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

Performance Is Defined By Flash

SandForce's impact on the SSD landscape is undeniably significant. In focusing its efforts on the most influential component of solid-state storage performance and reliability, the company makes involvement in this growing segment more accessible to a number of vendors able to combine the controller and their own sourced NAND into a fairly reference-like package.

The firmware is, for the most part, completely furnished. And while some vendors claim exclusive optimizations, it's pretty clear that the performance impact of those tweaks is minimal. As a result, though, we're enjoying a lot more competition than if SandForce had never come along. Prices are consequently driven down, and enthusiasts win.

With all ten of these SSDs leveraging the same controller hardware, flash memory becomes the key element in defining a given drive's performance. That's not to say all of these drives sport similar reliability. Taking shortcuts by using cheaper power components, for instance, can negatively affect one brand's models more so than a competing vendor leveraging higher-quality parts. But when it comes to the performance data, synchronous NAND, for example, means OCZ's Vertex 3 behaves an awful lot like Corsair's Force GT. 

And although vendors are free to make their own firmware optimizations where they make sense, any tweaks that are being made are outweighed by the firmware elements these drives share in common. According to SandForce, it doesn’t matter if you own a PC or Mac. The relationship between hardware and firmware (and how it affects features like TRIM and garbage collection) functions identically from one drive to the next.

Lacking any other way to really quantify the differences between second-gen SandForce drives at 60 GB, we're left to consider variables like NAND quality. Right now, Intel is the only vendor making noise about the fact that it skims the very best flash die from IMFT for use in its SSD 520, and apparently that's enough to warrant the highest price per gigabyte in our round-up. Can you really put a price on the integrity of your data, though? Intel backs its claim with the only five-year warranty, so perhaps it's onto something. Using reliability as a differentiator, the company shows us that maybe we shouldn't always be looking for the cheapest SSD, but rather the most trustworthy one.

NAND InterfaceMarket PricePrice per GBWarranty
Adata S511 60 GBSynchronous$110$1.833 years
Corsair Force 3 60 GBAsynchronous$95$1.583 years
Corsair Force GT 60 GBSynchronous$107$1.783 years
Intel SSD 520 60 GBSynchronous$135$2.255 years
Kingston SSDNow 200+ 60 GBAsynchronous$110$1.833 years
OCZ Agility 3 60 GBAsynchronous$90$1.503 years
OCZ Vertex 3 60 GBSynchronous$98$1.633 years
OWC Mercury Electra 6G 60 GBAsynchronous$120$2.003 years
Patriot Pyro SE 60 GBSynchronous$113$1.883 years
RunCore Pro V 60 GBSynchronous$123$2.053 years

Should you necessarily fear a SandForce-based SSD that leverages cheaper NAND, then? Not at all, actually. Drives based on the company's controller are some of the most affordable performance-oriented solutions specifically because SandForce designed its controller to utilize lower-quality NAND dies without compromising reliability, even in the face of less endurance.

So, what's our lesson at the end of the day? When it comes to picking a 60 GB SandForce-based boot drive, NAND type is the biggest determinant of performance (although these drives are all significantly faster than anything with magnetic disks). And if you're worried about reliability, that difficult-to-quantify X factor, a vendor is only as good as its reputation. Some brands do better than others when it comes to supporting their products, so perhaps an exploration of rebate fulfillment, phone support, and RMA processing is in order next?

  • mayankleoboy1
    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.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    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.
    Reply
  • acku
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-520-sandforce-review-benchmark,3124-14.html

    You're not going to see a major difference.
    Reply
  • phamhlam
    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.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    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.
    Reply
  • compton
    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.

    Reply
  • clownbaby
    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.
    Reply
  • fwiw...intel uses its own premium binned 25nm sych...that why 4k read were so good.
    Reply
  • JackNaylorPE
    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.
    Reply
  • jsowoc
    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?
    Reply