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Patriot Warp v2 128GB SSD Review

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AkG

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Patriot Warp v2 128GB SSD Review



Manufacture Page: Patriot Memory - Patriot Solid State Drives
Part Number: PE128GS25SSDR
TechWiki Info: Warp v2 - TechWiki
Price: Click Here to Compare Prices
Warranty: 2 year



Since our last SSD review centered around the high performance, but ultra expenisve X-25M we felt our next review should be a little different. So today we are going to continue our ongoing foray into Solid State Drives by looking closely at the Patriot Warp V2. This drive comes in a variety of sizes and prices which should suit nearly everyone's needs quite well. Our drive is the 128GB model but the differences in speed and performance between the 32, 64 and 128 models should be minimal at best, so if you are interested in a small, cheap and fast drive for your netbook or notebook these drives may just be right up your alley; or at least that is the design goal of the V2s anyways.

To us this is a laudable design goal, as not everyone will be interested in bleeding edge speeds...or at least the bleeding edge price tag which accompanies the fastest, biggest drives d'jour! To many people, an SSD which costs more than the netbook they will be placing it in seems down right foolish, and we can certainly see their point. Even those desktop users among you will tend to shy away from $600 SSDs and instead look to drives much like the Patriot V2 for your introduction into the realm of these new drives.

Patriot has made quite the name for themselves by doing just this: releasing good products at extremely competitive prices, all while backing it up with an above average warranty. Needless to say, we have high expectations for this drive as it is their second generation model and thus should be tweaked to get the most from its components. the V2 has been on the market for a little while so it is widely available from retailers and e-tailers alike. We have seen the smallest capacity v2 go for less than what we paid for a WD 500 last year! In the case of the 128GB version it goes for about $340 or less.

The biggest issue with Solid State Drives is the dreaded “Stutter” issue. We will be going over exactly what this is, and most importantly find out if this V2 suffers from it. We will of course be putting it through the ringer and running numerous synthetic and real world tests to see how it stacks up against not only the X-25M but also some of the best spindle based drives out there. When the dust settles it is anybody's guess where the Warp V2 will end up, but one thing is for certain: its price speaks volumes about Patriot's hope that the SSD market will be the next big thing.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications




 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The Patriot Warp v2 certainly comes in a distinctive looking box. The back of the box displays all the pertinent information you could want about the potent brew of cutting edge tech wrapped up in an old school 2.5” drive wrapper.


The front of the box is also very interesting, though in a way which we don’t necessary like. As with many packaging schemes which have been designed for the retail market, the front of this box has a large plastic film covered window in order to show off the actual drive. It certainly makes for a strikingly good looking package but we would hate to see our precious new drive come DOA because it got a poke right through the plastic window.


When you do open the box up you can see that the Patriot engineers have taken an interesting path when it comes to the protective measures implemented in this packing design. The inner box is a two layer affair with the back half basically being one large crush / crumple zone. This certainly will take a heck of a lot of blunt force trauma before any can reach the front zone….as long as the box falls flat on its back that is. The top zone is for all intents and purposes a box within a box as the Solid State Drive comes packaged in a plastic clamshell inside this upper zone.


As you can see ours took one heck of a beating by Mr. Courier. In fact it took such a beating a part of the inner clam shell broke off from the blunt force trauma. The amazing thing is the Warp V2 was in perfect condition with no visible scratches (or any damage for that matter) but, as we will show you latter in this review, was also in perfect condition on the inside as well.


Moving onto the accessories we come to the first, and hopefully only, disappointment. The accessories which come with it, or to be more accurate in saying lack of accessories really is puzzling. In a nut shell you get the Solid State Drive itself and a pamphlet and that's it. On the positive side at least this ultra frugality helps keep the price of the drive itself reasonable….ish.
 
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AkG

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First Impressions

First Impressions



As this is a 2.5” laptop drive, it is by very definition one petite power house. In a nut shell it is 99.88 x 69.63x 9.3 mm in size and weighs in at a cruiser weight range of 91 grams. This is easily half the weight of a modern laptop drive, and in our opinions anything which can make your laptop lighter is a good thing.


The Warp v2 is not only lighter than your typical drive but it is also going to be completely vibration free, which once again makes it perfect for laptop and even desktop applications. As a bonus, it can withstand 20Gs of shock and still keep on working. This makes it the perfect companion for all you road warriors out there who love to use their laptops on the road, in the sky and darn near anywhere else that isn’t perfectly stable. You can still use it in a desktop replacement system as there really is nothing better than overkill, and anything which can make your precious data that much safer will definately appeal to many of you.

Moving on, you can see Patriot has opted for the de facto standard all metal chassis for their Warp v2. This has become a necessity and not an ascetics issue as there is a heck of a lot of flash chips which do get a little warm and an all metal body makes for a perfect heatsink.


In a dash of flair and élan, the Warp’s label is done in an almost holographic, color-changing sticker. This label not only adds a bit of character to it with its colour changing ways, it also makes for a good anti-knock off and anti counterfit system. Will this deter hard core knock-offs from China? No, but it does add a bit of extra hassle factor to any nefarious plans of replicating this drive and selling it as a "Pattriot"


As you can see, barring the stickers, the outside of this drive is completely free of any PCB board. This of course is typical for SSDs but it sill warms our hearts to see the ancient controller board become integrated into the internals of this drive. I have seen too many spindle-based drives lost to static discharge frying the relatively fragile chip found on the bottom of most drives.

On a side note, we probably never will get tired of seeing smooth clean lines on these bad boys. To us this smooth, clutter free setup is the epitome of 21st century tech.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions



While packaging, accessories and even external looks is all well and fine; the proof is in the pudding as they say, so let’s pry the top off and peer inside to see what we can find.


Doing this is simplicity itself as the top of the case is held in place with only four ultra small screws. Be warned: removing these screws does nullify your warranty. At least Patriot is totally up front about this as you will have to cut not one but two “warranty void” stickers to get that lid off.


If you plan on doing this, please make sure you are grounded! Taking the top off may not ruin your SSD like it will a regular drive (unless you are in a clean room, in which case your spindle drive may just survive) but a errant static charge can and will fry your precious data into paper weight uselessness.


If you remember our first SSD review which centered around the 64GB G.Skill SLC SSD, the layout of the Warp is fairly similar. At one end you have your SATA power and data connectors, with the SSD controller chip and then two rows of four NAND MLC flash chips. Unlike the G. Skill, the other side of this PCB has another 8 chips soldered to that side of the board; making for a grand total of 1 controller chip and 16 NAND flash chips. In a very nice move, all 16 of these chips are from the same week (2008 week 37) and batch (YCGF62P1) and as such should have very similar characteristics. Doing this is actually like hand sorting your RAM chips to optimize their interoperability, and does make a slight difference as different batches will have slightly different performance characteristics. Was this just an accident or does Patriot specify this? We have no idea but seeing it in our Solid State Drive is reassuring to be sure.


The I/O controller chip shown above is, as expected, a JMicron model 602. This chip is SATA 2 capable controller which supposedly can handle up to 256 NAND chips. This of course is more than enough for any single SSD card and while it would be interesting to see if it could really handle that many….it will never happen. In a nut shell this SATA to NAND flash controller is an improved JMF601.

JMicron released the 602 specifically to deal with the stutter issue and to a certain extent it has helped on that front. In many ways this chip has received a bad rap as it is never did live up to the PR promises and hype surrounding it. As we will see later in testing, it is capable of stutter free operation but as with most bleeding edge devices you do need to make some changes to an operating system which was never designed to run Solid State Drives.



In Microsoft’s defence, blaming MS and their Operating Systems for all the stuttering woes is not fair either. This controller is just not powerful enough to properly harness all the power contained in the SSD MLC chips, nor is capable of dealing with all the inherent problems of MLC chips. This is why Intel did not go with this controller chip and why other companies have either gone for a dual 602 RAID 0 setup (inside a single Solid State Drive) or have gone with a totally different controller all together. MLC chips are cheaper to manufacture than SLCs, but they are also inherently slower on writes. As we stated in the G. Skill review, MLC have four states instead of the two with SLC. Before a write can be accomplished on a MLC NAND 4k “block” a write cycle has to be done first. This doubles the amount of cycles required per write and does to a certain extent increase the wear and tear the drive will face. Of course, reads are not effected by this quirk and are just as fast (if not faster, depending on the characteristics of the NAND chips in question) than SLC; heck give it time and MLC NAND chips will become faster than SLC…its just a matter of scale and refinement!

The added wear and tear however, is not overly worrisome as the number of write cycles is in the millions and wear leveling algorithms have come a long way in a very short period of time. Some manufacture’s literature state that that if you erase and write 50GB of data each and every day on a 128GB SSD it will last over 11 years…of course this assumes that this is ALL the data on the drive and you are giving free reign to the wear levelling tech to write evenly to each and every cell. Once again it all goes back to setting up and tweaking your OS to maximize the life expectancy of these drives. This in a nut shell is the down side to the break neck speed and capacity increases the SSD market is experiencing.


In any case the NAND chips used in the Warp v2 are Samsung K9HCG08U1M-PCB0. Using the handy dandy online Samsung model decoder we can see these chips are 48 pin MLC Quad Die Package, 1st gen lead free (ROHS compliant), 2.7V ~ 3.6V, 25 nanosecond NAND chips which have Dual nCE (Dual Chip Enable control) & Dual R/nB (Dual Ready/Busy Output). This model is rated at a density of 64Gbits or 8GB per chip. Above the model number (and as stated earlier) we can see these were made in the 37th week of 2008 and below it we can see the batch number (or at least what we assume is the batch number but is describe by Samsung vaguely as “Customer List Reference” only).

All in all, the v2 looks a lot like many other Samsung rebadged drives on the market today. This is not a put down, nor a complaint as the Samsung reference design is a good design which has been proven to be reliable. We wish they had gone for a different controller, but at least it is the 602 and not the 601. As we have stated earlier in the review it will be interesting to see how well the newer 602 fares on out various tests, as this will make or break the v2.
 
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AkG

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Stutter Issue Explained

Stutter Issue Explained


What is the so called “Stutter Issue” that we hear so much about these days and what causes it? At its most basic, the stutter issue is intermittent pauses which lock up your system even when the system is not under a heavy load. For anyone who has never experienced this issue the easiest way to describe it is this: Insert a blank DVD into you DVD drive. If you are running Windows, your system (no matter how powerful) will pause until the optical drive is able to recognize the disk and respond to commands sent to it by your motherboards ATA controller. Basically, this is very similar to what happens when your SSD's onboard I/O controller becomes saturated and is unable to receive additional commands from the main motherboard controller. As soon as a backlog on your ATA controller happens, you system will become unresponsive for any where from a second or two, to ten or more seconds (depending on how long the “perfect storm” lasts).


Contrary to popular belief this can and does occur with spindle based hard drives as well, though it only happens with low performance models. A good example is this reviewer’s dual core laptop with 4GB of RAM and Vista Premium. From time to time Vista’s indexing service would saturate the bus and the slow 5400rpm Seagate drive would thrash for generally 10-20 seconds. A few tweaks are all it took to correct this issue; and the same is generally true of SSDs. Though, the faster and more powerful the SSD the lower the likelihood these pauses will be noticeable.

The biggest reason for this issue is MS operating systems were tweaked and enhanced to minimize latency, read and write issues associated with spindle-based drives. To achieve this, other areas of performance had to be compromised. Unfortunately, SSDs already have great latencies and do not write or read in a necessarily linear fashion; in fact their strengths and weakness do not overlap in any way with the more typical spindle drive for which the OSes have had decades of tweaking and experience to build upon. Windows 7 is rumored to be SSD friendly but until it ships (and is proven to do so) we will have to live with these quirks.


Some SSDS are more affected than others and it is mainly an MLC problem. Multi-Level Cell NAND chips do not have the typical 1 and 0 state; but in fact have 4 states. Since they have four states, they can effectively hold 2bits of information per cell. This allows for much denser NAND chips, but does so at the expense of latency. In order to write to a given cell, a write or erase cycle has to first be accomplished; then and only then, can a second cycle (the actual write cycle) take place.

On the surface this does not sound like such a big issue but further complicating things is the fact that this cell -when being erased or written to- cannot be read from. Also, on first blush this does not seem like such a big deal as the cycles are measured in mere nanoseconds, but a modern operating system can have numerous threads all reading and writing to (and from) the drive, and that’s even before you start to even use the computer. A stutter occurs when a “perfect storm” of numerous reads and writes are called for and the amazing performance abilities of the SSD are just not enough to handle the load.



While the style of NAND used is important, the actual I/O controller used can also play a large role in the drives characteristics. The JMicron controllers have received a bad rap as the earlier I/O controllers were, needless to say, ineffective and prone to severe stuttering. The newer 602 series of controller is much improved but still is not a perfect solution. Certain companies such as Intel have taken the stance “once bitten twice shy” and have distanced themselves from JMicron by the simple expedient of removing the JMicron controller from their SSD’s and using a different manufacturer’s I/O controller, backed by onboard Cache.

It may not be fair, but in the fast paced world of IT, second chances are rare and third chances are non existent. The interesting thing about these non Samsung reference design SSDs is the onboard cache is not used as it would be in a regular drive; rather it is just there to accept and store commands sent to the drive by the ATA controller (i.e. keep your motherboards ATA controller happy and lock-up free even if the SSDs I/O controller is overloaded). In the case of the Warp v2, Patriot has elected to stick with the JM602 controller and use no onboard cache; it certainly will be interesting to see how much improved the JM602 is and if this controller totally does away with the stuttering seen on past drives.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a hard 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 to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for SSDs to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our testbed 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 XP 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 WD 320 single platter drive.

For these tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HDTune, Cystal Disk Benchmark, h2benchw, SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark, IOMeter for synthetic benchmarks.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long XP startup took, Adobe CS3 (w/ enormous amounts of custom brushes installed) took, how long a single 4GB rar file took to copy to and then from the hard drives, then copy to itself. We also used 1gb of small files (from 1kb to 20MB) with a total 2108 files in 49 subfolders.

For the temperature testing, readings are taken directly from the hottest part of the drive case using a Digital Infrared Thermometer. The infrared thermometer used has a 9 to 1 ratio, meaning that at 9cm it takes it reading from a 1 square cm. To obtain the numbers used in this review the thermometer was held approximately 3cm away from the heatsink and only the hottest number obtained was used.

Please note to reduce variables the same XP OS image was used for all the hard drives.

For all testing a Gigabyte PA35-DS4 motherboard was used. The ICH9 controller on said motherboard was used.

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

Processor: Q6600 @ 2.4 GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
 
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AkG

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Read and Write Performance

Read Performance


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 this goes double for SSD based hard drive. The main reason we include it is to show what under perfect conditions a given drive is capable of; but the more 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.




In the case of the Warp v2, 176.8 and 141.3 are very respectable numbers for a more budget focused SSD. Heck an average read speed of 140MB/s…that is what the stuff dreams and RAID controllers are made of; and the only place you will ever see numbers like this with a single drive is with SSDs. While these numbers are not as good as the Intel X25, this drive is slightly older and a heck of a lot cheaper than that beast. Add in over 50% extra capacity and this little guy is shaping up very well indeed.


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 utlities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.

While most OS drives spend most of their times reading and not writing, the write speed of the drive does have a big impact on the stutter issue and how fast the drive feels.



The Patriot Warp v2 is capable of an average of 90+ MB/s writes but unfortunately it did have numerous dips all of which were under 20MB/s with the worst being 15.5. This last number is not good. It’s not terrible but the sectors responsible for those abysmal performance numbers are prime candidates for early sector death AND are a severe stutter just waiting to happen. This is the best case scenario, the worst is this hints at a controller issue; or to be precise, a controller which is easily saturated by even simple continuous requests. Our stutter test will shed more light on this matter but it is something to keep in mind as we progress through these tests.
 
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AkG

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Crystal DiskMark

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. When all 5 tests for a given section were run Crystal DiskMark then averages out all 5 numbers to give a result for that section.

Read


These are some really good numbers; numbers which destroy a VelociRaptor The sequential and 512 numbers are important but what we like to really look at is the 4K sector test. NAND Flash chips are arranged in 4K blocks and 16+MB/s is awfully, awfully impressive. Of course, the single JM602 with its more linear data pathways does fall short of Intel’s 10 parallel lane setup, but it is closer than one would think for such a price disparity.


Write


It seems the JMicron controller is once again limiting the write performance of this drive. We know the NAND chips are capable of so much more, but it is like having a monster V10 8.0L engine….and sticking a miserly 4 cylinder 3 liter econo-box’s fuel pump on it. It can do way more than this yet that bottlenecking controller is holding it back….way back. What a pity.
 
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SKYMTL

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Random Access Time / SIS Sandra

Random Access Time


To obtain the absolute, most accurate Random access time, h2benchw was used for this benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive. To run this program, one must use a DOS prompt and tell it what sections of the test to run. While one could use “h2benchw 1 -english -s -tt "harddisk test" -w test” for example and just run the seek tests, we took the more complete approach and ran the full gamut of tests and then extracted the necessary information from the text file. This is the command line argument we used “h2benchw 1 -a -! -tt "harddisk drivetest" -w drivetest”. This tells the program to write all results in english, save them in drivetest txt file, do write and read tests and do it all on drive 1 (or the second drive found, with 0 being the OS drive).


If seeing such ultra low numbers being accurately reported to you on any hard drive doesn't put a smile on your face….well then turn in your DIY geek badge, ‘cause you don’t qualify anymore. 0.18ms is phenomenal for any drive and very good for a SSD. It really does show how far MLC tech has come when this older 2nd gen SSD puts the screws to the SLC drive we tested just last year. With numbers like this, backed up with great read speeds you just KNOW that most programs are going to magically appear even before your finger is released from double clicking the icon. Of course as good as these numbers are, the X-25 really highlights what the true potential is lying dormant in all these newer uber quick MLC chips. We have a sneaking suspicion the 0.09ms of the X-25 could be beaten with the Patriot's Samsung chips….IF it had the right controller.


SIS Sandra


This test was run with the removable storage benchmark in Sandra XII Standard. All of the scores are calculated in operations per second and have been averaged out from the scores of 4 test runs.


Once again the power of these MLC based SSD drives is revealed. The WD 640 is no slouch and neither is the vRaptor but thus little Warp v2 easily smokes them in IO’s per second. The very fact anything can do this while using less power and taking up less physical space really makes the tech geek in us smile.
 
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