Corsair Force Series 3 180GB Solid State Drive Review

Last week we saw the Force GT 180GB with synchronous flash. This week we look at the Force 3 with asynchronous flash, but with the same SF-2282 controller.
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Published Thu, Apr 26 2012 11:35 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 86%Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction

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Last week we took an in-depth look at the Corsair Force Series GT 180GB SSD and found a nice surprise under the top, a SandForce SF-2282 controller. The SF-2282 is a fairly rare piece of silicon to find in consumer SSDs. It allows SSD manufactures to connect up to 32 NAND flash chips to the controller. The more common SF-2281 controller found on most Team SandForce drives can only communicate with up to 16.

Today we are looking at the Corsair Force Series 3 SSD with 180GB of user capacity. The Force 3 uses the 25nm NAND flash chips just like the Force GT 180GB, but this time less expensive 25nm MLC asynchronous flash is used. Asynchronous flash has been the topic of many debates online and especially in SSD reviewer circles. On the surface, SSDs using asynchronous flash perform almost identically to drives with Toggle Mode or synchronous flash until incompressible or compressed data is used.

The standard tagline was that these drives were the ultimate bang for the buck SSD offering nearly the same performance, but at a reduced cost. Over time the high cost of 25nm MLC synchronous flash SSDs priced dropped and in many cases are within just a few dollars of budget asynchronous models. It was around that time I wrote an article explaining that on the surface benchmarks were no longer relevant and that SSDs needed to be tested with data present to find their true real-world performance.

Before I start to bore you with methodology I'd much rather just show the benchmarks and we can see for ourselves. Since the Force Series 3 uses a different configuration than most SandForce based SSD all bets are off.

Specifications, Pricing, Availability and Packaging

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Corsair makes seven different model numbers that fall under the Force Series 3 umbrella. There are two different 60GB drives and then the full range of SF capacity points - 120GB, 240GB and 480GB. The last two are the odd sizes, 90GB and the model we're looking at today, the 180GB.

The 180GB model is a unique consumer SSD since it uses the SF-2282 controller from SandForce. The reason Corsair chose to use this controller is because they needed the ability to use more physical flash chips on the PCB to achieve 192GB of total capacity. Of that 192GB capacity you get right around 180GB, the rest is used for processing data in the background and other assorted unique SandForce tasks.

Per the specifications we see a maximum read speed of 550MB/s and a maximum write speed of 520MB/s. Random 4K Write Maximum is quoted at 85,000 IOPS. In order to reach these speeds you'll need a SATA 6Gb/s port on your motherboard.

Newegg lists the Force Series 3 180GB at $209.99 at the time of writing. This is $20 less than the 180GB Force GT that we've already reviewed. Included in the package is a desktop adapter bracket and Quick Install Guide. Also included is a three year warranty.

Packaging

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The Corsair Force Series 3 packaging is the same across the product line other than the label on the front that shows the capacity size.

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Corsair lists some general information on the back of the package, but doesn't give us any performance information.

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The packaging is a bit thinner than the first Force Series 3 drive we reviewed last year. The new design moves the included desktop adapter bracket close to the drive's plastic holder.

Corsair Force 3 180GB SSD

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Here we get our first look at the drive. Just like with the packaging, the Force Series 3 is the same throughout the capacity range other than the capacity size label.

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Corsair still uses an all-aluminum enclosure just like with the Force GT. Many companies are moving to plastic enclosures but not Corsair, at least not yet.

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We've yet to decode all of this string, but the capacity size is easily seen at the beginning.

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All of the mounting points are where they are supposed to be so you won't have an issue installing this drive in a notebook or desktop with the included adapter bracket.

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Speaking of the adapter bracket, here we see the drive installed in it. The bracket offsets the drive to the side so your SATA power and data connectors will line up with a back plane.

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As we've mentioned, Corsair used the SF-2282 controller and paired it with 24 NAND flash chips.

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There are twelve NAND chips on each side of the PCB.

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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With ATTO we see the Force Series 3 180GB meeting the claims set by Corsair. The real story though is the 4K write speed. With the Force 3 we see a 4K write speed of 278MB/s.

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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Thanks to SandForce's latest firmware the Force Series 3 is able to read sequentially at the same high rate as the Force GT. Both drives are able to read the compressible data used in HD Tune Pro at 417MB/s.

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When writing compressible data sequentially there is a small difference between the Force GT and the Force 3. Both drives achieve more than 400MB/s which is very good for any SSD.

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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Access time is what makes solid state drives feel fast. We generally don't see companies marketing their access times because the numbers are so small. The thinking is most consumers want to hear all about big sequential speeds, but access times are what most of us notice when we first purchase a SSD.

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The read and write access times for the Force 3 are pretty good and in line with other SandForce based drives.

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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Here we see our first real distinction between the Force GT 180GB and the Force 3 180GB. CDM uses incompressible data, or at the very least data that is already compressed to some degree. Today we'll see two areas where the Force 3 is slower than the GT and this is the first.

When dealing with data that is already compressed, the asynchronous flash is slower than synchronous flash. The difference between the two is quite significant in sequential reads and 4K reads when using high queue depths.

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When it comes to writing 4K compressed data we see the Force 3 trailing behind the Force GT by a good 40 to 50MB/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

On the surface, without data on the drive, the Force 3 performs nearly identically to the Force GT.

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 don't like the standard Vantage test and today's review is a very good example why we went out and designed our own. On the previous page we saw the Force Series 3 180GB delivering an almost identical performance to the Force Series GT 180GB.

Here, we see that when both drives are half full they both slow from their empty states. The big difference at 50% is how much more the Force 3 slows. At half full the Corsair Force Series 3 delivers about half the performance of the Force GT.

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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AS SSD's Copy Test uses incompressible data so we see another large performance difference between the GT and Force 3 models.

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 hasn't marketed either the Force Series 3 or Force Series GT for enterprise tasks, but we've heard from about several companies using SandForce based drives for small enterprise servers.

Final Thoughts

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Going into this review we already knew the asynchronous flash equipped Force Series 3 would be slower than the synchronous flash Force Series GT model.

What we were really interested in seeing is if the new configuration with the SF-2282 controller would be able to overcome the issue. Unfortunately additional flash and an upscale controller still do not elevate the Force 3 to the same high standards of the Force GT.

All is not lost for the Force Series 3, though. As long as the Force Series 3 is priced competitively against the Force GT then it will be attractive to several shoppers. After all, the Force Series 3 is a solid state drive based on a SandForce controller. Most users are looking for the ultra-low access times and the Force 3 does deliver quality SSD access times.

At this time, though, the Corsair Force 3 doesn't really meet the financial test. With just a $20 price premium for the GT at the 180GB capacity size, we feel the discount isn't enough. Only you can really decide what amount makes the Force 3 worth your while.

Personally I think $50 or $60 at this capacity size changes the game, but at $20 you are much better off buying the Force GT with synchronous flash.

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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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