Corsair Launches New Line of SSD Accelerator Drives

Corsair announced a new line of SSD products at CES this week, aimed at users who want the performance benefit of these devices without leaping through the hoops of a fresh OS install or shucking out for a high capacity solid state drive. The company claims that using an Accelerator Series cache drive and the Nvelo-developed software that goes with it can improve performance by up to 5x.

The software suite in question is the same product we saw OCZ use for its Synapse Cache series back in September; Crucial also announced a drive cache product at CES this week. According to Nvelo's website, "For notebooks and tablet computing, Dataplex uses a “Write-Around” caching policy which caches system Reads, and can utilize MLC-based SSD’s with as little as 16GB capacity for cost reduction, while still delivering 4-5x performance over HDD’s, and maintaining multi-year endurance requirements."

This is where the caveats start, and Corsair didn't exactly help things any. The company posted a range of competitive performance figures showing the benefit of adding a drive accelerator to a system using a Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB. That's a 5400 RPM HDD, and it skews the performance results significantly. Even Nvelo's own product literature advertising their software had the decency to opt for a 7200 RPM drive.

We tossed in a VelociRaptor for fun. The other two results are from Corsair's blog

More curious is the fact that adding a bit of performance data for higher-end drives doesn't make the SSD look less appealing. Even the WD VelociRaptor 600GB—the fastest mechanical HDD on the consumer market—is beaten by
the combined performance of the 1.5TB drive and a 60GB Accelerator disc.

The only possible explanation, other than simply wanting to make the product look even better than it might otherwise, comes from the demonstration of CrystalDiskmark performance, which shows write performance falling off at a few points.

The other caveat to the performance of these accelerators (and it's something that the text from Nvelo hints at above) is that they primarily boost read performance. Benchmark results, in this case, are a tad misleading. A "Write-Around" cache transfers data to the cache after a cache miss has occurred, which is why all such products recommend that the reviewer run software multiple times. When it comes to something like a large manual file copy, however, the SSD's ability to boost the mechanical drive's performance is quite limited. That's not a condemnation of the product--the overwhelming majority of desktop computing is based on reads, not writes--but these sorts of products aren't going to help you if writing data is a major part of your workflow.

Corsair plans to sell the drive in 30GB, 45GB, and 60GB configurations, at prices of $69, $84, and $100 respectively. Presumably all three drives can be used as standard SSDs, though Corsair doesn't explicitly state if this is the case or not. The $100 60GB is $15-20 more expensive than some of the other Corsair drives currently for sale at that capacity, but matches the $99 Force Series 3. Then again, the FS3 60GB claims a much higher theoretical maximum performance.

We'll have to wait for shipping samples to answer certain questions about the drives, but it's a decent way to boost system performance for $100 or less. Data around the web suggests that the smaller capacity drives will deliver much (though not quite all) of the performance boost the big ones offer, the $70 could become a great upgrade that's easy on the budget.