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Corsair Force GT 240GB & Crucial M4 SSD Update
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Date: Nov 11, 2011
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

A few months back, we rounded up a half dozen SATA III solid state drives in this article. In that showdown, we had drives based on SandForceSF-2200 series and Marvell controllers represented, with both synchronous and asynchronous memory types. We ultimately found the SandForce-based drives when paired to synchronous NAND flash memory offered the best all-around performance, but they were also the most expensive. Generally speaking though, each of the drives featured in that article had merit, all things considered.

Since that article was published, however, we received some updates to a couple of the products that were featured. First, Corsair sent over the 240GB variant of their excellent Force GT drive and Crucial made available a firmware update that significantly changed the performance profile of their M4 SSD.

       

Corsair Force GT 240GB SATA III SSD
Specifications & Features
Warranty
  • Three years
SSD Unformatted Capacity
  • 240 GB
Max Sequential Read/Write (using ATTO Disk Benchmark)
  • 555 MB/s sequential read
  • 525 MB/s sequential write
Max Random 4k Write (using IOMeter 08)
  • 85k IOPS (4k aligned)
Interface
  • SATA 6Gb/s
Form Factor
  • 2.5 inch.
DRAM Cache Memory
  • No
Weight
  • 80g
Voltage

  • 5V ±5%
Power Consumption (active)
  • 4.6W Max
Power Consumption (idle/standby/sleep)
  • 0.6W Max
S.M.A.R.T. Support
  • Yes
Shock
  • 1500G
MTBF
  • 2,000,000 hours


Corsair includes a 3.5" tray and mounting screws with the Force GT

From the outside, the Corsair Force GT 240GB drive looks just like the 120GB version we took a look at in our round-up, with its red enclosure, distinctive decals, and 2.5” form factor.

       

Pop the drive open, however, and the PCBs are totally different. The Corsair Force GT uses a much more compact PCB design and the SandForce SF-2281 controller is paired to eight pieces of 25nm Micron 29F128G08CFAAB MLC NAND. The combo is rated for 555 MB/s sequential reads and 525 MB/s sequential writes with 85K max random 4k writes.

The Crucial M4 we’ll be testing alongside the Corsair Force GT is the same one we used previously, but with the latest firmware (v009) installed.

Crucial claims the v009 firmware for the M4 increases sequential read speeds by up to 20% and enhances write latency for better performance under heavy write workloads. The firmware also reportedly improves compatibility with latest chipsets and fixes intermittent failures in cold boot up related to some systems.

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC and SANDRA

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased and left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-2600K

Asus P8Z6-V Pro
(Z68 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
Samsung SSD 830 (256GB)
OCZ Vertex 3 MaxIOPs (240GB)
Corsair Force GT (120GB)
Corsair Force 3 Series (128GB)
Patriot Wildfire (120GB)
Crucial M4 (256)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel 9.2.0.1030, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v4.61
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2011

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a gauge for relative available throughput with a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you really can't with most other benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and IOMeter's default access pattern of 2K transfers, 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

The Samsung SSD 830 Series was the best overall performer in our IOMeter tests, but the Corsair Force GT put up the best scores of the SandForce-based drives. Surprisingly, the v009 firmware update of the M4 actually hurt its performance here, however.

SiSoft SANDRA 2011
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

According to the SiSoft SANDRA Physical Disk benchmark, the Corsair Force GT 240GB drive rules the roost in terms of both reads and writes. And the Crucial firmware update had a huge impact on performance, taking the M4 up a few notches and allowing it to better compete with the SandForce-based drives in read throughput.

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ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w


The Corsair Force GT 240GB drive once again offers best-of-class performance in the ATTO Disk Benchmark. The Crucial M4 also shows a huge increase in write performance here. Its write speeds, however, are only marginally increased with the smallest of block sizes.
 
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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v4.61
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com










As has been the case thus far, the Corsair Force GT once again exhibited best-of-class performance across the board. The Crucial M4 also showed a marked improvement in write performance in this benchmark with its latest firmware, but write access times took a bit of a hit.
 
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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests







The Corsair Force GT 240GB drive offered excellent performance across the board in the CrystalDIskMark benchmarks. The Crucial M4, with its latest firmware update installed, also excelled here, significantly improving over the older firmware and almost catching the SandForce-based drives.
 
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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n


The AS-SSD compression benchmark shows a significant difference between the performance profiles of the SandForce-based drives and the Marvell-based Crucial M4. SandForce controllers perform best when paired to synchronous flash memory and moving highly-compressible data. The Marvell-based drives, however, offer consistent performance regardless of the data compressibility of the data. With its latest firmware update, the Crucial M4 offers excellent consistent read performance, but middle-of-the-road writes versus the SandForce drives.
 
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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com


Once again, the Corsair Force GT 240GB SSD offers some of the best performance we have seen from a SATA SSD. The Crucial M4 also showed better performance virtually across the board when using the newer v009 firmware, although the SandForce-based drives are still fastest overall.
 
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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Both the Corsair Force GT 240GB drive and Crucial M4 with its v009 firmware exhibited excellent performance throughout out battery of tests. Overall, the SandForce-based Corsair drive proved to be a somewhat better performer, especially in terms of writes. But the Crucial drive offered more consistent performance with all data types, thanks to the characteristics of its Marvell-built controller, which handles highly compressible and non-compressible data similarly.


The Corsair Force GT 240GB Solid State Drive

As of this writing, the Corsair Force GT 240GB could be found for about $410 on-line; the Crucial M4 256GB drive is going for about $380. At those prices, the Corsair Force GT 240GB model costs about $1.71 per GB and the Crucial M4 about $1.48 per GB. Looking back at performance, the somewhat higher cost of the Corsair drive is justifiable considering its better overall benchmark results. In comparison to similarly configured SandForce-based drives, the Corsair Force GT is also competitive. When compared to the OCZ Vertex 3 MaxIOPS drive, for example, the Force GT offered similar or better performance (although only slightly) in all of our tests, but the OCZ drive with a similar capacity is currently setting for about $479.

All things considered, it's clear that the Corsair Force GT 240GB drive is worthy of an Editor's Choice award. The drive offers killer performance at a very competitive price. Crucial should also be commended for offering a free, sizable performance boost to owners of the M4. The drive may not be as fast as SandForce-based alternatives, but the M4 is a good product nonetheless and worthy of consideration, thanks to its lower cost-per-GB and consistent performance.


Corsair Force GT 240GB

  • Strong performance
  • Competitive price
  • Good warranty
  • Still pricey
  • Somewhat inconsistent performance w/ compressible / incompressible data


Crucial M4 256GB


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