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Three solid state drives participating in our today’s review - Corsair Performance Pro, Crucial m4 and Plextor M3S – are all based on the same Marvell 88SS9174 controller, but the controller revisions are different, and so are the flash memory and the firmware versions. Of course, their specifications are also quite different because of that. The table below compares the formal characteristics of the three 256 GB models, which took part in our today’s test session. For the sake of comparison we also included OCZ Vertex 3 – one of the most popular SSDs based on the second-generation SandForce controller.

Overall, the formal specifications of SandForce based SSD look better than those of Marvell based ones. However, do not forget that the major peculiarity of SandForce is its ability to compress data “on the fly”, which makes SSDs work much faster with well-compressible data. As a rule, the manufacturers list their official SSD specs with an ideal case of maximum data compression in mind, which means that the actual real-life comparison between SandForce and Marvell based SSDs may be completely different from what the table shows.

However, let’s wrap up our theoretical speculations and proceed to the actual tests.

Testbed Configuration

All SSDs were performed in a testbed built around an Intel H67 based mainboard. This chipset provides support for two SATA 6 Gbit/s ports, which we use to connect the tested SSDs.

We are going to compare the performance of Corsair Performance Pro, Crucial m4 and Plextor M3S against four alternative SSDs, which represent four existing types of SandForce-based products: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB (32 nm Toggle NAND), Corsair Force Series GT 240 GB (25 nm synchronous memory), Corsair Force Series 3 240 GB (asynchronous memory), and the new Intel SSD 520 240 GB (25 nm synchronous memory and exclusive firmware).

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 A41F1P03);
  • 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);
    • Corsair Performance Pro 256 GB (CSSD-P256GBP-BK, firmware version 1.0);
    • 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);
    • Plextor PX-256M3 256 GB (PX-256M3, firmware version 1.01).
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Ultimate x64
  • Drivers:
    • Intel Chipset Driver; 
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology
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