Prices and New Competitors

It's been a while since I've published on the SSD landscape. Not much has changed. SandForce's popularity has skyrocketed, easily making it the target to beat, while we patiently await Intel's 3rd generation SSDs. Once virtually an OCZ-only supplier, nearly everyone has a SandForce based drive these days. Capacities have also changed. While the original drives allocated nearly 30% of their NAND to spare area, newer extended versions have since appeared that drop the % of spare area down to 12 - 22% depending on the SKU (40/80/160GB drives allocate 22% while 60/120/240 drives allocate 12%). The performance impact of the reduced spare area is nonexistent as we've proved in the past.

Indilinx is still around but undesirable at this point. Performance is no longer competitive and write amplification is much higher than what you get from SandForce at the same cost. Crucial's RealSSD C300 is still trucking, however you do pay a premium over SandForce. Whether or not the premium is justified depends on your workload.

SSD Price Comparison - November 11, 2010
SSD NAND Capacity User Capacity Price Cost per GB of NAND
Corsair Force F40 40GB 48GB 37.3GB $124.99 $2.603
Corsair Force F120 120GB 128GB 111.8GB $229.99 $1.797
Corsair Nova V128 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $219.99 $1.719
Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB 64GB 59.6GB $134.99 $2.109
Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $269.99 $2.109
Intel X25-M G2 160GB 160GB 149.0GB $409.00 $2.556
Intel X25-V 40GB 40GB 37.3GB $94.99 $2.375
Kingston SSDNow V Series 30GB 30GB 27.9GB $82.99 $2.766
Kingston SSDNow V Series 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $224.99 $1.758
Kingston SSDNow V+ Series 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $277.00 $2.164
Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 128GB 128GB 119.2GB $278.99 $2.180
OCZ Agility 2 120GB 128GB 111.8GB $229.99 $1.797
OCZ Vertex 2 120GB 128GB 111.8GB $234.99 $1.836
Patriot Inferno 60GB 64GB 55.9GB $149.00 $2.328
Western Digital SiliconEdge Blue 128GB 119.2GB $214.99 $1.680

We broke the $2/GB barrier a while ago. Prices continue to fall as NAND manufacturers transistion to 2xnm processes, the existing 3xnm supplies become cheaper as a result. Surprisingly enough, the most affordable drives actually come from companies who don't own NAND foundries. SandForce's partners who have to pay a big chunk of their margins to SandForce as well as the NAND vendor are actually delivering the best value in SSDs. Kingston and Western Digital also deliver a great value. Not Crucial/Micron and not Intel, which is not only disappointing but inexcusable. These companies actually own the fabs where the NAND is made and in the case of Intel, they actually produce the controller itself.

Within the SandForce camp prices seem pretty consistent. I grabbed data from three different SF partners: Corsair, OCZ and Patriot. At 128GB of NAND both Corsair and OCZ are competitive on pricing. As you look at the smaller capacity drives however, cost per GB goes up dramatically. A 40GB Corsair Force will cost you 44.8% more per GB than a 120GB drive. The same is true when you look at the 60GB Patriot Inferno at $2.328 per GB.

If you're trying to keep total cost down, the best bang for your buck from a capacity standpoint is the 64GB Crucial RealSSD C300. It's more expensive per GB than the larger SandForce drives, but at $134.99 it's a cheap way to get into a decent SSD.

The new Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 is actually more expensive than the Crucial drives from a cost-per-GB standpoint. Traditionally the V series has been the value line while the V+ series have been Kingston's more performance oriented SSDs. In the past however, the performance oriented V+ never seemed to have the performance to back up its price. Perhaps the V+ 100 can change that.

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
Introduction Random Read/Write Speed
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  • Taft12 - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Can you comment on any penalty for 3Gbps SATA?

    I'm not convinced any SSD can exhibit any performance impact of the older standard except in the most contrived of benchmarks.
    Reply
  • Sufo - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Well, i've seen speeds spike above 375MB/s tho ofc this could well be erroneous reporting on windows' side. I haven't actually hooked the drive up to my 3gbps ports so in all honesty, i can't compare the two - perhaps i should run a couple of benches... Reply
  • Hacp - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    It seems that you recommend drives despite the results of your own storage bench. It shows that the Kingston is the premier ssd to have if you want a drive that handles multi-tasking well.

    Sandforce is nice if you do light tasks, but who the hell buys an ssd that only does well handling light tasks? No one!
    Reply
  • JNo - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    "Sandforce is nice if you do light tasks, but who the hell buys an ssd that only does well handling light tasks? No one!"

    Er... I do. Well obviously I would want a drive that does well handling heavy task loads as well but there are limits to how much I can pay and the cost per gig of some of the better performers is significantly higher. Maybe money is no object for you but if I'm *absolutely honest* with myself, I only *very rarely* perform the type of very heavy loads that Anand uses in his heavy load bench (it has almost ridiculously levels of multi-tasking). So the premium for something that benefits me only 2-3% of the time is unjustified.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    That's why I renamed our light benchmark a "typical" benchmark, because it's not really a light usage case but rather more of what you'd commonly do on a system. The Kingston drive does very well there and in a few other tests, which is why I'd recommend it - however concerns about price and write amplification keep it from being a knock out of the park.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • OneArmedScissorB - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    "Sandforce is nice if you do light tasks, but who the hell buys an ssd that only does well handling light tasks? No one!"

    Uh...pretty much every single person who buys one for a laptop?
    Reply
  • cjcoats - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I have what may be an unusual access pattern -- seeks within a file -- that I haven't
    seen any "standard" benchmarks for, and I'm curious how drives do under it, particularly
    the Sandforce drives that depend upon (inherently sequential?) compression. Quite possibly, heavy database use has the same problem, but I haven't seen benchmarks on that, either.

    I do meteorology and other environmental modeling, and frequently we want to "strip mine" the data in various selective ways. A typical data file might look like:

    * Header stuff -- file description, etc.

    * Sequence of time steps, each of which is an
    > array of variables, each of which is a
    + 2-D or 3-D grid of values

    For example, you might have a year's worth of hourly meteorology (about 9000 time steps),
    for ten variables (of which temperature is the 2'nd), on a 250-row by 500-column grid.

    So for this file, that's 0.5 MB per variable, 5 MB per time step, total size 45 GB, with
    one file per year.

    Now you might want to know, "What's the temperature for Christmas Eve?" The logical sequence of operations to be performed is:

    1. Read the header
    2. Compute timestep-record descriptions
    3. Seek to { headersize + 8592*5MB + 500KB }
    4. Read 0.5 MB

    Now with a "conventional" disk, that's two seeks and two reads (assuming the header is not already cached by either the OS or the application), returning a result almost instantaneously.
    But what does that mean for a Sandforce-style drive that relies on compression, and implicitly on reading the whole thing in sequence? Does it mean I need to issue the data request and then go take a coffee break? I remember too well when this sort of data was stored in sequential ASCII files, and such a request would mean "Go take a 3-martini lunch." ;-(

    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I've been asking for similar for a while. What I want to know from a test is how as SSD behaves as a data drive for a real database, DB2/Oracle/PostgreSQL with 10's of gig of data doing realistic random transactions. The compression used by SandForce becomes germane, in that engine writers are incorporating compression/security in storage. Whether one should use consumer/prosumer drives for real databases is not pertinent; people do. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Yes I have been wondering about exactly this sort of thing too. I propose a seeking and logging benchmark. It should go something like this:

    Create a set of 100 log files. Some only a few bytes. Some with a few MB of random data.

    Create one very large file for seek testing. Just make an uncompressed zip file filled with 1/3 videos and 1/3 temporary internet files and 1/3 documents.

    The actual test should be two steps:

    1 - Open one log file and write a few bytes onto the end of it. Then close the file.

    2 - Open the seek test file and seek to random location and read a few bytes. Close the file.

    Then I guess you just count the number of loops this can run in a minute. Maybe run two threads, each working on 50 files.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Intel charging too much, surely you must be joking!

    Do you know what the Dow Jones Industrial Average would be trading at if every DOW component (such as Intel) were to cut their margins down to the level of companies like Kingston? My guess would be about 3000. Something to keep in mind as we witness Bernanke's helicopter induced meltup...
    Reply

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