Ultra affordable (AKA Ultra Small Capacity) drives have been the odd bird in the SSD world. Intel and Kingston have both been somewhat successful developing drives in this category, but I have done my best to steer clear from this market altogether. That changed when Corsair sent over their new 40GB Force Series drive and with one knock on the door I was tossed into a market that I have no business pretending to know about.
Even though prices are falling and the lines are blurring there are two distinct classes of SSDs on the market. I normally test and discuss products geared for enthusiasts, power users and mainstream users looking to get the most performance possible out of their machine, be it a custom build or an OEM clone of a clone's clone. All of these users are looking for high performance at the best price and up until now the reduced channel, smaller capacity SSDs have not been considered high performance by my personal measuring devices.
So what has changed and why the hell am I looking at a 40GB SSD? Well, the first thing is that Corsair is quite proud of their new 40GB, near 100 USD SandForce powered SSD and knew that the best way to introduce it was to send it to someone who was going to hate it before he even opened the box. I wasn't really given the chance to volunteer and with that the chance to opt out, one knock, one box, one 40GB drive that I never wanted to see.
Being known for sending products back with a note explaining why a product is junk, I will never recommend it to anyone. But obviously something has changed in my line of thinking or else you wouldn't even be reading this review to begin with. To start things off, Corsair's new F40 is not a reduced channel POS that should have never seen the light of day. This is a real SSD with all of the channels sending and receiving data just like the big boys that I normally cover. That means that most of the performance is there...not all of the performance since smaller flash is a bit slower, but enough is retained to make the F40 worthy of your time.
Even if you are someone who has written off small capacity SSDs no matter what the cost, I think this is one product you should spend a little time looking at today. Let's walk through the specs and then get to some testing and see why.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Before we can begin to appreciate what Corsair and SandForce have done with the F40 we first need to discuss the competition. Both Intel and Kingston have 40GB drives on the market that are technically SSDs. They are priced very aggressively with a target of 100 USD or lower. To get there the number of flash chips needs to be reduced and with the competition's drives that means the number of channels must also be reduced. When you start dividing channels you also start dividing performance. It isn't hard to figure out that drives that are already not at the top of the performance charts suffer greatly when you start dividing performance to get to a better cost. How much of a performance loss is acceptable before you can really still call a product an SSD still?
Either by design or just some luck followed by an engineer stating, "Hey look what happens when I start removing flash" SandForce was able to get their controllers working with just 12 NAND flash chips instead of the standard 16 but retain all of their channels. With all of the channels still working drastic cuts in performance were avoided and we are left with a low cost SandForce controlled SSD that still is fast enough to be considered an SSD and not a marketing ploy.
Everything sounds really good up to this point but there are still more to consider. In our 60GB drive tests we learned that the smaller flash chips did have a slight performance hit. This is amplified with the reduced flash count so don't expect 240GB capacity like performance. We will get into the performance later in this article but performance is only half of the story.
At some point the 100 USD price point became a big target for SSD makers. Intel and Kingston have both been there for a few months now but as I have already pointed out the performance has been less than honorable (write speeds of 35MB/s for the Intel X25-V). The enthusiast in me all but denies the existence or need of such products but the practical side of me can at least recognize the importance of this price point. Newegg currently lists the Corsair Force F40 at just under 125.00 USD. To help reduce costs the F40 doesn't include a desktop adapter bracket that is now standard with many Force Series drives but the warranty does stay the same at 3 years.
Looking through the specs we see that all of the standard SandForce SF-1200 goodies are also included; SATA II, TRIM, garbage collection, no moving parts and even the propriety stuff that makes the consumer 1200 controllers awesome are there. The claimed speeds are 280MB/s read and 270MB/s write, this is down from the 285 / 275 of many of the other Force drives, but at these speeds we are just splitting hairs with that one.
The packaging for the F40 is much like the other recent Corsair SSDs we have tested this past year. At the bottom we see that the F40 is from the Force Series and it has a capacity of 40GB.
The back of the package has some general information about Corsair's Force Series and the serial / model number on the bottom right side.
The inner packaging does a good job of protecting the drive and keeping it secure in the box. In an effort to keep costs low Corsair has chosen to not ship the F40 with a desktop adapter. Hopefully at some point this will change since most potential buyers will be looking to add the F40 to their desktop and supplement it with a large capacity 3.5" drive for long term storage.
The Corsair Force F40 40GB SSD
Here we get our first look at the Corsair Force 40GB. Smaller capacity doesn't mean a small form factor, the F40 is still a 2.5" form factor drive that will slide right into nearly every notebook on the planet. Capacity information is listed on the front of the drive with the model and serial number.
The back of the drive is void of print information but does have the four standard mounting locations that will give you the ability to mount the F40 into some of the newer desktop adapters.
Looking at the side we also see the standard mounting points that are used widely to mount 2.5" form factor drives.
The back has standard SATA power and data ports.
Normally this section is uneventful but today we have something interesting. I stated earlier that the new 40GB SandForce based drives only have 12 flash modules and not the 16 we have come to expect. Here we see how this worked out. On the top side three modules were removed and only five remain.
On the back we see that seven of the eight modules are remaining. That makes the drive a four channel, three memory modules per channel instead or four / four.
Now let's see what happens with the performance!
Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI and Noctua.
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Corsair Force F40 and we will be looking at the performance closely to try and answer them all. At the end we will start to figure in the price and determine if the Corsair Force F40 is worthy of your money.
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.
In ATTO we can see the high IOPS programming come into play in the 4K write portion of the test. Standard drives are only able to achieve around 120 to 130MB/s but the High IOPS drives hit 170MB/s or more. Here we see the Corsair F40 writing 4K data at 173.2 MB/s.
Corsair's performance claims of 280MB/s read and 270MB/s write appear to be close, but we were able to read data a little faster while write data is a little slower. The write speed we hit, 268MB/s is just under the claimed speed and I have no doubt that if I ran the test 10 times I would hit 270MB/s more than once. What is interesting here is that for the first time a SandForce SF-1200 is not write limited by the SATA II interface and we are actually seeing a performance wall limited by the configuration.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
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.
Even though the ATTO performance was nearly the same as the other SandForce drives, we are starting to see some difference with HD Tune. Here we see an average read speed of 107.4MB/s, less than half of the full spec 120GB SandForce drives. I really wasn't expecting to see such a large performance drop in the read speeds.
The write tests are where all other 40GB SSDs take a nose dive and become all but unusable if you are doing anything with your PC other than Facebook updates. The Corsair Force F40 once again loses nearly half of its performance from the full tilt SF-1200 drives, but the speeds are much higher than those from Intel.
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.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in write the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron.
Access times are why solid state technology has such a performance advantage over traditional platter drives. Without the need to move a physical platter into position SSDs are able to read and write data much faster.
In the read test we see the F40 keeping pace with the Vertex 2 120GB drive and the numbers are nearly identical.
The write access times went up with the F40, but this is may be due to early firmware that is being introduced with this first round of 40GB drives. SandForce has done a good job so far keeping their release firmware relatively error free, but achieving maximum performance has taken a bit of a back seat since the performance was so high to begin with. I expect to see the higher write access times drop down in future firmware revisions, but for now an average of .24 is still better than most products on the market.
Benchmarks - Crystal Disk Mark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 is not available to the public yet, but the Technical Preview does allow us to test 4K performance at queue depths of 4 and 32 in addition to 1. The current release Crystal Disk Mark only shows us QD 1.
Our 4K numbers show progressive growth through the queue depth range and finish up close to 100MB's.
The same can't be said for the 4K write speeds where performance actually is reduced when the tasks are piled on.
That concludes our synthetic benchmarks, let's take a look at the real world tests and see if what we learned from the synthetics carries over to the real world.
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. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
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
If you follow my writing then you know that PCMark's Vantage Suite is a really good indicator for what to expect in your day to day computing activities. Synthetics be damned, this is where it all comes together and as drives evolve that statement becomes even truer.
Up tlll now I gave you the marketing hype with little to back it up other than some synthetic benchmarks that didn't back up the marketing hype. Now I can start to show why the Corsair Force 40GB drive was even reviewed, the real world performance is very good. It is actually not just good, but when compared to the F40's direct competition, other 40GB SSDs and platter drives the performance is spectacular.
Benchmarks - AS SSD
AS SSD Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358
Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9
AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.
In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).
Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.
- Copy Benchmark
The only shortfall of the SandForce SF-1200 is in the copy performance where compressed data is moved from one partition of the drive to another. With the latest firmware update we have observed SF-1200 120GB drives dropping down to around 80MB/s in these tests. The Corsair F40 is moving the same data right around 50MB/s so there is still an area of concern, but with just 40GB of available space, closer to 10GB after installing Windows 7, Office 2010 and a couple of programs you are not going to be storage or moving a lot of compressed data to begin with.
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.
The server tests are an area that I expected to see a big performance hit, but as you can see I was wrong. The Corsair Force 40GB was able to run at nearly identical speeds of the other SF-1200 drives we have tested.
Best of both worlds? Not exactly, but the Corsair Force F40 is cheap enough, and fast enough to be considered if you are looking for an SSD on a budget. Before now there really wasn't a viable option that allowed users to get close to the level of performance associated with solid state drives.
That said, you are still not getting the full on performance of a SandForce controlled SSD but you are getting a big mouth full rather than just a nibble. If you are not worried about synthetic benchmarks and want performance that will decrease your boot and application launch then this is a good option to hop aboard the SSD train.
The next issue to take into account after performance is capacity size. Personally I really couldn't live with just 40GB of space, but I spend more time on a notebook than I do anything else. Desktop users that have the ability to install more than one drive are prime targets for Corsair's F40. It is a bit interesting that Corsair didn't include a 3.5 to 2.5" desktop adapter bracket since this is certainly going to be sold to more desktop users than notebook users; the same may not be true for the 120 or 240GB drives.
That leads us into pricing. As it sits now you can purchase the Corsair Force F40 for right around 125 at Newegg or 130 at Tiger Direct. That is a bit more than the 100 Dollar target price; hopefully these two etailers get it together soon so the Force 40GB can be competitive. The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro, a 40GB SandForce SF-1200 designed especially for Macs is down to 99.99 USD from Macsales.com. I thought there was supposed to be a premium for Mac parts. When it comes to the Intel and Kingston's value line of drives there is no doubt that the Corsair F40 is a better buy even with the 30 Dollar premium.
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