It’s about damn time. 6Gb/s SATA is old news now. It’s been half a year since we saw the first 6Gb/s SATA–enabled hard drive, and it was a frickin’ mechanical drive. Talk about unnecessary. Solid state drives, on the other hand, have been bumping at the ceiling of 3Gb/s SATA’s available bandwidth for a while now. So why not slap a 6Gb/s SATA controller on a solid state drive? Duh. Crucial, apparently alone among flash memory vendors, heard the call. Thus, the Crucial C300, a 6Gb/s SATA–enabled SSD that comes in 128GB and 256GB flavors.
But does the C300 actually benefit from a 6Gb/s SATA connection? Yes and no. In sequential read tests, it blows every other drive out of the water, with a maximum sequential read speed of 317MB/s and an average read of over 300MB/s! That’s more than 50 percent faster than the SandForce-based drives, like OCZ’s Vertex 2, that comprise our favorite SSDs and typically top out at around 200MB/s read speeds. On a standard 3Gb/s connection, the C300’s read speeds were a still-impressive 222MB/s—about the same as a Barefoot Indilinx-based drive, like the Patriot Torqx or Corsair Nova.
The Crucial C300 tops 300MB/s in sequential reads, but can its write speeds keep up?
Unfortunately, write speeds are a bit of a mixed bag. Initial sustained write speeds looked promising, but the drive started showing decreased performance quite rapidly—which should have been fixed after the drive was zeroed, but wasn’t. Average sustained write speeds at 3Gb/s were nearly 200MB/s, but only 171MB/s on a 6Gb/s SATA port. And it got worse the more we tested. This seems to be a firmware problem, but as of press time we were running the latest firmware. It’s worth noting that even 171MB/s sustained writes aren’t bad—after all, that’s on par with last year’s Barefoot drives, which are still damned good SSDs.
Random reads in HDTune were in the 7,000 IOPS range—respectable, but nothing special. HDTune write IOPS of just 2,500, though, left us unimpressed. So we turned to IOMeter, which we haven’t used for a while, but which seems to be the industry standard for SSD random write speeds. And since we’ve finally got a working, stable hard drive test bed with both USB 3.0 and 6Gb/s SATA (more on this in this month’s Lab Notes section), which we’ll be sticking with for the foreseeable future, we took the opportunity to reintroduce the benchmark. We’re running a 4KB random write pattern at a queue depth of 32—pretty standard stuff. It doesn’t give the same numbers as HDTune (to nobody’s surprise), but it’s a good second data point. At 6Gb/s SATA, the C300 put out 12,425 IOPS, and 8,760 at 3Gb/s. By contrast, the OCZ Vertex 2 (running SandForce’s “Max IOPS” firmware) blazed through at 48,958.
There’s no question that on a 6Gb/s SATA port, the Crucial C300 has by far the fastest read speeds we’ve ever seen. And on a 3Gb/s port, it’s nothing to sneeze at. But for sequential and random write speeds, it can’t touch SandForce drives. And its current firmware’s instability is worrisome, though we have faith that Crucial can fix the problem. But hey, 300MB/s reads. So cool. If your rig has 6Gb/s SATA ports, and random writes aren’t your biggest concern, prepare for the ride of your life.
Crucial C300 256GB SSD
Fastest read speeds ever; decent write speeds.
Random writes can't touch SandForce drives; write-speed slowdowns after use.
Crucial C300 (6Gb/s)
Crucial C300 (3Gb/s)
OCZ Vertex 2 (3Gb/s)
Avg Read (MB/s)
Random-Access Read (ms)
Burst Read (MB/s)
Avg Write (MB/s)
Random-Access Write (ms)
Burst Write (MB/s)
4KB Read (IOPS)
4KB Write (IOPS)
IOMeter Random-Write IOPS (4KB, Queue Depth 32)
Premiere Pro (sec)
PCMark Vantage HDD
Best scores are bolded. All drives tested on our hard drive test bench: a stock-clocked Intel i7-930 CPU on an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB DDR3, running 64-bit Windows 7 Professional. All 3Gb/s tests performed using latest Intel ACHI drivers; all 6Gb/s tests use onboard Marvell 9123 6Gb/s SATA controller with latest drivers.