Solid state drives are one of the biggest things to happen to the PC industry in a decade. If you analyse how far processors have come in the past ten years, you’d be looking at a near 50-fold increase in performance. Today’s 7,200rpm hard drives, on the other hand, are only around twice as fast as the quickest drives from 2001, making them by far the biggest bottleneck in computing.
Introducing the Performance 3
Corsair’s Performance 3 series are among the quickest drives on the market. They use an ultra-fast 6Gbit/s interface, allowing them to burst through the limit of around 285MB/s imposed by older SATA II controllers. They also support contemporary features like TRIM, which are essential for keeping your SSD’s performance consistent.
Externally the Corsair we tested looks very similar to the manufacturer’s other drives, with a brushed metal cover and Corsair’s usual black and white product information sticker. It’s built to the standard 2.5in format, allowing you to install the drive into both laptops and desktops. Helpfully, Corsair also provides customers with a 2.5in-to-3.5in bracket, allowing you to mount the drive in any normal PC case without the need to buy a separate adaptor. Corsair also provides the necessary mounting screws.
Performance 3 series drives comes in three flavours; a 64GB model for those on a tight budget, a 128GB variant, and the flagship 256GB model we tested. As with many of the latest SSDs, the performance numbers for each are slightly different. The 256MB variant we are looking at today is capable of a claimed 480MB/s sustained read and 320MB/s write when paired with an appropriate 6Gbit/s controller.
How it performed
The Corsair packs a Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 controller under the hood – the same controller that powers other recent SSDs from Crucial and Intel. Each variation has its own firmware, however, so the performance of every drive is slightly different.
In order to see how the Corsair Performance 3 stacked up in practice, we used the popular CrystalDiskMark benchmark. The drive managed read speeds of 425MB/s sequential, 305MB/s for 512K reads, 17MB/s for 4K, 37MB/s in 4K with a queue depth of 4 and 69MB/s in 4K with a queue depth of 32.
The sequential results are the fastest we have ever seen, besting the SandForce-powered OCZ Vertex 2 and the Crucial RealSSD C300. The 4K performances are lower than competing drives, however. Crucial has clearly tuned its drive for consumer rather than enterprise performance. This trend is continued when writing – the Corsair is devastating for sequential writes, but relatively off the pace for 4K – regardless of queue depth.
Where the Corsair really excels is in its garbage collection routines. Scrubbing the drive with dirty data and repeating the tests noticeably impaired the performance of rival SandForce-equipped drives, but even with 75 per cent of the drive used, the Performance 3′s performance is amongst the most consistent we have tested. Clearly Corsair has invested resources otherwise used to make a drive excel in benchmarks to give the consumer a consistent experience – a decision to be applauded.
The only barrier holding back the Performance 3 is its price. At £458, the drive will be well beyond the pockets of most users. It costs over £100 more than the Crucial RealSSD C300, which shares the same capacity. The Performance 3 is clearly a better product, but we’d still recommend users hold fire until availability – and therefore pricing – improves.
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- Great sequential performance; super garbage collection; 6Gbit/s interface
- Mediocre 4K results; very expensive.
The Corsair Performance 3 is undoubtedly one of the strongest SSDs on the market today, which will reward purchasers with blistering speed and unparalleled consistency - if they can afford the lofty asking price.