Final Words

Unless I’m missing something here, it looks like SandForce can definitely improve its price/performance ratio by reducing the overprovisioning percentage on its consumer drives.

Based on current Agility 2 pricing, here’s how things could change with this new firmware:

Pricing Comparison
Drive NAND Capacity User Capacity Drive Cost Cost per GB of NAND Cost per Usable GB
OCZ Agility 2 (28% OP) 128GB 93.1GB $399 $3.117 $4.286
OCZ Agility 2 (13% OP) 128GB 111.8GB $399 (est) $3.117 $3.569
Corsair Nova V128 128GB 119.2GB $369 $2.882 $3.096
Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB 119.2GB $419 $3.273 $3.515
Intel X25-M G2 160GB 149.0GB $450 $2.813 $3.020

By moving to 13% over provisioning you drop the cost per usable GB to roughly 83% of what it is on current SF-1200 drives at virtually no impact to performance in typical workloads. It’s still not as cheap as an X25-M in terms of dollars per GB, but you are getting better performance. And the best part? It doesn’t even require a different chip - only different firmware.

If they choose to, existing SF-1200 drive manufacturers could load this firmware on their drives and give their customers more user capacity up front. It could even be a user configurable option if a manufacturer wanted to enable it. Unfortunately there's no guarantee that we'll see this made available at no extra charge. Vendors could be particularly evil and charge more for a simple change in the amount of spare area you get on a drive. I'd highly recommend against it though.

The Rest of the Tests

In our standard tests without unfairly penalizing the drive, the special Agility 2 performs similarly to the standard shipping drive. The only real exception is PCMark Vantage's HDD test which saw a ~4.6% increase in performance. Without knowing what other changes exist in the firmware it's difficult to pinpoint the cause. It's a little large to be normal benchmark variance so there could be other optimizations in this version of the firmware.

For those who want the standard comparison charts, I've included those results on the following pages.

I've trimmed down some of our charts, but as always if you want a full rundown of how these SSDs compare against one another be sure to use our performance comparison tool: Bench.

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 9.1.1.1015 + 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
The Impact of Spare Area on Performance Sequential & Random Read/Write Speed
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  • Spoelie - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    One area I think that might still be affected is reliability. SandForce stated that (1) smaller geometries introduce more defects and (2) manufacturers could use cheaper, less reliable flash in drives with their controllers.

    Does the reduction of spare area impart reduced lifetime/reliability in the above scenarios or is its responsibility purely one for performance? I reckon it's not something one would be able to measure though.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    Reliability will go down. 28% wasn't a random choice, it was selected to deliver a certain MTBF. AFAIK the "enterprise" drives use the same 28%, though, so "consumer" usage models should be able to get by with less.

    The real question is how they arrived at 13% - is it Bean Counter Bob's number or Engineer Eric's number? Until they answer that question and release their methodology for arriving at 13%, I wouldn't touch one of these with a thousand foot pole. The chance that 13% was the misguided result of some accountant waddling over to the R&D department for 5 minutes is just too great relative to the small benefit of 10-20 "free" GB's.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    i wonder how much of a role the spare area plays in maintaining the compression algorithms for the sandforce controller.

    it's seems like, with such a complex controller, it would be wise to have plenty of "hash or index" space to work with, or is that all stored somewhere else?
    Reply
  • jleach1 - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    IDK about you...but i dont plan on keeping a drive this small for that long. A few years is reasonable. Right now, what people want is: a cheap drive that performs well. I'll gladly trade 6 months of the life of my drive for some badly needed space. In 6 months, theyll likely have a set of firmware options that increase the amount of usable space, and improved algorithms that offset the normal reliability problems.

    Good job OCZ. Less $/GB= a happier public.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - link

    my question was about how the amount of spare area would effect the short term reliability of the drive. assuming that these drives are relatively unproven, who's to say that they won't start losing data because of the complex compression used by the controller?

    i want to know if lessening the spare area could contribute to controller errors, leading to the loss of data.
    Reply
  • Belard - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    Looking at your benchmarks, other than SATA 3/6GB/s system, the Intel X25-M (G2) are still constantly the fastest and most reliable on the market. Personally, I can't wait for the SSD market to have SATA-3 drives as standard.

    Seq. Read
    OCZ = 264 MB/s * (okay a bit faster)
    X25 = 256 MB/s

    Seq. Write
    OCZ = 252 MB/s * (Destroys the intel)
    X25 = 102 MB/s

    But most operations are random... So if you're doing Video encode/decode or copy, the OCZ kills.

    Random. Read
    OCZ = 52 MB/s
    X25 = 64 MB/s * Intel wins easily. Even the top 6GB/s is barely faster.

    Random Write
    OCZ = 44 MB/s
    X25 = 46 MB/s * (not bad for an OLD drive)
    Half the drives are much slower, but some of the best easily faster.

    It will be intresting to see what happens to the SSD market in 12 months.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    I kinda feel the same way. Since we have not yet reached the point where a large portion of our data is stored on these (most of us at least), these sequential writes just don't blow me away the same way the X25 changed the HD scene. After the intial setup (OS, programs, a couple games), the drive is basically going to be a random read/write drive with occassional install, and for that I can wait the extra time that a faster drive would have saved if the end result (gaming/bootup/etc.) is nearly the same.

    What I want to see is the game-changing performance the X25 did to the traditional HD in the random read/write metric. Get those into the 200-300MB/sec and THEN I'll get excited again.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    Reading all the latest Anandtech SSD reviews feels like I'm reading someone's hobby work :) So many changes. Can't wait til it stabilizes A LOT more. Reply
  • sgilmore1962 - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    Random Write
    OCZ = 44 MB/s
    X25 = 46 MB/s * (not bad for an OLD drive)
    Half the drives are much slower, but some of the best easily faster.

    Conveniently omitting the part where if you are using Windows 7 4k random writes are aligned on 4k boundries. The Sandforce random 4k writes become 162mb/s a whopping margin over Intel G2.
    Reply
  • Belard - Monday, May 3, 2010 - link

    Do you know that there is a REPLY button? That way your COMMENT would be attached to the post, rather than starting a whole new dis-connected thread.

    So look to the left, there my name is and you'll see the word REPLY. Give it a shot.

    - - - - -
    Man, wish there was a QUOTE function as well as the ability to save my LOG-IN on this revised site.

    "Conveniently omitting the part where if you are using Windows 7 4k random writes are aligned on 4k boundries. The Sandforce random 4k writes become 162mb/s a whopping margin over Intel G2."

    Er... no. I *DID* go with the Win7 performance test. I was comparing the REVIEWED drive to the Intel X25-M. And I ALSO said "but some of the best easily faster."... so I was NOT disregarding the SF drives.
    I was expecting people to be able to figure this out.

    And when it comes to RANDOM reads... All those SF drives your so concerned with, are easily SLOWER than the X25-M.

    Intel X25-M G2 160/80 = 64.3~5 MB/s
    Intel X25-M G1 160/80 = 57.9 MB/s

    SF 1200~1500s = 49.4~52.1 MB/s... Ouch, SF is slower than the year old G2 and even older G1!! Even losing up to 15MB.s! About 25% slower than intels!

    The intel drives were the most expensive... now they are generally cheaper (cost per GB).

    I will continue to buy G2 drives (even those without the intel label) for my clients until something that is better across the board comes out. As far as I am concerned, Random Reads are somewhat more important than random reads... and both are about Sequential. This is why Windows7 boots up in about 10~12 seconds vs 35~50sec for a HD on the same same desktop.

    And I am not even a big fan of intel. I usually build AMD systems. But I'll buy what is good.
    Intel X25-M G2 wins in:
    A - price
    B - Availability (Many of the OCZs are not even available. Some stores carry older models)
    C - Performance Random
    D - Performance Sequential (okay, at 256 vs 265.... intel is a bit slower)
    E - Reliability
    F - TRIM support (Its unclear if all the other drives support TRIM - depending on the Firmware)

    From the looks of things, the G2 will lose its position when the G3 comes out.

    I plan to get a G3 for my next build... Hopefully it'll be $150~200 for 80GB with SATA 3.0 delivering 375+MB/s Seq Read/Write and 200MB/s for random R/W. That, I would really drool over!
    Reply

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