Super Talent 128GB SATA II SSD Page: 1
Introduction
 
Super Talent Technology, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose, California needs no introduction.  Manufacturers of DDR, DDR2 and DDR3 memory modules and Flash based storage devices for computers and consumer electronics.  Having been in the industry for over 20 years Super Talent's electrical, mechanical and software engineering teams develop leading-edge Dram and Flash memory solutions for a wide variety of applications.  The company currently holds over 200 patents on DRAM and Flash module design and manufacturing processes, making Super Talent one of the worlds leaders in patent holders in the Industry.
 
Today I have the pleasure of taking a look at one of the latest SSD Drives, the FTM28GX25H; a 128GB SATA II SSD drive.  Within this review I will be measuring the drives performance and seeing how it matches up to its competitors.
 
First off a few specifications taken from the manufacturers website:
 
Physical Specifications
Form Factor 2.5’’
*Capacity 128GB
Dimension 69.85mm x 100.20mm x 9.50mm
SATA Interface Serial ATA-II
NAND Flash MLC
Power Supply 5.0Vcc ± 5%
Package Complete metal housing
* Usable capacity may be less than specified after formatting.

Environmental Specifications
Operating Shock 1500G
Operating Vibration 16G
Operating Temp. 0°C to +70°C

Performance Specifications 
Sequential Read Max 260MB/Sec
Sequential Write Max 195MB/Sex
Internal Cache 64MB

Reliability Specifications
MTBF +1,000,000 hours
Data Reliability Built-in EDC/ECC function
Data Integrity 10 years

Endurance Specifications
Read Unlimited
Write 70.1 years @ 50GB write-erase/day 
 
As you can see the specifications certainly look good on paper, the drive is based on MLC technology, while not being as fast as SLC it helps keeps the costs down for us the end user and as long as the performance is there then its a win win situation for all involved.
 
Lets take a look at the packaging and the drive itself shall we? 


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Packaging and Appearance
 
Super Talent use generic packaging for all of their SSD drives: the outer packaging itself features a cut through picture of an SSD drive but does not present any real information to the customer. 
 
Super Talent Box Super Talent Box Back
 
The only way to tell what drive is contained within the packaging is via the small barcode sticker on the back of the packaging.  There is no actual references to the specific drive you have purchased at all on the packaging.  Super Talent could at least have attached additional stickers which contained device specifics, such as drive size, format, performance and so on.  You have missed a trick here Super Talent, you have a good product but bland packaging.
 
Super Talent Packaging Super Talent Packaging
  
Upon sliding out the packaging insert, the drive is very well protected when in transit, contained within a decent foam insert and sealed in an anti static bag, you will also find a user manual.
 
Super Talent Manual Super Talent Manual
 
The user manual is very well laid out but is very basic, which is ideal for the normal user and also contains a brief explanation on how SSD technology works.
 
Taking alook at the drive itself its of the standard 2.5" size, one thing to note is that you may need to purchase a drive bay adapter to mount this inside your case.  As  you can see it is an excellent looking bit of kit, featuring a black top with the Super Talent emblem blazing across it, certainly looks the part.
 
Super Talent Caddy Super Talent Drive
 
On the bottom of the drive you can find the kind of information you would expect to find on the packaging, for example the physical size, storage capacity model and serial numbers.
 
The actual drive itself is very light, weighing in at 76g and as with all SSD drives there are no moving parts therefore it is silent when in operation.  Now for most users this will be a nice bonus, but for some of us we may just find out how noisey the rest of our rigs actually are.
 
The drive features the standard SATA data and power connectors that are common across all SSD drives and will fit straight into most laptops without issues.  There is one nice extra touch to this drive though, its coupled up with the new Indilinx Barefoot controller, now this pricked up my interest as most previous generation  SSD drives featured the flakey J.Micron controller which caused alot of stuttering issues for users.  We have been promised that the new Indilinx Barefoot controller has resolved these issues and coupled with 64mb of cache that it will fly.
 
So does she fly?  Well does she?  Turn over to find out.
  


Super Talent 128GB SATA II SSD Page: 3
Test Setup
 
Well this being my first SSD review, and well drive review for OC3D, I will be using some results from previous OC3D reviews for comparison.  My test system is identical to Rich Weatherstone's who has carried out most of (if not all of) our previous drive reviews.  The test system used was fully optimised for compatability and performance for testing the SSD drive and comprised of the following components:
 
Processor: Intel Core i7 920 @ Stock Speed
Motherboard: Gigabyte UD4P X58
Memory: 6GB Corsair XMS2 1600Mhz
SATA Controller: On-board ICH10R Southbridge
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.0.1007
Operating System: Windows Vista x64 Ultimate SP1 + most recent Updates
 
As Rich has previoulsy pointed out, most people will be upgrading to an SSD drive from mechanical based drives and with that in mind I have used results from some of his previous reviews to compare the Super Talent FTM28GX25H to.  A brief rundown of their specfications can be seen below.
 
 Super Talent FTM28GX25HOCZ SummitOCZ VertexWD VelociraptorSamsung F1WD Caviar Black
 Read Seek Time <0.1ms <0.1ms <0.1ms4.3ms 8.9ms 12.2ms 
 Write Seek Time <0.1ms <0.1ms <0.1ms 4.7ms 8.9ms 12.2ms
 Average Latency <0.1ms <0.1ms <0.1ms 5.5ms 4.17ms 4.17ms
 Read Transfer Rate 260MB/sec 220MB/sec 250MB/sec 120MB/sec 175MB/sec 106MB/sec
 Write Transfer Rate 195MB/sec 200MB/sec 180MB/sec 120MB/sec 175MB/sec 106MB/sec
 Capacity 128GB 250GB 120GB 300GB 1TB 750GB
 Cache 64MB 128MB 64MB 16MB 32MB 32MB
 
As you can see the Super Talent FTM28GX25H has quite some competition, admitedly its from the other 2 SSD drives, but I thought it worth while including some results from mechanical drives also.  At the time of compiling this review, there were no updated firmware available for the Super Talent SSD.  But to keep the review and comparisons fair I have used exactly the same settings as Rich had.
  • Super Fetch: Off
  • Indexing: Off
  • Search indexing: Off
  • Defrag: Off
  • Sata Mode in BIOS was set to IDE for all hard drives
  • All drives formatted with a 4096 cluster size
  • Enhanced Performance was enabled in device manager for all hard drives
 
Testing Methodology
 
There are many ways to test a HDD or SSD drives performance, unfortunatley not many actually equate into real world performance.  As with previous testing carried out at OC3D HQ HDTune Pro results were proving to be unreliable at best for the SSD drives.  HDTach results, which once again is not the best utility for testing an SSD drives performance can be seen below.
 
 
This resulted in a sustained read speed of 220 MB/sec which while being 40MB/sec below the manufacturers stated read speed looked promising.  We will have to see how it performs in the other tests we have lined up.  To keep further testing fair I will be stealing I mean using Rich's rather full on set of tests. 
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.34
PCMark Vantage HDD benchmarks
CrystalDiskMark 2.2.0f

File Write & Manipulation
Random file creation (15GB)
Sequential file creation (100GB)

OS & Gaming
Windows Vista Startup time.
Windows Vista Shutdown time.
Unreal Tournament III map load time.
 
Carry onto the next page for some real testing.   


Super Talent 128GB SATA II SSD Page: 4
CrystalDiskMark
 
CrystalDiskMark is an excellent free utlity for evaluating the performance of any hard drive in your system, the test comprises of two tests, sequential read/write and a random read/write test.  The results below were obtained through running 5 rounds of the 500MB test.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis 
 
As you can see from the results above the Super Talent FTM28GX25H puts in an excellent performance, beating the OCZ Vertex and in some cases even the OCZ Summit in most tests.  In the 4k Read test the ST FTM28GX25H beats off both of OCZ's offerings and then holds its own in the Write test equaling the OCZ Summit. 
 
With the 512k Read test the OCZ Summit pulls ahead but is then reigned back in again by the FTM28GX25H in the 512k Write test.
 
Moving onto the Sequential Read test the OCZ drives have the edge but once again the FTM28GX25H narrows this on the Sequential Write test.  One thing to remember guys is that as newer firmware is released we should expect to see increased performance from the FTM28GV25H.
 
Lets move on and take a look at some ATTO benchmarks. 


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ATTO Disk Benchmark
 
ATTO Disk Benchmark is another favourite at the OC3D Hq, it seems to be one of the older utilities which is in service but it still helps sort the wheat from the chaff.  ATTO is particularly good for testing SSD performance, all tests were run with the default settings of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes, with a total length of 256MB.  Key stages of the benchmark are included in the graphs below.
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis 
 
As with the CrystalDiskMark benchmarks the Super Talent FTM28GX25H puts in a stirling performance when it comes to the Write tests.  It has no problems beating both the OCZ Summit and OCZ Vertex drives in all but one of the Write benchmarks.  The read perfomance is also very close only losing out to both of OCZ's offerings in the 32k Read test.  I ran this particular test in total 15 times due to the result difference between the drives, convinced that something must be wrong.  I was unable to improve on this test result for some reason.  As with the previous tests, the results of the SSD's outshine the old mechanical drives by a large margin.
 
Move along for some PC Mark Vantage results.  


Super Talent 128GB SATA II SSD Page: 6
PC Mark Vantage
 
PC Mark Vantage is one of the main benchmarks utlities thats trusted and thats for a very good reason, its one of the few benchmarking tools out there that can actually simulate day to day usage on a PC. "Whats so good about that?" you may ask, well to put it simply it can give us a good idea of how a PC or parts of a PC (in our case the SSD's and HDD's) will actually function in real world use.  For this part of the test we will be using the HDD Suite broken down into its core results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
In all tests the ST FTM28GX25H puts in an outstanding performance, beating the OCZ Vertex in all but two of the tests; Windows Photo Gallery by 1.42MB/s  and Media Player which was only by .6 MB/s.  Against the OCZ Summit the ST FTM28GX25H wins in all but one test which was again the Windows Photo Gallery test this time by 8.6MB/s.
The Super Talent drive turns in yet another excellent performance. 
 
Lets take alook at how the drive handles real world usage. 


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Dummy File Creation
 
This next test measures how each drive performs when writing files to itself, to do this we use a utility called Dummy File Creator. If we were to copy a file from a slower mechanical drive to the SSD, we would get false results due to the mechanical drive slowing down the file transfer, Dummy File Creator takes away the need to use another drive when testing writing to the SSD.  The first 16GB benchmark writes a collection of files ranging in size from 1GB to 100KB, whereas the 100GB benchmark writes a single file of exactly that size to the disk.
 
 
 
 
Unreal Tournament 3 Level Loading
 
As with Rich's other benchmarks, I have recreated his tests faithfully. The Unreal Tournament 3 Level Loading was no exception. A fresh copy of Vista was installed and then Unreal Tournament 3 was installed.  The test is simple, start up Unreal Tourney 3, select ONS-Torlan map and measure the time it takes to load from clicking on "Begin" button,  to stay true to the test this process was repeated a total of three times with a reboot between each test to clear system memory.
 
 
 
Vista Boot/Shutdown Time
 
A simple test which shows how quickly the system could boot and launch a text file from the startup folder.  A fresh copy of Vista SP1 was installed and then testing was carried out.  To ensure the tests were fair the results were averaged over initial reboots.  Shutdown times were also recorded, as found with previous testing though this generally happened pretty quickly and acuracy was hard to obtain.
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
In the Dummy File Creation 16gb test the ST FTM28GX25H is slightly slower than its nearest rvials which has somewhat surprised me.  In the previous benchmarks the ST drive had proven to be consistant at beating both of OCZ's drive when it came to file writing.  Moving onto the 100GB file test, the results are the same, but  the time difference is somewhat narrower the ST FTM28GX25H is still slightly slower though.  Moving onto the Unreal Tournament III Map Loading test the 3 SSD drives are to close to call, all completed the test withing miliseconds of each other.  Taking a look at the Windows Vista Boot Time test, you can see once again the time difference between the SSD's is marginal and the same with the Vista Shutdown Time test, with the ST FTM28GX25H losing to the OCZ Summit but beating the OCZ Vertex drives.
 
Ok, so we have seen the test results lets turn over and see what we can conclude from them.


Super Talent 128GB SATA II SSD Page: 8
Conclusion
 
If you take a look at the IT Market at the moment, the most talked about technology at present has to be SSD drives.  The HDD has a been a storage medium that has long been overlooked in my opinion.  Yes we have had advances in drives physical sizes and capacities but nothing that has really set the world alight.  That all changed when the first generation SSD drives were made available. These were prohibitably expensive though and only within the reach of the wealthy or crazy, or even both depending how you look at it.   That has now all changed.  In the last 8 months or so we have seen an influx of SSD drives of varying sizes and prices, some offering excellent performance others just plain outstanding.  Looking back at the results we have seen over the last 6 pages of testing, we can see that SSD drives as a whole have improved massively what was once the main bottle neck in any PC, all we need to wait on now is an increase in the storage capacity of SSD's.
 
Taking a look at the Super Talent  FTM28GX25H, I have to admit was a pleasure. Having moved over to SSD from a Western Digital RE3 drive I would never move back.  The performance is blisteringly fast and as the drive uses the Indilinx Barefoot controller along with 64mb of onboard cache, there is no sign of any stuttering issues which plagued the first generation SSD drives.  However, I was surprised that the Super Talent user guide did not mention some of the recommended performance tweaks (in fact not only do these tweaks improve performance, they can also increase the life span of your drive) such as disabling superfetch, turning off defrag and also disabling the page file or setting it up on alternative mechanical drive, whether this would effect performance of the FTM28GX25H in the long run or not, remains to be seen.  During testing, the drive performed perfectly with only the ATTO 32k Read test displaying a slight annomoly as the results were down against the OCZ drives.  However, retesting produced the same results.
 
Right from the start the Super Talent  FTM28GX25H surprised me with an average read speed of 220 MB/s in HD Tach and a burst speed of 181.5MB/s which, is not to be sniffed at.  The drive then held its own in the CrystalDiskMark test suite against both the OCZ Summit and Vertex, while the ATTO Disk test suite further confirmed that the FTM28GX25H was a drive worth paying attention to.  The PC Mark Vantage  HDD test suite also added to the performance credentials of the drive placing it ahead of both the OCZ Summit and Vertex in nearly all the tests.  The Dummy file creation test placed the FTM28GX25H slightly slower than the OCZ parts, but only marginally so and this was then improved on with the Unreal Tournament III Level loading and the Windows Vista Startup and Shutdown trials.  
 
So, what can we conclude from the suite of tests we have thrown at the ST FTM28GX25H?  Well I can say for sure it's an excellent bit of kit: performance is excellent, beating the OCZ offerings in mosts tests with the promise of more to come as Super Talent release newer firmware.  I was a bit disapointed by not being able to see the quoted read/write speeds of 260/195, as mentioned though perhaps the performance will improve when the firmware matures.
 
If your looking to make the move from a mechanical drive to SSD, I can certainly recommend the  Super Talent FTM28GX25H it offers lightening performance in both Read and Write tasks with near zero access times.  One thing I have to say though, Super Talent, if your reading this jazz up your naming convention, FTM28GX25H doesn't roll off the tongue easily now does it?
 
The best price I could find for the Super Talent FTM28GX25H was approx $315usd on Newegg. I am currently unable to find a UK vendor with any pricing or stock.  Bang for Buck?  I certainly think so, with excellent performance and zero access times what more could you ask for? 
 
 
The Good
- Excellent Performance
 
The Mediocre
- 2 year warranty, while competitors offer 3 years.
- Did not reach the claimed performance speeds
 
The Bad
- Does not include a 2.5" to 3.5" mounting kit, would be nice.
 
 
 OC3D Performance Award
 
Many thanks to Super Talent for supplying us with the review sample. Discuss in our forums.