This year, the SSD market has been rather sedate. After dramatic price crashes in 2018, the market has leveled out and retail SSD prices have been fairly consistent for months. Only a handful of products have launched using the new 9x-layer 3D NAND, and there's been just one major new SSD controller launch so far in 2019. The whole industry is gearing up for the PCIe 4.0 transition, but it's off to a slow start. That gives us the chance to fill in some gaps in our SSD coverage by taking a closer look at several drives that we were unable to review at launch. This is the first in a series of reviews that will look at drives that aren't brand new but are still worth a second look.

First up is the TeamGroup L5 LITE 3D, a SATA drive that was consistently on the leading edge of last year's price drops and remains within a few dollars of the cheapest products currently available. The L5 LITE 3D was one of the first drives to cross some notable price thresholds: less than $20 for 120GB, $30 for 240GB, $50 for 480GB and $100 for 960GB. It's not staying below those levels all the time, but it's also not going more than a few weeks without going on sale. Given the pricing and the "lite" in its name, one could easily assume that it is an entry-level DRAMless product, but it actually uses the more mainstream Silicon Motion SM2258 controller platform with a full-sized DRAM cache. Team has even gone with a nice full metal case instead of using plastic or cheaping out on the connectors as we saw with the Mushkin Source, so the product as a whole doesn't give the impression that it was subjected to rigorous cost-cutting measures.

TeamGroup L5 LITE 3D SSD Specifications
Capacity 120 GB 240 GB 480 GB 960 GB
Controller Silicon Motion SM2258
DRAM Buffer Yes
NAND Flash 3D TLC NAND
Form-Factor, Interface 2.5-inch/7-mm, SATA 6 Gbps
Sequential Read 470 MB/s 500 MB/s
Sequential Write 300 MB/s 400 MB/s 420 MB/s 480 MB/s
4kB Random Read IOPS 30k 65k 70k 80k
4kB Random Write IOPS 40k 70k 70k 70k
Warranty 3 years
Write Endurance 30 TB
0.22 DWPD
60 TB
0.22 DWPD
120 TB
0.22 DWPD
240 TB
0.22 DWPD
Current Retail Price $24.99
(21¢/GB)
$33.99
(14¢/GB)
$53.99
(11¢/GB)
$97.99
(10¢/GB)
 

It appears that the secret to Team's aggressive pricing on this model boils down to two main factors: a 3-year warranty that's more typical of entry-level drives than mainstream drives, and using whatever memory is cheapest at the moment. We've seen reports of up to four different variants of the L5 LITE 3D in the wild, as distinguished by their firmware version. Given that the L5 LITE 3D's price has dropped by more than 60% since it was introduced, that many revisions isn't as ridiculous as it might seem at first glance. We don't appreciate when mainstream SSDs make major BOM changes without changing the model name, but it's more forgivable for an entry level drive, especially when the SATA bottleneck limits the performance impact that changing NAND can have.

Our 480GB sample reports firmware version Q0410A and based on the serial number it appears to have been manufactured in late October 2018. The DRAM on the drive is Micron DDR3 but the sole NAND package bears Team's logo rather than that of one of the NAND manufacturers. That NAND package also bears the marking "DHCM80A1", but that doesn't shed much light on whose NAND lies beneath. It's possible this drive was built with lower-grade flash memory, but either way we didn't detect any new errors during our testing. The write endurance rating of just over 0.2 DWPD for 3 years is definitely lower than mainstream SATA drives.

For this review, we're primarily focusing on comparing the L5 LITE 3D against other TLC SATA drives of similar capacity. The Mushkin Source is fairly typical of recent DRAMless SATA SSDs and uses the DRAMless variant of the same Silicon Motion controller that Team is using. The Crucial MX500 and SanDisk Ultra 3D are mainstream SATA drives from two of the top tier brands. We've also thrown in results from an entry-level NVMe SSD (MyDigitalSSD SBX), Team's high-end NVMe SSD (MP34), and the Samsung 860 PRO to show the current limits of what a premium SATA SSD can achieve.

AnandTech 2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.6
Spectre/Meltdown microcode and OS patches current as of May 2018
AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer, Heavy, Light
POST A COMMENT

42 Comments

View All Comments

  • DanNeely - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    In the consumer segment so am I. For an OEM one I can understand more easily, it's performance is still better than a typical eMMC while being between the eMMC and a 240GB m.2. Going into sub $500 systems even a few dollars on the BOM are significant because margins are so low, and this offers a cheaper upgrade from eMMC than the 240 which like you I'd strongly recommend spending the extra few bucks for if building a system. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Ryan & Billy,

    I have to agree with some of the other commenters here that the conclusion is inconclusive and is primarily focused on price and performance, which are obviously important, but should not be the only factors in consideration when recommending a drive. A few points that I feel were left out in the conclusion:

    1. NAND switching has always been a big no-no. Why? Because it's impossible to guarantee that an end-user will receive a drive with the same BOM. While the review unit has competitive performance, what if it is the highest performing of the known four variants? For example, going from 256Gbit dies to 512Gbit dies could easily halve the write performance and substantially change the ATSB numbers. At a minimum, AT should request Team to disclose the different NAND configurations along with their internal performance data, so that a first degree conclusion of the performance between the different variants could be drawn.

    2. Reliability has very little to do with the physical controller. It's a piece of silicon like a CPU and rarely fails unless subjected to extraordinary environmental conditions (heat, humidity etc). What matters are the firmware and NAND. Firmware in this case is likely just a standard SMI FW with minimal modifications, so that’s not much of a risk. But the NAND is a big question mark. It being Team branded means it’s not a qualified component from a NAND vendor, but something that has been packaged by 3rd party. That opens a possibility for using unqualified NAND i.e. dies that don’t meet the NAND vendors’ specs, such as having too many bad blocks from the beginning. Many of these Tier2/3 SSDs mix good and bad dies to drive the cost down and that’s also why most of them are 240GB instead of 250 or 256GB since the extra spare area helps to cover more bad blocks. Of course it’s no guarantee that the drive will fail prematurely, but there is always a reason why a certain product is cheaper than others.

    3. Amazon/NewEgg reviews are not bulletproof, but serve as a good first degree reality check, especially if the drive has already been in the market for a while. With 27% 1-star reviews, I would personally not have the guts to recommend the drive unless it’s substantially (>20%) cheaper than any household SSD brand/model.

    4. RMA process and general support are areas that have more importance now since the performance differences between SATA SSDs especially are becoming minor. Some vendors offer very good terms with e.g. advance replacement, which can be highly important if the SSD is used in a primary system. Including a paragraph on the company’s policy would be something I recommend as it can be a real headache especially with lesser known brands (e.g. long response time, need to wait weeks for a replacement etc). It may not be possible for AT to test the process, but the key aspects can be covered with a paper comparison.

    None of these points mandate an overhaul of the conclusion as the Lite 3D may very well be an excellent choice for a budget-focused buyer, but at least there should be a disclaimer of the caveats to raise the question whether saving $5 or $10 is worth it over a safe, well-known Tier1 brand.
    Reply
  • sheh - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Agreed.

    Furthermore, on the topic of random NAND types in the same model, since the drive here was provided by the manufacturer, it's almost certain they provided the best variant. For all we know it could be a NAND type they don't even use anymore.
    Reply
  • Kenaz - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Find it good that also low-priced products are tested. To my knowledge Anandtech should be the first to give a Team L5 Lite 3D SSD a professional test.
    I wrote last year for the 120GB and 240GB model of this SSD series two user reviews on Hardwareluxx Germany and was a bit impressed by the performance for a budget drive. Since then I have recommended this SSD series as a possible budget option. Both SSDs run now for 1 / 1.5 years without problems and good S.M.A.R.T. values.

    A long-term write test would be interesting to see how much terrabyte TBW the unknown NAND can withstand. Would this be possible with Anandtech? :)

    Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
    Reply
  • MDD1963 - Saturday, September 21, 2019 - link

    $96 for 1 TB is priced attractively, but, I think I'd just spring the extra $5-10 on Crucial's MX500...; it would need to be $68.99 to get me to risk it! :) Reply
  • ballsystemlord - Monday, September 23, 2019 - link

    Billy, having to click to see each image slows down the experience, could you guys just allow the page to load most or all of the images? Please? Reply
  • takeshi7 - Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - link

    I have two of these 480GB drives and one 240GB drive. I was so impressed with the first one I got two more for other PCs. Really great value, but the gold color doesn't match common PC colors. Reply
  • MASSAMKULABOX - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    Might be worth asking them when and why they change the NAND variety. I know its going to be price, but what stops them using DongCrap NAND? , what is their Baseline criteria ..## commercially sensitive Blah blah. Maybe they are hoping that three years is good enough until 480 layer Penta cell NAND takes over. Price IS the main consideration when buying sata drives tho ... Reply
  • MASSAMKULABOX - Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - link

    £124 for 1tb AMZ/uk , so not even in the running really ... Reply
  • Scour - Friday, July 10, 2020 - link

    I hoped to get more info about this SSD, but it looks like a flameware about the brand.

    I don´t know how many of these ppl who flamed about Teamgroup ever had a article from this brand, but probably not many.

    I have my L3 since almost 4 years and it never had problems and it´s still faster than many newer entry-level-SSDs.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now