Strontium Matrix Series 120GB Solid State Drive Review

Strontium's flagship offering is a familiar product with a reputation for high speed and a low price, but how does it perform under a different flag?
@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, Aug 15 2011 2:03 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 83%Manufacturer: Strontium

Introduction

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Frequent followers of our SSD reviews have already been introduced to Strontium, a SSD manufacturer from Singapore. Our first review of the company's product was the Gamma Series 115GB published last week. The Gamma Series is Strontium's entry level SSD that uses a SandForce SF-1200 controller and pairs it with 25nm IMFT flash. The Matrix Series drive that we are looking at today is based on a Marvell controller and for the most part is a rebadged Micron C400 SATA III SSD.

As you may know, Micron has their hands in many jars and is the M in the IMFT joint flash production partnership with Intel. Micron also manufactures and OEMs SSDs for other companies with Strontium being just one of them. The largest partner receiving Micron C400 drives is Crucial, a division of Micron and reseller of the Crucial m4 products that we've already reviewed in the past.

After learning of this inside info, many may feel the need to turn tail and call the Strontium a Crucial m4 and close this review, but I promise to make things interesting. The Strontium Matrix shipped to us with the latest Micron firmware, something we haven't tested yet on a Crucial m4. Of course, Strontium adds their own bit of flavor to the Matrix Series, so stick around and let's see what it's all about.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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The Strontium Matrix Series 120GB SSD shares the same specifications with the Crucial m4 and Micron C400. As such, you get a read speed of 415MB/s and a write speed of 175MB/s with a 4K aligned IOPS rating of 50,000. In order to achieve these speeds, you need to use a SATA III motherboard.

I've only seen Strontium Matrix Series drives sold on Strontium's website, Strontium.biz. At the time of writing, the 120GB Matrix that we are reviewing today lists for 260 USD and the drive ships from Singapore. Strontium is working on a reseller network and when that is established we should start to see the price of their products reduced.

The Matrix Series gets a three year warranty from Strontium, but doesn't include a desktop adapter bracket that makes installing the drive in a desktop computer easy.

The Packaging

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I'm digging the Strontium company logo, it reminds me of the guys chasing you in Pac-Man. The color scheme is kind of nice with the yellow and red. On the front of the package we see the drives capacity and the drive series is displayed clearly.

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The back of the package gives some general information about Strontium SSDs, but a sticker on the right side of the rear of the box gives specific performance claims about the Matrix Series.

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The package design uses a dual box strategy and the inner package has a nice embossed Strontium logo.

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The inner package keeps the drive secure. Here we see the actual drive placed in the middle of closed cell foam.

The Strontium Matrix Series 120GB SSD

The Strontium Matrix Series 120GB SSD SSD

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Here we get our first look at the Strontium Matrix Series drive. The labels are on opposite sides from what we are used to seeing. On the bottom side shown here, the capacity size and model type are listed.

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The back of the drive has a printed label with the model and serial number. If you look past the laser print like sticker, you can see the Micron sticker underneath.

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On the side we see the all familiar Micron case design that has the mounting points where they should be.

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The SATA power and data connectors are offset as they should be.

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Inside we found a Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 controller and sixteen Micron 25nm flash chips.

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There are eight NAND flash chips per side of the PCB. On this side we also see the Micron cache buffer chip.

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.

The Strontium Matrix Series uses SATA III for data connectivity, but is backwards compatible with SATA II and SATA I. In order to achieve high data transfer rates you'll want to use a motherboard and chipset with native SATA III like the GIGABYTE P67A-UD5 that I'm using here today.

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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In ATTO we achieved some amazing read performance scores - over 450MB/s in some tests. The write performance on the other hand was less than 200MB/s, so the drive is a little off balance and favors reading data to writing data.

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.

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Using HD Tune Pro to read across the drive, we managed to reach a solid 400MB/s and the drive kept a very tight line across the graph.

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Just as we witnessed in ATTO, the Strontium Matrix 120GB writes at a rate half of what it reads at. This can be an issue if you write a lot of data to the drive and expect next generation SATA III performance.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

AIDA64 offers 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 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 and Toshiba.

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The Strontium Matrix scored the lowest read access time we've ever recorded, just one one-thousandth of a second.

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The write access time is very nice as well. It is the access times that give SSD's such great feel when bouncing between windows and applications, since the drives don't need to worry about mechanical moving parts.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark

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 that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.

Key Features:-

* Sequential reads/writes

* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes

* Text copy

* Change dialog design

* internationalization (i18n)

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.

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In CDM we get to see 4K performance and how the drive scales with native command queuing. Both the 4K performance and scales are very good, as you can see here in the results. The Strontium Matrix 120GB is actually faster than the OCZ Vertex 3 in the 4K block size reads.

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Here we see the same tests, but with data being written instead of read. The single command 4K read looks nearly identical to the Vertex 3, but the NCQing 4K block size writes are a little faster on the Matrix.

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.

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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

This is where things get very interesting for all parties concerned. With the Strontium Matrix empty it manages to outperform the OCZ Technology Vertex 3 120GB in many of our real world tests. Since most of us don't run our computers with empty hard drives, let's take a look at the real, real world benchmarks.

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article, full instructions are included.

Brief Methodology

SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.

Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test

Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (120GB), 240 (256GB)

60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB

120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB

240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB

Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.

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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

With both the OCZ Vertex 3 120GB and the Strontium Matrix 120GB filled to half capacity the Matrix Series lags behind the Vertex 3 by a small margin. The Matrix is a very fast drive and Micron has been steadily improving the performance of their controller firmware, but it's still not a SF-2281 / synchronous flash beater just yet.

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

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When it comes to transferring data from one area of the drive to another, the Strontium is very quick and manages to get the transfer finished faster than the Vertex 3 120GB in all tests.

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.

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The Strontium Matrix is a consumer model with multi-level cell flash, so it isn't going to find its way into the server environment. It is always fun to run these tests and see how things look nonetheless.

Final Thoughts

Even though the Strontium Matrix Series 120GB uses one of the fastest SSD controllers on the market and manages to outperform almost all other SSDs out there, we still have some issues to discuss. The first is the cost and overall value, an area directly controlled by Strontium. With a price of 260 USD it seems that Strontium is charging MSRP for the drive, which is fine....if we were buying the drive in a brick and mortar store and expect to pay MSRP for it. Since everyone reading this actually lives at least some part of their life online, a place where MSRPs are nearly banned, we have to take some issue here.

The Crucial m4 120GB is easily found online for 200 USD shipped to your door, a full 60 Dollars less than the Strontium Matrix which is an identical drive. If Strontium included a desktop adapter bracket, SATA 6G certified cable or some sort of other bits to make up an accessory package, that would help offset it somewhat. Instead, Strontium doesn't include an accessory package at all.

When it comes to performance, the Strontium Matrix 120GB delivers read performance in abundance, but the write speed is a bit behind competing products. Once we get to the real world tests the slow synthetic write speed becomes less of an issue since it is very difficult to actually make use of more than 200MB/s write speed when a majority of day-to-day tasks are read intensive, but not write intensive.

The only major issue really comes back around to pricing and the lack of included goodies to justify the 260 USD price point. If Strontium manages to bring the Matrix in line with the m4/C400, we'd buy several.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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