It would be difficult for most people to imagine the amount of testing that goes into a product review. I think most reading this have run a benchmark on their system before, but few can really grasp what it means to systematically run test after test without varying order or timeline. We run a lot of tests, several more than what makes it into a final review. Once you master the art of testing and the discipline of keeping a dedicated test machine, certain patterns emerge. Some of these show up in the tests that are published and sometimes they show up in others. When a test shows something of value and isn't redundant with another test, we typically bring that test into the review. This can sometimes be to explain something we saw in another test or at times add a way to look at a product.
In June 2010 at Computex we were given the opportunity to test an early sample of the ADATA S501. The S501 uses the Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 controller, the same used in the Corsair Performance 3 and Intel 510 Series. In our post review testing we noticed that even after pounding the drive with our entire test suite the drive actually increased both read and write performance by a small margin. Typically, as a new drive gets 'broken in', performance decreases; this is called bringing the drive to a steady state.
We've always liked the idea of steady state testing, but found it is difficult to determine just how much pretesting needs to be conducted before a drive is at that point. It has been far easier to start with a fresh drive to record data and progressively work through the tests, always in the same order to keep uniformity in the testing procedure and performance analysis. To put it simply, if we beat the hell out of each drive at the same rate we retain apples to apples comparisons across all products.
When the ADATA S501 performed the impossible, we were caught off guard and left to think about what happened for nine months. After purchasing three Corsair Performance 3 drives we had everything needed to unravel the mystery and even found another oddity.