SSD Rankings and Recommendations

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SSD Rankings and Recommendations

Postby Maximus on Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:54 am

The following is based on my investigations for purchase of my own solid state drive (SSD). Props to Xbitlabs for providing the baseline Sandforce ranking chart, and numerous other sites for the reviews and teardowns.

I used to not advocate getting an SSD, but now that I've used one, it increases responsiveness of your system immensely, assuming you don't have other bottlenecks like CPU or RAM. (Any recent dual or quad core processor, and 4GB of RAM or more, I would not consider a bottleneck). Also, the price has now dropped to around $1/GB on sales, particularly for the Tier 3 and 4 drives. Due to last year's floods in Thailand, the price of even the smaller (~500GB these days) magnetic hard drives will stay elevated through 2012, so the price gap has narrowed from both directions, making SSDs even more attractive.

An SSD will generally not improve your performance in games. It will decrease level load times just a bit, but your money is better invested in new/additional GPUs than in anything else for gaming.

All drives I looked at are latest generation SATA III drives. An SSD is a worthwhile upgrade in a SATA II system as well. Performance gains are still seen in SATA I systems with and without AHCI (like my laptop), but you won't see anywhere near the full potential.

I focused on 120/128GB drives since I consider that the sweet spot for usable space (60 being constraining) and anything else being too expensive. SSDs have their greatest strength at random read performance, something magnetic hard drives struggle at. I see the best usage of an SSD being in the “OS + apps” scenario. Don't yews an SSD for mass media storage, unless you're super rich; it's just not cost effective. Using an SSD as your C drive and a magnetic hard drive as your D drive/external storage drive gives a great balance of performance and storage space without breaking the bank.

The SSD market is very confusing, though it can be reduced to a rather simple matrix of controller and NAND flash type. A lot of the throughput marketing numbers used are maximums, or taken at high queue depths, and not necessarily representative of real world performance.

I am not aware of any “bad” SSDs on this list; even the Tier IV ones are still going to be considerably faster than a magnetic hard drive. Of course you pay a premium for the higher ranked drives, but frankly unless you're doing heavy file operations, you don't need that much extra speed.

When it comes to brands, I would say ADATA, Zalman, Super Talent and Verbatim would be “second tier”; not that they're historically bad companies, but they're relatively new to the SSD market. The other brands I would put at basically equal in brand recognition; choosing between them would come down to price and questions of warranty and support quality. Warranty is standard at 3 years, though some like Intel and Plextor (possibly others, I didn't check them all) are 5 years.


Some general notes about the technologies:
As you see, Sandforce is by far the most popular controller. The Sandforces will outperform everybody else in sustained read/write due to the yews of compression. However, the Sandforces will lose some of their write performance advantage over time due to the way they recycle used NAND cells.
The Marvells do not yews compression, and will generally have better performance over the long term, due to better garbage collection, among other things. Due to the lack of compression, is they will probably wear out faster than a Sandforce based drive, but not by any amount worrisome to the average user. Other things being equal, 32nm NAND will last longer than 2Xnm, so you could pay more up front for that if you really wanted to. See also life expectancy below.
Samsung and the OCZ Indilinx proprietary controllers are relatively new to the scene and are good choices as well. Samsung and Indilinx seem to emphasize read performance to the detriment of write performance; for most users this shouldn't be a big issue.
Life expectancy varies considerably with usage, and depends both on the controller and the NAND flash; suffice it to say, for all but heavy media/server usage, the rest of your system will be obsolete before you have to worry about flash endurance issues. We're talking 10+ years for the average user. Intel calculated one of their drives, can't remember if it was the 510 or 520 series, at 18 year life with 10GB written a day, which is a lot more than most users will do. Smaller drives will wear out faster than larger drives because there are fewer flash cells to share the load.

Sandforce SF-2281 SSDs
Tier I
Synchronous 32nm Toggle NAND
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS
Patriot Wildfire
Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe

Tier II
Synchronous 25nm ONFI 2.2 NAND
Intel 520

Tier III
Synchronous 25nm ONFI 2.2 NAND
ADATA S511
Corsair Force GT
Kingston Hyper X
OCZ Vertex 3
Patriot Pyro SE
Zalman F1
Mushkin Enhanced Chronos

Synchronous 24nm Toggle NAND
Sandisk Extreme

Asynchronous 25nm NAND
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro

Tier IV
Asynchronous 25nm NAND
ADATA S510
Corsair Force 3
OCZ Agility 3
OCZ Solid 3
Patriot Pyro
Kingston V+200
Super Talent Tera/Drive Nova
(Verbatim 47378)

Marvell 88SS9174 SSDs
Tier I
Synchronous 32nm Toggle NAND
Corsair Performance Pro
Plextor M3
Synchronous 24nm Toggle NAND
Plextor M3 Pro

Tier II
Synchronous 25nm ONFI 2.2 NAND
Crucial m4

Other SSDs
Samsung proprietary
Synchronous 24nm Toggle NAND
Samsung 830

OCZ Indilinx Everest
Synchronous 25nm ONFI 2.2 NAND
OCZ Octane
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Windows 7 Optimization for SSD Guide

Postby Maximus on Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:05 pm

The following is a list of recommended tweaks for Windows 7 while running a solid state drive. You can run an SSD with an older OS, but you have to do a lot more manually. Windows 7 detects SSDs during install and configures itself accordingly; older OSes do not. However, it doesn't do a perfect job, so the below list gets Windows 7 fully optimized. The main emphasis is to reduce writes to the SSD by disabling or moving a lot of temporary files, thus prolonging the life of the drive. Credit to the dozen or so guides I read to compile this list.
All of the following have been tested on both my desktop and my laptop. My laptop is running Windows 7 32bit with a 64GB Crucial M4 SSD, and the desktop runs Windows 7 64bit with a 120GB Patriot Pyro SE. The browser cache sizes are set to 512MB which is probably the upper limit of reasonable, especially if you're not on a ramdisk; adjust as you like.

General Optimization Tweaks for Windows 7
Disable GUI boot (Run > msconfig; Boot > No GUI boot).
If you have a minimum of 4GB of RAM (better, 8GB+), create a ramdisk using Dataram RAMDisk. Typically make it one quarter of your entire RAM size (max 4GB total supported by the software).
Create folders for Temp, User\Temp, and browser caches (Temporary Internet Files, Firefox_Cache, and Chrome_Cache).
Format as NTFS and save the image. Set to load image on startup.
Redirect system and user TEMP and TMP variables, as well as all browser disk caches, to yews the above directories. (Computer > Properties > Advanced > Environment Variables; User variables TEMP and TMP > Edit > Ramdisk:\User\Temp; System variables TEMP and TMP > Edit > Ramdisk:\Temp).
IE Cache (IE > Internet Options > Browsing history Settings > Move folder > Ramdisk:\Temporary Internet Files).
Firefox_Cache (about:config > browser.cache.disk.capacity = 524288, browser.cache.disk.parent_directory Ramdisk:\Firefox_Cache).
Chrome_Cache (create shortcut to Chrome; change Target to C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe –disk-cache-dir=”Ramdisk:\Chrome_Cache” --disk-cache-size=536870912--media-cache-size=536870912)

SSD Optimization Tweaks for Windows 7
Windows 7 installer should align the partitions with the SSD NAND blocks. (To verify, Run > cmd (as admin); wmic partition get Name, StartingOffset, Size; fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo C:. You also need to know the NAND erase block size (typically 512KB) and NAND page size (typically 4KB). To be aligned, Partition Offset / NAND Page Size, Partition Offset / File Allocation Unit Size, and Partition Offset / NAND Erase Block Size must all be integers).
Disable Hibernation (Run > cmd; powercfg.exe -H off).
Disable System Restore (Computer > Properties > System Protection> Off).
Disable or fix size of pagefile (Computer > Properties > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced > Virtual Memory Change > Custom Size > Initial and Maximum sizes > Set). MS recommends to leave enabled; minimum initial size without Windows complaining is 512MB.
Disable memory dumps or set to small size (Computer > Properties > Advanced > Startup and Recovery Settings > Write debugging information > Small memory dump). Windows will complain if pagefile is disabled in combination with this setting.
Disable defragmentation (Administrative Tools > Task Scheduler > Microsoft > Windows > Defrag; Disable).
Disable Reliability Monitor (Administrative Tools > Task Scheduler > Microsoft > Windows > RAC; Disable).
Disable drive indexing (Computer > Disk(C) > Properties > General > Index this drive for faster searching). Must be done for each drive individually.
Enable write caching (Computer > Disk(C) > Properties > Hardware > disk device > Change settings > Policies > Better performance. Optionally check Turn off Windows write-cache buffer flushing on the device).
Disable NTFS date stamping (Run > regedit.exe; HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/System/CurrentControlSet/Control/FileSystem; NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate 1. Optionally NtfsDisable8dot3NameCreation 1).
Disable Prefetch, Superfetch, and BootTrace (Run > regedit.exe; HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SYSTEM/CurrentControlSet/Control/Session Manager/Memory Management/PrefetchParameters; EnableBootTrace 0, EnablePrefetecher 0; EnableSuperfetch 0).
Ensure AHCI is enabled (Run > regedit.exe; HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/System/CurrentControlSet/services/msachi; Start 0).
Ensure TRIM is enabled (Run > cmd [as admin]; fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify 0. yews set intsead of query to toggle TRIM).
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Re: SSD Rankings and Recommendations

Postby Max Rambone on Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:44 am

Nice.

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Re: SSD Rankings and Recommendations

Postby GUARD!AN on Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:28 pm

Interesting guide, I have a bunch of Sandisk Extremes and Samsung proprietaries installed on all my PCs, and I have been more than happy with them. I bought them entirely based on reviews posted on Newegg, and so far so good! Never realized there was such a difference in the underlying technology across SSDs :D
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Re: SSD Rankings and Recommendations

Postby Max Rambone on Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:23 pm

Eggheads know their shiz.

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Re: SSD Rankings and Recommendations

Postby Maximus on Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:05 am

If it stores and pushes bits, the EE's job is done. Most people operate above that level and don't care, but the low level stuff is the most important factor in determining speed.

Not that I intend to keep this up to date forever, but if I get unlazy I'll add the recently released Vertex 4 and soon to be released Intel 330.
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