When we first reviewed the MyDigitalSSD BP3 mSATA 256GB it arrived in a beta state. The firmware on the drive was stable and relatively fast, two of the three key traits we look for in a SSD. The third key characteristic we look for is price, the BP3's strongest attribute. When MDSSD released the mSATA version of the BP3, they also launched the SMART Series based on controllers from SandForce. The SMART Series held the flagship designation, but the BP3 was the best bang for the buck product. The BP3 just got a much larger bang.
MyDigitalSSD chose the new Phison S8 controller for both of the Bullet Proof 3 product lines. BP3 covers both the 2.5" product segment and the mSATA market. Today we're focusing on the mSATA line, but the same firmware update is also available for the 2.5" model as well. Under normal circumstances, incremental firmware updates usually deliver a small performance increase. That is why we don't re-test every SSD every time a new firmware hit the market. By waiting a few generations we can show a significant increase when writing a new article. The new Phison S8 controller just had a significant increase and this is just the first update.
Today we're running the MyDigitalSSD BP3 through the benchmark cycle again, this time with the new firmware installed. We'll also update the pricing and availability of the new mSATA line for you. Even before the update, MyDigitalSSD's little drive sold out a number of times while production was ramping up.
We think the increased performance envelope will also increase demand.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
MyDigitalSSD has already updated their product specification sheet. Here you can see that the sequential read speed is now 560MB/s up from 500MB/s. The write speed saw a massive increase, now 470MB/s, up from just 200MB/s. The IOPS performance during random transactions has also increased, but not by the same drastic amounts seen in the sequential performance.
MDSSD has four capacity sizes, the standard run from 32GB to 256GB. Today we're looking at the largest 256GB model which also offers the highest performance. As with most SSDs, the lower the capacity, the lower the performance. MDSSD does not give graduated performance information on their product spec sheet.
At the time of writing MyDigitalDiscount only had the 128GB model in stock. To make matters worse, they only had three of them according to Amazon. The price for the 128GB model at the time of writing was $149.99. It would appear that demand has quickly outpaced the production capacity, or at least the amount that could be ordered at one time. More drives are working their way through the SMT line as I type this and hopefully they'll arrive by the time this article hits the web.
When we first reviewed the mSATA BP3 the 128GB model was priced at $179.99 and the 256GB was at $329.99. Given that the 128GB model now costs less, we think the 256GB may cost less as well when it returns to stock.
MyDigitalSSD BP3 256GB mSATA SSD
Our sample arrived in a thick paper package with the drive inside of an antistatic bag.
The drive uses Toshiba Toggle Mode flash, a newer revision of it as well; something we've only seen used with the new BP3 models.
On the other side we found two more Toshiba NAND flash chips and a host of surface mount capacitors and resistors.
From the side we can see just how small the mSATA form factor really is. Many notebook and ultrabooks place the slots for them under the keyboard.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.
mSATA is a connection standard that is gaining ground on two fronts. The first is the notebook / ultrabook market where space is very limited. With companies like MyDigitalSSD producing mSATA drives that compare with full size 2.5" form factor models in capacity this standard will continue to gain traction.
The second market where mSATA is taking hold is SSD caching of mechanical HDDs. We've seen a handful of motherboard manufactures including mSATA slots on their desktop boards. GIGABYTE seems to be leading the charge, but their mSATA slots are only SATA II.
If you are purchasing an mSATA drive for a desktop motherboard choosing a lower cost SATA II model might prove to be a wise decision. Then again, your next motherboard may just have an mSATA slot with SATA III so if you can afford the additional expense a SATA III model should be better in the long term.
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.
As you can see in the ATTO benchmark, the performance of the new BP3 mSATA 256GB is really good now. We achieved 555MB/s read and 433MB/s write speeds. A colleague of mine was able to hit 450MB/s write on his optimized system with the latest 11 Series Intel RST drivers.
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.
Even though the claimed sequential read speed and the ATTO speed show an increase in sequential performance, the single read, QD1 speed is down a bit. This is exactly the same thing we observed the first time we reviewed the OCZ Vertex 4 drives. It seems more companies are decreasing the QD1 performance to increase multitasking performance. The BP3 does a better job now of keeping the minimum speed up, though, which is always a plus.
The write performance took off like a mad man with his shoes on fire. Here we also see a large increase to the minimum speed, again a big plus.
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.
The read latency increased by a small amount when compared to the release firmware, but we are talking about 1 one-thousandth of a second average.
The write latency, always a difficult test for Phison controllers, decreased by a large margin, nearly halving the previous firmware's latency.
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.
In CDM were looking at the 4K and NCQ performance. When moving from the old firmware to the new firmware, there isn't much of a change in the read category.
The write category doesn't change much either with 4K data, but the sequential and 512K saw significant increases.
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
In PCMark's Vantage HDD test the new firmware managed to outperform the release firmware in many categories. Just like with the Vertex 4 from OCZ, the single queue depth limit hurts the new firmware in this test in some areas.
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
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 file transfer performance increase significantly in two out of the three tests when transferring data.
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
This will be the second most shocking portion of the review. The new Phison S8 firmware mimics some of the same behavior found on SandForce based drives. When incompressible data is used, the drive slows down quite a bit. The 4K at depth read performance takes a really big hit.
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.
The most shocking performance comes from the enterprise tests, though. Here we see the MyDigitalSSD BP3 256GB going all SSDs Gone Wild. The File Server test shows a near 4x increase in performance and the other tests also see large gains. The MDSSD BP3 isn't an enterprise drive, but it's starting to think it is.
There is nothing particularly sexy about mSATA drives, not even for the hardcore storage people out there. They generally don't come with exciting packaging or with a lot of exotic accessories. These drives are almost exclusively tucked under your notebook keyboard or if you're lucky, a bottom panel in your ultrabook. If you have an ultrabook or notebook with an mSATA port, well that is a different story.
In order to keep costs low, notebook manufacturers usually ship these devices with slow SSDs or even worse, an ultra-slow, low performing spinner. Moving from a mechanical drive with massive latency to a SSD is something to get excited about and more devices are hitting the market every week with mSATA ports. We know these devices are out there, after our first review of the MyDigitalSSD BP3 mSATA, they sold a ton of these drives. For those people, the BP3 was probably a game changer, OK... more like a notebook changer, but you get the idea.
MyDigitalSSD also wanted me to talk about the reliability of the Bullet Proof line. The BP line going back to the first series all use Phison controllers and MDSSD had very few returns. Of the thousand BP3 drives already shipped, only one was returned as defective. That one drive had a little mishap during shipping where the drive was actually broken into two pieces. Part of the reason for the high quality standards and low return rate has to do with where the drives are actually manufactured. Phison uses Toshiba manufacturing for their drives and every drive is tested before shipping to the MyDigitalSSD warehouse.
The new BP3 product line received quite a performance boost from the new firmware update. This was just the first in what we hope is a nice sized line of performance increasing updates. Phison isn't known for putting out a large amount of firmware updates, so we may only see one or two more before this product reaches end of life. Their products are always solid when it comes to reliability so when a new update is available, it usually comes with some type of performance increase. For enthusiasts looking to ways stay on the cutting edge that might be a bit of a problem because they don't get to tinker with settings, updates and the like. This drive really isn't for enthusiasts though; this is a mainstream drive that doesn't have the hassles of endless updates.
Think of it as plug-in-play for the people whose computers you put together. That doesn't mean this drive isn't a nice product for us all out performance storage nerds, it's nice to buy a product that actually works the first time around... and now it just so happens to work a bit faster if you want to spend five making it so.
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