Such is the market saturation and high speeds available from the many SandForce equipped solid state drives, it's a confident company indeed who chooses to bring a new controller to the table and place it into a flagship model.
However, Corsair have never been a company to back down from a challenge, and so today we're looking at their latest drive, the Neutron GTX, equipped with a Link_A_Media Devices (hereafter LAMD) LM87800 controller. So what are the main benefits of this?
Firstly the big thrust with the LAMD is the multi-tasking design ethos. Although for most of us raw speed is the key ingredient, it's a drives ability to handle multiple input and output operations (IOPS) that mean you can work with a multitude of files and still, hopefully, get excellent performance.
Secondly the LAMD maintains its throughput without resorting to compression. Many controllers compress your data 'on the fly' to enable it to reach the highest speeds, but this obviously creates problems when you're transferring already compressed media. The LM87800 doesn't utilise compression and so you should see high performance regardless of the file type you're working with.
Finally the LM87800 has a raft of inbuilt management technologies to keep the drive performing at its peak for far longer than comparable controllers. These include the all important wear levelling, garbage collection and TRIM support. Today's GTX model also contains 'Adaptive DSP' which allows the controller to determine the optimum performance levels of the NAND with a minimal amount of queries, which should greatly extend the life of the NAND, and the speed of the drive.
Of course, most of these long-term benefits wont be visible in the short time we have available to test, so we'll concentrate mainly upon the speed.
|Controller||Link_A_Media Devices LM87800|
|Flash Memory||Toshiba Toggle-Mode NAND|
|Interface||SATA III 6Gb/s|
|Operating Temperature||0° to 70°C|
|Operating Humidity||10% to 90%|
|Max Operating Altitude||40000ft|
|MTBF||2 million hours|
You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a Force GT, such is the similarity of the design and packaging. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it is the maxim, and the Neutron GTX will blend in with any system.
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB
Catalyst HD7970 Drivers 12.8
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4GHz
ASUS P9X79 Pro
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
We're off to a good start with the AIDA64 read test suite. The Neutron GTX gives us the fastest speeds we've yet seen from a single drive. 580 MB/s in the random test is outstanding.
Anvil provides us with the bulk of our test results, thanks to its easy to use interface and plethora of test options. The Sequential IOPS for both read and write are around the same as every other drive we've seen, although just shy of the very fastest drives.
Despite the claims that the LM87800 controller is a demon in IOPS testing, the Neutron GTX must be hiding its light under a very big bushel as it doesn't exactly sparkle in either the read or write IOPS tests here.
Things continue in a 'very good but not outstanding' vein in the pure speed test numbers we're all more familiar with. Besides the 4k QD16 write test being particularly low scoring it's all much of a muchness.
The ATTO disk benchmark is one of the most reliable ones around, giving a lot of control and tweaking options. In the read tests the Neutron GTX performs admirably at all block sizes. The write tests are less amazing with smaller block sizes, but once it hits its stride it really takes off, being second only to the amazing Kingston Hyper X.
Crystal Disk Mark
Crystal Disk Mark really saturates the drive in its benchmark. Although in read testing we see the Neutron GTX is good but not outstanding, the write tests are mind blowing. Getting up near 500MB/s and far ahead of any single drive we've ever tested.
So was the decision to step away from the more popular controllers on the market and introduce a new one with the Link_A_Media Devices LM87800 a wise one? Undoubtedly we have to give an answer of both yes and no. Which might seem odd, but let us explain.
This is the first drive we've seen with this controller, and anyone who was around when the first SandForce controllers hit the market will know that it wasn't exactly an unqualified success. The LM87800 has a few rough edges, but when it all comes together it is stunningly fast.
Two tests definitely stand out as the ones which hint at the potential available from this new drive. Firstly the AIDA64 read test suite gave us an incredible 580MB/s random read, and an even more impressive 540MB/s linear read. The other big jaw-dropping result, and easily one of the biggest leap forwards we've ever seen, is the Crystal Disk Mark sequential write test. Our previous single drive record being a decent 310MB/s, it's stunning to see the Neutron GTX pushing up close to 500MB/s. A massive improvement.
Of course there are other tests where the drive doesn't appear to be as impressive. Small block sizes in particular (4K) are generally a bit slower than we'd like to see, or indeed we've seen before. The much vaunted IOPS multi-tasking definitely shows up in some scenarios, but not all benchmarks take full advantage of it. In the real world of course you're far more likely to saturate the available bandwidth as even a gentle bit of multi-tasking, for example iTunes, Firefox and a photo-editing package of your choice, will really allow the drive to shine.
We never like to comment much on potential future performance here at OC3D. We like to review something in the same manner that you would see it yourself. However it would be remiss of us to not point out that this is the first iteration of this controller, and we're sure that as the technology matures the few little issues will be ironed out.
At well under the £/GB threshold (this drive is £199 for the 240GB GTX variant) and with some phenomenal write speeds alongside the ability to keep running hard regardless of the type of data you're transferring thanks to the LM87800 not relying upon compression to attain its high performance, we have to award it our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to Corsair for supplying the Neutron GTX for review. Discuss in the OC3D forums.