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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  • pvdw - Monday, November 15, 2010 - link

    "check the speed without compression and then compare drives "

    That makes no sense!

    It's like saying disable branch predictions on one processor because another doesn't have it. Or disable the turbo on one car when comparing to a competing car that is naturally aspirated.
  • Out of Box Experience - Monday, November 15, 2010 - link

    It makes all the sense because it would be a fair comparison of all the SSD's available

    Not all drives have compression and not all data is compressible so why not test them all without compression?

    Are you afraid that OCZ would be at the bottom of the list in a fair test like this?

    Well, you may be right!

    Lets test them to be sure
  • .harm - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I'm not an expert on SSDs and RAID. So excuse me if my question is a bit stupid.

    I always understood that it´s impossible to use TRIM with a RAID configuration because the RAID controllers can't ´pass' the TRIM commands. So the SSD performance would drop overtime when using RAID. Now the SSD controller has "always-on garbage collection". Does this mean the performance in a RAID configuration doesn't drop?
  • AnnihilatorX - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I would think so, it would at least be better off than other drive with less aggressive garbage collection.
  • sparky76 - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Will controllers like this leave OS X with a performance advantage over Windows 7, precisely because OS X has no support for the TRIM command?
    It seems that Win7 will have some system overhead in running TRIM while any OS without TRIM support will not suffer this, as garbage collection will be left to the firmware in the drive.
  • DoktorSleepless - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I would love to see loading and minimum frame rate tests from actual games like what was done here a while back.

    It's just really hard to visualize real world performance even from Vantage.

    I would bet a game like Fallout 3 would benefit a lot in the minimum frame rate department since it's always loading new data from the hard drive.
  • Nickel020 - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I second this. While the IOPS for Bench are a nice measure, I don't know how to actually translate that into real world performance differences. I.e. are the differences in IOPS between say the new Kingston drive and Sandforce drives actually noticeable, and if yes, how noticeable?

    I would like to see a review that shows how much faster a Sandforce drive is than my old Vertex 1 and X25-M G2.
  • Chloiber - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I'd also like to see that, as I said before.

    Just look at this test from (german) CB as an example:

    Huge differences in synthetic tests, but a normal desktop system is just too slow to actually benefit from this!
    I'm also missing these kinds of tests here. I think your earlier tests were better - now you just go through synthetic tests and show us the results, this isn't the thing I expected 1 or 2 years ago from an SSD test from I'd like to see more tests which actually measure performance a user really gets when doing everyday tasks.
  • pavlindrom - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Wouldn't it be better to have a drive-based sort function run to test how responsive the drive is? I would guess it would stress all of the corners of SSD performance. Write a bunch, shuffle in small portions when flipping values. Maybe it wouldn't test sequential erase. I still think it would show great info.
  • Sufo - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Just a quick recommendation. I have one of these, and i can confirm that with windows 7 (ie TRIM) and a 6gbps bridge the performance is pretty delicious. Grab one, if you meet these requirements.

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