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 Interface
Market Price
Price per GB
Warranty
Adata S511 60 GB
Synchronous$110
$1.83
3 years
Corsair Force 3 60 GB
Asynchronous$95
$1.58
3 years
Corsair Force GT 60 GB
Synchronous$107
$1.78
3 years
Intel SSD 520 60 GBSynchronous$135
$2.25
5 years
Kingston SSDNow 200+ 60 GB
Asynchronous$110
$1.83
3 years
OCZ Agility 3 60 GB
Asynchronous$90
$1.50
3 years
OCZ Vertex 3 60 GB
Synchronous$98
$1.63
3 years
OWC Mercury Electra 6G 60 GBAsynchronous$120
$2.00
3 years
Patriot Pyro SE 60 GB
Synchronous$113
$1.88
3 years
RunCore Pro V 60 GB
Synchronous$123$2.05
3 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?

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  • 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.
  • Other Comments
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Anonymous
    fwiw...intel uses its own premium binned 25nm sych...that why 4k read were so good.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • memadmax
    Dear Tom's,
    Great article.
    Can we get a "Best motherboards for the money" type?
    Thanks.
  • Marcus52
    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.
  • fanboy555
    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.
  • nukemaster
    This article has been GREAT.
  • slicedtoad
    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.
  • nforce4max
    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.
  • acku
    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
  • acku
    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
  • acku
    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.
  • acku
    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