Mushkin Io series 128GB SSD Review

ccokeman - 2010-01-14 00:14:37 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: February 10, 2010
Price: $379.49

Introduction:

As time goes by technology improves. It's inevitable that what started out as a great idea with a lot of promise, finally starts to live up to the hype. SATA 3.0 is one of the newer technologies that show promise, but is not quite there with some of the implementations. Some early adoptions, as seen with the Seagate 2TB drives do still show that promise. Early solid state drives had problems but with the introduction of new controllers. Many of the problems, such as stuttering and poor write speeds, have now been addressed. This drive from Mushkin is part of their Io series of Solid State Drives that includes drive capacities from 64GB on up to 256GB and features read speeds from 230MB/sec on the 64GB model, to 250MB/sec on both the 128 and 256GB models. Write speeds range from 150MB/sec on the 64GB version and 180MB/sec for the 128GB and 256GB models. The 128GB Io drive is built using NAND flash technology and uses the INDILINX "Barefoot" controller instead of the JMicron or Samsung controllers used on other solid state drives. How will this impact performance? The last drive OCC looked at that had this controller was from Patriot and it did indeed show some promise. Let's see how this offering from Mushkin compares.

Closer Look:

The 128GB Mushkin Io series drive comes in a small form factor package that is not much larger than the drive encased inside. The front panel shows the Io drive orbiting a celestial body and shows the product name, Mushkin Enhanced logo and slogan "Get More". The back panel lists the specifications of all three drives in the series. The text talks about the fast and silent operation that will enhance your computing experience.

 

 

 

 

Opening up the package to get at the drive requires lifting up a flip-open panel that hides a larger Mushkin Enhanced logo, with a key way to flip the second panel up to reveal the Io drive. The drive is in a carriage that easily protects the drive but with shock resistance of 1500g, the drive is pretty well covered for the trip to the end-user.

 

 

Let's look at the Io drive and see what it has to offer.

Closer Look:

The Mushkin Io series 128GB drive is a 2.5 inch form factor drive making it an ideal drop-in replacement for a notebook or netbook mechanical hard drive, while still being able to be used in a traditional system. The front of the drive features the Mushkin branding, the drive type and capacity. The rear of the drive lists the interface type, voltage requirements, capacity, model number and serial number. To mount this drive you have a combination of threaded holes to be used. There are mounting holes on the side and bottom of the drive. Just in case you get a little curious about the contents housed inside Mushkin has sealed the drive, so that your two year warranty stays intact. The drive housing is a textured aluminum while the back-plate appears to be steel, both of which offer ample protection from prying fingers and the rigors of day-to-day use in a notebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The drive connectivity consists of an SATA power connection and data connection much like you would see on a mechanical drive. The two-pin jumper connection on the drive has been used on other drives as part of the method for updating the firmware. The rear end of the drive is featureless.

 

 

Since the warranty is something you will want to keep intact, just in case the unthinkable happens, OCC is happy to rip aside the warranty labels and show you what's inside the Io series drive. When you pull the cover off, you get a glimpse of the Samsung flash modules that carry part number KHCG08U5M, the INDILINX ARM controller and to the right of the controller, is the cache buffer. As far as I can tell by using the memory decoder on Hynix's site this chip is 64MB in size and operates at a frequency of 166MHz.

 


 

Specifications:

Capacity: 
128GB
Dimensions:
99.88mm x 69.63mm x 9.30mm
Temp. Range:
0-70° C
Read Speed:
up to 250MB/sec
Write Speed:
up to 180MB/sec
Shock Tolerance:
1500g
Vibration:
20G Peak, 10-20kHz, 3 axis
MTBF:
> 1.5 million hours
Controller:
Indilinx
Warranty:
2 years limited

 

 

 

All information courtesy of Mushkin Enhanced @  http://mushkin.com/Digital-Storage/SSDs/MKNSSDIO128GB.aspx

Testing:

To test the drives, I started with an image of Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP1 with all of the latest updates and patches and the testing software. Each drive was filled with data, then imaged to simulate a used drive. Testing is accomplished by using the Torqx as the main drive containing the OS. This is done so that the testing is not just plugging in a raw drive and showing stellar numbers. That's not real life. You don't purchase a new drive to let it go unused. Write testing was completed before the drive was imaged. As many of you probably already know, solid state drives slow down as the pages in the flash memory are filled and must be rewritten to each time data is stored. This is the basis for loading the drives up first and then loading an image to the drive with Acronis True Image. Comparisons will include both SSDs and standard hard drives.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Modules:

 

Benchmarks:

  1. HDTune 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'.

Testing:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benchmark:

 

 

 

File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

Random Access Benchmark:

 

 

 

The Mushkin Io series 128GB SSD is the top performer in just about every category in the HD Tune testing. Read and write speeds for the most part are superior to all the drives tested, with only the 4K read speed in the file benchmark showing any weakness. Even with this level of performance, it is head and shoulders above the mechanical drives.


 

Testing:

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 Mushkin Io drive has the highest average read speed, but falls short of the burst speed delivered by the Intel drive. When you compare access time, the flash drives are much faster than the mechanical drives and each SSD has roughly the same .01ms access times. The Sandra testing shows the Mushkin drive to be a tick slower than the Patriot Torqx 128GB drive, with a slightly better access time. The difference between these two drives is something you would not "feel", but would only notice in benchmarks.

Testing:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mushkin Drive performs just a tick lower than the Patriot drive in the read speed testing, but where it really shines is in the write testing. The Intel drive is the top performer in the 4k write testing, but the Mushkin is still ahead of the Patriot drives at the 4k level. However, once you move to the 512k writes and above in this test, the Mushkin sits at the top of the performance ladder.

Testing:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 4k read testing, the Intel drive is still the number one contender, but is out-performed by the Mushkin drive from the 128k to the 1024k read testing. The write testing shows the Mushkin drive out-pacing the rest of the comparison drives by a wide margin.

Testing:

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark designed for the speeds of solid state drives. It does however, also work for traditional hard drives. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the sequential reads and 4k read testing, the Mushkin drive performs a bit lower than the Patriot Torqx and Intel drive. The sequential write test is dominated by the Mushkin drive. The Intel drive is the better performing drive in the rest of the write testing, but the Mushkin does perform better than the reast of the comparison drives. The overall score shows a huge difference over the rest of the drives.

Testing:

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 Mushkin Io 128GB drive is the overall leader and is the highest scoring drive in eight out of the nine scores.

Conclusion:

With Mushkin's products, the one thing you can count on is performance. The Io Solid State Drive lives up to the high standards that Mushkin sets. While testing the drive, I was impressed to see that it held its own against the best drive I had tested up until this point - the Patriot Torqx 128GB drive. In 41 of the 58 tests run, the Mushkin Io out-performed the whole comparison field. When you take into account the testing where the results were similar, this drive leaps up to a comparable 53 out of 58 tests where performance was within a small margin of the other drives tested. In the ATTO testing, the drive performed up to its rated speeds and a little more. Pretty stout results when you get down to it.

When I was looking up the Hynix chip identification, it came up as a 512Mb SDR chip. A 512Mb cache buffer will no doubt go a long way towards eliminating the stuttering and freeze-ups on earlier solid state drives. After testing, I had to try out this drive in my HP Mini 311 netbook to see if the performance benefits carried over to the netbook. I found that the Io drive did fit inside the HP 311 mini with no more hassle than you would have changing out a mechanical drive. Performance can be measured in a couple of ways, both through benchmarks and the actual feel of the system. I have been using this drive for the past week in this capacity, and found that I am getting better battery life and a snappier "feel" to my portable system - a big plus, in my eyes.

This drive from Mushkin was shipped with firmware 1819 and Mushkin has firmware 1916 that will be available within a few days of the article publish date. What I have been told is that this update improves the already great performance of the Io drive. Trim is supported on both firmware revisions and a wiper utility is on the way, along with the firmware update itself. Solid state drive prices have come down, but they are still not what would be considered approachable for many users. As the technology continues to improve, pricing should continue to drop. At $379 on Mushkin's e-store, as well as at Newegg, the Io 128GB drive is priced competitively. So if you are in the market, this is the price range you will be looking at for your next SSD drive.

Capacity is one drawback for an SSD, but as the drives become more affordable, the capacity available to the masses increases. At 128GB, this Io drive should allow you to install most of your programs and leave a bit left over for some file storage. Although, that is best left to a larger mechanical drive, with the Io set up as the primary OS drive, so that you can get the best of both worlds - speed and capacity. The Mushkin 128GB Io drive certainly delivers on the promise of performance.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: