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SSD Performance: TRIM And Firmware Updates Tested

SSD Performance: TRIM And Firmware Updates Tested
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Solid state drives can deliver exceptional performance, but they're not necessarily fire-and-forget upgrades. You'll only really get the best possible experience from them if you pay attention to details like TRIM support and available firmware updates.

The SSD vendors’ marketing divisions simply do not tire of citing insanely high MB/s throughput numbers and sky-high IOPS. While these figures aren't inaccurate, per se, they don't necessarily reflect the truth either. Everyday operation does not equal the hygienic test conditions laid out carefully to maximize numbers. In the end, this means that the mentioned performance specifications can, in fact, be reached, but it takes some optimization.

I’ve got one of the best SSDs, what do I care?

The fact alone that a brand new SSD is known for being fast and furious does not mean that it really is. Are you using the latest SATA storage drivers? Have you ever checked if AHCI mode is enabled in your BIOS? Would you be sure that the TRIM feature is actually working? Could it be that there is a newer firmware version for your solid state drive? Might a recent configuration change have impaired your storage performance? If you've recently spent as much on storage as other folks spend on an entire netbook, it’s legit to spend some time investigating the bang for your buck.

We’ve seen both extremely great and incredibly poor performance results on SSDs, and the reasons behind a negative performance experience can vary. First of all, it is important to use a decent product. While it used to be easy to judge hard drive performance, the characteristics of solid state drives depend on many variables. Most of the consumer SSD products available today are based on several channels of MLC NAND flash memory and one of the popular controller architectures. Intel’s X25 family has been very strong, with specific weaknesses when it comes to write throughput. The Indilinx hardware contributed to the breakthrough of SSDs by maximizing throughput. Crucial’s RealSSD C300 is still the king when it comes to raw bandwidth, thanks in part to a 6 Gb/s interface, but it was Sandforce’s SF-1200 controller that first showed us that high throughput and stellar I/O performance go hand in hand. The most recent SSD contender Samsung’s 470-series SSD, which we used for this performance evaluation.

We've already mentioned a few factors that can influence performance, and we found that it is important to check all of them. In this article, we’ll be looking at a recent firmware update, and then check performance levels with and without the TRIM feature enabled.

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  • 2 Hide
    Tamz_msc , December 24, 2010 4:23 AM
    Thanks for this useful article.
  • 8 Hide
    jprahman , December 24, 2010 4:25 AM
    It's good to see progress in terms of reducing the decay in performance you get in SSDs during usage. I just want to see prices drop to the point where I can actually afford one.
  • 7 Hide
    danielgr , December 24, 2010 5:51 AM
    Nice article.

    That said, on one side it's pretty obvious that you can get "the best out of your SSD with modern HW", on the other side I totally disagree on your comment about "using it on older hardware not being interesting".
    All the fuzz about "maximum performance" is pretty nice to run benchmarks and so on, but it has only a very mitigated effect on real life. My experience is actually quite opposite to what your statement intended:
    - Put an SSD on a nice recent rig (I did) and you'll be pleased with the performance, but that's about it.
    - Put an SSD on an old subpair computer you were about to throw away and you'll be amazed of how fast it became, literally making you believe you can use it for some extra years more without problems (I did). Indeed, an SSD is the killer update for any old HW you may have, and you'll notice much more than any CPU/Memory/GPU whatever you may try.

    Back to real life, most people can't tell the difference between "the fastest SSD" and a "normal SSD" if not after running some benchmarks or I/O performance specific tool.

    PS: Makers such as Intel offer "clean-up utilities" that don't need AHCI nor TRIM to be effective and can be easily programed to automatically run once a week or so.

    PS2: No coincidence on what I said the fact that for example in Japan you can find a subpair/expensive SSD on the top10 selling list, simply because it's the only one available with IDE ! (which tells you people are actively using it to resuscitate old HW).
  • 1 Hide
    danielgr , December 24, 2010 5:53 AM
    ERRATA: As for the Intel bit, it should have read : "don't need AHCI nor W7" to be effective. Obviously it needs TRIM, which is supported by all Intel branded Intel SSDs ...
  • 2 Hide
    The_Lurker , December 24, 2010 7:04 AM
    I like this article thanks.
  • 0 Hide
    saint19 , December 24, 2010 11:51 AM
    @Patrick Schmid and Achim Roos

    Good article guys, but Why not before recommend enable or disable TRIM, tell to users how verify if this is enable or not?

    Also would be great test more that one SSD, Samsung is the newest one, but not the faster one.
  • 2 Hide
    marraco , December 24, 2010 11:53 AM
    Samsung is not representative enough. At least an Intel, SandForce, Indilinx, and jMicron controller should be tested.

    Also, a commons scenario is to clone an OS HDD partition onto a new SSD, and it generally leaves physical and logical sectors misaligned. So, it is important to remark that missalineation negatively impacts performance.
  • 0 Hide
    saint19 , December 24, 2010 11:55 AM
    mayankleoboy1to use an SSD as only a boot disk for win7 OS, which SSD parameter is the most important? 4kreads / 4kwrites/ ramdom/sequential?


    4K parameters.
  • 3 Hide
    ctbaars , December 24, 2010 12:16 PM
    danielgrNice article.That said, on one side it's pretty obvious that you can get "the best out of your SSD with modern HW", on the other side I totally disagree on your comment about "using it on older hardware not being interesting".All the fuzz about "maximum performance" is pretty nice to run benchmarks and so on, but it has only a very mitigated effect on real life. My experience is actually quite opposite to what your statement intended:- Put an SSD on a nice recent rig (I did) and you'll be pleased with the performance, but that's about it.- Put an SSD on an old subpair computer you were about to throw away and you'll be amazed of how fast it became, literally making you believe you can use it for some extra years more without problems (I did). Indeed, an SSD is the killer update for any old HW you may have, and you'll notice much more than any CPU/Memory/GPU whatever you may try.Back to real life, most people can't tell the difference between "the fastest SSD" and a "normal SSD" if not after running some benchmarks or I/O performance specific tool.PS: Makers such as Intel offer "clean-up utilities" that don't need AHCI nor W7 to be effective and can be easily programed to automatically run once a week or so.PS2: No coincidence on what I said the fact that for example in Japan you can find a subpair/expensive SSD on the top10 selling list, simply because it's the only one available with IDE ! (which tells you people are actively using it to resuscitate old HW).

    +10
    This is my Exact, Real Life, experience too.
  • 0 Hide
    nekromobo , December 24, 2010 12:18 PM
    danielgrERRATA: As for the Intel bit, it should have read : "don't need AHCI nor W7" to be effective. Obviously it needs TRIM, which is supported by all Intel branded Intel SSDs ...


    It does not need TRIM, as there is Intel SSD toolbox which "TRIM's" your Intel SSD as scheduled (once a week/day/hour however you config it)
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , December 24, 2010 12:40 PM
    A little off-topic, but I didn't finish the article because every single time I went to the next page, I got a Lenovo ad in my face that I had to click a link to skip. One ad periodically is fine, but an in-your-face ad every time you go to the next page? Unacceptable. I find it hard to believe that's what you guys are intending. If it's not, you need to fix it. FWIW, I'm running IE8 on a new install of Win7 with no plug-ins and cookies enabled, just a standard configuration, so I'm betting others are having the same poor experience.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , December 24, 2010 12:46 PM
    I'm with you on the nuisance ads -- the Lenovo one was nothing like as annoying as that brightly animated HP toner ad, though.

    Best solution is to switch to the Firefox browser and run ad-block
  • -2 Hide
    mister g , December 24, 2010 12:46 PM
    Not me, I'm runnning the same things. I think you should just wait for the ad to dissappear on its own, that way the cookies might remember you looked at the ad and might not pop another one up so soon after.
  • 0 Hide
    hixbot , December 24, 2010 12:54 PM
    It sure would be nice to see a Raid 0 battle between SSDs, with degraded performance comparisons etc.
  • 0 Hide
    Aragorn , December 24, 2010 12:56 PM
    The d*mn ads are terribly annoying. I don't wan't to run ad block because I know Tom's needs the revenue to survive (if none of us looked at the ads there would be no Tom's). That said I think I am going to start having to go over to another news site until they get this page blocking ad thing sorted I could live with it when they showed me on the first time I came to Tom's in a session but every page is ridiculous especially when it is the same ad repeatedly.
  • 0 Hide
    superflykicks03 , December 24, 2010 1:26 PM
    So...it took hours of benchmarking to show us that when using a relatively immature piece of hardware, we should update our firmware, used the latest drivers, and enable TRIM? Aren't these things that most power users already do? It would be nice to see some more advanced information on SSD's, such as the impact on performance following long term use of SSD's in RAID 0 (when trim cannot be used)...etc...etc...

  • 1 Hide
    wolfram23 , December 24, 2010 1:37 PM
    Nice article. I guess it's time to look up if there's newer firmware on my X25M 80gb, and also if there's new RAID drivers for Win 7.

    @superflykicks03 why do you assume everyone reading this article would be a "power user" who already does this? There's a plethora of people out there who will read this and who aren't anal about checking for firmware and driver updates. Therefore, useful article is useful.
  • 1 Hide
    sleeper52 , December 24, 2010 5:52 PM
    there's still no TRIM when you enable RAID 0 right?
  • 0 Hide
    Makaveli , December 24, 2010 6:20 PM
    "It does not need TRIM, as there is Intel SSD toolbox which "TRIM's" your Intel SSD as scheduled (once a week/day/hour however you config it)"

    umm the author was speaking about G1 intel drives which doesn't support trim and you cannot use the intel toolbox on those drives!

  • 0 Hide
    firemachine69 , December 24, 2010 6:45 PM
    saint19@Patrick Schmid and Achim RoosGood article guys, but Why not before recommend enable or disable TRIM, tell to users how verify if this is enable or not?Also would be great test more that one SSD, Samsung is the newest one, but not the faster one.



    You have to make a very concerted effort in Windows 7 (and the current build of Linux, if my understanding is correct) to disable TRIM.


    I run my games and docs from a 5900rpm HDD, and my apps and Win7 from my basic Kingston Value SSD (128gb). My rig is pretty basic, too - Intel quad-core Q9550, 8 gigs of DDR3, on an Asus P5E3 Workstation mobo. Not "ancient", but by no means blazing fast.
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