Corsair Force Series 120GB SSD review

Author: Carl Poirier
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, July 29th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/corsair_force_120gb/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

 

Has SSD technology really matured at this point? In the beginning, SSDs were suffering from write amplification, which made their writing performance decrease over time, up to a point where it would then stabilize, when all memory cells had been written at least once. What is this write amplification phenomenon, already? It's caused by the fact that SSDs must erase data in a sector before writing in new one. What causes problems is that the smallest part that can be erased, an erase block, is much larger than the smallest part that can be written. As a result, when all memory cells have been filled at least once, the SSD must always erase a large block, and then write back the data of that block that is meant to be conserved as well as the small portion of new data.

Then, appeared the TRIM function, which allows the operating system to tell the SSD which sector is not used anymore. Normally, a drive does not know anything about which cell is currently used or not in the file system. With TRIM, once the SSD is told that a certain portion can safely be erased, it erases it right away so there is no need to wait until the host sends some data to write next time.

TRIM is not perfect however. In some cases, the SSD is not sent that command. For example, it happens when a file is saved with a smaller size than its previous version; the data in the freed room is not erased.

There are many SSD controllers on the market now, and some have their own algorithms, focused on trying to minimize the performance cost of write amplification. There is a factor designed to measure write amplification, being the ratio between the number of write operations the SSD has to do and the number of write operations the host has asked. Recently, SandForce delivered its DuraClass technology, achieving write amplification factors below one, thanks to some data compression techniques and other algorithms that are kept secret. DuraClass also prevents the need for garbage collection, which many other SSDs require. All of that, without a memory cache.

So this is why there is so much hype around the SandForce controller. Some examples of SSDs using the SandForce controller are the Corsair Force Series, available for a few months now.

The previous SSDs in the Force Series featured capacities of 50, 100 and 200GB due to the larger overhead, more suited for writing-intensive uses where a longer drive longevity is required. In a desktop environment however, a smaller overhead is more appropriate, providing the user with more storage capacity. That's how the 60, 120 and 240GB Force drives are born. Today Neoseeker examines the 120GB version of the Corsair Force SSD.

 

Specifications

Model
CSSD-F120GB2-BRKT
Technology
High-reliability MLC NAND flash
Form Factor
2.5 inch
Unformatted Capacity
120GB
Interface
SATA II (3.0Gb/s)
Backward compatible with SATA I
Performance
285 MB/s sequential read
275 MB/s sequential write 
50K IOPs (4K aligned)
Weight
80g
Voltage
5V ±5%
Power Consumption(Active)
2.0W Max
Power Consumption (Idle)
0.5W Max
S.M.A.R.T. Support
Yes
MTBF
1,000,000 hours
Shock Resistance
1500G
Warranty
Three Years

 

The 60GB and 240GB drives differ only by their capacity. So how will these new drives in the Force Series perform? The following pages ought to answer that question.

 

Inside the package is the solid-state drive enclosed in a rigid plastic shell. The 2.5" to 3.5" bay adapter is wrapped in a small plastic bag, and both items are separated by cardboard, so they are well protected.

The bay adapter is nothing more than a folded metal sheet, and it gets the job done nicely. There are eight screws supplied with it, just enough to install the drive in computer cases.

The drive has a nice black metallic enclosure. The sticker is not really exciting, but the drive is meant to be inside of a computer, so it does not really matter.

On the side are the usual SATA and power connectors. There is also room for a header at the left, however none is present. This leads to believe that SandForce does not expect to release new firmware that needs to be flashed on older drives. Is the technology really that mature?

Corsair backs these drives with a three year warranty, if the two small "Warranty Void If Removed" stickers, each protecting a screw, are not removed of course. This is not any longer than the majority of mechanical drives, and it's just a tad shy of the ten year warranty Patriot is offering on its Torqx Series drives.

That Patriot Torqx features the Indilinx controller and, according to Neoseeker's previous tests, is the best drive to have entered Neoseeker's labs. Now can it hold its crown against the Corsair F120? The next pages will shed some light on that!

 

Test Setups

Patriot Torqx 128GB, Corsair Force 120GB

Patriot Zephyr 128GB

 

Benchmarks Used

Since the drives were tested on two different platforms, we made sure that our benchmarks were not processor-bound. Hence why they are not exactly the same as in the OCZ Agility review.

 

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.

In the file copy test, all three drives take the same time. At 100MB, the file operation dialog does not even show.

 

Windows 7 Boot & Shutdown

The title of this test says it all. The countdown starts as soon as we hit "Enter" in the boot manager, until the desktop has appeared and the LAN is connected.

At boot, it is a tie between the Patriot Torqx and the Corsair Force, however for the shutdown time the Force takes the lead. The Zephyr has a hard time keeping up.

 

Call of Juarez

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

The Force exhibited its force in Call of Juarez, being two seconds faster than the second best drive.

 

Far Cry 2

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

It however could not overtake the Torqx in Far Cry 2.

 

HD Tune

HD Tune is an application for benchmarking hard drives. This time, both the read and write tests are run.

Here, the Force 120GB falls a bit behind in the read speed. It does however take back the lead in write speed, if not considering the minimum spikes.

 

Write Amplification

What is measured here is the write performance loss due to the write amplification. As said on the first page, SandForce's DuraClass technology achieves a write amplification factor below one, so the write speeds should not suffer compared to some other drives which need a utility to be run on them to get the same performance. Since HDTune writes tests write speeds everywhere on the drive, running it twice in a row will force the drive to write on used sectors. The numbers reported in the following graph are the performance loss from the first run to the second, in percentage.

As expected, the SandForce drive exhibits no performance degradation. Not having to worry about restoring the drive to its top performance from time to time is very great.

 

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.

Pretty amazing! The Corsair's offering manages to beat the Torqx by a large 4000 points!

 

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 first screenshot is for the Force 120GB, the second one is the Torqx, and the last one is the Zephyr.

 

 

 

Now that is impressive too. The Force manages to beat the Torqx by almost twice the score. Where it really shines is in 4K write operations, be it single or 64 threads at a time. It really shows the benefits of the low write amplification factor.

 

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 shows results from the Corsair Force 120GB, the two others are for Patriot's offerings.

 

ATTO reports a top read speed of 280MB/s for the Force, and a write speed of just over 250MB/s. The Torqx stands much lower at 270MB/s and 200MB/s, read and write respectively. The Zephyr is even worse.

 

SiSoftware Sandra 2009

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.

Sandra reports sustained read and write speeds a bit lower than what a Patriot Torqx can achieve. As for the Zephyr, it just isn't in the competition.

 

Without any doubt, the Corsair Force 120GB based on the SandForce SF-1200 controller is the best performer here at Neoseeker's labs. It simply crushed the previous king, the Patriot Torqx. It prevailed in eight out of the ten benchmarks, some of them by a very convincing margin, especially AS SSD, ATTO and PCMark Vantage.

Another great thing is that the Force 120GB does not suffer a write performance loss over time, thanks to some special algorithms from SandForce which allow for a write amplification factor below one. Compared to some drives based on other controllers, this one does not need a utility to be run on it to get its initial performance restored. It just shows that the technology has really matured. Today's subject just is not comparable to the first generation of consumer SSDs, which suffered from high write performance degradation over time, did not even support TRIM, and could not even get their initial performance restored via a utility. The technology has now reached the point where a drive can be installed in a system without ulterior interventions; it now provides an absolute peace of mind.

With such refinements, it is a bit disheartening to see that the Force 120GB's warranty is only three years, when other drives such as the Torqx are covered for ten years. Three years is not too bad though, considering that the warranties for most mechanical hard drives and many other SSDs are in the same ballpark.

Overall, at $309, the Corsair Force 120GB is definitely a drive to consider when shopping for an SSD of this capacity. Only a few drives are cheaper than that, and not by much. There are also the 60GB and 240GB versions selling for $156 and $609 respectively, which offer the same performance level.

»Neoseeker.com

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