Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120GB Solid State Drive Review

Mushkin brings a rare combination to the table by pairing the SF-2281 with 32nm Toshiba Toggle Flash.

Manufacturer: Mushkin Enhanced
14 minutes & 5 seconds read time


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If you are an enthusiast, you should know a little bit about Mushkin. Back in the day when being an enthusiast meant owning an ABIT motherboard and knowing a thing or two about jumpers, thermal management and having a lot of patience. Mushkin was helping build the foundations for the enthusiast market as we know it today. In those days we had real multiplier adjustments and RAM was the sizzling hot product used to boost system performance. Mushkin was one of the first companies offering PC-133 SDRAM with 2-2-2 timings, but the company really made a name for themselves when they introduced some of the first, if not the first PC-150 memory modules. Since then the company has changed hands a few times, but the enthusiast spirit lives on in the Denver area.

Today system wide performance increases come from high speed storage products and Mushkin is still using their knowledge to help enthusiasts make everything better, faster and more reliable. Unlike many SSD manufacturers, you can buy Mushkin products on their website directly from the company. Mushkin also has a network of resellers, but in many cases the best prices come from Mushkin directly. Because of this, Mushkin, the SSD Company that you rarely hear about, has some of the lowest priced SandForce based drives available on the market today.

Mushkin has jumped head first into the SF-2281 era and released two products on the market. The Chronos brand is a low cost offering and uses asynchronous flash with a SandForce SF-2281 controller. Today we are looking at the stepped up Chronos Deluxe model that uses the same SandForce SF-2281, but pairs it with premium 3Xnm Toshiba Toggle Mode Flash. To date there are very few companies offering SSDs with Toshiba Toggle flash. We've already seen the Patriot Wildfire, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G (latest revision) and OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS, but now it's time to see what the Chronos Deluxe has to offer.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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Mushkin is claiming a data transfer rate of 560MB/s read, one of the highest we've seen claimed to date and a write speed of 515MB/s. They are also listing 90,000 IOPS which is a very high claim as well. With SandForce's latest firmware rollout, these numbers are appropriate and for the most part accurate.

I think by now everyone is familiar with the SF-2000 Series client controllers from SandForce, but if you want a detailed account please have a look at our introduction article that goes over all the fine details.

There are two important factors to keep in mind about the Muskin Chronos Deluxe. The first has to do with the flash used; 3Xnm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND. This flash has a much longer lifespan than the 25nm IMFT flash that resides in many of today's SandForce SF-2281 controlled products. We hear that Toshiba flash is starting to become rare these days and with Toshiba getting ready for their own 2Xnm flash rollout, 3Xnm flash is going to dry up at some point. In short, the window to get a performance SSD with the longest lasting flash is getting smaller every day.

The second thing you need to know about the Chronos Deluxe is the price. Today we're looking at the 120GB model that uses sixteen Toshiba flash modules and until this morning was listed at Mushkin's website with a price of around 260 USD. This price is in line with the other 120GB Toshiba Toggle Flash drives. The real value, though, was the 240GB Chronos Deluxe that uses eight large capacity Toggle Flash chips. The 240GB model, again listed on Mushkin's website until this morning, was priced considerably lower than any of the other Toshiba Toggle Mode flash drives on the market. Mushkin also offers a 60GB Chronos Deluxe.

Mushkin brings additional value to the Chronos Deluxe product line by including a desktop adapter bracket, screws for installing your drive in your notebook or desktop and offering a three year warranty.

The Packaging

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The Mushkin Chronos Deluxe package reminds me of the suit worn in Crysis with its honeycomb outline. A reference to speeding up time is also there, but there isn't a lot of product information presented on the front of the package.

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The back of the package doesn't show a lot of information either and you have to look to the sticker added on the top right corner to be sure if you have a Deluxe model or a standard Chronos model.

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The inner packaging uses some of the thickest foam we've seen to date with an SSD. The desktop adapter bracket is fitted in grooves on the side and hides the drive when you first open the package.

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Here we see the accessory package that is included.

The Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120GB SSD

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Here we get our first look at the Chronos Deluxe. Mushkin now shows a new sticker for the line on their website, but the inner workings are the same.

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On the side we found the standard mounting points positioned where they should be.

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The back of the drive also shows the model number, firmware at the time the drive shipped and serial number. The standard underside mounting points are also where they should be.

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The included desktop adapter bracket offsets the drive so the SATA power and data ports are where they should be for installing the drive in a drive sled.

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As we stated previously, the 120GB drive uses sixteen Toshiba Toggle Mode flash chips and a single SandForce SF-2281 controller.

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The Deluxe has eight flash chips on each side and the underside holds most of the surface-mount components.

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.

In order to get the most performance out of your Mushkin Chronos Deluxe, or for that matter any other SATA III SSD, you need a motherboard with native SATA III built into the chipset. At this time your best performance will come from P67 and Z68 motherboards. I'm currently using a GIGABYTE P67 and am very impressed with its performance.

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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Mushkin's performance claims of 560MB/s read and 515MB/s write speeds are very close to the numbers we achieved in ATTO. No doubt this is a world class drive with the performance to justify that statement.

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 read performance line across the drive while in an optimal state is very flat with the highs and lows being very close together. On average, the Chronos Deluxe read at 421MB/s, quite an achievement.

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The write performance also held steady aside from the normal dip that happens at the start of the test. Here we recorded an average write speed of 404MB/s.

At this point let's point out that the Chronos Deluxe is the only drive on the chart using Toshiba Toggle Flash. Most of the drives we've tested using this NAND have been a little slower than their IMFT counterparts, but it looks like the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe is able to part with tradition.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

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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Last week we looked at a drive with a lot more variation in the read access time test and we were starting to worry if the latest SandForce firmware was the cause. Luckily today we can say that it wasn't a firmware issue.

The Chronos Deluxe held the minimum .21ms read access time throughout the test other than a tiny blip on the graph. Access time is the area where you feel an improvement when coming from a mechanical drive, but it's often overshadowed by the large transfer rate numbers put on the board by SSDs.

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The write latency held steady as well with an average of .22ms.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark


Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Download here:

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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We've been observing a lot of variation between different companies SF-2281 controlled drives and the native command queuing performance. The straight one command 4K runs have all been around the same, around 38MB/s, but the 4 and 32 command tests have been vastly different.

The Mushkin Chronos Deluxe does a really good job in the 4 command area scoring 81MB/s, one of the highest results we've recorded. The 32 command test showed a score of 207MB/s which is a little lower than we expected, especially for a drive that has such a large IOPS rating.

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The single command 4K write test produced an impressive 132MB/s, another very high score, but again the higher queue depth tests weren't as high as we like to see. The high queue depths are rarely seen in desktop level applications or used, so we aren't too worried about the results.

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

For the last couple of months I've been waiting to get a single controller SSD in house that manages to break the 80,000 Mark line. The Mushkin Chronos Deluxe comes very close, over 79,000! As you can see in the charts, the Deluxe is very fast in the day to day tasks, but these tests are when the drive is operating under optimal conditions.

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 (128GB), 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

The real, real world tests come from our modified test where data is introduced to the drive at controlled stages. Here we see the Chronos Deluxe firing off that 79,611 run, so close to 80K. When data is on the drive we still achieved some very impressive results; over 50K in all three tests.

The TRIM test shows the Chronos Deluxe recovering very well and able to perform at near optimal levels after the data was deleted.

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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File copy performance is an area that SandForce has been working on directly with their firmware updates and software revisions. We've already seen drives achieve over 400MB/s in the game test, but the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe was only able to break past the 230MB/s mark. Still, the drive performed very well in these tests.

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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There is a very thin line that separates the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe from many of the enterprise drives we've seen with SF-2500 controllers. The 2500 and 2200 are physically identical and only differ by the firmware and software programming. The 2500 is generally paired with the same Toshiba 3Xnm flash that Mushkin used on the Chronos Deluxe.

I can't really come out and say the Chronos Deluxe would make a really good drive for your server tasks since it doesn't have the SuperCap for data retention during a power failure, but if you have a battery backup on your system... You know, just pointing out the facts here... 90K IOPS rating, long life, high endurance Toshiba Toggle Mode flash. That may be close enough for some.

Final Thoughts

I'm not going to tell you that the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe is the very best SATA III SSD on the market today, or that it has a leg up over every other Team SandForce drive on the market. I am going to give you some really compelling reasons why I think it's in the top three or four. Then we'll start talking about pricing and you can put it all together.

Other than a few really oddball entries, SF-2281 'consumer' SSDs come in three flash flavors. Starting on the low end, you have IMFT 25nm asynchronous flash, a budget flash used in the Agility 3, Force 3, Chronos (non-Deluxe model) and a few other drives that in our testing perform at around the same level as last year's SF-1200 controlled drives when filled to 50 percent capacity. A majority of drives use IMFT 25nm synchronous flash; Vertex 3, Force GT, S511 and so on.

Synchronous flash, also called ONFi 2.x is really the first step for enthusiasts, especially now that prices have really dropped. The final flash type used is 3Xnm Toggle Mode flash from Toshiba, a form of ONFi 2.x without the JEDEC classification. 25nm IMFT is rated for around 5K P/E cycles and 3Xnm Toshiba Toggle Mode flash is rated for around twice as many. Even though we are talking about writing a lot of data for a very long time, the 3Xnm flash will still last even longer.

At this time there are very few consumer SSDs that use Toshiba Toggle Flash; you can count those available in the US on one hand - Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition, Patriot WildFire, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G (240GB capacity size only) and what we looked at today, the Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe. That said, the Chronos Deluxe is in a very limited class of products right from the gate.

The next stop along our comparison trail is pricing. While cleaning up this article for print, Mushkin removed their direct buy pricing on their website for an unknown reason. In its place there it now states to email them for current pricing and order information. I dropped a line over and was told the current prices are as follows for the Chronos Deluxe; 60GB 139.99 USD, 120GB 259.99 USD and the 240GB for 484.99 USD. Even though we are reviewing the 120GB model today, we can't help but focus on the 240GB price. Here's why, the OWC 240GB Toshiba Toggle drive is listed at 519.99 USD, the Vertex 3 Max IOPS is listed at Newegg for 529.99 USD (499.99 after a mail-in-rebate) and the Patriot Wildfire 240GB is listed at Newegg for 499.99 (no mail-in-rebate). So in this very limited class of Toshiba Toggle Mode flash offerings, Mushkin has a price advantage over the competition in the 240GB capacity side.

It's just too bad the 120GB Chronos Deluxe doesn't share the same crown. In this capacity size the Mushkin drive bests the Vertex 3 Max IOPS at Newegg by 7 Dollars, but takes it on the chin from Wildfire which after a mail-in-rebate costs just 239.99 in the 120GB capacity side. Mail-in-rebates are such a pain in the butt, though, and that is the savior for the Chronos Deluxe since you can avoid the hassle and walk away mail free for 260 USD, roughly 20 Dollars less than the 120GB Wildfire before the rebate.

To sum it all up with a bow on top, you get amazing performance, extremely long service life and a hassle free low price point on a drive that literally has very little competition in the marketplace. The only problem I see is that we don't have a stack of them for RAID testing.

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