RunCore Pro V 120GB SATA III Solid State Drive Review

RunCore enters the SATA III market with a SandForce SF-2281 controlled drive, but chose asynchronous flash for this round.
@TweakTown
Published Sun, Jan 1 2012 8:47 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 83%Manufacturer: RunCore

Introduction

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RunCore is one of the few companies with solid state drive products that span several categories. Many companies make consumer and enterprise products, but few venture into industrial and military products. These additional product categories have given RunCore experience with a wider range of uses and driven their engineers to think outside of the box.

Today we're not looking at a product for aviation or gunships, but the build quality of the RunCore Pro V SATA III looks the part. The Pro V SATA III is controlled by a SandForce SF-2281 controller and uses asynchronous flash for data storage. In an era when other companies have moved to plastic housings, RunCore has kept an aluminum drive case for robust construction and added visual appeal in systems with windows or displayed drive bays.

Even now, almost a year since the SF-2281 was released, it's still the fastest solid state drive controller on the consumer market. There are many of these drives on the market, some with and some without synchronous flash. Unfortunately RunCore chose to use asynchronous flash with their Pro V 2.5" SATA III SSD, a move that we don't really agree with since RunCore doesn't offer a synchronous flash drive in their consumer lineup.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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RunCore uses performance numbers from early 2011 for their specification sheet. These numbers should have been updated after the handful of performance updates that emerged in SandForce's firmware updates.

The RunCore Pro V 2.5" SATA III is available in four capacity sizes. Those are 60GB, 120GB, 240GB and the massive 480GB size. RunCore also has two options available, a Notebook Upgrade and Desktop DIY install kit. Each kit includes components that make installing the drive easier.

Today we're looking at the 120GB model that is included in the Desktop DIY kit. The kit includes a 2.5" to 3.5" desktop adapter bracket sticker kit and SATA III cable.

Looking around online, we managed to find the Pro V 2.5" SATA III 120GB drive for around 190 Dollars using Google Product Search. The price is good, but we've started seeing SF-2281 / synchronous flash drives break into the 170 Dollar mark and that combination is faster. Those drives don't ship with the same high quality case; one of the best we've seen or a special short SATA III cable.

The Packaging

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RunCore has a new product packaging for most of their 2011 line-up. The blister pack design is gone and boxes are now in. The new box design allows RunCore to list more information on both the front and back of the package. Here we see good use of the additional space.

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We found performance information listed on both the front and back of the package.

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The inner package keeps the drive separate from the accessory package.

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Speaking of accessories, here we see the full Desktop DIY kit that includes a desktop adapter bracket, SATA cable, screws, stickers and a certification card.

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I found the certification card to be interesting. Here we see it was filled out by a human and shows the check date.

The RunCore Pro V 2.5" SATA III SSD

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RunCore has always built their drives very well and only uses quality construction. I have a feeling this comes from some of their more specialized products that are designed for military and industrial use. The case on the Pro V SATA III is brushed aluminum and looks really good.

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The back side of the drive is also made of aluminum and has the product label on it. This is where you will find the product name, part and serial numbers.

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The side of the drive has the typical mounting locations where they should be for easy drive installation in an adapter bracket or drive sled.

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The SATA power and data cable positions are where they should be, but RunCore didn't use an adapter bracket that offsets the drive to the left side. This may become an issue when using some drive sleds that need an offset to connect to an internal SATA port.

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Inside we found a typical SandForce SF-2281 design with eight IMFT 25nm asynchronous flash chips per side of the PCB.

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The drive has quite a few surface mount components, more than what we typically see these days. This tells us that RunCore has designed the PCB and moved away from the SandForce reference design.

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, Z68 and X79 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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In ATTO we achieved higher performance results than what RunCore specifies on their spec sheet. Our measured read speed was just over 550 MB/s and the write speed topped out at 512 MB/s. The results are impressive even after seeing nearly 40 other SSDs with the same controller / flash combination pull off similar results. There is no doubt this combination is still the king of the hill.

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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It quickly became apparent when we started testing the drive that this particular drive had been ran hard before we received it. No amount of TRIM or secure erase allowed us to get rid of a dip in performance that kept occurring at the start of this test. The dip that reached as low as 124 MB/s just wouldn't go away and it brought the average read score down with it.

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The same area gave us issues when writing data across the drive. This time the dip lasted much longer and brought the average score down quite a bit more.

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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We spend so much time looking at SSDs like HDDs and focusing on the data transfer performance when the biggest performance gains come from the access times. This is how long it takes the drive to respond to your request for data. This is also what makes your new SSD 'feel' fast with instant response.

In the read test we see the RunCore Pro V 2.5" SATA III delivering on average response that takes a quarter of a millisecond. I had a bit of a laugh while writing that because it is so fast we might as well call it instant. I wish my coffee came out that quick!

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The write access time was measured almost as fast. At the bottom of the charts you can see the Western Digital VelociRaptor, one of the fastest consumer platter drives ever built in relation to access time. As you can see, the Pro V is much, much quicker.

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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Our RunCore Pro V 2.5" SATA III did have some issues in CDM due to the asynchronous flash that performs much slower than synchronous flash when working with compressed data. CDM uses compressed data when delivering performance benchmark results.

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It's very common to see the 120GB drives hitting a brick wall - our chart is full of the same performance limits on these smaller drives. The Pro V had the same issue, but at just under 150 MB/s. Other drives like the Vertex 3 managed to achieve just over 170 MB/s.

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

In PCMark's Vantage we recorded solid results with the Pro V SATA III. There were a few places where the drive outperformed the Vertex 3 120GB, others where the drives were neck and neck and others where the Pro V was a bit slower.

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. Here we see the asynchronous flash holding the drive back when the drive has data on it. With data populating 50% of the drive we see the wide margin in performance between the Pro V SATA III and the Vertex 3.

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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SandForce and their partners have worked very hard on increasing the performance of file transfers, but the asynchronous flash removes the leaps in performance found on the synchronous flash drives.

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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We usually don't get into the fine details of these server level tests when testing consumer drives, but they are always nice to record numbers for when the need arises.

Final Thoughts

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RunCore offers three products under the Pro V label and that makes sorting the details a bit difficult when shopping. The Pro V Plus that we reviewed a few months ago uses a SandForce SF-1200 controller with 25nm flash. The SF-1200 is a SATA II controller and a generation before the newer SF-2200 Series found on the Pro V SATA III models. When it comes to the SATA III drives with the newer SF-2281 controller, there are two; the 2.5" we looked at today and a mSATA model built for netbooks and notebooks with the mSATA interface.

What we really don't understand is why RunCore would choose to only build a single 2.5" SATA III drive with asynchronous flash and not build a synchronous flash model at all. Several companies built both, one for their high end users and a lower cost asynchronous model for the mainstream market. To be fair, I personally don't like the asynchronous flash drives since they show good performance in early benchmarks, but quickly fade when data is added to the drive. They are kind of like kit cars from yesteryear. The outside might look like a Ferrari, but it's still a Fiero under the skin. Even the companies that did release two products, the price difference between the slower and faster models was close enough that end users should just pay the extra money and get the full performance of the SF-2281 controller.

So where does that leave the 190 Dollar RunCore Pro V 2.5" SATA III 120GB you ask? Well, the OCZ Agility 3, another asynchronous flash drive now sells for 149 Dollars at Newegg for the 120GB model. The Agility 3 is sold just about everywhere SSDs are sold and comes with OCZ's support network that is very good. To make matters worse, several Team SandForce SF-2281 / synchronous flash drives are selling for less than the RunCore offering, so that leaves the RunCore Pro V 2.5" SATA III in a pretty bad position for anyone actually paying for these drives.

You really have to hand it to RunCore when they release products like the Pro V 2.5" SATA III. SandForce made a pretty good blueprint, one that has success written all over it. You really have to do something crazy to screw it up, but that is exactly what happened here. The SandForce plan was to release both a synchronous flash and asynchronous flash product to cover a wider range of users. RunCore had their own idea and went with just the bottom of the barrel product and as a result missed an opportunity to build on their previous successes. Maybe the next product manager will get it right.

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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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