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Benchmark Reviews Editors Choice Awards 2009 E-mail
Articles - Featured Guides
Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Benchmark Reviews Editors Choice Awards 2009
Best in Class: Accessories
Best in Class: Cases
Best in Class: Cooling
Best in Class: Motherboards
Best in Class: Network Storage
Best in Class: Processors
Best in Class: Data Storage
Best in Class: Video Cards
2009 Editors Choice Awards

Best in Class: Data Storage

Without question, 2009 has been the break-out year for data storage innovations; more specifically Solid State Drive (SSD) technology. The Featured Reviews: Storage section at Benchmark Reviews is a testament to the many storage products we've tested over the course of this past year, filled with over thirty different reviews of SSD products. Early on in this year SSD prices appeared to be making the technology obtainable, however very recently the prices have gone skyward. Now that performance is kept at its peak with TRIM and Garbage Collection (GC) features, the only two concerns that remain are cost and capacity. Long-term longevity and real-world Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) are still relatively unknown for the new technology, making them less-suitable for the Enterprise environment.

Corporate storage solutions have remained largely dependant on magnetic hard disk media for their data, and until SSDs can prove themselves this will continue to be the case. Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) hard drive technology has been considered by many to be the fastest available from rotating media products, and offer high-density storage capacities with low response-time delays. In this section, Benchmark Reviews shares our top three choices for the respective storage market segment:

Enthusiast Storage

Awarded: Corsair X256 SSD

Benchmark Reviews has carefully studied the enthusiast storage industry since SSDs first became available to retail consumers, and up to this point few products have delivered top-end speed representative of the enhancements SSD technology brings to computers: one of which is the Corsair Extreme Series. Tested this past September, we discovered that the multi-layer cell (MLC) Corsair X256 SSD offered the fastest read and write performance available from any Solid State Drive. Sharing similar Indilinx Barefoot construction, the Corsair X-series competes directly with the OCZ Vertex Turbo. However, the Vertex Turbo has had a difficult time actually making it to market and an even tougher time of sharing a similarly attractive price.

Although prices have increased industry-wide over the past several months for all SSD products, Corsair's X-series still offers a better price than the OCZ Turbo SSD series. After factory rebates, the Corsair X32 CMFSSD-32D1 sells for $149.99 which is identical to the 30GB Vertex Turbo for $149.99. Although the Corsair X64 SSD model CMFSSD-64D1 sells for $239.99, OCZ adds a rebate to their 60GB Vertex Turbo to reach $239.99. The price difference become much more evident into the higher capacities, where the 128GB Corsair X128 SSD model CMFSSD-128D1 lists for $445 while OCZ's 120GB OCZSSD2-1VTXT120G lists at $599.

It is the 256GB Corsair X256 SSD (model CMFSSD-256D1) that earns our Editor's Choice Award for top-speed enthusiast MLC SSDs, since their 256GB capacity is available for $739.99 while no high-capacity Vertex Turbo model is available from OCZ.


Honorable Mention: OCZ Vertex SSD

Corsair may have one of the fastest MLC products on the market (for the moment), but OCZ is constantly offering new and unique Solid State Drive products. OCZ has certainly earned the title of SSD innovator, as they've been diligently working on Garbage Collection (GC) and TRIM support to improve long-term performance of these NAND-based devices. The earliest of these products is the OCZ Vertex, an MLC SSD product that Benchmark Reviews tested way back in February 2009 with version 1.0 firmware and no GC or TRIM support. Today the OCZ Vertex SSD offers two different firmware versions: one with GC support for non-TRIM Operating Systems (2000/XP/Vista or RAID array), and another with TRIM support for Windows 7.

As of December 2009, the OCZ Vertex series of SSDs is available at NewEgg and other popular online retailers. A lower-capacity 30GB Vertex OCZSSD2-1VTX30G is sold for $99.99 after rebate, while the 60GB OCZSSD2-1VTX60G sells for $219 after rebate. The larger 120GB version we tested in this articles is offered for $409. A jumbo-sized 250GB version of the Vertex SSD is available for $829.

Performance Storage

Awarded: OCZ Agility-EX SSD

To many performance enthusiasts, MLC SSDs are a cost-cutting shortcut to high-performance results. There are some valid points to be made, which is why single-layer cell (SLC) still has a strong following in the performance storage sector. Making the argument more pointed is the OCZ Agility-EX SSD, which was tested by Benchmark Reviews to perform very close to the high levels of performance we found in the Corsair X256 MLC SSD. The primary benefit of an SLC SSD is the longer estimated MTBF and slightly lower response times.

OCZ has released only a 64GB (60GB advertised) capacity for their Agility-EX series SSD. The OCZ OCZSSD2-1AGTEX60G Solid State Drive is currently sold at NewEgg for $409. The other alternatives are Intel's X-25E Extreme SLC SSD which sells for $799.99, although the Kingston SSD-Now E series clone costs slightly less at $715. Doing the math our decision is simple: OCZ makes a faster SLC SSD that costs almost half the price, and deserves our 2009 Editor's Choice Award for doing so.


Enterprise Storage

Awarded: Seagate Cheetah 15K.7 SAS

Being competitive in the storage industry isn't easy, especially with Solid State Drive products quickly taking up shelf space. Seagate has been the industry leader in Enterprise-class storage solutions for over two decades, and their leading products have dominated the landscape from SCSI connected hard drives to their latest Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) disks. Benchmark Reviews tested the Seagate Cheetah 15K.7 SAS Hard Drive ST3600057SS this past October, and confirmed that spinning magnetic media still has a home in the corporate market segment.

For reference, not many other SAS drives exist, and some of the closest competition (the WD VelociRaptor for example) is nowhere near the same level. Because spinning disk media loses performance as in nears the inner-most sectors, it's difficult to compare HDDs to SSDs unless you disregard the linear loss of speed. The 600GB ST3600057SS model offered 201/168 MBps maximum read/write in Everest, followed by 208/207 MBps in Crystal DiskMark, then 199/182 MBps peak speed in HD-Tach, and finally ATTO Benchmark scored 204/203 MBps. Taken in as a whole, the Seagate Cheetah 15K.7 SAS hard drive ST3600057SS appears to perform at an approximate speed of 200 MBps read and 180 MBps write. These are the same numbers many SSD products fail to achieve.

Although it's uncertain how long SAS drives will continue to dominate the Enterprise segment, it's certain that SSD's won't match capacity anytime soon. Even once they finally near the storage capacity, SSDs will still be cost-prohibitive for most applications. For only $645 the Seagate Cheetah 15K.7 SAS hard drive, model ST3600057SS, was is avialable from several online retailers. If your business requires high-capacity/high-performance data storage, the Seagate Cheetah 15K.7 is an industry-proven solution, and our pick for the Enterprise Storage Editor's Choice Award.


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