Articles: Storage

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Testbed Configuration

For our today’s SSD test session we put together a system on an Intel H67 based mainboard. This chipset provides support for two SATA 6 Gbit/s ports, which we use to connect the tested SSDs.

For our today’s test session OCZ Technology provided us with the two most popular Vertex 4 models – SSDs with 128 GB and 256 GB capacity. And now these weren’t the engineering samples, but the actual mass production units. We are going to compare them against several products with the same storage capacity based on controllers other than Indilinx Everest 2. SandForce products with 120 GB and 240 GB capacities are represented by typical SSDs with 25 nm synchronous ONFI memory (Corsair Force Series GT – analogue to OCZ Vertex 3) and typical SSDs with 25 nm asynchronous memory (Corsair Force Series 3 – analogue to OCZ Agility 3). Marvell 88S9174 controller will be represented by two Crucial m4 SSDs with 128 GB and 256 GB storage capacity built with 25 nm memory. Moreover, we also included the unique SandForce based Intel 520 240 GB SSD featuring exclusive firmware and common 25 nm synchronous memory, and Corsair Performance Pro SSD with 256 GB storage capacity built with Marvell 88S9174 controller and 34 nm Toggle Mode flash memory.

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 120 GB (CSSD-F120GB3-BK, firmware version 5.02);
    • Corsair Force 3 Series 240 GB (CSSD-F240GB3-BK, firmware version 5.02);
    • Corsair Force GT Series 120 GB (CSSD-F120GBGT-BK, firmware version 5.02);
    • Corsair Force GT Series 240 GB (CSSD-F240GBGT-BK, firmware version 5.02);
    • Corsair Performance Pro 256 GB (CSSD-P256GBP-BK, firmware version 1.0);
    • Crucial m4 128 GB (CT128M4SSD2, firmware version 000F);
    • Crucial m4 256 GB (CT256M4SSD2, firmware version 000F);
    • Intel SSD 520 240 GB (SSDSC2CW240A3K5, firmware version 400i);
    • OCZ Vertex 4 128 GB (VTX4-25SAT3-128G, firmware version 1.5);
    • OCZ Vertex 4 256 GB (VTX4-25SAT3-256G, firmware version 1.5).
  • Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 Ultimate x64
  • Drivers:
    • Intel Chipset Driver;
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator Driver;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology


Random and Sequential Read/Write

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-2281/2282 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 effective the controller data compression is.

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

In our previous test of Vertex 4 SSDs with firmware 1.4 we saw them deliver a somewhat lower speed of sequential reading compared to top-end SSDs with SandForce and Marvell controllers. Things have changed now. Firmware 1.5 makes the Vertex 4 series as fast at such operations as their competitors.

However, during our tests we could see that the sequential read speed was not always at the stable level above 500 MB/s. It could drop by 50-100 MB/s, following some internal logic of the controller and making the Vertex 4 slower than expected. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any pattern in such slowdowns, so you just have to be aware that the Vertex 4 may turn out to be somewhat worse than shown in the diagrams in certain scenarios.

Anyway, the numbers suggest that the Vertex 4 series claims to be the fastest available right now, especially at write operations and when the request queue is long. This refers not only to the 256GB but also to the 128GB model, by the way. The latter is a worthy representative of the series, being only inferior to its 256GB cousin in terms of the sequential write speed. SandForce-based SSDs have a stronger correlation between performance and capacity than Everest 2 based ones.

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