The last time we tested a PNY SSD it was the Prevail Elite, a unique low cost enterprise SSD with 10K P/E cycle MLC flash. Today we're testing the lower cost prosumer model advertised with 3K P/E cycle flash. Advertised doesn't always mean delivered - walk onto any used car lot for proof. PNY though chose to go the other way, at least on the Prevail drives from the lot our sample came from. Our PNY Prevail 240GB review sample arrived with the same Intel 25nm synchronous flash that Intel used on the 520 Series and that Kingston used on the original Hyper X SSD - that is, 5K P/E cycle flash.
Intel discontinued 25nm flash months ago so any drive with 25nm flash from a retail site is special. There are a few examples out there, but the known 5K P/E cycle flash drives are getting harder to find and very expensive when you track them down. Intel's 520 Series 240GB is a good example. At one point the drive sold for as low as $199.99 on sale, but the price is now $259.99 at Newegg.
That's over $1 per GB and many would feel that's unacceptable given the prices of Samsung's 840, Crucial's M500 and other low priced SSDs. If you follow TweakTown's SSD reviews, then you know that 25nm IMFT flash is golden compared to new 20nm flash coming out of the Intel / Micron fabs.
We suspect all of the 3K P/E cycle 25nm flash is long gone and the only 25nm left in warehouses is 5K and 10K P/E cycle flash. Since the flash is now discontinued, a SSD manufacturer wouldn't create a new product SKU since the production run would be quite limited. What manufacturers will do is upgrade products with 3K P/E cycle flash to 5K P/E cycle and continue their production of existing SKUs until the 25nm well runs dry.
That's what we think PNY has done with the Prevail and we have the drive to prove it.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
When PNY released LSI SandForce based SSDs with SF-2281 controllers, they started with four distinct models - XLR8, XLR8 Pro, Prevail and Prevail Elite. The typical SandForce overprovisioned capacity sizes were deployed - 120GB, 240GB and 480GB.
Prevail and Prevail Elite are the flagship products advertised as enterprise parts. The Prevail has at least 3K P/E cycle flash and Prevail Elite has 10K P/E cycle flash for high write environments. Both Prevail drives use Intel 25nm synchronous NAND flash. Even though the Prevail's advertising says 3K P/E cycles, our sample shipped with Intel's 5K P/E cycle flash.
PNY claims a 550 MB/s sequential read and 520 MB/s sequential write speeds for Prevail. Random read and write IOPS are claimed to be up to 85K, but that rating hasn't been possible with LSI SandForce firmware for close to a year now.
PNY provides a five-year warranty on Prevail if you register your drive on PNY.com. As they say, membership has its rewards, as without registering your drive, the warranty drops to just three years. The accessory package is slim, Prevail only comes with a SATA cable.
Standing in the way of purchasing the 240GB Prevail is PNY's Prevail Elite 240GB. At the time of writing, Newegg shows both products in stock, $249.99 for the Prevail, but the Elite model with enterprise grade 10K P/E cycle flash, is only $239.99. Given that Prevail Elite is potentially the best value for an enterprise class SSD on the market today and cost less than Prevail in the same capacity size, I'd purchase the Elite model over the base model and pocket the difference.
PNY Prevail 240GB SSD
The Prevail packaging isn't much different than the Prevail Elite we tested a few months back. The front covers a number of features and the warranty.
The back of the box covers the specifications and gives more details on the warranty. On the bottom left of the box PNY gives a web address for ordering accessory packages for notebooks and desktops.
The drive is packaged well with foam on all sides.
As we mentioned, the accessory package is pretty slim, you only get a SATA cable.
Here we get our first look at the PNY Prevail 240GB.
There isn't anything particularly exciting about the outside of the drive. It is a full size 9.5mm z-height SSD so some Ultrabooks are not compatible.
The Prevail Series uses LSI SandForce SF-2281 controllers. PNY placed a thermal pad on the FPU so heat will transfer to the case instead of just going back into the copper PCB and carried to the flash.
The Prevail is a basic LSI SandForce SF-2281 design. It doesn't use super caps or a DRAM buffer. It's a mature yet solid design that gets the job done.
The other side of the drive exposes the NAND flash array. There are 16 packages total, with two die per package.
PNY has converted over to the new B02 stepping of the SF-2281, a lower power 2281 FPU.
The flash on our Prevail sample is the same Intel chose for the 520 Series and Kingston chose for the original HyperX SSD. This is without a doubt Intel 5K P/E cycle synchronous NAND.
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 a timeless benchmark used to provide manufactures with data used market storage products.
Our ATTO test measured the sequential read at 558 MB/s and the sequential write at 533 MB/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
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.
The PNY Prevail won't run into any issues when working with compressible data like what HD Tune Pro uses to generate sequential read and write numbers. The Prevail 240GB averages 416 MB/s in this test. The Prevail is fast, but the new crop of next-generation SSDs show the age of the SF-2281 controller.
Then again, the SF-2281 is still a very good controller and the 25nm flash helps to keep write performance high and the latency low.
HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes
The LSI SandForce architecture doesn't write all of the incoming data to the flash. That means your SSD will perform as if it just came out of the box longer. Here we see the sequential write speed after a reasonable amount of random writes to the drive.
The write performance stayed reasonably high, only dropping under 250 MB/s a few times and never less than 200 MB/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.
LSI SandForce based drives used to have a little higher latency than other SSDs, but decreases in flash geometry and increased capacity per die hasn't helped latency. The LSI SandForce drives have stayed about the same when it comes to latency, but the other drives have caught up.
The latency issues with drives using new 20nm IMFT flash and 19nm Samsung TLC flash really shows itself when measuring write latency. The PNY Prevail 240GB keeps the latency steady across the test.
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
With compressible data, the PNY Prevail is a high performer. SSD manufacturers wish they could achieve this level of performance all of the time, but sadly few do. The drive loses some performance when moving over to incompressible data.
We read forum posts every week from people complaining about the incompressible performance, but a 4,462 score is actually very good. You won't hear owners of SSDs with LSI SandForce controllers complaining.
Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
I think this is the first time a SF-2281 controlled drive paired with MLC flash has produced a 10K IOP QD1 run in our read test. The Prevail sample has the latest firmware from SandForce and it looks like the team has tuned the drive a bit more for consumer experience.
The read IOPS scale well with additional queue depth added, but Prevail doesn't hit the 85K claimed performance on the specs sheet.
Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale
The 4K QD1 write IOPS test shows that most of the drives performance in the low 30K IOPS range. The Prevail 240GB scales well as the depth increases, all the way to 83K IOPS.
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.
CDM gives us our first look at incompressible data performance. When reading data, there isn't a lot of difference between data types - we'll see a larger divide in the next chart when writing data to the drive. Reading data we see good scaling with added queue depth, from 39 MB/s at QD1 to 88 MB/s at QD4.
Incompressible data doesn't do a lot of harm with 4K writes, as you can see in this chart. The sequential performance with incompressible data moves down to 331 MB/s.
So much for the forum complainers - the Prevail 240GB outperforms Crucial's M500 240GB when writing sequential incompressible data.
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/products/pcmarkvantage
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.
The new Vantage format allows us to go see where a drive performs well and where it doesn't compared to other drives on the market.
Prevail does well in some tests and not so well in others. This was the same firmware that ADATA used on the M.2 drive we previewed at Computex and the ADATA SX300 mSATA drive we reviewed a few weeks back. All three of these drives score very low in Vantage, in the low 60K range.
Benchmarks - 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.
Here we see the light use, empty drive Vantage score of 63K. The post-TRIM test was very close to it as well, so the number is accurate. When we tested the ADATA M.2 drive, we feared the TRIM issue might be back, but after a secure erase, we confirmed the same result in an FOB state.
Looking at the drives with 50% of the flash consumed by data, the Prevail scores around the same as several other drives, right around 40K. Some of the newer drives score higher though.
Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 188.8.131.52
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.
In our directory copy test that moves 15.2 GB of mixed data to and from the target drive, the PNY Prevail scored high marks when reading data.
The data writes took a bit longer than some of the other drives, but the Prevail managed to outperform the M500 and 840 EVO.
Benchmarks - Power and Thermal 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.
The Prevail did very well in our notebook power test thanks to the new stepping of the SF-2281 controller.
PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Consumption
Idle power consumption is just above the consumption of the 840 EVO 250GB in our trace test. The Prevail also does a good job keeping the random write peaks in check as well.
Thermal Test - BETA
Ten minutes into idle, the controller only gets to 31.3C. The Intel 25nm synchronous flash only gets to 23.8C where it is close to the controller.
Under load, 10 minutes of 4K writes with IOMeter, the FPU gets to 70.5C and the flash closest to the controller is only at 44.4C.
PNY has a solid SSD program and the company's new manufacturing facility in New Jersey is massive. We expect to see a lot of exciting products in the near future from PNY.
When it comes to the PNY Prevail, it's not all that exciting on its own, even with the 5K flash inside. The fact that the Prevail costs more than the Prevail Elite with guaranteed 10K flash stops any recommendations for the base Prevail at all, unless the price drops to SF-2281 / MLC levels seen from other products - less than $1 per GB.
We've already reviewed the Prevail Elite 240GB and think it's one of the best entry-level enterprise SSD values on the market. Obviously we can't justify the Prevail with a higher price, the same firmware and flash with one third to half the rated program erase cycles.
When it comes to desktop performance, the Prevail is an average drive at this time. Two years ago the SF-2281 was the must have controller for performance. Last year the controller was still close to the top of the pile and cost much less than anything on the market that was faster.
LSI SandForce is close to releasing their third generation controller, but when it comes to the SF-2000 Series, it's getting close to retirement time.