Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Corsair launched the Performance 3 in three capacity sizes; 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. Today we're focusing mainly on the flagship 256GB model. As the flagship with the largest flash, its 480MB/s read and 320MB/s write speeds are the highest advertised speeds available on the market today. The 128GB and 64GB read and write speeds are lower than the 256GB drive we are reviewing here today. We'll have a full review of the 128GB drive and a RAID Report on a pair of 128GB drives coming soon.
Things aren't all that peachy in this new high speed world. We now know why so many companies have been shy about releasing SATA 6G SSDs. In order to reach the full potential of the flagship 256GB drive you need to use a full speed 6G SATA port. At this time you are pretty much limited to Sandy Bridge or a high performance SATA / SAS 6G controller card like the LSI 9260-8i that we routinely use for RAID articles. At this time the most common form of 6G is found on X58 motherboards that are paired with the Marvell 9128 SATA controller. Unfortunately the X58/Marvell combination won't offer enough bandwidth in most cases to run the Performance 3 256GB at it maximum potential.
You might have caught the 'most cases' part there. At CES 2011 we learned that GIGABYTE has worked some magic on the new G1 Gaming Killer motherboards, but at this time it is untested by our labs. We'll run the Performance 3 256GB drive on several different SATA 6G controllers and even SATA 3G from a native Intel chipset to see how it fairs in different combinations today.
Going down the list, one area that sticks out is the power consumption rating. We've seen SandForce drives rated as low as .35 amps, but the Corsair Performance 3 256GB is rated at a full 1 amp. Power ratings are usually a nice round number and we rarely focus on them, but if a drive is rated at taking up more than 2x the amount of power, then it is something to consider when using an SSD in a notebook.
The rest of the information listed is pretty standard for SSDs. Corsair lists the high shock rating and 1.5 million hours of mean time between failure. Many SSDs carry similar ratings.
Not listed on the specification sheet is the Performance 3 Series' feature list. On Corsair's website we found this statement:
Most solid-state drives are fast right out of the box, but many of those same drives slow down over time. Corsair Performance 3 Series SSDs offer more robust background garbage collection for consistent read and write speeds from day 1 to day 101.
If you currently own a SSD then you know that SSDs slow down as they fill with data. Corsair is claiming the Performance 3 doesn't slow down. This is a huge announcement and something that has never been claimed before with SSDs. As a matter of fact, this opens the door to a new genre of performance testing and a whole new level in which SSDs need to be looked at.
I've said in the past that storage product performance isn't cut and dry with just IOPS or Sequential performance. The two need to be looked at together, at the same time. Maybe in 2020 we will have Microsoft Excel 3D Edition where performance graphs can be holograms and spun around to see the full picture. That graph will actually need to gain a new level after today; performance at filled capacity. We've actually been running tests like this over the last year, but haven't gone live with any of the findings. We are still in the middle of validating a standard.
In the introduction we talked about garbage collection and stated that RAID and TRIM don't mix. Corsair recognizes that many enthusiasts prefer to reach higher levels of performance by purchasing two smaller SSDs rather than one large SSD. Solid state drives scale very well in RAID, at least at first. Over time the lack of TRIM slows most SSDs down and the user needs to cleanse the drives and start over with a fresh RAID array build. Breaking a strip is a big hassle unless you like backing up, scrubbing and then restoring your operating system. What fun, right? - Let's spend all day regaining lost performance!
The Corsair Performance 3 was built in a manner that will eliminate your spring cleaning. The combination of aggressive garbage collection and the high speed all the time features make the Performance 3 the best high performance RAID array drive on the market, at least for long term use. We'll put those claims to the test in the RAID Report Article coming soon. Today we can focus on the single drive performance and features that make the Corsair Performance 3 the SSD to adapt at this time.
We'll cover the cost in the conclusion; there are some issues there that are out of Corsair's hands, but not off limits of my opinion.