SSD Roundup: Corsair F180 vs. Zalman S Series vs. Kingston SSDNow V+100

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Corsair Force F180 180GB (US$385, $2.14/GB)

From a performance standpoint the Corsair Force F180 was lacking, at least when it came to our test suite. It was at a disadvantage in this regard as we use a large amount of compressed data (JPEGs, MP3s, XVID-encoded AVIs) which negates one of the main advantages of its SandForce controller. This was definitely a factor as replacing the files in our large file copy test with completely uncompressed AVIs, resulted in a 40% speed boost. While our test suite may be biased against SandForce based drives, the argument can be made that it is a more accurate representation of real world conditions given how much data is compressed in modern times. Uncompressed images, music, and videos in particular are very rare these days. The drive's energy efficiency was good, very close to that of the OCZ Vertex 2 60GB. SandForce drives appear to be a suitable alternative for laptop users considering upgrading to power hungry 7200RPM hard drives for greater performance.

Unfortunately the Force F180 is severely overpriced compared to the OCZ Vertex 2 180GB (US$300) which uses the same SandForce controller. In addition, the considerably faster SandForce/RAID/PCI-E combination of the OCZ RevoDrive 180GB is only slightly more expensive at US$400.

Zalman S Series 128GB (US$230, $1.80/GB)

We were skeptical at first about whether Zalman, a rookie to the storage game could bring to market a competitive product, but the S Series 128GB was a surprisingly fast and consistent drive that performed well in all of our tests. The S Series also has a mini-USB connector right on the chassis giving it a high convenience factor. If the SSD is going to be used as a notebook hard drive replacement, it can be connected through USB for partitioning, cloning, and/or moving data. Unfortunately it isn't really a great laptop replacement drive as its power consumption, particularly during seek was surprisingly high, similar to 7200 RPM HDDs. It also has the dubious distinction of being the first SSD we've encountered that actually generates noise, a high frequency squeal akin to coil whine whenever actively working. In a notebook, with the user so close to the drive, we imagine it could become quite annoying. It's much better suited as a desktop drive where energy efficiency isn't essential, and the noise can be drowned out by other components and/or muffled by the case and by distance.

At US$230, the 128GB variant is priced about the same as the Force 120GB, but approximately US$20 more than the Vertex 2 120GB. The extra 8GB doesn't quite make up for the price difference, but the better all-around speed is worth it, provided the noise isn't an issue for you... or in your sample. Admittedly, it is at a very low level, likely to be inaudible inside a PC. It is also possible that this noise is specific to our particular sample; until we examine a handful of other samples of the same model, there is no way for us to know for sure. [Editor's Note: Alas, we run up against the wall of sample variance, again.]

Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB ($165 for the bare version, $1.72/GB)

The Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB was second to the S Series 128GB in overall real world performance. Well, actually it lagged a bit in many of our tests, but was boosted by an exceptional showing in our TrueCrypt and ExactFile application tests, finishing only slightly behind the OCZ RevoDrive. It is perhaps the most versatile of the three as it delivers decent performance, its power consumption is very low when idle at an incredible 0.20W, and it has an O/S independent garbage collection scheme that is greatly beneficial to operating systems that lack TRIM support like Mac OS X and Windows XP. The down side is the aggressiveness of the garbage collection will eventually wear out the cells faster than a typical SSD.

The bare version of the drive is affordable at US$165, while the retail upgrade kit version which includes an external enclosure, cables, and mounting hardware costs a bit more. It is priced pretty well, on par with the smaller 80GB variants of the Vertex 2 and Intel X25-M, though if you tend toward the cautious side, you may consider the extra 16GB to be simply a buffer for when the drive's cells begin to wear out. [Editor's Note: Keep in mind the 1,000,000 hours claimed MTBF.]

Many thanks to Corsair , Zalman, and Kingston for the Force F180 180GB, S Series 128GB, and SSDNow V+100 96GB SSD samples.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

OCZ RevoDrive 120GB PCI Express SSD
Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB & Momentus 750GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1TB vs. WD Caviar Blue 1TB
Consumer SSD Battle: WD, Kingston, OCZ, Intel
WD Caviar Black 2TB & VelociRaptor 600GB
Seagate Momentus XT: The Best of Both Worlds?

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