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Roundup: The Best SSDs For Enthusiasts

Roundup: The Best SSDs For Enthusiasts
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The SSD market continues evolving. We got our hands on six drives we hadn't yet tested, including Samsung’s 470-series, and ran them through our benchmark suite. All told, this roundup includes a total of 24 SSDs to compare. Which drive is right for you?

The solid state drive (SSD) market now spans from $80 all the way up to roughly $700. Within this range, you’ll get capacities between 30 GB and 256 GB. All modern SSDs are fast enough to outperform conventional hard drives, and all will improve system responsiveness and performance by a noticeable margin if used as a system boot volume. At the same time, SSDs consume less power than hard drives and are far more rugged. This article looks at seven SSD products and compares a total of 24 drives in the benchmark section. Welcome A-Data’s Nobility N002, the Corsair Force F160, Kingston’s SSDNow V and SSDNow V+, the Patriot Inferno, and the brand new Samsung 470-series.

SSD Market Overview

SSD vendors often base their designs on one of a few popular controllers and architectures. Alternatively, some vendors simple purchase and re-label entire drives. The number of SSD vendors continues to grow as companies anticipate a burgeoning market and attractive profits.

Most of the silicon architecture is available from Indilinx, Intel, JMicron, Marvel, Samsung, SandForce, and Toshiba. Seagate and Western Digital have solutions, but they’re not yet very relevant in the SSD world. There are several NAND flash memory manufacturers too, including Hynix, Intel, Micron, Samsung, and Toshiba, but only two SSD makers actually control their entire manufacturing process from controller design to NAND flash production to final assembly. The focus here should be on the fact that these manufacturers can; it doesn’t mean that they always do.

Controllers Matter

SSD vendors have some room for optimization, such as in the firmware and how they configure flash memory channels. Therefore, it’s only possible to generalize about how an SSD with one controller type or another should perform. Only an in-depth product review will provide the full picture.

This is the PCB of Corsair’s F160 SSD, based on SandForce’s SF-1200 controller and Intel NAND flash memory.This is the PCB of Corsair’s F160 SSD, based on SandForce’s SF-1200 controller and Intel NAND flash memory.

It’s important to put controllers in the spotlight, because most SSD innovation happens on this front. All SSD vendors utilize similar flash memory types. Clock speeds have been increasing a bit, but all production MLC NAND flash memory still stores two bits per cell. In reality, it’s the controllers that are responsible for most performance tweaking and faster interface bandwidth.

Fortunately, future products will be able to store more than two bits per cell, yielding increased storage density and capacities. Today, the biggest news going is Samsung’s toggle mode DDR NAND flash memory, which applies double data rate technology to NAND flash memory. This could double theoretical throughput and is now available on the new 470-series, included in this article.

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  • 0 Hide
    lucuis , November 11, 2010 5:24 AM
    That's just plain awesome, i can't wait to get a SSD one day.
  • 5 Hide
    N.Broekhuijsen , November 11, 2010 6:34 AM
    I just bought myself an SSD yesterday (Coincidence maybe?) and I absolutely love it. The model I got was a 40GB Mushkin Callisto Deluxe, which is also based on sandforce. Ratings at 280/270MB/s, really, really fast! Cost me a small pot of gold considering I live in the Middle East, but it was well worth it. Everything runs so much snappier now!

    Anyways nice article, really enjoyed reading it!
  • 2 Hide
    Gascogne , November 11, 2010 6:35 AM
    Why wasn't any Vertex 2 with the test? They are very popular.
  • 2 Hide
    nativeson8803 , November 11, 2010 6:48 AM
    Happy with my Pro Phoenix 120gb. I don't know if i "needed" it, but I do know that it would be very difficult to go back now. :-)
  • 3 Hide
    jakeypal , November 11, 2010 7:32 AM
    I find it strange that you have not tested and benchmarked ADATA S599 SSD, based on the latest SandForce SF-1222 processor,which provides a 280 MB/s read speed and 270 MB/s write speed at maximum and reaches 50,000 IOPS.
  • 1 Hide
    2shea , November 11, 2010 7:59 AM
    GascogneWhy wasn't any Vertex 2 with the test? They are very popular.

    Did you even look at the stats? there are two vertex ssd's one first gen and and a vertex 2 120gb. They do perform very good across the whole board, I'm gonna get one soon! :) 
  • 2 Hide
    2shea , November 11, 2010 8:17 AM
    Edit: there are even 2 vertex 2 ssd's :) 
  • 2 Hide
    flamenko , November 11, 2010 8:38 AM
    Vertex are terrible SSDs. Simply look at the reviews at the sites that sell them and you wil see a huge death rate within the first week, sometimes reaching as high as 15%. Would you chance that?

  • 1 Hide
    thessdreview , November 11, 2010 8:43 AM
    We reviewed the Samsung at www.thessdreview.com and got some greatr numbers in return. Normally I wouldn't link as such but the review seems to be the only north American available. If you check the comments of the review, there is also a link to the only Asian available translated as well.

    The drive is a rock solid drive and well above anything that Samsung has put out before it.
  • 0 Hide
    xcel_jkl , November 11, 2010 8:54 AM
    would an ssd be worth buying now (say a gskill sandforce drive) or would it be worth waiting for the next revolutionary ssd architecture in the coming months?
  • 1 Hide
    thessdreview , November 11, 2010 8:56 AM
    The next revolution will mean a hardware upgrade and even in a few months there will then be something else to wait for. Grab it now!
  • -6 Hide
    kd k , November 11, 2010 9:00 AM
    I wouldn't believe high score of Sandforce controller based SSD. It shows high score in certain pattern, and it ruin the user experience.
  • 0 Hide
    thessdreview , November 11, 2010 9:10 AM
    Thats not correct. The reviews with synthetic benchmarks, such as Vantage, show how the SF drives stand up to the others. They are one of the best.
  • 0 Hide
    kettu , November 11, 2010 10:25 AM
    xcel_jklwould an ssd be worth buying now (say a gskill sandforce drive) or would it be worth waiting for the next revolutionary ssd architecture in the coming months?


    It depends. If you need one, I see no reason not to buy one. So you should would first think about how much an SSD would benefit your system and wether that benefit is enough to offset the costs. I'm still waiting for prices to drop a lot closer to regular drives because my HDD is not a critical bottleneck for my usage. It's something I can easily live with.
  • 0 Hide
    compton , November 11, 2010 10:31 AM
    In still contend that if you are planning to buy a drive and use for a while, you still can't go wrong with an Intel. They aren't quite as fast, but the big difference is going from mechanical drives to a solid state. I still contend that reliability is important, and I swear by my X-25. I have other, faster drives, but over time the Intel drive seems to get faster while the others seem to get slower. Its been nothing but reliable. I recommend people migrating to SSDs to try the X-25v to get the swing of thing. Then go from there.
  • 2 Hide
    kd k , November 11, 2010 10:36 AM
    Test configuration is 3Gbps, but C300 sequential read test result shows 353MB/s. It is too awkward!! Someone knows why?
  • 0 Hide
    saint19 , November 11, 2010 11:54 AM
    I did and excellent choice with my C300 and SATA 6Gb/s.

    Working on the review, wait for it in the storage section of the forum ;) 
  • 4 Hide
    K2N hater , November 11, 2010 12:00 PM
    How about performing a few game benchmarks when installed on SSD vs. HDD?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 11, 2010 12:01 PM
    I have a vertex 2 120 gb. I must say, after you have one for awhile you just can not go back. I plan on getting another SSD soon, but even with the 120gb, I still have 50-60 gb left with, Win 7 ult. 64 bit. office 2007 professional, Bc2, MoH. Get one!
  • 1 Hide
    scook9 , November 11, 2010 1:04 PM
    I have an Intel X25-M in both my desktop and laptop and would not consider any other drives.

    I trust it ALOT more than sandforce - just try to get their marketing numbers yourself, try anything. With my Intel drives I can get speeds FASTER THAN SPEC with relative ease and it is repeatable and it represents REAL usage not a synthetic 0fill which is what sandforces need to look decent.
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