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SSD Summer Slam: 12 New 2.5" And 1.8" Drives Rounded-Up

SSD Summer Slam: 12 New 2.5" And 1.8" Drives Rounded-Up

Hardly a week goes by in which we don’t receive information or updates about solid state drives (SSDs). These flash-based storage alternatives were introduced in 2006 when Samsung released a 32GB prototype that used UltraATA/66. The first drives available at retail were easily capable of outperforming hard drives when it came to I/O performance, but not all delivered greater throughput. Overall, first- and second-generation flash SSDs simply weren’t as efficient as promised. In addition, processing power seems necessary to reach maximum SSD performance, and all SSDs have demonstrated negative performance impacts over time due to write amplification, wear leveling algorithms, and the fact that flash memory cannot just be overwritten. It has to be read, erased, and rewritten.

Older SSDs or those with older firmware are still susceptible to these problems. It wasn’t until late 2008, when drives arrived with built-in cache to sail around these issues, that we saw substantial progress. Today, key vendors are assidious about providing firmware updates every few weeks, so it was time for us to collect a dozen new drives and put them to the test. All have been added to our SSD Charts for easy comparison, as well.

Why SSDs?

Regular readers have probably visited this question several times already, but it’s important to point out that the future of fast storage solutions for your operating system does not lie with magnetic hard drives. System storage will increasingly be based on non-volatile silicon technology, such as flash memory, for speed and efficiency reasons. Hard drives will be around for many years to come, but they’ll increasingly be used for longer-term storage and archiving because they suffer from rather long latencies due to necessary head repositioning from one track to another (seek time) and rotational latency.

SSDs are capable of providing much quicker random access. While hard drives require between 4 and 20 ms for average access operations, SSDs run between 0.05 ms and 2 ms in worst-case write access scenarios. Depending on the SSD model and firmware focus (desktop versus enterprise workloads), the resulting I/O performance can be up to 50 times faster than on hard drives. Finally, SSDs deliver throughput of up to 240 MB/s, while even the fastest enterprise hard drives are still limited to a bit more than 200 MB/s (Seagate's Cheetah 15K.7). Yet, it has to be said that hard drives are still much more reliable in delivering consistent and reproducable performance.

Trends and Capacities

While Western Digital has already announced the first 2.5” mobile hard drives with a 1TB capacity (12.5 mm z-height), SSDs are still limited to a maximum of 256GB in the same form factor (although Intel is expected to start shipping 320GB versions of its X25 drives soon). In contrast, even regular 2.5” mobile hard drives (9.5 mm z-height) deliver twice the capacity of the largest SSDs. More significantly, 500GB notebook drives are affordable at prices between $80 and $120. You can get an SSD drive for about the same price, but then your capacity will most likely not exceed 32GB (for example, the OCZ Vertex 30GB) or you might be stuck with outdated technology (PQI, Transcend, Crucial 32GB). Ultimately, with SSD, you’re buying 5% to 15% of a hard drive’s capacity at the same price, or you’ll pay up to $800 if you want 256GB.

The Candidates

We received several new SSDs between July and mid-August: A-Data’s 128GB S592 drive (Indilinx controller, MLC flash); two models from a Chinese vendor called Asax (1.8” and 2.5”, MLC flash); Cavalry’s SSD 32GB Pelican (JMicron JMF602); Corsair’s P256 (based on the Samsung PB22-J); the new Crucial M225 series (Indilinx, MLC); Intel’s new 34nm X25-M at 160GB; the OCZ Summit, Vertex and Vertex Turbo (Samsung, Indilinx); and lastly the Super Talent's UltraDrive ME (Indilinx).

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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 8 September 2009 02:48
    shit review, the G1 is alot worse then the G2 over time/use and intel won't be giving the G1 the Trim command
  • 0 Hide
    BrightCandle , 8 September 2009 03:05
    Would have been helpful to have a hard drive in there for comparison just to reflect just how far SSDs improve performance.

    Where are the comparisons at empty verses used? This is a key differentiator at the moment and you seem to have missed the point completely. Its not how well a drive performs out of the box its how far it degrades once time has taken its toll.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 8 September 2009 16:57
    There is a lot missing from this article. TBH, I wouldn't use this as a basis for making a decision on what SSD to buy.

    One of your competitors has a superb article on SSD that they published recently, that delves into new vs used performance, and a good explanation of TRIM, and why it's important.

    IMO, this article is not up to the usual THG high standard.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 11 September 2009 01:47
    Why is the Vertex doing so extremely bad in the write-test?? Just 74MB/s write?? Is that a typo and is it suposed to be 174MB/s?
  • 0 Hide
    bobwya , 11 September 2009 03:38
    Fail, Fail, Fail.

    Once again THG resorts to lots of silly benchmarks but misses the point... I wouldn't pick a drive based on this roundup!

    Where, or where are the degradation of write performance tests... Thinking where all the Flash blocks are used and write cycles become Write-Read-Write cycles. (heading off to AnandTech again...)

    Where is the Patriot Torqx M28 SSD (128Mb cache & 10 year warranty) in this "roundup"??

    If you want a fast boot drive for "desktop usage" you'll surely want more I/O performance emphasise.

  • 1 Hide
    bobwya , 11 September 2009 03:44
    bobwya... Thinking where all the Flash blocks are used and write cycles become Write-Read-Write cycles. ...

    I meant Read-Modify-Write of course!!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 20 September 2009 18:32
    It's like you guys haven't read Anand's articles on SSDs or intentionally ignoring it. SSDs with JMicron controllers are automatically crippled SSDs. At least until JMicron cleans up their shoddy work, but then they'd have to fight against a bad reputation.