G.Skill Phoenix PRO 120GB SSD review

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G.Skill Phoenix Pro Series SATA II 2.5" SSD


G.Skill Phoenix Series SATA II 2.5" SSD

G.Skill recently started to introduce new SSDs based on SandForce controllers into the market, we expect good availability starting June/July 2010. The performance of this all new Phoenix SandForce 1200 based SSD is advertised at 285/275MB/Sec (Read/Write). This SSD series initially became available in somewhat unusual 50GB, 100GB volume storage sizes due to large data-compression partitions, but the new models include 60 and 120 GB volume sizes. Yep!  SandForce controllers use a part of your very expensive NAND flash for active data-compression.

Check out the features

  • Phoenix 120GB
  • Native TRIM support
  • Seek Time: .1ms
  • Slim 2.5" Design
  • 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
  • Operating Temp: 0°C ~ 70°C
  • Storage Temp: -45°C ~ +85°C
  • Low Power Consumption: 2W in operation,
    .5W in standby
  • Shock Resistant up to 1500G
  • Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, and Linux
  • MTBF: 1,5 million hours
  • Max Read: up to 285MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 275MB/s
  • Sustained Write: up to 200MB/s

The SSD utilizes SandForce's latest version of the SF-1200 controller, which will be adopted by other players in the market as well, e.g. Corsair, ADATA and OCZ. The controller adds support for newer NAND memory types as in 34nm memory. New 34nm NAND Flash memory is cheaper to manufacture, thus cheaper for companies to implement, and for you as a consumer cheaper to purchase.

The read and write speeds for the tested model are advertised at a blazing 285 MB/sec read and 275MB/sec write performance (measured with ATTO test software), which makes the product position itself in the extreme high-end SSD segment. Good performance but at a price alright.

Now normally we see the competitive Indilinx Barefoot controller paired with 64MB of Elpida cache memory in the latest SSDs. SandForce however does not need that cache memory. Sandforce uses a complex real-time data compression, saving on cache needs. Enabling it to write random I/O extremely fast, instead it hogs some of the NAND FLASH memory to use as cache. To manage all the multi-channel controller loving embedded into the controller we see a tiny processor inside the controller, and next to it a small NAND memory cache.

Why is that a so important to that random I/O you ask. Well, history learned us the hard way that most budget SSDs had a 1st generation JMicron controller with very little cache (8KB / 16KB), and the issue there is that if they need to write a lot of really small files simultaneously these drives started to choke up every now and then, your a-typical data bottleneck within a storage unit. Large data-caches solve that issue very well.

JMicron now has a bit of a bad reputation in the SSD market because its controllers suffered from that bottleneck issue due to lacking caches, but the new JMF612 incorporates 128MB of DDR2 cache for stuffer-free performance.

So a big help totally bypassing the small files issue for SSD drives is using a nice big mamma SDRAM buffer, or the approach that SandForce takes should be more than sufficient as well. Let's strip the product down though.

G.Skill Phoenix SSD

In the above photo we see the G.Skill Phoenix SSD. The Phoenix 120 GB is paired with 34nm (MLC) flash memory chips. Including a count on the backside we spot 16 chips in total. As stated a chunk of the NAND Flash memory is reserved for drive wearing and data compression, hence the somehwat weird (128GB normally) 120 GB volume size.

To the middle you can spot the SandForce SF1200 controller chip. Everything combined form the heart and soul of the SSD.

We have stated it many times and explained this quite a bit, but the seek time on SSD drives are insane; nothing short of amazing, at less than 1ms -- 0.1ms as we actually can measure. The average seek time for a traditional HDD is roughly 9ms. Do the math, hey, no more moving and spinning mechanical components is the key here.

The traditional HDD is a limiting factor on the overall PC experience. Also, storage performance like this will, for example, greatly enhance load times of Photoshop, Generic applications, Office, games load times and even simple stuff like browsing the web will become a much faster experience.

One small note before moving on, you'll receive a three year warranty on the product, which we feel is quite good,

G.Skill Phoenix SSD

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