Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD Review Page: 1

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

Introduction

Such is life, the task of building or purchasing that perfect computer is one big balancing act. On the basis of funds and priorities, we make those important decisions that either lead to that bowl of tech porridge that is either "just right" or a lumpy mess that could only be compared to pig swill. Today however, we won't be discussing the heinous crimes of buying ColoursIT Power Supply Units and XClio Chassis', but rather the neglect towards storage devices.

It really does surprise us when we see high end systems featuring Core i7's, multiple GTX 4xx/HD 58xx series graphics cards and oodles of RAM paired with modest and conventional Hard Disk Drives. While it is appreciated that today's SATA II drives achieve in excess of 90MB/s read and are as quiet as ever, are people (even those with plenty to burn) still under the impression that Solid State Drives are a gimmick? Over the last year, we have successfully proven otherwise and like most premium goods, you generally get what you pay for. Regardless, I'm not a salesman and thus I have no intention of forcing a product down anyone's throats. If I still have your attention however, let's a look at a new kid on the block; the Mushkin Callisto 120GB Drive.

Mushkin, (not to be mistaken by Munchkins, the short legged feline breed) is a brand best known for their popular "Red Line" performance lineup of memory. Based in the USA, we haven't seen quite as large a following for these products as across the pond. Regardless and very much like Corsair, the brand has diversified to sell power supply units and now Solid State Drives. Here's a little more background information about the drive itself.

Capacity120GB Unformatted
InterfaceSATA II 3.0Gb/s
Chip Type
Multi Layer (MLC)
ControllerSandforce SF-1200
MTBF

2,000,000 Hours

Shock Tolerance
1500G
WarrantyThree Year
Expected Speeds

285MB/sec Read
275MB/sec Write


Specification wise, the drive is very much what one would expect to compete with today's popular SSDs. Aside it's capacity, type of chips and controller, the drive also includes further detail such that if you encounter a violent 1500G event or you fail to master the art of immortality, your Mushkin SSD and the files that it holds will continue to function without failure.

The drive in question is not SATA 6.0Gb/s however we still expect very promising results. Till then, lets undertake a more visual analysis of the Mushkin Callisto.



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Packaging & Initial Impressions


As a retail sample, the Callisto SSD arrived in a dark but well styled outer packaging. Naturally, styling doesn't mean much if the packaging itself can't save it's contents from today's courier mishaps. Thankfully we're happy to report that this comparatively small protective shell is also very strong. 

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD     Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

With a bit of unravelling we were surprised to find something rather book like inside. It may look like one but rest assured there is no reading material here. Removing the 2.5" to 3.25" adapter finally exposes the little Mushkin in question. If you aren't one to horde stupid amounts of screws over the years of DIY PC Building, your Callisto SSD will also come with no less than four to secure your new drive. Splendid, now let's take a closer look at the drive itself.

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD     Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD


What more can I say? It's small, graphite coloured and touts the Mushkin brand and model name. Underneath the hood, you will find 15 Multi Layer Chips and the recent Sandforce SF1200 controller. Upon initial inspection, the product seems sturdy in both person and on paper but how does it fair in our tests? Let's proceed...



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Testbed

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition "C3"
ASRock 890GX Extreme3 Motherboard
4GB Corsair XMS3 PC3-12800C8 RAM
Samsung Spinpoint F1 320GB SATA II Hard Disk Drive
XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB GDDR5 Graphics Card
Samsung 22x DVD+/-RW SATA
Windows 7 Home Premium x64

It should be mentioned that the ASRock 890GX Extreme3 sports the SB850 southbridge; this means that the Callisto 120GB SSD will be tested on a SATA 6.0Gb/s interface. The results that follow may not match those carried out on an older SATA 3.0Gb/s controller.

Tests

Everest Ultimate Edition

We start off with two Everest based Drive tests; linear read and random read. Starting off in a fairly promising fashion, the Callisto 120GB achieved a peak rate of 274MB/s in our Random Read test, which is just shy of the manufacturer's ratings. Meanwhile in the linear read test, ~235MB/s is all that can be had with an average just south of that.

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD     Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

If these results are anything to go by, the suggested data rates of 285MB/s Read and 275MB/s Write are likely to be peak values at best and could well be a little optimistic. Some more tests are in order to be sure of that however...

HDTach

HDTach reveals average read speeds of around 205MB/s and burst rates just a tad higher than that.

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

HDTune

Again, with the exception of the dip observed below 20% utilisation, the Callisto SSD delivers a nigh on flat performance graph. As far as Read performance is concerned, the benchmark suggests an average read of around 210MB/s; up to 75MB/s lower than the maximum specified data rate. The result itself is very reasonable however it stands in the shadow of the recently reviewed Crucial C300, reaching speeds in excess of 300MB/s.

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD     Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

Write speeds are generally the achilles heel of Solid State Drives, however the Mushkin scored a healthy 185MB/s on average. One of the greatest advantages of such drives are it's Access Times, where you can expect 100ns or less, which is nothing when compared to the ~10ms of a conventional Hard Disk Drive.

Crystal Disk Mark

Crystal Disk Mark on the other hand runs three different tests - Sequential, 512k and 4k block sizes. I would like to point out that read/write speeds are typically much lower when operating on smaller block sizes and that this isn't something of concern.

Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD

This particular testing methodology outputs much lower (perhaps more realistic) data rates for both Read and Write. We have just a few more benchmarks up our sleeve to prove or disprove this.



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PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage offers it's very own Hard Disk testing suite. Unlike the benchmarks that we have carried out earlier, these are based on real world usage. To make things a little more interesting, we have also included results from Corsair Nova and Crucial C300 SSD's.

Right off the bat, it's quite clear that the Mushkin Callisto beats the Corsair Nova across the board by fair margins. Sitting mostly in the 100-200MB/s data range, the results are most certainly lower than the synthetic benchmarks that we previously ran. Also for most of the part, the new Crucial C300 series SSD gives both the Corsair and the Mushkin a serious pounding.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO, like Crystal Disk Mark tests drives with various block sizes ranging from 0.5 to 8192.0. As mentioned previously, data rates are poor when operating with small block sizes and this is to be expected.

For most of the part, the Callisto drive trails behind the Corsair Nova and Crucial C300 in the ATTO Read Test. Meanwhile the Crucial C300 mercilessly pushes the 300MB/s barrier yet again.

It's always interesting when tables turn, but these results made my head turn so fast that it flew off and landed in the hands of Robert Green; shame he dropped it. *awaits punch line drum roll*

Write performance is certainly not a major strength for the Crucial C300 and similarly the Corsair Nova to a lesser fashion. The results are quite the opposite for the Mushkin Callisto where we see Write speeds of up to 250MB/s in this particular benchmark.

That's a wrap, folks. Let's conclude.



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Conclusion


Like most Solid State Drives on the market today, it must be said that the difference between the Callisto and a conventional mechanical drive truly is of night and day. Then again, one would expect that. To be more fair, how did it fair as a SSD?

Our testing generally seemed to suggest that the manufacturer claims of 285MB/s and 275MB/s for Read and Write respectively were a little too optimistic. With synthetic performance sitting around the 210MB/s mark and real world performance a little lower than that, the Callisto 120GB's performance is very much on par with drives such as the Corsair Nova. From that perspective, the drive is certainly not ground breaking but is still a valid alternative to other existing drives.

Price. Right now, the drive in question is not available for purchase in the UK. Mushkin's own website states an MSRP of $369 with american and european retailers selling it for the equivalent of ~£275 inc VAT. AT this price there are a number of drives to choose from, including the speed reading Crucial C300 128GB and the Corsair Nova that we pitched the drive against. While the Mushkin wasn't the fastest kid in class in terms of read performance, it often proved it's Write performance to be very competitive. To us, the product appears well rounded and without doubt, a worthy upgrade from just about any single Hard Disk Drive. Excellent work Mushkin. 

The Good
- Competitive Read/Write Performance
- TRIM Support

The Mediocre
- While competitive, Read/Write Targets were not met.

The Bad
- None 

Thanks to Mushkin for the sample on test today, you can discuss our findings in the forums.