Corsair Force Series GT 180GB Solid State Drive Review

Corsair takes a different approach to achieve next-generation speed. Today we look at the new 180GB Force Series GT that features the SandForce SF-2282 controller.
@TweakTown
Published Mon, Apr 9 2012 3:07 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction

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Over the last couple of weeks we've seen some pretty amazing SSDs. You know when you are doing one thing, but really want to work on something else? That is what I've been going through these last couple of weeks. The reason why is because Corsair has taken another approach in order to achieve modest performance improvements.

We've seen the SandForce SF-2282 controller used on a retail consumer drive one other time, but it's implementation was identical to the SF-2281 configuration. The SF-2282 is identical to the 2281 in every way except one, the number of byte lanes, moving from 8 to 16. We've speculated for some time that the SF-2282 was used on most if not all 480GB models, but we've yet to see one to confirm. Ironically we'll have our first 480GB drive in the lab tomorrow.

So, you ask, what is the big deal about increasing the byte lanes? SSDs work in parallel to achieve their high speeds. The newest modern NAND flash is only able to deliver around 200MT/s (around 200MB/s), but that is without any of the overhead being factored in. So, in order to reach 550+MB/s each flash is read and written to at the same time, kind of like the way RAID works, a little here a little there, but in this case 8 at a time.

So, when you move from 8 byte lanes to 16 byte lanes you are increasing the parallelism. Since you still only have 8 channels though you can't expect massive performance gains, but you should expect some. In this market where everyone is looking to one up the other in order to gain market share, every little bit counts.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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In their specifications and marketing literature, Corsair is not promoting the SF-2282 controller found in their 180GB drives. Corsair also offers the Force Series GT in 60GB, 90GB, 120GB, the 180GB that we are looking at today, 240GB and finally a massive 480GB. The two odd sizes are the 90GB and 180GB. We know for sure the 180GB model has the SF-2282 controller with 24 synchronous 25nm Micron flash chips, but can't say with certainly if the 90GB is using the same configuration just with half of the flash. Because of that let's just focus on the 180GB capacity size today. We've already reviewed the 240GB Force Series GT and the 120GB Force Series GT.

Looking at the technical specifications not much has really changed on the published side. The numbers are the same for the 180GB as they are the 240GB Force Series GT. Corsair lists a sequential read speed of up to 555MB/s and a write speed of 525MB/s. Random 4K aligned IOPS are stated at 85,000, typical for a SandForce based drive.

Corsair lists an MSRP on their website of $319.99 and you can purchase this model directly from Corsair. Newegg lists the Force Series GT 180GB at 244.99 and that fits in nicely with the 120GB model at $169.99 and the 240GB model at $319.99. At the time of writing Newegg lists a mail in rebate on the Force Series GT 180GB drive that we are looking at today. The MIR takes the cost down to 209.99 which is a very good mark because we see several 120GB drives based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller selling for right around the same amount.

Corsair offers a three year warranty with the Force GT Series. Also, in the retail package Corsair includes a desktop adapter bracket and screws for mounting your drive. Most of this stuff you already know, so let's dive right in and see why this drive is different.

The Packaging

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The Force Series GT packaging hasn't changed much since the first products were released. On the front Corsair shows an image of the drive and at the bottom lists the performance info. There is a small misprint on the front, can you find it?

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On the back of the package Corsair lists some general information about their SSDs. The specific model number is also listed, CSSD-F180GBGT-BK.

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The inner packaging is nice and tidy with all of the parts separated.

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A desktop adapter bracket is included and so are the screws for mounting the drive in your system.

Corsair Force GT 180GB SSD

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On the surface the new 180GB Force GT looks like the 120GB and 240GB drives we've already reviewed, but as you will soon see, that isn't the case.

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The outside red cover is painted and not anodized. On the back we see the aluminum case cover with the mounting point built into the steel top and side plate.

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A silver silk screen on the top shows the capacity size.

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All of the mounting points are where they should be for installing this drive into your notebook or adapter bracket.

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The SATA power and data connectors are where they should be and the included desktop adapter bracket offsets the drive.

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This is where the fun begins. The controller used on this drive is the SandForce SF-2282. The SF-2281 can only communicate with up to 16 chips, but this higher spec model can talk up to 32. Corsair used 24 Micron 25nm synchronous flash chips, 12 on each side on the 180GB model.

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Here we see the other 12. I have always wanted to see what a 240GB drive would do with this flash processor unit and 32 flash chips. This is as close as I've come so far.

Benchmarks - 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 ports 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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ATTO is mainly used for the numbers at the bottom so companies can market their drives. What I'm looking at today though is the 4k write speed of 277MB/s. This is faster than the new Plextor M3 Pro 256GB and almost as fast as the SanDisk Extreme 240GB. In our testing we hit a solid 555MB/s read speed and just over 523MB/s write speed.

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 certainly looks like the SF-2282 with 24 flash chips is bringing the read speeds we wanted to see. The GT 180 is leading in all three categories, maximum, average and minimum on our chart that includes the new Plextor M3 Pro drives.

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The same is true for the write speeds where the GT 180 is looking like it could take flight. These tests are with compressible data though where performance is never an issue with SandForce based drives.

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 cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

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For quite a long time the SandForce drives amazed us with their low access times, but the new crop of ultra-high performance Marvell drives are stealing some of that thunder. Compared to the Vertex 3 drives on the chart, though, the GT 180 is looking pretty good.

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The write access times are pretty low on the Force Series GT 180GB, but not nearly that of the Plextor M3 Pro. This is nothing new for the SandForce based drives and we are talking about an action that is faster than the blink of an eye.

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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I expected to see a higher 4k read in this test than what we achieved. The GT 180 scored just over 28MB/s in the single command, but quickly came into line with other SandForce based drives at 4 commands. The 32 command test is where the 180GB model was able to outperform the limits found on the 120GB drives.

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The 120GB limits often referred to at TweakTown as the 120GB brick wall are shattered with the GT 180. Here we see the Corsair Force Series GT 180GB move past the 170ish write limit and move much closer to the speeds offered by the 240GB SandForce based drives.

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

The real-world performance is where we expect to see large gains over the 120GB SF drives and the 180GB capacity size doesn't disappoint. I still prefer our own custom test which is much more relevant for consumer users.

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

Filled to around half capacity the Corsair Force Series GT 180GB outperforms the Plextor M3 Pro 256GB and 128GB. This model is also faster than the OCZ Vertex 3's we've tested.

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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The Corsair Force Series GT models have always been big performers in the File Copy tests, but the new 180GB capacity size doesn't perform as well as the 240GB drive we tested a few months ago. The drive is still fast and it bridges the gap between the 120GB and 240GB Force Series GTs we've seen.

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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Corsair isn't listing the Force Series GT as an enterprise drive, but as SSDs become more mature and electricity costs increase, off the shelf MLC based SSDs become very attractive for enterprise tasks. Already, a single SSD is able to outperform several U full (measurement for rack mount, 1u is 1.75") of mechanical HDDs.

Final Thoughts

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In 2010 Intel released a 120GB X25-M SSD on the consumer market to fill their gap between the 80GB and 160GB models. The 120GB capacity mark doesn't seem all that strange to us now because we've seen this size on SandForce based products for a long time. In order for Intel to achieve the 120GB mark they used eight flash chips, four from the 80GB capacity size and four from the 160GB capacity size. The drive was faster than the X25-M 80GB model, but not as fast as the 160GB model.

When I first heard about the Corsair Force Series GT 180GB I expected to see the same path taken, half of the chips the same density as found on the 120GB drive and half with higher density 240GB chips. It was from my past experience that I wasn't even going to take a look at the new 180GB models. Eventually a run of mediocre drives hit the lab and I wanted to see something built to a higher standard in terms of quality. That is when I started digging into the 180GB capacity size and when I first cracked the case I learned about the new configuration using the SF-2282 controller.

What Corsair has done is fill the gap without compromising on performance. The 120GB drives have that nasty brick wall that in some situations you see, mainly when copying large amounts of data to or from your boot drive. Working with incompressible data is also an area that you see a reduction in performance. If Corsair would have followed Intel's lead on the 120GB X25-M then the performance would alternate between high and low as data is moved to or from the different flash chips. By using the same flash on all 8 channels the Force GT 180GB doesn't have those massive flow issues.

The SF-2282 in and of itself is a bit of a novelty too with its ability to access twice the physical chips as the base 2281. I still want to see one of these drives with access to a full 32 chips; hopefully that is what arrives tomorrow on my first 480GB SandForce drive. As you can tell I'm quite excited!

The Corsair Force Series GT 180GB fits comfortably inside the gap left open between the 120GB and 240GB capacity sizes. This is in both performance and cost. On the performance side I would much rather have the 180GB drive over a 120GB because that wall is lifted in some of the things I do quite often.

Fitting right in the middle of the price points too is a nice feature and at just over $200 with a mail in rebate we can make a strong argument for this drive since many other 120GB models are hovering around this same price point. All things considered, if you are thinking about a 120GB, but have a little more to invest, then the 180GB Force Series GT is a smart choice. You get the extra capacity and the performance that goes with it.

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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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