Mushkin Callisto Deluxe 60GB Review

ccokeman - 2010-08-27 22:50:43 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 6, 2010
Price: $144


The Callisto series of solid state drives (SSDs) from Mushkin were released just four months ago and showed that the use of the Sandforce 1200 series controller offered performance superior to that of the INDILINX and Jmicron controlled drives that were the mainstay in the market at that time. The one downside to that original Sandforce controller-equipped drive was that it was equipped with a firmware that capped 4K random write performance to 10,000 IOPs. Even so, it delivered great performance that outpaced the results delivered by other drives with competing SSD processors, including the INDILINX-equipped Mushkin Io. Fast forward that same four months and Mushkin has updated the firmware on this new "Deluxe" version of its Callisto series drives so you get the Sandforce controller's uncapped 4K random write performance of up to 50,000 IOPs.

Other than the uncapped firmware, the Mushkin Callisto Deluxe has the same feature set, with read speeds of up to 285 MB/s and write speeds of up to 275 MB/s, the Sandforce SF1200 consumer grade controller, TRIM support, 34nm MLC Flash memory, 2,000,000 hours MTBF, and a three year warranty. The Callisto Deluxe comes in the same capacities as the original - 60GB (our test drive), 120GB, and 240GB. The pricing for this drive comes in at a meager (for SSDs) $144 for the 60 GB version I am testing. Performance-wise, I look for this drive to show the same characteristics as its predecessor, the Callisto.

Closer Look:

Let's start out looking at the packaging of the Callisto Deluxe. The front panel shows the product name with a small crescent to the left of the name. This moon shape makes reference to the third largest moon of Jupiter, Callisto, with the product description underneath. The upper left has the Mushkin Enhanced logo, while the bottom right contains a tag with the product number and SKU. The rear panel has a short sales pitch on the merits of the Mushkin Callisto series of solid state drives that includes speed and silence along with TRIM support. The bottom left has a link to the Mushkin website and a notation about the drive being assembled in the United States.









Once you remove the outer packaging sleeve, you have what looks like a book inside. By flipping this open to the first "page" of dense foam, you have the included 2.5 to 3.5 inch drive bay adapter for mounting the Callisto inside your chassis. Under this is the drive and yet further down into the layers of foam are the screws for mounting the drive.



With everything pulled out, you have the drive mounting screws and the 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch adapter - this being something more manufacturers are including with its 2.5 inch drives. It just makes installing them an easy task, rather than trying to find an adapter or cobbling something up. It is simple and sleek to match the Callisto drive.



The first look shows that you have a 2.5 inch form factor drive with an added adapter. But it's not what goes on outside the drive that makes a difference in performance, but what's inside - a Sandforce-equipped drive with an "Enhanced" firmware for increased performance. Let's see if it delivers.

Closer Look:

The Mushkin Callisto Deluxe is a 2.5 inch form factor solid state drive. This model comes in three different capacities starting with the 60 GB model I am testing today, along with larger 120 GB and 240 GB models. The outside of the aluminum casing is coated with a textured black paint for that industrial look. Not that you will be looking at the drive much once it is installed, but it just gives it that added pizazz. The front of the drive lists the name of the drive with the Mushkin Enhanced logo on the bottom right. The back side of the Callisto has all the drive's pertinent information, such as the model number of the drive, the capacity (60 GB), the voltage and current requirements (5v, 5A), and the firmware revision of 3.20P. This new revision is an uncapped firmware similar to that used by OCZ on the Vertex 2. What's not shown is the MTBF of 2,000,000 hours and low energy consumption of 2 watts maximum. Maximum read/write speeds for this Sandforce 1200 based drive are 285 MB/s for reads and 275 MB/s on the writes. On paper, this drive looks to be able to compete with larger drives in this class.















Connectivity for this drive is through the SATA data and power ports on the drive, much like any other drive on the market. There are no jumpers used on this drive for firmware updates. Even so, the firmware is can be upgraded. Currently, the 3.20P is the latest available for this drive, but there is a firmware update for the earlier Sandforce-equipped Callisto drives available. SATA II is supported for speeds up to 3 GB/s and is backwards compatible to 1.5 GB/s. The back side of the drive is featureless. The drive is held together with four hex head screws to make intrusion into the drive a bit more difficult for the average consumer. There are threaded screw holes for mounting the drive on all four corners of the drive to allow for multiple mounting capabilities, so installation in your chassis will not be a compromise. One thing I noticed was the lack of a warranty violation sticker. Even so, the Callisto drive comes with a mention of this on the main product label, just in case you want to void the three year warranty.



Going inside the Callisto will void your warranty, plain and simple. So instead of voiding your warranty, I will open it up to see what you get in terms of the hardware mounted inside the case. The Callisto Deluxe, much like its predecessor, is equipped with the consumer grade Sandforce 1200 series NAND controller. There are a total of sixteen 4 GB Intel 34nm MLC memory chips on the PCB, arranged in a horseshoe shape around the Sandforce processor. If you do the math, that equals 64GB of space, yet this is a 60GB drive, right? Yes it is. When the drive is formatted for use, you will only end up seeing about 55-56GB of space due to the way the Sandforce controller operates. You may also notice the lack of a DRAM cache buffer module on the PCB - this was needed on earlier drives run by INDILINX or Jmicron NAND controllers to prevent stuttering and improve wear leveling. It's not needed on Sandforce-equipped drives because they use over provisioning of the NAND to help with wear leveling instead of the cache used on other controllers. Sandforce uses its Duraclass technology to increase the longevity of the drive through its use of Intelligent Block Management and Wear Leveling.



To improve performance on this version of the Callisto, Mushkin has updated the firmware on the SF-1222 SSD processor to version 3.20P from the earlier 3.09 firmware used on the Callisto. What this does is increase the random write 4k IOPs performance from the earlier 30,000 burst (10,000 sustained) to the level of the SF-1500 controller's IOPs performance of 50,000 burst, with 30,000 sustained. So essentially, you now have uncapped 4k random write performance. You get the performance without the enterprise class feature set of the SF-1500. How is that possible? The die is the same, but it's a matter of which features are enabled or turned off. The Sandforce controller is equipped with a built in Tensilica Diamond Core DC 570T processor and supports features such as TRIM, built-in ECC, NCQ (up to 32 commands), and SMART


Let's see if the new Callisto delivers "Deluxe" performance.


60 GB
99.88mm x 69.63mm x 9.3mm
Temp. Range:
0-70 ºC
Read Speed:
up to 285 MB/sec
Write Speed:
up to 275 MB/sec
Shock Tolerance:
20G Peak, 10-20kHz, 3 axis
2 million hours
SandForce SF-1200
3 years limited
Up to 50,000 IOPS with 4kb Random Write






All information courtesy of Mushkin @


To find out how this new revision of the Mushkin Callisto series of solid state drives performs, I will run it through the OverclockersClub benchmark suite, which uses both synthetic benchmarks and a few real world tests to see how this drive stacks up against drives using competing controllers, as well as a pair of traditional mechanical drives that use both the SATA 3GB/s and SATA 6GB/s interface. Each drive tested will be the only drive in the system and will have a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit with the latest Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver package and the drive running in AHCI mode set in the BIOS. The only programs installed will be the benchmarks used in this review. This gives a more realistic expectation of performance versus running the drive as a bare slave drive, which would show higher results.

Testing Setup:


Comparison Modules:




  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.


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 not only measure drive performance as a whole, but also more precise file benchmarks, and a random access benchmark as well.


















File Benchmark:





Random Access Benchmark:




The Sandforce-equipped Callisto Deluxe does a fine job competing with a larger Sandforce drives across all the HD Tune testing. It is either just above or just below the Corsair drive in all the tests. The most significant results are in the write speeds delivered by this drive.


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



In the HD Tach testing, the Callisto Deluxe delivered the lowest results in the average read test at 230.5 MB/s, but still well above the results delivered by the mechanical drives. However, the Callisto did have the highest burst speed at 267 MB/s. In the Sandra testing, the Callisto finished right behind the Sandforce 1200-equipped Corsair F100 and above the drives with INDILINX and JMicron JMF618 controllers.


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 this test, the Callisto delivers great 4K write speeds, falling just under the performance of the Corsair F100. When compared to the rest of the drives in the 4K write testing, the Callisto Deluxe is miles ahead in write performance.


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.



















The Callisto Deluxe delivers the highest level of performance of any of the drives in this comparison, even with the fact this is the smallest drive.


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.























The Callisto Deluxe 60GB drive delivers the second highest overall score at 398. Where the Callisto excels is in the access time, 4K Write, and 4K-64 tests.


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.




















The Callisto Deluxe is either the top or second best performer in all but one benchmark result, following behind the Corsair F100.


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 become very wide spread within the industry.



4k Read & Write Tests






















The Startup testing tracks the time it takes to load the operating system to the desktop on a cold boot. The time starts when the power button on the chassis is pressed and the time stops when the last program has loaded into the task bar.







The shutdown testing consists of tracking the time that it takes for the computer to shut down completely once the operating system is shut down using the shutdown function in the operating system. Time starts when the shutdown button is pressed and time stops when the computer has shut down with the computer powered down completely.





The IOMeter "Read" testing showed the Mushkin IO drive offering superior performance to that of the Callisto Deluxe. However, the Callisto did deliver better performance than the Sandforceequipped F100 drive from Corsair in the "Read" testing. The write testing shows the strengths of the Sandforce drives with the Callisto Deluxe coming in a close second to the larger F100 drive. Startup and shutdown performance between the SSDs was fairly similar, but when the comparison is made to the mechanical drives, the startup times are cut in half with the use of an SSD.


What you get with the Callisto Deluxe is great performance across the test suite. Where this drive excels is in the small file write category, where it delivers superior performance when compared to other non Sandforce-equipped solid state drives. When you make that same comparison against a traditional spinning disk drive, the increase in performance is staggering and provides a huge upside to using an SSD for the OS drive in a system. Startup and shutdown times are significantly reduced when compared to a spinning disk drive. Startup time is reduced by 100%, while shutdown time drops to a mere four seconds. It's not just the benchmarks that tell the performance tale - benchmarks are just an indicator of performance, but it all really comes down to how it works in regular day-to-day operation. After I put an SSD through its paces on the desktop, I install it in my HP Mini 311 netbook to gauge what kind of performance I can get in terms of battery life and to see how the drive "feels" during my normal activities. This is, of course, entirely subjective without running benchmarks, but that is something tangible. What I have found is that the use of an SSD means the system feels quicker with less lag when accessing large files or simply when starting and stopping the system. Startup and shutdown are much quicker, as can be expected by the results on a desktop system with the effects amplified due to the lower processor speed. Another aspect to think about when installing an SSD in a portable computer is the added battery life you will see based on the lower power consumption numbers. Of course, this is less of a concern in a desktop system that stays plugged in.

During testing, this drive is used as the one and only drive in the system. As such, everything was loaded to it and resulted in the drive being filled to 50% of its capacity after the over provisioning is taken into consideration. The total amount of MLC Flash memory on this drive is 64 GB and is rated for a 60 GB capacity. Of that capacity, only 55.8 GB is available for use, so you have about 13% of the capacity set for wear leveling. While 55.8 GB of space is nothing to frown at, it does mean you have to make some decisions on what to load to the drive. However, at the $144 dollar price of the Callisto Deluxe, you can get a pair and run them in a Raid-0 configuration for really blistering speeds and performance for a comparable or lower cost than a single 120GB SSD. Mushkin continues to bring "Enhanced" products to the market and the Callisto Deluxe is a fine example of this. You get great performance for a very competitive price.