In 2016 it’s becoming increasingly difficult for typical consumers and even well-informed gaming enthusiasts to pick the perfect solid state drive (SSD) with both high performance and affordability for their data storage needs. While low-cost, entry-level SSDs have been around for several years, the reality was that most of those cheap drives suffered from dramatically reduced performance compared to more expensive drives. PNY aims to change that this year with a pair of affordable SSDs aimed at both casual PC users and hardcore gaming enthusiasts, the PNY CS1311 and the PNY CS2211.
While both of these drives deliver solid performance and are available in a range of capacities and prices (starting around $50 for the CS1311 in the 120 GB capacity), the real story here is that the type of NAND flash your SSD uses might not be as important as it used to be.
PNY CS1311: High-Performance Consumer SSD
In this corner we have the PNY CS1311 2.5-inch SATA-III (6 Gb/s) SSD which is part of PNY’s “value performance” line of SSDs. This drive is clearly intended to appeal to customers looking for an cost-effective (yet still high performance) upgrade from a traditional spinning hard disk drive (HDD). Upgrading from an old hard drive to the CS1311 SSD does indeed deliver an overall performance boost with Windows boot up, power down, and application load times all dramatically faster than what any HDD provides. PNY also includes a free key to install the full version of Acronis True Image HD software, a drive cloning application that lets you copy the data from your old hard drive over to the new SSD without needing to re-install Windows and the rest of your applications and files.
The beating heart of the CS1311 is a Phison S10 (PS3110-S10-X) controller and Triple-Level Cell (TLC) NAND flash memory in capacities from 120 GB to 960 GB. Unlike early generations of TLC-based SSDs, PNY engineers have focused on making sure the CS1311 delivers improved program/erase cycles per cell so that customers won’t have to worry as much about the life span of the latest TLC-based SSDs. The CS1311 comes with a 3-year limited warranty and free US-based technical support.
PNY CS2211: Gamer/Enthusiast SSD
The next generation of PNY’s XLR8 SSD line, the CS2211, is a 2.5-inch SATA (6 Gb/s) SSD that offers extreme performance and reliability without being too expensive. PNY developed the CS2211 specifically for both gaming enthusiasts and 4K video editors who demand quick access to massive amounts of data that may be deleted and rewritten to the drive numerous times. The CS2211 promises the fastest speed in its class (sequential read speeds up to 565 MB/s and sequential write up to 540 MB/s) thanks to the combination of a Phison S10 controller and Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND flash memory. Also, as with the CS1311, the CS2211 now includes a key for the Acronis data migration software, which makes life a little easier for DIY upgrades.
Gamers and 4K video creators demand storage space as much as speed, so the PNY CS2211 comes in capacities of 240 GB, 480 GB, and 960 GB. This drive comes with a 4-year limited warranty and free US-based technical support.
One of the core hardware components that has a major impact on the overall performance of any SSD is the controller. In this case, both SSDs utilize the Phison PS3110-S10-X which is a 32-bit quad-core SATA III 6Gbps controller running 8 channels. These drives aren’t the first to use this controller and it’s starting to become almost an industry standard among recent consumer SSD releases. A quick check inside both the CS1311 and CS2211 also shows that both drives use Nanya DDR3L DRAM.
We subjected both drives to a variety of tests, including Crystal Disk Mark, ATTO Disk Benchmark, timed file transfers and PCMark 8. PNY claims that the budget-friendly CS1311 (480 GB capacity) is rated at a maximum sequential read speed of 550 GB/s and a maximum sequential write speed of 520 GB/s. Our tests in Crystal Disk Mark show that the PNY CS1311 actually reaches sequential read speeds up to 564 MB/s and write speeds up to 533 MB/s. We find it pleasantly surprising whenever a product is better than advertised, and the CS1311 clearly delivers solid bang for your bucks.
Much to our surprise, repeated tests in Crystal Disk Mark revealed that the PNY CS2211 (240 GB capacity) came in right around its advertised maximum sequential read and write speeds coming in at 564 MB/s read and 543 MB/s write. This means the performance difference (at least in terms of speed) between the CS1311 and the CS2211 isn’t nearly as dramatic as the already modest difference that PNY advertises.
In terms of power consumption both of these SSDs consume noticeably less wattage than a typical spinning hard drive like the WD Blue 2.5-inch HDD. PNY claims the active power consumption of the CS1311 is 2.2 W and the active power consumption of the CS2211 is 1.7 W. However, our test rig indicated that power consumption between Windows boot up and during active reads/writes varied between 2 W and 3 W on both drives.
If you haven’t already guessed by this point in the review, declaring a clear winner between the PNY CS1311 and the PNY CS2211 using nothing but the raw performance benchmarks is like trying to split a hair lengthwise. Both of these SATA-III 2.5-inch form factor solid state drives deliver exceptional performance for the price. Both SSDs use a Phison S10 controller and are rated at 2,000,000 hours mean time between failures (MTBF) with support for secure erase, S.M.A.R.T. hardware monitoring, end-to-end data path protection and support for TRIM and RAID 0/1.
In truth, even the fact that the CS2211 uses high-quality MLC NAND flash memory and the CS1311 uses more affordable TLC NAND flash memory isn’t as much of a differentiation as you might imagine. The real-world performance difference between these two SSDs is only somewhere around 2% … and that’s simply not enough of a difference for most people to notice unless you’re running speed tests to measure the differences in performance.
There are really only three things that are going to separate the PNY CS1311 and the PNY 2211 for most consumers. First and foremost is the price; the TLC-based CS1311 is roughly $10 less expensive at every capacity compared to the MLC-based CS2211. Second, the less expensive CS1311 comes with a 3-year warranty while the CS2211 comes with a 4-year warranty. Last, and perhaps of greatest interest to notebook users, is the fact that the more expensive CS2211 is advertised as being more power efficient; consuming roughly one full watt less when active compared to the CS1311.
That difference in power consumption won’t matter to desktop users, but if you’re someone who is frequently accessing data and you care about getting the best possible battery life from your laptop then the CS2211 is probably worth the extra cash.
No matter which SSD you think deserves to lose, people shopping for affordable SSDs with good performance are the clear winners here.