Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/2391

MTRON MSP 7000 SSD - Raptors Beware

by Gary Key on December 3, 2007 4:00 PM EST

When it comes to performance-oriented solutions in the SSD market, you need look no further than MTRON. Considering they have only been around for two years, this is an impressive feat. MTRON is focusing their engineering efforts entirely on Solid State Drives (SSD). We recently looked at the MTRON MSD-S25032 32GB 2.5" product which advertised maximum read speeds of 100 MB/sec, write speeds of 80 MB/sec, and burst speeds up to 150 MB/sec - all that combined with random access speeds of around 0.1ms. Those specifications far exceed any of the latest SanDisk and Samsung consumer SSD products; these boast 67MB/sec read speeds and 45MB/sec write speeds.

Even then, MTRON was already planning their next product with maximum read speeds of 120 MB/sec and write speeds of 90 MB/sec (and the continued random access speeds of around 0.1ms, of course). The new drives would include improved wear-leveling and bad block algorithms along with enhanced power management capabilities. Dubbed the MTRON SSD Pro, this series features the MSP 7000 lineup that targets the enterprise computing market. MTRON designed these products for the Enterprise sector, but they also make great drives for enthusiasts who "need" blinding speeds for their notebook or desktops, benchmarking activities, or other usage - provided they can live with limited capacities that currently top out at 64GB. This sounds similar to the path the Western Digital Raptor series took in the desktop market - albeit with prices that make the Raptor look downright economical.

Our expectations were set to high levels with the S25032 product, now known as the MSD 3000 family. We waited for the MSP 7000 series to arrive, and it finally did late last week. Not only did our good friends at the Neo Store send us a 32GB MSP 7000, they also delivered an extra one for multi-drive testing, and a 64GB drive should arrive soon. The performance differences between the 2.5" and 3.5" models are nil, so we elected to review the 2.5" drives in order to provide results on notebook and desktop systems along with RAID 0/1 numbers.

Our preview today is just that, and it is short. We just mentioned RAID, but testing of that is still in progress, so stay tuned. We are currently testing these drives on a variety of platforms, chipsets, and operating systems to provide you with an in-depth review of this technology in the near future. However, after receiving numerous requests for test results after featuring this drive in our Holiday Buyers' Guide, we decided to post a few early numbers.

One item of concern from our previous SSD reviews is the performance of the Intel ICH9 and ICH8 chipsets that cap sustained transfer rates at around 80 MB/sec. This performance limitation still holds true and Intel is working on a solution. This limitation greatly affects the synthetic programs like HD Tach and HD Tune, but in actual application benchmarks, we see less of a difference (1%~4%) in performance between the NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel chipsets. However, due to the current Intel bottleneck, we are using a test system that consists of an AMD Phenom 9600, Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DQ6 with AMD 790FX/SB600 chipsets, 4GB of OCZ Reaper PC2-6400, and Windows Vista 64 Ultimate.

Now, let's take a quick look at this drive and see how it compares to the top performing desktop drive, the venerable Western Digital Raptor 150GB.

HD Tach 3.01


Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Our HD Tach test results heavily favor the MTRON unit in all aspects except the burst rates. The MTRON's sustained transfer rate of 108.5MB/sec is about 43% better than the WD Raptor drive at 75.5MB/sec. The biggest difference is the MTRON drive holds the 108MB/sec transfer rate across the entire drive while the Raptor progressively decreases to around 52MB/sec at the end of the drive. The previous MTRON STR results were 95.1MB/sec, which is about 13% slower than the new drive. The burst rates of the Raptor at 128.8MB/sec are slightly higher than the 115.7MB/sec rates on the MTRON drive, but burst rates are not nearly as large of a factor as other indicators. Access times greatly favors the MTRON drive at .1ms compared to 8.4ms on the Raptor drive.

HD Tune 2.54


Western Digital Raptor 150GB

The difference is slightly lower overall with HD Tune versus HD Tach, but the story remains the same. In our HD Tune test, the Raptor's sustained transfer rate of 72.1MB/sec is around 30% lower than the MTRON MSP 7000 SSD drive at 102.8MB/sec. More importantly is the fact that the MTRON drive again holds the 102MB/sec transfer rate across the entire drive while the Raptor progressively decreases to 50.4MB/sec at the end of the drive. The previous MTRON STR results were 90.8MB/sec, which is about 12% slower than the new drive. The burst rates of the Raptor at 100.6MB/sec are about 12% better compared to the MTRON unit. Access time greatly favors the MTRON.

PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmark available from Futuremark, and is available only on Windows Vista. Similar to the venerable PCMark05 in its makeup, Vantage modernizes the criteria and test methodology to reflect what users may encounter when running the new Windows OS.

For the HD test suite, the white paper breaks the tests down as:

  • Windows Defender: Windows Defender performs a scan operation, resulting in a read-intensive (99.5% read, 0.5% write) benchmark reflecting a common task in Windows Vista.
  • Gaming Performance: Streaming performance is measured using actual game mechanics found in Alan Wake. This test is nearly all read (99.95% read, 0.05% write) in nature.
  • Windows Photo Gallery: A large collection of images is imported into Windows Photo Gallery. This is the first of the tests which bring write performance into account in a meaningful way, with a roughly 84% read, 16% write ratio.
  • Windows Vista Startup: Simulates Windows Vista start-up operations, producing a test that breaks down to roughly 85% read and 15% write operations.
  • Windows Movie Maker: The first of the Vantage tests which comes close to equally dividing read and write operations (54% read, 46% write), concurrent video performance is tested both for video read and skip performance, as well as video write operations.
  • Windows Media Center: Performing three distinct tasks:
    • SDTV video playback
    • SDTV video streaming to Extender for Windows Media Center
    • SDTV video recording
  • Windows Media Player: Adds music to Windows Media Player. This test reverts to favoring read operations (78% read, 22% write).
  • Application Loading: The following applications are loaded:
    • Microsoft Word 2007
    • Adobe Photoshop CS2
    • Internet Explorer 7
    • Outlook 2007

The total benchmark is roughly 87% reads and 13% writes in nature. We run each test five times per drive, producing a median score that we use for comparison in our results today.

The MTRON unit just destroys the Raptor in the read sensitive tests; the combination of its 0.1ms access time and 108MB/sec sustained transfer rates are too much for the Raptor. However, in the Windows Movie Maker and Windows Media Center tests that balances read and write operations, we see the Raptor performing better thanks to its superior write speeds (77.4MB/sec to 71.9MB/sec). The SSD drives do not perform as well as the Raptor with streaming write operations, a pattern we have noticed in previous testing. Note that performance here concentrates on the storage subsystem and does not represent real-world results; as always, the hard drive is only one part of the entire computer ecosystem. If you are running applications that stress the CPU and GPU, the total performance difference between the Raptor and the MTRON SSD often ends up being negligible.

First Thoughts

Our limited testing today shows both the strengths and weaknesses of this particular drive when comparing it to one of the best performing consumer desktop drives under Vista. The read and write speeds are improved over the previous MTRON drive series, allowing it to further it extend its lead over the Raptor in most benchmarks. However, this drive (actually SSDs in general) still has trouble with large block writes that you typically find in video applications. We will see the same general performance in our video application benchmarks in the full review. The performance in these particular applications is still excellent, but not quite as good as the Raptor yet.

Overall, the MTRON's vastly superior access and random read rates generate top scores in the balance of the PCMark Vantage tests. In fact, in just about every test we have run to date under Vista or XP, this drive is superior to any other drive available in the consumer space and most in the enterprise sector. Add to this the fact that the drive is completely silent, offers significantly better thermals relative to any mechanical drive, and the ability to withstand extreme vibration and shock, and it seems we have a winner.

Now for the bad news: the main drawbacks to this drive are its limited capacity options (16GB to 64GB) and a price tag that will make you think more than twice before whipping out your credit card. The 32GB drive we are testing lists for around $1199 currently, which is significantly better than the $1999 list price of the previous 32GB drive at its introduction. That still comes out to $37.50 per GB of storage - about what you pay for current good DDR2-800 memory! Based upon these two drawbacks, we doubt the high performance SSD drives from MTRON will revolutionize the desktop market anytime soon. However, current pricing trends ($2000 down to $1200 in just a few months) and future capacity growths might make it happen in the next three to five years. Until then, this particular SSD technology is best suited for the road warriors and benchmark junkies. We will see why in our next review.

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