RAID 0 is often looked down upon by the enterprise community since it lacks redundancy, but for the enthusiast looking to get just a little bit more the most basic form of RAID is a god send. For many years I have used the power of RAID 0 to enhance my computing and gaming experience. The benefits are so over the top sometimes it feels like I am cheating, and sometimes I may just be. One good example is the Battlefield series. Using very fast hard drives in RAID will allow you to get into an online game of Battlefield faster than anyone else. At that point you can hop in a plane, fly over and take out the other team's planes and helicopters before anyone else is even in the game. Keeping the other team pinned on the ground has a huge advantage in your team's strategy. The trick is finding a server that will allow you to keep doing this over in over, because with RAID 0 you can do it every time.
RAID 0 has many other advantages outside of gaming. Any application that can benefit from increased data transfer is significantly faster. Loading large pictures in Photoshop, movie files in Sony's Vegas movie editing program and countless other prosumer applications increase your productivity. Let's not forget that even Windows will operate much smoother when the operating system is on an array.
Today we will take a look at two of the fastest consumer solid state drives in RAID 0 arrays. The Intel X25-M has held the speed crown for many months and by pairing the Intel and Kingston X25-M with the latest firmware we will see just what the pair can do in RAID 0. The challenger features the new Indilinx controller that is quickly becoming the new standard in consumer grade SSD. RunCore sent us two 128GB drives from their new Pro IV line and let me tell you, these things are hella fast! Both sets of drives will be run on our lightning fast Areca 1231ML RAID controller. Let's get right to the benchmarks!
Test System Setup
Processors: AMD Opteron 2356 (2.3GHz Quad-Core) x2
Motherboard: Tyan S2915-E (Supplied by Tyan)
Memory: Kingston KVR667D2S4P5/2G x4 (Supplied by Kingston)
Graphics Card: XFX 8800 GTX (Supplied by XFX USA)
Enclosure: Lian Li V2000
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12DO (Supplied by Noctua)
SATA Controller: Areca ARC-1231ML (Supplied by Areca)
SAS Controller: Areca ARC-1680i (Supplied by Areca)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate X64
The Areca 1231ML RAID controller will be handling the arrays for both the Intel / Kingston X25-M and RunCore Pro IV arrays. When it comes to capacity the RunCore setup has a distinct advantage over the Intel array, 256GB compared to Intel's 160GB. Things change once inside the OS, though; the Intel drives have a useable 160GB but the RunCore drives once formatted shrink to 240GB.
On the price front Intel has an advantage since they recently lowered the price on their X25-M Series and the RunCore Pro IV drives were just launched. The Intel array has an MSRP of 780 USD while the RunCore Pro IV is 960 USD.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
- Benchmark: measures the performance
- Info: shows detailed information
- Health: checks the health status by using SMART
- Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
- Temperature display
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
In the read test we see that the Intel X25-M has a slight advantage. The RunCore array kept giving me a dip in the performance at the beginning of the test and it hurt the results when everything was averaged out. The performance dip took the array down to only 310 MB/s so it will not be noticeable under real world conditions.
Our synthetic write test shows the RunCore Pro IV doubling the write speed of the X25-M array. I rarely use HD Tune to look at access times since it is not as accurate as EVEREST, but here you can see that the RunCore array holds a significant advantage in access times. Let's take a look at those EVEREST numbers and see what is going on.
Benchmarks - EVEREST Random Access Time
EVEREST Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Everest Ultimate and Corporate Edition offer several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
The Intel X25-M RAID 0 array has a small advantage over the RunCore Pro IV array when it comes to read access.
The write access times of both arrays are nearly identical. The RunCore array gains .01ms in the maximum test and a couple of percentage points in CPU utilization. The RunCore array also managed to perform the test much faster than the Intel array, so that would explain the CPU utilization increase.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. These tests are based on real world applications that many of us use daily.
HDD1 - Windows Defender
HDD2 - Gaming
HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery
HDD4 - Vista Startup
HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker
HDD6 - Windows Media Center
HDD7 - Windows Media Player
HDD8 - Application Loading
In our real world test that shows both of the RAID 0 arrays and the drives on their own with the nForce 3500 controller, we see that the Intel drives keep a solid lead in all of the tests. The RunCore Pro IV drives do a very good job at keeping up, much better than any other MLC solid state drives we have tested to date. No matter how you spin it, the Intel drives do retain the performance lead in these tests.
Benchmarks - Passmark
Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.
The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.
The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.
I was expecting to see the Workstation patterns scale much better than what they did on the RunCore array, but it just didn't happen. In the server tests it looks like the Intel X25-M is still difficult to beat with prosumer drives.
I was impressed with the way both drives scaled in nearly all of the performance tests. RAID 0 is an enthusiasts array and we rarely get to see flagship products tested like this. Luckily everything just dropped in place for this article to be written. Intel, Kingston and RunCore all get a big Thank You from TweakTown for their support.
As it sits now the Intel X25-M 10 channel controller is still the performance king and it looks like it will retain that crown for at least another three months. The new Indilinx controller is a solid competitor but when it comes to absolute best performance Intel is still the way to go.
RunCore has a solid product in the Pro IV drives. They are much faster than the JMicron drives we tested in the past and do not require hours of OS optimization to become usable. Just like in our stand alone review of the Pro IV series, the price is difficult to swallow when compared to Intel's consumer drives. In time the price will come down. As I sit here writing this article you can't even buy the Pro IV drives, so give it some time.
All things considered, either set of drives on their own make for great operating system boot drives. Once you move into RAID 0 with a pair of drives it is nothing but smiles.
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