Marvell-Based SSDs From Corsair, Crucial, OCZ, And Plextor: Tested

Examining Steady-State Performance

Conducting “fresh-out-of-the-box” testing in Iometer saves time for exploring other performance aspects. For this round-up, we want to investigate steady-state performance during worst-case operating conditions, including writing over a full drive with 4 KB random writes. Because the drive is already packed with data, the controller does not have any empty blocks available. Writing sequential data to the packed drive forces it to perform garbage collection operations. This strenuous test is important because it confirms the existence of efficient SSD garbage collection.

Torture testing our Marvell 88SS9174-based SSDs results in similar scores for all drives. Though reads are not impacted, sequential write performance simply tanks—and then fails to recover. 

This is not the first time we've witnessed this sort of behavior from an SSD. It also occurred with OCZ's Octane. However, we previously interpreted this as an indicator of an SSD overly dependent on foreground garbage collection. It would have been more accurate to describe these results as a “un-recoverable” operating condition.

Marvell-based SSDs enjoy low scores when we test maximum response times during 4 KB random writes. This supports claims of background garbage collection for the m4, M3, M3 Pro, Performance Pro, and Octane.

How do we reconcile these results with the elegant recovery curve demonstrated by Marvell-based drives like the Vertex 4? If everything is working optimally, that'd be the type of behavior we'd expect from a drive employing background garbage collection.

The answer is that the threshold where it becomes difficult for an SSD to perform background garbage collection also makes subsequent graceful recovery highly unlikely. Metaphorically speaking, beating an SSD into the corner of the ring causes it to return in bad shape the next round. If we only re-run our random write torture test for a few minutes (rather than a sustained 20 minutes), the drive is able to recover.

In a way, this isn't necessarily the best way to approach background garbage collection if you're looking to preserve performance in the future. However, it's the preferred technique for extending SSD endurance, simply because fewer blocks of data are moved around over time.


Practically, none of this should dissuade you. Even in our torture test, issuing a TRIM command to the SSD results in performance recovering. Because that's not an option in RAID arrays, these SSDs aren't the best choice for combining for additional performance. Random writes will eventually trash the performance of a couple of Marvell-based drives in RAID.

  • hellfire24
    crucial FTW!
  • Shoulda tossed in a V4 128gb for entertainment value...ah well. :P
  • uruquiora
    hellfire24crucial FTW!hmm , my M4 has 10x more BSOD than my vertex 3... Each i boot my pc and work with it i prepare myself for a BSOD with my M4...
  • joytech22
    uruquiorahmm , my M4 has 10x more BSOD than my vertex 3... Each i boot my pc and work with it i prepare myself for a BSOD with my M4...
    That is what we in the I.T industry like to call: "Faulty Hardware".
    If you considered that normal all this time, I have some bad news for you..
  • chesteracorgi
    With the price of SSDs coming down, Toms should start introducing 256 GB + drives into its reviews. It's nice to have the 64 & 128 GB reviews, but for power builders the 256 GB is becoming mainstream.
  • Cyclops21
    Any tests planned on the Sandisk Extreme models. They were a Tom's recommend buy but I still haven't seen any benchmarks on Tom's.
  • cknobman
    I'd still say for most boot and program drives SandForce is the way to go as it has a significant performance edge.
  • Onus
    I've only installed 6-7 SSDs, with mixed results. Two with Sadforce controllers died within months or weeks (the RMA of one is yet to be tested). Given that the slowest SSD beats the pants off the fastest magnetic HDD, I have quickly reached the conclusion that reliability has to be the #1 criterion for SSDs, and I'm not sure Sandforce is there yet.
  • zodiacfml
    Awesome. SSDs time is now!
  • ramon zarat
    uruquiorahmm , my M4 has 10x more BSOD than my vertex 3... Each i boot my pc and work with it i prepare myself for a BSOD with my M4...
    You must be joking... The list of forum thread complaining about SF controller instability is endless. The M4 actually has a very solid reputation. I've been running 2 128GB M4 in 2 different PC for the last 8 months. Not a single BSOD. They still both benchmark the same speed as day 1. Actually, the M4 was and might very well still be the best choice for balance between price, performance and reliability in the whole SSD market. In my book, there are only 3 manufacturers really worth mentioning when it comes to SSD: Crucial, Intel and Samsung.

    Your unit is simply defective. That can happen to any manufacturer. RMA it and be happy.