An Update on SandForce

Before we get to the topic at hand today I wanted to give a brief update on SandForce. In our last SSD article I mentioned that I'd been able to replicate the infamous SF-2281 BSOD bug. In my testing the issue never appears as a full on BSOD, instead I either see periods of very high IO latency (multiple seconds) or a hard lock requiring a reset. The problem doesn't appear with any amount of regularity in most of my testbeds, however I can get one specific test system (the ASUS P8Z68V-Pro I mentioned in the earlier article) running the right workload to exhibit this issue at least once in any 72 hour period. I don't know whether or not this issue is related to the BSOD bug that many complain about, but I do know that the behavior isn't desirable and doesn't appear to impact other comparable SSDs. At the same time, the issue doesn't appear to be present and/or as severe on all platforms. Since the last article I've deployed two more drives in separate systems, neither of which has come back with any serious issues yet.

I still believe whatever issue plagues these drives to be limited in scope, but without a way of predicting whether or not the problem will occur it's still a thorn in SandForce's side. Contrary to what you may have heard, I believe this issue impacts all SF-2xxx based drives and I've reproduced it on drives from multiple vendors.

SandForce is going to be flying down a representative to take a look at my test system to help determine the root cause of the issue.

The Crucial m4 Update

When we first reviewed Crucial's m4 SSD we came away with mixed feelings on the drive. In some cases it was the first or second fastest drive we'd reviewed, while in others it struggled to outperform last year's C300. While Crucial has been diligent in updating the m4 to fix compatibility issues, we haven't seen any of the performance increases Crucial promised at the drive's introduction.

That all changed last week as Crucial posted the latest 0009 firmware for the m4 and Micron C400. The firmware updates drives that shipped with the original 0001 firmware as well as those with the previous 0002 version. Crucial supplies a bootable ISO that you can either burn to a CD or image to a USB drive.

The firmware update process went smoothly for me. I tested on an Intel DH67BL motherboard with the SATA ports set to AHCI. I used a USB stick imaged with the ISO via UNetbootin.

Crucial's release notes indicate improved performance as a major feature of FW0009:

Release Date: 08/25/2011
Change Log:

  • Changes made in version 0002 (m4 can be updated to revision 0009 directly from either revision 0001 or 0002)
  • Improved throughput performance.
  • Increase in PCMark Vantage benchmark score, resulting in improved user experience in most operating systems.
  • Improved write latency for better performance under heavy write workloads.
  • Faster boot up times.
  • Improved compatibility with latest chipsets.
  • Compensation for SATA speed negotiation issues between some SATA-II chipsets and the SATA-III device.
  • Improvement for intermittent failures in cold boot up related to some specific host systems.

The Test

CPU

Intel Core i7 2600K running at 3.4GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled) - for AT SB 2011, AS SSD & ATTO

Motherboard:

Intel DH67BL Motherboard

Chipset:

Intel H67

Chipset Drivers:

Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel RST 10.2

Memory: Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (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
Random & Sequential Read/Write Performance
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  • nandreetta - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    I'm tempted to pick this up while Newegg has it on sale, but I've been trying to convince myself to buy an Intel SSD instead for a while now due to what everyone says about reliability. With a 2007 Santa Rosa MBP, I'll be limited by the slow SATA interface anyway, so reliability trumps speed. It's just hard to justify spending $300 or more on an upgrade rather than saving the money for a new machine when I'm this far outside of AppleCare.

    Any thoughts, Internet?
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    What's most interesting is that we may have another good controller. Marvell has been making them for a while, but not as a preferred vendor for some. A rock solid controller that's not SF or Intel is a good thing. Reply
  • daidaloss - Thursday, September 01, 2011 - link

    +1 Reply
  • fhaddad78 - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    I'm still rockin my 160GB Intel X25-M SSD. It's hard to imagine the new drivers are faster than what I have now. It's the only drive in my computer and my box boots up lightning fast and apps open in an instant. Reply
  • Coup27 - Thursday, September 01, 2011 - link

    fhaddad78 I concur. I am going to be building a small ITX system next month for a friend and I couldn't decide on either 64GB M4, 470 or slightly more expensive 80GB 320. Reading reviews on the 470 and the M4 question their ability to maintain their speed over the months of use.

    I've had an X25-M 80GB in my current setup for 8 months now running the Optimizer once a week. I decided to do something I've never done to my SSD, which is to benchmark it. After 8 months of use the values were exactly what Anand's graphs showed for my SSD when it was doing the rounds on the reviews.

    Think my decsion has been made. Deffinately worth a little extra for the quality of the product.
    Reply
  • daidaloss - Thursday, September 01, 2011 - link

    My G2 80GB been running for a year and a half with practically the same performance as the moment I've bought it.
    Intel definitely nailed with the G2 series.
    G2 are definitely worth all the money.
    Reply
  • danwat12345 - Sunday, November 13, 2011 - link

    Yea me to. G2 80GB, still keeps up with the new stuff with random reads on SATA 2! Reply
  • iRoNeTiK - Friday, September 02, 2011 - link

    I got the same test results when I updated my m4 128GB my firmware to 0009 as well, thumbs up! Reply
  • METALMORPHASIS - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 - link

    And still not ready for prime time. Reply
  • lin41411 - Monday, September 12, 2011 - link

    256GB M4 is about $430...1GB $1.67
    128GB M4 is about $200...1GB $1.56
    64GB M4 is about $110...1GB $1.71
    the price in China...
    so,as a Chinese,I really can not understand why we are low income, but the price is high
    T T
    Reply

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