Corsair Force 3 120GB
The Corsair Force 3 is one of the cheapest SSDs in this review. It offers 1 gigabyte of SSD storage for about $1.5. Notwithstanding its low price, it represents a full-featured second-generation SandForce platform with an SF-2281 controller and SATA 6 Gbit/s interface.
It is the flash memory chips that are the reason for the low pricing of this SSD. Corsair picked low-cost asynchronous flash memory with a bandwidth of 50 MT/s (megatransfers per second) for the Force 3 series. Our sample contained 16 Micron 29F64G08CBAAA chips although some batches of this product come with Intel’s NAND flash with the same specs. The chips have a capacity of 64 gigabits each and are manufactured on 25nm tech process. The total capacity is 128 gigabytes but the SandForce controller uses some of it for over-provisioning and for storing checksums. Each of the SF-2281 controller's channels is linked to two chips to enable interleaving.
A special feature of Corsair's SandForce-based products is their modified firmware. Corsair optimizes the reference firmware provided by SandForce and uses different version numbers. Corsair’s latest firmware (version 1.3) is based on the SandForce 3.20 firmware which claims to be more stable than the earlier versions.
Corsair Force GT 120GB
Besides the inexpensive product with asynchronous NAND flash discussed above, Corsair offers flagship SSDs with a much higher price per gigabyte, up to $1.9. However, the Force GT series is somewhat cheaper than the premium SSDs from other brands but it is impossible to determine the reasons for this positioning from the product specs. Corsair specifies the highest sequential and random data access speed and reports standard information about the internals: SF-2281 controller and SATA 6 Gbit/s. The only distinguishing feature of the Corsair Force GT is its bright red metallic case, but it can hardly affect its performance.
To find out the real difference between the Force GT and Force 3 series we have to look at what’s inside. The PCB of the faster SSD is almost the same but the memory chips have different marking and manufacturer. The Force GT uses Intel 29F64G08ACME2 chips which are manufactured using 25 nm process and contain one NAND device in each package. There are 16 chips, each with a capacity of 64 gigabits, for a total of 128 gigabytes. The point is that the Force GT’s memory is synchronous and has a data-transfer rate of 166 MT/s.
Like in the Force 3, the controller uses eight memory channels with interleaving, so the practical difference between Corsair SSDs of different series can be dramatic. We just have to measure their speed while writing data the SF-2281 controller cannot compress. In this case, the slower flash memory of the Force 3 is going to show up as a bottleneck.
Corsair uses unified firmware for its SSDs, so the Force GT has the same firmware version 1.3 (based on the reference SandForce 3.20 firmware) as the Force 3.