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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.