Corsair Performance Pro Series 256 GB Reviewccokeman - December 26, 2011
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
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Lately, we have been looking at a slew of Solid-States drives that delivers comparable performance across the board, with most differences coming down to capacity and the NAND flash memory used. In general, the Sandforce SF-2281 controller has been the star of the show, capable of read speeds up and over 550 MB/s. Moving in a different direction from the norm, Corsair has stepped up to the plate with its Performance Pro Series drives, which use the Marvell 9174 series controller and Supercharged Synchronous NAND chips. The Performance Pro Series drives come in two capacities; 128 GB and 256 GB. We will be looking at the 256 GB variant today. The drive has top-line specifications of up to 515 MB/s sequential read, 440 MB/s sequential write, and 65K IOPS 4K aligned. Pricing is competitive, starting at $199 for the 128 GB version and $419 for the 256 GB version. Using a refined controller that bucks the current trend, this drive looks to be an interesting choice. Let’s see if the work on the firmware and hardware pays off.
Corsair’s Performance Pro Series 256 GB drive comes in a standard retail box that displays a picture of the drive, its capacity (256 GB), the series name (Performance Pro), and SATA interface on the front of the package. The back side has the obligatory sales pitch in several languages, explaining the reasoning behind the Corsair Performance Pro Series drive as the best SSD choice. A small window reveals the drive serial number. Along the bottom, the model number is listed above the SKU tag. Overall, the package is standard fare and simple, just like the front of the box.
Inside the package, you will find two sections – one holding the drive and the other with the included 2.5 to 3.5 inch drive bay adapter. The Performance Pro drive is held in a plastic clam shell enclosure, while the drive adapter is in its own plastic sleeve that already has the mounting hardware attached. Installing the Performance Pro 256GB drive is just a matter of lining up the screw holes, threading in a quartet of the included screws, and then mounting the adapter in your chassis.
The Corsair Performance Pro Series 256 GB drive looks much like many other 2.5 inch form-factor drives in size and connectivity. The drive is 256 GB in size – a departure from the 240 GB capacity prevalent with SandForce-equipped drives, which require the extra space for wear-leveling and NAND reallocation. The shell is an aesthetically pleasing, brushed aluminum, 2-part enclosure held together by four screws. Anti-tamper seals are used to make sure that the end-user knows that once the seals are compromised, the 3 year warranty become null and void. In terms of connectivity, the drive uses a standard SATA 6Gb/s data connection that is backwards compatible with SATA 3 Gb/s and 1.5 Gb/s boards. It is also powered by a standard SATA connection. Mounting the Corsair Performance Pro 256 GB drive is accomplished by either the 2.5 to 3.5 inch adapter or directly into a 2.5 inch drive bay in your chassis.
The enclosure splits apart after taking out the four screws that hold it together. Inside is the PCB that holds the NAND flash memory alongside the DRAM cache and controller. Beside the fact that Corsair is revisiting the Marvel controller, each chip on the PCB uniquely has a thermal pad that connects it to the chassis for heat dissipation. The bottom shell of the chassis also has a shield to prevent any shorts on the back side of the PCB.
The Corsair Performance Pro 256 GB drive is built using the Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 8 channel controller and 256 GB of 32 nm Toshiba Toggle mode NAND flash. The Marvell controller is rated for up to 515 MB/s sequential read, 440 MB/s sequential write, 65K IOPS (4K aligned). The Toshiba NAND part number TH58TVG8D2FBA89 is listed as Supercharged Synchronous NAND in the specs, with each module being 32 GB in size. Between the NAND and the drive connectivity, there is a pair of NANYA NT5CB128M16BP-CG 256 MB DDR3 1333 CAS 9 modules that serve a caching function. TRIM is supported on the Marvell 9174 controller, though you only benefit when using an operating system that supports it such as Windows 7. Instead of waiting for a TRIM cycle to take place, however, the Marvell controller also has a built-in garbage collection algorithm that runs during any idle time and continuously maximizes drive performance.
With a change-up from the popular SandForce SF-2281 controller, Corsair has put the Performance Pro at a performance crossroads. Let’s see how it does in comparison to its competitors and see if the controller change can validate the Performance Pro nameplate.