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Corsair Force LS 240GB SSD Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
With value-oriented SSDs becoming viable options for entry level consumers and enthusiasts alike, manufacturers have been rushing to meet the demand. Corsair have done this by introducing the Force LS which represents a turning point for their venerable Force line.

As many already know, the Force series has garnered solid reputation in both mainstream and enthusiast circles and even on the pages of HWC. This reputation was built upon a simple sounding, but hard to consistently implement philosophy of offering powerful and reliable solid state drives that also were a great value. Over the years Corsair has been able to offer a Force drive for nearly any budget by the simple expedient of pairing the same SandForce controller with different types of NAND. By consistently using this pproach the different performance characteristics of the NAND itself allowed the multiple Force models to differentiate themselves from each other, Corsair’s other non-Force based units and the competition. This is a time tested and proven formula is what’s changing this time around.

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With the third generation SandForce controller still in a partial state of limbo, Corsair is in a rather tricky predicament as the SF2281’s performance has been surpassed by numerous newer controller designs. This does make it rather difficult to have a new Force model stand out in a sea of SandForce based units running every imaginable combination of NAND.

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Over the years, Corsair has seen great success with a large number of controllers, from Indilinx to Marvell being used at one time or another. Considering the Neutron series uses the LAMB controller and Marvell offerings are everywhere, some out of box thinking was necessary. Hence, the Force LS uses the little known Phison PS3108.

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Using Phison is not unheard of but their past controllers were more focused on the value segment than raw performance. The ante has been upped this time around. Very little is known about what makes this new PS3108 controller so radically different from the previous offerings but with an IOPS rating of 50K read / 62K write and 560MB / 535MB sequential file performance this eight channel model offers quite a bit more throughput that its predecessor.

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To help ensure the PS3108 can achieve every bit of its performance potential, Corsair is using sixteen of Toshiba’s high performance 19nm Toggle Mode NAND ICs. Backstopping both the NAND and the controller is a whopping 512MB of DDR3 cache.

This new drive certainly needs all the help it can get since unlike previous Phison based drives, Force LS 240GB’s MSRP is a bit over $200 which places it firmly in the mainstream rather than the value marketplace. At this price range it has to compete against the likes of Corsair’s own Neutron GTX and Force GS along with the Crucial M500 and numerous other drives which have a proven track record.

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In order to help the LS 240GB achieve its goal of appealing to as wide a market as possible while justifying a relatively high asking price, it is equipped with an all-metal chassis. This isn’t something we see much of and gives the whole setup a premium feel. Whether this is enough to distinguish the LS from its competition remains to be seen but we always enjoy seeing a unique SSD hit the market so the expectations are high this time around.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
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 an Intel DC S3700 800GB 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 the hybrid setup certain tests results 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: Intel DC S3700 800GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB: 1.33
Crucial M4 256GB: 000F
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335t
Kingston SSDNow V300 240GB: 505
Crucial M500: MU02
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
OCZ Vector 150 240GB: 1.10
Crucial V4: S5FAMM25
Corsair Force LS: S8FM05.8

SandForce SF1200 Drives:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 Drives:
Intel 520 - custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
SanDisk Extreme - stock firmware w/ 24nm Toggle Mode NAND
SSDNow V300 - custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Phison:
Crucial V4 - PS3104 custom firmware w/ 25nm ONFi 2 NAND
Corsair Force LS - PS3108 w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

LAMD:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 'Monet':
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector 150 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
 
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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.

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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.

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As expected the new PS3108 controller is markedly improved over the older version's results from the Crucial V4 series. Unfortunately when compared against the rest of the competition the results are not as impressive.

While the read and write performance is improved over the Force GS series, at best these results could be described as ‘middle of the pack’.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
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.

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This drive with its higher performance NAND and higher performance controller simply outclasses the Crucial V4 in every way possible. It's always good to see forward.

Unfortunately, the Force LS doesn't exactly live up to its price. It lags behind the V300 and Neutron GTX, both of which are less expensive.
 
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AkG

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5,270
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.

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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.


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The new Phison controller can certainly hold its own against more firmly entrenched designs in the budget marketplace. Under other circumstance this would be great news as the entry level SSD segment needs higher performance options. Unfortunately, the Force LS 240GB is priced too high for its performance bracket.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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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

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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.

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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
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,32k,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.

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The Phison controller is not meant for workplace or enterprise scenarios and this mediocre –at best – showing just underscore this fact. The only saving grace of these results is the fact that they are so much better than what a previous generation Phison controller based drive could accomplish. Obviously Phison have spent considerable time and effort improving their core architecture, but even when paired to ultra-high performance NAND this combination is not enough to overcome the Force LS’ rather high asking price.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
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.

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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!

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As is quickly becoming the recurring theme of these results, the Force LS posts some downright good numbers for a budget drive, but compared to similarly priced mainstream alternatives it has one of the worst price to performance ratios we have seen.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
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 worst 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.


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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 and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found.


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Even when paired to cutting edge NAND the PS3108 controller cannot keep up with the mainstream competition and is noticeably slower.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity.

Synthetic Test Results

For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.


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Real World Results

For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.


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The only reason this drive does not rank higher in these charts is because it starts out and such a handicapped position. The Phison PS3108 may not be as capable at maintaining its performance as an Indilinx Everest 2 controller but it does a better than average job than most.
 

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