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SandForce SF-1200 SSD Firmware Comparison E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage
Written by Olin Coles   
Friday, 04 June 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
SandForce SF-1200 SSD Firmware Comparison
SandForce SF-1200 SSD Controller
SF-1200 Features and Specifications
SSD Testing Methodology
SandForce Performance Differences
SF-1200 Firmware Revisions

SF-1200 Firmware Revisions

Firmware is a subject few technical writers care to discuss, and for very good reason. What's here today, could be gone tomorrow. The fact of the matter is simple: device firmware can be updated at any time. Similar to writing articles on hardware device drivers, it's only informational and entertaining when there's something dramatically different between each version release.

SandForce SSDs depend on manufacturer support, but also allow OEM's to further customize the firmware to fit their needs. SandForce marketing director Jeremy Werner explained this to Benchmark Reviews: "We have a business model where we support customized firmware for customers under a compensation model. All of our OEM engagements require customized firmware to optimize for their platforms, and a number of the e-tailers have sought out customized fw to differentiate themselves in the market."

This makes sense, because not all OEM's have the same purpose in mind for their products. Some target prosumer enthusiasts, while others focus on the corporate enterprise segment. When we asked for more detail on the changes available, Mr. Werner responded: "The details of the firmware is often confidential and as such I'm not at liberty to comment on what each customer has in terms of custom firmware. You'll have to work with individual SSD manufacturers on the detailed capabilities of their products. This is one issue you should stay on top of, but directly with the vendors." Unfortunately, the vendors had very little to say on the subject.

Using the samples received here at Benchmark Reviews, we've put together some information on the various SandForce SF-1222 products and firmware available:

Sandforce 28% Over-Provisioning Firmware:

  • 300A13F0 (3.0.0 Release Candidate): Mach Xtreme MX-DS
  • 301A13F0 (3.0.1 Release Candidate): Corsair Force (Firmware Revision 0.2)
  • 302A13F0 (3.0.2 Release Candidate): ADATA S599, RunCore Pro-V, PhotoFast G-Monster2
  • 303A13F0 (3.0.3 Release Candidate): Undisclosed
  • 304A13F0 (3.0.4 Release Candidate): Undisclosed
  • 305A13F0 (3.0.5 Mass Production): OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE, Patriot Inferno

Sandforce 7% Over-Provisioning Firmware:

  • 309A13F0 (3.0.9 Release Candidate): Mushkin Callisto
  • 30CA13F0 (3.0.C Release Candidate): OCZ Vertex-2 "Extended"
  • 310A13F0 (3.1.0 Release Candidate): G.Skill Phoenix Pro, OCZ Vertex-2 (Firmware Revision 1.10)

Why Be Different?

It seems like a silly question, but consider the implications involved when a finished-goods company alters the performance scope for firmware engineered by the manufacturer. SandForce has already explained why they offer custom firmware: not all OEMs have the same target market, and the added revenue stream is mutually beneficial. But at what cost?

The version 300A13F0 (3.0.0) firmware release had a few bugs, and was the initial release candidate used on early OEM products (such as the Mach Xtreme MX-DS series). As we discovered in our Iometer testing, the Corsair Force F100 offers nearly twice the IOPS performance using firmware 301A13F0 (3.0.1), but it does so at the expense of stability. Firmware 302A13F0 (3.0.2) used on the ADATA S599, RunCore Pro-V, and PhotoFast G-Monster2 seem no different than revision 305A13F0 (3.0.5) in terms of performance, as illustrated by the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE and Patriot Inferno tests.

So by measuring these SSDs by their firmware, you might be led into believing the older revisions are the best of the bunch. The only problem with this logic is that the older firmware retains the problems and bugs later fixed in subsequent revisions. In versions 3.0.0 and 3.0.1 the SSD would not resume from low power states, and would essentially become non-operational. Corsair uses custom firmware (recorded at revision 0.2) that avoids these issue by disabling low-level power states, and as a result the Force F100 SSD demonstrates impressive 4k IOPS performance. Of course the drawback to this tactic is higher power consumption, which is one of the attributes SSDs are known for.

Consider these factors when you shop for and compare SandForce-based SSDs, just exactly as it required back when Indilinx firmware updates were changing the landscape.

28% OP Sandforce Products:

  • A-DATA S599 Series
  • Corsair Force Series
    • 100GB model CSSD-F100GB2-BRKT for $410
    • 200GB model CSSD-F200GB2-BRKT for $720
  • G.Skill Phoenix Series
    • 100GB model FM-25S2S-100GBP1 for $369
    • 200GB model FM-25S2S-200GBP1
  • Mushkin Callisto Series
  • OCZ Agility-2 Series
    • 100GB model OCZSSD2-2AGT100G for $359
    • 200GB model OCZSSD2-2AGT200G for $679 ($629 after rebate)
  • OCZ Vertex LE Series
    • 100GB model OCZSSD2-1VTXLE100G for $299 ($269 after rebate)
    • 200GB model OCZSSD2-1VTXLE200G for $679 ($629 after rebate)
  • OCZ Vertex-2 Series
    • 100GB model OCZSSD2-2VTX100G for $350
    • 200GB model OCZSSD2-2VTX200G for $749
  • OWC Mercury Series
    • 50GB model OWCSSDMXRE050 for $220
    • 100GB model OWCSSDMXRE100 for $400
    • 200GB model OWCSSDMXRE200 for $720
    • 400GB model OWCSSDMXRE400 for $1680
  • Patriot Inferno Series
    • 100GB model PI100GS25SSDR for $369
    • 200GB model PI200GS25SSDR for $679
  • RunCore Pro-V Series
  • Mach Xtreme MX-DS Series
  • PhotoFast G-Monster2 SFV1 Series

Comments? Questions? Benchmark Reviews appreciates constructive feedback, so leave your comment below are ask questions in our Discussion Forum.

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# SF1500 ? and others tests ;)Federico La Morgia 2010-06-03 22:49
I saw on the website that there is a version of sandforce SF1500 enterprice class, you know if any SSD on the market uses to be able to test since SF1200/1220?

A tip, there is some PCI-Express RAID controller that supports RAID SSD without disable the TRIM command and other commands that provides the sandforce and has at least 8 channels like normal RAID controllers from 300-1000 euros?
Because it would be interesting to test 8-10 SSD with RAID controllers with Sandforce 0-1-5-10-50-60-51-61 doing many tests including those that completely filled and completely empty the resulting volume in order to understand how deteriorate the overall performance over time!

I understand that now I hate the fact that I beg you to do many more tests, some seemingly strange, but I think it could bring to light strengths and weaknesses nasconti that would not normally go out :)
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# OK???TRP member 2011-05-29 02:15
So the manufacturers are marketing SSD's with known bugs and flaws in the firmware (1222), and it's up to the buyer to upgrade the firmware to get the SSD to work properly, OR IT DIES???

This has a bad smell!
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