A few days ago we introduced you to the Data Memory Systems' Celerity 6G Plus SSD. At the time I mentioned that we are in the process of tracking down products from SSD manufactures that are not well known. Our goal is to find the hidden treasures out there, the diamonds in the rough. Today we actually found one!
Comay, the SSD division for Chinese based company CoreRise, is a true SSD manufacturer with a production facility. Comay is the largest SSD manufacturer that you've never heard of, I guarantee it. To put the Comay product line into perspective, they are the only company listed on SandForce's website that even remotely comes close to the number of models released by OCZ Technology. Both companies list 16 different products at the time of writing.
Comay manufactures both consumer and enterprise SSDs, a bit of an oddity these days. Their flagship consumer drive, the Venus Pro 3 though is a mix between consumer pricing and enterprise power features. Today we're looking at the 120GB drive and in two weeks we'll look at the 240GB model.
At the start of the second SandForce Revolution, when the first SATA III SF-2281 drives started to emerge, we previewed the OCZ Vertex 3 Pro. This was a similar SSD, but marketed straight to the enterprise customer. The Vertex 3 Pro never actually made it to market, at least not under with Vertex branding. The difference between the Vertex 3 Pro and the Vertex 3 was a small capacitor dubbed a supercap.
The CapXX Supercap is like a small rechargeable battery or more specifically a capacitor which to everyone other than an engineer would just be considered a battery. The Supercap is fairly small, but it holds enough power to keep the SandForce Flash Processor Unit (FPU or controller) and the NAND flash powered on long enough to write the data stored in the controllers buffers. So, if your computer loses power or the SSD loses power, your buffered data is retained. That's not the only enterprise tech the Comay Venus Pro 3 uses. Let's take a look at the specifications.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
As an actual manufacturer of SSDs, Comay can do quite a bit to customize their products. Their pricing is very good as well, but we'll get into that story in a few paragraphs. The Comay Venus Pro 3 can be configured and ordered a number of ways, but the minimum order directly from the factory is 100 units. The sample we're looking at today is a 120GB drive that uses 128GB of IMFT third generation 25nm synchronous flash. If you had the means and when I say that I mean the money, you could order this same drive with 0 provisioning (128GB capacity available), standard consumer 7% provisioning (120GB available) or enterprise spec 28% provisioning (100GB available). Those options are just for this one drive and there are several others based on raw capacity.
The configuration you find for sale will really depend on which company ordered the drives for resale. A company in Canada called Synetic Inc carries a limited stock of Comay SSDs and our friends at My Digital Discount are also considering carrying the drives. The prices are so good that three of my local friends are in the process of ordering 100 240GB drives that will make it to their personal RAID arrays and the left over drives will hit EBay, for $1 per GB. Obviously I can't go around and publicly state the direct factory pricing, but I will say that the prices are better than anyone else's direct prices I've seen to date... and we've got the inside scoop on just about every company's price lists, at least the ones they give to smaller retail / e-tail resellers. So, at the moment you're going to have some issues finding Comay SSDs, but that should change over the coming weeks.
When it comes to add-ons, accessories and features the list is long in some areas and short in others. The Venus Pro 3 does not ship with a desktop adapter bracket, but Comay does have a nice utility for monitoring, optimizing and updating the firmware to their SSDs. You also get a nice paper manual that covers installation, best BIOS settings and general install options.
On the features side we've already mentioned the CapXX Supercap that keeps your data safe in the event of a power loss to the drive. The Comay Venus Pro 3 also uses another feature ported from enterprise class SSDS, overload protection. Several years ago lightening hit a power line just outside of my bedroom window as I was standing right by the glass. I might not be able to dunk anymore, but that day my head was inches from the ceiling! The computers were all alright except for the 56K model (I said several years ago). When I removed the model the main chip actually had a piece of the black silicon cover chipped out of it. I'm not saying that the Comay Venus Pro 3 will be able to survive after a shot like that, but the overload protection is designed to stop abnormal voltages from entering into the drive. A more realistic scenario would in a notebook that has an issue with the voltage regulator.
Let's take a look at the drive and see some benchmarks!
For being a low-cost SSD manufacturer, Comay offers a package that is informative.
On the back of the package we found most of the relevant information. A full specification rundown is listed and that even includes rated performance numbers. The serial number is listed on the back of the box.
Some of the benefits of using SSDs are listed on the bottom.
Inside we found the drive was held separate in place with dense foam and inside a separate box.
One of the things we really like to see with our SSDs is a desktop adapter bracket, but Comay doesn't include one. They do give you a nice full color manual that walks you through the installation procedures.
Comay Venus Pro 3 120GB SSD
Here we get our first look at the drive. There isn't much to see on this side other than the all-aluminum case that features a silk screen company logo.
On the back of the drive itself all of the features and specifications are listed on the label.
All of the mounting holes are located where they should be on both the bottom and sides of the drive. You will not have an issue with mounting the Venus Pro 3 in our notebook or desktop (after purchasing a desktop adapter bracket).
The SATA power and data ports are also offset to where they should be.
Now we can get into the important stuff, but before we talk about the super cap, let's look at a few things that stand out on this side. The first thing is the exposed copper that lines up with the aluminum case. The copper is exposed at this point so heat can transfer from the PCB and into the aluminum case. SSDs don't generate a lot of heat, but what little is generated is moved to the case.
This side also holds the SandForce Flash Processor Unit (controller) and eight of the sixteen Intel third generation 25nm flash chips. At the lower left side we found most of the surface mount components that make up the over voltage protection.
On this side the big news is the CapXX 5.5V supercap that provides power to the controller and flash long enough to send the data from the internal FPU buffers to the flash when power is lost going to the drive. Until now no consumer SSD has shipped with this feature.
We'll talk more about this on the last page. Let's take a look at the performance first and make sure everything is where it should be there first.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, 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, Z77 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.
Our sample drive shipped to us with firmware 3.3.2. Personally I think firmware 3.3.4 is a little faster and feels quicker when bouncing around Windows, but both are very stable. You won't know the difference unless you are an SSD geek who studies this stuff for a living.
In ATTO we achieved over 560MB/s read speed and just over 521MB/s write speed. This is a bit higher than we recorded on the Vertex 3 Pro two years ago, but that drive arrived with preproduction firmware and never made it to market.
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
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.
Reading sequentially across the drive gives us an average speed of 419MB/s. The graph produces is fairly flat with just a few ripples along the way.
HD Tune Pro uses compressible data so these numbers will go down a bit when we run incompressible data. In this test we achieved over 400MB/s while writing across the drive - very good performance.
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.
High sequential numbers make for good marketing but most users notices the extremely fast actions after moving to SSDs. The feeling of fast most noticed comes from the low access times which are what we measure on this page.
The access times are in line with several of the other SandForce based SSDs we've reviewed over the last couple of months. Firmware 3.3.2 has leveled everything out for the most part and we get solid consistent performance from all of the SandForce drives in this test now.
The same is true with the write latency. The Marvell based drives a quite a bit quicker here, but we are measuring in thousands of a second, so the real-world differences aren't all that large.
Benchmarks - 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.
* 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.
The Comay Venus Pro 3 delivers very good 4K single command performance that nearly reached 40MB/s read. The 4 command read was over 56MB/s and the 32 command read nearly hit 117MB/s. The 4 and 32 command numbers are a little behind the Intel 520 series, but still very respectable when compared to other drives on the market.
We observed the same thing in the write test. The 4K single command was superior to the Intel, but the Pro 3 was a little behind in the higher queue depth tests.
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/
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.
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
With the Comay Venus Pro 3 empty we get solid performance in all of our tests here. The firmware on the drive doesn't have any issues with TRIM like the SanDisk Extreme SSD. Let's take a look at how the drive performs with data present on the flash.
Benchmarks - 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.
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
This is where we separate the men from the boys. If you already own an SSD, then you know it's not as fast right now, as it was the day you bought it. The reason why is because you've stuffed all of your movies, music, pictures of your ex-girlfriends and so on right on the SSD so you can get to them quickly. All of that data is accessed quicker, but your overall system performance has taken a hit because of it. By the time your SSD is half full, you've already lost between 30 and 40% of the fresh out of box performance.
In this test we like to look at the center blue line in the middle of each group. This is the half full state, a good measuring point for most consumers. The Comay Venus Pro 3 120GB gets down in the 47K Mark area, which is pretty average for a SandForce SF-2281 SSD using synchronous flash. The Intel 520 series is a bit faster in this state and so is the Plextor M3 Pro 128GB drive. The Comay doesn't take as large of a hit though as drives using asynchronous flash and of course costs much less than both the Intel and Plextor drives.
Over the last week you've saw us discuss a nasty issue with SandForce drives that use firmware 5.2. This bug impacts TRIM performance and a drives ability to regain performance after data is deleted. Since the Venus Pro 3 uses firmware 3.3.2, it doesn't suffer from this issue.
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
The Comay Venus Pro 3 does outperform the Intel 520 series and in two out of three tests and the SanDisk Extreme in the AS SSD Copy Tests.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: BETA 11
So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.
Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.
The software can be used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.
Fill Compressible Data
Several reader have inquired about the Anvil Storage Utility benchmarks and want to see the 0 - Fill vs. Incompressible Data test comparisons. Who are we to argue with the readers? At this time we do not have charts for these tests, there is a lot of data to cover so for now we're just showing the results.
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.
Normally we shy away from making too many comments about the enterprise tests with the consumer drives and just let you guys observe the numbers. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is some of the enterprise guys wouldn't like us telling you that the consumer models are in many cases just as fast as the enterprise models. Also, many of the changes from the enterprise models have to do with testing, reliability and enterprise features such as Host Power Loss Protection.
Ever since out visit to LSI's AIS event a few months ago, we've paid more attention to the enterprise market. At AIS we learned that several datacenters had already deployed consumer grade SSDs in their drive bays. Given the ultra-low cost of consumer SSDs compared to enterprise SSDs, this really isn't a surprise, because we would do it too now that the technology is more reliable.
The Comay Venus Pro 3 takes things a step further and merges the power features of an enterprise SSD with the standard MLC flash found on consumer drives. The end result is a good mix between price, performance and protection.
The only thing we can really complain about is the lack of worldwide and US resellers carrying Comay Venus Pro 3 products. Well, that and the desktop adapter bracket... we always like to see those included. Over time we think the Comay brand will start to pop up at more and more e-tail sites. If I wasn't about to pick up another Ducati, I'd buy a 100 drives and we'd sell them here on TweakTown. On second thought, no I wouldn't because who would want to send TweakTown sample SSDs if we were selling them? The small conflict of interest thing might get in the way of our progress. Heh.
Let's talk performance first. With the SandForce 3.3.2 firmware, we get solid 3.3.2 performance from a drive that is reliable. The Comay Venus Pro 3 delivers average to a little higher than average performance for its class, our tongue in cheek Team SandForce drive. There is nothing wrong with that, in most capacity sizes the Team SandForce option is the fastest available consumer drive on the market. In the 120GB capacity size though, that title goes to the Plextor M3 Pro, but the Venus Pro 3 is very close to the M3 Pro performance.
The big draw for this drive will obviously be the inclusion of the enterprise power scheme. It's what makes the Venus Pro 3 unique. Since this feature started out in the enterprise and now more enterprise users are taking advantage of consumer low-cost SSDs, I can see the database guys eating these up. To a lesser extent, notebook users may find benefit from the Comay Venus Pro 3 power features as well. Notebooks tend to get us in trouble at least once a year when someone unplugs the power and the battery slowly dies taking that review we're working on with it. At least with the host power loss protection, the chances of the document being stored on the flash increases. Also, the switch between unplugged and plugged in can do odd things to sensitive components, an area we'd worry less about with the Venus Pro 3.
Still though, it all comes back to availability. If you can't buy one, you can't own one and that is where we are at right now. Hopefully Comay gets their products out to distributers and e-tail shops so that issue can be taken off the table. I really like the two drives I have here and I think you would enjoy them as well.