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Written by Olin Coles   
Friday, 30 July 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
OCZ Agility-2 SandForce Solid State Drive
Features and Specifications
Closer Look: OCZ Agility 2 Extended
SandForce SF-1200 SSD Controller
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD
OCZ Agility 2 SSD Conclusion

SandForce SF-1200 SSD Controller

The SandForce SF-1200 SATA-3GBps controller is new to the industry, but many manufacturers are already hailing it as the replacement for Indilinx's industry-leading Barefoot processor. Both are second-generation SATA products limited to 3.0 GB/s transfer speeds, and both offer similar specifications. SandForce adds DuraClass technology to their SF-1200 processor, which claims to provide best-in-class endurance, performance, and lower power consumption. DuraWrite technology extends the endurance of MLC-NAND memory by providing at least five year lifecycles measured with 3000-5000 cycle MLC flash. Additionally, SandForce RAISE technology provides RAID-like protection for single SSD computer systems, and data is secured with AES-128 automatic encryption.

SandForce has hit the 2010 SSD industry with full force, much the same way that Indilinx did back in 2009. Finished-goods companies can utilize the SandForce SF1200 processor in their own product line, which then receives a "SandForce Driven" badge. The SandForce SF-1222 processor is presently available in the ADATA S599, Corsair Force, RunCore Pro-V, Patriot Inferno, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE, G.Skill Phoenix Pro, OCZ Vertex-2, OCZ Agility-2, PhotoFast G-Monster 2, and Mach Xtreme SSD series.

SandForce_SF-1200_SSD_Processor_Top.jpg

From the view above the printed circuit board (PCB), it doesn't look like there's anything dramatically innovative on the SandForce Solid State Drive. Eight flash NAND modules make a horseshoe around the SandForce SF-1200 SSD processor, and plenty of electronics fill in the remaining space atop the printed circuit board. But once the SandForce SSD board is turned to expose the underside, the difference is obvious: SandForce has used their DuraClass technology to remove the DRAM buffer.

SandForce_SF-1200_SSD_Processor_Bottom.jpg

The 2nd-generation SATA-3.0GBps SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH processor is part of their SF-1200 family of SSD controller chips, and SSDs will utilize either the SF-1200 processor for retail consumers or SF-1500 for enterprise devices. All SandForce SSD controllers offer native TRIM support in Microsoft Windows-7, Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with 32 command slots, and Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) command set. While not directly important to transfer speeds or operational performance, SandForce utilizes a Tensilica Diamond Core DC_570T CPU inside the SF-1200 processor.

SandForce_SF-1222TA3-SBH_Processor.jpg

Another benefit of SandForce's SF-1200 architecture is that the SSD keeps all information on the NAND grid and removes the need for a separate cache buffer DRAM module. The result is a faster transaction, albeit at the expense of total storage capacity. SandForce SSDs utilize over-provisioning technology, which allocates a portion of NAND for data storage and the remainder reserved for transaction and cache buffer space. SandForce has also marketing custom firmware to the finished-goods companies that sell their SSDs, which remove performance restrictions.

The SF-1200 SSD processor provides ECC data protection and includes SandForce's unique RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology. RAISE provides the protection and reliability of RAID on a single SSD drive, thanks to flash architecture, without the significant write overhead of parity. The SandForce DuraClass technology automatically stores data in AES-128 encrypted format, preventing data extraction directly from the physical flash memory modules.

Micron-Intel_DRAM_29F64G08CAMDB.jpg

Sixteen multi-layer cell Intel 29F64G08CAMDB flash NAND modules are joined to the SandForce SF-1200 controller. On professional-level 28% over-provisioned SandForce SSDs, these NAND modules may combine for 128GB of physical storage space yet only 100GB of this capacity is designated for data. Consumer-level SandForce SSDs receive 7% over-provisioning and 128GB devices will yield 120GB of usable storage space.

Because the SandForce SF-1200 SSD processor inside many SSDs is a non-exclusive component available market-wide, Benchmark Reviews expects to see many new solid state storage products using this controller in the near future. Please continue on for details and performance results for this Solid State Drive...



 

Comments 

 
# Great ReviewRobert Johnson 2010-07-29 22:56
A really good thorough review of this product and a testimonial to the speed of the Sandforce processor
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# RE: OCZ Agility-2 SandForce Solid State Drivetuleggi 2010-07-29 23:06
Nice!! Now we are just waiting for the Vertex LE performance test, that many websites claims as the best SSD on the market...but I only trust benchmarkreviews! :-)
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# Vertex LE = Limited EditionOlin Coles 2010-08-01 11:19
Sorry, but there are no plans to review the Vertex LE. This is because the Vertex LE is essentially the Vertex 2, released at a time when the 50K IOPS firmware was licensed for premium. Now there are at least a dozen different companies with 50K SandForce SSDs.
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# RE: OCZ Agility-2 SandForce Solid State DriveRobert17 2010-07-30 16:43
I've just upgraded yet again from my first SSD a little over a year ago, to a larger, newer, more refined model, twice the 32Gb I started with, and have added Trim support as well (my first was a JMicron controlled, hair of stutter, 32Gb Patriot; now a Kingston 64Gb V-series). I caught both on "sale" as they were older models at the time of purchase, Sandforce no doubt forcing the liquidation of inventories. The Patriot purchase was for $99 for 32Gb, the Kingston at $99 for 64Gb, basically $1.34/Gb. Although this is just me staying a generation or two behind the bleeding edge, I find it a very adoptable price point and it affords me the upgrade path for multiple home systems simultaneously. All in all, I think your extrapolation of the future pricing of SSDs is coming sooner rather than later and any enthusiast can make the jump into SSDs before the next year is out. As you've stated several times in several ways, it is the single most satisfying upgrade one may do to a PC.
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# Lagging Edge....BruceBruce 2010-07-30 16:56
I'm with you on your acquisition strategy... The $100-$150 price point has been very fertile ground if you are willing to wait for Newegg ShellShocker deals and tech that is ~ 6 months old. Once I had my first taste of SSD performance, I knew there was no way I was going back to mechanical drives.
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# Finally!Olin Coles 2010-07-30 17:19
"As you've stated several times in several ways, it is the single most satisfying upgrade one may do to a PC."

I'm so glad that people are finally coming to understand where speed comes from for most computer-related tasks.
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# MeOlddog 2010-08-01 15:34
I have one of these in the 60GB size and it was a real shot in the arm for the system's performance. I install everything else to the data drives, but run the 64 bit win-7 system on the SSD. I'm very satisfied with it's performance characteristics. As the prices do come down, I'll buy them for all of the other PC's in the house.
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# wondering somethingpit 2010-08-09 11:22
do you test these drives with them as the operating system drive? or are they separate data drives?
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# RE: wondering somethingOlin Coles 2010-08-09 12:07
All storage devices are tested as a secondary drive. It would be impossible to test them with the O/S or any partition, because some tests erase data or require no partition.
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# TRIM support... confused!Frammel 2010-08-23 21:22
I have been looking ALL over for a straight-forward answer to this question and I can't find one, can only find info hinting towards this. The OCZ Agi II drives with their 1.11 firmware say they support TRIM. I see people write that it's 'native' and it's 'included' and it's 'available', etc... but is it an automatic function or should I be scrambling for a tool that allows me to manually run TRIM? I'm currently running Win 7 Ultimate 64-bit. Absolutely worth-it drive, I don't want to miss out on an ounce of performance because of this!
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# RE: TRIM support... confused!Olin Coles 2010-08-23 21:30
You haven't found an answer because it's a relatively common-sense question that people don't spend time writing about. All SandForce-driven SSDs include TRIM support, similar to the previous generation of Indilinx SSDs. This is like saying your car is capable of running on water... all you have to do is supply the water. The Windows 7 O/S is that water, and activates TRIM commands automatically in the background.
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# Trim Built In to W7BruceBruce 2010-08-23 21:28
It's the default setup for Win 7. It works in the background. I know...I'd rather "see" it working, too. But it IS working.
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