Corsair Accelerator 30GB & 60GB Review

ccokeman - 2012-04-02 18:23:04 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: July 8, 2012
Price: $59.99 - $74.99

Introduction:

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.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

The Accelerator drives are built to fit within the limits of the industry standard 2.5 inch form factor. The casing differs from many of the Solid State Drives I have seen because the shell is a thin sheet metal rather than a combination of thicker cast aluminum or plastic. Externally, the drive looks good for something that will not be seen once installed in the system. Connectivity on the Accelerator lineup is standard SATA with both a data and power connection. This series of drives use a SATA 3Gb/s interface rather than the newer SATA 6Gb/s standard. Mounting points are standard for the form factor and can be used with the included adapter or in cases that have specific 2.5 inch form factor mounting provisions. The front of the drive shows the series and the capacity while the back side shows the unique serial number used to activate the NVELO Dataplex software so that the drive can be used as a caching drive. The warranty sticker on the back is used to show that the warranty has been voided if the drive is taken apart. With a three year warranty there should be no need to pull the drive apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the shell, the Corsair Accelerator drives are equipped with half size PCB's to house the controller and DRAM. The shell is not held together with screws but is clipped together and locked in place via a few punched-out clips on each side of the drive.

 

The 30GB drive is controlled by a Sandforce 2141 four channel NAND controller and holds a total of four 8GB NAND modules with two on each side of the PCB. The 60GB version of the Accelerator uses a Sandforce 2181 eight channel controller to handle the eight 8GB NAND modules for a total of 64GB on board to cover over-provisioning mechanisms used by the Sandforce controller. Micron 8GB 25nm asynchronous NAND modules with part number 29F64G08CBAAA are used on both the 30 and 60GB drives, represented in the maximum read/write characteristics of the drives. The 30GB drive is rated for up to 270MB/s / 240MB/s sequential read/writes while the 60GB drive is rated at up to 280MB/s / 260MB/s sequential read/write operations.

 

 

 

Even with last generation SSD architecture, the read/write operations of the Accelerator drives are much faster than a traditional spindle driven drive. These faster, smaller, and more affordable drives are perfect for use with caching software, with Intel's IRST, or even ASUS SSD caching utility on supported boards. The software that allows the drive to be added to an existing OS installation without loss of data or re-installation of the OS is made by NVELO. The Dataplex software package is used to intelligently manage the caching operations and is used to provide the performance lift seen with the addition of a caching drive.

 

Installing the software is pretty straightforward and results in a significant reduction in the boot cycle after a second reboot. Just make sure to use the Dataplex utility to verify that the caching drive and software is actually enabled. Lets see if the touted "up to 5x performance increase" in drive performance is indeed a real lift in performance, or whether it is just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

Specifications:

Part Number
CSSD-C60GB
CSSD-C30GB
Warranty
Three years
SSD Unformatted Capacity
60 GB
30 GB
Max Sequential R/W (ATTO)
Up to 280 MB/s sequential read
260 MB/s sequential write
Up to 270 MB/s sequential read — 240 MB/s sequential write
Max Random 4k Write (IOMeter 08)
No
Interface
SATA 3Gb/s
Technology
No
Form Factor
2.5 inch
DRAM Cache Memory
No
Weight
80G
Voltage
5V ±5%
Power Consumption
(active) 1.4A
Power Consumption (idle/standby/sleep)
 0.2A
S.M.A.R.T. Support
Yes
Shock
1500 G
MTBF
2,000,000 hours

 

Features:


 

All information courtesy of Corsair @ http://www.corsair.com/us/ssd/accelerator-series-ssd-cache-drives.html

Testing:

Testing of hard drives can be done in several different ways – one method involves leaving the drive bare and connecting it as a secondary drive in an existing system. By simultaneously cleaning the drive after each benchmark run-through, this allows you to see its theoretical peaks in performance. However, these results would only represent a best-case scenario – one that you may never see unless operating a bare drive. The second method, which OverclockersClub employs, involves loading the operating system and benchmarking suite onto the test drive itself. This would give performance results that emulate real-world usage more closely. Testing will be completed with the P67-based system listed below, alongside a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit that is updated to SP1 and fully patched as of the date of testing. The latest Intel Rapid Storage technology drivers and software have also been installed. All tests are conducted with the drive connected to a native SATA III 6 Gb/s port on the motherboard, in an effort to eliminate any possible bottlenecks with performance.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Drives:

Benchmarks:

  1. HD Tune 4.60 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2012
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. PCMark Vantage
  8. PCMark 7
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown

Testing:

HD Tune 4.60 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 4.60 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but run more precise file and random access benchmarks as well.

Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

Random Access Benchmark:

 

 

 

In the HD Tune testing the combination of the Seagate Barracuda XT and Corsair Accelerator cache drive pay dividends as the file size increases in the file benchmark tests. In the random access testing, the Accelerated combo delivers SSD-like performance across all measures.

Testing:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Once you remove burst speed and CPU usage from the equation the Accelerated disk drive is again the highest performing combo. The 60GB Accelerator does deliver a higher level of performance

Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Sequential read/write and 512K testing the Accelerator 30GB and Seagate 1TB combo fared worse than the drive alone while the 60GB Accelerated drive is the fastest combination. When you move to the 4K and 4KQ32 testing, the value of using a cache drive is again illustrated clearly with performance indicative of the what can be expected of the Sandforce SATA 3GB/s controller.

Testing:

Atto Disk Benchmark v2.47: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this comparison, the Accelerator-equipped spindle drive offers significant performance increases over the drive alone and even the hybrid Seagate Momentus. This test met or exceeded the read/write speeds for the drives with 280MB/s on both drives at the 1024K test point.

Testing:

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark specifically designed to test the speed of solid state drives. However, it also works for traditional hard drives. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds, as well as access times for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write, and overall performance of the drive.






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the sequential read and write tests, the 30GB drive still shows the same weakness as seen in the earlier tests. However where most users will see the bang for the buck payback is in the 4K and 4K-64 tests where the Corsair Accelerator drives offer significant improvements over the spindle drive and hybrid Momentus.

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.








 

 












 

 

 

 

 

 

In every single test the Corsair Accelerator equipped Seagate Barracuda XT out-performed the Hybrid Momentus and the spindle drive by wide margins.

Testing:

In the world of computing, everyone likes a computer that can start up and shut down quickly. The ability to boot into your system as fast as possible allows you to start the tasks you set out to do that much more quickly. Not to mention the older you get, the greater the chance is that you'll forget what you wanted to use the computer for in the first place! The sweet spot is about 30 seconds or less. It is possible with conventional hard drives, though very difficult to attain this "golden" 30-second time. This time should be easier to attain with the speed of an SSD, but the only way to tell is to test it. To run these tests, I used a stopwatch to calculate the number of seconds it took from pressing the power button on the case, to having a fully-functioning desktop. For the shut down test, I began timing from the click of the shut down button in the start menu, and stopped when the system power was off completely.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 






 

 

 

Adding a caching drive to the system offers the benefit of a faster startup and shutdown sequence to improve the end user experience. In this case, both Accelerator drives offer improvements in both the startup and shutdown tests. The end user would feel the system boot up more quickly and offer improved performance.

Conclusion:

Will you get full-on SSD performance numbers out of the Accelerator drives when used as caching drives? No, they are not meant to offer this kind of performance, but are instead designed to improve upon the disk performance of the spindle drive you already have installed in a system. Do the Accelerator drives offer a significant boost in drive performance in your day-to-day usage model? A resounding YES! First lets talk about the installation of the drives into the system. Other than a few glitches that turned out to be user error, the installation of the NVELO Dataplex software took less than three minutes (five if you read the installer carefully). This ease of use is significant when you look at the alternative. Using Intel's IRST requires you to set up the drive as part of a RAID array, which has to be done when the operating system is installed. If you need to remove the cache drive you will need to re-install the operating system. This hassle is not required with the Corsair Accelerator and Dataplex software. Adding the cache drive to the system is as simple as installing the software or uninstalling it to remove the drive from the system. It could not get any easier!

The costs associated with a SATA 6Gb/s Solid State drive are significant when you look at the costs for ownership of the Accelerator. At a price between $55 and $75, the drive works as intended and offers improved disk drive performance for a minimal outlay of your hard earned cash. All of these benefits are seen while saving the end user time since an OS re-install is not needed. Also, you get a bang for the buck improvement in disk performance right off the bat. The other added value is the fact that you do not pay any extra for additional storage as you keep your current large capacity drive in tact, allowing you get the best of both worlds.

At this time, support for large drives used with the Accelerators is capped at 2TB due to OS limitations and the lack of support for GUID partitioning. Since systems are now able to handle capacities above 2TB, I cannot see this restriction as a concern in the near future. Users contemplating a new system will most likely purchase to a dedicated SSD and large capacity single storage drive. As a means to improve disk performance on current systems, the Corsair Accelerator drives perform quite well with an improved feel to the system and tangible results to back up the claims. Simple to install and implement, Corsair has a winner in the Accelerator series.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: