Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD Reviewjlqrb - May 24, 2010
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The Callisto comes cased in the usual 2.5" SDD enclosure with the Mushkin logo and Callisto series logo found on the front. The back side contains the product sticker, which lists information such as the model number, series, size, voltage and firmware of the drive. The 2.5" drive enclosure is secured by means of four screws positioned in each corner of the drive. The exact measurements for the drive are 99.88mm x 69.63mm x 9.3mm, and the drive itself is shock resistant, has a temp range from 0°c to 70°C and has a MTBF of 2 million hours. If it does fail though, the Callisto comes with a three year warranty. For installation purposes, the Callisto casing has screw holes on both the sides and bottom of the drive. This will allow for additional means of mounting the drive inside a case or laptop, but it does also come standard with a 2.5" to 3.5" converter if needed. To fully display the internal memory, I will be removing the SSD casing. However, this is not recommended, as it can void the warranty. Interestingly though, unlike other SSD drives, there is no breakable warranty sticker on the seal.
The included 2.5" to 3.5" converter provided by Mushkin will allow the SSD to easily fit into any case, even if the case does not support 2.5" drives. There are two ways that the converter can be used (as pictured below), allowing the Callisto to be installed based on the needs of your case.
The Mushkin Callisto uses a SATA interface for both the power and data connectors. The power connector requires a SATA power cable be used ot meet the modest 5V power requirement for the Callisto drive. The data connector on the Callisto drive utilizes SATA II, which supports speeds of up to 3Gb/s. This will handle the Callisto's max read speed of 285MB/sec and write speed of 275MB/sec, but as you can see, drives with the SandForce controller are getting very close to surpassing the limitations posed by the SATA II interface. With this being the case, we should start to see SSDs adapt the SATA 6Gb/s standard in the near future.
The Mushkin Callisto SSD comes with a standard layout for a drive using the SF-1200 controller. This consists of a green PCB with a total of sixteen 34nm MLC NAND Flash memory chips (eight on the front and eight on the back) that are each 8GB in size, making for a total of 128GB. All the memory used is manufactured by Intel and comes with the model number 29F64G08CAMDB. The SF-1200 controller is found sitting between the Flash memory chips. As you can see, there is no DRAM cache chip located anywhere on the PCB. The SF-1200 controller is very interesting as it comes with an integrated Tensilica Diamond Core DC 570T CPU and offers exclusive technologies, yet still supports TRIM, built-in ECC, NCQ (up to 32 commands) and SMART.
The Mushkin Callisto uses the SandForce SF-1200 controller, which is the consumer grade model of the SandForce line. This controller, unlike the INDILINX Barefoot, uses a design that eliminates the need for large amounts of on-board DRAM cache and instead sets aside a specific amount of NAND Flash memory for technologies such as Wear Leveling, DuraWrite and RAISE. The amount of memory set aside for drives using previous firmware was a whopping 28GB for a 128GB drive, reducing the drive capacity to that of just 100GB. So, to decrease the over-provisioning to a more consumer friendly level, Mushkin has opted to use the 3.0.9 firmware, which increases the available space by 20%. This increases the capacity to 120GB and is done by limiting the amount of memory set aside for the controller to just 8GB. The extra storage will add additional value to the drive in the consumer market, but it does come at the cost of 4K random write speeds being limited to 10k IOPS. The reason for this is that the SF-1200 and SF-1500 both use the same controller, but are geared toward two entirely different markets by means of the firmware. The SF-1500 is the controller that is used for enterprise grade devices and, as such, a larger amount of over-provisioning is needed for wear leveling and data protection. The Mushkin Callisto drive is said to have user-upgradeable firmware, but as of the time of this review there is no tool available from Mushkin to do this.
Now that we have had a good look at the inner and outer portions of the drive, we can take it for a test drive and see how it performs against other popular SSDs.