Transcend has their hands in several consumer markets these days. The company is known mainly for their memory products like compact flash and thumb drives. The company has been branching out into different market segments and now has a line of consumer electronics like digital photo frames and MP3 players. Transcend has also ventured into solid state drives and has an impressive lineup started.
The latest SSD in Transcend's portfolio is the Ultra. The Ultra is actually a series name but there are currently only two models available, the 60GB and 120GB capacity drives. The Ultra Series uses an Indilinx Barefoot controller, the same version with 64MB cache that we have tested here numerous times and have fallen in love with.
Even though Transcend has a handful of SSDs and even a few listed on Newegg, it was difficult to find the Ultra Series for sale here in the US. After a fairly extensive search I did find the drives at a few e-tail shops, but the price range was pretty wide. One of the best options I found for the 120GB like what we are reviewing here today was at Buy.com. They listed the 120GB version for 413.99. Let's move on to see what you get for your dollar.
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Transcend Ultra Series uses the Indilinx Barefoot controller with 64MB cache and Samsung MLC NAND flash memory. This has been the defacto standard for most of the drives we have tested this past year. The Transcend Ultra reported in Crystal Disk Info support for the TRIM command when used on our Windows 7 test system so Transcend is shipping the drives with the latest firmware.
As mentioned in the introduction, Transcend is shipping the drives in two configurations, the 120GB and 60GB models. Pricing is a bit sketchy since not many shops are carrying the drives at this point, but the cheapest I was able to find the 120GB for was 413.99 and the 60GB for 239.00 at Newegg. After searching Newegg for other 120GB drives they only list the OCZ Summit as costing less than the 120GB Ultra and it uses the Samsung controller and is not as well suited for Windows 7 single drive configurations. That leaves the Transcend Ultra 120GB sitting in a good spot price wise when compared to the competition.
Let's move on and see if the drive is able to deliver the same level of performance as the other Barefoot drives we have tested thus far.
Transcend is using a full retail package for their Ultra Series SSDs, but as you can see it is just a generic box with little model information on the front.
The back side of the box is also a generic package with the only custom info coming from the sticker that proclaims the drive as an MLC SSD with DRAM Cache. The model number isn't even listed.
Transcend includes a product manual, catalog and warranty statement with the Ultra Series drives. They also include a set of screws for mounting your new SSD.
The Transcend Ultra Series 120GB
Transcend Ultra Series 120GB
The front of the drive looks nearly identical to what the other drives back side look like. Here we see that the drive is void of the Series name, but at least it does show the model number.
The back of the drive is empty of useful information other than the always helpful, don't open me or your warranty will be void.
The side of the drive has the mounting holes where they should be.
The power and data ports are also where they should be. The Ultra Series doesn't require a jumper to update the firmware, but the drive also doesn't have a mini USB port.
Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline
Motherboard: ASUS P6T7 WS SuperComputer (Supplied by ASUS)
Processors: Intel 975 EE (Supplied by AVADirect)
Memory: Corsair Dominator 1600 MHz Triple Channel Kit
Graphics Card: Leadtek Quadro FX1700 (Supplied by Leadtek)
Enclosure: Lian Li V2000
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE2 (Supplied by Noctua)
SAS Controller: LSI MegaRAID SAS 9260-8i (Supplied by LSI)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate X64
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
The Transcend Ultra 120GB drive shows strong performance in the ATTO. The numbers are actually better than what Transcend advertises in their specifications which is pretty amazing since so many times we see the exact opposite.
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.
The Transcend Ultra 120GB drive has a faster maximum STR read speed than the Patriot Torqx M28 (Samsung Controller), but the drive does trail off a bit with a couple of dips that brought the minimum speed down. Once everything is averaged out the Ultra is just a little faster than the Torqx M28.
The STR write speed of the Ultra is a little bumpy and the drive managed to dip all the way down to 100 MB/s. When comparing the Ultra to the M28 the Ultra shows superiority in the average and maximum readings.
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 random access read time for the Transcend Ultra falls right in line with the other Indilinx Barefoot drives we have tested on the new test system.
Write access times are very low. Here we see that the Ultra is even faster than the Crucial M225, another Indilinx Barefoot drive.
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
It is always fun to see how different drives react to Windows tests. Here we see the Transcend Ultra 120GB drive holding its own up against drives costing nearly three times as much.
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.
Transcend's products are designed for consumer applications, but here we see that the Ultra 120GB does pretty well in a few of the enterprise tests.
Transcend is primarily a general consumer product company,but they have an enthusiast grade product with the Ultra Series solid state drives. Could this be a sign of the things to come? - Most definitely. The cost of the Ultra Series drives are quite low compared to some of the other Indilinx SSDs we have tested. At less than 415 USD the Ultra is one of the lowest cost 120GB drives on the market. The only issue is that a few of the 128GB drives with the same controller, cache and memory are close to 100 USD less.
The Transcend Ultra 120GB is a very fast SSD and compares with the best of breed drives that are sold at a much higher premium. The performance is there and it is clearly evident when we see the performance against the Crucial M225.
Here we are with a dilemma; the Transcend Ultra in 120GB trim is faster than an award winning SSD, but costs a fair bit more as well. It really comes down to what level of performance you are willing to pay for. This takes us back to the consumer vs. enthusiast market. Enthusiasts are willing to pay a premium for higher performing products and consumers are looking for the best bang for the buck. It is really going to come down to which side of the line you stand on if the Transcend Ultra is for you.
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