The Corsair Force LS isn't the first drive we've tested with the Phison S8 controller. We ran the controller in a few other products and went through firmware releases. We've even tested the controller with 24nm and two versions of Toshiba 19nm flash. While not as flashy as other controllers, Phison designed the S8 for consumer experience via great low queue depth IOPS performance.
Sadly, we've learned the new Force LS won't hit the US market. We suspect this has something to do with an existing product with the Phison S8 controller from MyDigitalSSD. MDSSD has a long history with Phison and this is the only reason we can think of for Corsair not to bring the Force LS to the US market.
Still, Corsair felt they needed a value offering and the Force LS fits the role. With 25nm flash nearly impossible to purchase, the Force Series 3 and Force GT drives are nearing end of life status. Nearly a year ago Corsair released the Neutron GTX to handle flagship duty and the base Neutron to fit somewhere in the middle. LS sits just below both Neutron products.
Let's dive in now and take a close look and see how it does in our testing.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
Available in three capacity sizes, 60GB, 120GB and 240GB, Corsair positioned the Force LS as the new value offering. On the surface, it may seem that Corsair made the LS just to kick out a new product to strengthen its brand, but with many of the Force products built on 25nm flash that is EOL, Corsair needed a value SSD to keep a well-rounded product line on offer.
The Corsair Force LS 240GB's spec sheet shows compressible data performance. The spec sheet shows 560 MB/s sequential read and 535 MB/s sequential write speeds. Phison's S8 controller is a bit slower with incompressible data, so we'll find the incompressible performance in our testing today.
Corsair didn't publish any 4K random read or write data and with good reason. The high queue depths the S8 controller doesn't produce the high numbers that we see from controllers from Samsung, LSI or Marvell.
Phison's focus is on low queue depth performance, where most of our computers actually read and write. The S8 is a beast at low queue depths, and doubles the QD1 read and write performance of many of the best controllers on the market today.
Our only indication of price comes from the Corsair global website. You can't view the LS series on its US website at all, other than the press release. The Force Series LS we're looking at today has a $259.99 price point on the Corsair website, but we don't expect the price to hold on the e-tail market. The LS drives ship with a three year warranty and screws for installation, but does not ship with a desktop adapter bracket. The LS drives are 7mm z-height so they fit in a wide range of notebooks and ultrabooks.
Corsair Force Series LS 240GB SSD
The turquoise and black package is my favorite from the Force series. Normally we try not to pick a favorite, but this color combination is really sharp. The front of the package gives us three feature bullet points and shows the 7mm z-height form factor. This is actually the first Force branded SSD from Corsair to get a 7mm case.
Inside the box, we found a drive four screws for installation and a paper manual.
Here we get our first look at the new Force Series LS 240GB. The drive actually has 256GB of flash inside the case, but a portion of that is reserved for over-provisioning.
The 7mm z-height form factor has the same mounting points as standard 9.5mm drives, so they fit well in notebooks.
Inside we found sixteen Toshiba Toggle NAND flash chips in a TSOP package. There are eight flash chips on each side.
Here we see the Phison S8 controller with a PSC 512MB DRAM buffer as close to the controller as physically possible.
Toshiba TSOP flash has less planes than Toshiba BGA flash, but it's cheaper to manufacture. All of the Phison controlled drives we've tested in a 2.5" form factor shipped with TSOP (the little fingers on the outside edge of the NAND flash).
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.
In ATTO, we measured nearly 560 MB/s sequential read and just under 540 MB/s sequential write speeds.
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.
Reading compressible data sequentially from the drive fresh out of the box shows one of the highest average speeds we can record. Like the other drives we've tested with the Phison S8 controller, the Force LS is very fast when reading sequential data.
The sequential writes are also very fast, but this test uses compressible data. We'll look at incompressible data later in this review.
HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes
After a complete drive span 4K write, we tested the drive again with sequential data. The Force LS didn't lose a lot of write performance and the write speed stayed very consistent across the drive. Oddly enough, the Force LS actually outperforms Neutron GTX in this test when comparing write performance.
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.
The Phison S8 controller has some of the best-read latency of any newer generation controller on the market. This will carry over into the 4K read IOPS testing on the next page.
Phison has put a lot of time in reducing the write latency of the S8 controller. Here we see the hard work paying off. We averaged .06 ms in our test that spans the user area of the flash.
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
Unlike the LSI SandForce based SSDs that lose most write performance when working with incompressible data, the Phison S8 loses more read performance with this data type. There is also some performance loss when writing incompressible data, but read performance takes the largest hit.
Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
The low latency read test on the previous page was a good lead into this test. With compressible data, the Force Series LS delivers an abundance of low queue depth 4K reads. Phison tuned the performance for low queue depths to increase the user experience.
Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale
The QD1 4K write performance is about average for SSDs today. The performance scales well and achieves nearly 80K IOPs at QD16.
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.
In CDM, we get our first deep look at performance with incompressible data. The Force Series LS compares well in the sequential tests, nearly the fastest on the chart. The 4K read performance drops quite a bit compared to some of the other drives on the chart, though.
4K write performance is high as well, but not as high as some of the more established products on the market. Like many of the LSI SandForce based drives, we see a large drop off when working with 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.
Looking at the performance in real-world, daily use applications, the Force Series LS is down in many of the tests. The performance is comparable with many of the new LSI SandForce based drives with 20nm IMFT flash like OCZ's Vertex 3.20 240GB.
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.
As with all SSDs, the performance drops as data populates the drives and the NAND cells become dirty from data writes.
The Force Series LS 240GB drops to one of the lowest levels on the chart with 50% of the flash used.
Benchmarks - PCMark 8 Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmark8
Note: PCMark 8 Storage benchmark is ideal for testing the performance of SSDs, HDDs and hybrid drives. Using traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games, PCMark 8 Storage highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.
We spend a lot of time looking at performance under a microscope where half a second of time to complete a task is the difference between the best and the worst SSD. PCMark 8 brings it all into perspective.
PCMark 8 Storage Bandwidth
Here we see the results in MB/s as opposed to seconds to complete a task. The Force Series LS is the slowest drive in the PCMark 8 tests, but looking back at the timed tests, the differences are much lower than we would have imagined before this test went public.
Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 126.96.36.199
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 data transfer test with compressible and incompressible data, the Force LS does well when reading and writing data.
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.
Our other Phison S8 controlled drives did very well in the notebook power test and one even came close to the record. The Force Series LS uses a newer firmware and the newer firmware seems to take a bit more power. Still, the Force LS is in the upper third of this class.
PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Consumption
Using PCMark Vantage again to see real-world performance, we see the Force LS has the lowest idle and load power consumption. What hurts the battery life performance is the disk busy time. The drive needs to work for longer in order to complete a task.
Thermal Test - BETA
When a chip doesn't use a lot of power, it can't generate a lot of heat.
We see that in practice with the low heat output from the Phison controller under a 4K load for 10 minutes (bottom).
I really like the Phison S8 controller and have one in a notebook I use a few times a week. Somewhere along the line, I had to see for myself if the low queue depth IOPS performance was as impressive in real life, as it is on benchmark charts. For everyday use, the drive works really well and the performance is smooth. The only issues I ran into was installing a lot of software and writing to the drive hard.
Phison reduced the write latency on the S8 controller several months ago, so day-to-day computing is very fast. Windows updates take more time than say a Force GT or Samsung 840 Pro, for example, and that's about the only time when you'll really notice a large difference with this value based SSD.
Corsair doesn't plan to bring the Force LS to the USA market and that's too bad. The MSRP prices shouldn't hold up for too long regardless of the market and I think the Force Series LS will eventually become an excellent low cost, good enough performance SSD, for those looking upgrade an existing computer with an SSD.
We did notice a difference between the notebook battery life with the Force Series LS and the other Phison S8 drives we've tested. The firmware has changed so we suspect the difference rests entirely in the firmware. The Force Series LS 240GB still delivered very good battery life, but in our test, the new firmware shaved off around 10 minutes of power on time.
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