We've had the Monster Digital Daytona 240GB for a very long time. The sample arrived around a month before the launch and shipped with one of the early 5-Series firmware versions known to have issues with TRIM. Since updated firmware should of only been an email away, we gave Monster the same courtesy we gave Corsair, Kingston, and a number of other manufacturers - time to spin the firmware with their SSD ID (so it installs and we can use it on the drive).
We explained the SF TRIM issue back in August of 2012 and were told by Monster's outside marketing agent that firmware would arrive in a couple of days. The firmware never arrived so we followed up, but stopped getting replies. Eventually we sent an email to Monster's customer support email address and received a reply right away; they were working on the firmware and would have it published on their website support area in the near future. By that time, Daytona was listed for sale on Amazon and a few other e-tail outlets. Another couple of months passed and TRIM enabled firmware was still MIA.
A few days ago, we stumbled across firmware for the Monster Digital Daytona, on a review site forum and published by an end-user. Monster Digital still doesn't have an official post on their site for working firmware, but they did acknowledge another issue with Daytona.
As you can see, Monster has a bit of an issue with their Daytona 120GB. They shifted the blame on "a single production lot [of] Intel NAND." The Product Alert doesn't go into a lot of details, but the reviews at Amazon make it very clear that Monster Daytona 120GB drives have an issue with corrupting data. One review states, "You'll be LUCKY if it is DOA!" This is where I would like to get off track a bit and speak off the cuff. This is a data storage product and it has a primary purpose, to store data. Instead of shifting the blame to a bad batch of NAND, just step up and say you don't test products before shipping them to e-tailers. SSDs aren't new technology anymore and testing procedures are pretty standard. The notice on Monster's website should just say, 'We are a bunch of *ssholes who put your data at risk because we wanted to jump on the SSD bandwagon, but don't know sh*t about SSDs.'
Not only that, if Monster Digital is now using Intel NAND on Daytona then they changed the BOM (build of materials) without notifying customers. Our early sample shipped with 32nm Toshiba NAND. To my knowledge this is the first time we've ran across 32nm Toshiba Toggle used in conjunction with a LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller. Sometimes throw back NAND is good for an SSD since you increase endurance, but in this case, well... not so much. We'll explain later in the review.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Normally we show the manufacturer's product specifications from the manufacturer's website here, but Monster Digital has taken down the Daytona product page. We snagged this image from Amazon. Amazon currently has all three capacity sizes in stock and shipping - 480GB, 240GB and 120GB. When researching prices we also found a 90GB model listed at Amazon. We're looking at the 240GB model today.
Monster Digital uses LSI SandForce controllers in both of their SSD product lines. Le Mans is the flagship product with Toshiba Toggle 2 NAND flash and Daytona is the step down model, mainstream product. As we mentioned in the introduction, this is the first time we've ran across this NAND that we know of. At one point in time Mushkin and a few others shipped SSDs with 32nm Toggle NAND, but it was quite a bit different, the performance was much better and the packages were labeled different. This NAND performs a lot like ONFi asynchronous flash from IMFT.
Not that I would even come close to endorsing any of these products, but I have to put forth my best effort with due diligence. Amazon shows the Daytona 90GB at $99.77, the 120GB at $109.99, the 240GB that we're reviewing today at $203.11 and the large 480GB at $421.04. All drives ship with a three year warranty.
Unlike the LeMans Series, Daytona doesn't ship with an elaborate accessory package. You get a nice box, your drive that might or might not eat your data and a couple of paper manuals.
Just like other products from the parent company Monster, the Monster Digital Daytona ships in a very attractive package that is colorful and in this case, informative.
The back of the package is also colorful and gives us performance data, which we always like to see.
Inside we found an excellent presentation for an SSD. It's a bit like getting the icing, but no cake.
Monster Digital Daytona 240GB SSD
Daytona has a very nice case made from thick metal that we assume was stamped into shape. The drive feels solid and comes off like a premium SSD.
On the back of the drive we found the typical model and serial number. Monster claims Daytona is made in the USA and we found references to this in a number of places including the back of the drive. There are only a few SSD manufacturers in the USA, but we don't think any would claim this product.
Daytona is a 7mm drive, one of the first we received for review, but the other issues held this one up for quite a long time.
SATA power and data connections are offset as they should be. Monster doesn't ship a desktop adapter bracket with Daytona, but this drive will fit in a large number of notebooks and ultrabooks.
Daytona uses the LSI SandForce SF-2281 VB1 controller, a proven component that's used in a number of very good SSDs on the market today. The NAND is 32nm Toshiba which is a bit odd since we are now down to 19nm, but even when our sample arrived, 24nm Toggle was all over the place. Toshiba's specs show a 40MB/s interface speed, a little slower than IMFT's async 50MB/s performance.
There are sixteen NAND chips, eight on each side.
While updating the drive's firmware I snapped a quick shot of the firmware update software. The download was massive for an update, over 700MB and you have to burn it to a DVD or flash drive. This is a Linux boot disk with a quick link on the desktop to flash the SSD.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
Desktop Test System
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.
The performance in ATTO is quite good with Daytona 240GB nearly topping 560MB/s read and 535MB/s write throughput. The early benchmarks are not going to show the true behavior of this drive, though.
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
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.
Sequential read performance when working with compressible data has never been an issue with drives using LSI SandForce controllers. Even drives with low cost asynchronous NAND do well here and so does the Monster Digital Daytona 240GB.
Sequential write performance with compressible data is also a strong point for SF based drives.
HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes
Here we see sequential reads and writes after heavy random writes. The Daytona still manages to read 128K sequential data at 358MB/s and write the same data at 319MB/s average.
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..
Monster Digital's Daytona 240GB drive is at the upper end of the scale when it comes to read latency, even for a drive based on the SandForce architecture. Without a DRAM buffer the latency increases, but as you can see when comparing the Daytona to Intel's 520 Series, the Daytona has a little more latency and thus a less enjoyable user experience.
The write latency is also on the high side, but we really don't expect one shoe to not follow the other.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: RC6
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.
0-Fill Compressible Data
The LSI SandForce architecture works better with compressible data and in these tests we see the difference between compressible and incompressible data performance.
Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
Firmware 5.0.3 to 5.0.5 decreases read IOPS performance at high queue depths so that's why Daytona doesn't reach the claimed 60K read IOPS that Monster published on their webpage and product package. Still, lower queue depth IOPS is more important than high queue depth IOPS for typical PC users.
Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale
The write IOPS performance is very good and competitive with 840 Pro and Vector in this capacity size.
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.
Here we get our first real look of incompressible performance with Daytona 240GB. The Intel 520 Series represents a typical LSI SandForce SSD with synchronous NAND and is our gauge now when looking at these products. Daytona manages to outperform 520 in 4K reads, but when we ramp up the queue depth, Daytona does ramp up with the workload.
The sequential read performance with incompressible data is poor to say the least. It's been a long time since we've seen a SSD not break the 250MB/s mark.
The incompressible write performance was a bit better than the read 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/
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
The Monster Digital Daytona 240GB does well when empty in our real world daily use benchmarks. The catch in that sentence is when the drives are empty.
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.
The real issue with this drive is performance when data resides on the drive already, just like how you run it in your own PC.
The Daytona performs a lot like a drive with asynchronous NAND and it's an issue we never quite figured out. Is this an issue with the 32nm NAND working with 5.0.4 firmware? If so, then the solution is simple, load these drives with firmware 3.3.4 and you would have the same performance as Patriot's Wildfire, Mushkin's early Chronos Deluxe or OCZ's Vertex 3 MaxIOPS.
All three of those products shipped with 32nm Toshiba Toggle NAND. They are also three of the best SF-2281 drives ever sold.
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.
Daytona scored well in our Windows Time to Desktop restart test. This is one of the better results we've recorded.
Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
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.
Here we see the async feel of the Monster Daytona 240GB in action. Transferring data to and from a second SSD in our Lenovo W530 produced results that are substandard for a SATA III SSD.
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.
Daytona does much better than we expected in our notebook power test. The performance was around the middle of modern SSDs and within a few seconds away from the Intel 520.
PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw
Here we see a trace of the power use in PCMark Vantage's HDD tests.
At CES 2012 Monster Cable showcased their first SSD product and brought the Monster Digital name to light. I didn't visit the booth that year, but anything SSD, especially anything new SSD peaks my interest. After returning from the show I started looking at Monster Digital products, mainly the Le Mans SSD. Apparently I wasn't the only one looking and not the only one starting to ask questions. Monster Digital is a licensed name for SDJ Technologies based in Simi Valley. Even before CES, questions were being asked by other media and what they found doesn't impress us. The deeper we look the worse it all gets, but even now we don't have to use ancient history to know that buying an SSD from Monster Digital is a bad idea.
Our own experience is a list of unreturned emails, poor customer support, poor recall procedures and a lack of understanding customer needs. If a firmware fix is available then publish it on your website like every other SSD manufacturer and reseller has done. If you have a batch of SSDs in customers hands and you know their data is at risk, put out a press release and do everything you can to get those drives back. A post on your tech support page doesn't even come close to due diligence. Compounding the issues, Monster Digital removed the Daytona product page from their website all together. We did find the press release for Daytona on Monster's site and it was the last press release the company issued, on September 11 2012.
Not that I think it should really matter for anyone reading this article, but the performance of this drive is lacking. We're not sure if it's a combination of the NAND flash with the firmware or just a design that doesn't produce peak performance. In many of our tests, Daytona is slower than most other LSI SandForce SF-2281 based drives on the market.
Even with the firmware update that's posted at an unofficial source, we wouldn't buy this drive and we wouldn't recommend you buy it either. The saying about 'ten foot pole' comes to mind.
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