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Results: PCMark 7 And PCMark Vantage

SanDisk A110 PCIe SSD: Armed With The New M.2 Edge Connector
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Futuremark's PCMark 7: Secondary Storage Suite

PCMark 7 uses the same trace-based technology as our Storage Bench v1.0 for its storage suite testing. It employs a geometric mean scoring system to generate a composite, so we end up with PCMarks instead of a megabytes per second. One-thousand points separate the top and bottom, but that encompasses a far larger difference than the score alone indicates.

This test is a big improvement over the older PCMark Vantage, at least for SSD benchmarking. The storage suite is comprised of several small traces. At the end, the geometric mean of those scores is scaled with a number representing the test system's speed. The scores generated are much different from PCMark Vantage, and many manufacturers are predisposed to dislike it for that reason. It's hard to figure out how PCMark 7 "works" because it uses a sliding scale to generate scores. Still, it represents one of the best canned benchmarks for storage, and if nothing else, it helps reinforce the idea that the differences in modern SSD performance don't necessarily amount to a better user experience in average consumer workloads.

The PCIe-attached, M.2-based A110 doesn't break any speed records in PCMark 7, but it does fare better than similar drives. Given what we know about the way PCMark 7 works and its focus on real-world-style performance, it takes more than just stellar sequential throughput to affect the test's outcome. Still, the A110 is the second-fastest 256 GB-class drive in our line-up, besting the similarly-configured Extreme II and a ton of other SSDs, too.

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage: Hard Drive Suite

PCMark's Vantage isn't the paragon of SSD testing, mainly because it's old and wasn't designed for the massive performance solid-state technology enables. Intended to exploit the new features in Windows Vista, Vantage was certainly at the forefront of consumer storage benching at the time. Vantage works by taking the geometric mean of composite storage scores and then scaling them a lot like PCMark 7 does. But in Vantage's case, this scaling is achieved by arbitrarily multiplying the geometric sub-score mean by 214.65. That scaling factor is supposed to represent an average test system of the day (a system that's now close to a decade behind the times). PCMark 7 improves on this by creating a unique system-dependent scaling factor and newer trace technology. 

Why bother including this metric, then? A lot of folks prefer Vantage in spite of or because of the cartoonish scores and widespread adoption. That, and the fact that most every manufacturer uses the aged benchmark in box specs and reviewer-specific guidelines. In fairness, Vantage's Hard Drive suite wasn't designed with SSDs in mind, and is actually quite good as pointing out which 5400 RPM mechanical disk might be preferable.

The A110's PCIe connection strikes again, resulting in a top-end score. Most of the SSDs included in this chart are 256 GB models, and they're highlighted in red.

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  • 0 Hide
    Mike Friesen , September 5, 2013 10:03 PM
    Awesome new stuff. Can't wait to see if this drive actually uses the full potential of the M2, and if Samsung or OCZ can one-up them.
  • 5 Hide
    cryan , September 5, 2013 10:31 PM
    Quote:
    Awesome new stuff. Can't wait to see if this drive actually uses the full potential of the M2, and if Samsung or OCZ can one-up them.


    Samsung actually has some pretty awesome M.2 PCIe action going on. We're trying to get our hands on everything, so stay tuned.


    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan

  • 0 Hide
    radiovan , September 5, 2013 10:32 PM
    It will be nice to see vendors implement the NVMe connectors in the desktop mobo's, which in turn will redefine case design, as less storage space will be required for storage. I am aware that the initial intent is to direct these at the mobile market, but desktops can benefit as well.
  • 2 Hide
    cryan , September 5, 2013 11:08 PM
    Quote:
    It will be nice to see vendors implement the NVMe connectors in the desktop mobo's, which in turn will redefine case design, as less storage space will be required for storage. I am aware that the initial intent is to direct these at the mobile market, but desktops can benefit as well.


    You'll really see NVMe take off on the desktop with the move towards SATA Express. A SSD on SATA Express will leverage NVMe and two PCIe Gen 3 lanes. Though some motherboards will (and already do) have M.2 connectors, M.2 really makes more sense in mobile applications. M.2 will only get traction on the desktop insofar as it will begin to replace mSATA. Tons of mainboards, especially smaller form factor products embrace mSATA, and moving to M.2 is a natural transition. However, M.2 drives are hard to find right now, and we really won't see a plethora of options until next year.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
  • 1 Hide
    nekromobo , September 6, 2013 12:50 AM
    I got M.2 toshiba ssd in my Sony Vaio Pro 13.. review that?

    and it should have samsung M.2 in some countries..
  • 2 Hide
    CaedenV , September 6, 2013 8:59 AM
    I may no longer have motivation to upgrade my system based on CPU specs, but with DDR4, M.2, new restive storage based SSDs, and better chipset features I will still have enough reason to upgrade in a year or two.
  • 0 Hide
    jimmysmitty , September 6, 2013 9:07 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    It will be nice to see vendors implement the NVMe connectors in the desktop mobo's, which in turn will redefine case design, as less storage space will be required for storage. I am aware that the initial intent is to direct these at the mobile market, but desktops can benefit as well.


    You'll really see NVMe take off on the desktop with the move towards SATA Express. A SSD on SATA Express will leverage NVMe and two PCIe Gen 3 lanes. Though some motherboards will (and already do) have M.2 connectors, M.2 really makes more sense in mobile applications. M.2 will only get traction on the desktop insofar as it will begin to replace mSATA. Tons of mainboards, especially smaller form factor products embrace mSATA, and moving to M.2 is a natural transition. However, M.2 drives are hard to find right now, and we really won't see a plethora of options until next year.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan


    That's what I was thinking. SATA Express is going to be fast enough for now as I have used PCIe SSDs before (OCZ Revo based drive) and compared to my 520 its hard to notice a difference, especially since there are other bottlenecks stopping it from being able to utilize that bandwidth.

    This will be great for ultra portable systems though and ITX systems.
  • 2 Hide
    cryan , September 6, 2013 10:52 AM
    Quote:
    I got M.2 toshiba ssd in my Sony Vaio Pro 13.. review that?

    and it should have samsung M.2 in some countries..


    Absolutely... just send it my way and consider it done.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan


  • 0 Hide
    m32 , September 6, 2013 12:11 PM
    Christopher Ryan, I'll take this off of your hands.

    Regards,
    m32
  • 0 Hide
    mikeangs2004 , September 6, 2013 7:19 PM
    will there be RAID or SLI/CFX for PCIe based SSD's?
    I don't think so b/c it's already way above 6G limit.
  • 0 Hide
    markhahn , September 7, 2013 11:04 AM
    the power numbers don't make a lot of sense. I suspect either the pcie interface is being kept in a high-power mode (plls running, etc) or else your molex is supplying power to other stuff on the board. (there must be a dc-dc regulator on the auxiliary card, since molex provides only 12,5.)
  • 0 Hide
    cryan , September 7, 2013 6:04 PM
    Quote:
    the power numbers don't make a lot of sense. I suspect either the pcie interface is being kept in a high-power mode (plls running, etc) or else your molex is supplying power to other stuff on the board. (there must be a dc-dc regulator on the auxiliary card, since molex provides only 12,5.)


    This is almost certainly true. I mean, we know it uses DC to DC to step the 5v down to 3.3v. But oddly, SanDisk rates the max write power consumption at 5.5w, and I could only get it max at 3.5w. Of course, it also possesses a deep slumber state, but that's contingent on having a L1.0 PCIe endpoint, and that hasn't even been ratified yet by PCI-SIG.

    So definitely take the power consumption results with a grain of salt. There are challenges to testing this drive in this way.


    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
  • 0 Hide
    cryan , September 7, 2013 7:16 PM
    Quote:
    will there be RAID or SLI/CFX for PCIe based SSD's?
    I don't think so b/c it's already way above 6G limit.


    If you happened to have the ability to run two+ PCIe SSDs, M.2 or otherwise, you can always soft-raid them. There are reasons why you'd want to avoid such a setup, but it'd totally work. Intel's 910 PCIe SSD shows 2 or 4 drives to the OS and then they can be soft-raided from there, for instance.


    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan

  • 0 Hide
    abbadon_34 , September 8, 2013 4:31 PM
    what command line switches were use in robocopy?
  • 0 Hide
    mikeangs2004 , September 9, 2013 5:31 PM
    Is there TRIM/garbage collection?
  • 0 Hide
    Dax corrin , September 10, 2013 11:33 AM
    Awesome stuff, wish I could afford it.
  • 0 Hide
    Blaise170 , September 15, 2013 9:44 AM
    It seems like new progress is being made in the field of NAND every day. I can't wait until you can get high capacity drives for around the same price as HDDs, but I've heard that even as late as 2017 SSD storage will only have a 33% share.
  • 0 Hide
    ryyple , October 4, 2013 12:20 AM
    I'm a complete novice to all this stuff, yet I have a few questions that maybe someone can answer.

    Are these M2 devices still considered SATA drives?
    Using a PCIe (or other) interface for the M2 how could you clone these devices?
    Can these devices then be cloned using a standard HDD duplicator?
    Is there such a thing as a M2 "adapter" that plugs into the above duplicator?

    Thanks for your response.
  • 0 Hide
    tpidner17 , November 12, 2013 7:22 PM
    Christopher,

    On page four of this review, in the maximum 4kb speed chart, it says "in MB/s [higher is better]." However, shouldn't that refer to the fact that it is measuring max IOps, rather than write speed? It seems like a type to me, so I wanted to let you know.