HD Overdrive: Corsair's Accelerator SSD Cache

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I've been stuck using a 5400 RPM 1TB HDD for most of the past year after circumstances left my primary OS drive (an 80GB Intel SSD) unavailable. I've not gone through the process of switching back, which made my own thoroughly real-world system an ideal testbed for Corsair's Accelerator. I read, write, and transfer quite a bit of data and my Windows 7 install is none-too-pristine.

My current system is a Core i7-920 on a Gigabyte X58A-UD3R motherboard with 16GB of RAM and a GTX 480 installed. My system drive is a Samsung HD103SI, a 5400 RPM (yes, 5400) 1TB affair with an onboard 32MB cache. I ran PCMark 7's storage benchmark to examine storage-related performance in a variety of metrics, but a number of synthetic HDD tests behave oddly -- at least, on my own system -- when the cache accelerator is installed. Since the odd peaks and troughs such tests return don't reflect at all on real-world usage, I've elected not to include them.

Without further ado:

Boot Times:
Boot time is an easy place for an SSD to improve a system's responsiveness. I've subdivided boot time into two categories. The first -- boot-to-login -- is the amount of time it takes for the Windows Logon screen to display after the POST beep. The second, boot-to-desktop, is measured from POST beep to lag-free desktop and includes the boot-to-login measurement. There's a certain degree of subjectiveness to the latter, but not enough to impact the end result.



Knocking the boot-to-logon time in half was impressive on its own, but the Corsair cache drive knocks 80 percent off the hard drive's login-to-desktop processing time. Even if you only reboot once a week, these first few minutes are irritating out of all proportion to the amount of time they actually represent, there are few things more frustrating than watching a normally nimble system struggle to open a web browser while an army of squirrels has a knock-down dragout inside your case.

The boot time improvement is great, but I almost never reboot. Let's examine a few more scenarios.
 

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So they make restrictions to benefit them but in return we get a very limited cache system? D: ... lol. Should just get an SSD :D.

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Not a limited cache system by any means. Joel was just pointing out some of the annoyances. The easy of use and not having to manage mutiple volumes manually make this an excellent upgrade for anyone looking to boost the performance of a system that's currently equipped with only hard drive.

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Inspector,

I absolutely disagree. Nvelo made some decisions I disagree with, and there are some limitations to the product. That doesn't change the fact that this is an excellent, excellent way to bridge the gap between HDD and SSD performance without going through the hassle of reinstalling your operating system.

As someone who has avoided an SSD upgrade precisely because of the time it would take to get everything installed and tuned again, I'm very pleased with the Accelerator Series. This isn't just a product a reviewed, it's a product I dropped into my own workflow and daily usage pattern. It's a very good upgrade.

Also? If you decide you want "just an SSD," you've already got one. You can uninstall the Nvelo software and install WIndows 7 on it just like you would any other SSD.

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Relatively simple to setup and good increases on speed. Pretty good for a quick, no hassle upgrade which is what they were aiming for.

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I think that on page 4, the last benchmark graph has the 1TB HDD and the OCZ Vertex switched around. It says Lower is betetr and then the OCZ Vertex has the largest times, when that should be the HDD.

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Good catch. It's fixed now.

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Nice review Joel. The ease of upgrading to a caching drive is amazing and I could see their point of having a keycode to download the software. But it should be just that enter a code to download the software and not have the draconian DRM that they have put in place.

50% boost average is impressive for a $90 investment.

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Omega,

The way they've structured the software validation scheme is annoying and, I think, ultimately ineffective. But the strongest incentive I can give is to say that while I don't like the hoop, it's worth jumping through. And the software is worth protecting, which is ironically why I invested a substantial amount of time talking about it.

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"Once installed, the Dataplex software must be uninstalled properly before the drive is removed from the system. Failure to follow this procedure can result in a loss of data. An HDD synchronized with an Accelerator cache drive may not boot properly if the cache drive is suddenly removed."

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What happens if the Cache SSD fails? Do you lose your DATA?


Also: How does this compare with Intel's SSD Caching solution?

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Realneil,

I explored this extensively in the Data Reliability section. Please review that and let me know if you have further questions.

I'll have to review to answer your second question.

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