|Corsair X256 CMFSSD-256D1 MLC SSD|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 07 September 2009|
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SSD Testing Methodology
Solid State Drives have traveled a long winding course to finally get where they are today. Up to this point in technology, there have been several key differences separating Solid State Drives from magnetic rotational Hard Disk Drives. While the DRAM-based buffer size on desktop HDD's has recently reached 32 MB and is ever-increasing, there is still a hefty delay in the initial response time. This is one key area in which flash-based Solid State Drives continually dominates because they lack moving parts to "get up to speed".
However the benefits inherent to SSD's have traditionally fallen off once the throughput begins, even though data reads or writes are executed at a high constant rate whereas the HDD tapers off in performance. This makes the average transaction speed of a SSD comparable to the data burst rate mentioned in HDD tests, albeit usually lower than the HDD's speed.
Comparing a Solid State Disk to a standard Hard Disk Drives is always relative; even if you're comparing the fastest rotational spindle speeds. One is going to be many times faster in response (SSD's), while the other is usually going to have higher throughput bandwidth (HDD's). Additionally, there are certain factors which can affect the results of a test which we do our best to avoid.
EDITORS NOTE: After November 2009 Benchmark Reviews will begin testing storage devices using the Microsoft Windows 7 Operating System. Although the Marvell SATA 6Gb/s (SATA-III) controller is available on select motherboards, our testing indicates that SSD devices perform better on the Intel ICH-10 Southbridge.
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.
Drive Hardware Tested
The following storage hardware has been used in our benchmark performance testing, and may be included in portions of this article:
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.