Corsair Performance Pro Series 256 GB Review

ccokeman - 2011-11-24 15:48:50 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: December 26, 2011
Price: $419


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.

Closer Look:

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.


Three years
SSD Unformatted Capacity
256 GB
Max Sequential Read/Write (using ATTO Disk Benchmark)
Up to 515 MB/s sequential read — 440 MB/s sequential write
Max Random 4k Write (using IOMeter 08)
65K IOPS (4K aligned)
Interface SATA
SATA 6Gb/s
Supercharged Synchronous NAND
Form Factor
2.5 inch
DRAM Cache Memory
5 V ± 5%
Power Consumption (active)
Power Consumption (idle/standby/sleep)
S.M.A.R.T. Support
1500 G
1,500,000 hours



Package contents

Technical Specifications




All information Courtesy of Corsair @


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:


  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. I/O Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown


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.



















File Benchmark:



Random Access Benchmark:



In the HD Tune testing, the Marvell-equipped Corsair Performance Pro delivers top-of-the-line performance in the Average Read Speed test. It excels in the Random testing using both the 64K and 1M test scenarios, with higher IOPs performance and average read speeds than the rest of the test drives.


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 2011: 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.



The Corsair Performance Pro delivers excellent performance in both of these tests. The Average Read results in HD Tach are just short of those delivered by the OCZ Vertex 3. The SiSoft Sandra drive index score is also below that of the Vertex 3, though at or above the level of the remaining comparison drives.


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 testing, we chose the 1000 MB option.


















The Corsair Performance Pro 256GB drive delivers exceptional performance in the Sequential Write, 512K Write, and 4K QD 32 testing. This really shows how well the drive handles compressed data.


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 various file sizes.


















In ATTO, the Corsair Performance Pro generally has lower read and write performance throughout the test suite. It does, however, nail its rated performance of up to 515 MB/s read and 440 MB/s writes.


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.


















Corsair's Performance Pro Series drive has the highest overall scoring in this test. The strong Sequential Write and 4K 64 Thread results combine to deliver a drive that outscores the comparison drives in this incompressible data test.


IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998. Since then, it has seen widespread use within the industry.


















In this test, the Corsair Performance Pro performs measurably better than the rest of the drives, save in the CPU overhead it took to run the test suite. Here, the drive uses the most CPU cycles to complete the workload.


PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the hard drive test suite. The measurement for the hard drive suite is the total score, though 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 tested drive.




















In three out of five tests, the Performance Pro 256 GB drive from Corsair delivers the highest performance. The overall hard drive score puts the Corsair drive just a tick lower than the Vertex 3, while the Pyro SE drives take the overall scoring title.


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 quicker. Not to mention that the older you get, the greater the chance 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 should be easier with the speed of an SSD, but the only way to tell is to test it out. To run the startup test, 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 shutdown test, I began timing from the click of the shutdown button in the start menu, and stopped when the system power was off.
















The Corsair Performance Pro 256 GB drive has been incredibly impressive so far. The 27 second boot time is just a second slower than the Vertex 3 and identical in the shutdown test at four seconds. This is proof that the use of the Marvell controller was not a mistake.


Corsair has taken a controller and tweaked the firmware to deliver a drive that offers excellent performance, especially when working with compressed data. Throughout testing, the Performance Pro delivered consistent results and did not show any signs of performance degradation. Many times, drives are tested with no stored data, which shows the best-case scenario for performance. However, that does not represent our day to day usage patterns – these drives see reads and writes of data all day long. Thus, there will undoubtedly be some drop-off unless you let the drive wait for a TRIM cycle for cleanup. This is where the use of the Marvell 9174 controller and its alternative garbage collection routines pays off in spades. The Marvell controller sets up an aggressive routine that runs more often and independent from the operating system at hand. It will maintain performance regardless of whether you run something other than Windows 7 or a RAID array, where TRIM is usually not supported.

Across the board, the Performance Pro 256 GB drive offers excellent performance. It easily reaches its rated speeds of up to 515 MB/s sequential read and 440 MB/s sequential write in the ATTO testing. What is more impressive, are its results in CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD, where the Performance Pro delivered the highest performance of any non-RAID drive I have looked at so far. In the IO Meter testing, the Performance Pro was easily the highest performing drive once again. Corsair and Marvell have put together a drive that just flat-out delivers. Priced competitively at $419, the 256 GB Corsair Performance Pro drive easily makes the short list. It's priced right, delivers awesome performance, is built with high-end performance in mind, and comes with a 3 year warranty. It's not the fastest drive, but has the Cojones where it counts and rightfully earns the "Performance Pro" name.