Articles: Storage

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Whenever we receive new solid state drives based on SandForce controllers, we hope that the next batch of them won’t come to us soon. We’ve just tested too many of them and really want to try something completely new but, contrary to our expectations, SF-2281 based products keep on coming in. So, we have to look for any features that would add some excitement to our comparing fundamentally similar products.

Fortunately, SandForce developers have come up with a versatile and changing product whose very specifications are subject to change. Firmware updates add to this variation by introducing something new into the controller’s performance and internal algorithms. For example, while preparing this review of SandForce-based SSDs, we found out that the recently released 5.xx firmware is expected to make the controller faster at writing and improve its TRIM command implementation. These changes can help make SF-2281 based SSDs the fastest option available on the market.

Well, even if this is really the case, the improvements will be somewhat marred by recently disclosed problems. SandForce controllers seem to be doomed to be plagued by all sorts of problems irrespective of who takes them for testing and optimizing. No sooner had SandForce-based SSDs got rid of BSODs that had used to annoy their early users than they were found to be incompatible with 256-bit AES encryption. This problem escaped the scrutiny of both LSI, which owns the SandForce development team now, and Intel that makes a wide use of that feature in its products. This time around it is not enthusiasts but corporate users who are the suffering side, but the consequence is the same: the SF-2281 controller doesn’t seem to be a reliable solution again.

Another consequence of the mishaps with the second-generation SandForce controller is that not only end-users but even some manufacturers have given it up. OCZ has terminated its collaboration with SandForce altogether whereas Corsair is actively experimenting with third-party controllers, too. On the other hand, the SF-2281 still enjoys strong support from respectable brands, one of which is featured in this review. We are going to talk about consumer-class SSDs from Kingston today. It’s going to be interesting to get a snapshot of the current market situation, now that there are a lot of new solutions with Marvell and Indilinx controllers available and SandForce-based SSDs have got optimized firmware.

Kingston’s product range has an interesting structure, by the way. Many other makers offer three models with three types of flash memory: Toggle NAND, synchronous ONFI and asynchronous. Kingston complements its ordinary synchronous and asynchronous-flash SSDs with a model that has synchronous memory with increased service life. Let’s have a closer look at them now.

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