We've looked at the Corsair Performance 3 in both 256GB and 128GB sizes and in both cases found that the new Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 controller offers the best garbage collection system we've ever seen. On the surface garbage collection may appear as a throwback technology only needed in SSDs running on Windows XP / Vista or MAC Oss, since Windows 7 takes advantage of TRIM commands.
The reality is that Windows 7's TRIM works pretty good on single drives running the right drivers, on the right controllers under the right conditions, but enthusiasts and power users who run RAID arrays still do not have TRIM. When TRIM is not present an SSD or arrays of SSDs slow over time since the drive needs to erase prior to writing data to a block of data. The Corsair Performance 3 with its advanced garbage collection is able to keep data situated in a way that keeps the drive running at full speed all of the time.
The Corsair Performance 3 also has another unique feature unseen until recently on other SSDs. When data is present on a SSD the drives performance slows. We've already shown that many SSDs slow progressively as data is added to the drive. The Corsair Performance 3 isn't one of those drives, it offers the same performance from day 0 to day 300, a feature worthy of adoring that goes far beyond a typical set of benchmarks.
When running benchmarks it is easy to get caught up in the performance at the time the benchmarks are ran. These are the same performance numbers that you will get out of your SSD the day you take your new drive out of the box. Little attention goes into the performance numbers you will get on day 2, day 5 or two years after your installation.
The Corsair Performance 3 may be the very best SSD for RAID ever built. Let's take a look at the performance of two 128GB P3 drives and see what happens when we test drives with data on them.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
We've already written about the Corsair Performance 3 128GB drive and looked at its single drive performance. With that being the case, we are only going to briefly look over the specifications.
The Performance 3 is available in three capacity sizes; 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. Since the P3 uses a Marvell controller that has scaling performance based on capacity, the 128GB drive is rated lower than the 256GB drive. The 256GB model's performance is rated at 480MB/s read and 320MB/s write. In turn the 128GB is rated at 410MB/s read and 210MB/s write.
Those numbers are for single drive performance; today we are here to look at dual 128GB RAID performance. Over the years we've seen RAID arrays treat SSDs very well with nearly a doubling of performance and we've also seen very little performance increase from using two drives together. Since I already ran the tests, I can say that using two Performance 3 drives in RAID 0 works out pretty well.
In the case of the Performance 3, running two drives in a single array also has a cost benefit. The Corsair Performance 3 256GB drive has a current cost of
Here is a quick look at the drives. Let's get to testing!
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 products in this article.
To achieve the highest speeds out of your Corsair Performance 3 and any other next generation SATA 6G SSD you need a good base to start with. For most that will mean an Intel Sandy Bridge chipset. Enthusiasts and power users may want to invest in a high speed RAID controller like the LSI 9260-8i that we use for many of our RAID tests. The current Sandy Bridge motherboards only support two SATA 6G ports, so if you are going to use more than two drives then I recommend the LSI 9260-8i. Our RAID 0 test of the Corsair Performance 3 2x128GB was ran on a GIGABYTE P67A-UD5.
If you frequent these pages often you will notice a whole new set of charts. Out with the old and in with the kick ass! The VelociRaptor is now history, as are all Intel SSDs and Indilinx products. The only remaining SATA 3G drives left are the OCZ Vertex 2 models with SandForce SF-1200 controllers.
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.
Using ATTO we see that the RAID 0 array with two Corsair Performance 3 128GB drives in RAID 0 scales very well on the GIGABYTE P67A-UD5 motherboard. In our testing we observed a near doubling of performance with read speeds peaking at just over 900MB/s and write speeds of over 400MB/s.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
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
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.
The RAIDed pair of Corsair Performance 3 drives blows everything away when it comes to sequential reads. Here we see the Performance 3 drives in RAID 0 reading across the disks at very high speeds. It's hard to believe we hit over 800MB/s on the Sandy Bridge chipset so easily.
The write speeds on a single 128GB Performance 3 are quite a bit slower than the read speeds and that carried over to the pair of drive running RAID 0. You still get higher performance with the RAID set than a single Performance 3, however.
It is important to remember that the Marvell controller Corsair used in the Performance 3 sacrifices high write speeds in order to perform a lot of background garbage collection activity.
Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time
AIDA64 Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
AIDA64 offers 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.
Access times are what make SSDs 'feel' so fast. With the absence of moving parts SSDs don't have to wait for the data you request to move into position to be read. The Performance 3 RAID pair achieved the exact same read access time as a single 128GB P3.
The write access times were a little lower than the single Performance 3 128GB. Everything is looking really good so far. Let's have a look at some more tests.
Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
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 CDM we are looking at 4K performance and 4K queue depth performance with NCQ. The 4K read and 4K 4 depth performance was virtually identical to that of the single drive, but when the commands ramped up to 32 depth the RAID pair nearly doubled that of the single drive.
In the write test the 4K single command remained the same, but this time the 4 depth write doubled with the 32 depth.
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. 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 that focus heavily on general Windows tasks were a mixed bag for the Corsair Performance 3 RAID 0 array with two 128GB drives. Most of the tests saw an increase, some larger than others. A few tests went the other way, but not by a large margin. When it came to reading and writing large files the array shot off like a rocket.
PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article - full instructions are included.
SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.
Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test
Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)
60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB
120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB
240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB
Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.
If you've been following this new test over the last couple of weeks you'll see that it now has a new scoring format. Perfect results will have each group of numbers for a product staying equal all the way through. Poor results will have a sideways V shape. Really poor results will start out high and never recover.
The Corsair Performance 3 played a large role in the making of this test. The P3 is able to achieve nearly the same performance no matter how full the drive is and thus has a fairly flat performance graph vertically. Aside from the performance when the drive is full, the Performance 3 doesn't rely on TRIM as heavily as many other drives on the market.
Since RAID arrays are not able to receive TRIM commands it is important for a drive to clean itself at all times. The Performance 3 is the only drive we've tested to date that is able to take care of itself in this way. To put it simply, the Corsair Performance 3 is the best drive you can use for a RAID array today.
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
Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9
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
If you transfer a lot of large files around your machine then a pair of Corsair Performance 3 128GB drives makes much more sense than a single 256GB Performance 3. When you are able to run a RAID array all of your large file transfers complete much faster.
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.
Even though no one would ever run a RAID 0 array for these enterprise tasks, it is always fun to still run the numbers and see how a drive performs. The Corsair Performance 3 is designed for client (desktop) tasks, but as you can see they are not too shabby at enterprise loads either.
I'm very excited about the results we achieved today with the Corsair Performance 3 RAID 0 array. Corsair has been fairly quiet about this product, so quiet that we even had to go out and purchase these drives just to review them. Corsair does mention on the Performance 3's product page that it uses advanced features, they are not yelling it from the rooftops like I would be....well....am about to.
The Performance 3 has something we have yet to see from any other SSD in our labs, the ability to keep performance high no matter if you have access to TRIM or not. MAC users should take note, YOU DO NOT HAVE TRIM. RAID array enthusiasts should take note, YOU DO NOT HAVE TRIM. PS3 users, Windows Vista and XP users, old computers, new computers not running Windows 7, YOU DO NOT HAVE TRIM. If you do not have TRIM then you have an SSD that will start out fast, but over time the speed will fade. How fast that happens really depends on the amount of writes you use each day, but you are pretty much guaranteed to start losing speed on day one with any other SSD. The Corsair Performance 3 does not have this handicap.
To be honest, the single drive performance of the Corsair Performance 3 is already very good. It takes a special kind of enthusiast to ask for more than what the Performance 3 offers. Those raising their hands saying they are that guy will achieve very good results with two or more drives in RAID. The Performance 3 scales very well, something we don't always see with SSDs. The real standout though has to be the ability to keep performance over a very long period of time. To date nearly all SSD RAID users would need to break their array and run a secure erase program to take back performance lost. The Performance 3 breaks that mold and for the first time and we now have a drive ready to take on RAID with zero maintenance.
The current price for a 128GB Performance 3 is 319.99 USD at Newegg. Two 128GB drives will cost around 640 USD or about the same as a single 256GB drive. For desktop users with a modern SATA 6G enabled motherboard this is great news since you can achieve unobtainable levels of performance from a single drive with a pair in RAID. The difference is quite remarkable, but the cost is almost the same.
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