It's been quite some time since we've published a RAID Report, but don't think we forgot about the users looking to get the most out of their systems. SandForce has produced a really good SSD controller that is very resistant to "SSD Fragmentation". The core product of the consumer SandForce SF-1200 is the enterprise SF-1500 controller. Enterprise customers almost always design and use RAID for redundancy in their servers, but we have still yet to receive a hardware RAID solution that is able to pass along the TRIM command.
Knowing that TRIM would not be supported, SandForce designed a controller that was able to function at near peak performance even without TRIM commands being passed to the drives. This foresight helped SandForce build the highest performing enterprise class SSD on the market and the technology carried over into the consumer line as well. Purchasing a High IOPS SandForce consumer SSD like the Corsair Force Series gives consumers around 98% of the functionality of the much more expensive enterprise drives.
Today we are going to take a pair of consumer class Corsair Force 90GB SSDs with a Newegg price of 189.99 each and pair them in RAID 0 on an enthusiast motherboard. If everything goes as planned, the two drives will deliver 180GB of capacity and speeds unmatched by a single SSD on the market.
Let's start things out with a closer look at the Corsair F90 and then jump right into testing this pair of world class SSDs.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
A few days ago we ran a full review of a single Corsair F90 on TweakTown and found that the drive was a solid performer. The specifications show the same; Corsair claims 285MB/s read and 275MB/s write speeds. Our ATTO benchmark numbers ran just a little shy from those claims, but we were within 2% on a single drive.
The Force Series comes with a three year warranty and is available from several online and retail sellers. Newegg at the time of writing showed stock on hand and the F90 like the pair we are testing today was listed at 189.99 USD.
In testing we found that the F90 was packaged very well and also included a desktop adapter bracket making the Force Series perfect for desktop RAID.
Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI, Corsair. and Noctua.
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test productsin this article.
We used the built in Intel SATA RAID controller from the GIGABYTE X58A-UD7 for testing a pair of Corsair Force 90GB drives.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used:2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
The Corsair F90 drives in RAID 0 on the Intel ICH scale very well. Here we see that both read and write performance is nearly doubled. Our testing shows that two drives in RAID 0 are able to read at 551MB/s and write at 544MB/s.
Making things even better is the 4k performance. In ATTO we see that the RAID array is pushing data at near peak levels all the way down to the 4k block size.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used:4.00
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
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.
With platter drives we rarely see benchmark scores double in a two drive RAID 0 configuration, but with SSDs it's fairly common to see the numbers nearly double. Here we see just that with the average read speed from across the array coming very close to doubling the performance.
The write speeds actually do much better and more than double the performance of a single drive. A pair of Corsair F90's in RAID 0 on the Intel ICH that nearly everyone has built into their computer now is a very good way to update even an older system.
Benchmarks - Everest Random Access Time
Everest Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used:4.60
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.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in write the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron.
Solid State Drives also do very well in RAID 0 when it comes to latency. With platter drives the latency usually nearly doubles, something that users want to avoid. With SSDs that is not the case. Here we see that the two Corsair F90's in RAID 0 keep the same maximum latency and only the average increases, but only by a microsecond.
The write latency with the RAID'd pair actually decreased by a large margin under RAID 0.
Benchmarks - Crystal Disk Mark
Version and / or Patch Used:3.0 Technical Preview
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 is not available to the public yet, but the Technical Preview does allow us to test 4K performance at queue depths of 4 and 32 in addition to 1. The current release Crystal Disk Mark only shows us QD 1.
In the ATTO test we were able to see the 4k results at a queue depth of 4 and were surprised at how well the RAID 0 pair F90's light up the chart in that block size. Here we get a chance to see the 4k numbers at single, 4 and 32 depths.
The QD:32 numbers were very high, but sadly we rarely see depths this high outside of server environments. As users start to get familiar with their new SSD array, they will start to multitask more and the chart shows that the more you work the array, the faster it will go.
The 4K write speeds are a bit of a different story. Here we see that from the start you get incredible 4k write performance even with a single request to write data. As the commands increase the speed decreases slightly.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used:1.0.0
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. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
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
The real world tests give us a look at the most common tasks we use every day, but it also shows just how far Windows is lagging behind the hardware. There are a couple of places where Windows takes advantage of the massive speed increase from a RAID 0 array; Windows Movie Market and Media Center are two of the biggest benefactors.
The Media Center results were not graphed because they made the rest of the chart out of proportion. Basically, the Media Center test was off the chart, even more so than the Movie Maker test.
Benchmarks - AS SSD
AS SSD Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358
Developer Homepage:Alex Intelligent Software
Product Homepage:Alex Intelligent Software
AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.
In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).
Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.
- Copy Benchmark
While copying files from one area of the drive to another we see that the RAID array sees a significant performance boost with all of the tests doubling performance.
Benchmarks - Passmark
Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests
Version and / or Patch Used:6.1
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.
Some of the biggest performance gains when RAIDing a pair of Corsair F90 drives comes from the server tests. Here we see both the File and Web Server tests really going deep for the touchdown. Tasks like these are why SandForce designed the 1000 Series to begin with and you can clearly see why SandForce and their partners like Corsair have made such an impact on the server market in 2010.
If the easiest way to update an aging computer is by adding a solid state drive, then the easiest way to update a modern computer is to add two solid state drives in a low cost RAID array. The logic is quite easy to follow since your storage subsystem, even with a gang of SSDs in RAID, is still the slowest part of your computer. Of course, you are not going to see big frames per second improvements in games or gain the ability to calculate PI any faster, but what you are gaining is more important than either of those things.
With SSDs you gain instant access to everything, from Explorer to Photoshop. Gone are the days of the hourglass and all of the annoying pauses that by themselves are irritating, but when the time is calculated and a sum is figured you may gain an hour a day. Everyone always says that they need more time in the day - here is your chance to get it!
OK, I will end the rants and step down for a minute. Corsair has the Force 90GB drives at Newegg now for 189.99. The single drive setup is very good on its own, but a pair of drives is kind of like getting an extra gear in an F1 car. Take out the 7 speed and replace it with an 8 speed plus a KERS system that gives the RAID 0 array a little more boost when you need it.
In most tests today we observed two drives more than doubling the single drive performance. This phenomenon won't happen in every task, but some tasks, like loading game levels, it will. Running a dual drive, RAID 0 system isn't for the frugal. Even those people should be looking at a single SSD since you gain more in the long term than you spend.
If you don't already have a single SSD in your system now, I suggest you take off the blindfold and step out of 1992 (the year Seagate released the first 7,200 RPM HDD). Platter drives are based on very old technology and are no longer desired to boot your computer from. Use that platter drive to store long term data on.
I guess I climbed back on the box again...
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