For most companies, tackling the high-end consumer SandForce SSD market was a game of follow the leader. OCZ Technology hit the market first with their Vertex 3, a SF-2281/synchronous flash drive, and then followed it with the Agility 3, also with the SF-2281, but pairing the controller with asynchronous flash. Everyone after that just followed suit like they were playing Spades. That was until SuperSSpeed decided to go off suit and lay down a Club.
Most likely you've already heard about the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC SSD, it is the most exciting, most anticipated SSD right now. SuperSSpeed positioned the S301 as the flagship product, but in order to contain the price the S301 is limited to 128GB. The follow up product is what we're here to talk about today, the S302.
SuperSSpeed's S302 is essentially the same product that other Team SandForce members released as their flagship, on paper. The drive uses a LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller and pairs the controller with Intel 25nm synchronous flash. SuperSSpeed has a close relationship with Intel flash, the company's main business is flash distribution. Because of that, we expect the S302 to hit the US market with a bang. Pricing is driving the massive sales in the US and we think SuperSSpeed is in a really good position to mix it up in the market.
Of course the price doesn't mean much without reliability. Over the last couple of months we've seen the actual SSD PCBs become less complex and lower quality surface mount components used. The S302 is a throwback to a generation of SandForce SF-2281 SSDs that weren't focused on low prices. You'll see that in the review today.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
SuperSSpeed's product specifications sheet is made more for distributers or resellers since it has some of the potential features listed. A good example is the in-drive UPS notation. The S302 as it arrived does not have a SupeCap, but if you wanted to order a large number of drives direct from the factory, this is an option.
All of the major capacity sizes are covered from 60GB to 480GB. The performance specifications are listed, but change as new base firmware becomes available. Today we're using final 5.0.3 firmware, the TRIM fix on a base 240GB S302 drive.
SuperSSpeed backs their S302 MLC flash models with a three year warranty. The accessory package we received includes a desktop adapter bracket, mounting screws and a paper installation manual.
At this time SuperSSpeed does not sell S302 drives in their Amazon store, but we know product is coming. Given that SuperSSpeed has the inside track on Intel NAND flash and that flash makes up the bulk of an SSDs price, we think the SuperSSpeed S302 has a good shot at disrupting the current pricing for SandForce 240GB SSDs.
The bottom has already dropped out and we are seeing drives well under $1 per GB, but many companies are finding these prices unsustainable, yet SuperSSpeed should be in a good position to fight it out in this area.
When we reviewed the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC drive it shipped to us in a S302 package. The updated S301 package is now unique and ready, but the S302 remains the same.
On the back SuperSSpeed lists Features and Relevant Applications, but it's not like SSDs only work well in some apps.
The box is put together well and with a lot of detail as you can see here.
The inner package is nearly identical to what we found on the Intel 520 Series. The drive is held in a separate section away from the accessories.
The complete package.
SuperSSpeed S302 Hyper Gold 240GB SSD
On the outside there isn't much of a difference between the S301 and the S302 other than the small SLC tag on the S302.
There's not much to talk about on the back of the drive since it doesn't have a label. SuperSSpeed does use a metal case that is dense unlike some of the newer cases passing through our lab.
The drive mounting points are where they should be. The S302 is a 9.5mm Z-Height drive, but we expect to see a 7mm drive from SuperSSpeed soon.
SuperSSpeed ships a fairly unique desktop adapter bracket with their drives. The bracket holds two 2.5" SSDs and allows you to mount them in a standard 3.5" bay.
Inside we found a SF-2281 and 16 Intel 25nm NAND flash programmed for synchronous operation.
On this side we see the remaining eight NAND flash chips, but the power regulation circuit is of more interest. For the last few months we've see waves of new drives, but few have used this many surface mount components. There are power capacitors all over the board.
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.
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.
Using ATTO we found the S302 has a maximum read speed of nearly 560MB/s and a maximum write speed of nearly 540MB/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
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.
In HD Tune Pro we recorded an average sequential read speed of 409.5MB/s. The peak was nearly 420MB/s, but the drive did dip to 342MB/s for a brief moment.
When writing compressible data across the drive we observed an average speed of 412MB/s. The test peaked at just shy of 440MB/s and only dipped to 395MB/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.
A lot of marketing goes into the really big sequential read and write performance, but rarely does a company talk about the small latency numbers. Latency is important, it's what makes your computer feel fast. If you already have a good SSD then you understand that your day to day tasks happen before your finger can even lift after a double click.
The SuperSSpeed S302 delivers exceptional read latency, but is a little down on the write latency when compared to the SSDs based on Marvell controllers. Marvell based drives use a DRAM buffer to keep write latency down.
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.
Last week we looked at two 120GB drives based on SandForce controllers and we stated in the 120/128GB capacity size SandForce is losing ground. That obviously doesn't apply to the SuperSSpeed SLC drive and as you can see here it doesn't apply to the 240GB drives either. The 4K read speeds at a single request is still faster than most of the Marvell drives. The SuperSSpeed drive also scales very well, but is a little slower when the commands stack up.
CDM uses incompressible data so this is the first time we see incompressible data and sequential write speeds. The SuperSSpeed S302 delivers a solid 334MB/s, nearly double what the 120GB SF-2281 drives deliver. The 4K single command write speed is 129MB/s which is about average for 240GB drives and in the middle between some of the best Marvell solutions on the market today.
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
If there is one area where the SuperSSpeed S302 does an amazing job is in real-world situations. I know a guy on a forum who used to say the most awful things about LSI SandForce controllers and said they cheat because of the data compression; he was like the SandForce nemesis. This guy was sent a drive and after a few days changed his tune and now goes around talking about how the drive boots faster than his previous SSD, loads programs faster and just feels faster when bouncing around Windows.
Now I have to figure out how to get my drive back from him.
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
SSDs slow down as the NAND flash becomes populated with data. SandForce based drives rely heavily on the TRIM command to remove user data when it's deleted. The new SuperSSpeed S302 Hyper Gold MLC drive is currently shipping with firmware 5.0.3, the TRIM fix firmware. We see the drive recovering in our TRIM test.
With the user available flash half full of data, the SuperSSpeed S302 performs very well.
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
Copying data from one location to another on the same drive is an area that SuperSSpeed and LSI SandForce have worked hard on. The early SandForce drives with early firmware were much slower at this task, but the newer firmware really lifts the speed quite a bit.
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
Most SandForce SSDs write incompressible data slower than they do compressible data and the S302 MLC is no exception. The S301 with SLC flash is the exception, but we'll save that story for another day.
QD32 Random Read
With the 120GB drives loaded with the TRIM fix firmware we noticed a large QD32 Random Read IOPS drop, but the issue doesn't affect the larger capacity drives based on our testing.
It should also be noted that unless you are running enterprise workloads the high queue depth random read issue will not affect you. It is pretty much impossible to get to a QD of 32 under normal daily use workloads.
QD32 Random Write
92K random write IOPS - smoking!
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.
SuperSSpeed manufacturers several different types of SSDs and some of the MLC flash models are equipped with power loss features for enterprise use. Our sample S302 does not have the power loss features, but as we saw from the specification sheet, it's possible to special order S302s with this feature.
The performance should remain the same between these two models.
About an hour ago I read a forum post that stated SandForce SSDs come in three flavors - fast, faster and fastest. The poster was talking about asynchronous flash, synchronous flash and Toggle Mode flash. I don't agree with that line of thinking for a couple of reasons. The first is asynchronous flash drops too much performance when data is present, I wouldn't call it fast. The second reason is IMFT synchronous and Toggle Mode are nearly identical in performance on SandForce SF-2281 controllers. Some companies released two drives, synchronous and asynchronous and other companies released three drives. The three drive strategy with all three flash types led to a lot of confusion and in some cases the synchronous flash was configured to deliver better performance than the Toggle Mode configuration.
SuperSSpeed went a different route, with an easy to understand strategy. You have two options with SuperSSpeed - faster and kick ass. We've already looked at the kick ass (S301 SLC) and another review, now with TRIM working is just about ready. Admittedly the S302 MLC isn't as exciting as the S301 SLC, but it is a solid release, with a solid warranty and accessory package. The performance is where we expect it to be and we know drives are coming off the factory floor with working TRIM now.
The SuperSSpeed S302 is available in several APAC countries now. We've found pricing in Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but nothing in the US or Europe yet. While writing this article I touched base with a company we work with and reinvigorated their desire to carry SuperSSpeed products. In the morning this reseller is calling SuperSSpeed and placing an order. After hearing what I had to say about the MLC model and of course seeing the extreme performance of the SLC model, SuperSSpeed is without a doubt coming to the US. SuperSSpeed also has an Amazon store that carries their SATA II models. We suspect the company wanted to wait until the TRIM issue was resolved before deploying SATA III models in the US market. Now that we have working TRIM, I'm confident drives will be here very soon.
What we don't know though is the price. In the APAC countries SuperSSpeed SSDs are priced very well. The SLC drive is unbelievable and the MLC drive we reviewed today is low enough to be a competitor with some of the asynchronous flash drives. That type of pricing in the US would go over very well; we just need to have it here to buy it.
After reviewing a lot of LSI SandForce SF-2281 drives with synchronous flash we've moved beyond the benchmarks and spend more time looking over the accessory packages and build quality. SuperSSpeed ships the S302 Hyper Gold with a very nice dual drive desktop adapter bracket, this is a unique add-on. SuperSSpeed also designs drives with beefy power circuits. It's been quite a while since we've seen this many surface mount components on the board and there are capacitors all over the place. That tells me that SuperSSpeed didn't design the S302 to be a low-cost product, but they designed it to be a high quality product that just happens to cost less than many of the competitors because they get some of the other components at a lower price.
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