A couple of months ago we told you about the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC SSD. Even with broken TRIM, the S301 SLC was the fastest consumer 2.5" SSD on the planet. The drive is so fast it's a competitor to a number of prosumer PCIe SSDs on the market today. At the time of the review, the S301 SLC was a regional product, mainly Hong Kong. Sure, I had my own S301, but that wasn't good enough for me, for you or all of your friends that emailed me asking where to buy the fastest consumer SSD on the market today. So, in an unprecedented move I pushed, prodded, poked and shouted that this product needs to come to America and the rest of the world as quickly as possible.
For the last year I've joked with friends and SSD manufacturers about making a Chris Ramseyer SSD. After saying it so many times it really started to sink in that maybe with enough hard work and a lot of luck, my over the top ambition might actually turn into a successful product. Last year I was very close to walking away from the review world and taking a position as a product manager. That fizzled out when it hit me that having a real job would mean, well having a real job. No more taking a day off to hit the racetrack whenever I wanted or sleeping in until noon every day. We can't have that. That never meant I didn't want to walk a product through the process of conception to retail, I just wanted to do it on my own terms.
When you put all of that together and a little more luck, we now have the MyDigitalSSD TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Signature Edition SSD by SuperSSpeed. Yes, that is the actual name of my SSD and the product we are looking at today. Let's take a brief look at how all of this came together and see how every name in the title fits together.
MyDigitalSSD / MyDigitalDiscount funded the whole project and is taking care of the distribution. My friend Matt helped to make all of this happen. Matt knows the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC SSD has the ability to sell in the global market and he has the resources to make that happen. After the special edition SSD sells out MyDigitalSSD will rebrand the standard drives under the MyDigitalSSD brand.
Everyone that works here at TweakTown is family. There couldn't be a Chris Ramseyer SSD without the support and help from my extended family. The atmosphere from this group that makes up TweakTown is unlike any other company in the world. That said, you would put your name on it too if you could... and I did. Yes, I am the selfish brother of the TweakTown family.
SuperSSpeed already had the S301 SLC SSD and it is an amazing product. We've already stated this is the fastest consumer SSD on the market, a fact you'll see in the benchmarks today. SuperSSpeed made all of the magic as far as the physical SSD goes. Within two days they sourced the TweakTown blue cases, two days after that our custom order shipped. SuperSSpeed bent over backwards to make this product a success. If you are an SSD reseller or company that rebrands SSDs, you need to talk to SuperSSpeed because these guys and Tara are wonderful to work with.
I know, you don't really care about any of that, you just want to know how fast the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC is when paired with proper firmware that has working TRIM. Let's take a look.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
There are only 50 MyDigitalSSD TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Signature Edition by SuperSSpeed SSDs. All 50 drives are 128GB capacity, come hand signed and hand numbered by me. MyDigitalSSD and SuperSSpeed put together the spec sheet and the claimed performance is 550MB/s sequential read and 520MB/s sequential write speed. As you know performance on SandForce based SSDs comes down to firmware and 5.0.3 with the controller and Intel 25nm SLC flash actually delivers 558MB/s read and 534MB/s write speed on my test system. Fully optimized PCs will hit just over 560 read and 540 write speeds. I don't lean the test systems out as far as they can go and keep my system looking good rather than turn all of the features down.
The claimed IOPS performance is 80K read and 68K write IOPS, but these numbers must of been taken from older firmware because 5.0.3 actually delivers 61K read and 92K write IOPS at a queue depth of 32. We expect the read IOPS to increase when firmware 5.0.5 hits the market and now that I'm a manufacturer of sorts we'll have new firmware updates available at SLC speed.
Several manufacturers claim to have the fastest SSD on the market, but there can be only one. When it comes to the 2.5" form factor that one is this one. SuperSSpeed is the only manufacturer making a consumer SSD with SLC flash. SLC is much faster than MLC in almost every way. SSDs are not two dimensional products, they have to be looked at in four dimensions - random read, random write, sequential read and sequential write performance, and SLC is faster in all four corners.
In the middle of the four corners, you'll find endurance (product life span) and performance when data resides on the flash. Intel 25nm SLC flash is rated at 100K P/E cycles. Consumer SSDs generally use 3K and 5K P/E cycle flash and some 10K eMLC is shipping on some products due to consumer grade flash shortages. It's easy to do the math so I won't insult you.
Adding to the endurance and more importantly for enthusiasts and power users is performance when data resides on the flash. This is where SandForce comes in. The LSI SandForce architecture was designed to reduce the amount of data on the flash. This allows gives the flash more spare area to perform background functions that keep the SSD performance at high speeds all the time. The more spare area you have, the faster your drive. It also increases flash life, but with 100K P/E cycles, we aren't too worried about that. This drive might outlive you.
One thing I learned while working on this project is how quickly costs can ramp up and increase the final price of a product. With only 50 drives, we didn't have the benefits of large scale production so every drive sampled to people increased the final cost. I received several emails from marketing reps, product managers and reviewers asking for a sample. The first two were quietly laughing in a rare moment of revenge with the tables turned on sample requests. Of course reviewers want samples because that is our job. Of the fifty, I'm keeping one, Cameron (my editor) gets one and a third sample will be given away on TweakTown in a contest that will go online in the next day or two. I'll wish everyone good luck in advance.
MyDigitalDiscount has the remaining 47 drives at their e-tail store for $275. Yes, I know it is high for a 128GB consumer SSD, we tried to target the $250 mark, but we couldn't make it happen, sorry about that. On the other side of the coin, this is the lowest priced 128GB SSD with SLC flash available on the market. It costs around $750 less than any other 128GB SLC SSD we've been able to find a price on.
The MyDigitalSSD TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Signature Edition SLC SSD by SuperSSpeed ships with an amazing accessory package. Included is a dual SSD desktop adapter bracket, screws, SATA power and data cable and an industry leading five year warranty.
We kept the standard SuperSSpeed packing for the drive since it was very good to start with.
SuperSSpeed does a good job with listing the features and has an attractive package.
SuperSSpeed does an amazing job with the internal packaging. The drive is in a secure location away from the accessory package so you drive will bet arrive all scratched from contact with other components during shipping.
You get a very nice SATA power and data cable as well as a unique desktop adapter bracket that holds two SSDs.
MDSSD TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Signature Edition by SuperSSpeed SLC SSD
It really isn't fair for me to comment on this section because I played a big part of the look of the drive. Jeremy from MDD took my emails and designed the label. I think it looks great, nothing on the market is better. :-)
The standard SuperSSpeed label is on the back of the drive.
The case is aluminum all the way around and in this image you see the beveled edge that adds a nice contrast to the TweakTown blue theme.
SuperSSpeed includes the best desktop adapter bracket on the market today, it holds two SSDs and that is the perfect number for Z77 users today now that RAID 0 TRIM works.
I would like to see a little more room between the drives, but SandForce controllers and Intel SLC flash runs cool so you don't have to worry about overheating when in the middle of your extreme benchmark sessions.
Inside the case we see the SF-2281, the current leading performance controller on the market today. The rest of this side is void of components other than a few small surface mount components.
In order to optimize performance and power consumption the S301 uses all eight SF-2281 channels with eight Intel 25nm SLC NAND flash chips. By using eight instead of sixteen the power draw is reduced making this a good choice for notebook use.
Intel 29F16B16NCNE1, it doesn't get any better than this. We've found this flash listed online for as high as $137 per chip in 1000 unit quantities.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.
In order to fully utilize SATA III you need a system with native SATA III support. P67, Z68, Z77 and X79 systems are preferred, but AMD has made advances in their newer SATA III systems as well. Older X58 systems with Marvell based SATA III ports do not deliver the same high levels of performance, so we recommend newer systems when available.
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.
In ATTO we determined the baseline performance at just under 560MB/s read and nearly 535MB/s write speeds. The 4K write speed is just over 240MB/s which is very good as well.
The fastest consumer SSD on the market wouldn't be complete without the best consumer SSD review. Using our GIGABYTE Z77X-UD5 with a modified BIOS with the 11.5 OROM and Intel 11.6 drivers (on the for the RAID tests) we give you RAID 0 performance. The new drivers and OROM BIOS allow us to test RAID 0 with TRIM working!
When it comes to RAID 0 performance... well, how does over 1000MB/s read and write sound? That is 1GB/s, not bad at all.
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 sequential performance of SandForce drives is limited by the firmware right now so we have to get into the real-world tests to see the special edition SLC SSD really shine. The RAID performance will give us some nice eye candy, though. Here we see RAID scaling very well on the onboard Intel SATA III ports.
The read and write performance across the single drive is very good and in line with what the firmware allows for right now. The Intel SATA III RAID was configured with a strip size of 16 for all of the RAID tests today. This is the default setting.
Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time
AIDA64 Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.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 the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.
The SLC flash does offer much lower access times when compared to the same controller used with MLC flash. The Marvell based drives use DRAM buffers, but the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC delivers equal read latency without a DRAM buffer.
The SLC write latency is also much lower than the MLC LSI SandForce drives. This should lead to higher IOPS performance at lower queue depths.
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 that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.
The single request 4K read speed measured at just over 40MB/s on the single SLC drive and that increased to 48MB/s on the RAID 0 array. The SLC flash also allows the drive to scale much better when the queue depths are increased compared to the other SandForce based 120GB models.
We often talk about the SandForce 120GB brick wall when looking at the incompressible data flow, but as you can see, the S301 doesn't have a problem with that. Also, the incompressible sequential write performance is still over 500MB/s. For a year and a half we thought the SandForce controller was the limiting factor in lower than Marvell incompressible performance, but as you can see, when paired with the right flash, the brick wall effect is overcome.
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/
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
Several of the programs you use daily operate at low queue depths and read data more than they write it. To get the most out of your SuperSSpeed SLC SSD you need to multitask and really push the drive. When you need the extra performance the drive has it to give, but the program tests in Vantage don't push the drives as hard as enthusiasts and power users do.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
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.
- Brief Methodology
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.
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
With real-world data on the drives during the fill test we see very fast performance and working TRIM. This is the first LSI SandForce drive with firmware 5.0.3 to break the 80K Mark point as well. The next firmware release should increase performance to 5.0.2 levels again. We have our fingers crossed for 90K level performance.
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
In data transfer performance, the S301 SLC does very well in these tests as well.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: BETA 11
So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.
Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.
The software can be used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.
Fill Compressible Data
Normally we talk about the depreciation of performance in this section on SandForce drives when moving from compressible to incompressible data. Not so much this time, here we see that the drop off is very low. Finally your performance with SandForce is balanced.
QD32 Random Read IOPS
Firmware 5.0.3 and 5.0.4 shipped with a small bug that reduces the high queue depth IOPS performance when reading data. We hope the next release address this issue and gets us back up to 85K plus read IOPS on the S301 SLC.
QD32 Random Write IOPS
There is nothing to complain about when getting 92K write IOPS.
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.
SLC flash at this price, yeah this is a relevant benchmark. Right now we're working on re-testing all of these drives in the enterprise tests. Our initial tests were flawed because we didn't get the drives down to steady state. When the regular edition of the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC drive is reviewed with firmware 5.0.3 next week we'll have the steady state tests completed.
TweakTown isn't going to score our own limited edition SSD for obvious reasons, but I think the performance, features and accessory package speak for themselves. The only area I fell flat on is the price, but when you compare the MyDigitalSSD TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Signature Edition by SuperSSpeed SLC SSD to any other 128GB SLC SSD, you can let the price slide in my opinion. OK, the name was a little excessive in length and maybe in ego as well, but you would do it if you could too. Our next product will be the TweakTown Shane Baxtor Signature Edition 7870 by Unnamed Video Card manufacturer. Look for it when NVIDIA releases the 695 GPU.
Jokes aside, this was a great learning experience, and I have to admit I learned quite a bit. The next time I rip a company for releasing a less than ideal SSD at a price I find doesn't meet the hype, I can think back to my own experience on trying to pull it all together. I don't really have any experience with releasing a slow SSD though, because this drive is so fast!
In the image above we see the incompressible read and write performance at different block sizes. The key is incompressible data, the data that is supposed to slow SandForce based SSDs.
The fill testing performance is also very good. The Fill Testing Chart shows very good performance, but that test doesn't really stress the SLC flash since it involves very low queue depths.
I loaded Windows 8 on a notebook with the regular SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB drive we tested a couple of months ago. The reduced latency when compared to my notebook with MLC flash is noticeable. The snap when moving around between applications and Windows is faster and it almost makes Metro tolerable.
The MyDigitalSSD TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Signature Edition by SuperSSpeed SLC SSD is available now at MyDigitalDiscount for $275. It includes an extensive accessory package and includes an industry leading five year warranty. We expect the remaining units to sell out quickly. There are only 50 hand signed and numbered pieces total so if you want one act soon.
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