VisionTek Racer 120GB SSD Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, May 28th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/VisionTek_Racer_120GB/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Over the last few years VisionTek has been branching out into different market segments, and their product lines now include graphics cards, memory and power supplies. Neoseeker has thus far covered VisionTek’s memory products extensively through our reviews of their dual and quad-channel Ultimate performance memory kits. Back then we speculated that VisionTek might be moving over to SSDs because they are the next logical step after releasing memory.

VisionTek is taking a two-two pronged approach with their solid state drives by releasing both a high-performance Racer Series and value orientated GoDrive series. Both lines of SSDs are powered by the latest SF-2281 processor and utilize the SATA 6Gb/s interface, but the GoDrives use asynchronous NAND memory while the Racer Series uses 24nm Toshiba Toggle NAND. This makes the Racer Series amongst some of the fastest drives on the market with sequential read and write transfers of 555MB/s and 520MB/s, respectively. In addition, it has extremely fast IOPS performance of up to 85K IOPS (4K aligned).

With such blistering fast transfer speeds, the VisionTek Racer Series does have a slightly higher MSRP than drives using slower NAND. Still, at $229 for a 120GB model it is competitively priced against similar SSDs on the market. The series also includes 240GB and 480GB models, but of course they will be priced even higher. Was VisionTek successful in maing an SDD that can compete with more established solid state drive manufacturers?

Specifications
Availability
120GB, 240GB, 480GB
Performance
  • Max Read: up to 555MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 520MB/s
NAND
Toshiba Toggle Model MLC NAND
Interface
SATA 6Gbps / Backwards compatible 3Gbps
TRIM Support
Yes
Design
Slim 2.5" design with 3.5" convertor
dimensions .37” (D) x 2.6” (W) x 3.9” (H)
Weight
26 lbs / 118.3 gm
compatibility Windows XP, Vista, 7 (32/64 bit), Linux, Mac OSX
Warranty
3 years

The Racer Series solid state drives come packaged in a large black box. On the front of the box is the product sticker which lists the drives capacity, form factor and SATA interface, and uses different color schemes depending on drive capacity. The 120GB drive we received is black and red, while the 240GB model is blue and red, and the 480GB model comes in black and grey.

The reverse side of the packaging only has the VisionTek logo at the bottom and an opening at the top that allows the inner box to be easily removed. The inner box stores the actual drive and accessories. The drives are bundled with a 2.5" to 3.5" converter that will allow them to be installed in larger drive bays, and a coupon for VisionTek's Universal SSD Installation kit. Essentally this kit is a hard drive cloning system that works via USB port, allowing anyone to clone a hard drive without even opening a case.

Externally the Racer drives use a standard 2.5" grey enclosure with a decal sticker on both the front and back.The 2.5" form factor allows the Racer Series drives to be installed into any laptop or a case with a 2.5" bracket. However, if your case doesn't support 2.5" drives, VisionTek has included a bracket that allows the SSD to be mounted into a 3.5" drive bay without modification. The drive also has product sitckers on both the front and the back. The front sticker lists all the same information that was on the front of the box, while the back has the serial number and a warning regarding the warranty.

All the drives in the Racer series are powered by the second generation SandForce SSD controller (SF-2281) and supports the 6Gbps SATA III interface. The drives also use 24nm Toshiba Toggle Mode MLC NAND, and feature read and write speeds of 550MB/s and 520MB/s. In addition, the Racer Series also features excellent 4k file write performance of 85,000 IOPS, which puts it on par with the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS SSD.

The SandForce SSD controller also offers native TRIM support for garbage collection used by supporting operating systems such as Microsoft Windows 7, as well as Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with 32 commands, and all the exclusive DuraClass technologies we have come to expect from SandFroce drives. While the Racer Series drives are based on the SATA 6Gb/s interface, they are all backwards compatible with SATA 3Gb/s and SATA 1.5Gbs interfaces. The drives also supports error checking and correction (ECC) algorithm on the chips without placing any burden on the host controller, which paired with RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) helps enhance the reliability of the drive. As mentioned earlier, garbage collection is included, which essentially works as an internal defragmentation tool to keep the SSD clean of unused data.

The VisionTek Racer SSD has a total of eight 24nm multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory chips. The NAND selected for the Racer Series is 24nm Toshiba Toggle Mode MLC NAND flash and with eight chips on the PCB, the SF-2281 controller will be using all 8 channels. The memory modules on the PCB are arranged in rows of two on both sides of the board, and each NAND chip has a capacity of 16GB. Additionally the over-provisioning for these models is around 6%, so the final storage capacity will be slightly under the listed capacity of the drive.

Test Setup

Benchmarks Used

Windows 7 Boot & Shutdown

The title of this test says it all. To test the start up speed we enter the boot manager prior to entering Windows and select the drive we are currently testing. Once we have selected the drive we record the time it takes from the time we hit "Enter" in the boot manager, until the desktop has appeared and the LAN is connected.

The Shut Down test is also recorded via a stop watch, but for this test we shut down all applications and test the time it takes for the system to fully power down after we hit the "Shut Down" button.

Right off that bat, we can see the Racer Series is extremely fast. The 120GB model was able to match the Patriot Wildfirce with a boot time of only 23 seconds. Similarity the drive was able to able to keep pace when shutting down the computer in 5 seconds.

Call of Juarez

This time, the score used is not the benchmark score, but rather the time it takes to load.

Far Cry 2

It's the same principle here for Far Cry 2's built-in benchmark.

The results in Call of Juarez and Far Cry 2 placed the VisionTek Racer as one of the fastest drives we have tested. While it performed similar to other SATA 6Gb/s SSDs, the difference between the Racer drive and a standard HDD really highlights the reason of why most games should be running on an SSD.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage

PCMark is a benchmarking suite from FutureMark, who also make the renown 3DMark. It includes many tests to calculate overall system performance including hard drive performance. The hard drive suite performs tasks such as scanning for viruses, streaming, recording and more. It is a fairly good indicative of general real-world performance.

Futuremark PCMark 7

PCMark resembles a lot to the 3DMark suite from FutureMark, except the fact that it includes many other tests like hard drive speed, memory and processor power, so it is considered as a system benchmark and not just a gaming benchmark.

In both of the Furturemark benchmarks the Racer drive came out faster than the both the Patriot Pryo SSDs. It even manged to surpass the Force GT in PCMark 7.

Futuremark PCMark 7

PCMark resembles a lot to the 3DMark suite from FutureMark, except the fact that it includes many other tests like hard drive speed, memory and processor power, so it is considered as a system benchmark and not just a gaming benchmark.

The categorized results again place the VisionTek Racer and Corsair Force GT neck and neck. The only drive to perform better in this benchmark was the Patriot Wildfire, which also had a better score in the starting applications portion of the benchmark.

SiSoftware Sandra 2012

Sandra, by SiSoftware, is a tool capable of benchmarking about every component found inside a computer. In this case, we are using the physical disk tool, which measures read and write performance of a given drive.

In the benchmark the VisionTek drive was right inline with the other models using the SandForce controller.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

The ATTO disk Benchmark, developed by a company of the same name, measures the storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Once again, the first graph in order shows results from the Corsair Performance Pro, 120GB Patriot Pryo SE, 240GB Patriot Pyro SE, RAID 0 Patriot Pyro SE, Patriot Pyro, Corsair Force GT, Corsair Force.

 

The drive displayed solid numbers when it came to read performance, and was again right inline with the other SandForce based drives.

File Copy

This test consists of copying our standard 100MB, 500MB and 1GB folder also used in our WinRAR test from one partition to the other, thus requiring reads and writes. The chronometer is started as soon as the "paste" button is clicked and is stopped whenever the window indicating the copy status disappears.

The VisionTek drive was just as fast as any of the other SandForce 2281 based SSDs when it came to transferring our files.

AS SSD

While most other storage benchmarks are designed with mechanical hard drives in mind, AS SSD, developed by Alex Schepeljanski, is built specifically for solid state drives. The application measure sequential and random read and write performance as well as access time. The performance charts below are as followed: Corsair Performance Pro, 120GB Patriot Pryo SE, 240GB Patriot Pyro SE, RAID 0 Patriot Pyro SE, Patriot Pyro, Corsair Force GT, Corsair Force.

 

 

Like the previous tests, the VisionTek SSD delivered excellent results and was actually one of the best drives when it came to 4K write performance.

The majority of drives in today’s market are based on the SandForce SF-2200 processor with only a handful using other controllers. With so many drives using the same controller, companies have to push the boundaries to make their drive stand out, especially VisionTek and their first SSD.

To help achieve this, VisionTek decided to build their Racer Series around the SF-2281 controller and use 24nm Toshiba Toggle NAND flash. The results in our benchmarking were actually quite impressive, as the 120GB Racer drive was able to perform evenly with high-end SSDs such as the patriot Pyro SE and Corsair Force GT. This is impressive considering this is VisionTek’s first SSD, and in our labs both real-world and synthetic benchmarks displayed impressive results. For this reason we highly recommend this drive, as it has world class performance that matches offering of manufacturers that have been around for years.

The only issue we have with the Racer series is a familiar one for companies trying to expand their products into a new market, namely pricing. The 24nm Toshiba NAND flash is designed for extreme performance, but because of the smaller die size, wafers are able to yield more flash than its 32nm counterpart. This didn’t translate into a more affordable drive from VisionTek, so any cost-saving benefits have not been passed on to the consumers.

We did get a response from VisionTek explaining that this is not an issue of inflated price, but rather one of supply. Currently, 24nm Toshiba flash is in limited quanties, which in turn is driving up the price. This issue should balance out in the near future at which point we were told the price would start to come down on all the Racer series drives. In addition, there are very few companies actually using 24nm Toshiba flash, so even while it commands a higher premium VisionTek is one of only a few companies so far to be using this NAND.

The Racer series is extremely fast and well deserving of the name. If VisionTek can just reduce the cost of their SSD range to match other companies using 24nm Toshiba NAND flash, they will have a real winner on their hands.

»Neoseeker.com

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