LSI SandForce based SSD's are the most prolific of all solid state drives in the consumer market today. LSI SandForce offers vendors an easy, cost effective path for producing their own branded SSD's. LSI SandForce is particularly attractive because, not only is it the most cost efficient solution, LSI SandForce has earned legendary status for performance as well as reliability.
Because LSI SandForce is so prevalent in the consumer SSD space, it's a given that TweakTown is going to show you what a pair of team LSI SandForce SSD's are capable of in RAID 0. There are many configurations we can choose from including asynchronous, synchronous and toggle NAND arrays. We've decided on Synchronous NAND equipped SSD's to represent team SandForce on our bench today.
We've chosen one of LSI SandForce's largest partners, Mushkin, to represent today. Mushkin is a fabless memory company that specializes in SSD's, RAM and various flash based storage devices. Mushkin's Chronos Deluxe is one of a few SSD's that are still available in configurations that utilize IMFT 25nm NAND arrays. IMFT 25nm NAND is "the good stuff", featuring superior performance and longevity in comparison to today's 20nm IMFT NAND.
LSI SandForce's 2200 series FSP's (Flash Storage Processors) have been featured on countless SSD for the past couple of years. In terms of computer hardware, a couple of years is a VERY long time. This longevity and continued implementation of the LSI SandForce 2200 Series FSP is testament to the power of LSI SandForce with its exclusive compression technology.
Today we're pitting our Chronos Deluxe array up against much newer technology SSD's like the Samsung EVO and SanDisk's Extreme II. It's not really an apples to apples comparison because of the capacity differences, but nevertheless should give us a pretty good idea of how LSI SandForce powered drives compare to drives with newer technology.
Let's see how team LSI SandForce fares.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Available in five capacity sizes ranging from 60GB to 960GB, Mushkin's Chronos Deluxe offers a wide range of capacities to choose from. Mushkin's Chronos Deluxe is one of the most affordable enthusiast-class SSD's available today.
Specifications list the 240GB Chronos Deluxe as capable of up to 560 MB/s sequential reads and up to 520 MB/s sequential writes. Random write speed is listed at 90,000 IOPS at 4K QD32. The Chronos Deluxe is available in 9.5mm or 7mm z-height configurations.
Mushkin backs the Chronos Deluxe with an industry standard limited three year warranty. The Chronos Deluxe comes bundled with a 2.5" to 3.5" desktop adapter. The 240GB Mushkin Chronos Deluxe is available from Newegg for the low price of $160 (67 cents per GB). Since this is a RAID review, we are going to focus on performance rather than features. For a more in-depth look at the Chronos Deluxe feature set, I will refer you to Chris Ramseyer's extensive review of the Chronos Deluxe.
Now let's see what legendary LSI SandForce performance looks like when we RAID 0 a pair of 240GB Mushkin Chronos Deluxe SSD's and drive them with Haswell Ports.
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240GB
Our drives arrived bare, so we don't have anything to show you as far as packaging goes.
The top face of the Chronos Deluxe has an attractive green and white manufacturer's sticker centered on a dark grey colored cast aluminum enclosure. The top half of the enclosure features beveled edges giving the drive a nice finished look.
The bottom of the drives enclosure is formed from a piece of cast aluminum painted dark gray. The enclosure has rounded corners and a nice heft to it.
Here's what the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240GB SSD looks like completely disassembled.
The drives NAND array is located on the opposite side of the PCB as pictured. The Chronos Deluxe 240GB NAND array consists of eight 32GB 25nm IMFT synchronous packages.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup, Drive Properties & ATTO Baseline Performance
Desktop Test System
The majority of our testing will be done with our test drive/array as our boot volume. Our boot volume is 75% full for all OS Disk "C" drive testing, to mimic a typical consumer OS volume implementation. We're using 64K stripes for all our arrays. Write caching is enabled.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.47
ATTO is a timeless benchmark used to provide manufactures with data used for marketing storage products.
This is what we like to see. Our ATTO chart has a nice pattern to it with transfers ramping up very quickly and remaining steady throughout.
Writing sequential compressible data is where the Chronos Deluxe really shines. Our Chronos Deluxe array has double the performance of a single drive, and the arrays sequential speed ramps up at a much faster rate than a single drive.
All the arrays on our chart can easily exceed 1.1GB/s when reading data. Notice how an array's throughput ramps up much faster than a single drive?
RAID 0 arrays are typically running full speed by 4K or 8K transfers, whereas single drives don't hit full speed until 64-128K transfers.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: RC6
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 QD16.
The software is 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.
0-Fill Compressible Data
Because of its compression technology, compressible data is a LSI SandForce drive/array's favorite food.
0-Fill Compressible Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
Our LSI SandForce array isn't pumping out quite as much compressible read IOPS as the other arrays on our chart.
0-Fill Compressible Write IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
Write caching enables our array to put out three times the performance of a single drive at 4K QD1. When writing compressible data, our LSI SandForce array easily outperforms our Extreme II and EVO arrays.
Compression 100% Incompressible Data
Incompressible data is the nemesis of LSI SandForce based drive/arrays. However, performance is still very good at 4K QD1.
Incompressible Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
Incompressible data doesn't significantly affect read performance.
Incompressible Write IOPS through Queue Scale
LSI SandForce drive/arrays take a big performance hit when writing incompressible data.
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 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.
See that awesome 4K QD1 read performance? This is where 25nm IMFT Synchronous NAND performance really shines in comparison to 20nm IMFT.
LSI SandForce based drives/arrays have extremely good 512K read performance. Our Chronos Deluxe array has the best 512K read performance of the three arrays on our chart.
Look at the single Chronos Deluxe drives 512K read performance. 505 MB/s is the fastest I've ever seen from any single drive and again displays the superior performance of 25nm IMFT NAND.
Writing incompressible data isn't a LSI SandForce array's favorite task. Our Chronos Deluxe array manages to outperform our Extreme II array, but only because of the Extreme II's capacity limitations. Our EVO array wins this hands down.
Benchmarks - AS SSD
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7.4739.38088
Product Homepage: http://alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/news.php
Download here: http://alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php
AS SSD 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.
Our two drive Chronos Deluxe array is able to more than double that of a single drive.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 22.214.171.124
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmarkvantage
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.
The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops. What we see is the raw performance of the drive. This allows us to see a marked difference between scoring that other trace based benchmarks do not exhibit. An example of a marked difference in scoring on the same drive would be empty vs. filled vs. steady state.
We run Vantage 3 ways. The first run is with the OS drive/Array 75% full to simulate a lightly used OS volume filled with data to an amount we feel is common for most users. The second run is with the OS volume written into a "Steady State" utilizing SNIA's guidelines (Rev 1.1). Steady state testing simulates a drive/arrays performance similar to that of a drive/array that has been subjected to consumer workloads for extensive amounts of time. The third run is a Vantage HDD test with the test drive/array attached as an empty lightly used secondary device.
OS Volume 75% full - Lightly Used
OS Volume 75% full - Steady State
Secondary Volume Empty - Lightly Used
As you can see, there's a big difference between an empty drive/array and one that's 75% full/used and one that's in a steady state.
The important scores to pay attention to are "OS Volume Steady State" and "OS Volume 75% full". These two categories are most important, because they are indicative of typical of consumer based user states.
Even though the LSI SandForce 2281 FSP is a couple of years old, when it's paired with high quality NAND, it can hold its own in comparison to the newest technology. Our Chronos Deluxe array manages to beat our Extreme II array in steady state.
Benchmarks - PCMark 7
PCMark 7 - System Storage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark7
PCMark 7 includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7 & 8, combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7 & 8 for home and business use.
We will look to the Raw system storage scoring for RAID 0 evaluations because it's done without system stops and therefore allows us to see significant scoring differences between drives/arrays.
OS Volume 75% full - Lightly Used
PCMark 7 backs up our Vantage results. Our Chronos Deluxe array has slightly better performance than our Extreme II array.
Secondary Volume Benchmarks - Disk Response Times
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Product Homepage: http://www.iometer.org
Download here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/iometer
Iometer is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998 - since then it's become wide spread within the storage industry.
We use Iometer to measure disk response times. Disk response times are measured at an industry accepted standard of 4K QD1 for both write and read. Each test is run twice for 30 seconds consecutively, with a 5 second ramp-up before each test. The drive/array is partitioned and attached as a secondary device for this testing.
Average Disk Response
Write response times benefit most from RAID 0 because of write caching. There is a slight latency increase in read response times for an array vs. a single drive. Excellent write response and lackluster read response, which is typical for LSI SandForce driven SSD's.
Maximum Disk Response
Maximum disk response times are difficult to nail down because they can vary so much from one run to the next, even when running the same drive.
We chart them anyway, because while they may vary from one run to the next, the chart gives us a pretty good overall picture of what to expect from our particular test subject.
Surprisingly, maximum read response times are very good for our Chronos Deluxe array.
Secondary Volume Benchmarks - Blackmagicdesign's Disk Speed Test
Disk Speed Test
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.1.1
Product Homepage: http://www.blackmagicdesign.com
Disk Speed Test is an easy to use tool to quickly measure and certify your disk performance for working with high quality video! Simply click the start button and Disk Speed Test will write test your disk using large blocks of data, and then display the result. Disk Speed Test will continue to test writes and reads from your disk so you can evaluate both performance and readability over time.
We rate a drive/arrays video capabilities by the number of different categories that the device is capable of passing. The maximum number of tests that are possible to pass are 45 write tests and 45 read tests. We chart the number of tests a disk/array is capable of passing for a comparison of one drive/array verses another.
It's very hard for a single drive to be completely HD video capable. This is why serious video processing is almost exclusively done utilizing RAID arrays.
Video data is compressed data, so our Chronos Deluxe array can't quite get there.
Secondary Volume Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 126.96.36.199
Developer Homepage: Nodesoft
Product Homepage: DiskBench
Download here: http://www.nodesoft.com/diskbench/download
We use DiskBench to time a 28.6GB block (9,882 files in 1,247 folders) of mostly incompressible random data as it's transferred from our OS array to our test drive/array. We then read from a 6GB zip file that's part of our 28.6GB data block to determine the test drive/arrays read transfer rate. The system is restarted prior to the read test to clear any cached data, insuring an accurate test result.
Write Transfer Rate
Incompressible data slows our LSI SandForce arrays write capabilities significantly in this test.
Read Transfer Rate
Read transfers are a whole different matter. LSI SandForce comes out on top in this test, beating out our EVO array.
Compression technology that's implemented in our Chronos Deluxe array has its advantages and its disadvantages, as you can see.
Faster reads as long as some of the data is compressible, but slower writes when most of the data is incompressible.
Solid state storage is the most important performance component found in a modern system today. Without it, you do not even have a performance system.
We feel this is an important RAID report because of the massive proliferation of LSI SandForce SSD's. Even though LSI SandForce's 2200 series controller is one of the oldest options currently available, our testing displayed that it's still a very potent storage solution.
Looking back at our testing, we can see that an LSI SandForce array can deliver enthusiast class performance, and even beat out some of the newer contenders. I find our Chronos Deluxe arrays performance when running as our OS disk, 75% full and in a steady state to be particularly encouraging.
Steady state performance is a very important aspect of testing simply because reaching a steady state is an inevitability. Testing a drive/array with a trace based benchmark when in a steady state is in my opinion a true measure of the actual performance that a drive/array is capable of delivering to the consumer in any scenario.
Right now you can pick up a Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 240GB for $160 making it the best value we've come across to date. Chris Ramseyer declared Mushkin's Chronos Deluxe to be the best value for an enthusiast class SSD back in May of this year, and surprisingly, the same is true today, six months later.
RAIDing two or more drives together provides you with storage that takes performance to the next level and is something I recommend you try. Once you go RAID, there's no going back.
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