G.SKILL PHOENIX PRO 60GB SATA II SSD – SUPER FAST With added SandForce Goodness
THE SANDFORCE CONTROLLER –IMPROVING PERFORMANCE
Sandforce is a recent entrant in the world of SSDs. They don’t manufacture drives or circuit boards, only controllers. But the performance of their controllers has taken the industry by storm. Just about everyone who wants to build a performance SSD has signed up with Sandforce. It’s like 3dfx all over again. Remember 3dfx initially sold their Voodoo processor to manufacturers –they didn’t make any cards, Sandforce is primarily following a similar business model. Also recall that until 3dfx got into manufacturing it was very successful. As long as Sandforce realizes that it can be the industry leader if it continues to focus on its core business, I am bet that Sandforce will have a better future than 3dfx did.
SANDFORCE SECRET –DURACLASSTM
Sandforce bunches some technologies together under the umbrella Duraclass.
These technologies help overcome some of the glaring shortcomings of an SSD. These technologies are listed below (taken from Sandforce website):
DuraWrite, which optimizes the number of program cycles to the flash effectively extending flash rated endurance by 20x or more when compared to standard controllers.
Powerful flash media error correction (ECC) and RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements), which deliver an orders-of-magnitude improvement in drive reliability versus today’s best enterprise HDDs and SSDs. The result is single-drive RAID-like protection and recovery from a potentially catastrophic flash block failures – all while avoiding the inefficiencies of traditional RAID.
Advanced Wear Leveling and Monitoring - Optimized wear leveling algorithms, further extending flash endurance
Advanced Read/Program Disturb Management, which safeguards against errant re-programming of cells during read and program cycles
Recycler, which intelligently performs garbage collection with the least impact on flash endurance.
Each of these features helps improve SSD performance beyond those of the competition.
Durawrite helps overcome the problem of write ampiflication. SSDs have to write more data to their memory chips than what the OS passes it. This is because of way data is organized and written to in an SSD. Usually the amount of data that has to be written can 10 times what the OS had passed on. Average life of a flash IC is about 10,000 erase/over-write cycles. This implies that the more you write, the quicker you’ll have to re-write (as you run out of space). It also means that the entire process is slowed down as the amount written is amplified. Durawrite actually helps convert ampiflication into write reduction. Sandforce reckons that their write ampiflication is .5x for all non compressed data.
RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) is the flash memory equalent of RAID. It functions just like RAID i.e. helps improve data reliability but reducing failure rates.
3. WEAR LEVELLING & MODELLING
SSDs also have a problem with the way data is written. If the data is written to the same flash IC, it would degrade faster than other memory chips. A technique called wear leveling helps get over this by distributing flash memory access over the drive.
SSDs can improve garbage collection by using the OS dependent TRIM command.
5. OTHER DESIRABLE FEATURES –ENCRYPTION
Sandforce controllers do on the fly encryption. This adds a layer of safety to your data
6. OTHER DESIRABLE FEATURES –CONSISTENT SSD PERFORMANCE
Most of the technologies mentioned help preserve SSD performance as it is used. There is obviously a perceptible difference, but even with this amount of degradation they are faster than the fastest hard disk drives.
The specs are taken from G.Skill’s website. The important numbers are represented in bold. Benchmarking procedures will test validity of G.Skill’s claim to these numbers.
TESTING AN SSD –WHAT NOT TO TEST
The most important parameter that defines SSD performance is the Random 4KB write numbers. As things stand today a SSD will primarily be used as a OS + productivity apps (read MS Office) drive.
This performance is what separates boys from men, heroes from also rans, trash from gold.
Another factor that needs to be kept in mind is how consistent is the performance of the hard disk over time. Again the way SSD interacts with data causes it to slow down as you fill it up, delete stuff, and add more stuff to it.
The tests done on the drive will focus on:
- 1. Sequential read and write performance
2. Random read and write performance
3. New vs Old SSD performance
4. Simulated real world testing (PC Mark Vantage)
The programs used to test these parameters include:
- 1. ATTO Disk Benchmark -V2.46
2. Crystal Disk Mark –V3.00
3. HD Tune Pro –V4.50
4. PC Mark Vantage
To test “New vs Old” SSD performance the drive will go through real world use and retested using ATTO disk benchmark V2.46