A Closer Look + Class Performance Testing
The Inland Professional SATA III ships in a simple package and uses a common design case made of plastic. The 7mm z-height design fits in most notebooks and desktops. Inside we found a Phison PS3111-S11 DRAMless controller paired with Toshiba BiCS FLASH (3D) TLC memory.
We pulled the hottest 512GB class SATA SSDs from this summer to compare to the Inland Professional SATA III. Sadly, none matches this series in price but all should outperform this drive in nearly every test. The real question is how much better the other drives, or to change the perspective, how close the very low-cost drive can get to mainstream and premium SATA performance.
Sequential Read Performance
The 480GB Inland drive rides just outside the sequential read performance set by the more established drives. There is a slight gap but not one that most users will notice when reading back large block size files.
Sequential Write Performance
We found a much larger gap writing sequential data to the drives. Still, the 480GB Inland drive performs much better than it's $75 price would lead many to believe.
Sustained Sequential Write Performance
We didn't observe a lot of performance loss writing to the entire user area of the drive. The large overprovisioning on the 3D memory helps to keep performance high. The Inland drive uses the same memory as the Plextor M8V, but the controller and firmware allow the writes to flow without a large drop-off. This does decrease endurance to a degree but you will still get years of use out of the drive before running into any endurance issues.
Random Read Performance
The 480GB Inland doesn't show strong random performance, an issue that Phison controllers always seems to battle. The low queue depth random read performance is still far superior to any hard disk drive but isn't in the same league as many of the comparison drives also in the charts.
Random Write Performance
The biggest drawback for most DRAMless architectures is low random write performance. On DRAMless NVMe models, using host memory buffer technology the performance gap shrinks but that's not an option over the SATA bus.
The large SLC buffers largely minimizes random write performance. Daily use applications simply don't write enough random data at one time to overrun the buffers so we can overlook this setback in performance. Tt will become a larger issue with mixed workloads later in the review, though.
70% Read Sequential Performance
Mixed workloads are far more important for the overall user experience than the single workloads. The low-cost Inland drive lacks the processing power to deliver strong performance here but it's not far off the most of the more powerful drives. It is faster than the SanDisk Ultra 3D throughout the queue depth range.
70% Read Random Performance
The low random performance in 100$ loads combines to reduce the mixed workload performance. The 480GB Inland SATA III trails all of the other drives here. The line charts shows that the more powerful Phison S10 quad-core, eight-channel controller paired with Toshiba 15nm MLC flash, in the Corsair Neutron XTI, follows nearly the same line as the Inland with the S11 DRAMless controller. There isn't a larger performance gap between the two drives.
Game Load Time
In this section, we move into our real-world performance tests using applications and traces. The synthetic workloads help us understand why a drive performs as it does in these tasks.
The Inland Professional's low mixed workload performance in both sequential and random hurts application performance. It's impossible for the drive to outperform the others but it is possible for it to stay close.
PCMark 8 Total Storage Bandwidth
The standard PCMark 8 storage test uses ten real-world application traces to measure storage bandwidth. The throughput score averages the individual results into an easy to compare number that effectively ranks performance across the test drives. The Inland SATA III falls where we expected on the list. The drive trails the others under light workloads with daily use software.
PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test
The PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test uses the same workloads as the standard test but works the drive much harder to start. This introduces a steady-state condition where the performance is low. Then the test uses idle time to allow the drive to perform garbage collection during the recovery mode tests.
The recovery mode is where most users need to see high performance because it's rare to push SSDs into the other phases of this test after the initial setup where users install the operating system and applications. The 480GB Inland SATA III trails the other drives across the test range. The recovery phase performance is poor and that makes this drive less than ideal for a boot drive.
SYSmark 2014 SE System Responsiveness and Power Tests
The SYSmark 2014 SE Responsiveness Score is a direct measurement of the system's latency that effects the user experience. The weighted scores come from an OEM Samsung SSD similar to an 850 EVO. The OEM drive's performance marks the 1,000 point reference and other products compare to it with either a higher (more responsive) or lower (less responsive) score.
The SYSmark 2014 SE software also measures system power consumption during the test. We report power consumption during the responsiveness portion of the overall test. This is not a direct measurement of the SSD's power consumption.
Notebook Battery Life
Early in the development of DRAMless SSDs we were told the technology would decrease power consumption. DRAMless drives often deliver low idle consumption results but use more power to perform background activities. In our experience, the additional power required to keep the drive running optimally outweighs the reduction in idle power. The 480GB Inland SATA III SSD isn't a strong choice for use in a notebook as the primary storage drive.
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