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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  • xiphmont - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    Yay, good to know. Do you have any pointers to descriptions of the error handling in other drives and devices?
  • jimhsu - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    Some hard numbers:

    Flash memory: 10^-8 to 10^-6 depending on # of cycles. Figure 2, when writing to MLC.

    Hard drives: > 10^-4 (!!)

    And people say flash memory is unreliable. ALL consumer storage devices (hard drives, SSDs, CDs, etc) have ridiculously massive amounts of error correction considering the rate of raw errors. It just so happens that the storage media that everyone in the world uses (DNA) is the same.
  • MrBabbage - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Impressive benchmark numbers, but is this drive really any faster than the original Vertex (assuming you're running Windows 7, and FW 1.5)?

    From what I hear, you might shave a second or two off of application loading versus the original Vertex - and that's only with heavy duty applications like Photoshop and AutoCAD. Can you confirm that?

    If that's the case, then this would seem to have been a step in the wrong direction: minimal performance gains for lost capacity and higher cost per gig. I still agree that SSDs are the single best performance upgrade you can buy at the moment, but with the amazing prices on Vertexes and X25-M G2s at the moment, why go for the Vertex 2? Nothing in this article suggests it's actually a good buy.

    In short, benchmarking the drive's sequential read/write performance and random read/write performance is generally pretty useless. With a controller that is architected this way, it would strike me as worse than useless, given that such benchmarks will produce staggering figures that have little effect on the main uses for SSDs (faster boot times, faster application loading times, better performance with encrypted/compressed files and workloads).
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    That is a question I wondered about in articles like this or the RAIDed 40GB Intel SSD one. Sure they turn out higher IOPS numbers, but is this something actually noticeable to humans? In a blind test would I be able to tell the difference between otherwise identical systems if one was running an 80GB X25M and one was running the RAIDed 40GB X25Vs?
  • QChronoD - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    If you wrote mostly highly compressable data to the drive, would you be able to write more "data" to this drive than a regular SSD?
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    No, as far as the OS is concerned you do not gain space by compressing the data.
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Anand, I don't know if you follow other sites' articles, but a fairly recent SSD roundup at Tom's also measured power consumption (see link at the bottom of the post), and curiously, they measured 0.1W idle for the Intel drive compared to similar numbers to yours for every other SSD. Are there some test system settings that might be tweaked to get such low idle power figures with the Intel drive (and others) or does it seem like there is something sketchy about their data?
    I know that with these low power levels, this might seem like splitting hairs, but on a CULV laptop's power budget, 0.5W is still significant, IMO. Also, is there any chance you can throw in a modern 2.5" mechanical drive as a reference point in your SSD power charts? Thanks and keep up the good work on your SSD coverage!,...
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, April 29, 2010 - link

    I know the 200GB 7200 RPM drive I used in my carputer was rated for 1A at 5V. That was the only power number listed, no 12V draw.
  • gfody - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    You made a point to show iometer results using random data but you still present screenshots of HDTach's results using all-zero reads/writes. The all-zero tests are no more realistic than the iometer all-random tests - I think the all-random test is probably closer to reality than HDTach now. I may not always write perfectly random data but I certainly won't be writing all-zero data!
  • xiphmont - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    I believe that OCZ has also released and is recommending the 3.0.5 MP firmware update for the Vertex LE (It is labelled 1.0.5 on the OCZ site). Given that users were bricking their Vertex LEs left and right due to suspend bugs, this is most welcome... Anand, do you happen to know if OCZ 1.0.5 and Sandforce 3.0.5 are the same, and if the Special Sauce is preserved in the Vertex LE with this upgrade? It's been asked on the OCZ forums, but not answered directly.

    I have a pair of LEs that I'm going to update regardless, but it would be nice to know.

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