Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD Reviewjlqrb -
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
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Mushkin has been a very well known and respected brand in the high end memory market for years. However, memory is not the only segment of the market where Mushkin products can be found, as it also manufactures power supplies, flash memory and, most recently, SSDs. Mushkin's entrance to the SSD market came in the form of the consumer based Io drives. These drives use the the INDILINX "Barefoot" controller and can be found in capacities of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. SSD technology has been changing at a rapid rate though, and in the few short months since we first took a look at the Mushkin Io SSD, Mushkin is now releasing a new line called "Callisto".
Like the Io series, the Callisto is a consumer grade SSD, which is currently available in 60GB, 120GB and 240GB capacities. However, instead of using the INDILINX controller, the Callisto uses the new SF-1200 controller from SandForce. The use of this new controller adds Mushkin to a growing list of manufacturers that are releasing drives that utilize the SandForce controller. And for good reason - this controller is capable of write speeds of up to 285MB/sec and reads of up to 275MB/sec, and unlike other SSD controllers, the SF-1200 is not reliant on the use of additional DRAM cache to prevent the stutter problems that were prevalent with older SSDs. The SF-1200 instead relies on a technology called "DuraWrite", which uses a real-time compression method, as well as a small amount of internal cache, to eliminate the need for large amounts of DRAM to be used as cache. However, this technology, along with Wear Leveling and SandForces data protecting RAISE technology, requires a large amount of NAND Flash memory to be set aside. This in turn will reduce the strorage area of a 128GB SSD to that of just a 100GB capacity. Setting aside such as large amount of memory would be necessary for enterprise devices, where a high degree of data protection is essential.
In the consumer market though, the cost to GB ratio is a factor that weighs heavy with those that are in the market for a new SSD. The way Mushkin has addressed this is by releasing the Callisto with the 3.0.9 firmware, instead of the standard 3.0.5. This firmware reduces the over-provisioning of the drive from that necessary for enterprise grade products to that of a much lower level. This means that only 8GB, not 28GB, will be set aside for controller functions. This will enhance the cost to storage ratio, adding value to the drive in the consumer market. Also, since this is done via the firmware, and not by adding any additional flash memory to PCB, there is no added cost to the consumer, essentially increasing the storage capacity by 20% with no price increase!
The Mushkin Callisto comes packaged in a solid black box with the Mushkin Logo at the top left and the drive information in the middle of the packaging. Next to the Callisto name is an image of a crescent moon. This fits with the name, as Callisto is one of the many moons that surround Jupiter. Turning the packaging over, you again have the Mushkin logo, but on this panel you get a short explanation of some of the benefits of using a SSD over a standard hard drive.
Inside the box is a protective foam pad that uses cardboard on the outside to surround the foam padding. The cardboard has a flap that can open and close to reveal or protect the inner contents. With the flap open, you first have access to a 3.5" to 2.5" converter that is covered in a thin layer of plastic. Under this is the actual SSD, which is wrapped in an anti-static bag that will protect the drive from any elctro-static damage while in the packaging. There is also a bag included with six screws that are used to secure the Callisto to the 3.5" to 2.5" converter.
Now that we have the drive out of the packaging, we can get a closer look at the drive and see what the SandForce SF-1200 controller has to offer.