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Ten 60 GB SandForce-Based Boot Drives, Rounded-Up

Ten 60 GB SandForce-Based Boot Drives, Rounded-Up
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What makes one SandForce-based SSD different from the others that appear to be just like it? We round up 10 models with 60 GB of capacity to explore the effects of NAND interfaces. We also stumble across some interesting data related to full drives.

Hardly a month goes by that we don't see another SSD launch into an already-crowded market. Most of the time, the introduction centers around a SandForce controller, and there's a good reason for that. The company's technology is fast. It's also designed to work alongside lower-quality flash memory, if need be, driving down the costs of SSDs at a time when price is the primary barrier keeping enthusiasts from adopting solid-state storage.

More than one year has passed since the controller company launched its line-up of second-generation logic, and its solutions are still at the top of their game. OCZ was the first vendor with a SandForce-based desktop-oriented drive way back then. And within the last 30 days, Intel even threw its hat into the ring with its SSD 520, built on top of the very same controller, but complemented with the company's own cherry-picked NAND. Truly, SandForce deserves kudos for remaining a relevant force, even in the face of newer controllers from competing sources. 

Although the vendors selling drives centering on SandForce's hardware often sit at the top of our benchmark charts, there are, admittedly, a lot of them. On one hand, that's a good thing. Competition between many similar products pushes prices down as low as they can possibly go. But as you see in the picture below, consisting of only 60 GB SSDs, the number of choices can quickly get overwhelming. 

Are all of those drives exactly the same? Decidedly not. Although each SSD employs the same controller and boasts the same capacity, there is a limited number of knobs and dials that vendors can tweak to affect pricing and performance. And that's the idea behind today's round-up. We want to explore how one SandForce-based drive differs from the next, and hopefully end up with a better idea of the 60 GB drive you'd want to boot from in your next PC.

On deck, we have:

  • Adata S511 60 GB
  • Corsair Force 3 60 GB
  • Corsair Force GT 60 GB
  • Kingston SSDNow V200+ 60 GB
  • Intel SSD 520 60 GB
  • OCZ Agility 3 60 GB
  • OCZ Vertex 3 60 GB
  • OWC Mercury Electra 6G 60 GB
  • Patriot Pyro SE 60 GB
  • RunCore Pro V 60 GB


As we dig into these 10 SSDs, know that there is a performance hierarchy distinguishing drives based on SandForce's controller hardware. Generally, two SF-22xx-based SSDs of a given capacity perform almost identically, provided that they both employ the same NAND interface. Vendors do use different NAND, though, and that's why there is variation between drives centering on the same controller hardware.

Second-gen SandForce SSDs are available with different flavors of memory, and this is their order of performance, from highest to lowest.

  1. SandForce controller with Toggle DDR NAND (Mushkin Chronos Deluxe, Patriot Wildfire, OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS)
  2. SandForce controller with Synchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Vertex 3, Corsair Force GT, Kingston HyperX)
  3. SandForce controller with Asynchronous ONFi NAND (OCZ Agility 3, Corsair Force 3, Mushkin Chronos, Patriot Pyro)

Right off the bat, we're able to sort our round-up into two groups: one that employs synchronous memory for better performance, and the other that uses asynchronous flash in order to save money.

Synchronous
Asynchronous
Adata S511 60 GBCorsair Force 3 60 GB
Corsair Force GT 60 GBKingston SSDNow V200+ 60 GB
Intel SSD 520 60 GBOCZ Agility 3 60 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 60 GBOWC Mercury Electra 6G 60 GB
Patriot Pyro SE 60 GB
RunCore Pro V 60 GB


How significant is the difference between the various memory interfaces? From there, can we distinguish between the drives in one group or the other? We’ll let the benchmarks do the talking.

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  • 20 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , March 1, 2012 4:08 AM
    As these drives are basically boot drives, i would have liked a test where you measure the total time taken to install a fresh wi7-sp1 on it and install updates and install a few softwares like

    Ms-Office
    Adobe pdf reader
    a web browser, a photo manipulating program
    a music/video player.
    Install a game from a ISO.
    An antivirus

    And all these apps should be installed from the SSD itself (meaning their setups should be on the SSD).
    Then you should test the startup and shutdown times.

    All these synthetic benchies dont make much sense, IMHO.
Other Comments
  • 20 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , March 1, 2012 4:08 AM
    As these drives are basically boot drives, i would have liked a test where you measure the total time taken to install a fresh wi7-sp1 on it and install updates and install a few softwares like

    Ms-Office
    Adobe pdf reader
    a web browser, a photo manipulating program
    a music/video player.
    Install a game from a ISO.
    An antivirus

    And all these apps should be installed from the SSD itself (meaning their setups should be on the SSD).
    Then you should test the startup and shutdown times.

    All these synthetic benchies dont make much sense, IMHO.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , March 1, 2012 4:12 AM
    I have found that when working with SSD's, single core CPU performance becomes a big bottleneck in some tasks.
    A lot of operations use only a single core and the SSD cant use its true potential. That is, the CPU cant process data as fast as the SSD can provide.
    This is just reverse of what happens in case of mechanical HDD's.
  • 4 Hide
    acku , March 1, 2012 4:14 AM
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-520-sandforce-review-benchmark,3124-14.html

    You're not going to see a major difference.
  • -4 Hide
    phamhlam , March 1, 2012 4:38 AM
    mayankleoboy1I have found that when working with SSD's, single core CPU performance becomes a big bottleneck in some tasks.A lot of operations use only a single core and the SSD cant use its true potential. That is, the CPU cant process data as fast as the SSD can provide.This is just reverse of what happens in case of mechanical HDD's.


    Well, it is pointless though since everything you are doing is so fast that it doesn't matter anymore. I however see your point since I can be loading a program and my SSD is not even at max speed my CPU frequency is maxed out. The only way to get more speed is to just overclock as much as you can.
  • 0 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , March 1, 2012 5:05 AM
    ackuhttp://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] 24-14.htmlYou're not going to see a major difference.



    that is the point of buying a cheaper SSD based on a chepaer NAND.
  • 1 Hide
    compton , March 1, 2012 6:00 AM
    Considering the conclusion that performance is defined by flash, I find it interesting that the one SF2281 with Toggle NAND at 60GB is not in the roundup (in North America anyway). The Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 60 is substantially cheaper now at $99. It's performance characteristics are much more profound than the 25nm ONFI sync/async models. They're often out of stock at Newegg, and for good reason.

  • 1 Hide
    clownbaby , March 1, 2012 6:08 AM
    Is there a benchmark to compare virtual memory performance? My current workstation has 24gb of memory, which means Windows eats up 36gb of my boot drive for virtual memory. (yes, I know I can change/disable it, but some programs act wonky when it's screwed with). A dedicated virtual memory drive would free up space on my primary ssd, as well as keep the writes down.

    I'd also like to see small drives benchmarked as swap drives in video editing machines. Currently I'm using a raid 0 array of 1tb samsung drives that keeps up well enough, but I'd be interested to see if there are tangible productivity differences.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 1, 2012 11:07 AM
    fwiw...intel uses its own premium binned 25nm sych...that why 4k read were so good.
  • 5 Hide
    JackNaylorPE , March 1, 2012 12:49 PM
    With a final page heading "Performance Is Defined By Flash" I would have like to see that difference looked at more closely. For example, the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe uses premium 3Xnm Toshiba Toggle Mode Flash (as does Patriot Wildfire, Vertex 3 Max IOPS and OWC Mercury Extreme Pro) and I would love to see for example how just changing the Flashin in an SSD from the same manufacturer and line (i.e Chronos standard versus Deluxe, Vertex 3 versus Vertex 3 Max IOPS). With that info, a user can decide whether it's makes sense to invest in say the premium Toshiba stuff as compared to the "same SSD w/o the premium Flash. That was what I expected to see when I read the referenced page heading.
  • 0 Hide
    jsowoc , March 1, 2012 12:51 PM
    I'm wondering why Toms' own trace-based benchmark didn't make it into this round-up? Does it take much longer to run than the other tests? While comparing synthetics is important to determine why a certain drive behaves a certain way, trace-based benchmarks (PCMark 7 could be considered trace-based) is what makes the final purchasing decision. In this case, PCMark was the one with the most clear-cut differences, ones that would likely be mirrored in a trace-based benchmark.

    For a future SSD review/roundup could you take, for example, 10 real-life traces from 10 different editor's machines (the more variation in workload, the better), and then compare the %change in execution time vs. a reference drive?
  • 6 Hide
    memadmax , March 1, 2012 1:44 PM
    Dear Tom's,
    Great article.
    Can we get a "Best motherboards for the money" type?
    Thanks.
  • 1 Hide
    Marcus52 , March 1, 2012 3:55 PM
    comptonConsidering the conclusion that performance is defined by flash, I find it interesting that the one SF2281 with Toggle NAND at 60GB is not in the roundup (in North America anyway). The Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 60 is substantially cheaper now at $99. It's performance characteristics are much more profound than the 25nm ONFI sync/async models. They're often out of stock at Newegg, and for good reason.


    You can comment on, wish for, or suggest a product be tested without implying there's some kind of intentional skewing or fault in the data collected.
  • 0 Hide
    fanboy555 , March 1, 2012 3:55 PM
    I'm buying a new SSD and I'm deciding between Corsair: Force 3, Force GT and Crucial m4 (all 60GB versions). Which one would you recommend? I'm leaning towards m4.
  • 1 Hide
    nukemaster , March 1, 2012 4:08 PM
    This article has been GREAT.
  • 0 Hide
    slicedtoad , March 1, 2012 4:09 PM
    fanboy555I'm buying a new SSD and I'm deciding between Corsair: Force 3, Force GT and Crucial m4 (all 60GB versions). Which one would you recommend? I'm leaning towards m4.

    I recommend upping your budget to a larger drive. Otherwise m4.
  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , March 1, 2012 4:15 PM
    clownbabyIs there a benchmark to compare virtual memory performance? My current workstation has 24gb of memory, which means Windows eats up 36gb of my boot drive for virtual memory. (yes, I know I can change/disable it, but some programs act wonky when it's screwed with). A dedicated virtual memory drive would free up space on my primary ssd, as well as keep the writes down.I'd also like to see small drives benchmarked as swap drives in video editing machines. Currently I'm using a raid 0 array of 1tb samsung drives that keeps up well enough, but I'd be interested to see if there are tangible productivity differences.


    I already do that, just pick up a cheap 30-64GB SSD and move the virtually memory over to it. As for killing the page file well good luck as that doesn't work. If it did there would be 36gb worth of more free space. As for using a ssd for only page file well it really does work and it doesn't degrade as quickly as you might think. When there is no static data for the controller to deal with while there is high read/write the drive tends to not have the same issues as most get. Just under 6,000 hours of heavy use and my 30gb kingston ssd is holding up.
  • 1 Hide
    acku , March 1, 2012 4:17 PM
    jsowocI'm wondering why Toms' own trace-based benchmark didn't make it into this round-up? Does it take much longer to run than the other tests? While comparing synthetics is important to determine why a certain drive behaves a certain way, trace-based benchmarks (PCMark 7 could be considered trace-based) is what makes the final purchasing decision. In this case, PCMark was the one with the most clear-cut differences, ones that would likely be mirrored in a trace-based benchmark.For a future SSD review/roundup could you take, for example, 10 real-life traces from 10 different editor's machines (the more variation in workload, the better), and then compare the %change in execution time vs. a reference drive?


    It's a bloody long test that I've decided to reserve for comparing between different SSDs employing different controllers. It would have probably taken a full week to test all the SSDs and that only would happen if we were test 24x7 and perfectly timed the drive swaps ;p
  • 1 Hide
    acku , March 1, 2012 4:19 PM
    comptonConsidering the conclusion that performance is defined by flash, I find it interesting that the one SF2281 with Toggle NAND at 60GB is not in the roundup (in North America anyway). The Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 60 is substantially cheaper now at $99. It's performance characteristics are much more profound than the 25nm ONFI sync/async models. They're often out of stock at Newegg, and for good reason.


    We sent an invitation to Mushkin. They did not respond in proper time for this roundup. In any event, Toggle at 60 GB is quite rare. Though, I agree, it would have been an interesting contender. Unfortunately, we didn't want to put the roundup on the back burner any longer, because we've made multiple postponements to accommodate this that and the other.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 0 Hide
    acku , March 1, 2012 4:20 PM
    memadmaxDear Tom's,Great article.Can we get a "Best motherboards for the money" type?Thanks.


    I believe you're referring to our Best SSDs column? If you want something different, feel free to suggest it.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , March 1, 2012 4:21 PM
    fanboy555I'm buying a new SSD and I'm deciding between Corsair: Force 3, Force GT and Crucial m4 (all 60GB versions). Which one would you recommend? I'm leaning towards m4.


    Sure! Read our controller agnostic 60 GB roundup. :)  http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/tests-ssd-review-solid-state,3103.html

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
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