Storage speeds make a mockery of the famous Moore's Law.
It was relatively recently that we moved from IDE to SATA and the speed benefits that brought. Yet within a very short timespan we've gone from 1.5Gbp/s SATA through 3.0Gbp/s to the 'available on everything' SATA 6Gbp/s. Whereas not long ago the Velociraptors were considered the titans of the speed world, we quickly had Solid State Drives, and they utterly redefined what we think of as fast data transfer.
It didn't even stop there as the companies launched into an ever escalating arms race to bring us ever faster SSDs and we've recently seen some extraordinary performance from drives such as the Kingston Hyper X and Samsung 830. With the Sandforce controller appearing at the head of the pack in pure speed terms then combining that with a SATA 6Gbp/s interface we've seen drives that get very close to 500MB/s in certain situations, but still well north of 300MB/s in actual use.
Enter Corsair with the Force GT range of Solid State Drives. It has all the boxes ticked for some amazing speeds. It uses a Sandforce SF-2281 controller which has lots of tricks up its sleeve to compress the data and really bring that performance up to incredible levels. It's on a SATA 6Gbp/s interface, so bandwidth shouldn't be an issue. The models we have on test today are the 240GB variants, and larger capacity SSDs generally have better performance than the smaller versions. Finally the key word in that sentence was models. Plural.
We have two Force GT 240GB drives here, set up in RAID 0 to really see how fast it's possible to go. Three years ago SSDs appeared with promises of 90MB/s. This set up should give us 1GB/s. Let's find out.
Certainly the data sheet is everything one would expect. Sandforce SF-2281 doesn't require cache and the drive has 25nm MLC NAND. Every potential ounce of performance available from current technology is squeezed into the red case.
|Read Performance (max)||555 MB/s|
|Write Performance (max)||525 MB/s|
|Random Write 4k (max) ||85k IOPS (4k aligned)|
|Interface Type||SATA 3 6Gb/s|
|Operating Temperature||0C to +70C|
|Storage Temperature||-20C to +85C|
|Operating Humidity||10% to 90% RH (0° to +40° C)|
|Storage Humidity||5% to 90% RH (-10° to +60° C)|
|Maximum Operating Altitude||3,048 m (up to 10,000 ft.)|
|Maximum Non-Operating Altitude||12,192 m (up to 40,000 ft.)|
For our testing today we're using a i7-2600K on a Z68 motherboard and putting the RAID 0 up against three of the fastest drives around. Can we get close to doubling the performance of a single drive?
The Corsair Force GTs are part of the Cincinnati Bengal Project Rig that you may have been following on both Youtube and in our forums. To say I like orange and black is an understatement, I have to say this isnt the way I would have asked for it to have been done had I designed it but once it arrived I have to admit that TTL just got it so right the way this baby looks is just so perfect. My wife is actually worried that he seems to know this side of me better than her!
There is a lot to cover about the hardware that makes up this glorious bit of eye candy, but obviously today we're just focussing on the storage with the Corsair Force GTs.
2x Corsair Force GT 240GB in RAID0
Intel Core i7-2600K
ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3
16GB Kingston T1 1600MHz
Phobya 360 Radiator
Phobya Dual-bay Reservoir
Mayhem Custom Coolant
CoolerMaster ATCS 840
BitFenix Spectre Orange LED Fans
BeQuiet Dark Power 850W PSU
I'm sure you'll agree that's quite a mouth watering specification, and we have to thank the various companies who have assisted us with putting together such a monster.
Time was so tight on the build that there are a few final bits to iron out, most obviously the lack of an acrylic window, but it's still so gorgeous it's worth a small drool.
As you can see this is more of a hint at its beauty rather than a hardcore look, which will come later on once it's finished.
Unquestionably, straight out the blocks, the Force GTs provide some mind-blowing performance. The Crucial M4 is our current SSD champion and our Force GT setup more than doubles the performance. Sure we've got two drives, but 834MB/s puts each drive at around 420MB/s and therefore at the top of our charts. Stunning stuff.
Always a favourite of ours to see how the drives handle the move from each NAND flash chip to the next, the Force GT has absolutely no issues at all. The Linear Read on the left is flatter than the Netherlands and even the write test, which always has more variance, is very consistent.
Crystal Disk Mark
Crystal Disk Mark places a variety of stresses upon the drive. The 512K and Sequential tests generally follow the speeds we see in other tests but the two 4K sizes always give the lowest results because of the smaller block size.
Because of the uncompressable data used a Sandforce drive doesn't gain as many benefits as it might in other benchmarks, yet the Force GT still bludgeons it. In fact it's almost a shock that the pure 4K test only has the RAID 0 set up in second place, because everywhere else it's doubling a single drive. Which we'd expect, but we're so used to the diminishing returns of multi-GPU that it's good to see some technologies still give us 100% improvements.
Writing is something that these drives absolutely thrive on. So often manufacturers sacrifice everything on the altar of a big read speed for the advertising, yet the Corsair Force GT is actually more impressive in Write tests than it is in the Read ones. The 4K QD32 score is probably the most jaw-dropping result we've seen from a drive in any test, ever.
Starting with the read tests, the bottom item in the graph is probably the most impressive result. 500MB/s is the slowest that the Force GT RAID 0 setup dropped down to. The slowest. It's averaging well over 700MB/s.
In the write tests the Force GT is frankly insane. Triple the performance of the nearest single drive. Remember that although we're comparing against single drives, they are three of the finest SSDs available. So perhaps double would be expected, but triple performance. Faster than the drive itself is in read tests. The Corsair Force GT has big read numbers, but even bigger write numbers.
PC Mark Vantage
Away from the results that are purely synthetic bits of data being pushed about and into the world of real testing. Combined with our 4GHz 2600K and 1600MHz RAM the Force GTs give us results that we're frankly running out of superlatives to describe. It's the kind of speed that you never cease to be amazed by.
Finally we look at the ATTO Disk Benchmark. This utilises compressible data and so, rather in the manner of a weekly TV show that builds towards a crescendo, we saved it until last knowing it's going to be the test that the Sandforce equipped Force GT drives will perform at their very peak in.
Yes, that is 1GB per second of data transfer. Even by 32K data chunks we've passed what a single drive will achieve and we only need 256K to reach the magical number of 1GB/s in write. In fact it's a testament to how fabulous the Corsair drives are that the write test reaches this speed before the read test does.
Ladies and gentlemen, 1GB per second in both read and write.
One of the things you have to be constantly on guard about when reviewing hardware is the tendency to become a little jaded. To accept exceptional performance as the norm, because we're fortunate enough to get to play with some very high performing stuff. So it's easy to get used to how fast a GTX580 is, or a i7-3960X. Equally we know that manufacturers claims are always over-estimated. Therefore when we headed in to this review having tested a few SATA6 SSDs before, we knew that potentially the Corsair Force GT RAID 0 setup should be capable of 1GB/s according the Corsair figures, but that in reality we should see maybe 700MB/s.
So it's definitely worth stating that throughout testing we never stopped being amazed at how high the performance of the Corsair Force GT was. It's not just a case of two drives being twice as fast as a single high performance one. If it was that we'd be impressed but not necessarily staggered, but rather with the Corsair Force GT we have two drives working together so well that more often than not it makes the single drives seem positively pedestrian. Despite being cautious of the official Corsair figures the Force GTs actually backed them up with actual performance. 550MB/s is claimed, and with two we did see 1.03GB/s from our RAID 0 arrangement. Given a little overhead this is spot on and the write speeds amazingly actually bettered those claimed by Corsair. A company understating the ability of their product. Someone check to see if hell has frozen over.
Of course any setup that can give you 1GB/s speeds is bound to leave us gasping for breath with the sheer audacity of seeing those kind of results. However the most impressive part of our testing was always the write speeds available. So often drives are geared towards giving massive read performance and decent to good write performance but the Force GT is clearly designed to have equal speed in both elements. If anything the write speeds outshine the read ones which considering the numbers we're dealing with is an impressive feat on its own. Of course with such excellent performance both reading and writing the data then real-world performance is exceptional and PC Mark Vantage was testament to this.
Naturally such performance isn't without cost. A RAID 0 set up like this will cost you around £660. Sure that's a lot of money but the key thing is that when you compare it to its contemporaries, it's good value. The Crucial M4 and Samsung 830 are about a tenner cheaper, the Kingston about a tenner more. So even as a single drive it's a better option because of the speed available, and when paired up like we have today there isn't a faster SATA-based setup available.
TRIM support, insane performance both in read and write scenarios and 1GB/s available in RAID 0. The Corsair Force GT is the Bugatti Veyron of storage solutions and, despite the pretty high cost, the performance will leave you grinning long after the initial purchase price sting has long since left you.
Thanks to Corsair for providing the Force GT for review. Discuss in our Forums.