Corsair Performance 3 128GB Solid State Drive Review

The Corsair Performance 3 uses the new Marvell Van Gogh Controller with SATA 6G speeds.

Manufacturer: Corsair
9 minutes & 55 seconds read time


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The quest for faster, more reliable and lower priced SSDs continues today with the review of the Corsair Performance 3 128GB. Last month we looked at the flagship 256GB model, but as you may know, performance changes when flash density changes. The flagship 256GB model impressed us with its 480MB/s read speed and 320MB/s write speed. Of course, the high speeds are just one aspect of SSDs and when it comes to this controller you need to look beyond the initial benchmarks to see the long lasting effects of quality engineering. The Corsair Performance 3 is a marathon runner designed to go the distance at higher speeds over the long haul. At this time most other SSD controllers are like sprinters who need to take a water break from time to time to rejuvenate.

At this time, the 'high speed, long distance' feature of the new Marvell Van Gogh controller is being overlooked in both forum posts and the avalanche of what I call 20 minute reviews. We've been playing with the new Van Gogh controller since June 2010 off and on and have learned a great deal about its ins and outs, strong points and weak points. Obviously the performance endurance that comes from the aggressive garbage collection is a strong point. Those experienced with SSDs might say this feature is more important than achieving read and write speeds that are over SATA II speeds.

Using so much of the controller pie on the garbage collection means other areas have to suffer. One of the most intensive tasks for both HDDs and SSDs is the 4K read and write. The Corsair Performance 3 has a lower read and write speed than what we get on say a SandForce SF-1200. The P3 is not your typical SSD, it is something different, something more evolved for real world use and not for those just looking to hit high benchmark results.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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Corsair has released the Performance 3 in three capacity sizes; 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. The Performance 3's designed so the performance of each capacity size is different. The flagship 256GB model has the highest performance with a rating of 480MB/s read and 320MB/s write. The drive we are looking at today, the 128GB model is rated at 410MB/s read and 210MB/s write. The budget model with 64GB of capacity dips down to 365MB/s read and 110MB/s write. The performance of the Performance 3 scales well when going up, but things arn't so pretty down low.

Today we are looking at the 128GB size, the middle of the road product that many enthusiasts, power users and even mainstream users will more than likely be attracted to, since it offers the best mix of performance and price. The 128GB Performance 3 is right in the sweet spot.

The new Performance 3 Series of drives are now available at Newegg and a few other e-tail shops. The Corsair Performance 3 128GB drive is priced at 319.99 USD at the time of writing. We expect this price to drop in the coming weeks. The 120GB SandForce drives are already getting very close to the 200 USD price point, but you will have to look hard to find the 34nm version that has the same speeds as the drives used in our benchmark results.

The Packaging

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The Performance 3 128GB packaging comes in the Corsair standard issue SSD box with the label on the bottom right being the identifier of what is inside.

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The back of the package has some general information about Corsair SSDs, but on the bottom right you can see the full model number. No performance information is given, though.

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The SSD is kept separate from the accessory bundle in the two part package that is divided down the middle.

The Corsair Performance 3 128GB

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Here we see our first look at the Corsair Performance 3 128GB drive. The top label shows the series, capacity size and at the bottom the model number.

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The Performance 3 uses an all aluminum shell. On the back we found the standard mounting locations as well as the serial number of the drive.

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The standard mounting points were also found on the side of the drive.

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The SATA power and data connectors are where they should be and line up even in the 2.5" to 3.5" adapter.

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The Performance 3 uses a 1.8" form factor PCB. On the main side we see four of the eight Toshiba flash modules, The Marvell controller and the Hynix 128MB cache module.

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The back of the PCB is fairly straightforward with the four remaining flash modules.

Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

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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, Corsair and Noctua.

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.

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ATTO shows the Performance 3 128GB SSD hitting up to 425MB/s read speed at the 128k block size and 217MB/s write speed at the 16k block size. These numbers are a little higher than what Corsair claimed on their specification sheet.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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.

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The Corsair Performance 3 can sure bring the sustained read performance across the drive. Here we see the P3 outrunning everything on out chart, even the 256GB Crucial RealSSD C300.

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The write performance is where we expected to see the P3 faultier, but the 128GB drive can still deliver very good write performance. There was a dip on the graph in all five of our runs, right at the beginning, but this drop in performance was only for a split second.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.60
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

AIDA64 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.

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The read access of the P3 128GB is a little higher than what we've recorded with the SandForce SF-1200 and Crucial RealSSD C300. Still, SSDs are measured in microseconds and as you can see on the chart the P3 has access times that traditional platter drives can't match.

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The write access times are also very low. The drive we tested produced a performance graph that had stair steps towards the end of the test. The write access time never went to the extremes of the Crucial RealSSD C300.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark


Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Download here:

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.

Key Features:-

* 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.

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In CDM we are looking at 4K performance and how it scales with NCQ commands. The Corsair Performance 3 starts off slow with around 20MB/s 4K reads, but scales well when commands are increased. Given how the new Marvell controller performs when compared to the first generation Marvell controller found in the Crucial RealSSD C300, we think some of the performance was diverted away from this area to feed the garbage collection.

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The 4K single command write performance is very close to the C300 128GB drive, but once we start running NCQ the P3 gains a little at 4 commands. 32 commands don't seem to increase performance over 4 commands.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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.

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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

The Corsair Performance 3 fairs very well up against the Crucial RealSSD C300 in our real world tests. The two trade benchmark wins back and forth when in a clean state, but the Corsair Performance 3 has a hidden trick up its sleeve. The Marvell Van Gogh controller does not lose performance as it fills like just about every other SSD we've reviewed in the past. This means you retain the same high level of performance for longer and don't need to run HDDErase sessions to clean the drive.

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:

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

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In our data copy test the Corsair Performance 3 outperformed the Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB drive by a significant margin. The only drive that was able to outpace the P3 128GB was the 256GB C300.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1
Developer Homepage:
Test Homepage:

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.

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The new Marvell controller wasn't designed for enterprise tasks, so it is outperformed by the SandForce drives by a large margin in some tests.

Final Thoughts

The Corsair Performance 3 offers clean performance that is on par with many other 120 / 128GB drives that are on the market at the time of writing. In order to reach those high levels of performance you will need to invest in a Sandy Bridge motherboard and processor. This is due to the Sandy Bridge platform having superior SATA 6G performance that is better than current X58 / Marvell motherboards, especially when writing data to the drive.

Most users don't run their SSD in a clean state like how many benchmarks are ran in performance reviews looking to show a product at its peak. This is where the Performance 3 really shines; when you have data on the drive, when blocks are dirty, just like the drive on your system is right now. Corsair tuned the garbage collection system to aggressively look after the drive to give optimized performance that will be the same from day 1 to day 301. This is also very useful when running RAID arrays since TRIM commands are currently not supported in RAID.

The only issue we see getting in the way of you owning a Corsair Performance 3 drive is the high cost that they are currently selling for. Pricing is always dynamic and the ebb and flow comes and goes, but the one thing we've learned is that time will always mean costs will decrease. At this time the Corsair Performance 3 128GB is available at Newegg for 319.99. We think this price will go down to 250 USD rather quickly and at that price the P3 128GB looks a lot more appealing.

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