It’s been a long time since we tested a single-level cell (SLC) SSD, as the market has moved almost entirely over to multi-level cell (MLC) designs. MLC is favored because it’s cheaper to produce and each cell can store two bits of data, rather than one, so you can cram more storage into each flash unit. On the other hand, SLC is faster and is rated for 100,000 read/write cycles, as opposed to 10,000 for MLC. Naturally, SLC is preferred for enterprise solutions, while MLC has captured the consumer market. But with the introduction of the (relatively) affordable Agility EX series, OCZ is hoping to win back some of the consumer market for SLC.
The 60GB Agility EX pairs the popular Indilinx Barefoot controller—responsible for this generation’s blazing-fast, stutter-free SSDs—with 64GB of onboard SLC NAND. It’s worth noting that this is the same capacity as a standard 64GB SSD; OCZ just uses a binary naming convention. In our tests, the Agility EX’s sustained read speeds topped off at around 197MB/s, or approximately six percent slower than the second-gen Intel X-25M. Sustained write speeds, at 175MB/s, were the same as with the Patriot Torqx, an MLC drive using the same Indilinx controller. But the Agility really shone in application tests, with a five percent faster Premiere Pro encoding time and a 13 percent higher PCMark Vantage HDD score than the Torqx.
I’m looking to get a new SSD for my laptop when Windows 7 comes out, and I just read a review on Newegg warning about a drive not supporting Win7’s TRIM feature. A Google search gave me the basics on TRIM, but how important is it, really? I’m having trouble finding which drives support it and am wondering if I should wait before pulling the trigger.
I use my laptop for home and work, so I’d really like to do a clean install on a new drive (for restoration purposes when I really screw something up) and it seems like a perfect time to make the switch. I’m also moving from 32-bit Vista to 64-bit Windows 7, so—as I understand it—I need to wipe regardless.
There's no way around it - if SSDs are to eventually replace mechanical hard drives, manufacturers have to find a way to increase capacity at a reasonable cost. So far, every SSD vendor has failed on both accounts, which is why we're excited to see OCZ release a 1TB SSD.
Also available in the more traditional 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities, the new Colossus 3.5-inch SSD series brings no-holds barred performance to the scene, at least on paper. According to OCZ, each drive is capable of up to 260MB/s reads and writes, up to 220MB/s sustained writes, and up to 14,000 IOPS. That puts the Colossus right up there with the fastest spec'd drives on the market.
"The new Colossus Series is designed to boost desktop and workstation performance and is for high power users tht put a premium on speed, reliability, and maximum storage capacity," said Eugene Chang, VP of Product Management at OCZ. "The Colossus core-architecture is also available to enterprise clients with locked BOMs (build of materials) and customized firmware to match their unique applications."
A 1TB drive certainly makes headway on the capacity front, but the question is, how much will it cost? OCZ didn't say, though previous reports had the then-upcoming drive pegged at $2,500. Ouch.
After a flurry of activity earlier this year, which seemingly saw a new SSD being released every week, we're beginning to see the SSD market cool down a little. But rest assured, manufacturers are still devoting R&D to the flash-based storage segment, as evidenced by G.Skill's new Falcon II 2.5-inch SSDs.
G.Skill says the Falcon II series comes equipped with the new Indilinx ECO controller. Seeing the ECO tag, the first thing that came to mind was what effect will that have on performance, and G.Skill rates its new SSDs at up to 220MB/s reads and 150MB/s writes (110MB/s writes on the 64GB model).
The drives, which are available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities, also boast 64MB of DRAM cache and advanced wear leveling algorithms. G.Skill says the Falcon II series also feature the latest Indilinx 1819 version firmware, which purports to offer improved support for the Windows 7 TRIM command, something Intel's 34nm SSDs have struggled with as of late.
Late last month, several owners of Intel's X25-M G2 solid state drives cried foul when a firmware update promising a 40 percent performance boost ended up bricking their drives instead. Oops! That marked the latest in a what's becoming a string of problems plaguing the 34nm SSDs, and once again, Intel says a fix is on the way.
"Intel has replicated the issue on 34nm SSDs -- X25-M -- and is working a fix," wrote Alan Frost of Intel's NAND Solutions Group. "Intel is pursuing the resolution of this as a high priority. Intel is seeking direct feedback on this issue from members of the [Intel Support Community]... asking them to send their drives directly to Intel to expedite the analysis of the issues. This action will enable us to more quickly generate a resolution for this issue."
Frost added that there have been no reports of related issues by users who were able to successfully upgrade to the 02ha firmware via the firmware upgrade tool, which would suggest the problem isn't the firmware itself, but a bug in the loader software.
I have a month-old computer with a 64GB Falcon SSD for my OS and my most frequently played games. After I first installed the OS and all my games I had roughly 13GB of free space. Everything I’ve downloaded and installed since then has gone on my secondary drive; I have not added anything new to the primary drive. Despite this, I now have just 137MB free on my primary drive and am getting warnings of low disk space. Where is my available space going? I did a disk clean-up and that hardly freed any space. I’m running 64-bit Vista SP1. Any help would be appreciated.
Like Wile E. Coyote after failing to catch the Road Runner for the umpteenth time, it's back to the drawing board for Intel, who must figure out what the heck is going on with its 34nm solid state drives (SSDs). Allow us to elaborate.
Earlier this summer, the chip maker halted shipments of its X25-M G2 drives when it was discovered that a BIOS bug could lead to data corruption. More recently, Intel released its new TRIM firmware, which was supposed to inject a 40 percent boost to sequential write speeds, but just one day after its release, Intel has pulled the update due to corruption issues in Windows 7. Apparently, the firmware has been doing more harm than good and managed to brick a few drives.
"Yes, we have been contacted by users with issues with the firmware upgrade for our 34nm SSDs and we are investigating. We take all sightings and issues seriously and are working toward resolution. We have temporarily taken down the firmware link while we investigate," Intel said in a statement to Engadget.
When Intel will have a new update is anyone's guess. In the meantime, there's a 6 page (and growing) discussion taking place on Intel's support form where you can keep up with the latest developments.
Last fall, Intel slapped the solid state drive market on the back of the head with the release of the 80GB X25-M MLC drive. That drive absolutely trounced the competition with its 200MB/s read speeds, incredibly low random-access times, and best of all, no random-write stuttering or cache overflows. The first X25-M garnered a Kick Ass Award and defeated all comers in our last SSD roundup (November 2008), but the market has come a long way since then. With powerful competition from drives sporting Indilinx and Samsung controllers, can the 160GB X25-M maintain Intel’s crown?
The 160GB X25-M ships in a silvery chassis, unlike its predecessor’s black, and is 7mm tall—an included spacer accommodates 9.5mm drive bays. Intel’s kicked the flash manufacturing process down from 50nm to 34nm, and retained native SATA and Native Command Queuing from its previous iteration.
Intel today announced the availability of a couple of new tools and a new firmware for its 34nm X25-M SATA SSDs. The Intel SSD Optimizer and the new firmware, both of which leverage the Windows* 7 ATA Data Set Management Command (known as Trim), are designed to preserve the out-of-box performance of Intel SSDs, while the Intel Solid-State Drive (SSD) Toolbox contains applications to better monitor the health of SSDs.
According to Intel, the Trim attribute of the ATA Data Set Management Command "synchs the operating system's view of deleted files with those that are deleted, but not erased on the drive."
Trim helps the SSD identify unused blocks of data, thereby lending stability to the health and performance of the SSD. Intel said in the press release that 34nm X25-M 160GB owners can expect an improvement of around 40 percent in sequenstial write speeds with the firmware update, which amounts to write speeds of up to 100MB per second.
"Not only will Windows 7 users receive the performance enhancements of the Trim command, but so will our Windows XP and Vista users," said Pete Hazen, director of marketing, Intel NAND Solutions Group.
Solid state drive technology still has a few hurdles to overcome before it supplants traditional hard drives as the mainstream storage medium of choice -- and according to a recent study, HDDs still have at least a decade left -- but as prices come down, more users are finding that it makes sense to boot off of an SSD for a little extra pep. Targeting those consumers, Kingston today released its SSDNow V Series 40GB Boot Drive.
The 'V' as you might have guessed stands for 'Value' and the 'Boot Drive' nomenclature is pretty self-explanatory. The low capacity is a dead giveaway on that latter part, too.
"The SSDNow V Series 40GB Boot Drive offers instant performance enhancement coupled with reliability and lower power consumption at a fraction of the cost of a new system," said Areil Perez, SSD business manager, Kingston. "The 40GB Boot Drive is the latest offering in our V Series SSD line. It provides a low-cost upgrade solution that complements the installed hard disk drive to extend the life cycle of existing desktop computers and workstations in homes and offices."
From a performance standpoint, the 40GB Boot Drive comes rated at up 170MB/s sequential read, but only 40MB/s sequential write. Even still, Kingston claims its new drive muscled a 13,883 score in PCMark Vantage Advanced HDD Suite, compared to just 3,708 for an un-named 7200RPM hard drive during internal testing.
Kingston's 40GB Boot Drive will carry an MSRP of $115 and will begin shipping on November 9, 2009. The company adds you'll be able to find one for as low as $85 after mail-in-rebate when it launches.