The SSD market is on fire, burning faster than even the most optimistic analysts could have predicted. G.Skill has played a large role in the solid state transition with their above average products at below average costs. Not only that, but we are really starting to see SSDs become user friendly as far as capacity goes. Last year we were talking about 32GB SSDs and how the speed was very impressive, but the capacity left room for doubt. Here we are a year later and we are already seeing close to a 10x increase in capacity for drives costing the same as the 32GB drives last year.
In G.Skill's latest SSD, capacity will have to just be a footnote in the overall scheme of things. The real story sits with the technology and what the company was able to do with JMicron's somewhat problematic controller. In essence, G.Skill was able to use two JMicron controllers with two separate banks of memory that work in tandem to reduce or eliminate the issues associated with writing multiple small files to the drive. I have seen the term RAID used a few times in other reviews and while the concept seems similar, it is not the case.
Today we are going to take a deep look at the new G.Skill TITAN FM-25S2S-256GBT1 drive with dual JMicron controllers working together to give you 256GB of storage capacity and at a claimed maximum of 200 MB/s read, 160 MB/s write. Let's dive right in.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
G.Skill's latest TITAN series is compromised of two drives at this time, the 128GB model and the 256GB that we are looking at today. This is G.Skill's first offering at the 256GB capacity mark and a benchmark in which many would-be-buyers have been waiting for.
The drives rated speed is 200 MB/s read and 160 MB/s write and to go ahead and let the cat out of the bag early, we were able to achieve the rated numbers in ATTO, a benchmark that is ran on every drive we test, but rarely ever published. These speeds put the drive right up there with the Intel X-25M drive which also uses MLC NAND flash memory.
The biggest drawback for the X-25M has always been price with a dash of capacity envy. G.Skill was able to beat Intel on both fronts with the TITAN series, especially capacity. The G.Skill TITAN 128GB is already available at Newegg for 299 USD and the 256GB is priced at 494.99. Both may be priced a little higher than what most users are prepared to spend on a hard drive; we will look take a closer look at this issue in the conclusion.
As for competition, there are not too many players willing to enter the 256GB market at this time. Newegg lists two drives at 256GB and two at 250GB with the Super Talent OX Series (rated 150 MB/s Read and 100 MB/s Write) coming in just a hair cheaper than the TITAN. The two 250 GB drives are from OCZ Technology and start out at 645 USD, so they are not even competition for the TITAN.
Packaging for the TITAN is very similar to the FM-25S2-128GB we looked at just a few short months ago. As you can see, the TITAN logo has been added since then, but performance numbers are still not there.
The back of the box lists several of the specifications, but you have to look at the sticker on the bottom right hand corner to find performance numbers.
The overall package is very compact as you can see in this image looking down on the box.
Even with the small size of the package, G.Skill has done an excellent job of protecting the drive. This is the same hard foam package we found on the FM-25S2-128GB and one of the better solutions being used to protect SSDs.
The G.Skill TITAN
It is getting to be one of those "If you have seen one SSD, you have seen them all" deals, at least on the outside. Even with that in mind, just seeing an SSD with a big 256 across it gets us excited.
The back of the drive is pretty typical as well. This is where G.Skill places the serial number and compliance logos.
The business end of the drive shows us that the power and SATA data connector is the correct place. Notice that the TITAN drives do not have mini USB ports, a feature that can come in handy, but has little real world value since USB is still far too slow to utilize the awesome transfer rates that are provided by solid state drives.
On the side we see that the drive has the two holes needed to mount the TITAN.
Test System Setup
Processors: AMD Opteron 2356 (2.3GHz Quad-Core) x2
Motherboard: Tyan S2915-E (Supplied by Tyan)
Memory: Kingston KVR667D2S4P5/2G x4 (Supplied by Kingston)
Graphics Card: XFX 8800 GTX (Supplied by XFX USA)
Enclosure: Lian Li V2000
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12DO (Supplied by Noctua)
SATA Controller: Areca ARC-1231ML (Supplied by Areca)
SAS Controller: Areca ARC-1680i (Supplied by Areca)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate X64
Today we are comparing the G.Skill TITAN MLC SSD to several other 2.5-inch drives that are either widely used in the industry or previously reviewed here at TweakTown.
Intel X25-M: The defacto king of 2.5 inch MLC technology. Sitting at the top of the hill comes with a high cost of ownership and being limited to 80GB for 550 USD is enough to make even the wealthiest enthusiast cringe.
Patriot Warp V2: The second revision of the Warp Series was a speed demon and set a new price point for 128GB SSD's to aim for.
Crucial CT32GBFAB0: The Crucial SLC SSD is one of the early technology solid state drives and will provide a great example of just how far solid state has progressed.
G.Skill FS-25S2-64GB: This SLC drive from G.Skill is a rebadged Samsung drive that G.Skill was able to price much lower than Samsung's drive. The FS-25S2-64GB is the SLC drive others aspire to be.
Hitachi 7K100: The 7K100 is a 100GB notebook hard drive that was used by several notebook manufacturers. This is the drive that came with my Lenovo T60.
Hitachi 7K500: The 7K500 is the first 500GB notebook drive to hit the market. Unfortunately the drive is 12 millimeters tall and can only be used in a small number of notebooks. A standard notebook drive is only 9.5mm tall.
Western Digital Scorpio Black: The WD Scorpio Black is a past award winner here at TweakTown and we found it to be one of the best platter based notebook drives available. At the time of review the 320GB version was the fastest platter based 2.5 inch notebook drive on the market.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.00
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
- Temperature display
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.
In our sustained transfer read test we see that the G.Skill is right on Intel's heels, but is not able to overcome Intel's advanced ten channel controller. Still, the TITAN is faster than the previous generations of MLC drives with ease.
The write tests are what everyone seems to be the most interested in these days now that MLC drives are starting to catch up to the SLC drives. Here we see the TITAN reaching a maximum write speed of 125 MB/s, a great deal faster than the X25-M. All of the MLC drives suffer from low minimum speeds, but the TITAN was able to reduce the number of low points which left the drive with a very good average write speed.
Benchmarks - EVEREST Random Access Time
EVEREST Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Everest Ultimate and Corporate Edition offer 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.
When it comes to access time, every hundredth of a millisecond counts. I expected the TITAN's new dual channel controller to raise the access times, but that was not the case. The TITAN did trail the X25-M, but not by a large margin.
Write Access Latency was a little different; the TITAN was able to best the X25-M by half of the access time.
Let's see how all of these synthetic benchmarks relate to real world applications.
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. These tests are based on real world applications that many of us use daily.
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
This is where things started to get tricky. The Windows Photo Gallery test, a high read speed test of smaller files has the TITAN outperforming the Intel drive by a small margin. The rest of the tests show that the Intel drive is quite a bit faster. It is important to remember this high capacity penalty for the X25-M though.
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.
Our workstation and server tests show the TITAN improving over the previous generation MLC drives in many of the tests, but this one has the Intel drive out in front again. When it came to the web server test, the new dual controller configuration showed its might.
Solid state drives are still not for everyone. Two thirds of the requirements have now been met, speed and capacity. As of right now the cost is still holding many back, at least in the notebook user category. Desktop users are most likely holding off for the first 512GB SSDs and that is acceptable. When the drives are finally released in this capacity at a 300 Dollar price point, I think we will see more desktop users take the plunge to solid state.
The G.Skill TITAN is currently all around best bang for the big buck drive for enthusiasts looking to have their cake and eat it too. It sounds like an oxymoron, but the truth is that enthusiasts have standards that are stronger than morals. Certainly a 32 and 64GB boot drive is unacceptable; 128 is right on the time and 256 is absolute nirvana, at least in early 2009.
As mentioned earlier, the 256GB TITAN comes in at 494.99 USD. At nearly 500 Dollars, it is quite a hit, but you are buying 256GB of very fast nirvana for that amount. Comparing the TITAN to the competitions 650 Dollar solution really hammers home the bang for the buck statement. Stick to your declarations and don't settle for a drive that will not provide you with the capacity you know will be needed. The G.Skill TITAN will provide you with everything you are asking for as far as capacity goes and at a price that is getting easier to swallow.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com
United Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk
Australia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au
Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca
Deutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de