The SSD market was moving at a peaceful albeit underwhelming pace until Intel joined the party, promptly putting the smackdown on the competition. Intel's X-25M SSD proved to be twice as fast as other drives to have gone through Maximum PC's lab, helping it to earn a Kickass! award.
Now Samsung looks to follow suit, which comes as somewhat of a surprise given that the company hasn't been at that forefront of performance with SSDs topping out at less than 100MB/s. But that was before, and Samsung's new 256GB SSD not only offers up to twice as much storage space as its 64GB and 128GB models, but is more than twice as fast as well. Samsung says its 256GB comes rated at 220MB/s read and 200MB/s, or fast enough to store 25 high definition movies in just 21 minutes and able to launch applications 10 times faster than the speediest 7200RPM notebook drive.
Steven Peng, SSD technical marketing manager at Samsung, said the speed increase was made possible through multichannel interleaving, noting that "the basic architecture remains unchanged. However, there are design improvements such as optimized firmware, and improvements to the controller."
Samsung said it has begun mass producing the new 256GB SSD, but has not released information on pricing or availability.
Storage that uses flash memory is quite unlike the hard disk drives used to hold your computer’s data. The latter rely on speedy actuators to read and write information on spinning magnetic platters. SSDs use electrical charges to read and write the state of individual flash memory cells. An SSD’s flash memory is nonvolatile: Unlike your computer’s RAM, an SSD drive retains your data when you switch the power off. And since the handshake is electric, SSDs can access that data in a fraction of the time it takes a mechanical hard drive to do so.
Sounds ideal, right? Actually, the performance potential of SSDs needs to be weighed against some significant drawbacks. We’re going to outline the pros and cons of the technology and how it compares to traditional hard disk storage. We’re also going to put seven leading solid state drives to the test and let the benchmark numbers do the talking. At this stage in the storage race, an SSD is a big investment; we want to help you maximize your return.
How big a deal is Intel’s entry into the solid-state-drive game? The announcement of the company’s new X-25M SSD, and a faster version for enthusiasts, all but overshadowed details of the company’s next-generation CPU at its fall developer conference.
After testing Intel’s entry-level SSD, we can understand why. The X-25M offers the fastest read speeds we’ve ever seen from a single SSD or hard drive.
How fast? The 10,000rpm Western Digital Velociraptor (reviewed September 2008) offered sustained transfer speeds of 98MB/s. The $1,500 MemoRight MR25.2-32/64S GT from our SSD roundup (November 2008) turned in read speeds of 112MB/s. The Intel X-25M hits 206MB/s read speeds.
Samsung’s 2.5-inch SSD packs 64 gigabytes of storage into an above-average package. Granted, the SLC-based drive delivers sustained read transfer rates that are slower than those of nearly all the SSDs reviewed here. But the drive makes up for this inadequacy by posting write speeds that match those of the fastest SLC-based drives in this roundup.
Our real-world experience with the drive followed suit. The Samsung SSD turned in a Premiere time of 8:43, nearly 2 minutes slower than Memoright’s GT-series 64GB SSD, but a mere 10 to 20 seconds behind the rest of the non-MLC drives we tested. The Samsung’s PCMark Vantage scores were within 4 percent of Memoright’s SSD, even though the latter crushes theSamsung by nearly 6 milliseconds in its random access write measurement.
RiData’s 64GB SSD uses an MLC design to pack more data onto its flash memory chips. We like how that makes the drive cheaper than the majority of SSDs on the market. What we don’t like is how the Ultra-S Plus illustrates the performance losses wrought by using this technology instead of a speedier SLC design.
The Ultra-S Plus was able to overtake the fastest hard drive we’ve tested—Western Digital’s Velociraptor—in two of our benchmarks: a random access read measurement and the overall PCMark Vantage score. Neither win came as a surprise. Because hard disk drives suffer lag while the drive arm moves to the proper location on the disk, flash memory consistently outperforms magnetic storage in random access read speeds. This helped in PCMark Vantage because the app’s eight individual benchmark traces favor read performance and random access reads.
OCZ uses rebadged Samsung SSD drives for its SSD storage offerings. While we’re confident that OCZ hasn’t done any internal tweaking to the drives, it’s nevertheless interesting to see that a slight performance difference exists between the twins.
In our tests, the Samsung and OCZ drives ran neck and neck in our sustained transfer read and write benchmarks, but the Samsung edged out the OCZ by 1MB/s to 2MB/s in both scenarios. The two drives posted similar results in random access tests, with the Samsung again taking the upper hand in random access write tests.
Super Talent’s 64GB SSD must be using the exact same hardware as RiData’s Ultra-S Plus 64GB. If not, then the similarities between these drives are an amazing coincidence. We recorded identical random access read times for both, an underwhelming .39 milliseconds. Both drives’ PCMark Vantage scores were within one-third of one percent of each other, and they varied by just two seconds in our uncompressed AVI file-creation test.
If these two MLC-based drives are indeed brothers in arms, then they’re the two drunken soldiers stumbling around at the rear of the SSD brigade. Like the RiData, the Super Talent’s performance is unacceptable, even given its low price. While the Super Talent drive overtakes our Western Digital Velociraptor in the real-world PCMark Vantage test, we’d be terrified to use this drive as the primary storage for our operating system. Its random access read scores are swift, but this drive’s random access write performance is atrocious: It was more than 7,000 percent slower than a Velociraptor in our tests!
Mtron’s SSD Pro 7500 is the first 3.5-inch SSD we’ve tested, and it’s a welcome addition to our rig if for no other reason than its size. We don’t have to fuss with adapters to attach this SSD to our PC. It’s a small thing, but it’s a feature we wish more SSD manufacturers would adopt.
Mtron’s Pro 7500 exceeded our performance expectations on sustained transfer read rates, putting up a respectable showing that was mere megabytes-per-second behind the second-place SSD, Imation’s Pro 7000, and 14 percent behind our speed leader, Memoright’s 64GB SSD. The drive delivered write speeds comparable to the other SLC SSDs, capping out at 84.2MB/s. This synthetic performance was reflected in our real-world tests, with the Mtron Pro 7500 plowing through our Premiere Pro test in 8:17—a minute and change behind the Memoright SSD, but second place nonetheless.
Click after the jump to read the rest of the review.
While Memoright’s spec pages attribute this 64GB SSD with a SATA interface, that’s not accurate. This isn’t a SATA drive, per se; rather, the drive uses a SATA bridge connected to an ATA-133 interface. Ultimately, however, this doesn’t impact the drive’s overall speed. Memoright’s SSD shoots past the competition in the majority of our benchmarks.
This device outperforms the next-fastest SSD by 14 percent in our average sequential read rate test and 8.5 percent in its average sequential writes. Its random-access read and write scores are the fastest of all the SSDs we’ve tested. Better still, we were able to write a 40GB uncompressed AVI file to the Memoright SSD in a mere 6:51 (min:sec). That’s 1:26 faster than the second-place finisher in that test, the Mtron 7500, and just 28 seconds slower than a Western Digital Velociraptor drive.
Like Samsung and OCZ, Imation has partnered with Mtron to use the latter’s controller technology in its SSDs. As you might expect, the companies’ 64GB drives perform similarly. Still, a few subtle differences exist between the Mtron and Imation SSDs.
Imation’s Pro 7000 squeaks out 2MB/s extra in its sustained read transfer rates yet is 0.4MB/s slower than the Mtron Pro 7500 SSD in write speeds. The two drives offer identical performance in their random access read measurements and differ by a scant 0.2 milliseconds in their random access write timings.