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G.Skill Falcon II 128GB SSD Review

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AkG

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IOMETER / IOMeter Stutter 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 queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.



At all que depths this drive is slower than the original Falcon SSD (or any Indilinx SSd for that matter). At deeper que depths the difference is small, but at lighter que depths the difference is significant. This was expected, what was not expected was the fact that the Falcon II did as good as it did. It looks like the fact that G.Skill / Indilinx opted for 34nm chips does help counteract the fact that it is more mid grade NAND and if this is the case….we can just imagine how good a Vertex / Falcon / Torqx with high end 34nm-based chips would do!


IOMeter Stutter Test


In our usual IOMeter test we are trying to replicate real world use where reads severly outnumber writes. However, to get a good handle on how well a Solid State Disk Drive will handle a worse case scenario (and thus how likely the dreaded stutter issue will happen) 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 .csv file we then found 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 333ms (one third of a second) to be a good indicator that stuttering may happen, with the higher the number the worse the duration of the stutter will most likely be.



While both the average and max stutter is worse than the original Falcon these numbers are still very good and way below anything we would consider worrisome. Stuttering really was only an issue with the older JMicron controllers.
 
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AkG

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XP Start Up / Adobe CS3

XP Start Up


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.



As expected there IS a noticeable difference between this drive an the orginal Falcon, but its numbers are still very good. This works out to be less than the 10% performance difference we expected but this is most likely due to the fact that our error tolerances are not exactly in the millisecond range with these real world tests. More importantly, and in the grand scheme of things, 3 seconds difference between a flagship model and a mid tier solution is down right impressive.


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 faired in the Adobe crucible!



With a two second gap between these two units this once again works out to well below 10% of a difference. It seems that once again synthetic tests have painted not only a schizophrenic but incomplete picture of what true capabilities the Falcon II has to offer. We can honestly say that we are starting to like this drive more and more but let’s withhold judgment until the data transfer tests and value sections results are in.
 
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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.








With the exception of the large transfer zinger these numbers are pretty much middle of the pack. Of course being in the middle of THIS pack is a very good accomplishment considering almost all the various drives here are or were high end models. With that being said the numbers are still a little bit on the low side and we were hoping to see numbers a bit better than this. About the only saving grace (when it comes to these tests) is these numbers are still for the most part better than most hard drives out there.
 
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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 their initial review.




As you can see terms like “value” is very amorphous when you are talking about solid state drives, and what would be considered a good value in a SSD would be outrageous to pay for a hard drive. Luckily, this drive IS a solid state drive and pretty darn good value one at that!
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


When all is said and done and all is left to do is tally the butchers bill there is no getting around the fact that G.Skill's Falcon II is a very impressive “mid tier” solid state drive. In many ways, it acts and feels like a high performance SSD with immature firmware and not the more value orientated product it really is. This drive is fast, powerful and should meet and exceed the expectations of nearly any first time customer. In testing, we quickly realized that the combination of 34nm NAND with a newly revised Barefoot controller is both a limiting factor and the biggest reason for this drive’s success. As we saw in some of the synthetic and real world tests the write speeds are limited by this mid tier MLC NAND but that same NAND is still awfully, awfully good in the grand scheme of things.

To be blunt we don’t have any real issues with this drive’s performance. This is not to saythe Falcon II is perfect, as it still is “only” a very good mid-tier SSD, but still a mid tier SSD still beats most hard drives out there. To be honest we really only have one issue with this drive, but it is a big one, and that has to do not with its performance but how it has been packaged and branded. Usually the follow product up to a high-performance drive (in this case the original Falcon) doesn't offer lower performance levels than its predecessor. Unless consumers have really have done their homework, they are naturally going to expect the Falcon 2 to outperform the original Falcon. In anything, we think that the Falcon II should have been named something else instead of labeling a value-oriented drive with a high performance brand name.To us what G.Skill has done is tantamount to OCZ rebranding their “Agility” line to “Vertex 2”.

The only other bone we have to pick is that we would like to see G.Skill follow the lead of companies like Corsair and Patriot by offering a slightly longer warranty on their SSDs. We understand that 2 years seems to be the industry norm but it isn't a norm that we necessarily agree with. When a customer is buying a $300+ drive they want to have confidence the company whose product they purchased stands behind its longevity. As such, two years just doesn't cut it for us.

Names and warranties aside, it seems like G.Skill hit every nail on the head when it came to properly implementing the right combination of performance and value into the Falcon II. It is in our opinion the perfect product for those of you who always wanted an SSD but weren't able to take the plunge due to small capacities and prices that used to be out of most people's reach.


Pros:

- Great packaging
- Good performance
- Native TRIM support
- Good price

Cons:

- Only two year warranty
- Confusing name
- Eco controller is just an updated Barefoot controller


 
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