Solid State Drives.
Hopefully by now we've all accepted that these are the absolute performance Kings. As much, if not larger, a part of your system as every other component. If you're running anything like a modern processor then you're losing huge performance just by sticking stubbornly to your old mechanical device. And yes, they are expensive, but so is everything that has this level of performance. Right. Hopefully all the "ooh but the GB per £ is ridiculous" brigade have either gone back to complaining about Steam-Powered Looms or joined the rest of us in the digital age, and those of us who welcome technology can move on.
When SATA 3Gb/s technology first emerged we were all stunned with both the bandwidth available and the ability to hot-swap. This was as much a leap forward as USB was and, short of having hot-swappable CPUs and GPUs, the last step needed to a truly plug and play system.
The thought that it was possible to need more bandwidth than we had available seemed ridiculous to those of us still just comprehending ATA-133. Times change though and when Solid State Drives were introduced it only took one or two revisions before we hit the limit of what was available.
Speed is addictive though. As you improve your system you notice the next item of hardware that is lagging behind and improve that. It's a never ending process. So if 200MB/s read speeds just aren't fast enough for you, perhaps you need to take a look at today's review, the Crucial C300 SATA 6Gb/s SSD.
The C300 cognomen should really tell you all you need to know. It's Crucial and does over 300MB/s read. Simple. Ok come back tomorrow when we'll have another review for you.
Oh you want more than that? Okay. Here are the technical specifications courtesy of Crucial's excellent PDF.
|Interface||SATA 6Gb/s. Compatible with SATA 3Gb/s|
|Command Set||SMART and ATA-8 w/TRIM|
|Read Speed||265MB/s SATA 3Gb/s and 355MB/s SATA 6Gb/s|
|Write Speed||140MB/s SATA 3Gb/s and SATA 6Gb/s|
|Power Consumption||1.7W Read, 3.1W Write, 0.092W Idle|
|Operating Temperature||0°C to +70°C|
|Warranty||Limited 3 Year|
Let's move on to the ever popular page two and see what we have to play with today.
Getting a Good Look
Crucials packaging for the C300 is an exercise in minimalism. That isn't to say it's bad by any stretch. It's exactly what it needs to be. Big enough to contain the product and some foam, and sturdy enough to protect it. No more. No less. Given the energy savings from a SSD it would be silly to put it in a rain-forests worth of packaging.
Flipping the lid we can see a fair amount of foam protecting the drive itself. The drive is, by virtue of it being a memory device, in an anti-static bag. Upon removal we have a gorgeous metal casing with a front sticker that perfectly apes the box.
Flipping the C300 onto its back we find the standard barcode sticker that has been a feature of storage devices since the dawn of time. We also have four standard mounting holes on the bottom and four on the side as well, ensuring a very flexible mounting system for any case or caddy.
Micron have broken through with MLC NAND that conforms to ONFI 2.1 standard and therefore provides incredible performance. Whilst at the Enterprise level ONFI 2.2 is available, naturally it takes a while before business class performance is available to the home user at a price point remotely affordable. Here we have a Micron OAD12 cache chip that should ensure even at these incredible speeds there isn't any stuttering. This, along with the controller below, is paired to some Micron NAND MLC that are labelled as OCB12 and ODB12.
The Crucial C300 uses the Marvell 88SS9174-BJP2 controller, which is rated for 355MB/s read and 215MB/s write. It has native SMART, Secure Erase and, most importantly, TRIM support out the box. TRIM is vital in ensuring that your drive remains at its optimum performance.
Let's move on to page three, where we wont see busty Debbie from Essex, but rather something very flat indeed from Boise, Idaho.
Test Setup and Results
As we had the MSI 890FXA-GD70 on the test bench and it's replete with a SATA 6Gb/s controller we took advantage of this to test the Crucial C300.
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Processor @ 3.9GHz
4GB G.Skill 2000MHz RAM @ 1333MHz
ASUS Radeon HD5850 Top
Cougar 1000CM 1KW PSU
Windows 7 64 Bit
Crucial C300 128GB SSD
Although the MSI comes with a SATA 3Gb/s port as well we'll skip testing on that. There are plenty of SATA 3Gb/s SSDs around, including Crucials excellent M225 we reviewed a few weeks ago. As this is very much the "next generation" of Solid State Drives we're going to be putting it up against the best of the current generation, the Corsair Nova 128GB on a SATA 3Gb/s interface to see if the technology swap really gives the results we hope.
But first, let's get a look at some graphs.
Anyone want to see the smoothest graph in the world? How about these results then Ladies and Gentlemen? The read graph is about the flattest result we've ever seen, and the write graph, although the speeds aren't as high as we'd hoped, is equally flat barring the four occassions the cache switched and caused a brief spike. Absolutely un-noticeable in use we hasten to add.
Everest provides a more stable SSD read test thanks to its fearsomely regular updating. The random read test spiked to just shy of 400MB/s which is ridiculously good. Once we move to the linear read we see a graph that rivals the HD Tune one above for flatness. Linear is absolutely the perfect description, with only 4MB/s deviation between minimum and maximum.
It's flatter than Jim after his birthday evening.
Finally in our graphing goodness we see HD Tach give us very similar results. One thing is not in question, this C300 really flies.
Crystal Disk Mark
Although the read speeds are confirmed in Crystal Disk Mark, we need to mention something about the write speeds. Read speeds are always more important because you read way more than you write, but nonetheless seeing only 145MB/s in our write tests is disappointing for a drive at this end of the market.
With our singular tests completed, let's run this up against our SATA 3Gb/s weapon of choice and see how it fairs.
If it's Monday it must be time for PC Mark Vantage. Starting with the HDD Suite score we find the C300 is 33% better than the Corsair Nova. Given how robust the PC Mark testing is at "real world" usage this should mean some incredible transfer rates.
Looking closer at the breakdown of the PC Mark score we find the Crucial C300 living up to its billing. Any time your Mega-Bytes per Second graph requires a 300 on the x-axis you know you're dealing with some serious speed.
Let's finish up with the ATTO disk benchmark which tests the drive using a variety of block sizes. It always follows, even with mechanical drives, that smaller block sizes perform badly and once you reach around the 64 mark the drive gets into its stride.
With the read test we find the results echo those we saw on the previous page with the Crucial C300 redefining what we consider a fast read speed to be.
On the previous page we saw Crystal Disk Mark giving us disappointing write speeds and this is backed up by ATTO. Only on the very low 1 and 8 block size test does the C300 best the Corsair Nova, and otherwise it's fairly comprehensively beaten.
Solid State Drives have become a mainstream part of performance PCs now and so hopefully you're all aware of the benefits it can bring to your system.
So what are the benefits that the Crucial C300 can bring to the table?
Let's start with the average, the Write speeds. 150MB/s is unquestionably fast when compared with mechanical drives, but it's only around the middle of the pack when we look at the currently available SSDs. Considering this retails at just over £300 we'd expect to see at least 200MB/s, as we do with the Nova. It's especially disappointing when we look at what it clearly the jewel in the C300's crown, the read speeds.
A famous quote says that "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics". We can paraphrase that now by saying there is quick, fast and then the Crucial C300. We get so used to hardware that edges the performance line forward in tiny increments, be it 2.8GHz, then 2.9GHz and finally 3GHz or whatever, that to see something that takes your previous expectations and obliterates them does make us stop and think.
There was a time when 200MB/s was amazing. 250MB/s seemed, well and still is, properly fast. 300, and in this case 330+ is just unbelievable. The difference it makes is nearly as impressive as the difference between a mechanical and an SSD.
The main question question is; If you have a suitable SATA 6Gbp/s motherboard, is the Crucial C300 worthy of your money? Really it depends upon your finances and your relentless demand for the absolute best. If you don't own a SSD at all then you definitely should consider the C300. The write speeds are medium, but everything, if repetition can be a hint of emphasis then everything, crumbles before the might of those read speeds.
In time other drives will combine this brutal read speeds with equally fast write speeds. But for now, despite its £300 price tag, we can easily give this our performance award.
- 340MB/s read speeds.Wow.
- Built in TRIM.
- Did we mention 340MB/s read speed?
- Crucials excellent three-year warranty.
- I hesitate to put the write speeds here as 150MB/s isn't poor, but in pales in the shadow of the read.
- £300+ for a 128GB drive is quite pricey, even by SSD standards.
Thanks to Crucial for supplying the C300. Discuss in our forums.