Corsair Accelerator 30GB & 60GB Reviewccokeman -
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Price: $59.99 - $74.99
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Finding a way to increase the performance of your PC can lead you down one of a few avenues, and they all require you to spend some hard-earned cash to get to the promised land. Video card and CPU upgrades show tangible performance improvements that are easily measurable. Solid state drives fall into the same category with an instant boost in response time and throughput. Costs and capacity have been the most difficult hurdles to overcome for the mainstream user. With that being said, solid state drives have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. The cost per GB has dropped to a point where a decent 128GB solid state drive is affordable and generates a significant improvement in system responsiveness and reductions in boot times. These are things that you can actually feel when using the system. Introduced with Intel's Z68 chipset, SSD Caching was a way to improve responsiveness and boot times using the Intel Rapid Storage Technology suite to set up the caching system. This system was both cumbersome and required both the cache and target drives to be part of a RAID array. This setup meant that if you broke the array a total re-installation of the operating system was in order.
Earlier this year at CES, Corsair showed off the Accelerator lineup touting the fact that the software used to implement the caching function did not require a RAID array setup. Compared to the traditional Intel Rapid Storage Technology, the Accelerator series does not require re-installing the operating system after removing the cache drive. The Accelerator Caching Drive is offered in 30GB, 45GB, and 60GB sizes with performance curves that escalate with the increased capacity of the Accelerator drive. Pricing on the 30GB drive starts at $59, with the 45GB coming in at $79, and $89 for the 60GB drive. These prices are comparable to other similarly sized drives. The 60GB drive offers read and write speeds of up to 280/270MB/s respectively through its SATA 3Gb/s interface. On its own, the drive offers much better performance specifications than a standard mechanical platter drive. As Intel looks to improve system response with it's Z77 PCH using Smart Response and Rapid start technologies, caching drives look to be coming into their own. Corsair's option looks to bypass the chipset capabilities and deliver a vendor-free solution that implements the caching function using NVELO Dataplex software to deliver the best of both worlds when coupling an Accelerator drive with a large capacity spindle-based drive.
The packaging for the the Accelerator lineup is reminiscent of the Force GT lineup but with a change in color and naming on the front of the package. The key takeaway points on the front of the package are the statement that the Accelerator drive can deliver up to 5x the read/write performance of a traditional hard disk drive, and that this drive uses a SATA 2 drive interface. The drive capacity (30 and 60GB) and a picture of the drive are also on the front so you know exactly what you are purchasing. The back side has the SKU, part number, and a short description of what the Accelerator has to offer in terms of performance. On the bottom right is a small orange box that describes how the claim of up to a 5X increase over a standard disk drive were generated.
Inside the packaging, the two drives are identical so I will only be showing the contents for one drive. The only real differences between the two are inside the drive housing. The drive is the full retail package with the drive and accessories included. Included inside the package is the Accelerator drive held in a plastic clamshell with the mounting screws, a 2.5 to 3.5 inch drive bracket, and the Accelerator "Quick Start" guide that goes through the steps to mount and install the drive into the system. There are some very specific steps when it comes to the installation of the NVELO software package that allows these drives to function as caching drives. Accessories for this series of drive include the 2.5 to 3.5 inch drive bay adapter and screws to hold it in place. You don't really need much else since SATA cables are usually supplied in an overabundance in most motherboard accessory packages, so a spare should be easy to find. The drive adapter is black and has the Corsair logo displayed prominently. The Quick Start guide has a place to write down your drive serial number that you will need when you download and install the NVELO Dataplex software.
Since Intel introduced drive caching to the masses with the Z68 chipset, drive manufacturers have been putting together drives that could be used for this feature. Let's look inside the drives to see what makes them tick and deliver an upswing in disk drive performance for less than the cost of a large capacity spindle drive.