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Transcend SSD720 256GB SSD Review

Transcend goes for gold with its new flagship SSD720 product that brings LSI SandForce performance to a new higher capacity point. The new 7mm package coupled with 24nm flash and working TRIM makes this the best RAISE free SandForce offering yet.

@TweakTown
Published Mon, Oct 8 2012 10:13 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: Transcend

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 33 IMAGES

Not long ago Transcend released a pair of SSDs designed to take on the Team SandForce competition. Just like others before, Transcend went with the two tier strategy, toggle/synchronous at the top and asynchronous on the bottom. The entry-level asynchronous model, SSD 320, easily made the biggest bang of the two in the market. Right from the start the 320 listed as one of the lowest priced LSI SandForce SATA 6Gbps SSDs on the market. Nothing screams look at me like an amazing price point and the SSD320 received several looks. That opened the door for us to look deeper into the Transcend SSD line up, at the top of the pile we found a diamond.

The Transcend SSD720 is the flagship offering from a company with a lengthy history in the SSD market. The company managed to hit all of the check boxes with this release. Two features that stand out as unique right now is the 7mm case design and the new RAISE free format that gives users full access to the available flash on the drive. To date, the RAISE free has only been tested here on an ADATA product, the SP900. Unlike the ADATA product line up, Transcend hasn't dragged its feet in releasing TRIM fixing firmware, a big advantage to Transcend and a major positive for users looking to buy a RAISE free, full data capacity model that will retain performance over time thanks to TRIM working.

The SSD720 also uses SanDisk's 24nm Toggle flash, a positive for users looking for a low power drive. The Transcend offering does differ from the SanDisk Extreme, at least in the 240GB/256GB category, Transcend uses 16 lower density ICs rather than just eight higher density NAND flash chips. This increases interleaving and gives a small performance increase, but does increase the power draw by a small margin.

There is an area that Transcend doesn't get enough credit, but we would like to recognize is just how long the company has been in the SSD market. Transcend's first SSD products go all the way back to the PATA days when you could purchase a 2GB PATA SSD for the price of a used Honda. 2GB of SLC flash running at 95MB/s might not seem like much today, but back then it was groundbreaking.

Let's see how far Transcend has come and take a look at their new flagship offering, the SSD720.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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With found capacity points, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and a massive 512GB model, Transcend breaks the mold and uses the new 0-provisioning programming offered by SandForce. To date very few companies have went down this path and we've only tested one other 2.5" form factor model with SandForce 0-provisioning, the ADATA SP900.

Transcend's marketing materials are a bit shy. As you can see the SSD720 spec sheet says MLC NAND Flash memory, but this drive doesn't use just any NAND Flash, it uses SanDisk 24nm Toggle Mode flash that uses less power than IMFT 25nm and is considered the best MLC flash you can use at this time.

So far we've tested a handful of 7mm z-height SSDs and many more are on the way, but Transcend is already ready for the upcoming ultrabook avalanche. In the coming weeks we have a report that looks at the SSDs used in many off the shelf ultrabooks and why you'll want to upgrade your new ultrabook with a higher performing SSD right out of the box. I don't want to give away the punch line today, but we want to say that the Transcend SSD720 would make a great aftermarket drive for your high speed conversion.

The Transcend SSD320 made quite a stir when it hit the market at a very low price point a few months ago. The SSD720 that we're looking at today isn't too far behind. Using Google Shopper we managed to find the 256GB model we're looking at today for around $195. The massive 512GB capacity size was available at the time of writing for less than $400, an amazing value for those looking for high capacity and well under the magic $1 per GB mark.

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The SSD720 isn't a stripped down release either. Transcend has included a nice accessory package and on their site we found some nice software tools as well. Inside our retail sample we found a desktop adapter bracket, screws for installation, a Quick Installation Guide, Warranty Card and two catalogs of Transcend products. Transcend backs the SSD720 with a three year warranty.

Packaging

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Transcend's retail box is actually really cool to see in person. We can't capture the different textures of the package in pictures without looking a bit obsessed about touching things so we'll just tell you to find one at a retail store or better yet purchase one online and check it out for yourself.

This is one of the better retail packages on the market now and I'd give it a second look if found on a retail shelf. Transcend includes a nice list of features and performance information right on the front of the package.

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On the back you're treated to the full specification list, package contents and even a brief statement on the features.

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Many times we see SSDs in fairly plain packages that aren't designed to attract shoppers in a retail environment, but Transcend went full on with lots of details.

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I think you get the idea.

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The inner packaging was very good as well. Here we see the drive in a separate chamber away from the accessories so it's safe from being scratched during shipping.

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Transcend included a new accessory package that allows you to get up and running quickly. We would have liked to see a SATA cable included, though.

Transcend SSD720 256GB SSD

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Here we get our first look at the actual drive. Transcend uses a case design that we haven't see used before.

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There isn't too much different about this case on the surface, but it is sturdy, an attribute that's started to get overlooked in the 7mm z-height products.

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Although this is a 7mm drive, all of the mounting points line up with 9.5mm drives so you won't have a problem installing the SSD720 in your existing notebook or desktop (with the included desktop adapter bracket).

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The included bracket offsets the drive so your SATA power and data cables are close to the same location as your 3.5" form factor drives. This is important if you have a number of drives and a power supply that has stiff cables. The offset makes your cable management easier.

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Inside we found a LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller and sixteen SanDisk 24nm Toggle Model NAND Flash ICs.

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There are eight flash 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, 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.

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Transcend's spec sheet rated the SSD720 at 560MB/s read speed and we almost achieved the same result. With newer Intel 11.6 Series drivers I have no doubt that 560MB/s would be possible. In our testing with older but time tested, reliable drivers the SSD720 produced a maximum write speed of over 534MB/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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Starting with a clean drive we ran HD Tune Pro that measures read speed across the drive. The Transcend SSD720 averaged 426.6MB/s and a minimum speed of 411.5MB/s.

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The average write speed recorded was 409.3MB/s, but in this test, the write speed dipped down to 391MB/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.

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For many users the read latency is even more important than the sequential performance. This is what makes your computer feel fast when opening new programs and bouncing around different windows.

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LSI SandForce's SF-2281 controller doesn't use a DRAM buffer so the write access times are a little higher than those from Marvel 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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The Transcend SSD720 delivered a very good 4K read performance, just over 41MB/s. The scaling when the queue depths increase were nice as well with a 65MB/s 4QD and 222.5MB/s QD32 read performance.

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In CDM's write test we get our first look at incompressible data writing to the Transcend SSD720. The 4K write speed recorded in our test was just over 131MB/s. The QD4 write jumped to 232MB/s and that went up another 12MB/s to 244.2MB/s in the QD32 test.

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

In Futuremark's PCMark Vantage we use provided traces of typical daily use activities to measure performance on an empty drive. With TRIM working on the SSD720 via firmware 5.0.4 the drive is very fast and performs well against the leading drives available today.

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.

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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 prefer to measure Vantage when data is on the drive to see how the real-world performance is in an environment that is closer to a normal user's computer.

The 50% capacity full mark is what we use for our talking point and the Transcend SSD720 dips to 43K Marks, which is lower than the SanDisk Extreme with 5.0.2 firmware and Intel's 520 Series with Intel's highly modified firmware.

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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In the file copy test the Transcend SSD720 does a very good job of moving data from one area of the drive to another.

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

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Incompressible Data

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As with all SF-2281 / MLC paired drives the Transcend SSD720 loses performance when working with incompressible data. Here we see how the type of data affects performance.

QD32 Random Read

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Firmware 5.0.3 and 5.0.4 decreased high queue depth random read performance, but the larger 240/256GB class drives are affected much less than the 120/128GB models.

QD32 Random Write

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There is nothing to complain about when getting 92K random write IOPS at high queue depths.

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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Transcend doesn't advertise the SSD720 for enterprise use, but several of our readers started using consumer SSDs in small scale enterprise environments several years ago. Because of that we still publish these numbers.

Final Thoughts

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With a full 256GB of user capacity and a price less than $200, the Transcend SSD720 is an appealing product. Transcend didn't hit this price point by eliminating the goodies either. You get a full accessory package that includes several software tools that make your migration to SSD performance easier.

To date there are only a couple of manufacturers offering SandForce SF-2281 with the 0-provisioning programming. ADATA has a couple of products and now Transcend. Only one of these companies has released working TRIM on its drives and that comes from Transcend and not ADATA. Without the spare area, performance can get to a crawl without TRIM working and your drive filled to high levels, over 80% of the NAND full. TRIM helps clean up that small amount of unused flash to keep the write speeds high. For most power users I don't think the extra 7% of user space is a big deal since most of us don't fill our SSDs to the brink, but it's always nice to have the extra space for trips or other occasions when you might pile movies or music on the drive while away from home. I tend to do that quite a bit for trips when I know I'll be in a hotel room without any music for hours at a time.

I think Transcend did a good job with pricing. The 256GB SSD720 we looked at today currently sells for less than $200 in the US and is available all over the world for less than $1 per GB. All four capacity sizes offer a really good value, but none no more than the 512GB size that comes in at less than $400.

Transcend didn't skimp on the accessory package either. We've seen other companies hit really good price points, like SanDisk's Extreme SSD, but many of those products don't ship with any accessories at all. The Transcend SSD720 ships with a desktop adapter bracket and a nice manual, but the real value comes from their software library that's found on its website.

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We really like this Transcend drive for its well rounded approach that combines high performance, innovative programming for the flash management and the accessory package. Transcend also has the TRIM fixing firmware available so your drive will keep performing well in the long term and not fall into a steady state with lower performance.

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