January, 2024

Micron 3500 NVMe SSD designed to be reliable and consistent across a wide range of environments

Every so often, a solid-state drive (SSD) comes along that checks all the boxes - it's fast, efficient, and affordable. The Crucial T500 was one such SSD, and its excellent technology has been repurposed in the form of the Micron 3500 SSD.

The Micron 3500 is a top-notch NVMe client SSD that combines DRAM and NAND in a high-performance, power-efficient package. It's a speedy and reliable OEM PCIe 4.0 drive that builds on the successful formula of the Crucial T500.

Launched in December 2023, this SSD adopts a M.2 2280 form factor and features a 232-layer NAND. It's available in 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB variations, and boasts a top-notch Phison E25 controller, also found in the Crucial T500 SSD.

Recover data from Micron NVMe SSD

Micron 3500 Controller Features

The controller in the M3500 also features four-channel PCIe Gen4 connectivity, making it stand out for its stellar performance even when compared to eight-channel alternatives.

Thermal Management

The Micron 3500 SSD shares the same angled Phison E25 SSD controller as the T500. This angling could be for aesthetic reasons, but it also has practical benefits. It helps with thermal management as a lot of heat escapes through the M.2 connector. The angling also improves the controller's surface area for heat dissipation and allows for optimal space usage for other components on the PCB. This placement can also enhance the layout's flexibility for better data flow or signaling.

The controller package is designed for heat dissipation, similar to the E26. The older E18 uses a flip chip chip scale package (FCCSP) in a 12x12mm form factor. This has benefits over the older E12's 16x16mm thin-profile fine-pitch ball grid array (TFBGA), and the Phison E16 lands in between those two and utilizes a heatsink or heatspreader TFBGA (HSTFBGA) package for improved thermal management.

More power means more heat, and as such, integrating a heatsink can also improve reliability. The E25 takes up more space at 12.5x12.5mm, but it has a DRAM controller that makes it similar to the four-channel E12C used on the Kioxia Exceria. It's able to provide high levels of performance without serious thermal drawbacks and should provide a consistent, reliable experience.

Controller Features and Support

The Phison E25 SSD controller itself uses the newer 4KB error correction over the older E18 with a new generation of LDPC. This improves endurance and, in some cases, performance. The Micron 3500 supports 512e and not 4Kn for sector sizes, which is perfectly fine for client or consumer use. It also supports host-controlled thermal management (HCTM), part of the NVMe specification. This means that power states can be adjusted around temperature thresholds, which can be useful.

Client Drive Goals

Client drives like the 3500 have different goals than retail models. They're designed to be reliable and consistent across a wide range of environments and can be tuned to specific OEM platforms. But that doesn't mean they can't pack a punch. The 3500 is loaded with new hardware and DRAM, similar to the popular SK hynix Gold P31.

Brands like Kioxia sometimes use their own controllers, while at other times they rely on Phison. Kioxia's OEM drives are often very popular, with the BG5 being a common choice for devices like the Steam Deck.

Crucial, Micron's retail arm, has also used proprietary controllers in its P5 and P5 Plus, with technology from Tidal Systems. However, the current trend seems to be moving away from in-house controllers and towards Phison.

The Crucial T500 and Micron 3500 are slightly different in that the latter is specifically configured to be sold with certain hardware units. This has clear advantages, and it seems that Crucial has received a tailored E25 controller for its T500 and the Micron 3500 SSD.

Performance and Specifications

With the E18 being so popular, a streamlined version with better power efficiency seems like a smart move. The T500 and 3500 take a similar approach, with added PS5 support and DirectStorage optimizations. If your new laptop or PC comes with a Micron 3500, you're well-prepared for upcoming games.

The Micron 3500 SSD offers impressive performance in various benchmarks, from computing to gaming. It doesn't lag significantly behind its retail version, the Crucial T500, and in fact, matches it in almost all benchmarks. It's so powerful that it outperforms nearly every eight-channel PCIe Gen4 SSD out there, with the Samsung 990 Pro being the only one that can beat it when running in full power mode.

The Micron 3500 is available in 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities. While the drive is warrantied for 600TB of writes per TB capacity, like the T500, it's only covered by a three-year warranty rather than five. As a result, the drive writes per day (DWPD) value is higher. So, if you're looking for a high-performance NVMe client SSD, the Micron 3500 could be an excellent choice.

Micron SSD Security Features

The Micron 3500 SSD is a powerful device that supports TCG Opal 2.01 for the self-encrypting drive (SED) feature, and TCG Pyrite 2.02 for non-SED. The product string ends with an "A" for non-SED and "5" for SED. The 3500 can achieve up to 7,000 MB/s for sequential reads and writes and 1,150K random read and write IOPS, which is just a bit less than the T500.

Firmware and Compatibility

Client drives like the 3500 are expected to be used in environments where reliability is a primary concern, so some firmware differences are expected. The T500 and 3500 share the same firmware base, and the revision string gives you an idea of where it's placed within the product stack.

Performance Differences

While the Micron 3400 and P5 Plus had the same performance specifications, the 3500 and T500 diverge a bit. We will investigate any possible performance changes, though unfortunately we have different capacities (1TB 3500 and 2TB T500). The 3500 also gives more storage to the user than the T500, by going for less overprovisioning. This doesn't make a real difference for a drive of this caliber.

Physical Differences

The Micron 3500 looks a lot like the T500 at first glance. The main difference is on the other side of the drive. The top side reveals a conspicuous power management integrated circuit (PMIC) that's larger than the standard Phison fare. Power management is becoming more important as SSDs get faster, and this is especially true in the client space. The 3500 does have power loss protection for data-at-rest and also support for a power loss signal. This can provide a small amount of time for the SSD to halt operations, but it should not be confused with battery-backed, full data-in-flight power loss protection (PLP).

Micron SSD Flash Technology

Micron uses its 232-Layer TLC, or sixth generation 3D NAND flash, on the 3500. This flash has worked well on the T500 as well as E26 drives like the T700. It's Toggle and ONFi 5.0 compliant, which describes its NV-LPDDR4 I/O interface. In this case, the flash is capable of running at up to 2400 MT/s with notable improvements over the previous generation. The ONFi standard allows better control through data bus inversion (DBI). This reduces power consumption with current and signal direction control. ONFi also has better on-die termination (ODT) capabilities. These changes are driven by a need to reach higher speeds with better power efficiency.

Product Positioning

The Micron 3500 fits into Micron's OEM SSD product stack, acting as a successor to the P5 Plus-inspired 3400. This can be useful in seeing what lies in store for future drives under both the Crucial and Micron branding. For now, though, the 3500 is a formidable SSD in its own right.

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Renowned for their superior quality and performance, Micron and Crucial SSDs are top-tier brands in the SSD market. Micron, a leading SSD brand, is also the parent company of Crucial, a brand celebrated for its diverse product portfolio catering to various needs and budgets. Both Micron and Crucial SSDs utilize NAND flash memory technology, which allows data to be erased and rewritten in cells. However, these cells have a finite number of write cycles, leading to potential wear and unreadability over time, which can result in SSD data corruption or loss.

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