|SandForce SF-1200 SSD Firmware Comparison|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 04 June 2010|
Page 1 of 6
SandForce SF-1200 SSD Firmware Comparison
Believe it or not, SSDs often undergo the 'Duck Test'. That test goes 'when I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck'. So by that measure if several SandForce SF-1200 SSDs are each tested and produce the same result, we call them similar SSDs. But there are also those rare occasions when a similar walk, swim, and quack, do not make something a duck. Likewise, not all identical SandForce SSDs are the same: the firmware can create a whole new animal. In this article, Benchmark Reviews investigates how firmware can alter the SF-1222 SSD processor into something neither fish nor fowl.
To understand the basis of this article, you'll need to rewind the clocks back to before SandForce-based SSDs filled the store shelves. When SandForce was first marketing their upcoming architecture to finished goods manufacturers such as ADATA, Corsair, OWC, Patriot, and RunCore (to name only a few), each company was given the opportunity to license special firmware for the SandForce-based products they produce. SSD firmware can make or break a product, as we discovered with the OCZ Vertex-2 Pro SSD engineering sample that died in the middle of testing. Since that time, SandForce has released several versions of SSD firmware that either empowers or cripples retail SF-1200 Solid State Drives.
Very recently Benchmark Reviews has tested several Solid State Drive products based on the SandForce SF-1222 controller. The specifications for each product were each very similar, if not identical. Throughout all of our benchmark SSD tests the results were also very close, and nothing seemed to stand out until we concentrated in one particular area. The differences were made evident as we experimented with a new benchmark setting for upcoming SSD reviews.
Working directly with SandForce to re-shape Iometer testing, our random 50/50 read and write test was altered to use a queue depth of 32 instead of only 1 outstanding I/O per target. In past articles, we've kept a low queue depth to eliminate bias between projects. However, as SSDs become more relevant to storage than HDD technology, it was time to update our procedure. Armed with a new Iometer configuration, Benchmark Reviews began (re)testing as many SSDs as possible to see how well it worked. The results were a little surprising, and prompted me to write SandForce and several of their OEMs. Despite my best attempts, there was too much confusion to ignore and enough raw date to create this article.
Sharing in our confusion, several other websites have covered the SandForce firmware debacle. For this article we'll concentrate on 100GB SandForce-based SSDs that utilize 28% over-provisioning (OP), which apply to 100/200/400GB models with firmware revision 3.0.8 (308A13F0) and earlier. SandForce-based SSDs that offer 120/240/480GB capacity are coming to market and use 13% over-provisioning, beginning with firmware version 3.0.9 (309A13F0).