Intel X25-M SSD: Intel Delivers One of the World's Fastest Drivesby Anand Lal Shimpi on September 8, 2008 4:00 PM EST
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Enter the Poorly Designed MLC
The great thing about everyone making MLC drives based on the same design is it helps drive cost down, which gives us a very affordable product. After rebate you can buy a 64GB OCZ Core SSD, an MLC drive, for $240 from Newegg. Compared to the $1000+ that 64GB SSDs were selling for a year ago, this is good cost savings. The bad thing about everyone using the same design however is if there's a problem that affects one of the drives, it affects all of them. And indeed, there is a problem.
The symptoms are pretty obvious: horrible stuttering/pausing/lagging during the use of the drive. The drive still works, it's just that certain accesses can take a long time to complete. It's a lot like using a slow laptop hard drive and trying to multitask, everything just comes to a halt.
I first discovered this problem a couple of months ago when I started work on an article looking at the performance of a SSD in a Mac Pro as a boot/application drive. Super Talent sent me one of its 3.5” drives, which I had assumed was a SLC drive. Application launches were ridiculously fast, but I noticed something very strange when I was using my machine. Starting to type in a document, or sending an IM, or even opening a new tab in Safari would sometimes be accompanied by a second-long pause. At first I assumed it was a problem with my drive or with the controller, or perhaps a combination of the drive, the SATA controller on the Mac Pro’s motherboard and OS X itself. I later found out it was an MLC drive and thus began my investigation.
SuperTalent had received a lot of attention for its SSDs, and rightfully so - they were starting to be affordable. OCZ however quickly took the spotlight with its Core SSD, finally bringing the price of a 64GB MLC SSD to below $300. Users flocked to the Core and other similarly priced drives, because if you looked at the marketed specs of the drive you were basically getting greater than SLC performance, at a fraction of the cost:
|Advertised Specs||OCZ Core (MLC)||OCZ (SLC)|
|Read||Up to 143MB/s||Up to 100MB/s|
|Write||Up to 93MB/s||Up to 80MB/s|
|Price||< $300||> $600|
However the real world performance didn't match up.
Let's start with the types of benchmarks that we usually see run in SSD reviews, here's a quick run of PCMark Vantage's HDD. Vantage paints the Core as a screamer:
|PCMark Vantage HDD Test|
|OCZ Core (JMicron JMF602, MLC)||8117|
|OCZ (Samsung, SLC)||12143|
|Western Digital VelociRaptor (10,000 RPM SATA)||6325|
Digging a bit deeper we only see one indication of a problem, performance in the Media Center test is significantly slower than the VelociRaptor - but overall it's much faster, what could one test actually mean?
|Windows Defender||Gaming||Picture Import||Vista Startup||Windows Movie Maker||Media Center||WMP||App Loading|
|OCZ Core (JMicron JMF602, MLC)||48.1MB/s||72.5MB/s||90.4MB/s||47.9MB/s||23.2MB/s||33MB/s||17.8MB/s||20.3MB/s|
|OCZ (Samsung, SLC)||69.3MB/s||71.8MB/s||86.9MB/s||63MB/s||43.7MB/s||65.6MB/s||33.8MB/s||39.9MB/s|
|Western Digital VelociRaptor (10,000 RPM SATA)||27.5MB/s||20.1MB/s||59.0MB/s||22.9MB/s||58.5MB/s||113.3MB/s||15.2MB/s||7.6MB/s|
If we turn to SYSMark however, the picture quickly changes. The OCZ SLC drive is now 30% faster than the MLC drive, and performance in the Video Creation suite is literally half on the MLC drive. Something is amiss.
|SYSMark 2007 Overall||E-Learning||Video Creation||Productivity||3D|
|OCZ Core (JMicron JMF602, MLC)||138||143||111||134||168|
|OCZ (Samsung, SLC)||177||161||200||178||172|
|Western Digital VelociRaptor (10,000 RPM SATA)||179||155||222||177||169|