Corsair 128GB Nova Series SSD Review

ajmatson - 2010-03-08 17:23:29 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: April 20, 2010
Price: $369.00

Introduction:

Not so long ago it was a high end luxury to have a solid state drive in your system. However, with the way technology keeps evolving and the way manufacturers are designing their products, owning a solid state drive is now within more user's grasp. Manufacturers are now making faster, more stable, solid state drives in a variety of speeds and capacities to meet everyone's budget and desire. For those of us who want the fastest speeds for benchmarking and pure computing bliss, manufacturers are using newer controllers which are free from the stuttering that early controllers such as the JMicron based SSD's used in the early days. One series of solid state drives taking the jump for faster and more stable technology is the Corsair Nova series. The Nova series offers high speeds using the Indilinx Controller which does away with the stability issues of once upon a time. Combine the high speeds with a two year warranty and a 114 year time to failure and you have yourself a pretty impressive new piece of technology. Corsair has a couple lines of solid state drives in its arsenal which have proven to be top contenders and the Nova Series shows signs to wrestle with the best of them.

The Nova series solid state drives come in two capacities. There is a 64GB model, which offers sequential read speeds of up to 270MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 130MB/s. There is also a 128GB version which offers the same sequential read speeds of up to 270MB/s but the sequential write speeds are increased to up to 195MB/s. Both drives also are built using the 2.5 inch form factor and use the SATA II interface. The Nova series uses MLC NAND Flash Technology which stands for Multi-level Cell which lets more bits per cell to be saved and reduces the overall cost of the drive. The particular model we are going to be looking at today is CSSD-V128GB2-BRKT which is the 128GB Nova Series Solid State Drive from Corsair.

 

Closer Look:

The Corsair Nova 128GB SSD comes packaged in a nice small box with a picture of the SSD on the front along with the model series and capacity so that you know exactly what you are getting when you buy it. On the back of the packaging is the product sticker (which contains the model number).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once you get the package open there are two parts to the inside. There is the SSD, which is protected by a plastic protector and the 3.5 inch adapter desktop kit. The kit makes placing the drive into your system a breeze if your case does not have a spot to accommodate a 2.5 inch drive.

 

Now that we have the package open, we can open the drive up and see what makes the magic inside.

Closer Look:

The Nova series solid state drives from Corsair are their higher end, just under the Extreme series. This particular drive offers a 128GB unformatted capacity for storage space which is ample for most computing tasks today and is ideal as a replacement drive for a notebook / netbook to reduce power consumption and increase performance or as a main OS drive in your desktop to get those blazing fast load times. On this particular solid state drive, the sequential write speeds will top out at 270MB/s and the sequential write speeds will top out at 195MB/s. The drive is made using a 2.5 inch space saving form factor which allows the use in either a notebook without modification or a desktop using the supplied mounting kit. The housing used to keep the innards safe is made from black aluminum which also helps dissipate the heat that is generated. The sticker on the front of the drive shows the part number as well as the model V128 which stands for the Nova Series 128GB drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Corsair Nova 128GB SSD uses a SATA II interface for connection for up to 3.0Gb/s transfer speeds, which equates out to 384MB/s on the interface, which is more than enough bandwidth for the drives maximum speeds to travel on. To connect the drive to your system, you would install it just as any other SATA drive by attaching a SATA power cable from your power supply and a SATA II data cable for maximum speeds connected to a SATA II port on your motherboard.

 

Now for a look on the inside of the drive. A note of waring first that opening the drive and removing or breaking the seals over the screws will void your warranty. For this reason we here at OverclockClub.com open our drives so that you do not have to open yours. This gives you the ability of seeing what is on the inside without voiding your warranty. Once you get the four screws for the cover & PCB off, you can see the drive in all of its glory. Near the top of the board closest to the SATA interface there is the controller and the cache chip and below that are one side of the NAND Flash modules. There are eight NAND Flash chips on each side of the PC Board making the total capacity 128GB.

 

 

The Corsair Nova 128GB SSD uses the INDILINX "Barefoot" controller which is an improved controller from the older, JMicron days where performance was not so good. This INDILINX chip is an ARM-based SATA controller that offers a low price point while maintaining high performance. This controller also offers the all important TRIM support for Windows 7 computers which lengthens the life of the drive and maintains the performance. Next to the controller is an Elphida 64MB Cache chip which aids the controller in the higher performance reads and writes with no lag. The Nova Series SSD's use Intel MLC NAND Flash memory for the storage on the device.

 

 

To install the drive, you use the included 3.5 inch kit that Corsair includes with the drive. Just mount the drive to the bracket using the included screws and then mount it just like a regular 3.5 inch hard drive. Just slide it into the drive bay, connect the SATA power and data cables and you are all set to go.

 

Now that we have seen the inside of the Corsair Nova SSD, I say we plug her in and see how she performs compared to other SSD drives on the market.

Specifications:

Model Number:
CSSD-V128GB2-BRKT
CSSD-V64GB2-BRKT
Technology:
Fast performance MLC NAND flash
Fast performance MLC NAND flash
Form Factor:
2.5 inch
2.5 inch
Unformatted Capacity:
128GB 64GB
Interface:
SATA II (3.0Gb/s)
Backward compatible with SATA I
SATA II (3.0Gb/s)
Backward compatible with SATA I
Performance:
270 MB/s sequential read
195 MB/s sequential write
270 MB/s sequential read
130 MB/s sequential write
DRAM Cache Memory:
64MB 64MB
Voltage:
5V ±5% 5V ±5%
Power Consumption (active):
2.0W Max 2.0W Max
Power Consumption (idle/standby/sleep):
0.5W Max 0.5W Max
S.M.A.R.T. Support:
Yes Yes
MTBF:
1,000,000 hours 1,000,000 hours
Shock:
40G 40G
Warranty:
Two Years Two Years

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of Corsair @  http://www.corsair.com/products/ssd_nova/default.aspx

Testing:

To test the drives, I started with an image of Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP2 with all the latest updates and patches and the testing software. Each drive was filled with data, then imaged to simulate a used drive. Testing is accomplished by using the SSD as the main drive containing the OS. This is done so that the testing is not just plugging in a raw drive and showing stellar numbers. That's not real life - you don't purchase a new drive to let it go unused. Write testing was completed before the drive was imaged. As many of you probably already know, solid state drives slow down as the pages in the flash memory are filled and must be rewritten to each time data is stored. This is the basis for loading the drives up first and then loading an image to the drive with Acronis True Image. Comparisons will include both SSDs and a standard hard drive.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Modules:

 

Benchmarks:

  1. HD Tune 3.50 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2009
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. PCMark Vantage

 

The benchmarks will give a broad picture as to how each of the drives performs, so you can make your conclusions based on the performance of each drive. Most benchmarks are not yet optimized for solid state drives, but included in the benchmark suite is a new benchmark designed for testing SSDs, AS SSD.

Testing:

HD Tune 3.50 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 3.50 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but more precise file benchmarks, and a random access benchmark as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benchmark:

 

 

 

File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

Random Access Benchmark:

 

 

 

While the Corsair Nova SSD had a bit of a higher CPU utilization, the scores were the best in the majority of the tests run, especially at lower block sizes.

Testing:

HD Tach v3.0.4.0: HD Tach is another hard drive benchmark utility, much like HD Tune. This benchmark will measure the average read speed, the random access time, and the amount of the CPU used during operation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP3: SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.

 

Physical Disks

 

 

For the HD Tach benchmark, the Corsiar Nova SSD had the highest average read score and lowest CPU utilization, but came in a bit behind in burst speed from the Kingston SSD. For the Sandra tests, it came back as being the top drive in both speed and access time.

Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 2.2: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds for the drives in 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Crystal Disk Mark the Corsair Nova blew away the competition in the read set of tests and was better in the writes except for the 4K write, which it placed a close third.

Testing:

Atto Disk Benchmark v2.34: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good, hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the ATTO tests the Corsiar Nova took the competition again except for the 4K writes, which seems to be the only weakness of this drive.

Testing:

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark designed for the speeds of solid state drives, however it will also work for traditional hard drives as well. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds and access time for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write and overall performance of the drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the AS SSD tests the handicap seems to be the 4K write tests however; the read and overall tests shows the Corsair Nova's true glory.

Testing:

PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the hard drive test suite. The measurement for the hard drive suite will be the total score, then the scoring for each test will be broken down. There are a total of eight hard drive tests within PCMark Vantage and all eight will be run to gauge the performance of each drive tested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of the tests challenged the Corsair Nova but not by much. For the majority, the Nova was the top dog.

Conclusion:

Wow, when it came to benchmarking the Corsair Nova 128GB SSD, I expected good results, but what I got was awesome. The read speeds alone of this drive is astonishing. It seems the only handicap the Nova drive has is during the 4K writes where it does bog down a bit, but that is it. During sequential reads, the performance once again screams. The Indilix Barefoot controller and the 64MB cache, combined with the fast MLC flash, the Corsair Nova is one of, if not the best drive tested to date. Out of the 58 tests ran, the Corsair Nova 128GB SSD won 44 of them and tied some of the others. Making this the best "bang for your buck"  SSD OverclockersClub has tested so far. While still a pretty solid chunk of change, the Corsair Nova is cheaper then the same capacity Mushkin Io, which is a bit more at most national e-tailers, but is faster then it in most of the benchmarks compared.

Corsair has designed both a 64GB flavor priced at a lower average price of $180 and the 128GB version reviewed here, for an average of $369. Some retailers have even gone as low as $329 for the 128GB version, so keep your eyes peeled. For the price, this is the best bang for the buck. While not in as high capacity as mechanical drives, the blazing speed and load times it offers, out weighs the higher costs. At $369 for the 128GB Corsair Nova, it comes in at about $2.88/Gb of raw power. If you are looking to drop a few bills on the latest and greatest, I suggest you pick up the Corsair Nova 128GB SSD and breathe new life into your rig. Imagine a pair of these in a RAID 0 setup... Mmmmmm

 

Pros:

 

Cons: