Silicon Power E10 and M10 SSDs Page: 1

Introduction

Solid State Drives, who doesn't love them? No matter how old and wheezy your desktop or laptop PC is a Solid State Drive is guaranteed to provide a performance boost. So fast are they that even the cheapest models will provide a decent speed boost and they should be at the absolute top of everyones want list.

Silicon Power might not be the first name that trips off your tongue when you're thinking of Solid State Drives but, as anyone who follows Solid State technology will know, the name on the case matters little because it's the technology inside that defines the performance level and there are only a few companies who provide the "innards".

Today we'll be looking at two of their SSDs, the extreme performance E10 and the high performance M10. So let's start with the extreme performance model.

Silicon Power E10 32GB

Of the two drives we've got on test today the Silicon Power E10 is the extreme performance model. Silicon Power state it should read at 230MB/s and write at 150MB/s, which definitely puts it up with the highest performing models on the market.


Here are the statistics and specifications from the Silicon Power website :

Standard 2.5-inch SSD, compatible with SATA interface (SATA I/ II)
High quality case and high-speed data transfer
Built-in ECC (Error Correction Code) functionality and wear-leveling algorithm ensures highly reliable of data transfer
Low Power Consumption
Shock resistance
No noise, no latency delay and no seek error
Compliant with RoHS requirement
Performance: MLC-Read up to 230MB/s, Write up to 150MB/s
Dimensions:100 x 69.85 x 9.4mm
Weight:70g
Durability:10,000 insertions(minimum)
Power Requirement:4.5V~5.5V


Silicon Power M10 64GB

Unlike the E10, the M10 is a dual purpose drive with connections both for the standard SATA II interface, and also USB. Naturally USB connectivity provides and enormous reduction in speed, so it's more good as a light, easily portable, storage solution than for the blazing speed SSDs normally provide. However, most of us will look at a SSD around this capacity as our OS drive using SATA II and it's under these conditions we'll be looking at it today.


Again, the statistics and specifications from the Silicon Power website :

Standard 2.5" SSD, compatible with SATA interface (SATA I / II)
Two connection options:SATA (for internal use) and mini USB2.0 (for external use)
High quality case and high-speed data transfer
Built-in ECC (Error Correction Code) functionality and wear-levelling algorithm ensures highly reliable of data transfer
Low Power Consumption
Shock resistance
No noise, no latency delay and no seek error
Compliant with RoHS requirement
Performance: MLC SATA:Read up to 165MB/s, Write up to 95MB/s         
                              USB2
:Read up to 35MB/s,  Write up to 25MB/s
Dimensions:100 x 69.85 x 9.4mm
Weight:70g
Durability:10,000 insertions (minimum)
Power Requirement:4.5V~5.5V


The main things to note are the only slightly reduced speed between the extreme performance and more normal performance models. Also important is that both models come with error correction and wear levelling. This is a performance element that is often overlooked when SSDs are shouting loud about their read and write speeds but without them a Solid State Drive will quickly grind to a metaphorical halt.

Ok packaging time.



Silicon Power E10 and M10 SSDs Page: 2

Packaging

The packaging for the two Silicon Power Solid State Drives we have on test today certainly looks the part on the front. It has all the parts one would wish to find with a large manufacturers logo, clear information about the model and capacity of the relative drives, and a clear photograph of what the drive looks like. As you'll see below it's actually a very good representation too.

The colouring used is also nice and clear with the more middle-level M10 being in silver and the extreme performance E10 being gold. The rear is much less interesting. Whereas normally this would be the place in which a plethora of details and specifications are listed, we've actually got a tiny amount of information in a large amount of languages.

Unfortunately the cardboard used is quite thin, akin to a box of matches. Thankfully SSDs are all about performance, but nonetheless it's not the sturdiest external packaging we've ever seen.

        

Taking the drives out of the packaging the lack of sturdiness is again apparent with a vacuum formed plastic holder keeping the drives in place. It's sufficiently thick that the product is in no danger of being damaged in transit, but it doesn't make you feel like you've really brought something outstanding.

One of the big selling points of the Silicon Power drives is their unique look. Rather than a plain black box, or something with a universal sticker on it. Starting with the 32GB model it has a very eye catching cross-hatch design. It's certainly one of those designs that you'll either love or hate, just because it's so different. 

The 64GB model has a much more universally appealing carbon fibre finish. It's very nice indeed and as you can see in the photographs throughout this page it is a high quality finish that looks everything from black to a nice grey depending upon the angle.

       

The 64GB M10 also has the ability to be used using a USB connection and you can see the mini-USB socket next to the standard SATAII power and interface. Silicon Power have included a mini-USB in the box for the M10 64GB, allowing you to be up and running in moments.

         

Finally a nice close-up of the two drives, really highlighting their looks. I love the carbon one, the other, not so much.

    

So what's underneath this epic cover?



Silicon Power E10 and M10 SSDs Page: 3

Internal Shots

E10 32GB

Firstly, my word is this a pain to get into. I'm not sure if they've welded the main board into the case but it sure feels like it. The daughter board with more of the Intel NAND chips on it easily slips off, but the main board wont budge at all. Naturally we don't mind a little gentle persuasion but there comes a point where something is going to break, and it makes it hard to review if it's in bits.

         

Even more unfortunately finding the data sheet for these Intel memory chips is all but impossible. The proof will definitely be in the testing then.

M10 64GB

Unlike the smaller capacity E10, this uses the larger capacity Samsung 907 K9LBGD8U0M chips we've found on quite a few other SSDs. Although not quite as blazing as the other variant Samsung chips found it Vertex drives and the like, it should definitely mean we have very solid performance with few peaks and troughs.

These particular chips run between 2.7v and 3.6v and are first generation 32G MLC NAND chips. Similar to the E10 drive the main board is absolutely locked within the case and so it's impossible to take it out without breaking either the case or the circuit board.

      

Well that was disappointing for the chip fans amongst us. Hopefully the tests will give a clearer indication of performance.



Silicon Power E10 and M10 SSDs Page: 4

Test Setup

Todays test setup is our standard P55 based test hardware, and as we still had the ASUS Maximus III Extreme in the OC3D bunker from last weeks testing it was decided to use that to make sure we provided the best possible scaffolding for this house to be built on.

Motherboard : ASUS Maximus III Extreme
CPU :               Intel Core i7 870
Graphics :        ASUS GTX275
Cooler :           Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus with Arctic Cooling MX3 Thermal Compound
PSU :               Cougar 1000CM
OS :                 Windows 7 64
RAM :               G.Skill ECO PC3-12800 CL7

Synthetic Benchmarks

Testing SSD drives is always a strange experience. Most of the standalone programs designed to test drive speeds are better suited to testing mechanical devices and it's for this reason that we always over-test something to ensure we get a good feel for the speeds available.

As always all our tests are run five times with the highest and lowest being removed and an average taken of the rest.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
Read Test

The ATTO benchmark is a good test of a drives sustained transfer rates both in read and write conditions. It is able to test in both small and large blocks, which is especially good with SSDs as they definitely perform better with large file chunks. Although that isn't to suggest they aren't good with small ones, just the difference is better on the larger items.

Both drives provided exceptional read speeds. Any worries that the inability to get a good look at either the controller or cache chips might mean something being hidden were quickly dispelled. The E10 surpassed the magic 200MB/s barrier on all of our tests. The Samsung based M10 provided phenomenal consistency with 150MB/s seen in everything but the 8192 test.

Write Test

Read speeds, like clock speeds, tend to be the big number than gets heavily advertised and doesn't tell the full story. After all, a drive that you don't write to is almost entirely pointless, and one that only writes very slowly is almost equally without use. Thankfully both drives keep up the read performance.

The E10 consistently around 150MB/s, only dropping below 100MB/s in the small 128 test. 

The M10 once again shows the consistency achieved by using the popular Samsung NAND MLC, with around 95MB/s seen across all the tests. 

Crystal Disk Mark 2.2

Read Test

Crystal Disk Mark is able to test tiny, medium and sequential reading and writing with a variety of sizes. To ensure compatibility we use the default settings. The read tests are indicative of the performance difference between the two drives, with the Sequential test backing up the ATTO results, and the 4K and 512K random tests providing a sterner test. Naturally the 4K result shows the poor performance of SSDs with exceptionally small files, but once we reach a more realistic size the speed differential between solid state and mechanical is there for all to see.

Write Test

The results for the write test are very similar to the read test. Small sizes are bad, but otherwise the transfer rate is around the ATTO results and also around the manufacturers specifications.

PC Mark Vantage

PC Mark Vantage uses a variety of in-built applications and testing situations to provide a more real-world scenario and a greater approximation of the speeds that should be achieved when the entire system is in use.

Rather than run the entire Vantage suite of tests we've concentrated on the HDD Suite. The faster E10 giving a result 1000 points higher than the M10, but neither are slouches. 


Viewing the breakdown of the results obtained we can see how the entire subsystem can slow down the transfer rates. Of course these are still vastly above what you'd expect with a mechanical drive, but we can't help to be slightly disappointed by some of the scores when the system is really working hard. Especially strange is how the M10 was faster at application loading and Windows Media Player than the E10.

Does this translate into extra speed loading games?



Silicon Power E10 and M10 SSDs Page: 5

Synthetic and Gaming Benchmarks

Everest Ultimate Edition

Everest Ultimate is, as our regular readers will know, one of our favourite applications for testing all our hardware. The Random read test we've used here has given some curious results compared to the tests on the previous page.

Everest also gives us a nice graph showing the variations in read speeds throughout the test. As you can see the E10 is much more like a race engine in that it has a higher overall speed, but many more peaks and troughs, but the M10 is, although slower, far more consistent throughout the entire test.

Dirt 2

To test the loading speeds 5 timing runs were made between pressing "race" and the screen going from the loading screen to the race intro, using the first Rally Cross event at Battersea. The fastest and slowest were discarded and an average taken. Although the differences between the two drives is only half a second, it definitely felt much faster than that. But that is why we time things and test things rather than go with gut feelings.

Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 was tested in the same way as Dirt 2, using a save game at the start of the level select training mission. Timed from "continue game?" to the loading bar disappearing.

Crysis Warhead

Finally Crysis Warhead. As this takes a lot longer to load than Dirt 2 and Modern Warfare 2, and time differences should be exaggerated and sure enough the E10 shines being 2.5 seconds faster than the M10.

Ok. So let's draw a conclusion from all this.



Silicon Power E10 and M10 SSDs Page: 6

Conclusion

As we said in the intro, Solid State Drives are always popular and high on the list of wants. One of the main reasons that they haven't taken off in the manner their performance warrants is the old two-fold problem. They are very expensive compared to mechanical drives, and capacities are very limited.

The Silicon-Power drives on test today unfortunately fail on two of those three points.

Without question their performance is all we'd expect from high-end drives. The M10 is exceptionally solid and consistent throughout all our testing. It's the nicer looking of the two, the higher capacity and has the added benefit of USB support. The E10 is a pure speed machine with results consistently around the 200MB/s mark for read speeds and 150MB/s for write speeds.

That's the good news. The bad news is the other two points they fall down on. Although various capacities are available, neither of today's models are what anyone would consider large. Unless perhaps you're an ant. With no self-esteem. The E10 32GB is laughably small, barely containing Windows 7 and a few applications. Certainly it's the purest example of an OS drive. The M10 is slightly better at a bearable 64GB, and in its defence it's also intended as a portable drive. For that the capacity is spot on. Not quite so good as a main drive in a desktop system.

Finally the price. We don't know. This has to be a negative. Despite hunting and asking and seeking it appears that if anyone does sell these drives they are keeping it very secret, and even the Silicon-Power website doesn't give a RRP we could convert from one currency into GBP.

That fact alone makes drawing a conclusion exceptionally difficult. If these are priced around a lesser-known manufacturer/budget level, then they are worth considering. If the prices are remotely towards the many MANY manufacturers who produce Solid State Drives, then the sheer paucity of information makes them difficult to recommend over competing products.

Pros
- Unique styling. The M10 Carbon look is especially nice.
- Speed.

Mediocre
- Packaging is flimsy.
- The capacities on test are tiny.

Cons
- With absolutely no pricing information to go on, it's impossible to draw a firm conclusion.

Thanks to Silicon Power for supplying us with the M and E10. Discuss in our forums.