SandForce's Reign of P-P-Performance
The SandForce 2281 controller is the key component when communicating with the storage controllers found on motherboards and HBA cards. The current theory is that some where in that communication, the high strung SF-2281 seems to be having some intermittent, random issues mostly with the native Intel SATA3 ports. The integrated Marvell controllers are issue free for the most part although noticeably slower. Plus, to further support this theory, neither Marvell or the LSI card showed any signs of issues. At worst, I had to hold the LSI card's hand and point it to the right SSD to complete some benchmarks.
Ultimately, any issues I encountered with the round up were random and mostly correctable on all the SSDs. While intermittent performance or connectivity issues can be attributed to poor cables, it's unlikely that any chipsets are to blame alone. Speaking as a consumerist, no one should have to go through extensive steps like manipulating the BIOS or finding the absolute perfect miniscule settings to get any SATA3 SSD working properly. The manufacturers will have to polish up firmware to anticipate any compatibility issues on their part. Maybe even provide certified cables in the box. However, SandForce should do better validation testing on their part.
Final Scores and Thoughts
Performance, price and customer support are the scoring factors in our round up. Each SATA3 SSD in our group is equally capable of producing acceptable performance based on the NAND used to build each. While our experience shows that manufacturers are doing better with their perspective firmware, there's always room for improvement. You can definitely expect further tweaking to zero in on the performance sweet spot.
Corsair Force 3 120GB SSD
In our asynchronous SSD competition, the Force 3 120GB ($184.99) and Patriot Memory Pyro 120GB($204.99) are very comparable in performance. Each, including the Z68 friendly Pyro 60GB ($119.99) are still noticeably faster than SATA2 SSDs. But the Force 3 comes with a drive bay mounting adapter and is aggressively priced. Thus the Corsair Force 3 earns our Valued Added Award in this round up.
OCZ Vertex 3 120GB SSD
The Corsair Force GT ($228.99), OCZ Vertex 3 ($219.99), Kingston HyperX ($269.99) and Patriot Wildfire ($284.99) synchronous SSDs all battled fiercely for the top spot. The Wildfire offered the fastest overall performance followed closely by the HyperX, OCZ Vertex 3 and Force GT prospectively. The Force GT, OCZ Vertex 3 and Wildfire offer meager bundles which is a surprise in respect to the price of the Wildfire. The Vertex 3 is just too good a deal and performer to ignore. It's worth recommending to enthusiasts who can spend a little more, but are still on a budget.
Patriot Memory Wildfire 120GB SSD
The Wildfire will appeal to hardcore enthusiasts willing to pay the premium and don't mind the meager accessories. It's the fastest consumer SSD around that we've tested, but I would still like to see a better bundle worthy of its performance. Despite the weak bundle, this Spartan SATA3 SSD still deserves its place on the food chain as our top performer.
Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD
Alas, the HyperX comes with an impressive accessories and software bundle, offering admirable performance and quality to boot. Not to mention, many of the tools in the kit like the Acronis software, drive enclosure, and tool kit will continue to serve you if you do choose to pick up a high performance SSD with no bundle in the future. And of course, it's easily the best looking enthusiast SSD currently offered by any manufacturer. Given these factors along with respectable pricing well within the pack, the Kingston HyperX SSD deserves our well earned Editors' Choice Award.
Whether you blame the economy or other market factors, one thing is for certain. Pricing is lower than ever putting any of these SSDs within reach of many regular users and enthusiasts. If blazing data rate performance is what you crave, SATA3 SSDs are in your future. The technology is definitely poised to continue improving as well as continuing to drop in cost. We'd like to thank all the manufacturers for providing samples and for pushing each other in this highly competitive market.
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