Controversy, Corsair Responds

Last week SandForce called me to reveal something troubling. While version 3.0.1 of its SF-1200 firmware provided SF-1500 like performance on all drives, the mass production version of the firmware (3.0.5) would cap small file random write performance in line with the SF-1200 spec. This applies to all SF-1200 drives except for OCZ’s Vertex 2.

SandForce’s argument is that only version 3.0.5 is ready for mass production, however Corsair had already begun selling drives with version 3.0.1. Meaning Corsair’s Force series SSDs being sold on the market today perform like OCZ’s Vertex LE and Vertex 2, and not like the Agility 2.

The 3.0.1 firmware apparently had a reliability issue with a power management state, however Corsair believes it has circumvented the problem by disabling the state. This comes at the expense of increased power consumption, but it also means that Corsair has no reason to upgrade to the 3.0.5 firmware on its drives.

Corsair appears committed to keeping 3.0.1 on its drives unless there’s a real benefit to move to 3.0.5. This does pose a problem for OCZ and SandForce’s exclusivity agreement stating that only the Vertex 2 would ship with SF-1500 performance, however that’s an issue for those two to work out.

As always, I’m continuing to test Corsair’s 100GB Force drive to see if there are any issues in real world applications. It’s currently installed in my work notebook (MacBook Pro) which gets used quite a bit. As you well know, if I run into any problems I’ll post about them right away.

The Test

CPU Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Chipset: Intel X58 + Marvell SATA 6Gbps PCIe
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel IMSM 8.9
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64

OCZ's Agility 2 and the SF-1200 Sequential Read/Write Speed
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  • johnlewis - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    Thanks for another great article. I'm patiently waiting for a (decent) 512 GB SSD in my budget so I can just throw everything besides media files on it; 256 GB might work, if I wasn't so damn lazy. Plus, I'd rather have a half full 512 GB drive than a 90+% full 256 GB drive. Reply
  • retnuh - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    90%+ full 256gb, I hear ya. I've been digging over as many SSD reviews as I can in the last couple days. I WANT to replace my 256gb 5400rpm in my notebook, but just can't quite squeeze everything into 200gb. Reply
  • gadgetguy10 - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    I am waiting until the price is at least down to $1 per gigabyte for a decent ssd. I figure I can get by with about 128gb of space. Reply
  • retnuh - Thursday, April 22, 2010 - link

    my problem is the ~120gb of development VMs, I can't get rid of them, but since I'm in vmware all day a SSD would be heaven sent for general performance. I'm keeping things pretty slim at ~190gb out of 256gb, but that 200gb mark is just too tight. I'd buy a 300gb agility 2 today if it existed. Reply
  • 529th - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    I thought the OWC controllers were discovered to have the SF 1200 controllers?

    Also, can we get a review on the 50g Vertex LE that are selling at New Egg, Thanks
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - link

    Those numbers are from the older OWC Mercury which used a limited run of SF-1500. The newer drives going forward are SF-1200 based. I'll be phasing them out of our graphs as a result.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • dmayes - Thursday, April 22, 2010 - link

    When are we going to see benchmarks on the new intel driver that's faster than microsoft's driver and it supports trim with raid and we shouldn't go off of just prices MSRP but actual newegg prices and maybe even have a low to high # for example Intel X25-M Mainstream SSDSA2MH160G2R5 ($400 - $489). Also include the 80gb version specially since its around $215 - $225 Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, April 22, 2010 - link

    I agree on the prices... Street prices of OCZ's Indillix drives are much lower than that Corsair Nova for instance, since OCZ ALWAYS has $20-30 rebates going on their drives (and they're just cheaper to begin with)... OCZ's Nova equivalent, the Solid 2, is like $300 flat after MIR.

    Intel's newer SATA drivers don't enable TRIM in RAID, just w/RAID... You can have a SSD w/TRIM support and two HDD in RAID on the same controller with said drivers (something you couldn't do before), but you still can't RAID two SSD and retain TRIM support. AFAIK they didn't dramatically alter performance either but if you've got a link to tests that say otherwise I'd love to see it... I haven't bothered to install them yet.
    Reply
  • eaw999 - Thursday, April 22, 2010 - link

    but you do have to admit it is strange that imsm 8.9 was used for the testbed instead of irst 9.6. 8.9 doesn't support trim at all! one has to wonder how this might affect (or not) the benchmark scores. Reply
  • dmayes - Thursday, April 22, 2010 - link

    "The SandForce SF-1200 controller used in the A-DATA S599 with Intel’s latest RST 9.6 drivers is the fastest 2.5 inch solid state drive for Windows users at this time. This combination is able to outperform every other drive we have tested to date in all around performance." Source tweaktown but they compared it to another 1200 drive instead of using the same ssd with both drivers. This is what intel says "Is there TRIM support for RAID configurations?

    Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 9.6 supports TRIM in AHCI mode and in RAID mode for drives that are not part of a RAID volume.

    A defect was filed to correct the information in the Help file that states that TRIM is supported on RAID volumes."
    Reply

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