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

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

March 24, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Corsair Force F180 180GB SSD
Zalman S Series 128GB SSD
Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB SSD
Sample Supplier
Corsair Kingston Technology
Street Price
US$385 US$230 US$165
(bare version)

In this roundup, we examine the performance of three SSDs from Corsair, Zalman, and Kingston. The drives are similar in that they all support TRIM, carry three year warranties and list 1,000,000 hours as the MTBF. However they use different controllers, offer different capacities, and sell at different prices. They distinguish themselves in different ways, whether it be real world performance, energy efficiency, and/or noise — yes, one of them is clearly audible, at least on the test bench.



The boxes.

Corsair Force F180 180GB

The Corsair Force series is built around the ever popular SandForce 1200 controller found in the OCZ Vertex 2/3, OCZ Revo, G.Skill Phoenix series and numerous others. The SandForce controller uses sophisticated compression techniques to reduce the amount of data that needs to be read/written, boosting performance in the process. However for data that is already compressed, as much data tends to be (images, music and videos in particular), it may actually be slower than competition. With a capacity of 180GB, it isn't a cheap drive either, costing close to US$400.


The Corsair Force F180 180GB SSD.



Product Details: Corsair Force F180 180GB

CSSD-F180GB2
(from the
product web page
)

Features
Latest generation SandForce controller and MLC NAND flash for fast performance
TRIM support (O/S support required)
No moving parts for increased durability and reliability and quieter operations over standard hard disk drives
Decreased power usage for increased notebook or netbook battery life
2.5" form factor for your portable computer needs
Included 2.5" to 3.5" bracket for installation on your desktop computer
Three Year Warranty
Specifications
SSD Unformatted Capacity 180 GB
Sequential Read/Write (using ATTO Disk Benchmark) 285 MB/s sequential read — 275 MB/s sequential write 50K IOPs (4K aligned)
Interface SATA 3Gb/s
Technology High-reliability MLC NAND flash
Form Factor 2.5 inch
DRAM Cache Memory none
Weight 80g
Voltage 5V ±5%
Power Consumption (active) 2.0W Max
Power Consumption (idle/standby/sleep) 0.5W Max
S.M.A.R.T. Support Yes
Shock 1500 G
MTBF 1,000,000 hours

Zalman S Series 128GB

Zalman is a newcomer to the SSD market, or rather storage in general, being primarily a case, cooling, and accessory manufacturer. They have two lines of SSDs, the N Series, yet another that features a SandForce controller, and the S Series which uses a JMicron JMF616 controller. The components are enclosed with a typical brush metal housing with one twist: a mini-USB port that makes it both an internal and external drive.

Perhaps more interesting than Zalman's jump into the storage game is the lack of enthusiasm they've managed to not pump into this launch. The product page on their website briskly list the features and specifications of the drive, but there's no extra documentation or even marketing blurbs to be seen. It seems like Zalman is simply looking to get in on the action without putting out much of an effort.


The Zalman S Series 128GB SSD.


Product Details: Zalman S Series 128GB

SSD0128S1 (from the
product web page
)
Features
Optimized for AHCI Mode
Support Win7 Trim Command
JMicron Technology
Ultra fast start-up and access speed
Reliable
Silent and low power operation
ROHS Compliant
Shock Resistance and Anti-Vibration
Dual Interface with SATA II & Mini-USB 2.0
128MB DDR2 Cache Buffer
Specifications
Sequential Read Up to 260MB/S
Write Performance Up to 210MB/S
Controller JMicron
NAND Flash MLC Intel
Current (mA) Write, Max/Min/Avg.: 688/441/614

Read, Max/Min/Avg.: 360/205/330

Idle Mode: 213

Suspend Mode (uA): <0.1
Watt Write, Max/Min/Avg.: 3.440/2.210/3.070

Read, Max/Min/Avg.:

1.800/1.030/1.650

Idle Mode: 1.070

Suspend Mode (uA): <0.5
MTBF 1,000,000.00 hours
Voltage DC 5.0V _ 5%
ECC Function 16 Bit / 512 Byte
Endurance 10,000 Program/Erase Cycles
Operating Temperature 0°C ~ 70°C

Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB

Kingston is a major SSD players, with their SSDNow series being particularly long-lived, having gone through several revisions already. The V series is their value line, composed of the V100 using a JMicron JMF618 controller, and the V+100, which is powered by a Toshiba T6UG1XBG controller. One of the main features of this controller is a low-level garbage collection function that works independently of the operating system. According to AnandTech, the garbage collection is unusually aggressive which will wear out the drive's cells faster, but keeps performance very close to that of a mint drive. The garbage collection function has one other advantage, it makes it a great fit for operating systems that lack TRIM support like Windows XP. It is not a coincidence that the Toshiba controller is also found in SSDs offered by Apple as their current version of OS X also lacks TRIM capability.


The Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB.

The V+100 housing appears to be sturdier than its competitors, heavy with a rough weathered texture. At approximately 130 grams it weighs twice as much as the Zalman and Corsair drives. Obviously the internals don't account for this weight difference as a PCB with a few NAND Flash chips aren't particularly hefty.

Product Details: Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB SVP100S2B/96GR (from the
product web page
)
Features
Innovative – Uses MLC NAND flash memory components.
Silent – Runs silent and cool with no moving mechanical parts.
Shock Proof – No moving mechanical parts so the SSD handles rougher conditions.
Supports S.M.A.R.T functions
Guaranteed – 3 year legendary Kingston warranty, 24/7 tech support
Specifications
Form Factor 2.5"
Interface SATA 1.5 Gb/sec. and 3.0 Gb/sec
Capacities* 64GB, 96GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Dimensions 69.85 x 100 x 9.5 mm
Weight – 128 - 151 grams
Storage temperatures -40 - 85°C
Operating temperatures 0 - 70°C
Vibration operating 2.7G
Vibration non-operating 20G
Sequential Read Throughput** 230MB/s
Sequential Write Throughput** 180MB/s
Power specs 3.6 W (TYP) Active / 0.05 W (TYP) Idle
MTBF 1,000,000 Hrs
* Please note: Some of the listed capacity on a Flash storage device is used for formatting and other functions and thus is not available for data storage. As such, the actual available capacity for data storage is less than what is listed on the products. For more information, go to Kingston's Flash Guide at www.kingston.com/Flash_Memory_Guide.

** Speed may vary due to host hardware, software and usage

EXTRAS

Few manufacturers offer their SSDs bare with nothing but the drive, and none of are samples are an exception (though there is a slightly cheaper version of the SSDNow V+100 with nothing but the drive in a plastic clamshell).


Corsair offers the simplest of the three packages, including just a metal 3.5" to 2.5" drive adapter.



The Zalman S Series drive ships with a USB cable to use its mini-USB port built directly on the chassis. The cable has two heads suggesting that the drive may use more power than a typical SSD.



The Zalman also had a blue activity LED under the label.



Our Kingston sample was part of a retail upgrade kit with 3.5" to 2.5" metal brackets, SATA data and power cables, a disc with cloning software, and an external hard drive enclosure with USB cable.



The enclosure is composed of thin, cheap plastic and has a simple release latch for opening/closing. It's a bare bones housing that doesn't even require screws to put together.



The enclosure has a pleasant blue activity light.

TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. As of mid-2008, we have been conducting most acoustics tests in our own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber, which results in more accurate, lower SPL readings than before, especially with noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured
and described. Performance is covered only lightly, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference
microphone and computer audio measurement system
. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

Summary of primary HDD testing tools:

Performance Test System:

Performance Test Tools:

Benchmark Details

  • Boot: Time elapsed from pressing the power button to the desktop with all system tray icons loaded (minus the average time to get the "loading Windows" screen, 16 seconds)
  • COD5: Load time for "Downfall" level.
  • Far Cry 2: Load time for initial screen plus one level.
  • ExactFile: Creating a MD5 check file of our entire test suite folder.
  • TrueCrypt: Creating a 8GB encrypted file container.
  • 3DMark06: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • PowerDVD: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • Small File Copy: Copy time for 1,278 files ranging from 10KB to 4MB
    in size (HTMLs, JPEGs and MP3s).
  • Large File Copy: Copy time for 4 files, 2 x 700MB and 2 x 1400MB
    in size (AVIs).

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the samples we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
telling everyone.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10~11 dBA and 21°C.

Real World Performance

A Windows 7 image loaded with our test suite was cloned to a 50GB partition
at the beginning of each drive and our entire
test suite was run start to finish 3 times. A reboot and defragmentation
was performed in between runs for mechanical hard drives.
Average times were collected for comparison.

Load times were very similar for the three drives, with the Zalman eking out a small victory offer the F180 and V+100.

The V+100 and S Series drives were very impressive in our application performance tests, coming in second and third respectively to the OCZ RevoDrive, which has a pair of SandForce controllers in RAID on a PCI-E 4x bus. The F180 was less impressive, though it did manage a minor victory over the Vertex 2.

In our file copy tests, the Zalman S Series led due to superior large file performance, followed by the F180. The V+100 was faster than both with small files, but slowed down considerably when copying larger files.

We were particularly impressed by the F180 as our large file test is comprised of heavily compressed XVID AVI files which do not really benefit from the SandForce controller's compression algorithms. As an experiment, we replaced the XVID AVIs with completely uncompressed versions with the same file sizes and found that the speed increased by about 40% on the F180. It's something to keep in mind if you work with a lot of uncompressed files.

In timed installs of PowerDVD and 3DMark06, the F180 and S Series drives pulled ahead once again, while the V+100 performed rather poorly, slower than the VelociRaptor, a 10,000RPM mechanical hard drive.

Real World Performance (Continued)

To assess the overall performance of the drives, we assigned a score of 25 to the drive that excelled most in each benchmark series (loading, application, file copying, and installation) and the rest proportionally, giving each benchmark set an equal weighting. If a drive is the fastest in all four categories, it receives a perfect 100 score.

The Zalman S Series 128GB had the best overall performance of the three. It was also impressively consistent, rising near the top in all of our tests. The Kingston V+100 was on the slow side in many of our tests, but the margins were small enough that its superb speed in TrueCrypt and ExactFile helped lift it to just a single point behind the Zalman. The Corsair F180 trailed behind the OCZ Vertex 2 in most of our tests, despite being based on the same SandForce controller.

HD Tune Results

While not entirely indicative of real world performance, HD Tune does give us a glimpse into a drive's inner workings. Its read transfer rate benchmark measures speed across the entire drive, giving us an idea of how fast it is over its entire span.

HD Tune read speeds were middle of the road for all three drives, about 190 MB/s maximum and 170~175MB/s on average.

All three drives had very low access times, with the S Series having the highest at 0.15 ms.

Power Consumption

The Corsair F180 180GB was very energy efficient, using less than 1W even when seeking, and only a tad more than the 60GB OCZ Vertex 2. The V+100's power consumption was excellent when idle, using a superb 0.2W, but was average when seeking, consuming 1.9W. The S Series drive used almost a full watt more when seeking, enough to eclipse mechanical 2.5" hard drives which rarely use more than 2.5W.

Noise

As solid state drives have no spinning platters or moving parts of any kind, they are effectively silent storage devices. It is possible that there could be a tiny bit of electronic noise (typically a high pitched squeal) being emitted, either intermittently depending on task, or continuously, but we have not encountered this phenomenon... until now.


The high frequency whine of the Zalman S Series is circled in green.

Our Corsair F180 and Kingston SSDNow V+100 samples were silent as were all the SSDs tested before them, but the Zalman S Series had a clearly audible whining sound whenever it was active. There is a remote possibility that this is related to the drive's built-in activity LED, but regardless of the cause, whenever the LED lit up, a high frequency spike (12~13 KHz) reared its ugly head.

[Editor's Note: Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the vertical scale of the frequency spectrum screen above seems a bit off. It is actually off by 20 dB; the entire scale should be scaled up by 20 dB so that the high frequency spike is at 5 dBA, not -15 dBA. Call it a minor operator error. The key question is whether this 5 dBA noise would be audible inside your PC. The answer, as usual, depends on what else is making noise inside your PC, how well your case is damped, and how much other noise is in your environment. For me, simple distance is enough: I cannot hear it unless my ear is within about a foot. Inside a PC, it's likely to be audible only to people with extremely sensitive hearing and very low ambient noise. A further question is whether this noise is typical of the model or specific to our sample.]

Drive Comparison Tables

As always we present to you our most recent vibration, noise, and power consumption tables for previously tested hard drives. Tested SSDs were not included as they generated no vibration or measurable noise. Use a perfect vibration score of '10' and our anechoic chamber's noise floor of 10~11 [email protected] for acoustics if you want to compare any of the drives below to an SSD.

NOTEBOOK HARD DRIVES
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

Hitachi Travelstar 5K320-250 250GB

May 2009

firmware FBE0C40C
8
Idle
13
1.08 W (0.85 W heads unloaded)
Seek
13~14
2.15 W
Seagate Momentus

XT 500GB

ST95005620AS


June 2010

firmware SD22
7
Idle
13~14
1.34 W (1.16 W heads unloaded)
Seek
14~15
2.08 W
Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B 500GB

February 2009

firmware PB4OC60G
8
Idle
14
0.7 W (0.6 W heads unloaded)
Seek
15
2.2 W
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB ST9500420AS

March 2009

firmware 0002SDM1
7
Idle
14
1.1 W (0.9 W heads unloaded)
Seek
15
2.35 W
Seagate Momentus 750GB ST9750420AS

October 2010

firmware 0001SDM1
8
Idle
15
1.06 W (0.85 W heads unloaded)
Seek
15~16
2.60 W
WD Scorpio Blue 500GB WD5000BEVT

September 2008

firmware 01.01A01
7
Idle
15
0.95 W (0.8 W heads unloaded)
Seek
16
2.5 W
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB ST9500325ASG

February 2009

firmware 0001SDM1
8
Idle
16
0.8 W (0.65 W heads unloaded)
Seek
18
2.2 W
WD Scorpio Blue 640GB WD6400BEVT

September 2009

firmware 01.01A01
7
Idle
15~16
0.87 W (0.74 W heads unloaded)
Seek
16
1.95 W


5,400 ~ 5,900 RPM DESKTOP HARD DRIVES
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

Samsung EcoGreen F2

500GB HD502HI


February 2009

firmware 1AG01114
8
Idle
12
3.2 W
Seek (AAM)
15
5.3 W
Seek
16
6.1 W
Seagate Pipeline HD .2

1TB ST31000424CS

April 2009

firmware SC13
7
Idle
12
4.3 W
Seek
16
7.3 W
WD Caviar Green

2TB WD20EARS

August 2010

firmware 01.00A01
9
Idle
12~13
2.8 W (2.4 W heads unloaded)
Seek
6.5 W
WD Caviar Green

1.5TB WD15EARS

March 2010

firmware 80.00A80
7
Idle
13
4.4 W (2.7 W heads unloaded)
Seek
5.8 W
WD Caviar Green

1.5TB WD15EADS

November 2009

firmware 01.00A01
9
Idle
13
4.5 W (2.8 W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
14
5.8 W
Seek
Seagate Pipeline HD .2

500GB ST3500414CS

March 2009

firmware SC13
8
Idle
13
2.7 W
Seek
14
6.7 W
WD Caviar Green

2TB WD20EADS


February 2009

firmware 01.00A01
7
Idle
13
6.4 W (4.0W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
6.5 W
Seek
13~14
6.5 W
Samsung EcoGreen F4

2TB HD204UI


August 2010

firmware 1AQ10001
7
Idle
13
4.0 W
Seek
15
5.6 W
WD Caviar Green

2TB WD20EVDS


November 2009

firmware 0.100A01
8~9
Idle
13~14
3.9 W
Seek
6.5 W
Seagate Pipeline HD

500GB ST3500321CS


July 2008

firmware SC14
6
Idle
14
4.1 W
Seek
15
6.9 W
Seagate Barracuda LP

2TB ST32000542AS

June 2009

firmware CC32
6
Idle
14
4.7W
Seek
17
7.9W
WD Caviar Green

3TB WD30EZRS

September 2010

firmware 01.00A01
8
Idle
14~15
4.1 W (3.7W heads unloaded)
Seek
7.5W
Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB ST2000DL003

November 2010

firmware CC31
8
Idle
14~15
4.6 W
Seek
17~18
7.3 W
Samsung EcoGreen F3

2TB HD203WI

May 2010

firmware 1AN10003
7
Idle
15~16
4.7 W
Seek (AAM)
17~18
6.1W
Seek
18~19
6.9 W


7,200 RPM DESKTOP HARD DRIVES
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

Hitachi Deskstar

7K1000.C 1TB HDS721010CLA332


February 2010

firmware JP4OA39C
5
Idle
13
4.6 W
Seek (AAM)
15~16
6.4 W
Seek
17
9.6 W
WD Caviar Blue

1TB WD10EALS

August 2010


firmware 05.01D05
7
Idle
14
5.2 W
Seek (AAM)
16~17
6.6 W
Seek
20
8.2 W
Seagate Pipeline HD

Pro 1TB ST31000533CS


September 2008

firmware SC15
4
Idle
15
7.1 W
Seek
16
10.1 W
Seagate Barracuda

7200.12 500GB

ST3500418AS

September 2009

firmware CC37
8
Idle
18
4.7 W
Seek
19~20
7.9W
WD Caviar Black

2TB WD2001FASS


August 2010

firmware 01.00101
6
Idle
16
6.3 W
Seek
21~23
10.5 W
Seagate Barracuda XT

2TB ST32000641AS


May 2010

firmware CC13
7~8
Idle
17
7.0 W
Seek
18~19
7.9 W
Seagate Barracuda

7200.11 1.5TB

ST31500341AS


October 2008

firmware SD17
4
Idle
17
8.8 W
Seek
19
10.7 W
WD Caviar Black

1TB WD1001FALS


July 2008

firmware 05.00K05
4
Idle
21
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
10.9 W
Seek
25
11.0 W


10,000 RPM DESKTOP DRIVES
Drive

Mfg date

firmware version
Vibration

1-10

(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics

([email protected])

Measured

Power

WD VelociRaptor 600GB WD6000HLHX

August 2010

firmware 04.05G04

(bare drive)
7
Idle
14~15
4.2 W
Seek
20~22
5.5 W
WD VelociRaptor 300GB WD3000GLFS

May 2008

firmware 03.03V01

(bare drive)
7
Idle
15
3.9 W
Seek (AAM)
20
5.7 W
Seek
22
6.2 W

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.

* * *

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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