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Patriot Pyro SE 240GB SSD Review

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AkG

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Patriot Memory has a proud tradition of providing solid state drives with their own special blend of cutting edge performance and reasonable pricing. The latest addition, the Patriot Pyro SE 240GB, aims to fill a conspicuous gap in the middle of their current line of SSDs. While Patriot have had entry level (Pyro) and enthusiast models (Wildfire) ready to go since the SandForce SF2281 controller hit the scene, their mid-tier solution is a bit late to the party.



Until now, Patriot fans have had to choose between stretching their budget and getting a more expensive high performance model or sacrificing performance and stepping down to a more entry-level drive. Many consumers simply chose option three and purchased different companies’ mid-tier SSDs. In order to stop this loss of sales, the Pyro SE is designed, marketed, and priced to appeal to enthusiasts who want good performance at an affordable price point.



On the surface, the new Patriot Pyro SE looks very similar to a standard Patriot Pyro. Both drives have comparable all-metal chasses and even use the same color scheme. It is not until you crack open the case and peek inside that you see what differentiates one model from the other: the NAND.



As expected, the interior architecture is very similar to that of nearly every SandForce SF2281-based drive that relies on ONFi (as opposed to Toggle Mode) NAND we have looked at to date. There are 16 NAND chips populating the PCB’s 16 integrated circuit (IC) slots and one SF2281 controller present.



Unlike with the Patriot Pyro, the NAND ICs housed inside the case are not ONFi 1 asynchronous NAND but rather ONFi 2 synchronous NAND. These are basically the same NAND chips you would find inside most mid-tier SF2281 devices. Considering that all SSDs based on the SF2281 controller—with the exception of Intel’s 520—use the same stock firmware, this makes the Patriot Pyro SE a direct competitor to the OCZ Vertex 3, and both should have the same fundamental performance. With a recently reduced MSRP of $280, the Pyro SE 240GB may be a late bloomer, but it’s one that has the potential to catch the eye of value-oriented enthusiasts.
 
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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.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel 520 240GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):
OCZ Vertex 2 100GB: 1.33
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB: 2.1.5
OCZ Vertex 3 MI 240GB: 2.1.5
Corsair Force 3 GT 120GB: 1.3.3
Crucial M4 256GB: 0009
Mushkin Chronos 120GB: 3.3.2
Intel 520: 400i
Patriot Pyro 120GB: 3.3.2
OCZ Vertex 4 512GB: 5.10.31
Patriot Pyro SE 240GB: 3.3.2
 
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AkG

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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.


Much like previous ONFi 2 based SF2281 drives, the Patriot Pyro SE provides sequential read performance which is blazing fast.


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.


As with the sequential read performance, the average write performance of the Patriot Pyro SE is right where you would expect it to be. It may lag behind high performance drives such as the Vertex 4 and Intel 520, but considering the price disparity between those truly enthusiast grade devices and the Pyro SE, its price to performance ratio is certainly excellent.
 
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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.




As with all the synthetic tests results so far, the Patriot Pyro’s numbers are just as good as what you would expect from other ONFi 2 NAND based SF2281 drives such as the OCZ Vertex 3 240GB.
 
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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.




With its abilities to trade blows with a Vertex 3 240GB, the Pyro SE’s performance may not be quiet as high as an enthusiast grade drive, but that is not the same as saying this is as slow drive.


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.


It was not all that long ago that posting a PCMark 7 number such as this would have instantly allowed a drive to be called “enthusiast grade”. Sadly, those days are in the past, and while extremely good the Patriot Pyro SE’s numbers are exactly what you would want to see from a mid-tier drive: good but nowhere near the top of the chart good.
 
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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 measurement 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.




As with Crystal DiskMark, the AS-SSD numbers are very respectable and once again the Pyro is easily able to compete head to head with the likes of a Vertex 3 240GB drive.


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.




As with all test result so far, the Patriot Pyro SE posts results which are neither surprising nor unimpressive. We have simply seen this combination so many times that any sense of suspense - or doubt- has long since been hammered into oblivion. The upside to this is the Patriot Pyro SE provides not only good performance but does so without any risk involved. It really is shaping up to be a “safe” option for consumers looking for good performance but are restrained by budgetary concerns.
 
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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.


The reason you cannot clearly differentiate the line between the Vertex 3 240GB and the Patriot Pyro SE 240 in the IOMeter chart is the Patriot Pyro SE’s numbers are so close as to be identical at this chart resolution.
 
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AkG

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Windows 7 Start Up / 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.


While not precisely the same, the difference between the Patriot Pyro SE and the Vertex 3 numbers are well within the margin of error.


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!


It really does appear that the only difference –from a hardware point of view- between the Patriot Pyro SE and the OCZ Vertex 3 is the label on the outside. Both of these large drives really do perform and react very similarly.
 
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AkG

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Firefox Offline / 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.



Thanks to the slightly better read performance our, particular Patriot Pyro SE boasts it is able to edge out the Vertex 3 240GB in this test. This however, is not a difference which is large enough to matter and sis till within margins of error. More succinctly, both drives offer similar performance and minor variances in batches of NAND will provide minor variances in performance, but on average the Pyro SE is just as fast – but no faster – than any other stock firmware equipped SF2281 using ONFi 2 NAND drive available today.


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.






Once again very good, if not stellar results are what you can expect from this new Patriot drive.
 
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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.


A SandForce SF2281 drive running stock firmware certainly wouldn’t be our first recommendation for an OS environment that doesn’t support TRIM, but the Patriot Pyro SE is not a terrible choice either. Just do not expect it to act like an Intel 520 or Marvell controller based drive.
 
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