We can't tell you what GS stands for. The first SandForce based SSD from Corsair was called Force, easy enough. After arrived Force 3, a clear reference to the new SF-2281 ability to operate at SATA III. There was never a Force 2. Around the same time Corsair also released the Force GT, a faster version with SF-2281 and synchronous flash. GT is a designation plucked straight from the automobile scene, generally a faster model. Now we have GS, but we have no idea what GS stands for. Last night I went half-crazy trying to figure it out and the best I could come up with was Grand Slam. I think I need to keep thinking!
Anyway, the Corsair Force GS uses SanDisk Toggle Mode flash. The SanDisk variant comes from the same magical place as the Toshiba Toggle Mode flash we've seen on products like the Patriot Wildfire and Mushkin Chronos DX. Toggle Mode flash is the current premium top dog flash going around right now because it increases incompressible data performance. The Wildfire and Chronos DX use older 32nm Toggle Flash, but the new Corsair Force GS feature new 24nm Toggle.
To date the Force GT held the flagship title in Corsair's product line up and for good reason. The Force GT when we reviewed it was blazing fast, but the drive has changed since then. The 240GB Force GT now uses the SF-2282 controller and 32 IMFT NAND flash chips, a combination that increases the interleaving and produces higher performance. So, if the Force GT was blazing fast before, it is ultra-blazing fast now. We have a sample in the lab now, but not the firmware we want to test it with. When we get equal firmware on hand we'll get to answer the question you'll be asking after reading this review, which should I buy, the Force GT or the Force GS.
Let's take a look at the new Corsair Force GS as it is now and compare it to several of the heavy hitters on the market.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Corsair is shaking things up a bit with the new Force GS. To start with, the 120GB capacity size was nixed, no 120GB model under the GS flag. The smallest Force GS is 180GB. From there we have 240GB, 360GB and a massive 480GB capacity size. Today we're testing the 240GB capacity size so the 240GB specifications are listed above.
Corsair specs the Force GS 240GB out at 555MB/s sequential read speed, 525MB/s sequential write speed and 90K aligned 4K random write IOPS. I have a feeling we'll surpass all of those today with our testing, but those are the claimed performance.
The Force GS is a 2.5" form factor drive with a standard 9.5mm z-height. Corsair has yet to release a 7mm z-height SSD, but at Computex we saw the upcoming Neutron Series and expect it to bring Corsair into the ultrabook decade.
After a quick search we found the new Force GS 240GB at Newegg for $219.99. The lowest priced model with 180GB of user capacity is at Newegg for $174.99, the 360GB size is $299.99 and the 480GB is $429.99. At this time the Force GS suffers from new product syndrome. In a couple of weeks we could see a price drop at Newegg, but right now, the 240GB model we're looking at today cost the same as the SanDisk Extreme 240GB at $219.99. The Force GT does include some accessories that the Extreme lacks.
When it comes to the accessory package you get Corsair's three year warranty and a nice desktop adapter bracket. The package also includes screws for securing the drive in the bracket and your computer.
Corsair went gold for the accent color on the GS. We have to wonder if the Olympics have anything to do with this. On the front Corsair gives us some performance information and clearly shows SATA III.
On the back Corsair gives us some general information on the Force GS, but unlike the other products, Corsair singles out random write speeds - the strong suit for the GS.
Inside, everything is tucked away efficiently and the drive is separated from the rest of the package so you don't have to worry about your drive getting scratched up during shipping.
Inside the package you get a desktop adapter bracket and two sets of screws for installing the drive in the bracket and the bracket into your desktop.
Corsair Force GS 240GB SSD
Here we get our first look at the new Corsair Force GS 240GB SSD. The same red case from the Force GT was used and we like the color choice. With so many gray and black SSDs on the market, we welcome some color variety.
There isn't much going on with the back, but we do get to see the mounting points on the bottom of the drive. These are used for many in notebook installs. If your notebook uses this method the Force GS will fit right in.
The side mounting points are also where they should be.
The SATA power and data connectors are offset on the drive and Corsair chose a desktop adapter bracket that also offsets the drive so your connectors line up with 3.5" form factor drives.
The Corsair 3/4 PCB design is something we've seen before. Corsair moved the flash closer to the controller and lobbed off about 1/4 of the excess PCB. The controller used is the LSI SandForce SF-2281. What makes the Force GS unique to the Force product line is the SanDisk 24nm Toggle Mode flash. The 240GB model we're looking at today uses 16 NAND flash chips, eight on each side.
There are other SSDs on the market with SanDisk Toggle Mode flash like the SanDisk Extreme and the VisionTek Racer; both of those 240GB drives use just eight NAND flash chips. The Force GS uses 16 and because of that we hope this model increases interleaving. We'll find out in a couple of days when the SanDisk Extreme 240GB arrives with the same firmware we're running on the GS today.
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.
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.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves we need to point out that we're using a beta firmware for this test. The firmware were using is based on SandForce's 5.0.3 code, the TRIM fixing code.
At this time were not sure if Corsair will release this code to the public or wait for 5.0.4, which is set to roll out in two weeks to a month.
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.
Just as we thought, Corsair's claimed performance was surpassed by our own testing. I guess saying 555MB/s is a little smoother than saying 559MB/s, the result we achieved in our read test with ATTO. We also passed the claimed write speed and recorded 536MB/s. It seems the sequential performance is at least on target with the Force GT we tested nearly a year ago.
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.
The Corsair Force GS is a rocket ship on the launch pad when it comes to sequential read performance even though Corsair is talking up the random performance.
The sequential write speed while spanning the user capacity is also very fast with an average speed of over 407MB/s.
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.
When companies talk about solid-state drives they like to tout their really big performance numbers. 555MB/s is sexier than sub-millisecond access time so we rarely see the access performance numbers.
Truth be told though, the access times are what make SSDs feel fast when you bounce around Windows and open programs. The Force GS achieves that sub-millisecond read access and has the best read access result we've recorded on a SandForce based drive.
The write access times are in line with other SandForce based drives.
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 Corsair Force GS manages to score nearly 41MB/s in our CDM 4K QD1 test. As you can see that is the highest on the chart and even without this chart, it's pretty darn fast. Scaling to QD4 was just average, even for a SandForce controller and the QD32 result was average as well. For most consumers the higher queue depths are rarely ever achieved unless you're doing some serious multitasking.
The QD1 4K write speed result was 129.4MB/s, but SandForce has lost their massive 4K advantage to many of the newer Marvell 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/
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
Losing a little ground in the 4K write test really isn't that big of a loss because Corsair and SandForce do a really good job in real-world tests. Without data on the drive we see solid performance in daily use tasks, but we still prefer our own version with data on the drive, just like how you use your SSD at home or the office.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
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
Now that TRIM is restored with 5.0.3 (or 5.0.4 if Corsair chooses to wait before going public with working TRIM), the Force GS recovers performance nicely when you delete data you no longer need.
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
Corsair's SSDs based on SandForce controllers have always performed very well in the AS SSD Copy Benchmark and the GS is no exception.
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
You asked for it and we delivered it, Anvil Storage Utilities benchmarks are now on TweakTown.
As with all SandForce drives, performance depends on the type of data you're feeding the drive, compressible or incompressible.
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.
Corsair isn't marketing the Force GS as an enterprise model, but given that it uses high random performance Toggle Mode flash and sells at an attractive price, we can see a company choosing this model for heavy read enterprise tasks.
Right now we're still in a silly season with most of the SandForce drives. While everyone has the TRIM fixing code in the lab, very few are going to release it to the public as is. Just today we learned that 5.0.3 does not pass WHQL certification. We think this too has to do with TRIM, but that is pure speculation (with a little insight). We were told at CES that a TRIM operation is allowed just 70 ms to pass WHQL. We know SandForce and the manufacturers are scrambling to get everything worked out so the OEM system builders are happy. In our testing we proved that TRIM on the Force GS makes for a much nicer performing GS. It would be nice if Corsair releases 5.0.3 to the public, even if it comes with a warning about its beta status.
With that said we have another issue to tackle. We know that the SF-2281 / asynchronous flash Force 3 is the baseline model, but with the Force GS and the Force GT both performing so well, which do you buy? If the Force GT was like most of the other SF-2281 / synchronous flash drives that would be easy to answer, but the GT isn't like any other drive on the market. The Force GT, at least the 240GB uses a SF-2282 controller and pairs it with 32 IMFT 25nm synchronous flash chips. The 32 chip design is very fast, but until we get the same firmware for our Force GT, we can't say which model is faster.
When it comes to the price, the Force GS 240GB is around $20 cheaper than the Force GT 240GB at Newegg. We'd still like to see the side by side performance, but for many, the difference between the two would be trivial. The $20 price difference on the other hand is more substantial. Both drives ship with the same accessory package and three year warranty so neither drive has an advantage of there.
When comparing the Force GS to other existing drives on the market that use 24nm Toggle Flash, the Force GS has an advantage in the flash count. Most of the 240GB drives with 24nm Toggle use just eight NAND flash chips, but the GS uses 16. In most cases, but not always, the more flash on a drive the better, because you increase the interleaving.
If you're looking for a new solid state drive right now the Force GS is a solid choice, but the firmware upgrades in the future might turn a lot of people off. At this time, if you want the best performance in an SSD you have to consider a SandForce based model in the 240/256GB capacity size and that means you'll have to work a little to keep it running at peak performance at this time.
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