PNY Optima 240GB 2-Drive SSD RAID Report

PNY Optima 240GB 2-Drive SSD RAID Report

PNY's Optima SSD offers a super low-cost SSD solution that makes it easy for anyone to live life in the fast lane. Here's our look at its RAID performance.

| Feb 17, 2015 at 9:12 am CST

Introduction, Drive Specifications, Pricing, and Availability

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PNY's Optima 240GB SATA III SSD is appealing because it offers the promise of blistering SSD performance at the lowest possible price point. PNY markets the Optima as an entry-level SSD that utilizes multiple qualified controllers to offer their customers the best available solution, at the best possible price. We like the price portion of PNY's reasoning, but not the unknown component part of their Optima solution. We recommend you stick with the Optima's 240GB capacity point, which is where we believe you will be assured of an SSD that has great performance, regardless of what controller your particular drive is equipped with.

PNY notes on the Optima's spec sheet that the Optima may be equipped with various types of NAND. The various types of NAND listed are synchronous-mode MLC, SLC, or TLC. We've only seen Optima's equipped with MLC NAND in BGA packages (the good stuff), so we are going to go out on a limb here and say that is probably what you will get when you purchase an Optima. We are not sure why they have listed SLC NAND, because you can rest assured no Optima will ever be outfitted with SLC NAND because it is highly cost prohibitive. We can only hope that they would not use TLC NAND because it has sub-par performance and low endurance, unless it's 3D NAND with an emulated SLC layer (think Samsung 850 EVO). Standard TLC NAND might be palatable at about 20 cents per GB when paired with either a SM2246EN or a SF2281, but other than that, it would be unacceptable.

Now that we have our disclaimers out there, let's get down to business, and see what kind of performance we can get from a two-drive array composed of a pair of 240GB PNY Optima SSDs.

Our Optima's came outfitted with Silicon Motion SM2246EN four-channel controllers, and 20nm IMFT NAND in BGA packages, which we consider the best BOM (Bill Of Materials) option that the Optima is known to ship with.

Specifications

PNY Optima 240GB 2-Drive SSD RAID Report 02 | TweakTown.com

PNY's Optima SATA III SSD is available in three capacities, 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB. Random read/write performance is listed at up to 60,000/85,000 IOPS. Sequential speed is not provided because of the unfortunate fact that you don't really know what you are going to get as far as the controller goes. As far as we know, the Optima comes with either a four-channel Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller, or an eight-channel Sandforce 2281 controller. At the 240GB capacity point, both controllers deliver comparable performance. However, if you go for a 120GB version and get a Sandforce 2281 equipped drive, sequential write speed with incompressible data (almost all data) will be a lowly 175 MB/s. If you want a 480GB version, there is again a big problem if you are unfortunate enough to get the Sandforce controller. You don't want to get a 480GB model with a Sandforce 2281 controller because of its unreasonably low performance with random 4K QD1 writes (the most important performance metric). My advice is to stick with the 240GB capacity.

PNY's Optima SATA III SSD comes in a 2.5" x 7mm z-height form factor, and ships with a spacer should you need to increase the drive's thickness to 9.5mm. PNY backs the Optima with an industry standard three-year warranty (one-year standard warranty, plus an additional two years if you register the product within 90 days of purchase).

Because this is a RAID review, we are going to focus on performance rather than features. For a more in-depth look at the Optima's feature set, I will refer you to Chris Ramseyer's extensive review of PNY's Optima 240GB SSD.

So, how will our super low-cost Optima array perform up against the big boys? Let's dive in and find out.

PRICING: You can find PNY's Optima (240GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The PNY Optima 240GB retails for $89.99 USD at Amazon USA.

Canada: The PNY Optima 240GB retails for $146.55 CDN at Amazon Canada.

Drive Details, Test System Setup, Array Properties

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PNY packages the Optima in an attractive white and light blue flip-top box. There is a picture of the drive on the top of the box.

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The rear of the box lists the contents of the box, and the drive's maximum random performance, power consumption, and compatibility.

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This is the complete contents of the drive's packaging. A spacer is included, but nothing else. However, for this price, we cannot complain.

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The top and sides of the drive's enclosure are formed from a cast piece of aluminum, giving it a nice heft. The drive is finished in a dark grey textured paint. Light grey lettering lists the name of the drive, and the capacity. Overall, it's a good looking piece of hardware with a quality feel to it.

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The bottom of the drive's enclosure is formed from another piece of cast aluminum, contributing to the drive's considerable heft. A manufacturer's sticker lists the drive's capacity, shipping firmware, model number, serial number, and other relevant information.

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Here's what PNY's Optima 240GB SSD looks like completely disassembled (at least the BOM we received). There is a thermally conductive pad to wick heat from the drive's controller and DRAM package into the thick cast aluminum enclosure. We removed the thermal pad for our photo.

Test System Setup

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- Array Properties

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The majority of our testing is performed with our test drive/array as our boot volume. Our boot volume is 75% full for all OS Disk "C" drive testing to replicate a typical consumer OS volume implementation. We are using 64k stripes for all of our three-drive arrays. C-states and speed stepping are both disabled in our system's BIOS, the high performance power plan is enabled in Windows, write-back caching is enabled via Intel's RST control panel, and Windows buffer flushing is disabled. We will be charting the performance of our featured array, as well as a single drive. We are utilizing Windows 8.1 64-bit for all of our testing.

Synthetic Benchmarks - ATTO, Anvil Storage Utilities, CrystalDiskMark, & AS SSD

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.47

ATTO is a timeless benchmark used to provide manufacturers with data used for marketing storage products.

PNY Optima 240GB 2-Drive SSD RAID Report 11 | TweakTown.com

Sequential read transfers max out at 1.047 GB/s, and sequential write transfers max out at .599 GB/s.

Sequential Write

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Sequential write performance of the Optima array is significantly lower than the rest of the arrays on our chart.

Sequential Read

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Sequential read performance is quite good; it is nearly equal to our MX100 array. IMFT NAND based arrays like our Optima array, the MX100 array, and the Intel 730 array, all fall behind the Toshiba flash based arrays on our chart in this test.

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC6

Anvil's Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark designed to measure the storage performance of SSD's. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test, or just the read or write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4k QD16.

PNY Optima 240GB 2-Drive SSD RAID Report 14 | TweakTown.com

This is a low score. Most notably, the write performance is lagging, resulting in low scoring.

Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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Random read performance of our Optima is better than our Q series Pro array at QD1-QD2, but after that, our Optima array falls behind the rest of the arrays on our chart.

Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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Our Optima array has good performance at QD1 (which is the most important category), but at every other measured point, the rest of the arrays on our chart leave it in the dust.

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

CrystalDiskMark is disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4k and 4k queue depths with accuracy.

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at QD4.

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4K QD1 write performance stands out on this screenshot, but the rest is relatively unimpressive.

PNY Optima 240GB 2-Drive SSD RAID Report 18 | TweakTown.com

Breaking down read performance reveals our Optima array outperformed our MX100 array at 4K QD32, but lost handily in every other category. Keep in mind, synthetic performance is not always a good indicator of real-world performance.

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The Optima 240GB maxes out at about 320 MB/s when writing sequential data, so naturally, a pair is going to reach about double that score. This is significantly lower than the rest of the arrays on our chart; however, sequential performance is least important in an operating system environment where random performance reigns supreme. Looking at QD1 performance, we see our Optima array is able to edge out our 600 Pro array, but falls behind the rest of the arrays on our chart. QD4 performance places our Optima array in the middle of the pack, and QD32 performance lags behind all of the arrays on our chart. We will have to see how this translates into real-world performance.

AS SSD

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.7.4739.38088

AS SSD determines the performance of Solid-State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic, as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD.

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Our Optima array rounds out our synthetic testing with the lowest overall score of all the arrays on our chart. However, when we dig a little deeper, we can see that it is able to outscore our MX100 array in the read category, and outscore our Toshiba Q series Pro array with its write score.

Benchmarks (Trace Based OS Volume) - PCMark Vantage, PCMark 7 & PCMark 8

We are going to categorize these tests as indicative of a light workload. If you utilize your computer for light workloads like browsing the web, checking emails, light gaming, and office related tasks, then this category of results is most relevant to your needs.

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0.0

The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops, so 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 three 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/array's 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

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OS Volume 75% Full - Steady State

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Secondary Volume Empty - Lightly Used

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As you can see, there's a big difference between an empty drive/array, one that's 75% full/used, and one that's in a steady state.

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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 user states.

When a drive/array is in a steady state, it means garbage collection is running at the same time it's reading/writing. This is exactly why we focus on steady state performance.

Okay, real-world performance is looking a lot better than what we were seeing from synthetics. Our little Optima array delivers an average overall performance. While empty, it's second only to our insanely powerful Intel 730 array, and faster than both our Seagate 600 pro array and our Extreme II array in all categories. Overall, we see a nice real-world performance in this test.

PCMark 7 - System Storage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.00

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

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Despite finishing second to last in this test, this is still a pretty impressive performance from our Optima array. It is able to outperform our 600 Pro array by a slim margin, and that performance is coming from an array that costs about three times less than our 600 Pro array costs. Our Optima array is even giving our Extreme II array a run for its money.

PCMark 8 - Storage Bandwidth

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.157

We use the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs, and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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PCMark 8 is the most intensive light model workload simulation we run, and this time our Optima array comes in dead last; however, it is breathing down the necks of our 600 Pro array and our Extreme II arrays. Overall, this is a decent performance; it's better than we expected to see from a $180 array.

Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) - Disk Response & Transfer Rates

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0

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 five-second ramp-up before each test. The drive/array is partitioned and attached as a secondary device for this testing.

Write Response

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Read Response

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Average Disk Response

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Write response times benefit most from RAID 0 because of RST write caching. There is a slight latency increase in read response times for an array vs. a single drive. Write response times are far more important than read response times, and the Optima can hold its own with the more expensive arrays on our chart in this category. Read response times are better than our Q series Pro array, but the rest of the arrays on our chart are able to outperform our optima array in this category.

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

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 DC P3700 PCIe NVME SSD 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/array's read transfer rate. The system is restarted prior to the read test to clear any cached data, ensuring an accurate test result.

Write Transfer Rate

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Read Transfer Rate

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The Silicon Motion SM2246EN is a read centric controller, and is able to read random data a little faster than our Seagate 600 Pro array and our SanDisk Extreme II array. Write transfers are not very impressive because of our Optima's four-channel controller.

Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) - PCMark 8 Extended

Heavy Usage Model

We consider PCMark 8's consistency test to be our heavy usage model test. This is the usage model most enthusiasts, heavy duty gamers, and professionals fall into. If you do a lot of gaming, audio/video processing, rendering, or have workloads of this nature, then this test will be most relevant to you.

PCMark 8 has built-in, command line executed storage testing. The PCMark 8 Consistency test measures the performance consistency and degradation tendency of a storage system.

The storage test workloads are repeated. Between each repetition, the storage system is bombarded with a usage that causes degraded drive performance. In the first part of the test, the cycle continues until a steady degraded level of performance has been reached. (Steady State)

In the second part, the recovery of the system is tested by allowing the system to idle, and measuring the performance with long intervals. (TRIM)

The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state, and the recovered state, as well as the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state.

We feel Futuremark's Consistency Test is the best test ever devised to show the true performance of solid state storage in a heavy usage scenario. This test takes 13 to 17 hours to complete on average, and it writes somewhere between 450GB and 14,000GB of test data, depending on the number of drives or array being tested. If you want to know what a SSD's performance is going to look like after a few months or years of heavy usage, this test will show you.

Here's a breakdown of Futuremark's Consistency Test:

Precondition phase:

1. Write to the drive sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for ten minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, eight times, and increase the duration of random writes by five minutes on each pass.

Steady state phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, five times.

Recovery phase:

1. Idle for five minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, five times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we can use to judge a drive/array's performance.

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We consider steady state bandwidth (the blue bar) our test that carries the most weight in ranking a drive/array's performance. The reason we consider steady state performance more important than TRIM is that when you are running a heavy-duty workload, TRIM will not be occurring while that workload is being executed. TRIM performance (the orange and red bars) is what we consider the second most important consideration when ranking a drive/array's performance. Trace based consistency testing is where true high performing SSDs are separated from the rest of the pack.

This is the big daddy of all of our testing, and this is where we find the Optima somewhat lacking. The Optima is advertised as an entry-level SSD, and this shows you why. If you are running heavy-duty workloads, the Optima is not the drive/array for you, even its TRIM/GC performance is lower than the steady state performance of all the other arrays on our chart. On the bright side, it does easily defeat the PCIe driven Comay Blade drive on our chart, and that drive retails for about four times the cost of our little Optima array.

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We chart our test subject's storage bandwidth as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations. This gives us a good visual perspective of how our test subjects perform as testing progresses.

Total Access Time (Latency)

We chart the total time the disk is accessed as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations.

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Disk Busy Time

Disk Busy Time is how long the disk is busy working. We chart the total time the disk is working as reported at each of the tests 18 trace iterations.

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When latency is low, disk busy time is low as well. This mirrors what we saw with our phase portion of this testing. The Optima is lagging behind the rest of our arrays, but is able to sneak past the Comay blade drive in the recovery stages of our testing.

Data Written

We measure the total amount of random data that the drive/array's are capable of writing during the degradation phases of the consistency test. The total combined time that degradation data is written to the drive/array is 470 minutes. This can be very telling. The better the drive/array can process a continuous stream of random data, the more data will be written.

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Surprisingly, our Optima array is able to outpace our MX100 array and our Q Series Pro array in this segment of our testing. Once again, it is able to smack-down the Comay Blade PCIe drive as well. This is impressive for a $180 array.

Final Thoughts

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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.

If you want to have the fastest storage solution in an operating system environment, you need to be running a properly configured RAID 0 SATA based array.

All in all, the Optima performed as we expected it would. The Optima is exactly what it is advertised as: an entry-level SSD that makes it very affordable to get into Solid-State Storage. Now, let's talk for a moment about what we liked and disliked about the Optima.

First, let's discuss the bad. We mainly dislike that you don't really know exactly what you will get when you purchase an Optima SSD. Will you get a Silicon Motion controlled drive? Or, will it be SandForce driven? Who really knows? As I stated earlier, in the 240GB capacity, it really doesn't matter either way, but if you want a 120GB or 480GB drive, then this is it something to take into consideration. We are a bit concerned with PNY listing TLC NAND as a possible BOM for the Optima as well. They would not really use TLC, would they? Again, who knows? Additionally, the Optima's performance with a heavy workload is really lacking.

Now, let's discuss what we liked about the Optima. First, the pricing; the Optima is retailing for about 35 cents per gigabyte when you factor overprovisioning into the equation (the 240GB drive has 256GB of actual flash onboard), making the Optima currently about the cheapest path for someone who wants to experience life in the fast lane first-hand. We also liked the way the Optima was able to compete with the more expensive arrays, even managing to sneak in past some of them throughout most of our testing regimen. For the light workload usage it was designed for, the Optima will serve you well. We also liked seeing our Optima array outperforming Comay's PCIe based Blade Drive in an operating system environment, proving yet again that for your OS, there are not many consumer based PCIe drives that can outperform a cheap SATA III array.

I can go ahead and recommend the Optima as an entry-level SSD with one caveat: I can only recommend it in the 240GB capacity where its BOM isn't much of a factor that you need to take into consideration.

RAIDing two or more drives together provides you with storage that takes performance to the next level, and is something I recommend you try. Think of it as the SLI of storage. Once you go RAID, there's no going back!

PRICING: You can find PNY's Optima (240GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The PNY Optima 240GB retails for $89.99 USD at Amazon USA.

Canada: The PNY Optima 240GB retails for $146.55 CDN at Amazon Canada.

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:33 pm CDT

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

Jon became a computer enthusiast when Windows XP launched. He was into water cooling and benching ATI video cards with modded drivers. Jon has been building computers for others for more than 10 years. Jon became a storage enthusiast the day he first booted an Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD. Look for Jon to bring consumer SSD reviews into the spotlight.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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