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Corsair Neutron SATA III SSD Review
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Date: Jan 18, 2013
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Corsair tends to be somewhat measured in their approach to certain markets and only enters them with products that are clearly differentiated from the competition. That’s true for their cases, peripherals, power supplies, and many other product lines. Corsair, however, has been relatively adventurous in regard to Solid State Drives. Over the last few years, Corsair has offered SSDs built around controllers from virtually all of the major players, including Marvell, SandForce, Indilinx, and Samsung, among others.

While Corsair has been open to working with multiple controller designs, they have not typically be first to market with drives based on brand new controllers. But that all changed with the recent release of the Corsair Neutron line of Solid State Drives. Corsair’s Neutron SSDs feature a new controller from Link_A_Media Devices (LAMD) that is not yet available in any other consumer storage product. For now, Corsair’s got an exclusive on the LAMD LM87800, which is at the heart of the Neutron SSD we’ll be showing you here today and a higher-end counterpart, the Neutron GTX.


Corsair Neutron SSD
Specifications & Features
Warranty
  • Five years
SSD Unformatted Capacity
  • 240 GB
Max Sequential R/W (ATTO)
  • 555 MB/s sequential read
  • 370 MB/s sequential write
Max Random 4k Write (IOMeter 08)
  • 85k IOPS (4k aligned)
Interface
  • SATA 6Gb/s
Technology
  • Synchronous
Form Factor
  • 2.5 inch
DRAM Cache Memory
  • 128 MB
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
  • 1500 G
MTBF
  • 2,000,000 hours

The drive you see pictured here is a 240GB Corsair Neutron. Externally, it looks just like many other consumer-class 2.5” solid state drives, save for all of the Corsair branding and decals. Internally though, you’ll notice a shorter-than-average PCB and the new LAMD LM87800 controller that’s at the heart of the drive.

 

 
The Corsair Neutron 240GB, Inside and Out

The LAMD LM87800 controller is outfitted with a pair of ARM-cores to service the host interface and NAND, has eight memory channels, and a SATA III 6Gbp/s interface. The controller is compatible with both ONFI and Toggle NAND, and although the controller features proprietary error correction technologies and tech to minimize write amplification—dubbed eBoost—it is not susceptible to performance degradation due to the compressibility/incompressibility of data.

This particular Corsair Neutron drive features 256GB of ONFI synchronous Micron NAND flash memory, of which 240GB is useable (the rest is used for wear leveling and other maintenance operations). There is also 128MB of DRAM cache on board.

We should point out that the Neutron GTX line of SSDs features Toshiba Toggle NAND, which should improve performance in some scenarios, but is also more expensive.
 

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

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 (or RAID) 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, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state 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 (200GB)
Corsair Force GT (240GB)
Crucial M4 (256GB)
Corsair Neutron (240GB)
Intel SSD 520 (240GB)
OCZ Vertex 4 (256GB)

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 reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you an't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom 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 Corsair Neutron performed relatively well in our IOMeter tests. When using IOMeter's default access pattern, the Neutron finished near the top of the charts, trailing only the OCZ Vertex 4 drive. With our Workstation Access pattern the Neutron also performed well, but finished about in the middle of the pack.

The Corsair Neutron's transfer speeds in our IOMeter tests position the drive in the middle of the pack, behind the SandForce and Intel-based drives.

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SiSoft SANDRA 2012
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.

SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

All of the drives we tested were tightly grouped in the SiSoft SANDRA Physical Disk benchmark, save for the Vertex 4 which trailed significantly. The Corsair Neutron offered up some strong read bandwidth here, but trailed the SandForce-based drives by quite a bit in write performance.

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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

Our results in the ATTO Disk Benchmark somewhat mirror those of SiSoft SANDRA on the previous page. In the read tests, the Corsair Neutron performs well and is tightly grouped with the rest of the pack, but in the write tests, the Neutron puts up a middling performance.

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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

The Corsair Neutron didn't fare too well in the various HD Tune tests. In the sequential and burst tests, the Neutron trailed the Samsung and SandForce-based drives by a wide margin. The Corsair Neutron's access times were near the bottom of the group as well.

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. 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 Neutron falls somewhere towards the middle of the pack in the various CrystalDiskMark benchmarks, save for the 4K QD32 test. In the 4K QD32 test, the Neutron puts up a very strong performance and best every other drive except for the OCZ Vertex 4.

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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 Corsair Neutron's performance isn't affected by the compressibility of the data being transferred too or from the drive, unlike the SandForce-based drives represented here. In the read portion of this test, all of the drives are tightly groups. In the write portion of the test, there are larger deltas separating the drives and the Corsair Neutron finishes right about in the middle of the pack.
 
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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


There's only about a 8.7% delta separating the highest and lowest performing drives in the PCMark 7 secondary storage benchmark, but unfortunately for the Neutron, it brought up the rear here. If you look at the individual test results though, you'll see only small differences in each test separate the drives we tested and that the Neutron outperforms some other drives in a few key areas, like Starting Applications and Gaming, even though its aggregate score isn't the best.
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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Corsair Neutron 240GB SSD performed well throughout our battery of tests. The drive didn’t clearly lead in performance in any one category, but overall performance is very good and competitive with some of the best solid state drives currently available. The Corsair Neutron showed particular strength with 4K transfers at higher queue depths and we competitive in our IOMeter tests. The Corsair Neutron also offers consistent performance, regardless of the compressibility of the data being transferred, which is another plus.


The Corsair Neutron SSD

Although there are still questions to answer about the long term reliability of the Corsair Neutron line of drives, due to its exclusive use of a new Link_A_Media LM87800 controller, initial indicators are good. There haven’t been any widespread reports of compatibility or stability issues that we’re aware of, which bodes well for the drive. Corsair is also backing the Neutron up with 5 year warranty, so the company doesn’t seem to have any concerns either.

Pricing on the Corsair Neutron line of drives is also competitive. As of this writing, the 240GB model we tested is available for about $189, or approximately $0.79 per gigabyte. At that price, the Neutron is among the most affordable 240 – 256GB solid state drives on the market.

All thing considered, we really like the Corsair Neutron quite a bit. It’s not class leading in any particular category, but it offers competitive performance at a good price, and it’s backed by a solid warranty. If you’re in the market for a new SSD, the Corsair Neutron is worth checking out.

 

  • Competitive Performance
  • Relatively Low Price
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Doesn't Stand Out
  • Lesser Known Controller



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