Several months ago we looked at the Venus Pro 3 120GB from Comay and found it to be a very unique SSD. At the time Comay shipped its drives with firmware 3.3.2, the code that fixed the BSOD issues. Comay followed up our 120GB sample with a new 240GB drive, but it shipped to us with firmware 5.0.2, the broken TRIM firmware. Since we didn't want to make the Venus Pro 3 240GB look bad for an issue that was out of Comay's hands, we held the review until fully functional firmware was available.
Comay was one of the first companies to send us firmware 5.0.3, the version now on their website for download. We also know that Comay is testing firmware 5.0.4 and we suspect they are also testing firmware 5.0.5 since it was shipped to manufacturers in the last week of September.
The Venus Pro 3 has a very unique hardware feature that we've only found on enterprise class SSDs so far, and that is host power loss protection. When SandForce first started shipping its first products, we saw a few drives with a hardware capacitor that was about the same size as a button on your jeans. This was referred to as a supercap or CapXX, named from the company that manufacturers them. The supercap used on Comay's Venus Pro 3 gives your SSD an extra four second of power, even when the host (i.e. your computer) loses power. SandForce SSDs, even with a DRAM cache buffer still have a buffer stage in the controller. The extra four seconds gives the SSD time to finish sending the data from the controller to the NAND flash.
This feature was designed for server environments, but since most servers have an uninterruptable power backup, I never really felt strongly for the need in that environment. Notebooks and ruggedized environments on the other hand are a different story. We've all been working on a notebook without the power plug in and accidentally hit the button to eject the battery at least one. I've never lost data that way, but with host power loss protection there are a number of consumer scenarios where losing power to your drive can happen.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Comay offers the Venus Pro 3 in four capacity sizes, but if you purchase 100 drives, you can make a custom order. The standard capacity sizes are 60GB, 120GB, 240GB and 480GB of user capacity. Comay does a very good job on its specifications sheet, and gives us a lot of information.
The Venus Pro 3 uses a LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller (SF-2282 for the 240GB) and pairs the controller with Intel 25nm synchronous flash. This combination gives us very good performance and a long life span. Comay even lists the write endurance on its spec sheet, which is something we rarely see. Our 240GB drive will survive for 32 years, when writing 50GB a day.
When we looked at the 120GB model Comay didn't have a US distributer or for that matter any US representation. They do have a distributer in Canada and now they have a US presence through M-Factors. M-Factors is also the US distributer for KingFast, we reviewed its F3 Plus product a couple of weeks ago. M-Factors currently have stock of the Venus Pro 3 in all capacity sizes.
The 240GB model we're looking at today shows a price of $187.50. This is right around what we'd expect for a regular 240GB Team SandForce SATA III SSD, but as we've mentioned, the Venus Pro 3 has host power loss protection, and it also has overload protection, a feature less obvious in the images of the PCB, but also a first on a consumer SSD.
Comay backs its Venus Pro 3 with a three year warranty, but does not include a desktop adapter bracket or data migration software in the package.
"Push the Future" is the slogan for the Venus Pro 3, but this drive has enough features to push the present, too.
The package gives us a lot of information like the specifications and a list of features. These are found on the label at the right side bottom corner.
A few features are listed on the side of the package.
The inner packaging is done well and the drive ships in a secure enclosure so you don't have to worry about it getting beaten up during shipping.
Inside that package we found two items. The first is the SSD and the second is a paper manual that is very detailed and as you can see here, in color.
Comay Venus Pro 3 240GB SSD
On the outside the Venus Pro 3 looks like just about any other 2.5" form factor, 9.5mm z-height SSD with a brushed aluminum case and a silk screened logo on the front.
The back has a couple of stickers, one that gives the specifications and features of the drive. The other sticker has the model name and the serial number.
All of the mounting points are located where they should be.
The SATA power and data connectors are also where they should be. You won't run into any issues installing this drive in your notebook or desktop with an adapter bracket (not included). It is too big for your ultrabook.
If you think I was rushing through everything above to get to something, you are correct. This is what I want to talk about, the actual PCB of the Venus Pro 3. Here you can see the exposed copper of the PCB where all of the screw positions are. In these places, the aluminum case contacts the copper and heat gets transferred to the case. It's a nice feature and one that we rarely see.
On this side we get to see the CapXX capacitor and some of the power regulation circuits. There are 16 Intel 25nm NAND flash chips in total, eight on each side.
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 recorded a maximum read speed of just under 560MB/s and a maximum write speed of just over 533MB/s. This is faster than Comay's quoted 555MB/s read and 525MB/s write speed.
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 more I play with this new firmware, the more it's growing on me. I've migrated my personal notebook over and really like the performance offered, and the fact that TRIM keeps the performance high. With TRIM working SandForce based drives don't fall into steady state because TRIM keeps the flash fresh.
In HD Tune Pro we read across the drive at 413MB/s on average and that only dipped to 406MB/s at its slowest point.
Writing across the drive produced an average speed of 407MB/s. The performance did drop down to 368MB/s at one point for brief moment.
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.
Read latency is one of the most important areas we measure in our tests for most users. The lower the latency, the faster your programs launch after you double click.
Write latency isn't as cut and dry. SandForce's architecture doesn't use a DRAM buffer to mask higher write latency that's associated with MLC flash.
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 4K read speed at 38.76MB/s and the performance scales well as we move to higher queue depths.
Here we get our first look at performance when writing incompressible data. When writing sequential incompressible data the Venus Pro 3 achieves 336MB/s. The 4K write speed as measured in CDM is 130MB/s and jumps to 265MB/s with a queue depth of 4.
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 Vantage we measure the performance of real-world, daily use tasks that PC users perform routinely.
The Comay Venus Pro 3 does very well in these client activities, but some of the newer drives on the market are catching up to SandForce based products.
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.
Using Vantage again as a measuring stick, we fill the drives with controlled data at set capacity levels to measure how the drives perform with data populating the flash. We like using the 50% mark to analyze the results.
The Comay Venus Pro 3 scores just over 44K Marks in this test, which is very close to the performance of the Plextor M3 Pro.
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
Transferring data from one area of the Venus Pro 3 to another takes place at a very high speed.
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
The LSI SandForce architecture with MLC flash means there is a variation of performance when working with different data types, compressible and incompressible. Here we see performance with both.
QD32 Random Read
QD32 Random Write
The random write speed test shows more than 92K IOPS at a queue depth of 32.
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 CapXX feature makes the Comay Venus Pro 3 a prime target for those of you currently using consumer SSDs in enterprise environments.
When we reviewed the 120GB Venus Pro 3 we didn't have a lot of information other than the basics. Now Comay has a US distributer that not only lists the drives, but also stocks them as well. We'll go ahead and start out with the price because Comay managed to hit US shores at a much lower price than we expected. M-Factors have the 240GB model we looked at today for just $187.50. This price is in line with regular Team SandForce consumer drives that don't ship with enterprise power features.
The Comay Venus Pro 3 has two power related features that we've yet to find on a consumer SSD before - Host Power Loss Protection and Overload Protection. We suspect other SSDs have some form of overload protection, but none advertise the feature. Both of these features are geared toward enterprise environments, but enthusiasts can really benefit from them as well. I can't count the number of times I've corrupted an OS install while aggressively overclocking because data was in a buffer and not written to the HDD before a crash. The Comay Venus Pro 3 gives your data an additional four seconds to pass through the controller and to the flash.
The only complaint we have about the Venus Pro 3 is the lack of accessories. We really wanted to get a desktop adapter bracket with the drive, but Comay didn't include one. Comay did produce one of the best paper manuals we've seen to date, but that doesn't make up for the lack of accessory hardware.
We really like this product, and Comay's unique approach that sets the Venus Pro 3 apart from a very crowded market. The advanced power features are the same found on enterprise SSDs costing several hundreds more. We're working on getting a drive over to Paul so he can run the Venus Pro 3 through his enterprise test methods. Stay tuned!
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