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Written by Olin Coles   
Monday, 07 September 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Corsair X256 CMFSSD-256D1 MLC SSD
Features and Specifications
First Look: Corsair X256 SSD
Indilinx Internal Components
SSD Testing Methodology
Random Access Time Benchmark
Basic IO Bandwidth
Random Access IOPS Tests
I/O Response Time
Linear Bandwidth Speed
Sequential Performance Tests
Buffered Transaction Speed
Solid State Drive Final Thoughts
Corsair X256 Conclusion

Corsair X256 SSD Review

The competition among Solid State Drive manufacturers is reminiscent of the video card wars between AMD and NVIDIA a few years ago. The invention of new controller technology has slowed somewhat, while each company races to combine high-speed NAND with custom firmware tweaks to produce the fastest SSD speeds possible. The Indilinx Barefoot controller has exploited a dominant hold over the consumer SSD market during the past several months, and 'overclocked' Solid State Drive products are beginning to replace 'new' product designs. In this article, Benchmark Reviews tests the fastest MLC SSD we've discovered to-date: the 256GB eXtreme-edition Corsair X256 CMFSSD-256D1.

With generation 3 guidelines for the 6.0 GBps SATA interface already being used in certain Intel P55 motherboards, it's understandable to see the speeds of Solid State Drive products increase so quickly with each new model. The Indilinx Barefoot controller has become the backbone chip for over a dozen different SSD models, first introduced in the OCZ Vertex SSD, and now make a return appearance in the Corsair X256 SSD.

Virtually identical to the popular OCZ Vertex Turbo in every aspect except branding and firmware, the Corsair X256 SSD series offers the same Indilinx 'Barefoot' controller and 64MB of DRAM buffer, but now boasts ultra-fast 240/170 MBps read and write speeds. Benchmark Reviews tests the reaction time and bandwidth performance for the Corsair X256 256GB CMFSSD-256D1 Indilinx MLC SSD model against over two dozen other storage products in this article.

Anyone familiar with articles published at Benchmark Reviews is very well aware of our obsession with Solid State Drive technology. They're complex, and every SSD is different than the next. Nothing like Hard Disk Drive technology, which improves as spindle speed and cache buffer are increased, SSDs are the future and because of this their internal architecture is constantly evolving. This is why we offer so much coverage on the topic: it's interesting and exciting. Plus, they can turn the average computer system into a roaring beast. It's not marketing hype; for once the truth is stranger than fiction.

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Since first making a public debut at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, Solid State Drives (SSDs) have been a topic of hot discussion among performance enthusiasts. These nonvolatile flash memory-based drives feature virtually no access time delay and promise a more reliable storage medium with greater performance while operating at a fraction of the power level. Moving into 2008, SSDs became a consumer reality for many performance-minded power users. Now that 2009 has proven how strong the industry support behind Solid State Drive technology is, we should hope that mainstream acceptance moves faster than it did for DDR3 SDRAM.

Solid State Drive products are no longer restricted to bleeding edge hardware enthusiasts or wealthy elitists. Heading into 2009, SSD storage devices were available online for nearly $2 per gigabyte of storage capacity while the most popular performance desktop hard drive hovered just above $1/GB. While most consumers are waiting for that day when SSD costs the same as HDD, they seem to be forgetting how Solid State Drives have already surpassed Hard Disk performance in every other regard. Our collection of SSD reviews is a good starting point for comparing the competition.

EDITOR'S NOTE 29 OCT 2009: The X256 SSD sample provided to Benchmark Reviews by Corsair nearly two months ago has stopped working and is no longer recognized by any system BIOS or O/S. After some research, it appears that a very small number of Corsair X256 SSDs have suffered similar firmware-related issues. This problem has been confirmed with Corsair, and the present solution is to contact Corsair technical support via the company website or support forums. Replacement X256 SSDs are said to have a new firmware version that remedies this issue, although this is unconfirmed. As a precaution, ensure that all important files have been backed-up onto another source.

SSD Testing Disclaimer

Early on in our SSD coverage, Benchmark Reviews published an article which detailed Solid State Drive Benchmark Performance Testing. The research and discussion that went into producing that article changed the way we now test SSD products. Our previous perceptions of this technology were lost on one particular difference: the wear leveling algorithm that makes data a moving target. Without conclusive linear bandwidth testing or some other method of total-capacity testing, our previous performance results were rough estimates at best.

Our test results were obtained after each SSD had been prepared using DISKPART or Sanitary Erase tools. As a word of caution, applications such as these offer immediate but temporary restoration of original 'pristine' performance levels. In our tests, we discovered that the maximum performance results (charted) would decay as subsequent tests were performed. SSDs attached to TRIM enabled Operating Systems will benefit from continuously refreshed performance, whereas older O/S's will require a garbage collection (GC) tool to avoid 'dirty NAND' performance degradation.

It's critically important to understand that no software for the Microsoft Windows platform can accurately measure SSD performance in a comparable fashion. Synthetic benchmark tools such as HD Tach and PCMark are helpful indicators, but should not be considered the ultimate determining factor. That factor should be measured in actual user experience of real-world applications. Benchmark Reviews includes both bandwidth benchmarks and application speed tests to present a conclusive measurement of product performance.

About Corsaircorsair_logo_stacked_100px.png

Founded in 1994, Corsair Memory, Inc., is a worldwide leader in high-performance components for personal computers. Specializing in very high performance memory and ultra-efficient power supplies, our flagship products, Including Dominator memory modules, are the choice of overclockers, enthusiasts, and gamers everywhere. Our expertise in design and manufacturing is also evident in our complete line of Flash Voyager and Flash Survivor USB storage devices. Corsair offers 24/7 customer support via forums and the Tech Support Express helpdesk. For more information, please visit www.corsair.com



 

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