Prices and New Competitors

It's been a while since I've published on the SSD landscape. Not much has changed. SandForce's popularity has skyrocketed, easily making it the target to beat, while we patiently await Intel's 3rd generation SSDs. Once virtually an OCZ-only supplier, nearly everyone has a SandForce based drive these days. Capacities have also changed. While the original drives allocated nearly 30% of their NAND to spare area, newer extended versions have since appeared that drop the % of spare area down to 12 - 22% depending on the SKU (40/80/160GB drives allocate 22% while 60/120/240 drives allocate 12%). The performance impact of the reduced spare area is nonexistent as we've proved in the past.

Indilinx is still around but undesirable at this point. Performance is no longer competitive and write amplification is much higher than what you get from SandForce at the same cost. Crucial's RealSSD C300 is still trucking, however you do pay a premium over SandForce. Whether or not the premium is justified depends on your workload.

SSD Price Comparison - November 11, 2010
SSD NAND Capacity User Capacity Price Cost per GB of NAND
Corsair Force F40 40GB 48GB 37.3GB $124.99 $2.603
Corsair Force F120 120GB 128GB 111.8GB $229.99 $1.797
Corsair Nova V128 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $219.99 $1.719
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB 64GB 59.6GB $134.99 $2.109
Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $269.99 $2.109
Intel X25-M G2 160GB 160GB 149.0GB $409.00 $2.556
Intel X25-V 40GB 40GB 37.3GB $94.99 $2.375
Kingston SSDNow V Series 30GB 30GB 27.9GB $82.99 $2.766
Kingston SSDNow V Series 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $224.99 $1.758
Kingston SSDNow V+ Series 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $277.00 $2.164
Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $278.99 $2.180
OCZ Agility 2 120GB 128GB 111.8GB $229.99 $1.797
OCZ Vertex 2 120GB 128GB 111.8GB $234.99 $1.836
Patriot Inferno 60GB 64GB 55.9GB $149.00 $2.328
Western Digital SiliconEdge Blue 128GB 119.2GB $214.99 $1.680

We broke the $2/GB barrier a while ago. Prices continue to fall as NAND manufacturers transistion to 2xnm processes, the existing 3xnm supplies become cheaper as a result. Surprisingly enough, the most affordable drives actually come from companies who don't own NAND foundries. SandForce's partners who have to pay a big chunk of their margins to SandForce as well as the NAND vendor are actually delivering the best value in SSDs. Kingston and Western Digital also deliver a great value. Not Crucial/Micron and not Intel, which is not only disappointing but inexcusable. These companies actually own the fabs where the NAND is made and in the case of Intel, they actually produce the controller itself.

Within the SandForce camp prices seem pretty consistent. I grabbed data from three different SF partners: Corsair, OCZ and Patriot. At 128GB of NAND both Corsair and OCZ are competitive on pricing. As you look at the smaller capacity drives however, cost per GB goes up dramatically. A 40GB Corsair Force will cost you 44.8% more per GB than a 120GB drive. The same is true when you look at the 60GB Patriot Inferno at $2.328 per GB.

If you're trying to keep total cost down, the best bang for your buck from a capacity standpoint is the 64GB Crucial RealSSD C300. It's more expensive per GB than the larger SandForce drives, but at $134.99 it's a cheap way to get into a decent SSD.

The new Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 is actually more expensive than the Crucial drives from a cost-per-GB standpoint. Traditionally the V series has been the value line while the V+ series have been Kingston's more performance oriented SSDs. In the past however, the performance oriented V+ never seemed to have the performance to back up its price. Perhaps the V+ 100 can change that.

The Test

CPU Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Chipset: Intel X58 + Marvell SATA 6Gbps PCIe
Chipset Drivers: Intel + Intel IMSM 8.9
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64
Introduction Random Read/Write Speed
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  • dagamer34 - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    If you're buying an SSD, I see no reason why your OS should still be Windows XP.
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

    Some may not want to pay the Microsoft tax.
  • Out of Box Experience - Monday, November 15, 2010 - link

    What you see is irrelevant to what I use!

    I see several good reasons to use XP and None to using Windows 7

    The number 1 OS is still XP and has the highest user base so why does OCZ think the public will spend an extra $200 for Windows 7 just to use their overhyped SSD's?

    Why doesn't OCZ just build SSD's for the majority of people on XP instead of making their customers jusmp though all these hoops just to get synthetic speeds from their drives that have little to do with real world results?
  • sprockkets - Sunday, November 21, 2010 - link

    Oh, I don't know, TRIM support, built in alignment support, build in optimization after running WEI for SSDs?

    But if you want to stick with a 9 year old OS which lacks basic security, poor desktop video rendering, etc, go right on ahead.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Representing the true nature of "random" access on the desktop is very difficult to do. Most desktops don't exhibit truly random access, instead what you get is a small file write followed by a table update somewhere else in the LBA space (not sequential, but not random). String a lot of these operations together and you get small writes peppered all over specific areas of the drive. The way we simulate this is running a 100% random sweep of 4KB writes but constraining it to a space of about 8GB of LBAs. This is overkill as well for most users, however what the benchmark does do is give an indication of worst case small file, non-sequential write performance. I agree with you that we need more synthetic tests that are representative of exactly what desktop random write behavior happens to be, however I haven't been able to come across the right combination to deliver just that. Admittedly I've been off chasing phones and other SSD issues as of late (you'll read more about this in the coming weeks) so I haven't been actively looking for a better 4KB test.

    Now OS X feeling snappier vs. SandForce I can completely agree with. I don't believe this is 100% attributable to the data you see here, Apple also has the ability to go in and tweak its firmwares specifically for its software. I believe the ultra quick response time you see from boot and resume comes from firmware optimizations specific to OS X. Although I am going to toss this Kingston drive in my MBP to see what things look like at that point.

    Take care,
  • iwodo - Friday, November 12, 2010 - link

    ARH, Thx,

    "toss this Kingston drive in my MBP to see what things look like at that point."

    I never thought of that. Keep thinking mSATA was blocking anyone from testing it.

    I am looking forward to see your SSD issues and MBP testing.

    Tech news has been dull for number of years, SSD finally make thing interesting again.
  • sunjava04 - Friday, November 12, 2010 - link

    hey anand,

    would you provide a different SSD test result with macbook pro?

    like me, many macbook unibody or new mac book pro users use mainly for browsers and office, iphoto, itunes. we like to have ssd to make our experience better and faster. i search many website and blogs, but there are no clear answer for this.
    even, apple keeping quite about "TRIM" support!

    after, reading your article, i am still not sure which ssd is good for my macbook unibody. i got the an idea of garbage collection which was very helpful. but didn't know, how long ssd last if we use for general purpose?

    i really appreciate if you provide descriptive guideline of ssd for OS X.
    please, also tell us, is it worth to waiting for intel 3rd gen.?
    i desperately need ssd for mac book unibody!
    i dont mind to pay premium as long as performance stay as it is! also, i can store movies and other data in external hard drive!

  • iwodo - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - link

    As of Today, i just read another review on SSD comparison. Namely Intel SSD and Sandforce,

    While the Sandforce wins on all synthetic benchmarks like Seq Read Write and Random Read Write.

    It was booting slower, starting up Apps slower, finish task slower then Intel SSD.
    And by an noticeable amount of percentage. ( 10 - 30% )

    I am beginning to think there are things Sandforce dont work well at all. But again, we have yet to find out what.
  • Out of Box Experience - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Sandforce controllers give you the "illusion" of speed by writing less data to flash than contollers without hardware compression

    If I wanted to test the speed of a copy and paste involving 200MB of data in the flash cells of a sandforce based controller, how can I tell exactly how much data is in the flash cells?

    I mean, would Windows tell me how much compressed data is represented in the flash cells (200MB), or would Windows tell me how much compressed data is in the cells (maybe only 150MB) ?

    The only way I can see fairly comparing an SSD with hardware compression and one without is to be sure you are actually writing the same amount of data to the flash cells (in this case - 200MB)

    If sandforce based SSD's will only tell you how much data is represented and not what is actually on the drive, then I think the best way would be to use data that cannot be compressed

    The tests I described in another post here involved copying and pasting 200MB of data which took 55 seconds on an ATOM computer with a Vertex 2
    200MB / 55 sec = 3.6MB/sec

    But if the 200MB was only a representation and the actual amount of data was for example 165MB in flash, then the actual throughput of my Vertex was even worse than I thought (In this case - 165MB / 55sec = 3.0MB/sec)

    I need to know exactly how much data is indeed in flash or I need to start using non-compressible data for my tests

    Make sense?
  • Out of Box Experience - Monday, November 15, 2010 - link

    There has to be an missing pieces in our performance test, something that these companies knows and we dont.

    Like smoke & Mirrors?

    Sandforce Controllers Compress the data to give you the impression of speed

    check the speed without compression and then compare drives

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