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Everything you need to know
on April 10, 2012
Edit: this was a great drive a year ago for <$180, but its been superseded by a number of drives for much less money. I've picked up several drives like the Intel 530, Seagate 600 and others in the <$130 range. Mushkin needs to drop the price on this drive about $30 and warm over the content a little. The controller is still good but there are better, and nand has also changed a bit in the last year.
Solid state disk drives have 4 defining characteristics. Its interface with the computer which limits what speeds it can attain in the real world, the type of controller chip used in the SSD, the type of memory or 'nand' and the firmware. The firmware is software that is loaded onto the SSD and used by the controller chip to manage the storage device.
This particular drive can use "Sata III" which allows for properly equipped computers to send data at up to 6Gb/s. If your computer uses Sata II or Sata I (it'd be pretty old to be the latter), you top out at 3 and 1.5Gb/s respectively.
Only the very fastest tiers of solid state drives can saturate more than Sata II, and you'd have to be doing some serious stuff on a sustained basis to make good use of the 6Gb/s, so for most purposes it suffices to say that this drive will throw more data at your computer than it can reasonably handle.
The controller is a Sanforce 2200 series. This is a very powerful and advanced controller, but its suffered from being released early by many eager SSD providers putting it on the market before the firmware had all of the problems worked out. As a result a number of drives with these controllers lost customer data and crashed systems. The current firmware release, just dropped a short time ago by many manufacturers, seems to have all of these problems worked out. There are a few products that suffer from manufacturing issues that affect reliability, but this is not one of them.
As far as type of memory, there is 'toggle nand', synchronous and asynchronous, with varying speed tiers within type. Toggle is fastest in general, then sync, then async. But some fast sync drives can approach toggle speeds and some async drives can approach sync speeds.
Firmware is the crucial element. Well tested and researched firmware means reliability and performance. Many of the more popular drives go through dozens of firmware revisions every year, most bringing reliability and performance improvements.
According to Toms Hardware SSD hierarchy chart, this is a tier 1 drive with toggle nand, the fast 2200 series sandforce controller and pretty reliable firmware. This is one of the 2-3 fastest drives on the market and with the current firmware it may be the fastest. It offers excellent performance at a reasonable price point on sale recently with excellent reliability. And like all recent SSD's, it offers silence, no moving parts, and ridiculously fast random access to your data. Put it in an older computer and it feels like its gotten faster and newer. Put it in a new computer and it'll fly. Your statup, shutdown, program load and general usage will seem as much as twice as fast. Even opening a browser with 15 tabs takes me half as much time with an SSD as a hard drive.