Indian Startup brand ‘Astra’ launched the KD350X Series M.2 NVMe SSDs. These are NVMe 1.3 based PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSDs between 256 GB to 2 TB storage capacities. Based on the provided photos on its Facebook page, it uses a Phison PS5012-E12S-32 controller that is capable of running eight NAND channels.
A brand new brand with a brand new product. It has a 5-year warranty and the advertised performance is (sequential) read up to 3500 MB/s and write up to 3000 MB/s. The MRP is not posted so end users will have to be on a lookout.
The Astra KD350X (this 256GB variant) uses Kingston branded DRAM chip and an unknown four NAND chips labelled NA59G64A0A. I couldn’t find any information about it judging by its model nomenclature, it might be made by Toshiba/ KIOXIA? I wish they had a site ready with a spec sheet with the type of NAND it uses.
These are Made in Taiwan. I wonder if the PCB is made by Techvest Co, which also makes PCBs for Sabrent, such as the Sabrent Rocket. I am also curious about the process for firmware updates and if it is made in-house with micro-code provided by the controller maker- or if its made by another vendor. There are questions about the Astra KD350X since its a new product from a new brand. But it is towards the right directions compared to how some people did it before.
The ‘Made in India’ and ‘Made for India’ shenanigans
Not too long ago, an Indian brand claimed its products were ‘Made in India’. This was quickly proven false via a review posted by another website with a CPU-Z screenshot showing the actual OEM which does not have any assembly plants in India. Interestingly, the review website deleted that screenshot later. The newer models apparently did not show any information via CPU-Z but it did stick with its claim of being made in India. Yeah, not suspicious at all *sarcasm*. It is undesirable since people from here did that to its own people and those who called them out deleted it. But the pull-out game was weak.
Even before that there there was a ‘Made for India’ motherboards and RAMs, whose model was sold worldwide without any exotic claims. No clear explanation was given by these Tier 1 brands at the time. We did have India and China-specific low-cost power supplies, whose quality raised some concerns until it expanded towards the international market. There was also a CPU liquid cooling brand, only to switch-and-bait from ASETEK to components made by someone else, which was spotted by a buyer. Same flex. It did have a slow, quiet death eventually. Many stories even before that, but you get the idea.
How did the audiophile community handle this?
This was not limited to PC components. Some IEM (in-ear monitors) makers pulled similar shenanigans but the community caught up and asked questions to promoters and reviewers. They didn’t give a convincing answer, but it prompted people to ask for proof and even factory tours by reviewers. Eventually, this marketing idea was killed by most IEM makers, for now. It also brought up good discussions, such as differentiating ‘Indian brand’ from ‘Made in India’ and ‘Assembled in India’. The audiophile community was proactive. They did well to protect their community’s interest, that day.
Therefore, transparency from Astra on the packaging is very appreciated. I wish them well and stay consistent to ‘break the cycle’.
My humble message to reviewers and influencers
This was well before the import ban from China to India at the time of writing. There wasn’t anything wrong with things made in China or rebadging/ relabelling as long as its good and reliable (unless the chips/NAND have suspicious ties, like Huawei). But I’ve seen brands which built that perception and blindly promoted by gamers, streamers and reviewers. There’s very little I can say about gamers and streamers, apart from not researching. But reviewers should have known better than to have their reader base exploited. To that reviewer, I am really disappointed in you, and actions like yours encouraged people to do that. To promoters, be smart. It is not hard not to be a sellout of this kind.