At the start of 2012 there were a limited number of SSD controllers available. Most had either the SandForce SF-2281 or the Marvell 88SS9174 controller. Especially the Marvell one is starting to show its age, but firmware updates helped it stay competitive in terms of performance. The SandForce controller has a unique feature in that it applies compression in order to boost performance. By compressing data prior to saving it to the flash chips, particularly the write performance was enhanced. This work well for text documents, but has no effect on most large files such as pictures, music and videos, so for these types of files the performance decreased. A third controller that was used at the beginning of last year is the Samsung S4LJ204X01, used in the Samsung 830 SSDs.
In the course of the year a number of new controllers were introduced, giving SSD manufacturers more choice. OCZ launced the Vertex 4 and Agility 4 SSDs, using what they called the Indilinx Everest 2 controller. Indilinx, which makes controllers and is known for its Barefoot products, was acquired by OCZ in 2011. That Everest 2 turned out to be a new generation Marvell chip with a different name, equipped with firmware from OCZ/Indilinx.
This new Marvell 88SS9187 chip has now found its way under its own name to the Plextor M5 Pro SSDs, currently one of the fastest SSDs money can buy. It's striking that only Crucial has announced new SSDs with the new Marvell chip, but these have yet to be released. Possibly Plextor and Marvell have some type of agreement in place.
OCZ also developed its own Barefoot 3 controller for its Vector SSDs, and these SSDs are also some of the fastest as you'll see in the benchmarks.
Corsair recently released SSDs with a controller we had never heard of up until a couple months ago, the LM87800 from Link A Media Devices, or LAMD in short. It also performs well. Its drawback is that it doesn't have a proven track record in terms of reliability, and that way partnering with Corsair was a smart move.
Another new controller is the Samsung S4LN021X01, which they call Samsung MDX. This chip is used in the Samsung 840 and 840 Pro SSDs. The controller is again developed based on a 3-core ARM chip, but the new chip is a lot faster judging from the benchmarks. The Samsung 840 Pro is currently the fastest SSD on the market.
The budget segment also received a newcomer in the past six months. The Crucial v4 SSDs, currently the cheapest SSD available, use a Phison PS3105 chip. Phison is primarily known for chips for USB sticks, where performance is of less importance. The PS3105 employs a Serial ATA 300 interface, one of the reasons the Crucial v4 can't really compete in terms of performance.