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SuperSSpeed S301 Hyper Gold 128GB SLC SSD Review

SuperSSpeed S301 Hyper Gold 128GB SSD Basics

forward from:http://hardocp.com/article/2013/03/18/supersspeed_s301_hyper_gold_128gb_slc_ssd_review/1#.UUgBbLmS21s

The SuperSSpeed S301 Hyper Gold SLC Series SSD marks the entrance of an SLC NAND solution into the consumer market. SLC provides tremendous endurance and excellent performance, but the high price of this type of SSD has historically kept it exclusively in the enterprise domain.

At the other end of the spectrum, TLC has brought an increased focus on the endurance and longevity of NAND. TLC s entry into the market brings the endurance subject to the forefront, but today we have an SSD that is never going to have any serious endurance concerns in a prosumer or consumer application.

Base NAND endurance is calculated as a P/E (Program/Erase) ratio that reflects the expected number of times that each cell can be programmed and erased before it begins to produce too many data errors for the internal mechanisms of the SSD to correct.

SLC offers up 100,000 P/E Cycles, eMLC provides 15,000, MLC rates at 3,000-5,000 P/E cycles, and TLC comes in with roughly 1,000 P/E Cycles (there is no official rating). It is easy to see why SLC would be a great choice for those looking for a SSD that can handle heavy workloads. There is a huge gulf between SLC and eMLC, which is usually only seen in enterprise SSDs. That gap in endurance only widens once we get down to consumer MLC and TLC products.

Endurance isn t the only redeeming quality of SLC NAND, it also supplies superb write latency. SLC also performs well in high heat environments, which is well suited to embedded and industrial applications.

The main deterrent to purchasing SLC drives is the high pricing, but many times it is the type of SSD that SLC is integrated into that brings about the huge price tag. With the primary usage for SLC being in enterprise applications there are typically other embedded features that drive the price of enterprise SSDs through the roof. The high cost of SLC SSDs is not entirely the result of the pricing of the NAND itself.

For instance, power fail protection is a staple in an Enterprise SLC SSDs, but also adds significant costs to the SSD. Enterprise SSDs also tend to come with SAS instead of SATA, which requires specialized firmware, often with end-to-end data protection. This requires extensive development from the manufacturer. Enterprise SSDs are also infused with extra overprovisioning to provide consistent performance in demanding workloads. This can add an extra 50%, or more, of SLC NAND into the build without any additional user addressable space. This drives the cost per GB of SLC SSDs even higher.

These other features help to inflate the price of the SSD, placing SLC SSDs out of the range of consumer applications. SuperSSpeed reduces the impact of the exorbitant pricing of SLC NAND by stripping many of the features that aren t needed in an enthusiast or prosumer environment.

Removing these features and pairing the Intel 25nm SLC NAND with the reliable SF-2281 controller helps to reduce the amount of pricing overhead for the SSD. LSI SandForce provides manufacturers with reference firmware s that require little development, and a few key easily adjustable variables allow the SSD to be tweaked for the desired usage pattern.

The SandForce controller also brings the performance piece of the puzzle into play. The SuperSSpeed S301 features 550 MB/s of sequential read and 520MB/s of sequential write speed. The random read IOPS weigh in at 80,000 IOPS and the random write speed is 68,000 IOPS.

One of the key complaints from those considering SandForce SSDs is the variable performance that scales with the compressibility of the data employed. Typically there is a huge delta between incompressible and compressible data performance with LSI SandForce-powered SSDs, but the SLC NAND provides a tremendous benefit with incompressible data performance. SLC s excellent write latency reduces the penalties associated with incompressible data, resulting in a well-balanced SSD.

Today we will look at the SuperSSpeed S301 TLC SSD against several competitors of similar capacity to see if SLC makes sense in your desktop.

Specifications

The SuperSSpeed S301 features 550 MB/s of sequential read and 520MB/s of sequential write speed. The 6Gb/s SATA connection provides 80,000 random read IOPS and the random writes of 68,000 IOPS. The main differentiation for this product is the use of Intel 25nm SLC instead of the normal MLC or TLC NAND. The SSD comes in a 9.5mm Z-height that will keep it out of many current generation notebooks and mobile applications.

At the most basic level SLC NAND has only two states (0,1) per cell, while MLC has four states (00,01,10,11) allowing for double the amount of information to be stored per cell. TLC takes this a step further, with eight states (000,001,010,100,011,110,101,111) per cell.

Each increase in the states held per NAND cell results in more stress upon the cells when they are programmed, erased, and read. This leads to higher capacity, but lower endurance numbers. This complicated programming requires more voltage, which will eventually wear out the individual cells faster.

More bits incur a performance penalty, since it requires more time to program each cell. SLC takes roughly 200-300us to program per cell, MLC requires 600-900us, and TLC falls into the 950-1350us range for programming of each cell. For SLC the amount of voltage required to program the cells is minimal in comparison to other types of NAND, and the speed at which the cells can be programmed results in excellent write latency.

LSI SandForce SSDs do not utilize DRAM caching. DRAM cache is used by many of SandForce s competitors to store LBA mapping data in a very fast medium, allowing for very quick internal drive management. SandForce SSDs forgo this approach in favor of keeping the LBA mapping on the NAND itself. This reduces the number of components needed for operation of the SSD, a key consideration for smaller form factors such as mSATA and the upcoming NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor). One interesting advantage of SLC is that its superior performance should also allow the SSD to manage its LBA mapping in a quicker, more efficient manner. This might be partially responsible for the significant increase in incompressible data speed with this variant of SandForce SSDs.

One thing is certain; SLC and SandForce make a perfect match, with the SLC reducing the typical penalty associated with incompressible write data.

The SF-2281 also features AES-128 encryption and meets TCG Opal security requirements. An optional disk-level password can be required to access the SSD for an extra level of data security. The SSD protects itself from errors using a 55 bit/512 Byte BCH ECC algorithm.

Some SandForce SSDs utilize the RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) for additional data protection. This uses the capacity of one NAND die for parity data, providing an extra layer of protection. This feature is primarily for SSDs that utilize lower quality flash and is disabled on the S301, returning that extra 8% of capacity to the user. With SLC NAND there should not be a need for the RAISE functionality, as the error rate for SLC is 10 to 100 times less than MLC.

The 5.03 firmware supports TRIM and all major functions of the SSD. One area that the SuperSSpeed could improve is in the software department. There is not an included software suite for drive management. This can be accomplished with third party tools, but companies that provide easy-to-use software enjoy a distinct advantage over those who do not supply these features.

Availability and Warranty

The SuperSSpeed S301 is warrantied for five years. The SSD has limited availability, and is primarily stocked at My Digital Discount in capacities of 64GB and 128GB.

Features

 

Packaging

The SSD comes in a heavy cardboard box that features typical branding and product specifications.

The heavy cardboard insert slides out of the package to reveal the SSD and the included accessories. There is an included 3.5 adapter to ease installation of the SSD into a desktop computer, a SATA power and data cable, and the necessary screws for installation.

BUILD

The SSD features a dark motif on an aluminum chassis. A beveled edge that adds a nice touch to the SSD. The case is sturdy and thick, with a nice heft to it that speaks to its ruggedness.

Popping of the top reveals the type of NAND that every SSD enthusiast desires. The Intel 25nm SLC NAND is as tough as it comes, rated to 100,000 P/E Cycles in temperatures up to a blistering 100 degrees Celsius. There is no surprise that there are no thermal pads included with this SSD, these simply aren t needed. The temperature of the SSD also affects the endurance of the NAND, and SLC s resistance to high heat helps to provide it with the highest data retention and endurance metrics. SLC NAND can store data for up to ten years without power.

The NAND is Intel 25nm 29F16B16NCNE1.

The PCB holds eight packages of the SLC NAND on one side, and the seemingly ever-present SandForce SF-2281VB1 on the other side.

We get the SSD onto the included adapter, and it s off to the bench.

SSD Test System

Compiled of mainstream components, the HardOCP SSD Test System is a good representation of a system that the majority of our readers will be using. This allows us to provide results as observed in the average users system.

Testing Parameters

Testing SSDs can be a very trying experience for many who aren t accustomed to the ins and outs of these types of drives. As we get further away from the good old days when SSDs were a nutty over-the-top extravagance, the technology has continued to mature considerably.

One of the hardest concepts for newcomers to this technology to grasp is that SSDs simply aren t going to behave the same on the 100th day of use as it did on the first. This is just the reality of the situation, and even the maturation of the technology hasn t totally dispelled with these performance hills and valleys. Luckily the performance of SDDs has become more consistent with each generation, so the wild swings in performance aren t as pronounced today as those were even a few short years ago.

SSDs perform differently over the course of time for a various number of reasons. For the sake of testing and creating reproducible results the tests must be conducted under certain conditions, in an environment that will not change radically over the course of time.

There are three major types of testing, and some are better at certain aspects than others;

  • Synthetic Benchmarks: These are your typical AS SSD and HDTune testing applications, and extend to more advanced tests such as Iometer. These measure the performance of the SSDs in a manner that is typically unaffected by other components in the system, and provide a good idea of the base level of performance of the drive itself.

  • Trace-Based Benchmarks: These extend to programs such as PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7, and involve replaying a recording of computer activity that is gathered during certain system tasks. We will be using several industry standard traces that can be easily used by others to reproduce our results. Some testers will create custom traces to use and compare SSDs. This can sometimes lead to an unfair portrayal of system performance, as the traces themselves can be favorable to one type of drive over another, just by the nature of the system use during recording. Since these proprietary traces aren t available for others to freely use and reproduce results, we will not take that approach.

  • Application-Based Benchmarks: These tests measure the performance of applications more than these do the performance of the storage subsystem. We will use this approach sparingly, and only in cases where the performance of the underlying computer system, such as RAM, CPU, and GPU do not affect the results of the storage subsystem.

Steady State Testing

One area of performance that isn t mentioned often is the condition referred to as steady state. This is the performance that will be experienced after an extended period of time with the SSD. We will be using Iometer testing to show the difference between a brand new shiny SSD, and that same SSD after it is loaded with data and subjected to continuous use over a period of time.

We will also use SNIA guidelines to place the SSD into steady state, and then test with our trace applications. Steady State trace-based testing will illuminate a bit of the difference between actual application performance after the SSD has been used for a period of time.

Simply put, there is no one program that can give us the whole picture of the SSDs performance. The trick is to know which programs to utilize and what measurements to take into consideration when evaluating the overall performance of the SSD. We will of course try to help you out with making an informed purchasing decision.

Synthetic Benchmarks

ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark is one of the industry standard benchmarks. ATTO is used to generate many of the sequential specifications on SSD packaging and marketing statements. ATTO is a very simplistic tool that generates easy to understand results for most users.

One of the key complaints about ATTO from many of the enthusiast crowd is that it uses easily compressible data. For drives that rely upon compression (LSI SandForce controllers), this benchmark will only tell half of the story, and the rosy half of it at that. Tests with incompressible data will show much lower scores at the very same measurements with the LSI SandForce controllers. Used in conjunction with other tools that test with incompressible data, ATTO can provide a good view of overall storage subsystem performance.

ATTO serves to verify that the rated specifications on the box are in fact attainable, and that the device is in basic good working order.

ATTO testing tops out at 557MB/s of read speed and an impressive 530MB/s of sequential write speed.

HDTUNE PRO

HDTune Pro provides an in-depth look at many different aspects of storage system performance, and allows for many customizations in testing that are beyond what other benchmark programs offer. One key aspect of HDTune pro testing is that it tests over the entire surface of the drive. This eliminates burst results, providing a more accurate representation of the overall sequential speed. This can reveal certain characteristics in drives which are normally overlooked.

HDTune Pro Read results show the SuperSSpeed S301 with an average speed of 473MB/s, significantly behind the higher capacity Samsung 840 Pro, yet beating the Intel 335 and slightly trailing the Kingston V300 by a mere 3MB/s.

HDTune Pro Write tests the sequential write speed of the SSDs, and the average speed of the S301 is 451MB/s, this is an excellent result, and not surprising considering the SLC NAND. The Samsung 840 Pro has double the capacity, which leads to a higher score of 471MB/s.

Access Time – Iometer

Iometer is a comprehensive utility that can be an intimidating testing tool for the uninitiated. One of the most relevant metrics that it can test is also the simplest, the measure of the access time of the attached storage. Latency is one of the key measurements that can relate directly to a fast, responsive computer. Latency is the measurement of how fast the device can respond to a single request, and many utilities measure access time with a number of different approaches. Unfortunately not all measure correctly, so we will test with the industry standard 4k random access at a QD of 1. We attain our numbers by testing at 4kQD1 with a 5 sec ramp time for 30 seconds. Three runs are conducted and the results are averaged. The SandForce-powered SSDs relies upon compression for part of its performance, and is tested with both random (incompressible) and repeating (compressible) data to highlight the two levels of performance.

Average Read and Write Latency for the S301 is better than the entire test field for write latency, and the read latency is only bested by the Samsung 840 Pro.

Maximum Read Latency takes into account the longest single read access (file) requested during the duration of the test. By measuring this \Longest I/O\ it is possible to see the efficiency of the controller and firmware of the SSD. If there is a correlation between a very high maximum latency and an overall higher average latency, that can be indicative of a device/host issue. Even with an SSD kicking out an appreciably higher maximum latency the result would have to be in conjunction with higher overall latency to indicate a problem.

The average latency is important, but having a very fast SSD is only good if there are not long hangs for individual file requests.

The SuperSSpeed S301 again provides great latency, with very low maximum read latency highlighting the excellent characteristics of SLC NAND.

Maximum Write Latency takes into account the longest single read access (file) that is requested during the duration of the test. The S301 again outperforms all of the entrants with the exception of the 840 Pro.

PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage is currently one of the most widely used trace-based benchmarks available to the general public. This program contains several recordings (traces) of user activities. It then replays the recorded activities and measures the maximum throughput attainable in each type of scenario. Many reviewers prefer PCMark Vantage to PCMark 7, as Vantage shows a much more pronounced difference between SSDs. The underlying reason for the higher scores is that the Vantage trace is played at full speed, regardless of the speed at which it was recorded.

The theoretical maximums of SSD performance are rarely seen in a desktop environment, if at all. This can lead users to expect an unreal amount of performance boost from their everyday applications in normal usage from one type of SSD to another. This simply will not happen. While the jump from HDDs to SSDs is nothing short of revolutionary in terms of system responsiveness and overall speed, the difference between two different SSDs will be incremental.

What PCMark Vantage does offer with this approach is that it can be indicative of the performance attainable in highly multi-tasked environments, and it highlights strengths and weaknesses for each drive easily.

We also include the Steady State testing results with our trace-based tests. The SSDs are placed into Steady State following SNIAs basic testing guidelines (Rev 1.1). SNIA is an industry group that defines several key parameters for testing devices.

PCMark Vantage does a very good job of highlighting the performance difference experienced over the course of time with an SSD.

The overall score from Vantage reveals two very distinct results. In fresh out of box mode, the SuperSSpeed S301 scores 84,978 points, and in steady state we witness great performance of 50,091. This is getting into the range of the much larger Samsung 840 Pro, and easily above the rest of the field. The SLC again provides a tremendous advantage, providing excellent steady state performance.

Gaming is one of the bigger attractions for enthusiasts to spring on a new SSD, and the S301 is bested only by the MDX-controlled Samsung SSDs. In comparison to the other two SandForce offerings, the S301 enjoys a big lead in this test.

Application Loading tests the speed at loading various applications, and here the S301 outscores all of the SSDs with similar capacity points.

Multimedia consists of several different tests. The Windows Media Player simulates the program searching for and adding media to its library. The Media Center tests playback of various form of media, and the Windows Movie Maker test simulates creating and editing videos.

Windows Photo Gallery simulates the importing of photos onto the SSD, and the Kingston V300 manages to beat the SuperSSpeed S301 by a large margin.

Windows Startup tests the all-important boot time speed of the SSD, and the S301 leads the other SandForce powered SSDs, but falls to the MDX controlled Samsungs.

Windows Defender testing simulates a virus scan of the drive. This type of heavy read activity suits the S301 well, and it leads the other SandForce SSDs.

PCMark 7

PCMark 7 takes a new approach to storage benchmarking, geared specifically towards SSD performance in real life applications. Playing back recorded traces of normal user activity, the program simulates real-world scenarios. Unlike many other trace-based programs PCM7 also records the waiting periods between issued commands to give a more accurate representation of the actual user environment. This results in noticeably lower bandwidth scores in the results.

We must keep in mind that the real difference in performance between most current generation SSDs is no larger than 8-10% in desktop usage. This is mainly because many programs and operating systems simply do not effectively leverage the awesome speeds that SSDs are capable of providing. The entire system, from the SATA port and the NTFS file system on up to the operating system, and on through to the program itself, is for the most part designed and optimized for spinning drives, not SSDs. As the technology progresses we will begin to see more optimization of the entire system to handle, and utilize, the awesome speeds that SSDs bring with them.

Since PCM7 does take the applications view of the storage subsystem there can be minute variability in the scores recorded between similar generation SSDs. These tests are conducted in pristine operating system environments, where the tested tasks are the only tasks being accomplished at that point in time. As many users know, once we start adding in virus scanners, desktop gadgets, mail clients, browsers and media players simultaneously, storage subsystems can become the source of a considerable bottleneck in overall performance.

These results, while indicative of the performance differences in single task environments, are like all benchmark programs. There is no one program that can give us the entire picture of overall performance. We are including Steady State testing results as well with PCM7 even though the amount of variability is very low. This results partially from the significantly lighter workloads placed upon the storage subsystem by PCM7 in comparison to PCMark Vantage.

The overall PCMark 7 score is indicative of the superior latency provided by the SLC NAND on the SuperSSpeed S301. In steady state the S301 beats all competitors with the exception of the 840 Pro. It is within striking distance of the 840 Pro, trailing by only 59MB/s.

Starting Applications is one of the more popular measurements that enthusiasts turn to when making decisions on the speed of an SSD. This simulates simultaneous opening of a word document and Internet Explorer. Many users specifically purchase SSDs based upon how fast these will load slow applications and game levels. Even though the percentage of time that we wait for the program to open is exponentially lower than the amount of time that we actually use the program, it can be frustrating listening to the HDD thrash about while we stare at the little blue waiting circle.

The S301 provides a clear advantage in this metric, leading all other SSDs with similar capacity.

Gaming is also one of the primary drivers for people to go out and get an SSD. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a game to load! Having an SSD also gives players an excellent advantage as they are always in the map first, even if some games will not allow the players to start until all are present.

Video Editing simulates the creation of a High-Definition home video from a set of video clips. During the creation of the video Windows Movie Maker reads several source clips and compiles those into one large output file. The S301 manages to beat all SSDs in the test pool in this test, even the Samsung 840 Pro.

Windows Media Center simulates two simultaneous movies being streamed to the storage, while a third movie was simultaneously played back from the same source. All SSDs excel with Sequential read/write access, so there is very little variability in this test.

Adding Music simulates the scanning and addition of multiple music files to the Music Library with the Windows Media Player. All of the SSDs score very closely in this test.

Iometer & Steady State Testing

Iometer 2010 provides the flexibility to test very specific types of file access. This can help to provide a much clearer overall picture of the storage system’s performance.

The two aspects that provide the SSD advantage are access time (latency), and small file random speed. Latency is the speed at which the requests are served to the operating system, and low latency will help to reduce the amount of outstanding requests (Queue Depth - also listed as QD). Think of QD as a line of requests stacking up. The more requests waiting in line, the slower the drive responds to the requests further back in line. With lower QD the drive will respond to the file requests quicker. SSDs keep the QD very, low simply because it serves the requests so fast.

Monitoring of Operating System file access reveals that during normal usage the QD will rarely go above four. Even during the most intense multitasking QD stays amazingly low, and when there are rare spikes these only last a few milliseconds. Similar usage on an HDD will go into very high QD (16-32) for extended periods of time. The speed of SSDs keeps the QD so low that we will be testing from QD1-6, as users rarely, if ever, go over this level for any appreciable amount of time.

The reason the small file speed is so important is that the vast majority (85-90%) of the workload that an operating system creates is reads and writes of small files that are 4k in size. This is why we see the entire myriad of 4k testing done in almost every SSD-tailored benchmark.

We will begin by testing the Fresh performance of the SSD when it is brand new. This is the majority of testing results marketed by manufacturers, and tested at review sites. After that we will go more in-depth to show the speed when the drive is subjected to more sustained use.

Fresh 4K Read is a measurement of the 4K read speed of the SSDs at low Queue Depths. The SuperSSpeed scores above the other SandForce powered SSDs in this test.

Fresh 4K Write is a measurement of the low QD random write speed of the SSD. Random write performance can be very important to the overall speed and snappiness of the operating system and programs. Every second that the operating system is functioning, it is constantly writing small logging files and assorted other tasks that require small file writes. The SandForce powered SSDs deliver great results with compressible data in this test, though they fall significantly lower with incompressible data.

The neat aspect of the SLC and SF-2281 combo begins to show here, with very little variability between the incompressible and compressible data speeds.

Fresh 70/30 Read/Write Mix combines both 4k read and write speeds together into one workload. This mixture of 70% reads and 30% writes closely mirrors that of standard desktop usage patterns.

Many times the most telling aspects of the drive are not printed on the box. Mixed read and write workloads are the undeniable constant that all storage operates within. It would be a rare occasion during desktop usage that the drive was not subjected to either reading or writing for an extended period of time. The handling of these mixed read/write workloads is perhaps the most important aspect of real life performance.

The Intel 335 and the S301 fight it out for the top spot with compressible data, and the 840 Pro leads the pack with incompressible data.

Steady State Testing

Steady State shows lower numbers that you will not see marketed, as this is the true speed experienced after several months of usage. Many processes are running in the background on the SSD processor to keep speeds as high as possible, but after time the SSD performance degrades and it all comes down to a much lower state. Garbage Collection, Trim, and Write Combining attempt to minimize these effects, but the decline is inevitable. The SSD will eventually settle down into its final state, termed Steady State.

To simulate this we fill the drive to 75% capacity and then run a 4k random workload over the drive until it has reached steady state. After this, we measure the results of the same tests above with a 16GB LBA. This is a very light stressing of the SSD intended to emulate a typical consumer workload. There are much more stringent methods of testing, but these likely would not represent the typical user case.

Steady 4K Read kicks off our Steady State testing. For many SSDs the read speed is the same even after heavy usage, usually only the write speeds and mixed read/write speeds are affected. This measurement would usually not be included, but the SandForce and MDX-controlled (Samsung) SSDs tend to suffer degradation of read speed after being subjected to a workload for an extended period.

The 840 Pro easily leads the pack, with the S301 scoring a distant second.

Steady 4K Write is where we really begin to see some large differences between the fresh numbers and the Steady State results. The SandForce controllers perform admirably in this test with compressible data, though we can see that they are at the bottom of the pack with incompressible data. The 840 Pro rides the middle of the chart, oblivious to any need for compression. The S301 leads the pack with compressible data, and also leads all SandForce SSDs with incompressible data. The Samsung 840 ekes out the win with incompressible data in this test.

Steady 70/30 Read/Write Mix shows that the drives do experience some degradation after continued use with the mixed read/write ratios. The 840 120GB TLC SSD leads the pack in this test, and the compressible performance of the S301 comes in second. For incompressible data, the S301 leads all SandForce SSDs, and outpaces the 840 Pro.

AS SSD

AS SSD is the premier SSD-only benchmark. Used widely, it does a good job of keeping the results simple, yet relevant. The benchmark tests with incompressible data, so it doesn t always give a fair shake to drives that rely upon compression for speed.

AS SSD includes a compression benchmark built into the utility. This does an excellent job of addressing the performance with varying levels of compression. It should be taken into consideration that AS SSD measures latency at a 512b file size, when 4k QD1 is actually the industry accepted method.

The AS SSD benchmark illustrates the performance with incompressible data. The S301 outperforms most MLC SandForce solutions in this test, due to the improved incompressible write data performance. The sequential write speed is great with 485 MB/s, and the high QD incompressible random comes in at 303MB/s.

AS SSD Write testing illustrates the huge gain in performance over all other similar capacity SSDs. The SLC on the S301 provides a much-needed boost for the SF-2281 in this category.

AS SSD Read measurements reveals the S301 topping the other similar capacity SSDs.

AS SSD Copy benchmark illustrates the speed of processing various files in a copy scenario. The SuperSSpeed S301 again leads the pack of SandForce SSDs, and is only beaten by the 840 Pro in this test.

The SuperSSpeed S301 provides more consistent performance with incompressible data than MLC SSDs. Typically there would be a large slope with the write performance on this test, but it remains relatively flat with the S301.

Power Testing is very important, as the lower power appetite for SSDs is a big motivator for users with mobile devices, such as laptops and notebooks, to purchase a new SSD. The promise of longer battery life, while not always guaranteed, is very tempting for many users. We have tested the SSDs at various settings, with high QD (32) to show the maximum power draw for each scenario. More often than not for mundane tasks such as surfing the net the SSD will be very close to idle power. We also test the Startup value, which is the initial burst of power that fires up the drive.

The SuperSSpeed S301 has higher power draw than other similar capacity MLC SSDs in many metrics. The Idle power is higher than most competitors are, though the V300 remains as the highest. The Startup voltage of the SSD is lower than the V300 and the Intel 335, and across the board the S301 is very near the TLC 840 in terms of power consumption. The only area that the S301 rises significantly above the pack is in the random read test, with a wattage requirement of 3.14.

Conclusion

SLC is the best NAND available, and the SuperSSpeed Hyper Gold S301 is the first consumer SSD to offer this superior NAND to regular consumers at a more realistic price. This doesn t mean that it is close to mainstream price levels of MLC, it still falls into the range of double the price of an MLC SSD.

SLC SSDs have sold for as high as $11 a GB in enterprise variants. The S301 still commands a high price compared to other consumer MLC SSDs, but $2 a GB is an improved price point.

Typical users will not require an SLC SSD, and the pricing of the SuperSSpeed S301 will keep it out of all but the most dedicated enthusiasts computers.

The market where this SSD will likely excel is in professional environments. Users that process video and audio will find this to be a good solution, along with those that use RAID in professional environments. For users with parity RAID sets this SSD would be an ideal solution. RAID 5 and other forms of redundant RAID write parity data to the array, resulting in more write activity on the SSDs. This leads to more wear on the SSDs, and the tremendous endurance of SLC NAND is a good fit for this type of environment.

A growing trend for enterprise users is also the use of consumer SSDs in light and moderate workloads. The low price of consumer SSDs allows the purchase of several consumer SSDs for the price of one enterprise SSD. With a SLC solution at closer-to-consumer pricing the S301 might find itself pressed into service in enterprise environments as well.

When we discuss the performance of the S301 it is clear that this is easily the best SandForce SF-2281 SSD on the market, outperforming all other SandForce variants in incompressible data performance.

The SuperSSpeed S301 also kept pace with the much higher capacity Samsung 840 Pro SSD in some tests, and was never far behind in our trace-based steady state testing. This is excellent performance from a controller that is considered last-gen by many. It is also important to note that the Samsung 840 Pro that we tested against has twice the capacity of the S301, and due to SSD architecture, this enhanced parallelism provides a distinct advantage to the 840 Pro.

This SSD is very snappy in everyday usage due to the exceptional latency figures, with solid overall latency and low peak values. The SuperSSpeed S301 only comes in two capacities, of 64GB and 128GB, and this leaves a gaping hole at the 256GB capacity. The price of the SSD is high, but to appeal to the professional market there should certainly be a 256GB model.

We would like to see some type of software tools available to simplify the management of the SSD, and many other companies do provide easy to use utilities that take the stress out of managing an SSD. This SSD really is designed for the upper high-end customers, and should include some type of utility.

The SSD comes with a five-year warranty, but many other SSDs also match this warranty period with MLC products.

The SuperSSpeed S301 only comes in capacities of 64 and 128GB, and is currently out of stock on Amazon. There are drives currently available at My Digital Discount.

The 64GB SuperSSpeed Hyper Gold S301 SLC SSD is $139.99, and the 60GB Kingston SSDNow V300 is $69.99.

The 128GB SuperSSpeed Hyper Gold S301 SLC SSD is $250.00, the120GB TLC Samsung 840 is $98.29, the Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB retails for $97.49, the 128GB Samsung 840 Pro is $137.63.

The 240GB Intel 335 is $223.89, the Kingston SSDNow V300 240GB retails for $209.99, the 250GB TLC Samsung 840 is $171.31, and the 256GB Samsung 840 Pro is $232.27.

The Bottom Line

The SuperSSpeed S301 Hyper Gold 128GB SLC SSD can best be described as SandForce on steroids. It provides the highest performing SandForce solution on the market, but this performance comes with a hefty price tag. The price point of the S301 will keep it out of all but the most die-hard SSD enthusiast computers.

For users who do not require a tremendous amount of endurance we would not recommend this SSD, as there are many MLC products on the market that provide a fair amount of endurance and good performance for half the cost. For enthusiasts with deep pockets and an affinity for SandForce SSDs we would recommend this SSD if you are looking for the highest performing SandForce SSD on the market.

This SuperSSpeed S301 Hyper Gold SSD will likely find a home in many RAID and professional applications. This SSD will also find some buyers in the light and mid-range enterprise workload space, with its pricing still well below flagship SLC offerings from competitors.

The SuperSSpeed S301 attempts to bring SLC down to a price that is manageable for high-end enthusiasts, and it has fallen just short in the price department. However, for excellent performance and tremendous endurance we give the SuperSSpeed S301 Hyper Gold SLC SSD the Silver [H]ardOCP Editors Choice Award.

SuperSSpeed S301 Hyper Gold 128GB SLC SSD
 
 
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