Power - A Telling Story

I'm quietly expanding our SSD test suite. I haven't made the results public but you'll see them in the coming months appear in articles and in Bench. One of my tests happens to be a power consumption test where I measure how much power the drive itself requires during a few scenarios. The results with the SandForce SSDs in particular were fascinating enough for me to unveil some of these numbers a bit earlier than I'd originally planned.

In an SSD you have two main consumers of power: the controller, any external DRAM and the NAND. Now as long as you're not bound by the speed of the controller, the biggest consumer of power should be the NAND itself. Now here's where things get interesting. SandForce's DuraWrite technology should mean that there's far less writing to NAND going on in the Corsair Force drive compared to more conventional SSDs. Unless the controller consumes an absurd amount of power, we should see this reflected in the power numbers.

Note that I am not running with Device Initiated Power Management enabled, which is disabled by default in desktop installations of Windows. Power consumption in a notebook will be lower on drives that support it but I'll save that for another article.

At idle the two SF drives and Intel's X25-M G2 consume roughly the same power. Crucial's C300 is a bit more power hungry while the Indilinx based Nova is noticeably lower.

The highest power draw scenario is a sequential write test. The NAND is being written to as quickly as possible and thus power consumption is at its highest. Here we have proven our hypothesis. The SandForce drives are writing less than the competition and thus their power consumption is less than half of the Intel and Crucial drives. Based on the power numbers alone I'd say that SandForce's compression is working extremely well in this test possibly only writing about half as much data to the NAND itself. In practice this means the controller has less to track, the NAND has a longer lifespan and performance is very competitive.

In our random write test, the power gap between the SF and Intel drives narrows but not tremendously. The Indilinx drive actually beats out the SF offerings but I have a feeling that's because we're actually more controller bound here and the data just isn't getting out to NAND.

Another curious observation is the fact that the SF-1200 based Corsair Force actually draws more power than OCZ's Vertex LE. It's not noticeable in real world desktop use, but it's odd. I wonder if the SF-1200s are really just higher yielding/lower binned SF-1500s? Perhaps they draw more power as a result?

The Test

CPU Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Chipset: Intel X58 + Marvell SATA 6Gbps PCIe
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel IMSM 8.9
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64
SandForce Recap Sequential Read/Write Speed
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  • Chloiber - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Just to show you what I mean.

    I created an 512kb seq. write IOMeter test pattern which writes to a space of 1GB. When you use IOMeter for the first time, it creates that 1GB file to reserve the space. I then stopped the test as soon as the 1GB file was written and before the actual test even began. I then used 7-zip to compress the file, that's the result:

    http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=compr7uv5.png

    It's in german and it says to the right that the uncompressed size is 336MB (I paused at that point) and the compressed file size is 404KB. So the level of compression is nearly 0%.

    I aborted then and did the above test again. This time, I let the harddisk write data for about 11 seconds (HD does about 100MB/s) so the complete 1GB file has been used.
    I used again 7-Zip and this is the result:

    http://www.abload.de/image.php?img=compr2165l.png

    Uncompressed size: 138MB (paused earlier here), compressed size: 138MB. So it cannot be compressed at all.

    That leads to the conclusion that IOMeter uses indeed a completely random pattern for its tests.
    Reply
  • darckhart - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    i didn't see listed physical dimensions. is this 7.5mm or 9mm height? also sata 3gb/s i assume? Reply
  • GDM - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Do you feel a noticable difference between this new Cosair Drive and say the Intel X-25M 160 GB? Benchmarks are nice, but I wonder how much of the speed difference can you really feel? Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Ive noticed this quite a bit on reviews here. When a benchmark is low and the text of the result doesnt fit in the bar the text gets squished into the text of the name of the item being tested. Could you please move those results to the outside of the bar off to the right? Since the bar is so small you will have plenty of room out there to put the result and it will be legible. Other than that thanks for a great review and thanks for still including a spindle disk or two as well (though I do question the decision to use a 5400rpm drive unless you were trying to throw that in for laptop users or something). Reply
  • Kary - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Any chance of comparing the drives using compressed NTFS. I tend to do this to my SSD drive anyway and probably wouldn't see a difference on a drive that was trying to compress data internally that was already compressed).

    Oh, my drive is only 30GB and I needed the space..quad core CPU, figured I wouldn't notice a difference speed wise.
    Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    The Force is strong with this one. Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Ouch.

    I'm old enough to appreciate bad puns, well done Sir!
    Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    hehe..thanks. I couldn't resist ;-) Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    Very nice review, it soothes some of my fears regarding these drives.

    I'm curious as to whether you know at this point if there's going to be reviews of the OCZ Vertex 2 and Agility 2 as well?

    Seeing as these drives are based on the SF1500 and SF1200 as well it'd be interesting to see the performance difference from drives from the same vendor, using the different chips. There's the Vertex LE of course but it seems it's more or less the bastard child in this comparison.

    Thanks in advance.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 14, 2010 - link

    I was curious if it's possible to overclock these SSDs either through the SF1200 or the RAM in some way or another?

    I know pencil modding has been dead in recent years. This is due in part to smaller components, but also to the fact that manufacturers have both (1) implemented in-place safeguards to reduce problems from overclocking and (2) started encouraging overclocking by providing more options through the BIOS.

    I'm just curious if anyone's figured out how to do it on these SSDs. I know the average shouldn't - you typically don't want to fiddle with the sole thing that stores your data - but I suspect some tweaking could take place by enthusiasts to really up performance, if wanted. Anyone know a place to look into this?

    vol7ron
    Reply

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