64 GB Solid State Drive Round-Up
By Gabriel Torres on February 11, 2010
Solid state drives (SSDs) are now somewhat affordable for the user that wants to boost the performance of his or her computer. Today we are going to review the latest release from five different manufacturers (Intel, Kingston, Mushkin, OCZ and Patriot), with prices ranging from USD 200 to USD 300.
Before going on, we'd highly suggest you to read our Anatomy of SSD Units tutorial, which provides all background information you should know about SSDs. All units included in this round-up are based on MLC memory chips.
Sixty four gigs don't seem a lot, but at least it allows you to come with a hybrid solution: installing the operating system and programs on the SSD and using a large hard disk drive for storing data such as movies, songs, pictures, etc.
In the table below we compare the units we are going to review. All units use the 2.5" form factor and SATA-300 interface.
Intel X25-M is an oddball with its 80 GB capacity instead of 64 GB. This "strange" number happens because the controller chip used on this particular SSD divides memory in 10 channels, each channel having 8 GB (thus 10 x 8 GB = 80 GB). We decided to include this unit in our review because we think this model fits better with a 64 GB round-up than with a 128 GB round-up. OCZ labels its product as a "60 GB" device but it is in fact a 64 GB unit.
Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review, except for Mushkin Io, which we used the price being displayed at the manufacturer's website.
In the table below we provide a more in-depth technical overview of the reviewed units. For some reason most chip manufacturers don't put on their websites specific information of these chips, so we are linking only what we found.
16 MB (Samsung K4S281632I-UC60)
Kingston V+ Series
128 MB (Micron MT46H32M32LFCM-6 IT)
64 MB (Hynix H55S5122DFA)
64 MB (Hynix H55S5122DFA)
64 MB (Elpida S51321DBH-60T)
Below we show you some pictures of the SSD units we included in our round-up.
During our tests we used the configuration listed below and the only variable component between each benchmarking session was the SSD being tested.
We adopted a 3% error margin. So, performance differences below 3% cannot be considered meaningful. In other words, products where the performance difference is below 3% must be considered as having similar performance.
As you could see in the previous page, we measured performance using three different programs, CrystalDiskMark, DiskSpeed32 and HD Tune. On this page we will analyze the results provided by CrystalDiskMark, while in the next pages we will discuss the results brought by the other two programs.
It is important to note that we connected the SSDs to the motherboard SATA-600 port, to make sure performance wouldn't be limited by the use of a SATA-300 port.
We left this program with its default configuration, meaning it benchmarked each SSD using five simultaneous threads using a file size of 100 MB. Let's see the results.
On sequential read Intel X25-M is the best SSD around, with Kingston V+ Series practically with the same performance level. The unit from Intel was, on average, 14% faster than the other three units, which achieved a similar performance between themselves. Kingston V+ Series achieved a performance 11% higher than the other three units, on average.
As for sequential write, the situation got inverted. Intel X25-M was the worse unit on this test, with Kingston V+ Series being the fastest: 27% faster than Mushkin Io, 34% faster than Patriot Torqx, 35% faster than OCZ Vertex and 156% faster than Intel X25-M. As you can see on the graph, Patriot Torqx and OCZ Vertex achieved the same performance level on this test.
On random read using 512 KB blocks Kingston V+ Series was the champ, beating Intel X25-M, which is remarkable. It was 29% faster than Intel X25-M, 36% faster than OCZ Vertex and Patriot Torqx and 41% faster than Mushkin Io. Here again the units from Patriot and OCZ got the same performance.
On random write using 512 KB blocks Kingston V+ Series was the best SSD, with a performance 45% higher than Mushkin Io, 53% higher than OCZ Vertex, 54% higher than Patriot Torqx and 133% higher than Intel X25-M.
On random read using very small blocks (4 KB), OCZ Vertex was the winner, being 30% faster than Patriot Torqx, 32% faster than Mushkin Io, 48% faster than Intel X25-M and 59% faster than Kingston V+ Series.
On random write using very small blocks (4 KB) Intel X25-M was the fastest unit, being 58% faster than Kingston V+ Series, 322% faster than Mushkin Io, 367% faster than OCZ Vertex and 370% faster than Patriot Torqx.
Let's now see the results from DiskSpeed32, which measures performance on a different way, sequentially reading all sectors from the storage device.
First, let’s take a look at the burst transfer rate results. This result shows the maximum transfer rate between the SATA port on the motherboard and the controller inside the SSD.
Here Patriot Torqx was the fastest drive, closely followed by Kingston V+ Series. It was 6% faster than OCZ Vertex, 11% faster than Mushkin Io and 84% faster than Intel X25-M.
But the most import result is the average transfer rate. Here the winner was Intel X25-M, closely followed by Patriot Torqx. The unit from Intel was 7% faster than Mushkin Io, 8% faster than Kingston V+ Series and 11% faster than OCZ Vertex.
On the maximum transfer rate results, Intel X25-M was once the fastest SSD, being 14% faster than Kingston V+ Series, 18% faster than Mushkin Io, 19% faster than Patriot Torqx and 27% faster than OCZ Vertex.
On the minimum transfer rate results, Intel X25-M achieved the worst result, with the other drives being between 54% and 67% faster. Patriot Torqx, Mushkin Io and Kingston V+ Series achieved a similar performance, with OCZ Vertex being 6% faster than these drives, on average.
Now we have the results provided by HD Tune program.
On the burst transfer rate test, Intel X25-M achieved a performance lower than the other units, which were between 85% and 102% faster. The drive that achieved the highest burst transfer rate was Patriot Torqx, closely followed by OCZ Vertex. It was 6% faster than Mushkin Io and 9% faster than Kingston V+ Series. It is always good to keep in mind that this is the maximum transfer rate between the drive and the motherboard and may not have any impact on the drive's overall performance.
On the average transfer rate as measured by HD Tune, Patriot Torqx was the fastest drive, closely followed by Intel X25-M. It was 14% faster than OCZ Vertex, 15% faster than Mushkin Io and 19% faster than Kingston V+ Series.
On the maximum transfer rate as measured by HD Tune, Patriot Torqx was again the fastest drive, being 8% faster than Intel X25-M, 13% faster than OCZ Vertex, 15% faster than Mushkin Io and 22% faster than Kingston V+ Series.
And on the minimum transfer rate test Patriot Torqx was again the winner, being 11% faster than OCZ Vertex and Mushkin Io, 21% faster than Kingston V+ Series and 38% faster than Intel X25-M.
Access time is another important measurement. It measures the time the storage unit delays to start delivering data after the computer has asked a given data. It is measured in the order of milliseconds (ms, which is equal to 0.001 s) and the lower this value, the better.
While hard disk drives have access times in the other of tens of milliseconds, solid state drives, being 100% electronic components, have an access time close to zero. All drives on both HD Tune and DiskSpeed32 achieved an access time of 0.1 ms.
The word on the street is that Intel SSD is the fastest around. Well, there is some truth to it: Intel X25-M is the king for sequential reads, at least in two out of three programs we used (on the third program Patriot Torqx was the best, follow by Intel X-25M in second). But under other scenarios other units are emerging victorious. On sequential writes and random writes using 512 KB blocks of data, Kingston V+ Series proved to be the fastest SSD in town. And for random reads using small 4 KB blocks of data, OCZ Vertex was the winner. For random writes using small 4 KB blocks Intel X25-M regained its leadership, followed by Kingston V+ Series.
So several companies are being able to come close or even surpass Intel X25-M's performance. This is great news and that is all what competition is about.
But what do these numbers mean? What 64 GB should you bring home?
Intel X25-M is obviously on the radar, but it is the most expensive SSD on the 64 GB range. Even though it stores 25% more data than 64 GB units, it is still far from the reach from Budget Joe.
All the other SSDs we reviewed are very good options – none of them can be labeled as a "bad" or "flawed" product – but the one we think has the best cost/benefit ratio is Kingston V+ Series. It not only surpassed Intel X25-M in some scenarios as it is also the cheapest SSD unit we included in our round-up, believed it or not.