We have a lot to cover in the conclusion today, but most of the information I want to relay to you has to do with the price / performance ratio.
The OCZ Agility 3 240GB I reviewed was tore apart in the conclusion. When I was writing the review the price was higher than its MSRP, the drive wouldn't fit in any of the notebooks I own or any I had on hand from friends who drop theirs off for a refresh and virus removal, and the drive doesn't come with a desktop adapter bracket. The final Value score for the Agility 3 was scored at a 40 and I have even recommended people buy a Vertex 2 rather than a SATA III Agility 3.
The Corsair Force 3 is built a lot like the Agility 3. Both drives use SF-2281 controllers, IMFT 25nm asynchronous flash and the result is performance drops like a brick as soon as a realistic amount of data is put on the drive. That's where the similarities stop, though. The Corsair Force 3 costs less than the OCZ Agility 3, already fits in your notebook without an exchange and comes with a desktop adapter bracket. With so few SATA III notebooks on the market, most of these drives are headed straight to desktops. If your drive doesn't come with a bracket then you are most likely going to pay for one.
Then there is that whole brick dropping thing. At this point in time I'm going to push the issue and tell you what the rest of the SSD review world won't, just look at all the awards already given blindly to products where the reviewer didn't explore performance degradation or even tell you that a product might not even fit in your run of the mill notebook. The asynchronous flash SandForce SF-2281 controlled SSDs are not the same as the more expensive drives using synchronous or toggle flash. All of these drives are being marketed with nearly identical specifications with charts that show nearly identical performance. The truth is a much different story.
Now that I've told you what these drives aren't, let me tell you what they are. The Corsair Force 3 120GB we looked at today is available from Newegg for 179.99 after a 30 Dollar mail-in-rebate. Newegg lists the Corsair GT, a drive with the same SandForce SF-2281 controller, but paired with Toshiba Toggle Flash for 289.99. The price difference is around 110 USD for the same capacity; this is a significant difference for a 120GB drive and enough to really make a difference. At this time last year SandForce SF-1200 based drives like the Corsair Force cost around 200 to 215 USD for 120GB models. Our fill test tells us that the new Force 3 120GB is a little faster than the original Force 120GB when filled to 50% of capacity. So, you get a little more real world performance and pay a bit less. What's not to like about that?
The Corsair Force 3 sits in the middle between last year's fastest products and this year's fastest products. Performance wise, these drives lean closer to last year's offerings while being marketed as closer to this year's flagship performance products. This is where we take issue and feel you should be informed prior to finding the real difference. Obviously Corsair isn't trying to sidestep the performance degradation issue from pairing the SF-2281 with async flash; they sent us the Force 3 knowing we use the fill test. Corsair actually played a role in helping us develop the test to showcase the capabilities of their Performance 3 products.
What does this say about Corsair? In the introduction I told you about how quickly Corsair reacted when an issue was found on their first batch of Force 3's. In the conclusion I pointed out that Corsair knew we'd actually review their drive and not give it a quick glance over like so many others. Corsair is the company that I wish all others were like. If there were a benchmark for this sort of thing, Corsair would routinely achieve top marks.
SandForce: The Phantom Menace or A New Hope? was the title to a chapter of an article I wrote last year. I can now answer that question and use history to predict the future. The first SandForce SF-1200 120GB drives I reviewed last year scored around 37K Marks in PCMark Vantage's collective HDD tests. The last SF-1200 120GB drive I tested scored 47K Marks. In a years' time SandForce significantly increased the performance of their drives through firmware updates. At the same time Team SandForce products saturated the market with extremely high speed drives that lowered prices. In the same time it took SandForce to boost performance, companies like Corsair lowered the cost of ownership by 50%. You can count on SandForce and Corsair to increase the performance of the Force 3 and other async equipped drives; that's what they do.
The Corsair Force 3 120GB at its current 179 USD price point, desktop adapter bracket and company ethics of putting customers before profit is a good bargain. You won't get 550MB/s in the real world or even Force GT with Toshiba Toggle flash speeds when transferring files around, but you get ultra-low access times that you feel while doing everything else. So much emphasis is placed on big numbers that look good on spread sheets and specification charts while so little placed on what really counts. The Corsair Force 3 is all about giving you the feel of instant action when double clicking and giving it at a price point that's affordable.
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