SuperSSpeed Hyper Gold S301 128GB w/5.03 FW SSD Review

We've tested SuperSSpeed's S301 SLC before, but a lot has changed since we said it was the fastest SSD in the world. The competition has caught up a bit, and SuperSSpeed now stocks the drive in the US, and we get a newer TRIM fixing firmware.
@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, Dec 17 2012 12:36 AM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: SuperSSpeed US

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 32 IMAGES

We've looked at the SuperSSpeed S301 SSD before on a few occasions. The first time we had a very early sample with firmware 5.0.1, one of the less than perfect SandForce releases. We liked the drive so much we worked with SuperSSpeed to make the first TweakTown branded product ever, the TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Signature Edition SSD, limited to just 50 now sold out units. SuperSSpeed took some of the ideas from our drive and wrapped them in the final form of the product. With everything nailed down all SuperSSpeed needed to do was import a bunch of them so you can order and have your drive delivered just days after. SuperSSpeed has S301 SLC drives in stock and ready to go.

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SuperSSpeed doesn't go into a lot of detail in its spec sheet. The S301 is available in two capacity sizes, but only one was available at the SuperSSpeedUS.com website, the 128GB model we're looking at today. You can purchase the 128GB SLC SSD at either Amazon or on SuperSSpeedUS.com. Both list the drive at $250. This is less than the Special Edition drive, but more than any other 128GB consumer SSD on the market today.

The reason for the higher price is simple; the S301 uses very expensive SLC NAND flash from Intel. SLC or single-level cell is generally reserved for high-end enterprise products costing thousands of dollars. SLC is very expensive and even enterprise SSD markers are starting to shy away from the technology for all but their most extreme drives designed for tier 0 use.

SLC has two program states, on or off. MLC flash has four states and TLC flash has eight. SLC's dual state on or off is very easy to read and write thus it's faster and requires less 'thinking' or overhead by the controller. Imagine doing math problems, 100 problems on each page. On the SLC page your combinations are 0 and 1 - so either 0+0=0, 1+0=1 or 1+1=2. Those are the only combinations available. You would be able to do 100 problems very quickly. With MLC you have 0, 1, 2 and 3 so a little more thought goes into each problem so you wouldn't finish the 100 questions as fast.

SLC with only two states also lasts longer than MLC flash, up to 100K PE cycles is the starting point. MLC flash is rated for 3K, 5K and the best MLC is rated at 10K PE cycles. New TLC flash comes in at roughly 1K PE cycles, but few outside of the lab have actually run tests on new TLC flash. As you know, SSDs are all about latency. This is another area where SLC flash performs better than MLC and TLC. Reducing latency increases user experience and was one of the reasons why we choose to work with SuperSSpeed to make a TweakTown Edition of the S301.

Every time we published performance data of the S301 we were asked about comparing the drive to 256GB models since they are priced about the same. For this round we use the S301 with firmware 5.0.3 (the TRIM fix firmware), and compared it to the newest 240/256GB models on the market.

Packaging

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The actual package hasn't changed much aside from the 128GB listing; the early packages stated 120GB.

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A list of features and relevant applications makes the list on the back.

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The package design is very good. SuperSSpeed uses the say layout that Intel uses on their SSDs.

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We've seen a couple of different accessory packages from SuperSSpeed, but the company has finalized the package. Included is a very unique desktop adapter bracket that holds two 2.5" SSDs. A SATA power and data cable ships with the package as well as mounting screws.

SuperSSpeed Hyper Gold S301 128GB SSD

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Here we get our first look at the drive. SuperSSpeed uses this same case now, but not colored blue like the TweakTown Chris Ramseyer Special Edition.

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The case is made from aluminum or an alloy.

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The Z-height is 9.5mm and all of the mounting points are located where they should be.

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SuperSSpeed has the coolest adapter bracket that holds two 2.5" drives instead of just one.

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The LSI SandForce SF-2281VB1-SDC-S03 controller is lonely on this side. All of the flash is on the other side of the PCB.

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Eight Intel 25nm SLC NAND Flash chips are on this side along with most of the power regulation components.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

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Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation

We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power tests as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.

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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The SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB scored well in ATTO where we measure maximum performance. The read speed topped out at 558MB/s and the write speed at 535MB/s.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

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 gained popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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We found a dip about 70% through the test where the performance went down to 356MB/s. The average sequential read speed was 411MB/s and the maximum was just over 420MB/s.

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When it comes to the average write speed, very little on the market can compare to the S301. Here we see compressible data and the only real contender is the OCZ Vector since the Intel 335 and OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS will drop off when we test with incompressible data. We'll get to those tests later in this review.

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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The SuperSSpeed S301 produces the lowest read latency of any SandForce based SSD on the market. The drive is so fast that it compares to drives using a DRAM cache for page data.

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The write latency is also very low, but the DRAM-less design adds latency since page data gets read and written from the flash itself.

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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CDM uses incompressible data so we get our first look at sequential reads and writes with this data type. The SuperSSpeed S301 reads 4K data at 40MB/s, better than anything else on the charts. The S301 also scales very well with a QD4 read of 90MB/s and QD32 at 246MB/s.

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Incompressible data writes are usually slower on drives using the SandForce architecture, but the S301 with SLC flash doesn't seem to mind incompressible data. The sequential writes in this test are the second highest on the chart.

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

With all drives empty, the S301 produces some of the best real-world performance of any drive on the chart. There are a few drives that manage to take a few of the test wins, but the S301 does well across the board.

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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We still prefer our Vantage test with data on the drives. Using the 50% market as a measuring stick, the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB shows its might with a score of 52K Marks. Nothing else is even close to the performance offered by the S301 when the drives are half-full.

If you want to compare data volume in apples to apples, you can use the S301 50% full to the other drives 25% full and even then, the S301 walks away from everything else on the board.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC5

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 is 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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There's very little change when moving from compressible data to incompressible data with the SuperSSpeed S301.

QD32 Random Read

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Our random read performance with 4K data and a queue depth of 32 was 61K IOPS.

QD32 Random Write

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Our random write IOPS test under the same perimeters recorded 92K IOPS.

Benchmarks - BootRacer

BootRacer - System Boot Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0

Developer Homepage: Greatis

Product Homepage: BootRacer

Download here: http://www.greatis.com/bootracer/download.htm

Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation loaded with an operating system and several program files. The data on the drive at the time of the test is 45GB. The second test, 50GB Free, was run with the drives filled with block data until only 50GB of free capacity remained.

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As you can see in the chart, booting into Windows 7 takes roughly 15 to 20 seconds for all of the SSDs in the chart. The SuperSSpeed S301 is on the lower end of the scale and takes around 16 seconds to boot into Windows.

Benchmarks - DiskBench

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

Developer Homepage: Nodesoft

Product Homepage: DiskBench

Download here: http://www.nodesoft.com/diskbench/download

Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB SSD to move a 15GB block of data to and from the target drive. This is part of our real world test regiment. Roughly 45GB of data resides on the target drive before the '15GB Block' is transfer. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.

Directory Copy

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Here we are copying data to and from the S301 with another S301 as the host and then target drive. It took quite a while, but we're starting to see some of the new SSDs outpace the S301 in these tests.

Benchmarks - Power Testing

Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.

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(Hover over the image for additional detail)

The SuperSSpeed S301 is a power hungry drive. On the enterprise side power is measured in IOPS per watt, but for consumers idle power plays a more significant role. The S301 does outperform the Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB and OCZ Technology Vertex 4 in the battery test.

PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw

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(Hover over the image for additional detail)

Here we see why the SuperSSpeed S301 has a difficult time in the battery test. The idle power is higher than just about every other drive in our chart. When reading data the S301 pulls quite a bit of power as well.

I didn't expect to find these results, but this product is a direct conversion from enterprise to consumer.

Final Thoughts

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With products like the OCZ Vector and Samsung 840 Pro on the market now the SuperSSpeed S301 has lost some of its luster for some enthusiasts. If you run a RAID array or looking for the maximum user experience without worrying about cost, the SuperSSpeed S301 is still your go to drive. The first group, RAID array users, especially with 4+ drives the SuperSSpeed S301 SLC is the best you can get. The latency is very low, the flash can handle the high demands, and the performance is untouchable when TRIM isn't available.

I'm still using the S301 128GB in my main work notebook. I've ran the 840 non-pro 500GB, Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB and OCZ Vector 256GB in the same notebook to feel the real-world performance and there is still a considerable difference between those drives and the S301. The latency or lack of latency when doing everything is remarkable.

I think the high cost will keep most of our readers from experiencing just how fast the S301 really is. There isn't anything like it and with the coming transition to TLC flash with even higher latency than MLC, this level of performance is one for the history books. I just don't see anyone else unleashing SLC flash in another consumer SSD now that SSDs are becoming commodity items.

SuperSSpeed has stock in the US and selling the drives on its website as well as on Amazon. At $250 each the drive isn't for everyone, but for those willing to make the investment, the rewards are great. At the time of writing Paul was still a shoulder deep in his enterprise gear, but the S301 is getting close to the top of his list. The S301 is one of the lowest priced enterprise SSDs with SLC flash on the market today. Keep an eye out for his article hopefully before the holiday break.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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