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Corsair Force GS 240GB SSD Review

AkG

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As with many of the more successful companies in the Solid State Drive arena, Corsair hasn’t taken a one size fits all approach to their line-up. Rather they have always had clearly delineated models, each designed to meet the needs of a specific customer base. For the truly budget minded crowd, there is the Accelerator, Force 3 and Performance 3 series; for mainstream consumers the Force GT and Performance Pro models should be a perfect fit. The one segment focus which has been conspicuous by its absence is the ultra high performance, ‘enthusiast grade’ category which relies upon quick Toggle Mode NAND. Considering how long some other manufacturers have offered this kind of drive the all new Corsair Force GS 240GB may be a fashionably latecomer to the party, but being late does give it some significant advantages.

With an average online price of about $210, the new Force GS 240GB drive turns conventional wisdom on its head. Usually ‘enthusiast grade’ is just another way of saying extreme performance with a nosebleed-inducing price. Some of the GS’ reasonable price comes from the fact that the LSI SandForce SF2281 controller is getting a touch long in the tooth and is not as expensive as it once was. However what really allows this drive to be so frugally priced is not the cost of the controller; rather it is the use of cutting edge 24nm Toggle Mode NAND rather than the previous generation NAND used on other SF2281-based drives. The older generation Toggle Mode NAND – while cutting edge at its time – wasn’t precisely cheap to purchase whereas the new SanDisk-branded ICs within the GS are actually fairly reasonably priced.

Corsair_GS240_top.jpg

To be perfectly candid this is one of the Corsair Force GS is one of only a few SSDs which use the newer SanDisk branded 24nm Toggle Mode NAND ICs. While 19nm Toggle Mode NAND is starting to appear in some newly released storage products, 24nm is still considered cutting edge and readily available. It certainly will be interesting to see what unique characteristics this new generation of Toggle Mode NAND brings to the table.

Corsair_GS240_bottom.jpg

With its bold red and black color scheme, the Force GS does stand out from a crowd of seemingly endless black and silver solid state drives. Though by the same token, when a manufacturer releases a newer, higher performance model they usually try and help distinguish the ‘new’ from the ‘old’ with a bolder, more aggressive look. This is not the case with the GS as both it and the GT model use a similar red race car inspired color scheme. Except for small difference on their labels it would be very difficult to tell these two models apart without actually reading the model name. This is unfortunate on some levels, but the red all metal chassis’ construction is still well above average. To be honest, the Force GS 240GB strongly reminds us of the older Patriot Inferno 100GB which also was something rather special in its day.

Corsair_GS240_board.jpg

Opening up the case and looking inside we can see that while the NAND may be unique, the GS’s overall layout and architecture is not all that unusual. The PCB may be smaller than most but there are still eight NAND ICs on each side and one SF2281 controller. Having 16 NAND ICs is actually very reassuring given the different PCB since the layout will ensure full utilization of the controller’s channels. Usually when a company does something different with the internal architecture, it involves cost cutting procedures –such as fewer NAND ICs – which will ultimately hinder performance but it looks like Corsair has kept the best for their Force GS line.

Corsair_GS240_board2.jpg
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology



Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being a Kingston HyperX 240GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Please note:
Due to the unique nature of this hybrid setup certain tests have been omitted as they require an unformatted drive to test or gave erroneous results.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Kingston HyperX 240GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB: 2.2
OCZ Vertex 3 MI 240GB: 2.2
Patriot Pyro SE 240GB: 3.3.2
Crucial M4 256GB: 000F
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120GB: 5.0.2
Intel 520: 400i
OCZ Vertex 4 512GB: 1.5
Corsair Force GS 240GB: 5.0.2
 

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.


read.jpg


Sequential read performance has never been one of Toggle Mode NAND’s strong suits, but the newer generation seems to show a small improvement in this regard. The Corsair GS 240GB's performance is still low compared to some ONFi 2 equipped drives, but we doubt anyone would notice the difference in real world scenarios. More importantly sequential performance is a terrible way to go about choosing a solid state drive and all high performance drives produce more speed than most consumers will ever need.


Write Performance


For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.

write.jpg

As with sequential read, the write performance of the GS 240GB is slightly improved over that of previous Toggle Mode NAND models we have looked at. This does appear to give the Corsair GS a slight edge over the SF2281 competition.
 
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AkG

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

atto_w.jpg

atto_r.jpg

The read and write performance curves of this drive are outstanding. SandForce SF221 based controllers have always excelled at this benchmark and the slightly improved Toggle Mode NAND inside this new drive just makes an excellent performer that much better.
 
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AkG

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Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.


cdm_w.jpg

cdm_r.jpg

This is what we were waiting to see and the GS didn't disappoint. Not only does the newer Toggle Mode NAND have slightly better sequential performance but it also smashes through the small file barrier. This is a great combination and one that easily earns the Corsair GS 240GB a solid second place finish.


PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.

pcm7.jpg

Once again this new drive -boasting newer technology- easily outperforms past SF2281 drives we have looked at. ONFi 1, ONFI 2, Toggle Mode NAND, stock or custom firmware, it doesn’t seem to matter as the GS has all previous combinations beat. Even the mighty Intel 520 is not able to keep up with the enhanced performance that the newer 24nm Toggle Mode NAND has to offer.
 
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AkG

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AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.

asd_w.jpg


asd_r.jpg


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.

anvil_w.jpg

anvil_r.jpg


It seems that the Corsair GS 240GB has a firm grip on second place as once again, that is exactly where another two test suites have placed it. This really is an impressive showing from this all new drive. These charts have a lot of high performance models in them and yet this latecomer has jostled most out of their comfortable position with seemingly no effort.
 
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AkG

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IOMETER

IOMETER


IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,3xk,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.

iom.jpg

While at lower queue depths the difference between the older generation Toggle Mode NAND and this newer generation is negligible, once the queue depths gets deeper the LSI SF2281 controller is able to handle the work loads better than ever before. This new NAND really is something special.
 
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AkG

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Windows 7 Startup / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.

boot.jpg

While shaving two seconds off what the Vertex 3 MaxIOPS is able accomplish here does not sound all that impressive, the truth of the matter is it is significant. This new Toggle Mode NAND not only performs exceptionally well in synthetic benchmarks but appears to be able to translate that improved performance to the real world.


ADOBE CS5 LOAD TIME


Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible!

adobe.jpg

With almost Swiss like precision, the Corsair GS240GB once again has taken a firm grip on second place.
 
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AkG

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Firefox Portable / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.


ff.jpg

While it is almost surreal to call this an ‘upset’, the Corsair GS 240GB has slipped down the charts slightly. It seems that the Intel 520 is able to slightly outperform the GS when dealing with nearly 100% read only, ultra deep queue depth scenarios. The very fact that this comes as a surprise just underscores how good a drive this new GS model really is.


Real World Data Transfers


No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in "real world" situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy (set to 1 file depth) and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found.


copy_lg.jpg


copy_sm.jpg

Once again the excellent write performance of this drive – regardless of file size – has allowed it to regain its second place just behind the Vertex 4 512GB drive at the top of the charts.
 
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AkG

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NON-TRIM Environment Testing

NON-TRIM Environment Testing


In many ways, a SF2281 should be severely handicapped in an environment that doesn’t support TRIM. To recreate this, we first modified our testbed so that it would not pass on the necessary cleaning commands. Meanwhile, to artificially induce a degrade state we ran eight hours of IOMeter set to 100% random, 100% write, 4k chunks of data at a 64 queue depth across the entire array’s capacity. At the end of this test, the IOMeter file is deleted and the drive was then tested. This will replicate drive performance after extended heavy usage prior to any self maintenance routines kicking in and is indicated by the "Dirty" results below.

In order to allow each drive’s self-maintenance routines to kick in, we then wait 30 minutes (Dirty + 30 results) with the system at idle and rerun the tests.


Real World Results


For a real world application we have opted for our standard Vista load time test.

boot_no_trim.jpg

We were not expecting miracles and none were forthcoming. While the newer Toggle Mode NAND does somewhat help alleviate the lackluster performance of the LSI SF2281 controller in this test, the fact still remains this controller was never really designed with to be hammered like this. Improved Toggle mode NAND or not, only the Intel 520 and its custom toolbox is the exception to this rule.
 
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