respectively, and the peak speed of small-box operations is 900 and 1,200 thousand IOPs when read and recorded respectively, and these values are only slightly lower than the storage points on the Phison E18 platform with the 176 layer Micron memory. In other words, at first glance, the Digma Top P8 appears to be sufficiently productive to be included in the group of flagship-level savers recommended for high-performance PCs.

== sync, corrected by elderman == @elder_man

Second-third-line manufacturers rarely develop a service software for SSD. Digma is no exception: no software is offered to service Top P8. Therefore, to monitor the state of SSD, universal utilities such as CrystalDiskInfo will have to be used, and you can forget about the upgrades.

♪ Description of the test system and test methodology

Preliminary assumptions indicate that the performance of the Digma Top P8 should be similar to that of other savers on the Phison E18 platform. Therefore, comparing it logically with the best and most productive SSD today, and to compare it, we have selected a set of popular flagship solutions.

== sync, corrected by elderman == @elder_man
== sync, corrected by elderman == @elder_man

The configuration of the test system was as follows:

  • Processor: Intel Core i9-12900K .

The test was performed in Microsoft Windows 11 Pro Building 22000.282.0, with an updated KB5008353, which corrects the performance of SSD in random recording operations. The system used the Microsoft Standard NVMe Express Control 10.18362.1.

The storage devices for the tests were installed in the M.2 slot, to which the PCI Express lines were brought directly from the processor.

*SLC-cashing: file recording, reading and disposal

SLC is the most important algorithm in modern storages that is responsible for accelerating recording operations. It is that information on SSD with TLC- or QLC memory is first recorded in a quick single-bit mode, and its compaction occurs later, at the point of primer. This means that modern storage can only display high speeds on a limited amount of data, the size of which depends on the specific implementation of the SLC-kesh algorithm.

To find out how this works in practice and how much of the flash memory array of specific storage devices works in different modes, we run a continuous file entry test on the SSD until it is completely exhausted, with simultaneous speed measurement. This test uses the default Windows operations for single-flow copying files for the tested SSD, and the test is conducted in three passes: for a completely clean SSD; for a SSD filled with data by half; and for SSD, which is initially three quarters full.

The recording speed graph obtained for the Digma Top P8, is a good reflection of Kioxia flash memory weaknesses compared to Microsoft memory. The 8-channel array, built on the 112 layered Kioxia BiCS5, while operating in the TLC mode, provides a recording capacity of only 770 mbytes/s. This is a very low figure because in similar storage devices with a Phison E18 controller, but from the 176 layer TLC 3D NAND production of Microsoft, the speed at the same conditions reaches 1900 mbytes/s. And even in the Phison E18 first wave storage, where the 96-layer Micron flash memory was installed, the recording speed at the TLC mode reached 1,100 mbytes/s. In other words, the flash memory array at Digma Top P8 in terms of capacity is frankly disappointing.

However, all this is more theoretical than practical. First, the real users of the Digma Top P8 will be much more likely to experience flash memory work in the cleavage SLC mode, and in terms of this indicator, in the Kioxia BiCS5 array, everything is in order – the recording speed is up to 3.8 Gbyte/s and it is quite consistent with the recording speed of the Microsoft memory. Second, the weakness of the BiCS5 in terms of capacity is offset by its low lateence, so in many real scenarios where handling is random rather than linear, Top P8 may not at all play the Pison E18 memory collections.

With regard to the general principles of SLC-kashing in the Digma Top P8, this storage device uses a dynamic algorithm. On an empty terabyte SSD, the volume of SLC-kash is about 100 Gbytes. However, after filling the data with the entire storage volume and then releasing it, the SLC-cashing ceases to function. This is a rather unpleasant deficiency of Top P8, but it does not apply so much to this SSD specifically as to the entire Phison E18 platform – other storage devices on its basis suffer from such a disease.

Let's translate this into simple diagrams. From the point of view of the maximum SSD recording speed achieved in SLC-cashing mode, Digma Top P8 is one of the leaders. Here, it is clearly no less than the Pison E18 storage of Microsoft memory.

At the minimum recording speed of the Digma Top P8, on the other hand, almost the worst of the flagships. The figure of 469 Mbyte/s is obtained at the completion of the full SSD capacity, when the flash memory array has already moved to the TLC mode and the controller is simultaneously moving the filled cells from the one-bit to the three-bit state.

As a result, the average recording speed of the full SSD from start to finish at Digma Top P8 is low. Copying the data terabyte on this storage device will take 22 minutes, while models with 176 layered Mikron memory, such as Seagate FireCuda 530 or Kingston Fury Renegade, can be booked in nine minutes.

But at the speed of reading files, Digma Top P8 has no problem. The standard one-time copying from this Windows storage device averages 2.3 Gbyte/s. This is slightly slower than copying files from other flagship SSDs, but compared to the same Seagate FireCuda 530 difference is only 5%.

So the main claim for the Digma Top P8 is the low recording speed of the flash memory array in the TLC mode; in other cases, the storage device handles simple file transactions quite well, even when compared to flagship solutions.

When you remove the large-volume Digma Top P8 files, it's typical for the SSD on the Phison E18 controller. A few seconds after it's erased, the storage device slows down by a few seconds. The reading speed is about one and a half times lower and the delay increases by one and a half order.

It would be wrong to make some claims here about the BiCS5 array. This is a user-marked file removal process that is a control characteristic: this aspect of the productivity of the Pison engineers has not yet been optimized.

♪ Production of complex file operations

When copying the files inside the Digma Top P8 storage device, it shows the speed that is quite common to the flagships, but in archiving and embroiling, when the flow of transactions that the controller is facing is not symmetrical, the relative results of Top P8 are deteriorating. It is lower than those of Samsung and WD flagships, as well as the Seagate FireCuda 530 – a similar storage device on the Pison E18 platform with Mikron memory.

♪ Production in applications

The SPECworkstation test simulates disc load scenarios, is characterized by resource-intensive applications and high-productivity workstations. In its view, Digma Top P8 is one of the fast enough storage devices, but it is still smaller than the Samsung 980 PRO, and Seagate FireCuda 530. In addition, the ADA XPG Gammix S70 platform-based Innogrit IG5236 can be a much better indicator.

It should be borne in mind that the performance of the Digma Top P8 is uneven in different scenarios. There are a range of tasks that it does as well as the most powerful PCIE 4.0-flagmans. Thus, it can certainly be recommended to professionals who are involved in 3D engineering or who work in mathematical modelling applications with large-size matrices.

SPECworkstation 3.1 chart 9.png See all images chart 10.png chart 11.png chart 12.png chart 13.png View all images

♪ Playtime production ♪

In the game loads of Digma Top P8 it looks confident. Although it lags behind Seagate FireCuda 530 and WD Black SN850, the amount of this lag is small. Therefore, it can be recommended for use in the game assemblies at the highest level.

The fact that gamers should pay close attention to the Digital Top P8 is illustrated by the more detailed results of 3DMarc Storage Benchmark. The storage device under consideration looks particularly well in terms of the time of launch of the game applications, and it also provides the maximum possible performance for the game to date.

3DMark Storage Chart 15.png See all images of chart 16.png chart 17.png chart 18.png chart 19.png chart 20.png chart 21.png Watch all images

== sync, corrected by elderman == @elder_man

Remember, in this section, we compare the user-friendly peak productivity values that CrystalDiskMark produces, and the real-life indicators. For measurements, IOmeter uses a load with the depth of a request line of not more than four commands; that's what SSD operations have to deal with when working in a PC.

However, it should be borne in mind that the Phison controllers deliberately optimize to synthetic productivity measurements, and in similar tests they look somewhat better than in actual loads. It is not surprising, therefore, that in line reading and recording of the Digital Top P8, together with Seagate FireCuda 530, they are placed at the top of the diagrams. Moreover, Top P8 results are high at mixed loads, almost reaching the WD Black SN850 performance level.

== sync, corrected by elderman == @elder_man

However, the Digma Top P8 also shows fairly high results in this discipline. However, in synthetic tests Top P8 always lags behind the Seage FireCuda 530 family storage device, which allows you to recall once again the advantage of the Mikron memory over Kioxia memory, at least when it comes to the Phison E18 platform.

♪ Temperature mode

The computer changes made to the Digital Top P8 platform have had a positive effect on the temperature of the Phison E18 storage device. This model does not warm as much as the SSD with the 176 layer Micron memory. This applies to both the NAND chips and the underlying chip. The maximum load-based temperature of the controller's surface on Top P8 was 90 degrees, and the memory heat was limited to 65 degrees. It is worth recalling that in the Mikron similar storage tests, the temperature of the Phison Ps5018-E18 chip reached 102 degrees.

As is often the case, Top P8's own monitoring is markedly lowering the temperature. When a 5-minute storage unit is loaded with mixed operations, the maximum return temperature is 81 degrees, and the SSD itself has been able to do without a trottleling at all. However, this does not mean that such a storage device is capable of operating without cooling at all; it is better to provide it with a radiator.

The peak on this graph corresponds to the end of the space in the SLC-kash. This means that the Digma Top P8 heats up significantly more when the recording operations are performed in an accelerated mode. This is another characteristic characteristic of the Digma storage device. No such effects were observed with the Micron related SSD memory.

♪ Conclusions

The Phison E18 platform has become a very useful solution for both producers and users in recent months, with the first opening up a simple way to market flagship-level savers, and the second opening up access to modern and productive models with quite attractive prices.

It's not that simple, though most of the savings on the Phison E18 controller market are the same from a hardware point of view, different producers approach their positioning differently. Firms are larger and better equipped with advanced cooling systems, develop their own software for them, and provide generous assurance, considering all of this as sufficient reason to raise the price to Samsung 980 PRO. Firms are smaller in such improvements and sell their Phison E18 as a "gold" but at a lower price.

Many consumers like the second approach: those who prefer products with loud names will rather stop at a vertically integrated Samsung or WD storage device, rather than a generic product collected from external suppliers ' chips, whatever sauce it is sold on, but those who need to "go, not checkers" will be happy to choose a low-priced standard selling under any brand. The important thing is that it is collected from the right components and provides a good level of productivity.

Digma Top P8 is intended specifically for these people, because it is very fast to the best samples of the modern PCIE 4.0 SSD. But there is an important nuance: this SSD is different from the other Phison E18 models on the market. While the vast majority of SSDs that are available on the market with this controller are filled with Microsoft memory, the Digma Top P8 has the memory of Kioxia BiCS5, which makes it unique in some sense. However, this uniqueness is stealing from Top P8 a few percentage points of productivity. Of course, Kioxia's memory does not damage Top P8 so much that it needs to be removed from the list of the most advanced solutions. However, in direct comparison with Seagate FireCuda 530, Kingston Fury Renegade or Corsair MP600 Pro XT, the Digma storage device will be slightly slower in most cases.

However, this small Digma productivity delta will probably be able to compensate with price, but even without that, there is a special 4 Gbyte modification in the Top P8 model series, which already has an attractive price tag.