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Corsair Nova V128 Solid State Drive Review

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AkG

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IOMETER / Controller Stress Test

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 que 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 que depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Nova/IOM.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

As expected, IOMeter does not shed any new light onto this SSD. We already had a very good handle on how good this unit is and for all intents and purposes it is a G.Skill Falcon 2 with more refined firmware. If we were to zoom in and remove all others beside the Nova and the Falcon 2 you would see the Nova edging out the Falcon 2 in all que depths.


IOMeter Controller Stress Test


In our usual IOMeter test we are trying to replicate real world use where reads severely outnumber writes. However, to get a good handle on how powerful the controller is we, we have also run an additional test. This test is made of 1 section at que depth of 1. In this test we ran 100% random. 100%writes of 4k size chunks of information. In the past we found this tests was a great way to check and see if stuttering would occur. Since the introduction of ITGC and / or TRIM the chances of real world stuttering happening in a modern generation SSD are next to nill; rather the main focus has shifted from predicting "stutter" to showing how powerful the controller used is. By running continuous small, random writes we can stress the controller to its maximum, while also removing its cache buffer from the equation (by overloading it) and showing exactly how powerful a given controller is. In the .csv file we then find the Maximum Write Response Time. This in ms is worst example of how long a given operation took to complete. We consider anything higher than 350ms to be a good indicator that the controller is either relying heavily on its cache buffer to hide any limitations it possess or the firmware of the controller is severely limiting it.

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Nova/stutter.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

As you can see the tweaks to the firmware do net a positive result and it has made what is a very respectable controller and NAND combination into a down right excellent one.
 
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AkG

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XP Start Up / Adobe CS3

XP Start Up Time


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. For our tests the clock starts as soon as the system “beeps!” and stops when our Anti-Virus splash screen disappears. While all the other tests were run with a streamlined XP image this particular image is the test bed's “day to day” OS and it has accumulated a lot of crud over the months from installs and removals. We chose the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line as it is the last program to be loaded on start up.


One second improvement over the Falcon II may not sound like much, but it does make a small difference when it comes to load times. Will it be noticeable? Probably not.


Adobe CS3 Load Time


Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, but 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 fared in the Adobe crucible.


Once again we can see the improvement in small read and write speed has a positive (yet small) impact on real world performance.
 
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AkG

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Real World Data Transfers

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 4.00GB contiguous RAR file and a folder containing 49 subfolders with a total 2108 files varying in length from 20mb to 1kb (1.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, timing each process individually to provide an approximate Read and Write performance. To then stress the dive even more we will then make a copy of the large file to another portion of the same drive and then repeat the process with the small one. This will test the drive to its limits as it will be reading and writing simultaneously. Here is what we found.


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Nova/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Nova/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Nova/copy_slf.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

While we can see a second improvement here and there over the Falcon 2, overall the end result is the same: the Nova is a potent drive that will make many a first time solid state user very happy. We would also say that anyone with an earlier generation SSD (like the dual JM612 based G. Skill Titan) will also find the Nova to be a big improvement. We of course can’t say the same for any enthusiast who already has a modern SSD, but then again that is not the market this drive is aimed at. We can say that it is getting a lot harder to justify the price premium most full speed Indilinx drives command compared to this more moderately priced one.
 
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AkG

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Value

Value


The term “Value” is such an amorphous term that it truly has different meanings for different people. For some a hard drive is only as good as its performance potential, for others it is how quiet or durable it is; for others still it’s how effective it is for its cost. We here at HWC try to provide as many answers as possible for the term “Value”. Hopefully by this point in the review people looking at performance potential will have a fairly good idea of what its Value is. For the “best bang for the buck” crowd we have included a chart below showing how much a give drive costs per GB . No consideration has been made for performance, “durability” or any other extraneous factors; this is just raw performance vs. monetary cost. All prices are based on the lowest price found in our Price Comparison engine at the time of this review. Note that the price we use does not include any sales or manufacturer rebates.



Compared to the current price of a Patriot Torqx the Nova is a very good deal but the similarly-performing Falcon II is currently retailing for about 10% less. While the chart cannot does not show this, it should also be mentioned that G.Skill’s drive is on average some 15% less expensive across multiple retailer listings.

As with most things in life, this does not tell the full story as the Corsair Nova drive ships with a free adapter which the Falcon 2 does not. What we can say is that the Nova is a very viable alternative to the Vertex, Torqx, Falcon 1 or even Corsair’s own X series. Of course if you are looking for the “best of the best”, things like “value” will not enter into your equation and as such the Nova is probably not going to be your first choice.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


It seems like every time we take a good, hard look at the SSD market there is a new company ready to make its entrance. Not long ago Western Digital announced their first SSDs following in the footsteps of Corsair, OCZ, G.Skill, Seagate, Patriot, Kingston and countless other companies vying for their spot in a relatively new but quickly expanding market. It is this extremely competitive climate that Corsair has to deal with when launching new SSDs and with the Nova series we feel like they have successfully hit their mark.

Throughout testing, it became quite obvious that the Nova has been built for performance while maintaining a relatively low price point for a 128GB drive. Yes there were some small hiccups with sequential read performance against the G.Skill Falcon II but in our opinion the differences were so small that a user would likely never notice them. In addition, sequential reads /writes aren’t anywhere near as important to the overall SSD “experience” as small file read and writes are and it is here that Corsair’s drive shines. When taken as a whole, both the read and write power curves of the Nova are awfully darn good and for even slightly higher performance you would have to step up to a MUCH more expensive drive. More importantly, the Nova comes preloaded with a firmware which isn’t upgradable but also comes TRIM enabled along with ITGC (as not all consumers use an OS that is capable of sending the TRIM command). These factors all add up to the fact that Corsair’s Nova series (and newer Indilinx Barefoot-based drives in general) are the perfect way for people to get their feet wet in the SSD market. If you are going from a hard drive setup to the Corsair Nova, the jump in performance will simply blow your mind.

Unfortunately for Corsair, their Nova 128GB plays in an price bracket that is rife with competitors and sales on even higher end drives (OCZ’s Vertex is a prime example) are occurring at almost weekly intervals. While the included adaptor bracket does go a small way towards alleviating the sting of its price premium over similarly-performing Barefoot-based drives, it is still hard to recommend it over some competitors. In the past we could have pointed towards Corsair’s excellent support structure and warranty length for justifications towards a paying a bit more but many competitors have caught up in recent years. Nonetheless, we consider this drive to have a good selling point for a 128GB product.

Competition in this industry can be considered a good thing but we feel that due to the relatively small number of controller manufacturers, NAND flash memory suppliers and so on, there are far too many of the same drives being rebadged again and again. This doesn’t reflect negatively on Corsair in any way since they have to play the cards they’ve been dealt but we feel these limited options have curtailed innovation in the SSD market.

When we look at all the positives and negatives of the Corsair Nova 128GB, there are a ton of reasons people should be looking at it lining up with very few caveats. Granted, it isn’t priced well enough against the competition nor does it perform above and beyond its immediate rivals to warrant any awards from us but this is still an excellent drive for first-timers in the SSD market.


Pros:

- Latest, mature firmware with TRIM
- Overall very good performance
- 2.5” to 3.5 adapter included
- Good value
- Legendary Corsair customer service


Cons:

- Slightly elevated price versus the competition
- Latest Indilinx firmware has slightly lowered sequential speed
- No firmware updates will be forthcoming
- Two Year Warranty



 
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