Patriot's SandForce SSD offers high performance—mostly
SandForce-based drives have quickly emerged as the frontrunners in the solid-state wars, thanks to impressive read and write speeds, both sequential and random (which finally gives them an edge over the previous random-write leader, the aging Intel X-25M G2). All SandForce drives use the same controller, so differences between models come down to the commodity NAND used and—most importantly—firmware.
SandForce played a tricky game with its firmware, letting some manufacturers ship drives with release-candidate firmware, giving other vendors special “max IOPS” firmware, and so forth. Even its SF-1500 and SF-1200 controllers (enterprise and consumer, respectively) are only differentiated by firmware—but this firmware can vary quite a bit. We’ve never tested a bad SandForce drive, but the question remains: Is the Patriot Inferno a great SandForce drive, or merely a good one?
How is the Patriot Inferno different from other SandForce-powered drives? Well, it's rad.
In sequential reads, the Inferno averages 191.6MB/s, just under the 196MB/s we see from the top SandForce drives but lower than the top speeds of Crucial’s C300 drive (reviewed August 2010) or last year’s Barefoot Indilinx drives like the Patriot Torqx and Corsair Nova V128. Average writes are the same as with any SandForce drive we’ve seen: around 221MB/s. Random 4KB read and write IOPS in HDTune are nearly the same as with the OCZ Vertex 2 and Corsair Force F100, but IOMeter tells a different story. At a queue depth of 32, with random 4KB writes, the Inferno gets around 10,000 IOPS. Both the Vertex 2 and Force F100, though (which use max IOPS and release-candidate firmware, respectively), are nearly five times faster, at around 48,000 IOPS each. The Inferno hews closer to drives like the Crucial C300, which got about 12,000 IOPS on a 6Gb/s SATA controller and 9,000 on 3Gb/s SATA.
Other than in random writes at high queue depths, the Inferno is right up there with the best SandForce drives we’ve tested—which puts it high on the list of the best solid state drives, period. It supports the TRIM command, which is essential in today’s market. It’s also red, which is a nice change from the grays and blacks of most SSDs, but (alas) doesn’t make it any faster. At $360, it’s around the same price as the 100GB Vertex 2, but for the money, we’d rather have the new Corsair F120, which is essentially the Force F100 but with only 7 percent overprovisioning instead of 13 percent—another bit of firmware trickery. The F120 shares the high random-write IOPS of the F100, has a higher capacity, and costs slightly less than the Inferno.
The Patriot Inferno is a great SSD, and the fact that it’s not the best is a testament to the strength of the market right now. Customers who opt for the Patriot Inferno will get a great drive, but it’s not the top of the heap. Of course, given the huge role firmware plays in the SandForce market, don’t be surprised if that changes tomorrow.
Patriot Inferno 100GB SSD
Solid SandForce sustained reads/writes.
Can't match the 4KB random-write IOPS of Corsair's or OCZ's drives.
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-Acess 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 Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. 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.