Chosen Registered User

As a PC enthusiast I have been upgrading and reviewing any hardware component that would make a difference (substantial or not) to everyday performance.
In the past I have sold my 8800GTS 640Mb (G80) to get an 8800GTX (G80) which then I replaced for an 8800GTS 512Mb (G92); went from an X6800, to a QX6700, down to a Q6600, then to a QX9650, to be followed by an E8500 and then back to another QX9650.

This review is about storage and more specifically solid state disks. It's a long review with a lot of text, but the purpose is to give a better understanding of what the benefits or the risks are in such an upgrade.

I started my adventure in solid state storage back in May 2007 with a Gigabyte I-ram, for which I paid approximately €300 (including 4Gb of DDR400). Revolutionary little gem, which was unfortunately doomed by the low capacity (4Gb max), its inconvenient interface (PCI) and its tendency to lose all data each time I unplugged my pc to e.g. install watercooling or swap processors.

Next up was a pair of Transcend solid state disks, one 16Gb and one 32Gb. The 32Gb one is probably the cheapest solid state disk you can buy today (approx €100+VAT) - but that is for a reason: its ridiculously low specs (25Mb/sec read, 12Mb/sec write speed) made it practically unusable as an OS drive. Windows XP installation on that drive took a bit less than 4 hours. I remember restarting the installation several times in the beginning, thinking that the system was hung...

Then a tried a Sandisk SSD 16Gb (previously FFD); to cut the long story short, based on the other offerings in the market by Mtron and Memoright, it was an overpriced waste of time. I was lucky to have this given to me for review by a friend, and so I was not crying over a wasted £350 purchase...

For the same amount of money as the equal sized Sandisk SSD, I purchased a Memoright SSD 16Gb. A nice SSD drive, which just happened to fail (wouldn't be detected at all) very early. By "early" I mean ~2 months.

And then I got my first Mtron MOBI 32Gb SATA SSD, back in January 2008. Not cheap by any standard (€450 through a group order) but definitely the best SSD I have used so far. I was so sure I found the best SSD in the market, that I paired it with my 2nd identical drive last week

This review is mainly to share my findings with you, seeing as I get limited results every time I search for actual real life benchmarks for this technology. That and because everytime I see Toms Hardware or some other "paid" review website, I tend to take it with a pinch of salt.
So why not give you a first hand review, from a person who is not connected with a manufacturer and pays for his own tests and upgrades?
Before I pass on the numbers and nice benchmark results, I feel like telling you some things about what you should be expecting with such an upgrade/switch.

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Chosen Registered User

First off, my first Mtron purchased 5 months ago, is advertised at 100Mb/sec read and 80Mb/sec write speed.
The first time I put it on my Asus Maximus Formula (Intel X38/ICH9R) I was greeted with a reduced performance result: 77Mb/sec read & 70Mb/sec write speed. A quick search in Google and soon I found out about the ICH9R bug, which caps SSD drives at 80Mb/sec when used in IDE compatible mode.
So I just switched to RAID mode eventhough I only had one Mtron drive, and behold 104Mb/sec read & 80Mb/sec write speed was there for my Mtron MOBI, as advertised and a bit more.
Performance, HDtach, burst speed you say? Sure, I am not going to repeat the same HDtach graphs you've seen around the net for months. Mainly because I can't for the life of me, find the screenshots for the single Mtron tests

Instead I will tell you what the overall feeling of the switch from a mechanical drive, as fast as a 32Mb cache 74Gb Raptor, to an Mtron MOBI 32Gb SSD drive; something that I was not able to find on the usual reviews around the net.

First, installing Windows. I switched from using XP 32-bit to Vista Ultimate 64-bit two months ago, so I have installed both XP and Vista on the Mtron drive, and that's multiple times each; mainly due to reasons my wife cannot understand (why is it broken again?) but most of you watching this forum, can
Installing XP was as fast as when I installed it on the I-ram a year ago; fast and snappy, done in less than 10 minutes overall.
How about Vista? I haven't tested Vista on the I-ram, simply because Vista looked at the 4Gb of available space on the I-ram, then pointed at me and laughed. In other words 4Gb of space just ain't enough for Vista. So if you are looking to use Vista and I-rams, prepare to spend at least €900-€1k for enough I-rams and DDR DIMMs that will allow you to do this.
Well Vista64 was installed on the Mtron MOBI as quickly as XP, if not quicker. That dreadful "Saving settings" bit was a matter of 6-7 seconds on the SSD drive.
Next, rebooting: omg! I need a camera to show you this. It feels like you are rebooting a Playstation, that fast. Ofcourse since I have an nVidia graphics card, this changes a bit after you install the GeForce drivers the first time.

Then the main reason I turned to SSD storage: application response times. Using the Mtron MOBI since January this year, made me forget how annoying it is to have Mozilla Firefox and Office applications not open instantly, so when I cloned my OS to my Raptor, in order to test the two Mtrons in RAID0 last Sunday, I remembered all this :/
And because I first used Vista when I already had one Mtron MOBI, I never experienced what all Vista users were saying about the frequent HDD accesses that Vista perform, slowing down the system every time the HDD was indexed or when there were pagefile operations.

This was ofcourse happening to me as well, since the first day I installed Vista, but because I was using the Mtron MOBI, I never felt any delays, or heard the crunching noise of the HDD. So last Sunday when I moved my existing OS to my Raptor using Acronis TrueImage, I realised what all these people were complaining about...

Since we're in the applciations area, I want to squeeze in the impact of the MOBI, as I experienced it in my gaming habits. I play Unreal Tournament 2004 and Unreal Tournament 3 - a lot. I could say that all the hardware upgrades are driven mostly by UT benefits and then by the rest of my PC usage aspects.
A single UT2004 texture file (multiple are used during playing in a map) can be as big as 104Mb. A single map can weight anything between 5Mb and 45Mb. And that's without taking into account the 45Mb announcer pack that I am using, or the StaticMeshes and Sound files, all of which need to be loaded everytime I start Unreal Tournament.
When running UT2004 from my raptor, I used to have a clear estimation of how long each one of my favourite maps would take to load. In some maps, I could take off my headphones and send a text message to a friend, before the map was fully loaded.
With the MOBI drive, the most delay I have seen is 2 seconds on the biggest of the maps. While playing online, and when a game is over and we're all following the server to a new map, I am consistently the first person to load the map and join the new game. I am also taking advantage of this to some point, since I can pick and switch to my favourite team before anyone else joins! Yeap, nothing left to fate here

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Moving from a single Mtron MOBI to a striped array with two of them in RAID0.

So if one of them gives me 100 & 80Mb/sec read & write speed, two of them in RAID0 should give me 200/160, right? Not exactly and let me explain.
This wasn't easy, mainly because of two reasons:
1) I don't have a decent hardware RAID controller.
2) I wasn't fully prepared before I added the 2nd drive.

My PC specs are:
Intel QX9650 running at 4GHz
Evga nForce 750 SLI FTW
4x 1Gb Crucial Ballistix 667 running at 1066MHz 5-4-4-12
ECS 8800GTS 512Mb G92
Adaptec 1220SA RAID controller
Corsair HX620 PSU

I bought the Adaptec RAID card back when I had the Asus Maximus Formula, and before I figure out the solution for the ICH9R bug. It cost me €50 from an Irish shop and it's not really a hardware solution. It's not software based either (like OS RAID), it's more like a driver-RAID solution, kinda like all motherboard embedded RAID controllers.

Before I decided to buy the 2nd Mtron MOBI, I did my homework and found out that the performance with two of them in RAID0 on a non-hardware RAID controller, should be around 170-180Mb/sec read speed; I was happy enough with this (for the time being, ofcourse).

First logical thing to do, since the Adaptec is giving me the full potential of a single Mtron MOBI drive, is to create a RAID0 using the Adaptec card. No matter which stripe size I used, I was getting a straight line in the 120Mb sec area. Disappointment, to say the least.
I didn't panic (not too much anyway) because the whole thing reminded me of the ICH9R issue.
So, a few Google hits later, and I found out that the low end Adaptec cards based on Sil3xxx chips (not hardware RAID) have a 120Mb/sec cap.
With this in mind, I moved the MOBIs to the nForce onboard RAID controller, again not a hardware solution but it should get me closer to the 170Mb/sec. Nope, this time my cap was 140Mb/sec, but the difference is that this time the line was not consistent.

This got me into thinking and I kept searching on the net. Needless to say I have also emailed my provider, the guy who arranged the latest group order, asking him for anything he might have heard.
My friend replied quickly, suggesting flashing the drives to the latest firmware. My first thought was "yeah right, I only bought the first drive 5 months ago, and what difference can a firmware update make, anyway?"

Well luckily and to my surprise, I couldn't be more wrong. I've always heard about using identical Raptors of the same firmware for optimal results, but I never imagined it would be the same story with the other drives, in my case with the Mtrons.
I rebooted to my bootable USB pendrive, ran the small flash utility I downloaded from the Mtron support page and I saw that my first Mtron's firmware was 16 R1 and my second's was 17 R1. So I flashed the "old" one and 30 seconds later I am back in the OS, running the same benchmarks on my RAID0 array. At this point I need to say that flashing the Mtron's firmware did not affect the data or the RAID array itself.
Well guess what? No I won't tell you, I think it's just time to post the screenshots

All tests have been ran with the following settings:

32Kb stripe size / 16Kb formatted allocation unit size
32Kb stripe size / 32Kb formatted allocation unit size
32Kb stripe size / 64Kb formatted allocation unit size
64Kb stripe size / 16Kb formatted allocation unit size
64Kb stripe size / 32Kb formatted allocation unit size
64Kb stripe size / 64Kb formatted allocation unit size

And as a reference, I have added a run on the Seagate 7200.10 that I use to transfer music.

I didn't bother running the usual benchmarks you find around the net, as they consistently produce the same results. Instead, I will provide some results that are not so easy to find on the net.

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

Stripe size: 32Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Stripe size: 64Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Seagate 7200.10:

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CrystalDiskMark 1.0

Stripe size: 32Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Stripe size: 64Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Seagate 7200.10:

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CrystalMark 2004 R2 - Disk benchmark module

Stripe size: 32Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Stripe size: 64Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Seagate 7200.10:

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Roadkil's Diskspeed v1.1

Stripe size: 32Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Stripe size: 64Kb
Filesystem allocation unit size: 16Kb, 32Kb & 64Kb (from left to right)

Seagate 7200.10:

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Final thoughts? Again, a lot!
I'll do this in the form of an FAQ.

Q) Will I see a dramatic increase in my gaming FPS?
A) No, this is not an upgrade for increased FPS in games.

Q) So what am I going to notice?
A) A very fast response in your OS and applications including game loading time, starting applications etc. Throwing 20-30 full screen 1920x1200 screenshots in your Photoshop takes about 2-3 seconds; I know cause I just did it for this review

Q) Isn't it expensive?
A) It is not cheap by any means (the 2nd one cost me €420 in a group order) but then again my QX9650 and your 8800GTX were not cheap either. However, where do you notice a performance increase when throwing in a €1000 processor in your system? Multitasking? Encoding? How about a €600 graphics card, will it make your desktop usage any better, or is it just for a better FPS number in games and a better 3dMark score? Would you notice an increase from 100fps to 120fps, in your game of choice?
With a fast storage like a 100Mb/sec Mtron Mobi, trust me I do notice the difference as soon as I press the power button and I won't stop noticing it every time I start a program, edit an image and save changes in Photoshop or start a UT match.

Q) Anything negative to say about it?
A) Yes ofcourse. Since I started using them exclusively on my main PC, using my Dell Latitude (with its 7200rpm Hitatchi drive) at work is a nightmare. When the second MOBI arrived last week, the first test I did was cloning my laptop's OS to the Mtron and used it for a few hours. It's a 10 month old XP Pro installation, without a defrag for months. It's a corporate image with 6 applications in the Startup folder and about 55 running processes at any time. It felt like I was using my home PC, fast and snappy. Solid state storage couldn't care less if the filesystem is defragged or not, it's just as fast in the end of the drive as it is in the beginning.

Q) Heat, noise, etc?
A) Are you kidding me? Speedfan always shows the Mtron's temperature being always the same as the ambient temperature, simply because they do not emit any heat. And as for noise, if I could silence all my fans in the case, there wouldn't be any noise source, now that the Raptor is out.

Q) Does your PC boot faster?
A) While I was using the Raptor with XP Pro, I used to be mental when it comes to startup configuration. I used the registry editor to remove stuff like the Java autoupdate engine, the MS Office startup module, the Adobe Acrobat easy fast startup process etc. I even removed the Logitech utility for my MX518 and only started it when I was going to play UT.
I am now using Vista with the sidebar full of gadgets (CoreTemp, CPU usage tool, Everest, Facebook gadget ), plus Avast antivirus, Logitech Setpoint, MSN Live! Messenger and mIRC. Everything I need and I might need is on the startup and it still boots faster than before

Q) So what's your next upgrade?
A) A decent hardware RAID controller. Most people would be happy with a 185Mb/sec OS disk, I will not stop until everything is working at its full potential

If you have any other questions that you need answered, please feel free to do so and I will do my best to provide an answer.

I hope all this writing, rebooting and testing of individual stripe and allocation unit sizes are useful to someone.
Have a good day and thanks for reading my review.

Nforce Registered User

Nice review Chosen
I've gone for dual 64gb ssd's for my new rig. Just how quick dones your PC boot into Window's? Also where will I get a mount in order to hold the 2.5" drives in my pc case?


unseen Registered User

Pcmark05 hdd score and hdtach please

qx9650 again?

Chosen Registered User

Nforce: Thanks! Boot I'd say it's about 10 to 15 seconds after POST; maybe 20 from pressing the power button. I guess I can be more precise and time it the next time

unseen: Yes, QX9650, I couldn't resist at the price
PCMark scores will follow ofcourse

skuzzb Registered User

Really nice review Chosen! Finally puts things in perspective and now I reallly really want one.....I know its insanely expensive per GB but its the speed/silence and not the storage I want it for! Plus you can always power down your storage drive to get pure silence which is perfect for me....

Just wondering do you think getting a 16gb one like this one from mitron

or a 32gb one like from Sandisk

is really worth it right now, or are prices going to drop within months.....I would be willing to take the early adopters tax as they seem like something that will not be surpassed by much for a long time but at the same time even 32GB is pretty small for windows + games!!!

Chosen Registered User

skuzzb: Thanks mate. I would strongly recommend you do what I did. Save up for one 32Gb MOBI (guesstimate: €400 from the next group order) and when you're ready for your second one, you can double capacity and performance

Sandisk SSDs as far as I remember, advertise 44Mb/sec read and 40Mb/sec write speeds. Not worth it at all imho, compared to the 100/80 of the Mtron MOBI. Almost twice as fast for like 50-60 euros more.

Dartz Registered User

Are these 2.5 inch form factor, or what? I was looking at installing one one my Laptop when I ordered it alright, but at 800-odd for 64 Gb I decided against it, and went for a high density 5400Rpm drive. I'm stillwaiting for these things to drop below silly money myself, and they should do in about a year or so, which'll be around the time I want to upgrade this thing. There's not much else that can be done with it.

requiem1 Registered User

nice work, I haven't gotten through reading it all but must say that its nice to see someone so a honest review of computer hardware, even though i've been buying magazines like custompc for years to get honest reviews its clear that their advice is often flawed and driven by the need to sell magazines. I changed ram a couple fo years back based on their advice and it gave me no performance boost. Anyway, keep up the good work

it might actually be an idea to set up a hardware review board in a similar fashion to xs

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