Last week I migrated both of my primary work computers, my desktop and my notebook, to SandForce based SSDs. My desktop now uses an OCZ Vertex 2 based on the SandForce SF-1200 with OCZ’s special sauce firmware. My notebook uses Corsair’s Force F100, also based on the SF-1200 but offering equal performance to the Vertex 2.

Clearly 100GB isn’t enough space for everything I have, so on my desktop I have a pair of 1TB drives in RAID-1. This is where I store all of my pictures, music and some of my movies. Automatic backups happen to a separate 2TB networked drive.

I’ve got a separate file server that feeds the rest of my home and office with a 3TB RAID-5 array. The last part is really to feed my HTPC and hold all of my benchmarking applications, images and lab files, it’s not necessary otherwise.

My desktop and notebook drives basically house an OS, applications, emails, PDFs, spreadsheets and tons of text files. In other words - highly compressible data.

This is exactly the sort of usage model SandForce was planning on when it designed its DuraWrite technology. If the majority of the data you store can somehow be represented by fewer bits you can solve a lot of the inherent problems with building a high performance SSD.

The SF-1200 and 1500 controllers do just that. The controllers and their associated firmware do whatever it takes to simply write less. In systems like my desktop or notebook, this is very simple. Writing less means the NAND lasts longer, it means that performance remains high for longer and with TRIM you can actually maintain that very high level of performance almost indefinitely.

SandForce’s technology is entirely transparent to the end user. You don’t get any extra capacity, all you get is better performance.

We’ve been looking at SandForce drives from multiple vendors for a while now. If you want the history on the technology look here, and if you want to know how SSDs work in general click here.

As I just mentioned, OCZ’s Vertex 2 ended up in my desktop. That’s the drive we’re looking at today. I moved to SandForce SSDs not because I wanted more performance, but because I wanted to begin long term testing of the mass production firmware on these drives. If I’m going to recommend them, I’m going to use them.

The Vertex 2
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  • carleeto - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    I don't think people are going to use an SSD for music and movies any time soon. At least, not until the price per GB falls within 200% of a normal hard drive. Where I could see this kind of thing being used a lot on an SSD is with a Truecrypt partition that is used to store source code, documents, mail etc. That's a lot of small writes and reads and the result, because of the encryption layer is really quite random. So I'd actually disagree with Anand here - it is something that is going to be quite relevant to a security conscious user and that is quite a large market, when you factor in enterprises.
  • NandFlashGuy - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    At my workplace, all PCs have PGP software installed. That should make the data in all writes to disk look like random data, meaning less than optimal performance.

    Anand, can you measure performance under the normal benchmarks with PGP installed? It's a realistic use case for anyone in the corporate world.
  • Squuiid - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Anand, any news on how your replacement Crucial RealSSD C300 is holding up? Did Crucial fix the performance deterioration bug you last talked about?
    Can you recommend the Crucial over the Vertex 2, or vice versa?
  • Grit - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    I'd like to second that request. The Crucial drive manages impressive speeds in most benchmarks and does so without the loss in space. I can live with a 256GB SSD, but a 200GB SSD is cutting it a bit too close.
  • DesktopMan - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Will there be any tests on the AES features? Since this is a feature not present in most SSDs an article on how it works and performs would be very interesting.
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    All these comments, so little time :)

    Looks good.
  • diamondsw - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    As much ink has been spilled about SandForce, I still haven't seen anything that would indicate it's a better choice than the Crucial RealSSD C300, which has better performance at a (slightly) better price. Am I missing something important?
  • arehaas - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Crucial C300 have a problem with its firmware that Crucial hasn't solved yet. Performance degrades significantly. Anand found this problem in a "Crucial's RealSSD C300: An Update on My Drive" from March 25. Crucial is currently promising to release the new firmware in mid-May, but they have shifted this deadline already twice. There is no guarantee they will manage to do it in May. Major reviewers do not recommend buying C300 SSD yet.
  • xiphmont - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    I expect Crucial will fix their firmware issue just as it appears that Sandforce has fixed theirs.

    The Sandforce's redundancy (silent correction and reprovisioning around bit errors and failed flash cells) is what sells me on the Sandforce. If the promises are true, these drives will last longer and throw unrecoverable errors far less often as the NAND ages. Performance is a nice extra.

    It terrifies me that the other mass production SSDs appear to offer no redundancy or error detection/correction of stored bits at all.
  • jimhsu - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    Sandforce attempts to scare you with this in their marketing literature. ALL SSDs (even crappy first gen JMicron ones) do a substantial amount of error correction (the raw error rate for flash is something ridiculously bad like 10^-7 to 10^-8). I think even camera flash memory has embedded error correction (don't take my word for it though). Sandforce just does "more" than its competitors.

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