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Testbed Configuration

Our SSD testbed is based on a mainboard with Intel H67 chipset. This chipset provides support for two SATA 6 Gbit/s ports, which we use to connect the tested SSDs.

We are going to compare Intel SSD 520 against three alternative SandForce based drives using different platforms: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB (built with 32 nm Toggle NAND), Corsair Force Series GT 240 GB (built with 25 nm synchronous flash) and Corsair Force Series 3 240 GB (built with asynchronous flash). We’ll also throw in a 256 GB Crucial m4 which is based on a Marvell 88SS9174 controller.

Overall our testbed was configured as follows:

  • Intel Core i5-2400 (Sandy Bridge, 4 cores, 3.1 GHz, EIST and Turbo Boost turned off);
  • Foxconn H67S mainboard (BIOS A41F1P01);
  • 2 x 2 GB DDR3-1333 SDRAM DIMM 9-9-9-24-1T;
  • Crucial m4 256 GB system disk (CT256M4SSD2);
  • Tested SSDs:
    • Corsair Force 3 Series 240 GB (CSSD-F240GB3-BK, firmware version 1.3.3);
    • Corsair Force GT Series 240 GB (CSSD-F240GBGT-BK, firmware version 1.3.3);
    • Crucial m4 256 GB (CT256M4SSD2, firmware version 0309);
    • Intel SSD 520 240 GB (SSDSC2CW240A3K5, firmware version 400i);
    • OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB (VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G, firmware version 2.15).
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Ultimate x64
  • Drivers:
    • Intel Chipset Driver 9.3.0.1019;
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver 15.22.54.2622;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.8.0.1003.

Performance

Random and Sequential Reading/Writing (with a “Fresh” SSD)

We use CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 benchmark to test the random- and sequential read and write speed. This benchmark is convenient to work with as it can measure the speed of an SSD with both incompressible random and fully compressible recurring data. This feature is important for testing SSDs based on SF-2281 controller, which tries to compress the data before writing it into memory. So, there are two numbers in the diagrams below that reflect the maximum and minimum SSD speed. The real-life performance of an SSD is going to be in-between those two numbers depending on how effectively the SF-2281 controller can compress the data.

Note that the performance tests in this section refer to SSDs in their “fresh out-of-the-box” state (FOB). No degradation could have taken place yet.

The Intel SSD 520 does have exclusive firmware as is indicated by its different behavior compared to the Corsair Force GT which has the same hardware. It is the first SSD with an SF-2281 controller about whose performance we can’t make correct predictions judging on the flash memory employed.

It is rather hard to say how the Intel SSD is going to perform in real-life desktop applications as opposed to other SSDs with the same components, yet we suppose that it is somewhere in between the two groups of standard second-generation SandForce-based products: with synchronous ONFI flash and with Toggle NAND flash.

It is also clear that the Intel SSD 520 is optimized for enterprise applications as well. It is good at random-address operations when the request queue is long, which means that it’s going to be effective in a server.

 
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