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Intel 520 Series 240GB Review

For every season, there is a spin. Intel’s first consumer SSDs, the X-25M series, didn’t have the fastest performance, but they gained a reputation for reliability. We had high hopes for Intel’s 320 Series SSDs, which turned out to be really great 3Gb/s SATA drives, at a time when everyone else was shipping 6Gb/s drives. When Intel did ship a 6Gb/s SATA drive, the 510 Series, it used a Marvell controller, not an Intel one. Well, Intel has finally released its second 6Gb/s consumer SSD series, and it’s powered by… SandForce?

Yep. The 520 Series may ship in Intel’s familiar 7mm aluminum chassis with a 2mm black spacer, but inside it’s running the same SandForce SF-2281 as everyone else. It does use 25nm Intel synchronous NAND and Intel-validated firmware, which Intel says makes it better, faster, and more reliable than plain-Jane SF-2281-based drives.

 

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OCZ Octane Review

Remember Indilinx? The company’s Barefoot SSD controller was the first really good solid-state controller. It was one of the first controllers to offer Trim support, as well as sustained read and write speeds near 200MB/s, and it ruled the roost until SandForce’s SF-1200 controller leapt ahead of Barefoot’s capabilities. The company’s next-gen controller was delayed, and in March 2011 OCZ bought the company. It’s been nearly a year, but OCZ finally has a consumer drive with the new Indilinx Everest controller. Was it worth the wait?

The 512GB Octane drive sent to us by OCZ contains 16 256Gb 25nm Intel synchronous NAND modules, two 2Gb Micron DDR3 SDRAM cache modules (512MB total), and, of course, the Indilinx Everest controller, all in a standard 2.5-inch SSD form factor. In CrystalDiskMark, it averaged 445MB/s sustained reads (35–40MB/s slower than the SandForce drives we’ve tested) and 315MB/s sustained writes (15MB/s faster). Its single-queue-depth 4KB random writes were competitive at around 5,600 IOPS, but at QD32, it only put out 22,000 IOPS—Samsung’s 830 Series does 35,000 and the Patriot Pyro SE does over 90,000. The Octane’s maximum response time in Iometer, at 429ms, is a bit worrying, too—its competitors have max response times of around 40ms. The Octane’s video encoding performance was within seconds of the other drives, and its PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7 scores, though lower than the rest, weren’t too shabby.

 

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Seagate eSATA External Hard Drive

We’ve been waiting several years for eSATA (external SATA, that is) to show up. This month we’re happy to see the first eSATA drive actually arrive to market. If you’re looking for an external backup drive that’s much faster than a standard USB or FireWire drive, Christmas has come early.

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Maxtor One Touch III 100GB

Maxtor has downsized its awesome One Touch Turbo desktop backup drive into this 100GB Mini model. It looks exactly the same as the Turbo, and it comes with the same excellent software.

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Western Digital Passport 120GB

WD’s Passport is an all-around decent product, with a lot of storage and handy software, but fails to distinguish itself from similar Maxtor and Seagate products in any meaningful way.

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Seagate Barracuda 750GB

Big companies rarely take chances, and Seagate—the world’s largest drive maker—is no exception. It has always played second fiddle to Hitachi when it comes to the 7,200rpm hard drive capacity war, and even though Seagate drives are reliable and semi-speedy, they’ve never delivered industry-leading or even outstanding performance. Well, those days are over.

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