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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  • melgross - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    So, with all of this info presented, which drives would be best as a Photoshop scratch drive? Reply
  • Out of Box Experience - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Any modern platter based drive should be fine for a photoshop scratch drive Reply
  • Klober - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    This is my perspective from what I see throughout the review:

    The Corsair Force drives and the Crucial RealSSD drives are very close performance-wise in most of the comparisons; however, when price is included in the scenario the Corsair Force drives (60GB/120GB) win hands down.

    The only true advantage the C300 has over the Force drives from what I can tell is in scenarios where the data is mostly uncompressible - I don't think this comes close to making up for the price disadvantage of the C300 drives since most likely users will have a large mechanical drive for their storage drive rather than opting to use their C300 for that purpose.

    Taking into account the fact that you can get the Corsair Force 60GB SSD for $5 more than the 40GB at NewEgg, I would say that pretty much nullifies the cost/GB advantage of the C300 at the lower capacity - at that point you're looking at $2.109/GB for the C300 and $2.031/GB for the Force 60GB assuming it has 64GB NAND capacity (that's going by dividing the Force 120GB specs in half...if we instead use the specs from the Force 40GB that would put the Force 60GB at an amazing $1.805/GB for a low capacity SSD!).

    If I were to buy an SSD tomorrow it would almost definitely be the Corsair Force 60GB for its fantastic (at least by SSD standards) cost/capacity at a low price point.

    Anyway, that's my 2 cents!
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Why are you assuming the Corsair drive magically has more space than it actually lists? If it's a 60GB drive, then you only get 60GB of usable space with some other amount set aside as a scratch area.

    Personally, I base my purchases more on random read than anything. Based on the prices, I'd most likely pick up the Crucial C300 64GB if I was looking for a new boot drive.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Just a simple request for a G2 80gig Intel drive for future reviews. I think many of us have one of these and know the 160gig drive is significantly faster in some tests (sequential write), but almost identical in others (random read I believe). Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Are there any tools available that will let you see how much of the write capacity of an SSD you've exhausted? Reply
  • Iketh - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    i own an intel 40gb and intel's trim software reports it... it's part of a drive's SMART data, so any SMART reading program should be able to tell you, but i could be mistaken Reply
  • MadMan007 - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    "Note that not all SandForce drives are created equal here. If a manufacturer doesn’t meet SandForce’s sales requirements, their drives are capped at a maximum of 50MB/s here. This is the case with the Patriot Inferno, although OCZ’s Agility 2 voluntarily enforces the limit."

    I understand there is the 'higher performance' Sandforce firmware (Vertex 2 vs Agility 2 for example) and the Agility 2-type firmware is the one that gets 'capped,' but what exactly do you mean by 'meet Sandforce's sales requirements'? Is this to say that the firmware the retail companies are licensed to use and able to ship is restricted based upon sales figres/order quantity, so that if say OCZ buys 100k SF controllers while Patriot only buys 10k, Patriot is limited in which firmware they are allowed to offer? If it's not that, what exactly do you mean? And most importantly how can we as end-users making a purchase determine this difference, is looking at IOPS all that's needed?
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    I didn't like the wording of the power consumption in terms of not being better at load than a mechanical hard drive. Just like your praise of Intel's hurry up and get idle (with turbo), all of these SSD's have an advantage in bursting and then getting idle.

    I had mentioned it in a previous SSD article but what we really need is a moderated workload suite. Something like virus scan and total power draw during that time. While load voltages might be the same or higher for the SSD's, the total power consumption during that time will (should) be less. I think a virus scan is perfect on a normal system as it should take 10-20min and give a measureable difference between drives. Grab a laptop from one of your recent reviews (not an Atom or other super-slow mobile to prevent the SSD from waiting around), and measure the total power drawn over the scan.

    This is less important in a desktop obviously but for the mobile crowd (whom sees the biggest benefit over the traditional laptop drives anyway) might just be one more criteria to help make a decision (or just show that it's the type of drive (mech/SSD) and not really differences between the SSD's themselves).

    Glad to have a new SSD review though. I love reading these and am trying to justify upgrading from my 80gig Intel G2 drive that has been fantastic for the last year. The great thing about the SSD tech is that you can hand-me-down smaller capacity, slower drives and completely revolutionize an older system.

    Thanks again.
    Reply
  • JohnBooty - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    "Kingston ships the V+100 with a 3-year warranty and to Kingston's credit I haven't had any other drives die as a result of wearing out the NAND. Even if the V+100 has higher effective write amplification than the competition, your usage model will determine whether or not you bump into it."

    Anand,

    Firstly, thank you for being the industry standard when it comes to articles about SSD. It's a favorite topic of mine and your articles have steered a lot of purchases in my personal and professional circles (and you haven't steered us wrong!)

    My request...

    One of the lingering questions about SSDs is how long they'll actually last in the real-world before the NAND is fried. When I see you mentioning that you've never actually fried any NAND, that seems like an opportunity for you to give it a shot and give the public some answers.

    I'd love to see a "torture test" article where you run simulated workloads against SSDs 24/7 until they can't take any more writes, and report on the results.
    Reply

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