Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD w/ Sandforce SF-1200 Review

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Free Capacity and Final Thoughts

Capacity

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB Actual Capacity

When it comes to storage capacity, the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD has a free capacity of 55.8GB as shown above. The drive has 64GB of MLC Flash memory on the PCB, so roughly 13% of the drive’s capacity is reserved for the Sandforce DuraWare wear-leveling technology.

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB SSD Retail<br />
 Box

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD proved to be a great drive and it is the first Sandforce SF-1200 drive with mass production firmware with 13% over-provisioning that I have had the pleasure to benchmark and use. The Sandforce controller has proven itself to be one of the best controllers on the market, but it’s still rather new and still coming to age. In the past month the Sandforce drives have caused much confusion due to the firmware. Sandforce has given a company (OCZ) exclusive rights to use special firmware revisions that other companies don’t have access to. Will this change what brand drive you buy? 

The only real benchmarks that showed the firmware limiting the Callisto drive performance was IOmeter, HDTune and PCMark Vantage. I found the performance of the Mushkin Callisto with firmware version 3.0.9 was not the same same as OCZ’s exclusive SF-1200 firmware used on the Vertex 2 series. This is because the Sandforce Mass Production (MP) firmware limits small file random write performance on all SF-1200 drives
except for the Vertex 2 in accordance with SandForce’s agreement with
OCZ.

Which firmware do I suggest? Well, to be honest, the whole Sandforce firmware fiasco has become a bit too much to wrap your head around.  First, you have the over-provisioning situation:  Would you rather own a drive with 13% or 28% of the MLC NAND Flash reserved for wear leveling? Companies like OCZ offer the Vertex 2 (SF-1200 controller) SSD with either 13% or 28% over-provisioning firmwares and down the road they say you’ll be able to change the drive’s capacities between the two by conductinig firmware updates. This means you will be able to buy a drive that is 60GB, but have the ability to change it to 50GB if you want better wear-leveling. After that, you have to figure out what firmware you’d like to run.  You also have the Mass Production version that limits 4k random writes to 10,000 IOps and the OCZ exclusive firmware that allows 4K random writes to go all the way up to 30,000 IOps. Are you confused yet? 

Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD Retail Box

There are also companies like OCZ offering ‘special’ utilities just for their Sandforce drives called the ‘toolbox’ utility.  Others like Mushkin don’t offer this software, but just for fun we tried it on the Callisto drive and found that it worked! I’m not sure if OCZ will lock down their software, but for the time being you can use it on other branded drives that use the Sandforce controller.

When it comes to pricing the Mushkin Callisto series is available in 60GB (MKNSSDCL60GB), 120GB (MKNSSDCL120GB) and 240GB (MKNSSDCL240GB) drive capacities with
the 60GB model having a cost of $204.99, the 120GB at $349.99 and the 240GB model being sold for $629.99. Not a bad price compared to other SandForce drives.  

SF-1200 Brand  Over-Provisioning  50GB or 60GB  100GB or 120GB  200GB or 240GB
 Mushkin Callisto  13%  $204.99 – 60GB  $349.99 – 120GB  $629.99 – 240GB
 Corsair Force  28% N/A  $409.99 – 100GB  $719.99 – 200GB
 OCZ Agility 2  28%  $169.99 – 50GB  $359.99 – 100GB  $639.99 – 200GB
 OCZ Vertex 2  28%  $189.99 – 50GB  $399.99 – 100GB  $749.99 – 200GB
 Patriot Inferno  28%  N/A  $369.00 – 100GB  $679.00 – 200GB

In fact, when it comes to dollar per gigabyte, the Mushkin Callisto comes out as the price versus capacity leader since it has less over-provisioning and therefore a larger overall capacity to store your data at the 120GB and 240GB drive capacities.  At the 50GB or 60GB price segment it faces stiff competition and is priced a little high as the OCZ Agility 2 has the same mass production firmware performance limitations and is priced less per GB although is has more over-provisioning and less storage space. As for what drives have what firmware you’ll have to check with each manufacturer as firmware updates come out often and you can flash the drive to whatever one you like. The OCZ Vertex 2 carries a price premium as it is the only drive that we know of that ships for sure with the un-capped firmware.  For a 120GB or 240GB SSD the Mushkin Callisto has the best price per GB and even has a longer warranty than some as it comes backed with a 3-year warranty.  Drives like the Patriot Inferno only have a 2-year warranty, but all the others come with a 3-year warranty as well.

Buying an SSD with the Sandforce controller has become tough as you can tell. Sandforce is a new company that is still finding their place in the market, but I feel that have released too many firmware versions and shouldn’t be giving companies exclusive firmware revisions that others can’t have right away or at all. It makes our job tough and I’m sure the confusion will just make some turn to other controller companies that have just one firmware, a standard over-provisioning number and non-exclusive firmware releases.

Legit Bottom Line: If you want a SandForce SF-1200 series controller in your SSD with the 13% over-provisioning firmware that also has the cap on small file writes for better durability then the Mushkin Castillo series is a great choice!

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