Multi-Level Cell (MLC) drives have started catching their Single Level Cell (SLC) counterparts in recent months when it comes to the performance category. The MLC drives have always had a significant lead when it comes to price, but SLC has towered over MLC in performance. Today we are looking at the latest SLC technology to come from MTRON, one of the global leaders in solid state storage technology.
Previously we were given the opportunity to look at two MTRON drives by our friends at DVNation. Today's review drive came from MTRON directly, but we are still going to give DVNation a shout out for their help in securing the drive for our review. One thing to note, we were hoping to get in four MTRON PRO 7500 drives for a RAID review, since this is an enterprise product and in all likelihood would be used in a RAID 5 or RAID 10 array in a company's database server. Global demand for the PRO 7500, however, has been so high that a RAID review was not possible due to the amount of products on hand at MTRON's marketing department.
As stated above, the MTRON SLC 7500 SSD is an enterprise product designed primarily for use in server environments. MTRON does market the drive as being a notebook drive alternative, but the high cost of ownership makes this task seem unlikely. MTRON does, however, make a line of products that fit into the typical notebook user category, the MOBI line. Today we are going to focus on the new PRO 7500 line of products and see how they compare with today's latest and greatest 2.5-inch products, both platter and solid state based.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The MTRON PRO 7500 is a 2.5 or 3.5-inch SLC Solid State Drive that uses the SATA II interface. Capacities range from 16 to 128GB with all of the typical storage numbers. Today we are going to focus on the 32GB, 2.5-inch drive that was shipped to us from MTRON. It should also be noted that MTRON PRO Series drives carry a solid 5 year warranty against manufacturers defect.
In the U.S. MTRON products are rare and only a few resellers carry them in stock. After a quick search of Pricegrabber I was able to find the MTRON PRO 7500 32GB at Memory Suppliers for a breathtaking 939 Dollars. By going straight to DVNation and having a look, I found that the Texas based company has the same drive in stock and at a much more reasonable 779 USD. As always, DVNation didn't disappoint us and they proved once again that they are the leading source of solid state drives in the U.S. with all of the latest and greatest SSD tech on hand for expedited delivery.
Speaking of price, you can tell that the MTRON PRO 7500 SSD isn't your typical consumer SSD. As an enterprise product, it does come with a high cost of ownership. Essentially, what you are purchasing is a drive with a very high Input/Ouput Operations Per Second (IOPS). Price generally scales with this number and for most consumers IOPS means little. In the server market IOPS is the bloodline between fast transactions or your employees waiting on database updates. At 779 USD I don't think many people will opt for the PRO 7500 32GB as a notebook drive, but it is possible and your notebook will certainly see a performance increase over the platter based drives.
MTRON uses the same primary box design with all of their disk products, but replaces the stickers that show what product line and specifications the drive has. On the front we see that we are working with the PRO Series, 7500 flavour in 32GB SATA format.
The sticker also acts as a tamper proof seal, so you will know if your drive has been opened since it was shipped from the factory.
There is not a lot of information on the actual product; MTRON just refers you to their website. Since I have yet to see an MTRON product on a retail shelf this works fine for them, but once retail penetration is made the company should rethink their box design.
The drives are packaged very well inside of the box, as you can see here there is a large amount of close cell foam that surrounds the drive.
The MTRON PRO 7500 32GB SLC SSD
The MTRON PRO Series drives come with an aluminum housing, similar to what Samsung uses on their flagship SLC drives.
The back of the drive has the drives model and serial number information.
On each side of the drive MTRON places a sticker that voids the warranty if broken.
Here we see the SATA data and power connections.
The documentation for the drive is generic and would be the same for all of the products in MTRON's line-up. It does a good job of leading you through the setup and installation process, but that is about all.
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 MTRON PRO 7500 SLC SSD to several other 2.5-inch drives that are either widely used in the industry or previously reviewed here at TweakTown. Below is a description of some of the key comparison drives.
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.
SLC drives tend to keep their read speeds in very tight groups with only very small dips in performance; for the most part you can run a ruler off of the read speeds of the PRO 7500. In this benchmark we see how the MLC drives have gained an advantage over the SLC drives in synthetic read performance. The new PRO 7500 does narrowly beat the other SLC drives. Let's see what happens with write performance.
Write speed consistency is truly the strong suit for SLC drives and here we see the MTRON PRO 7500 excel with a group so tight a sniper would be proud.
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.
The SLC drives started to slip a little in the access time department, but were still much better than the platter drives. Here we see that MTRON has reeled in the access times and the PRO 7500 now leads this category.
Write Access Latency is average for the SLC drives and to be honest it would be difficult for a drive to perform faster than the latest SLC technology drives do.
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
Our desktop tests show that the G.Skill Titan and Intel X25-M are better suited for typical desktop use, but that doesn't mean the PRO 7500 is slow by any means for these tasks.
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.
Here we see the intended use tests for the MTRON PRO 7500. The Intel X25-M proves to be superior in testing, but reliability concerns of long term use have been made (and confirmed in our labs). Over time MLC drives, at least the Intel X25-M, suffer from issues associated with the way Windows works with the wear leveling, or lack of support. Formatting database drives is something that administrators like to put on their long list of to dos and going with an array of high quality SLC drives returns databases to maintenance free status.
MTRON is one of the global leaders of the solid state technology drive push and has invested a great deal of time and money into their product development. With MLC starting to gain traction in performance, MTRON will need to continue their development of the single level cell products or get pulled back into the "just another expensive drive" category, much like Plextor did with their ROM drives. At this point the PRO 7500 is still a class leading product worthy of praise, but the benchmarks show just how close the competing products are catching up.
The high cost of the enterprise SLC drives is still high and as such will keep typical users at bay. From my observations the PRO 7500 is best kept in the server room. We would have liked to test in this environment, but global demand has been high for the PRO so our access to three or more drives was cut short. In reality, it is difficult to even justify a single drive review of enterprise drives, but sometimes you must make concessions and just take what you can get.
When it comes to performance, there isn't much on the market that can compete with the MTRON PRO 7500 once it is in its native environment. MTRON sacrifices a little performance to gain higher long term stability. The next product cycle for SLC and MLC drives is of great interest to me since the lines are really starting to become blurred. Time will tell if MLC is able to take SLC on all fronts.
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