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Corsair Force GS 240GB: SandForce with Toggle-Mode NAND

The Force GS is the cream of the crop of Corsair’s Performance line of SSDs. Though based on the common SandForce SF-2281 controller, it utilizes fast Toggle-mode NAND chips to power past the competition.

August 15, 2012 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Corsair Force GS
CSSD-F240GBGS-BK
240GB 2.5″ SSD
Manufacturer
MSRP
US$215

Like most of the consumer solid-state drives on the market, Corsair’s “Force” series are all driven by the ubiquitous, LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller. Its main performance feature is on-the-fly data compression which reduces the amount of read/writes performed on the drive, boosting speed and increasing the lifespan of the memory chips. This coupled with its affordability has led to a saturation of the budget SSD market with SandForce drives. This means lots of competition and lower prices but also an annoying abundance of choice.

There are other factors that affect performance like number of channels (larger drives tend to have more since they require more chips) and the speed of the NAND Flash used. Without getting into technical details there are three main kinds of NAND used in consumer MLC drives. Generally speaking, in increasing order of speed, they are known as Asynchronous, Synchronous, and Toggle-mode. The performance difference between the three types are great enough that it’s the main differentiator between the Corsair’s three Force series of SSDs. Asynchronous NAND is found on the budget Force Series 3 line, Synchronous on the Force GT, and Toggle-mode on the high-end Force GS.


Corsair Force GS 240GB: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
Warranty Three years
SSD Unformatted Capacity 240GB
Max Sequential R/W (ATTO) 555 MB/s sequential read — 525 MB/s sequential write
Max Random 4k Write (IOMeter 08) 90k IOPS (4k aligned)
Interface SATA 6Gb/s
Technology Toggle NAND
Form Factor 2.5 inch
DRAM Cache Memory No
Weight 80g
Voltage 5V ±5%
Power Consumption (active) 4.6W Max
Power Consumption (idle/standby/sleep) 0.6W Max
S.M.A.R.T Support Yes
Shock 1500 G
MTBF 2,000,000 hours

 


The bright red color of the Corsair Force GS 240GB attracts the interest of wild PC enthusiasts and gamers with case windows.

Today we’re looking at the 240GB version of the Force GS which sports some impressive specifications. Its sequential read and write speeds well over 500 MB/s, though this is a common claim amongst SandForce drives, even budget models. Corsair also states that it’s capable of a maximum of 90,000 IOPS (input/output operations per second) in random 4K writes which exceeds that of our current SSD champ, the ADATA XPG SX910 128GB. The SX910 uses slower Synchronous NAND chips (albeit binned to be faster than normal) but the Force GS is the first SSD with Toggle-mode NAND to hit our test bench. It’ll be interesting to see if the ADATA drive can stay on top.


The Corsair Force GS 240GB box and contents.

The Force GS comes in a standard package composed of a plastic clamshell holding the drive and a metallic 3.5 inch to 2.5 inch drive adapter. A small setup guide is also included (not pictured) but doesn’t ship with any backup/imaging software.

TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. As of mid-2008, we have been conducting most acoustics tests in our own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber, which results in more accurate, lower SPL readings than before, especially with <20 dBA@1m SPL.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference
microphone and computer audio measurement system
. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

As of late-2011, we have been conducting performance testing. A combination of timed real-world tests is used to represent a workload of common activities for a boot drive including loading games, running disk-intensive applications, copying files, and installing programs. Synthetic tests are also run to better judge the performance across the entire span of the drive.

Summary of primary HDD testing tools:

Key Components in LGA1155 Heatsink Test Platform:

Performance Test Tools:

Benchmark Details

  • Boot: Time elapsed between pressing the power button to the desktop and the Windows start sound playing (minus the average time to get to the “loading Windows” screen, 11 seconds on our test system)
  • COD5: Combined load time for “Breaking Point” and “Black Cats” levels.
  • Far Cry 2: Load time for one level.
  • ExactFile: Creating a MD5 check file of our entire test suite folder.
  • TrueCrypt: Creating a 10GB encrypted file container.
  • 3DMark Vantage: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • PowerDVD 10: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • Small File Copy: Copy time for a variety of small HTML, JPEG, MP3, ZIP, and EXE files.
  • Large File Copy: Copy time for 4 AVI files, 2 x 700MB and 2 x 1400MB
    in size.

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the samples we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
telling everyone.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 22°C.

Real World Performance

A Windows 7 image loaded with our test suite was cloned to a 50GB partition
at the beginning of each drive after a complete format. Our entire
test suite was run start to finish three times with a defragmentation (SSDs and hybrid drives excluded) and reboot
between runs.
Average times were collected for comparison.

With the current crop of SandForce SSDs, choosing one based on loading times is a case of splitting hairs. The Corsair Force GS finished with a combined time of 65.1 seconds, a minuscule 0.2 seconds slower than ADATA’s SX910, and that’s not accounting for any margin of error. The older last-gen Corsair Force 180GB was 0.8 seconds behind but keep in mind that is the combined difference in three different tests.

In our application tests, the Force GS came in first, powered by a strong result in our TrueCrypt test which involves creating a very large encrypted file container. It’s something many older SSDs struggle with but SF-2281 drives don’t seem to have much trouble.

The Force GS was very fast copying large files but it couldn’t keep up with the ADATA SX910 copying small files.

The SX910 fell to the Force GS in installation performance but surprisingly it was the old Corsair Force 180GB (first generation) that took victory.

To accurately represent the overall real world performance of the drives, we gave each model a proportional score in each benchmark series (loading, application, file copy, and installation) with each benchmark set equally weighted. The scale has been adjusted so that among the drives compared, a perfectly average model would score 100 points.

The Force GS takes the crown over the SX910 but the margin is quite slim. However, both drives are substantially faster than the older SSDs we reviewed last year as well as the previous two flagship VelociRaptors.

Synthetic Test Results

Though our timed benchmark tests do a fair job of simulating performance in real world situations, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Synthetic tests like HD Tune and CrystalDiskMark help fill the gap. Note: a full format was conducted before running these tests.

HD Tune’s main benchmark tests the sequential read/write speed of the drive in question throughout its range but it’s typically more relevant for hard drives as they tend to slow down toward the end of their spans. Compared to the SX910, the Corsair drive had a small advantage in average read speed but a noticeable disadvantage in write speed. Access times for the Force GS were 38% lower though.

Using a block size of 512K on a random data set, the Force GS dominated the SX910 especially in write speeds, enjoying a ~100 MB/s advantage in both sequential and random operation. With highly compressible data, the results evened out, coming close to 500 MB/s in both random and sequential reads and writes.

With smaller 4K blocks of random data, the Force GS dominated in the SX910 particularly with a queue-depth setting of 32 (mimicking a server/multi-user load) in both reads and writes. Naturally the Force GS improved with a heavily compressible data set but the difference was quite mild. The SX910 on the otherhand exploded with far superior write speeds.

Energy Efficiency

The Corsair Force GS 240GB uses about the same amount of power as the ADATA SX910 128GB and slightly more than the WD Scorpio Blue 500GB, a single-platter 5400 RPM notebook hard drive. Installing it in a laptop will only really improve battery life if a 7200 RPM hard drive is being swapped out.

Noise

As solid state drives have no spinning platters or moving parts of any kind, they are effectively silent storage devices. It is possible that there could be a tiny bit of electronic noise (typically a high pitched squeal) being emitted, either intermittently depending on task, or continuously, but the Corsair Force GS 240GB is completely silent. In fact, the only SSD we’ve ever tested that made any audible noise was the Zalman S Series 128GB model which produced an odd high frequency squeal whenever it was accessed.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Force GS 240GB is the latest and greatest SandForce SSD from Corsair, utilizing high performance Toggle-mode NAND to finish first in our real world performance benchmarks. The margin of victory was quite small however, only slightly edging out the ADATA XPG SX910 128GB which uses speed-binned but ultimately slower synchronous NAND. In typical day-to-day use it would be difficult to tell the two apart on performance and responsiveness alone.

Synthetic tests revealed that the Force GS handles random (mostly incompressible) data sets far better which is what we prefer as most files are pre-compressed to some degree to begin with. There were two areas where the SX910 took the lead however — sequential write speed was somewhat slower than the SX910 and using easily compressible data gave ADATA’s drive a big advantage in small 4K block write operations. Despite these setbacks, the Force GS was still clearly the faster overall; it’s a fairly well-rounded drive that performs well no matter the circumstance, something that can’t be said for the SX910.

The current street price of the Corsair Force GS 240GB is US$215 making it far more attractive than the unusually high US$190 MSRP of the ADATA XPG SX910 128GB. Compared to other high-end SandForce offerings, the Force GS falls in the same price range as the 240GB versions of the Mushkin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe and Sandisk Extreme, both of which also utilize Toggle-mode chips. We don’t have experience with either drive but we expect they would perform similarly. Support also shouldn’t be an issue as all three drives carry a three year warranty and are produced by manufacturers with a high degree of experience with regard to flash memory related products.

Many thanks to Corsair for the Force GS 240GB solid state drive sample.

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Corsair Force GS 240GB
is Recommended by SPCR

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Western Digital Red 3TB & 1TB Hard Drives
ADATA XPG SX910 128GB Solid State Drive
WD VelociRaptor 1TB and Scorpio Blue 500GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K3000 2TB Hard Drive
Seagate Barracuda 3TB: 1TB Platter Behemoth
SSD Roundup: Corsair F180 vs. Zalman S Series vs. Kingston SSDNow V+100

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