|Solid State Drive (SSD) Benchmark Performance Testing|
|Articles - Featured Guides|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 22 December 2008|
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SSD Testing Final Thoughts
EDITOR'S NOTE: This section was written prior to basic industry standardization and mass product production. While firmware updates still pose an issue for benchmark testing, many of the problems no longer exist in modern SSD product lines.
Nobody is perfect. However, when you're testing high-dollar hardware you had better make sure your test results are. This is what makes me so sick about this article: the amount of data that is perfect, but the results of flawed software and controller technology by which they were collected. Essentially, I have worked hard to produce nearly meaningless results.
Testing SSD's is a dangerous endeavor, because the internal disk controller firmware present in every Solid State Drive is different from the time they are released to reviewers and media partners, up to the point they reach consumers, with several unannounced revisions thereafter resting invisibly on store shelves. I've already seen it a few times in my two years of testing these products, just as others have also reported. This is why the documentation of specific test variables and product part numbers is so critical. The item tested at Benchmark Reviews may have the same retail name, but the part number may change several times in small (undetectable) revisions.
Taking things one step further, some manufacturers have started to replace costly high-performance flash DRAM in their SSD's with slower more cost-effective modules. In some cases, the Solid State Drive may even switch from SLC to MLC without a change in product name or part number. This makes it very difficult to keep results consistent, even among the same SSD product line.
Hard Disk Drives come with firmware to interface with the disk controller attached to each unit. But Solid State Drives have a disk controller built into the device for wear-level management, which then interfaces with the motherboard's own disk controller. Since no manufacturer is ever going to agree on a mutual SSD internal-controller technology, we the consumer are stuck with a myriad of different SSD algorithm technologies that mate to a handful of controllers which are instructed by countless driver revisions. It's going to be a tough job to test SSD products, no matter which software tool you decide to test with, and regardless of the platform controller used.
It comes down to one very simple problem: Solid State Drive technology uses wear level algorithms to ensure each DRAM modules receives equal usage, but HDD tests tools are designed to sample disk 'sectors' for performance and SSD's don't never read or write to the same sector.
All of this explains why we haven't seen a test tool specifically targeted towards SSD technology. But if we take a moment to analyze the test tools available, we find ourselves with some lesser-know tools becoming more useful for testing SSD products when compared the best-known benchmarks of the past few years. You'll get my real feel for the situation in the SSD Testing Conclusion, so please read on.