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Appeared on: Thursday, March 19, 2009
PatriotMemory Warp v2 128GB SSD

1. About the PatriotMemory Warp v2 128GB SSD

The solid state drives (SSD) are have become a reality and with so many different models already available today, it seems that the market has matured enough to accept them as a replacement of the traditional, noisy and slower HDD. Today we will examine an affordable solution from PatriotMemory, the Warp 2 series of SSD drives that comes with a capacity of 128GB.

- Product Features

The Patriot Extreme Performance (EP) Warp series Solid State Drive (SSD) is the latest in storage technology. Using the NAND flash chips and ultra-fast controller, the Warp v.2 SSD is available from 32GB to 128GB capacity and its specifications indicate that the drives can a transfer speed up to 175MB/s read and 100 MB/ write. Compared to conventional disk drives, built with 100% moving-free parts and housed in a vibration and shock resistance housing, the Warp SSDs provide a rock solid operating environment even during the most extreme working conditions. The Warp SSDs also have built-in wear leveling technology in addition to the standard 2 year warranty to maximize the life span of the drive and preserve your data integrity by automatically marking and blocking bad data cells.

- Features

2. Opening the box

Patriot Memory supplied us with the 128GB SSD Warp v2 SSD that costs $259 ($239 after $20 mail-in rebate), which is a good price at least for the provided capacity. Let's hope that it will also be competitive with other more expensive SSDs in terms of performance.

The product is backed by a 2-year warranty, which is less than what the traditional HDD offers.

The lightweight retail package is simple and has a plastic film window that let us actually see the drive inside.

The drive is well-protected inside a plastic shell:

Let's have a closer look at the drive. A big sticker provides information about the capacity of the SSD and the connection interface. The drive's weight is just 91grams and its dimensions are typical for the 2.5" factor.

The provided SATA I/II interface is not any different than what we usually meet in HDDs or optical disc drives. The drive can be easily installed in your laptop or desktop PC.

The 128GB SSD Warp v2 SSD is equipped with the JMicron model 602 I/O controller, which has been accused in various online forums for causing shutter issues, something we will examine later in this article.

The drive uses MLC (Multi Level Cell) NAND chips, which are supposed to be slower and less expensive than the SLC (Single Level Cell):

MLC NAND flash is a flash memory technology using multiple levels per cell to allow more bits to be stored as opposed to SLC NAND flash technologies, which uses a single level per cell. Currently, most MLC NAND stores four states per cell, so the four states yield two bits of information per cell. This reduces the amount of margin separating the states and results in the possibility of more errors.

Traditionally, one bit of data was stored in each cell in so-called single-level cells, or SLC flash memory. SLC memory has the advantage of faster transfer speeds, lower power consumption and higher cell endurance. However, as it stores less data per cell, it costs more per megabyte of storage to manufacture. Due to the faster transfer speeds, SLC flash technology is used in high-performance memory cards.

On a MLC NAND 4k "block", a write cycle has to be done first before a each write occur. This doubles the amount of cycles required per write and increases the wear the drive may face to a certain extent. Generally, flash-memory cells will often wear out after 1,000 to 10,000 write cycles for MLC, and up to 100,000 write cycles for SLC.

On the bright side, reading is not effected and it is as fast as an SLC NAND or even better.

3. Benchmarks

Test system setup

As you can see, we used Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 as testing platforms. There are rumors that VISTA is not optimized for SSD drives, while the Windows 7 would be. We didn't perform any kind of optimizations as described over various websites although we suggest you to do so if you are using an SSD as a main drive . We used the following benchmarking software installed in all three operating systems:

Before starting any tests you have to enable writing cache found under the "Device manager" section of your PC. This would give you the highest possible performance. While this option is automatically enabled under Windows XP, you should manually do it under VISTA and also enable the "enable advanced performance" option in the corresponding checkbox:

The drive was recognized as "Patriot Memory 128GB SSD". The first benchmark we tried was the HD Tach. HDTach is an easy to use low level hardware benchmark available from Simpli Software. It will measure Burst Read Speeds, Average Read and Write Speeds, Random Access Time and CPU Utilization. One of the nice things about HDTach compared to other tests is that it will measure performance across the entire disk instead of focusing within a file residing in a small portion of the disk. For the purposes of our testing we focused on Average Read and Write speeds and Random Access Time.

The drive's reading/writing performance is not as linear as we expected. You can see some big drops and fluctuations in the graphs , especially during writing . The random access time is just 0.2ms.

We also used HDTune to measure the average and maximum Read Bandwidth across the entire address space of the SSD when reading 64KB files sequentially. The software confirmed the findings of the previous test in both read and write tasks:

The above benchmarks showed a very good performance for the Warp v2 128Gb SSD drive. We also run the ATTO Disk Benchmark is a Hard Disk Benchmarking tool as well as the CrystalMark and SiSoft Sandra benchmarks under Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7:

The results show that Windows 7 is the right environment for your new SSD drive, providing higher performance. This means that Windows 7 will be our first choice for a new testbed :)

We also measured the the time it took to boot the system with Windows XP. This is likely one of the most noticeable differences for laptop users switching from Hard Disk Drives to SSDs. We "copied" our main HDD system (WD 36GB Raptor 10.000rpm ) to the PatriotMemory SSD and we measured the time needed from the time we pressed the power button until Windows fully loaded with all resident memory software.We also measured the time needed for shutting down the system under Windows XP.

Here we observed nearly a 27.3% reduction in wait time versus a Hard Disk during boot time and a 57% during shutdown:

Lastly, we performed the IOMeter tests at various drives we had in our labs and created a graph with the results. IOMeter is an I/O subsystem characterization tool. It is highly useful for characterizing disk performance in server and workstation environments where often IOPS are more critical than Bandwidth. It was originally developed by Intel in 1998 and since then has been supported by the Open Source Development Lab.

The PatriotMemory SSD drive didn't perform very well here. In fact it gave around 10 times lower the performance of the HDD drives. While we didn't notice this behavior during our tests, our Windows system paused some times especially when we performed many reading/writing tasks with the SSD drive. There are various guides offering advices on how to further increase the performance of SSD drives, which would probably work.

According to IOMeter results, the Average/Maximum response time is huge compared to normal HDD drives. Again, this was not noticeable under normal use of Windows XP.

4. Conclusion

The PatriotMemory 128GB Warp v2 SSD drive comes with an attractive retail price and twice the capacity of the fastest SSD on the planet, the Intel X25m. The drive has the typical dimensions of the 2.5" form factor, a very low weight and of course it has no moving parts, making it ideal for laptop and office use for HTPC systems.

Looking at the performance numbers, the reading part is pretty good at almost ~140MB/sec, while writing is much lower at ~55MB/sec. The writing graphs from various benchmarking software showed a non-liner performance, throughout the complete data area. Several drops in the writing transfer graph have an affect in the total average writing speed.

On the other hand, we were disappointed with the IOMeter results. Here, the PatriotMemory 128GB Warp v2 SSD drive stands no chance competing on performance against a typical 10,000RPM HDD HDD or even a 7,200RPM drive we tested, especially at the average/maximum response time. This shows that the the Patriot Memory SSD drive pauses under heavy load (read/write) causing the "shutter" effect.

However we have to admit that our daily experience with the PatriotMemory 128GB Warp v2 drive was much better than what the IOMeter numbers showed. We replaced our HDD drive with the Warp SSD and worked our everyday tasks like surfing on the web, listening to music or running Win RAR tasks. The SSD drive worked just fine and the so called "shutter" appeared only now and then. Not as bad as we initially thought..

In addition, we liked the fact that there is no noise coming out of the PC. We would like to have such a drive installed in our HTPC system and make it virtually noiseless, or even installed in our laptop for less consumption/heat/noise. After all, the Warp v2 would cost you just $259 and is also backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty. The Intel X25m is still considered as the fastest SSD around but it would cost you the double and you will still have half the capacity the PatriotMemory drive offers.

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