Mtron Mobi 32GB SSD
Author: Dominick V. Strippoli
"Solid State Drive Performance - Let the Price Wars Begin!"
As a pre-requisite to this article, our previous Mtron Professional 16GB Solid State Drive review would give you a great insight to the ultra premium of current solid state technology. I was very excited to do this review on the lower priced consumer level Mtron Mobi drive, even more so than our infamous Battleship Mtron review. Why do you ask? Because here at the present time we finally have a drive that should be able to pounce on any current SATA mechanical drive thanks to sheer latency and access time but without the hefty price tag of $800 to $1000. What is the catch? These Mobi's are half the price of the Mtron Professional 16GB drives previously reviewed. You can purchase a 16GB Mobi Drive for $397, and this 32GB capacity drive that we are currently reviewing can be had for the same price as our 16GB Mtron Pro ($799) drive, but with double the capacity. Why such a large price difference between the Pro 16GB drive ($799) and the Mobi 16GB Drive ($379)?
The Mtron Mobi only has a three year manufacturer warranty that is automatically void if you are caught using these drives in an enterprise/server setup. While the Mtron Professional line has a full 5 year manufacturer warranty completely valid in the enterprise market. The only characteristic difference is that the Mtron Pro is rated at 120 MB/s read, 90 MB/s write, and the Mtron Mobi is rated at 100 MB/s read, and 80 MB/s write. Also, I was informed to not even consider testing these Mobi drives under a Raid multi-drive configuration because results are very inconsistent and the Mobi is designed to be used in a single drive configuration. In other words, most raid controllers are not compatible with the Mobi Drive, where as the Pro Drive is fully compatible with many controllers and designed for array usage, hence the price difference.
Thanks to our buddy Shawn over at Neostore.com, we were able to obtain an Mtron Mobi 32GB SSD sample immediately. Here comes the big question: Does the new consumer level Mobi SSD have the capability to perform relatively close in spec to big brother Mtron Pro at half the price? We shall soon find out......
Upon initial boot-up of the computer the drive was instantly recognized on the Intel X38 motherboard. Since we learned previously that the Matrix Southbridge does indeed cap SSD sustained throughput at around 80 MB/s, we already knew in advance that plugging the drive into the SATA port on Gigabytes GIGA2 Controller was a necessity for the drive to function at full rated spec. Our initial HDTach shot is very impressive. The drive not only performs fully at its rated spec of 100 MB/s read and .1ms access time, but it actually pulls a few extra points ahead of rated spec in throughput ending up at a very stout 101.5 MB/s for the entire 32GB length.
The next screenshot is an overlay shot comparing the single Mtron Pro to the single Mtron Mobi. As you can see in the following screenshot, there is a very small difference in actual read performance when comparing the two drives. Latency is identical meaning for the most part these drives will feel relatively the same in an OS environment and sustained read is shockingly only 8.5 MB/s better on the professional drive:
Now let us move on to the testing portion of our review. We are going to be focusing on the new Mtron Mobi 32GB drive and comparing it to the Mtron Pro 16GB, a Western Digital Raptor 150, and finally a Maxtor Diamondmax 300GB IDE drive. We have drives of different sizes and performance levels adding a wide spectrum to our review. As always, to appease different types of readers I like to include a little of both synthetic testing and real world testing. We will be using basically the same testing methodology as our previous articles but as an addition to this review, I have also included a small portion of IOMeter Random Write testing which was heavily requested from many of our enterprise readers in feedback e-mail. As usual, I will start off with our disclaimer regarding "real world testing": With all of our testing, we use the old fashioned stop watch method of "real world" analysis using a hand held Casio stop watch. So although our results will be as close to perfect as humanly possible, you always have to factor in a slim margin of error.
Our first test will be booting Windows Vista Ultimate Edition 32-bit. The timed reading you see in the screenshot is the average of 5 startups and shutdowns on the drives. Vista boot time is measured from as soon as you see the first bar move on the Vista screen and timing is stopped when the mouse on the hourglass stops loading services/resident programs on the desktop.
As you can see, the sheer access time on NAND Solid State, especially this Mtron drive totally dominates current rotating HDD technology. We are seeing a boot performance increase of 130% on the Mtron Professional unit over the WD Raptor. On the other hand, we are displaying a 100% boot performance increase when comparing the Raptor to the Mtron Mobi 32GB drive. To show you the subtle difference in boot speed, I have prepared 2 small videos of windows vista boot. Both videos show the insane boot speeds attained with these SSD's and the only noticeable difference in speed being the increase of 1 full bar during vista boot with the Mobi as compared to 1/2 bar with the Pro. Pretty negligible huh??
On the left you have the Mtron Mobi 32GB and on the right you have the Mtron Pro 16GB. Please right click save as:
Our next series of tests will all be based on Synthetic Performance Testing. The first measurement will be recorded using a program called HDTach by Simpli Software. It is a tool to measure raw hard drive sustained read and access time.
As you can see, the raw power of the Mtron Solid State Drive is apparent using HDTach. The Pro Drive displays an average read increase of almost 30 MB/s over the rotating Western Digital Raptor 150, while the Mobi Drive displays around a 20 MB/s increase. Again, the most important number that you should be looking at right now is random access time. NAND Solid State will increase the snappy feeling of random file reads by over 80 times when compared to the WD Raptor 150.
Just to confirm these numbers, I have also used Lavalys Everest Diskbench and ATTO Diskbench.
Here we can see that Everest clearly displays a sustained and random transfer speed increase from both the Mobi and the Pro drive as compared to the good old WD Raptor 150. Something else to take a quick peek at, is for the Linear test we are only showing a very slim increase in sustained transfer performance when comparing the Pro to the Mobi. Something else interesting is that the Pro drive definitely has a slight edge of about 30 MB/s when performing random reads. We will display random reading in depth later on in the IOMeter portion of our review.
ATTO Diskbench is a widely known benchmarking tool to find specific holes in your file system and test the sustained read/write performance by having the capability to adjust different transfer sizes, as well as transfer lengths. For the read/write benchmark I chose to use a 1024K transfer size at a 32mb length. This stresses all three of the drives to the max under read/write conditions. For once, the Raptor comes ahead of the Mtron unit in Write Performance. The mechanical Raptor has a 26% edge in sustained write speeds compared to the Mtron Mobi SSD. But, again we see a confirmed sustained read of 104 MB/s on the Mtron Mobi unit confirming an additional 20% performance increase over the Raptor 150. NAND flash architecture on the Mtron unit is currently known for the most part to have either a slower or equal too write capability when compared to the Raptor 150. This is widely known with current MLC flash technology as well. We will begin to decipher the real write performance differences between these drives later on in this review. During specific IOMeter testing you will be shocked at how far behind SSD's still remain in Random Write operations.
The next synthetic benchmark is the PCMark2005 Hard Drive Test Suite.
We can see an obvious HDD General Usage speed increase of almost double, or two times the raw power of a WD Raptor 150. Something else to take note of is the fact that XP Startup is almost equal when comparing the Mtron Mobi to the Pro. We are also looking at a very minor 10% speed increase in General Performance spec when comparing the Mobi to the Pro.
We are now moving on to our server level testing portion using a widely known benchmarking tool called IOMeter. IOMeter is used to test all aspects of your file system completely, both in single threaded and multi threaded (server level applications). The measurement is called IOP's, or input/output operations per second and is the standard measurement for all enterprise systems. We are going to be testing with a specific focus on server level/multi-threaded performance. Our test configuration will display the standard database/web server benchmarks of Random Reads (100% non sequential) at 4k and 8k, as well as maximum IOP'S using a 512 byte access specification (100% non sequential). To get these results, a minimum of a 10GB capacity test configuration is stored on the volume and 20 outstanding I/O's are selected. To give you an idea of the scope of read server performance with these drives I have included an old fashioned Maxtor IDE Diamondmax as well as a WD Raptor 150 in my testing.
Let us put these results into a better perspective for the average reader. Put a standard WD Raptor in a 2 drive RAID redundancy setup on an 8k based web server that will only be random reading to customers on the Internet. There will zero writing to the volume, and only short random reads of heavy traffic constantly all day long. That is our application. Even though we are not allowed to use a Mobi SSD in a server environment without voiding warranty, how much faster will an Mtron Mobi perform in that exact application? Theoretically, the redundant Mobi drives will perform an astounding 35 times faster than the redundant Raptor setup when performing random reads at 8k. Even more incredible, is that the Mtron Professional Series (The Pro does not void warranty in an enterprise configuration) will perform an incredible 41 times faster than the Raptor in a random 8k server setup. The Mtron Professional Drive clearly displays why it commands such a higher price compared to the Mobi for enterprise clients in this scenario.
Don't go jumping for joy so fast, because even though the drives are astounding at sustained read and random reads. As discussed in all three articles, NAND Flash write technology is not yet a perfect and refined process. I received a huge amount of traffic on the last two reviews and an incredible amount of e-mail feedback. One of the most important questions that kept hitting my Outlook inbox was: "Dear Dominick, Can you please include 100% Random Write IOP testing in your next article? I am under the impression that SSD's are very poor in this benchmark." To everyone that requested it, these next results may or may not shock you:
To examine Random Write IOP's I will go ahead and put together another scenario. Let us hypothetically put together a two drive redundant array of WD Raptor 150's. The application is a large scale corporate LAN based database. The database is constantly being bombarded with random write operations all day long. Using 8k as our example again, incredibly the mechanical RAID array of WD Raptor 150's will perform right around 3 times as fast as current Mtron Solid State Drives using this specific type of application. Something else that was personally noticeable to me when completing these IOMeter Random Write tests was that I was unable to read from the drive during testing. Using the Raptor and old fashioned IDE Diamondmax, I was able to maintain constant write performance as well as multi-task-read on the drive with slight comfort. The Mtron drives were pretty much frozen and non responsive during any IOMeter write operation.
You may ask yourself: What gives? These new SSD's totally dominate all current mechanical drives in random read performance, but they get absolutely thrashed by an old fashioned IDE Maxtor DiamondMax drive in random write performance? That is where long time Solid State Company: EasyCo comes into play. They have been working on and implementing MFT (Managed Flash Technology) for quite a few years now. Doug Dumitru, EasyCo's Chief Technical Officer has developed a driver specifically for Mtron Professional Drives that will essentially convert random writes into chained linear writes. This in turn as taken from the MFT website "can dramatically improve real-time performance of asymmetric storage devices such as Flash disks by making reads and writes symmetrical."
During my brief back and forth communication with Doug about these current write performance issues and analyzing his own Mtron Pro single drive results, he has been able to achieve an astounding 15,000 random write IOP's on these drives in a single drive configuration. For enterprise readers, please contact Doug directly by using the link provided in the previous paragraph. I was extremely impressed with MFT technology and it looks as though this would be an absolute necessity if using these drives in any kind of database driven system.
Real World Testing
We will now move on to non synthetic "real world" testing. The first test is going to be gaming load testing. Each of the games were timed for three separate readings, with a windows reboot between each reading. The times you see are the average between the three readings.
As you can see in all of the games, we are averaging a load speed increase of 68% over the Western Digital Raptor 150 when using the Pro drive for comparison. The speed increase is truly incredible with these solid state drives. From my experience working with both drives in a single user environment so far, it almost turns the OS into a fluid like and instantaneous experience. When comparing the Pro drive to the Mobi, we are averaging an 8% boot speed increase when using the Pro drive. Once again, a negligible speed increase when considering price to performance.
As I promised previously, we are now moving on to more write intensive real world testing. The next test is a combined read/write operation. Various applications are timed for total installation time using the progress bar indicator. The install programs are launched from the desktop and installed to the program files directory measuring both read/write performance at the same time.
Again, we can clearly see that the Raptor handles file system write operations much cleaner than the Mtron NAND based units. There is an apparent 23% write speed boost from the Raptor 150 in this combined testing. With the exception of Photoshop 7.1 installation time, the Mobi would generally be considered identical to the Pro drive for this portion of testing.
Our last real world test will be a standard Windows Vista 1 gigabyte folder copy (from drive to drive) test. We take a folder with over 100 individual files totaling a 1 gigabyte folder capacity and we simply copy and paste to a new location on the drive. Read/write performance was identical on both the Raptor and the Mtron Pro drives in a standard vista file copy. The Mtron Mobi 32GB SSD was approximately 4% slower than both drives when transferring 1GB of files. My opinion again is that this minor difference in performance spec is completely negligible under the assumption that a Mobi drive is half the price of a Pro.
Another difference with these new Solid State Drives is SILENCE. Since you are using a non rotating device, as compared to a 10,000 RPM rotating Raptor, there is absolutely no noise using NAND Solid State Technology. The raptor produces an ugly 36 dB's at full seek capacity.
Power consumption is another incredible feat with these Solid State Drives. The Mtron Pro unit uses a maximum of 2.95 watts to power the drive compared to the 10 watts full seek load of the WD Raptor. In comparison, the Mtron Mobi unit uses a claimed full load wattage of 2.01 watts. Please note: These power consumption specs are taken directly from the manufacturer's in house testing facility.
In conclusion, the answer to the big question: Does the new consumer level Mobi SSD have the capability to perform relatively close in spec to big brother Mtron Pro at half the price? It absolutely does, and at the half the price of big brother Pro we are looking at negligible single user performance increases of less than 4% to 10%. Is that small increase in performance worth an additional $400? Well, that's for to you to decide. In my opinion, we will have two kinds of people buying an Mtron Drive in a single user gaming/operating system/home environment: A person that wants the ultimate gaming PC with no monetary constraints will purchase the Mtron Professional Drive. On the other hand, we will have a conservative person that is very intrigued by the incredible speed of Solid State Technology and wants to delve into new tech at entry level pricing. He/She will purchase the Mtron Mobi drive.
What about in a server environment? During this article, we learned that the Mtron Mobi (which has an entry level 16GB price of $397) is limited to a 3 year manufacturer warranty that is completely void if the drive is used in any kind of server environment. The Mobi is also extremely limited in raid compatibility and usually will not be recognized by the raid controller on a multi drive setup.
The Mtron Pro commands a hefty 16GB entry price tag of $797 (double that of the Mobi), but thrashes the Mobi in random read server performance by almost 25%. The Professional Series also comes complete with a full 5 year manufacturer warranty valid for both enterprise customers or single home PC users. In essence, you are paying the extra hefty price tag for your 5 year enterprise warranty, complete array and raid controller compatibility, and finally you are paying for a significant performance boost in random read operation when used in a server configuration. This price tag could be beneficial for an enterprise customer if you outweigh the benefits over the costs.
2008 is approaching fast, and manufacturers are racing to put new SSD and Hybrid Technology out on the market for us. Since I produced my first review on the Mtron Pro, price has been dropping significantly and it looks as thought he Price War has just begun. It is a great time for storage technology. Happy New Year Everyone!!!