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
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

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
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  • eek2121 - Thursday, September 26, 2019 - link

    Because anonymous user reviews on the internet are meaningless? I've purchased products with 1% 1-star reviews that were complete turds (last one was a USB drive claiming to be a terabyte. Knew it was fake, but I bought it anyway and returned it so Amazon would damn the seller to hell, which they did).

    User reviews are meaningless these days.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Spend the extra $5 and get the Crucial MX line instead, with Power Off Protection and higher NAND and controller quality.
  • Billy Tallis - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    The MX500 uses literally the same controller, albeit with custom firmware (which is where most of the partial power loss protection comes from).

    And since apparently today is one of the days that the L5 LITE 3D is on sale (it wasn't yesterday when I checked), the price difference is more than $15 for the 480/500GB drives. The Crucial MX500 is 30% more expensive at the moment.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    And yet, despite using the same controller, that custom firmware makes ALL the difference. Just take a look at team SSD failure rates VS crucials.

    It doesnt matter if the team drives are $10-15 cheaper. Skip a single meal at your prefered fast food joint of choice and get a drive that is going to actually work properly.
  • kpb321 - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    ALL drives can and WILL eventually fail and if you don't have a proper back up you are just gambling that it doesn't happen while you still care about what's on the drive. If you do have a proper backup a drive failure is just a minor inconvenience and proof that your backup process works. I have a 240gb version of this drive installed in my wife's laptop to upgrade her from the 120gb drive that came in it and I'm not worried about it at all. If the drive dies I'll simply restore the nightly backup from the NAS to a new drive and she's back up and running with minimal data loss and downtime. I'd rather spend money on a NAS and a proper back than on a "better" ssd to gamble that the better drive won't fail on me.
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    Partially agree. However, it's not just about the direct cost of a drive. Even if the PC is just used for web browsing and entertainment, I still have to spend time and effort on replacing the drive, installing the OS and software etc. Thus, spending a few dollars more for a more reliable drive might well be worth it.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    "spending a few dollars more for a more reliable drive might well be worth it" - the thing is, as many don't seem to understand, that we can't measure reliability in any useful way right now. All data we have is incomplete. Basing any kind of decision on that data means that decision is either good, neutral or bad and no one will know.
  • Samus - Sunday, September 22, 2019 - link

    It isn't the controller, it's the quality of the NAND. Crucial uses excellent quality NAND.
  • lightningz71 - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    This can't possibly be any crummier than the EDGE drives I purchased at work a few years ago. I purchased a batch of twenty 512GB SATA SSDs through Amazon, and EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM failed between 13 and 17 months from the day that they were first installed. Standard desktop usage on PCs that were nowhere near considered write heavy was their environment. Just terrible in every way.
  • Scott_T - Friday, September 20, 2019 - link

    With 240gb drives being so cheap I'm surprised anyone would come out with a new 120gb drive these days.

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