Lexar’s SL660 Blaze is the company’s latest portable drive for gaming and is available in 512GB and 1TB capacities. The drive comes with resplendent RGB lighting and includes software support combined with a selection of materials and style for sale as a “gaming” drive that will compete for a spot on our list of best external SSDs.
The SL660 Blaze reminds us a lot of the Kingston XS2000, they share the same hardware, but it comes with a few extra features. It also competes with the ADATA SE900G, which also comes with RGB lighting but has a bulkier case.
As with the XS2000, SE900G and other portable drives, convenience is the name of the game. Alternatively, you can buy your own drive and case independently and save money by combining the two yourself. Of course, SATA-based options of both types also often remain viable, but sometimes it’s nice to have 2GB/s of bandwidth on hand.
Let’s see how it works here.
|Capacity (User / Raw)||500 GB / 512 GB||1000 GB / 1024 GB|
|Form factor||M.2 2280||M.2 2280|
|Interface / Protocol||USB-C / USB Gen3 2×2||USB-C / USB Gen3 2×2|
|Included||USB Type-C to Type-C, USB Type-C to Type-A cables||USB Type-C to Type-C, USB Type-C to Type-A cables|
|DRACHMA||N / A||N / A|
|Memory||Micron 96L CCM||Micron 96L CCM|
|Shuffle Playback||N / A||N / A|
|Random write||N / A||N / A|
|Security||256-bit AES (software)||256-bit AES (software)|
|Power||Bus Powered||Bus Powered|
|Endurance||Shock resistant||Shock resistant|
|Stamina (TBW)||N / A||N / A|
|Dimensions||112.6 x 57.4 x 10.6mm (without stand)||112.6 x 57.4 x 10.6mm (without stand)|
|guarantee||5 years||5 years|
The Lexar SL660 Blaze only has two capacities: 512GB and 1TB. The price per gigabyte at the time of writing, which is for pre-orders, is around $0.20 per gigabyte. It’s more expensive than the Kingston XS2000, which has fewer frills while being smaller and weighing less. The SL660 Blaze is rated up to 2.0/1.9 GB/s for sequential reads and writes, in line with the XS2000. We would expect these write speeds to decrease with extended writes once the SLC cache is exhausted.
As with the XS2000, the SL660 Blaze is backed by a five-year warranty and is built to withstand crashes. Additionally, the controller itself features typical data protection with SMI’s NANDXtend, a patented technology that has similarities to techniques used on other controllers. This helps maximize flash endurance through LDPC error correction and can correct errors through RAID parity. Lexar also offers 256-bit AES encryption, but this is software-based, so it won’t be as good.
Software and accessories
The SL660 Blaze comes with more than a few items. It has both USB Type-C to Type-C and Type-C to Type-A cables and removable media. These are both handy because you can dock the drive close to your computer, and the drive will be compatible with two common types of USB ports. The player also comes with a nice pouch for added convenience and protection, although this may increase the overall volume. The competing Kingston XS200, for its part, included a rubber sleeve.
The drive also comes with an SSD Toolkit, the Lexar SSD Dashboard, and support for software encryption through Lexar’s DataShield. We previously indicated that hardware encryption with a self-encrypting drive (SED) is generally not a priority for consumer drives and is otherwise potentially inconsistent. Lexar offers a software solution as a checkbox for their feature list, but it’s actually usable and useful even though it’s something you can do yourself on other drives with the proper software. Likewise, we like having an SSD toolkit even though it’s usually unnecessary.
To look closer
The USB interface can also be its own bottleneck, regardless of the internal SSD. Portable drives are also generally streamlined and designed to be efficient, meaning they often have a DRAM-less design that would benefit from performance-boosting HMB (Host Memory Buffer) technology – but that doesn’t work over USB. interface. Both of these issues present challenges for external drives: most users use these types of drives for large files or image backups, which are essentially large sequential file transfers. This type of work can be limited by the interface or by the disk’s sequential write speed, the latter being impacted by the lack of HMB.
Most previous portable drives shipped with ASMedia’s bridge chips, such as the ASM2362 and ASM2364 for 10 Gbps and 20 Gbps, respectively. Portable units tend to have an independent drive with its own controller and a separate bridge chip to handle communication with the host, for example, with two PCIe 3.0 lanes on one side and USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, up to 20 Gbps, on the other. Silicon Motion’s new SM2320 chip, used in the SL660 Blaze and XS2000, instead provides an integrated or hybrid design with everything in a single package. This pairs very well with the simplified intentions of a portable SSD.
Image 1 of 5
The SL660 Blaze has a sleek aluminum exterior that certainly lends itself to the gaming aesthetic, even without RGB enabled. It’s otherwise clean, with the back showing the capacity/model and serial number. The interior shares the black coloring with some protection. Of course, it’s not a drive you’d have to chip away at, given the nature of the class-leading SM2320 controller. The black PCB has no DRAM but has four flash boxes with two on each side.
Image 1 of 2
The controller, labeled SM2320G, looks like it was made about a year ago. SMI prides itself on this four-channel design, capable of handling up to 4TB of flash memory in a compact 9x9mm package. While there are downsides to having a single chip for a portable drive, the benefits of reduced size and cost usually outweigh them. We also see the four LEDs on the edge of the board, which as tested were not controllable but rather simply shifted between different colors.
The flash modules are produced by Longsys and labeled 29F208EMLCER. From the “29” we can tell it’s an Intel or Micron flash, as in MT29 at the time of IMFT, at 2TB or 256GB per chip in an 8-bit configuration for a total of 1TB. It’s similar to the 96-layer Micron TLC we saw on the XS2000. This is an older flash but is fine for a four channel portable player.
AFTER: Best SSDs
AFTER: How we test HDDs and SSDs
AFTER: All SSD content