Help choose SSDs for SPCR's test systems

Silencing hard drives, optical drives and other storage devices

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Help choose SSDs for SPCR's test systems

Post by MikeC » Tue Dec 04, 2007 10:23 am

We've been running two test systems all along -- one for CPU heatsink and HDD testing, another for video cards and coolers. These need to stay unchanged as long as possible -- the results from them can thus be fairly compared even when they are months or years apart.

In reality, there's usually some change or another about every 12-18 mos that's forced by component failure or the need to update a core component to better reflect realistic current conditions -- product life cycles are ridiculously short these days!!

I've been considering a move to a solid state drive, for a couple of reasons --

1) high reliability, rugged, no moving parts. Especially with the open bench heatsink test system, the HDD gets a fair amount of abuse. When it fails (which it recently did), this means several hours of work to reinstall the OS and other utilities to the drive. Not a horrific task, but tedious considering how often we do this (every time we test a motherboard, often with other things like barebones systems).

2) no noise -- so that the OS drive no longer needs to be dealt with when taking SPL measurements or making recordings

The requirements --

1) should be at least about the speed of a 5400rpm 2.5" drive
2) only needs to be big enough for the OS and some apps -- perhaps 8gb.
3) IDE/SATA interface
4) housed in something sturdy
5) cheap -- no SPCR still isn't making anyone here rich... maybe some of the advertiser and sponsors. :lol:

I might consider getting several for use with motherboard and barebones system testing as well. All the drives associated with that kind of testing take a beating around here...

So... which do you recommend? Send in your recommendations and reasons for them, I'm all ears.

PS-- if there are any SSD vendors reading this, pls feel free to offer a sponsorship, I'm sure we can make a deal. ;)
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Post by continuum » Tue Dec 04, 2007 11:26 am

Mtron's the current top of the heap, but they're pricey. Seriously pricey.

For the lowest-cost approach a CF card in a PATA adapter would work, but unless you buy an expensive Sandisk Extreme IV or similar, it'll be slow. Supertalent and Transcend's current SSDs have very slow write performance, which means they don't meet your performance requirements.

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3167
http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3064

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Post by leftheaded » Tue Dec 04, 2007 11:45 am

These two were the more affordable SSDs I found at newegg:
SAMSUNG MCBOE32G8APR-0XA00 1.8" 32GB IDE (SSD) - OEM $430
Transcend TS32GSSD25-M 2.5" 32GB IDE (SSD) - Retail $280

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Post by MikeC » Tue Dec 04, 2007 12:00 pm

continuum wrote:For the lowest-cost approach a CF card in a PATA adapter would work, but unless you buy an expensive Sandisk Extreme IV or similar, it'll be slow.
Not a bad idea at all. We could get away with as little as 4GB, I think.
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Post by andyb » Tue Dec 04, 2007 1:06 pm

We could get away with as little as 4GB, I think.
I know that 4GB is scraping the bottom of the barrel but this is cheap in the UK, and should only work out at about $120 USD - $126 Canadian Dollars, and if you can get away with 4GB then this might be OK.

http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductI ... tID=643259

The only long term solution would be SATA, because lets face it PATA is on its way out, and only 1 connection is even included current boards, and future generations wont have any. The drawback is the price, SATA SSD's cost a heap at the moment, so the realistic choise would be a PATA device, and a PCI>IDE adaptor if needed in the future.


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Post by spookmineer » Tue Dec 04, 2007 2:28 pm

Transcend has a similar item (not even sure, as I hardly know anything about the technology).
Its' model number is TS4GIFD25.

Prices here range from € 80 to € 100.

[Confused because I don't even know the difference between "flash disk" and Solid state disk" - on several other site though, this model number is referred to as IDE Solid State Hard Drive].

They ofcourse also offer SATA models
Last edited by spookmineer on Tue Dec 04, 2007 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Turas » Tue Dec 04, 2007 2:31 pm

as an ealier poster said, I would stick with Sata drives as the IDE is fading quickly.
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Post by MikeC » Tue Dec 04, 2007 3:11 pm

spookmineer wrote:Transcend has a similar item (not even sure, as I hardly know anything about the technology).
Its' model number is TS4GIFD25.

Prices here range from € 80 to € 100.

[Confused because I don't even know the difference between "flash disk" and Solid state disk" - on several other site though, this model number is referred to as IDE Solid State Hard Drive].
The specs state...
Read up to 26MB/s, Write up to 11MB/s (2GB, 4GB) (with UDMA Mode4)
Read up to 20MB/s, Write up to 11MB/s (8GB) (with UDMA Mode4)
These look like about half the speed of the worst 2.5" drive performance... which might be acceptable if all we're doing is CPU stress testing.
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Post by spookmineer » Tue Dec 04, 2007 3:28 pm

Sorry :(
Andyb's link didn't state the specs of the model and I didn't think there could be much difference in performance.

After searching, the Samsung does have better performance:
read: 53MB/s • write: 30MB/s

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Post by KenAF » Tue Dec 04, 2007 3:30 pm

Sandisk 32Gb SATA @ $550 from Dell.com

The Sandisk offers 50+% better performance than the Transcend and 20+% better performance than the Samsung SSD products. Benchmarks here.

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Post by MikeC » Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:09 pm

KenAF wrote:Sandisk 32Gb SATA @ $550 from Dell.com

The Sandisk offers 50+% better performance than the Transcend and 20+% better performance than the Samsung SSD products. Benchmarks here.
Don't need that kind of performance or price.
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Post by leftheaded » Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:11 pm

investigate http://neostore.com/. They have several SSDs under $400 now. example:

MTRON MOBI 3000 SATA 2.5" 16GB SSD $397
100MB/s read. 80MB/s write, 0.1ms access time. New & factory sealed in English packaging. In stock, ships within 1 day.


i'm so stoked that SSD is finally becoming a reality. not too long and we'll all laugh that we used these old spinning disks :)

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Post by spookmineer » Tue Dec 04, 2007 5:34 pm

You could turn them into speakers if you have no further use for them...

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Post by Felger Carbon » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:16 am

With flash media, the write rate is dependent on the size of the file being written. At least a 1MB file is needed to top out the speed of a Transcendent 266X CF-IDE. The write speed of lotsa tiny files? Miserable, pathetic, lousy...

If possible, find out about the write speed of lotsa small files before you spend big bucks for a SSD.

You're gonna buy several of these SSDs? Have you already robbed the bank, or is that in the planning stages? :P

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Post by vimaxus » Wed Dec 05, 2007 1:27 am

What about a USB flash disk with somewhat better performance like a Transcend Jetflash. In this review it seems it's not that far off from some of the SSD and the price is MUCH lower.

I think in terms of future-proof the ability to use USB sticks as main drives is pretty safe... I see it implemented more and more.

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Post by jojo4u » Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:04 am

Does it need to run Linux or Windows?

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Post by andyb » Wed Dec 05, 2007 5:32 am

What about a USB flash disk with somewhat better performance like a Transcend Jetflash. In this review it seems it's not that far off from some of the SSD and the price is MUCH lower.
That review is 2-years old their are faster models out now, and even the new ones might prove not to be fast enough for general testing usage.

One thing to remember with USB Pen Drives is that their CPU usage is quite a lot higher than with IDE/SATA devices, whether this is going to be an issue with any of the testing SPCR will be doing I dont know, and the usage is generally higher the faster the device because of USB overheads.

Here is a review translated from German about the OCZ ATV Turbo 4GB stick, but it also has other fast stick including 8GB models, itw worth a look.

http://translate.google.com/translate?u ... en&ie=UTF8

And here is a note about the CPU usage.

http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/1097/2

Quote:

"Oddly enough the CPU utilization is 11% for the Flash Voyager GT, which is much higher than both of the other two drives. This is worth noting if you are planning to use the Flash Voyager GT with an older computer, as you might not get the most out of it if it uses up too much of those precious CPU cycles. However, we doubt this is going to be an issue for potential buyers of the Flash Voyager GT since it is a premium performance product."


Andy[/code]
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Post by MikeC » Wed Dec 05, 2007 6:17 am

Good discussion guys. I had not even given a thought to using USB flash drives. They do look pretty dam fast these days, and we just happen to have received a Corsair Survivor 4GB, unfortunately not the GT model. It's worth experimenting with this, methinks. They offer 8G models of the Survivor and Voyager GT -- which are the same, in different packaging. Not sure just how much faster they are compared to the standard, but obviously, if this standard one works, then the GT will work better.

The boards we're using right now support booting from USB, as Windows is routinely installed w/an external USB optical drive.
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Post by MikeC » Wed Dec 05, 2007 7:51 am

I've seen articles like this about booting/running windows from a USB drives, but it would be much less tedious to clone a drive instead using Norton Image 9. Anyone ever try this? Any cautions? The linked article warns...

1) Windows will boot from USB drives only if it's FAT16. True? The original drive is NTFS, which Norton Image would clone to the target drive.
2) Using Windows to format a flash drive directly has been known to destroy some types of flash drives. Does Norton Image use the same formatting as Windows or is it a totally different operation altogether? (Since it runs in DOS, it would seem to be the latter...)
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Re: Help choose SSDs for SPCR's test systems

Post by HammerSandwich » Wed Dec 05, 2007 10:04 am

MikeC wrote:When it fails (which it recently did), this means several hours of work to reinstall the OS and other utilities to the drive.
Why on earth don't you have images for the testbeds? This is a no-brainer for a small, static installation.
MikeC wrote:3) IDE/SATA interface
If you find a deal on an IDE drive, I can donate an Abit Serillel adapter. Just let me know (email preferred).

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Re: Help choose SSDs for SPCR's test systems

Post by MikeC » Wed Dec 05, 2007 10:54 am

HammerSandwich wrote:Why on earth don't you have images for the testbeds? This is a no-brainer for a small, static installation.

If you find a deal on an IDE drive, I can donate an Abit Serillel adapter. Just let me know (email preferred).
True, this would be a good backup plan.

What is an Abit Serillel adapter?
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Re: Help choose SSDs for SPCR's test systems

Post by HammerSandwich » Wed Dec 05, 2007 11:19 am

MikeC wrote:What is an Abit Serillel adapter?
They came with some Abit boards back when SATA was very new. The Serillel plugs into a PATA drive and has an SATA feed to the mobo.

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Post by andyb » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:28 pm

1) Windows will boot from USB drives only if it's FAT16. True? The original drive is NTFS, which Norton Image would clone to the target drive.
2) Using Windows to format a flash drive directly has been known to destroy some types of flash drives. Does Norton Image use the same formatting as Windows or is it a totally different operation altogether? (Since it runs in DOS, it would seem to be the latter...)
Microsoft Windows XP "Embedded" SP2 supports booting from USB memory sticks.

I will try a copy tomorrow (time permitting), and let you know how it works compared to XP Home/Pro should you decide that a USB memory stick is fast enough for your needs.

Embedded can also be squished down to just 40MB installed size, the main questions will be, does it use standard drivers, do apps that work with Home/Pro also work with embedded, as I cant be bothered to read through all of Microshafts drivvel I will just play with it and find out.


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Post by jojo4u » Wed Dec 05, 2007 1:29 pm

Windows on a pen drive is doable, but: 1st you must either use a write protection (e.g. EWF) or FAT32 and 2nd you loose standby/hibernation. If you switch to Linux everything is fine.
Read the details here:
viewtopic.php?t=39278
EWF: viewtopic.php?t=37678

EDIT: The CNET article is about BartPE, which can't compare to a real Windows.

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Post by MikeC » Wed Dec 05, 2007 1:52 pm

jojo4u --

Great info in your post, will be studying that before embarking on this project. I'm going to see if Corsair will toss us a couple of 8GB GT sticks to use.
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Post by Brian » Wed Dec 05, 2007 6:27 pm

andyb wrote:Microsoft Windows XP "Embedded" SP2 supports booting from USB memory sticks.
You don't need Embedded to do this. You can modify any version of XP to support booting from USB devices. Here is a tutorial that worked for me.

But you will need the the above-mentioned EWFTool from XP Embedded.

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Post by andyb » Thu Dec 06, 2007 5:19 am

You don't need Embedded to do this. You can modify any version of XP to support booting from USB devices. Here is a tutorial that worked for me.

But you will need the the above-mentioned EWFTool from XP Embedded.
That look interesting, yet another hack for Windows to give it functionality that it should already have :roll:

I have had a quick look at XP Embeded, it's nothing like as straight forward as normal XP to install, so I will try it at home, and I will even have to do a bit of manual reading :x

It does look very interesting though, it uses standard drivers and runs standard apps. Basically it looks like XP Pro where you can pick and choose what to install. There are 1,500 "optional" components, and it can be installed to just 40MB of drive space. In realistic terms removing a load of the MS bloatware wont hurt day to day use and testing, but might make it possible to run on a 1GB stick, with loads of apps and loads of spare space.


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Post by CA_Steve » Thu Dec 06, 2007 7:02 am

I agree w/ Hammer. HDD's are darn inexpensive these days. Mirror your drives. Seems a cheap, easy thing to do. One big drive to use for multiple backups and a couple of smaller drives as the mirrored/"restored" drives.

Flash based boot drive are either darn slow or darn expensive.

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Post by MikeC » Thu Dec 06, 2007 8:03 am

CA_Steve wrote:I agree w/ Hammer. HDD's are darn inexpensive these days. Mirror your drives. Seems a cheap, easy thing to do. One big drive to use for multiple backups and a couple of smaller drives as the mirrored/"restored" drives.

Flash based boot drive are either darn slow or darn expensive.
This is true, we should have backups of the test platform drives, but the other obvious benefit of non-moving boot disks in the lab's test platforms is zero noise.

In the cpu heatsink test rig, the only source of noise other than the hsf being tested is the hard drive. The PSU is a fanless FSP Zen. If we could eliminate the HDD, the ambient would be about as low as we can make it without soundproofing the room.

In the same test room, we've managed to reduce the SPL of the VGA card/HSF test PC down to around 19 dBA/1m, and the primary lab PC/server is at around 18 dBA/1m -- on the floor, which makes it quieter as much of its sound is blocked by the bench it's under. The former system comes on only when tests are being run, the latter is on 24/7.
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Post by CA_Steve » Thu Dec 06, 2007 8:42 am

Understand.

Just a trade off of time/money. If it's a noise thing, and the HDD thermal component of the test isn't an issue, you could always build your own external HDD box. I'm sure you could approach 10dBA. :D

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