Patriot Pyro SE 120GB Solid State Drive Review

Fitting in between the Pyro and Wildfire, the Pyro SE balances performance, longevity and cost like a Globetrotter with a basketball.

Manufacturer: Patriot
14 minutes & 31 seconds read time


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I have to admit that at first I wasn't really sure why Patriot would release the synchronous flash Pyro SE. At the start of 2011 Patriot announced and then delivered their 32nm Toshiba Toggle NAND drive for the high end, Wildfire. Then in an effort to claim some market share from the upper mainstream segment, Patriot released their Pyro SSD with IMFT asynchronous flash. Patriot's two tier approach kept things nice and tidy at a time when other manufacturers were releasing three product segments, a drive right in the middle with synchronous IMFT flash.

A two tier solution is much easier to manage than a three tier; you cut your R&D as well as product support readiness by a third. Earlier today I started diving into what may happen in 2012 and learned a great deal about Toshiba's roadmap. At that point it became very clear why Patriot needed to bring an IMFT synchronous flash product to market. 32nm Toshiba Toggle Mode Flash is on the way out as 24nm is getting ramped up for a big entry for 2012. As 32nm Toshiba supply starts to dwindle the price is going to go up. With the flooding in Thailand closing several HDD manufacturing plants, the demand for flash is guaranteed to increase as well. SSD makers are starting to win over consumer confidence and the last thing they want to do is raise prices in an economy already wearing a noose.

I can't say I really like the idea of calling the synchronous flash version of Pyro the SE model. This product is quite a bit different in both performance and market segment when compared with the slower original. We've talked at length about the performance benefits of synchronous flash when compared to asynchronous flash while paired with the SandForce SF-2281 controller. The SE really deserves more distinction, but we have to work with what Patriot has come up with.

Let's take a look at the specs and get right to the heart of the matter.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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The Patriot Pyro SE is available in three capacity sizes; 60GB, 120GB and 240GB. At this time we have yet to hear of a 480GB model, but considering the price of such a beast, we can see why Patriot would be reluctant to venture down that path.

All of the Pyro SE drives list the same read speed performance; 550MB/s, but the 60GB is limited to just (laughing at the just in this sentence) 500MB/s write speed while the two larger models scale to 520MB/s. There is also a distinction in the IOPS capabilities as well with the larger models being quoted at 85,000 random write IOPS and the smaller 60GB model only delivering 80,000.

Patriot has been very good about releasing new firmware updates and the company already has the latest listed on their website for all three SF-2281 controlled drives. In such a competitive market, we need to look at all of the add-ons, accessories and warranty terms in great detail to find a product that really stands out from the crowd. With a three year warranty, Patriot is right in the middle when compared to other manufacturers. Some offer just two years while one that we know of offers five. The Pyro SE does not ship with a desktop adapter bracket, something we really like to see ship with SSDs since so many make their way into performance desktops, especially SATA III models.

I have to admit I got pretty giggly after seeing the 120GB Pyro SE listed at Newegg for just 184.99 after a mail-in-rebate (204.99 before the MIR), but then I started looking at other prices. The Pyro SE 120GB on its own sits at a really nice price point, but other manufacturers are starting to get their synchronous flash paired with SF-2281 drives down into the mid to high 160's after a MIR, so the Pyro SE still has a way to go considering it doesn't ship with a desktop adapter bracket.

The Packaging

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One thing we can tell you for sure, the package is certainly orange enough. Get your sunglasses on before maximizing the image.

On the front you can see the drive through the window which is nice. On the side we can clearly see the MLC flash type, 2.5" form factor and SATA III information, but there is nothing about the higher rated flash mentioned. On a retail shelf it will be easy for someone to choose the lower priced Pyro over the Pyro SE.

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It's the same story on the back, there is nothing that jumps out and says, Look at me, I'm the one you want! Patriot doesn't list any performance information what so ever. I'm glad you guys and gals reading this are doing your research here before buying.

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The inner package is pretty basic, but effective at keeping the drive secure during shipping. The SE comes with a little manual and a sticker so your buddies don't think you have an OCZ or Intel SSD in your rig, because both of those companies also include stickers with their SSDs.

The Patriot Pyro SE

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Here we get our first look at the Pyro SE. The orange and black theme from the package carries over to the drive that is housed in a nice aluminum case.

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Model and serial number information is listed on the back as are a couple of warnings about moisture and taking your drive apart. Both are bad!

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On the side we found the mounting locations to be where they should be located and as you can see here, the case has a nice, shiny beveled edge along the top.

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The SATA power and data connectors are offset where they should be, so you won't have any issues with adapter brackets or drive sleds.

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Inside we found some nice goodies. The heart of the drive is the SATA III SandForce SF-2281 controller and it's paired with sixteen Micron branded synchronous NAND flash chips. You can tell the difference between synchronous flash (ending with AAB) and asynchronous flash (ending with AAA) by the chips identification number.

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On the other side we found the remaining flash, eight per side.

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 fully utilize SATA III you need a system with native SATA III support. P67 and Z68 systems are preferred, but AMD has made advances in their newer SATA III systems as well. Older X58 systems with Marvell based SATA III do not deliver the same high levels of performance, so we recommend newer systems when available.

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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Our initial test with ATTO confirms Patriot's performance claims of 520MB/s write and 550MB/s read speeds. We actually achieved 561MB/s read in a couple of tests and were quite happy about seeing the extra performance.

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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Starting out with read performance across the drive to get things off and running. The Patriot Pro SE 120GB has an average read speed across the drive of over 415MB/s. The minimum and maximum in this test are very close to the average speed, so there isn't a lot of variation when the drive is in a new state.

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In the write test across the drive we achieved an average speed of just over 400MB/s. Once again the performance was smooth with the maximum and minimum speeds keeping very close to the average. This is important when running demanding applications that require a steady state of performance.

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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I can't stress the importance of access time enough when reviewing SSDs. Most of the marketing talk coming from companies covers the high transfer rates, but when it comes to the way your system feels while moving from one place to another, the access time is what really counts.

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In both the read and write tests the Pyro SE scored an average access time of just .18ms. The maximum in both tests only got up to .19 (lower is better) so there wasn't a lot of variation here either. We really like the steady performance offered by the Pyro SE. It offers a solid foundation for you to build your system around.

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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When looking at the chart, it's important to keep in mind that only the same capacity sizes should be looked at together. Larger drives, especially those based on SandForce controllers are able to stretch their legs a little further just like a taller runner compared to a shorter runner. In these tests we focus on the 4K and NCQ performance, the three bars at the top of each group.

The Pyro SE with synchronous flash shows good scaling as commands are stacked in the 4K size. Starting out with just under 40MB/s with a single command and then achieving nearly 60MB/s at 4 depth is a nice increase. The highest queue depth tested, 32 commands shows an even larger increase; nearly 125MB/s.

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Larger capacity drives are able to scale better at high queue depths, but the 120GB models have better single command performance when writing data. Here we see the Pyro SE hitting 131.2MB/s and then climbing to around 170MB/s when the write commands are stacked.

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

Our Pyro SE shipped with the latest firmware that increases performance over older firmware releases. Here we see the Pyro SE delivering incredible performance across the entire test range.

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

We fancy our own version of Vantage that progressively adds data to the drive between tests to see how a SSD performs in closer to real world situations.

Aside from working with already compressed data like pictures, music and movie files, this is where synchronous flash really improves performance over asynchronous flash. To drive this point home we've included the OCZ Agility 3 to the graphs, the first SF-2281 controlled drive we tested that included asynchronous flash. The Agility 3 has a similar performance profile to the original Patriot Pyro.

Here we see the Pyro SE with synchronous flash does not lose as much performance when data is added to the drive. This real world test shows that even though some performance is lost as the drive is populated, the reduction is not as severe with the Pyro SE.

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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SandForce and their partners have been working pretty hard on increasing the performance of transfers of files to and from their products. The drives with synchronous flash are able to handle compressed data faster. ISO files and portions of programs are generally compressed to some degree.

Here we see the 120GB Vertex 3 and the 120GB Pyro SE. Both drives use the same controller and NAND flash, but differ by firmware. The performance of the Pyro SE with the latest 3.2 firmware shows a significant improvement over the V3 120GB with older firmware.

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 Patriot Pyro SE is a consumer drive, but it performs in many ways like the enterprise models on the market today. We rarely take anything away from these tests, but they are fun to run and have the data around for when enterprise products tip up in the lab. Some readers do run light use home servers for light use; if you are included in that group here are some benchmarks for you.

Final Thoughts

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What can I say...I'm still caught up in the naming scheme Patriot used for the Pyro SE. Hello, PRO would have been a more descriptive choice than SE. What the heck does SE stand for anyhow? Second Edition, Special Edition, maybe Special Equipment. My bet is on the last one, but just to be sure, I decided to ask Google what SE stood for and it returned a page that gave a list of around 150 possible answers. If you have 10 minutes to spare while sipping your coffee this morning, head over to have a few short bursts of laughter.

On the list was one that stood out in my mind and that was Standard Edition. The original Pyro was one of the early asynchronous flash drives that we determined to not be much better than the SF-1200 drives when filled to around half full. The Wildfire on the other hand was a magnificent achievement with all of the bells and whistles a power user could ask for. The Pyro SE is right in the middle, but leaning closer to Wildfire when it comes to performance. The accessory package on the other hand leans closer to the original Pyro, no desktop adapter bracket thus no real accessory package once you look past the sticker. This is a very competitive market and every little bit counts when looking for reasons to purchase one product over another. The Pyro SE falls a little flat in a few places and that isn't what we've come to expect from Patriot.

Aside from the add-on goodies, the price is also deserving of the Standard Edition title. The SE ranks third in 120GB SF-2281/synchronous flash drives at Newegg when it comes to pricing, but the two other models, Vertex 3 and Force GT include desktop adapter brackets and after all of the mail-in rebates are calculated end up saving you around 20 Dollars. Third is a pretty good place to be in if buyers were buying all of the top 5 drives, but we know that doesn't happen. The Pyro SE is the newest product of the three listed and Newegg tends to keep prices high on newer products. Prices also change every few days, so we expect the Pyro SE to be more competitive on the price soon.

It may seem like we are coming down hard on the Pyro SE, but that is the job after all. What isn't standard for everyone out there that doesn't have over 100 SSDs sitting on a desk is 560MB/s read speed paired with 520MB/s write speed. These are peak numbers, but they are impressive as is the real world performance of the Pyro SE 120GB. Anyone coming from a platter drive or even an SSD released last year will be amazed at the performance offered by the Pyro SE. The drive has great performance and offers it at steady levels instead of bursts like many of the more traditional SSDs on the market with DRAM buffers. The SandForce SF-2281 controller is a beast when paired with synchronous flash and you get a lot more for your money with this combination than you would when pairing the controller with asynchronous flash.

The Pyro SE is also the real starting point for users working heavily with compressed files like audio or video. We used to have A/V rated HDDs for these tasks and the 2281/synchronous combination is the new A/V rated standard.

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