The Force Is With You - Again
There have been a number of incarnations of the Force Series drives from Corsair with the first having the SandForce 1200 series controller. Hence the name. Most have been performance focused and were the Corsair flagship drives for a time, a title currently held by their Neutron GTX line. The new Force LS series is intended more as a budget friendly drive and changes things up with a Phison controller running the show that's supported by Toshiba 19nm NAND. This isn't a configuration we've tested before so it'll be interesting to see how it fares.
Don't confuse budget friendly with poor performance - this is still a Force series drive after all. Maximum read and write capabilities are listed as 560MB/s and 535MB/s respectively which are excellent numbers on paper. It's offered in capacities of 60 GB, 120 GB, and 240 GB with MSRP's of $94.99, $149.99 and $259.99 respectively. This is one of the few products we've reviewed and probably a first for the SSD segment, that is not sold in the United States. Corsair has no plans to release this drive in the U.S. but is available in elsewhere around the world including Europe and Australia. So, for our brethren across the pond, this one is for you.
Corsair Force LS Features and Specifications:
- Warranty: Three years
- Part Numbers:
- SSD Unformatted Capacity: 240 GB
- Max Sequential R/W (ATTO): 560 MB/s sequential read — 535 MB/s sequential write
- Interface: SATA 6Gb/s
- Technology: MLC, Toggle NAND
- Form Factor: 7mm high, 2.5 inch
- DRAM Cache Memory: 512 MB
- Weight: 0.05kg
- Voltage: 5V ±5%
- Power Consumption (active): 4.6W Max
- Power Consumption (idle/standby/sleep): 0.6W Max
- S.M.A.R.T. Support: Yes
- Shock: 40G
- MTBF: 1,000,000 hours
The teal blue accent color sets it apart visually from the other versions of the Force series drives but otherwise has the same overall design. The typical sized 2.5" form factor has a 7mm Z-height which is the growing trend amongst new drives due to the shrinking host device size and the space premiums they command. Absent is the usual 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate which isn't really needed much these days and it allows Corsair to price the drives a little more competitively. There are four screws included for mounting the drive.
A Look Inside The Force LS
As usual, we open up the case and take a peek at the innards of the drive which voids the warranty but who needs those anyway?
Opening the drive requires the removal of four screws, two on each side rather than the back where many drives have their screws. Removing the PCB takes four more screw extractions.
The first side of the PCB house half of the flash modules found on the drive and little else.
Though not marked, the NAND used is Toshiba MLC 19nm Toggle with sixteen total on the drive for 256GB in overall capacity for this 240GB drive. Each carry part number TT57G2LAKA.
Flipping the board over, we find a similar NAND configuration and the addition of the cache and the Phison controller.
The DDR3 DRAM cache manufactured by Powerchip found on the 240GB drive is 512MB in capacity which we see here, while the smaller 60GB and 120GB drives carry a 256MB cache.
The Phison PS3108 controller is one I don't believe we've had a chance to test before. We did see a Phison controller in the Crucial V4 drive but it was part number PS3105. We actually don't have a ton of info on the 8-channel controller other than it supports SATA 6Gbps, TRIM and idle garbage collection much like nearly all other modern SSD controllers. Based on the performance, it feels a lot like the Marvell controllers but not as widespread in use. Odds are good that it's a less expensive part than the controllers offered by SandForce and LAMD.
Test System & Comparison Drives
All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 8 Pro x64 with no other applications running while using AHCI mode set through the BIOS. Synthetic Benchmarks were run with the OS loaded on a 120GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the test drive was secure erased using an instance of Parted Magic. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below.
Z77 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k|
|ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77|
|Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB|
|Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)|
|Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC|
|Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit|
Comparison Drives And Other Models We Have Tested
Since there are so many SSDs out there now with different controllers, we started a reference table of which controllers are used by each drive to help you compare results. Different controllers definitely perform differently and each has various strengths and weaknesses. Like CPU's, even identical drives will have variations in performance and part of that variance may be attributable to the NAND flash used. Since the tests of the drives listed have spanned different test benches and represent different interfaces, we have listed the most recent ones for easy reference.
|Samsung Evo 500GB||MEX S4LN045X01||SATA III|
|Seagate 600 240GB||LAMD LM87800||SATA III|
|OCZ Vertex 450 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10||SATA III|
|Crucial M500 480GB||Marvell 88SS9187||SATA III|
|OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|Samsung 840 Pro 240GB||Samsung MDX||SATA III|
|Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB||Marvell 88SS9175||SATA III|
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB||LAMD LM87800||SATA III|
|Intel 520 Series 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||SATA III|
CrystalDiskInfo 5.6.2 Readout:
For the Corsair Force LS 240GB drive, the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 5.2.0 shows that both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as well as TRIM and the interface is confirmed at SATA III (6Gbps). This is a great free tool to see lots of detailed information about the drive such as the firmware version for which we are running the latest available at the time of testing - ES8FM05.8.
Let's have a look at the performance with some synthetic benchmarks followed up by some real world tests.
ATTO & AS-SSD Benchmarks
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.
ATTO - Intel Z77 Platform:
Benchmark Results: The Corsair Force LS 240GB posts some very nice numbers on the ATTO benchmark including tying the best write scores in our comparison grid as well as read scores that are a hair off of the best score.
AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) Benchmark - Intel Z77 Platform:
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from two of them.
Benchmark Results: The Phison PS3108-S8 controller performance drops off a bit here on the writes when faced with data that's incompressible but the reads remain strong, posting the best performance score in our comparison.
Benchmark Results: Usually, we see this graph slope up as it moves left to right from incompressible to compressible data but with the Force LS it actually slopes down a little but the angle of slope is rather small.
CrystalDiskMark & Anvil IOPS
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 - Intel Z77 Platform
Install Results: The Force LS does better on this benchmark in the writes department breaking the 400MB/s mark while reads are still very strong. The 4K numbers are also very competitive.
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.050 RC6- Intel Z77 Platform
Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 32. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.
Install Results: The reads IOPS were dramatically lower than the writes which is something we've seen before but it's not typically the case. Still, the read score is not shabby and the writes are very good so overall nothing to complain about.
Real World Copy & Boot Tests
File Copy Times Via Teracopy 2.27:
One of the most common operations performed on a PC is moving/copying files. Using a free application called Teracopy, we copied large numbers of two file types from one folder to another on the same drive. Teracopy allows us to objectively measure the time of transfer and using the same drive prevents other devices from tainting the outcome. The operation requires the drive to perform both sustained read and writes simultaneously. The first set of files is a 5GB collection of JPG's of variable size and compression levels with a few movie (.MOV) files thrown in for good measure since most cameras now take video as well as stills. The second is a collection of MP3 files of various sizes which totals 5GB collectively. These file types were chosen due to their wide use and mixture of file sizes and compression levels.
Install Results: The file copy times fell into the middle of the pack, not great but competitive just the same.
Windows Boot Times Via BootRacer:
Windows start up/shutdown time is always something people are interested in and we haven't done it in a while because there was little variation with the majority of the SSDs. We recently began using an application called BootRacer to objectively measure the startup times of the drives. All of the instances of Windows were identical and freshly installed with only the video driver installed.
Install Results: Surprisingly. the Force LS had the best boot times of any drive we've tested, albeit less than one second difference off of the OCZ Vector drive.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The Corsair Force LS 240GB (1GB byte = 1,000,000,000 bytes) drive yields 223Gib (1Gib = 1,073,741,824 bytes) to the user after over provisioning and Windows formatting have their share. This is the typical available amount for most 240GB drives and suitably large enough for most users, especially if they have a dedicated media drive.
Being that this was our first go at the Phison PS3108 controller, we weren't sure what kind of performance we would see overall. Sure the specifications say reads up to 560MB/s and writes up to 535MB/s, but how would it perform against the suite of tests? The answer is, it was a little mixed. We did see the aforementioned performance numbers manifest on the ATTO benchmark which is usually where you see the best possible performance outcome for any drive. Moving to some of the other benchmarks, we saw a hit in write performance as is the case with many drives - especially by the more budget oriented offerings. So in hindsight, knowing that this was a value drive going in, I guess we did have an inkling of performance expectations. Still, as far as the wallet friendly drive crowd goes, it compared very favorably with no real weak spots that aren't found with its peers. The Phison controller seemed to handle everything we threw at it without having a meltdown and paired well with the 19nm Toshiba Toggle NAND. How it fares in the long term will be something that we'll have to wait and see but for now we have no real complaints.
For those here in the U.S. that may be considering one, you'll have to look elsewhere. Currently, this is only available abroad and as far as we know, Corsair has no plans to offer it domestically. The closest Corsair part would probably be the Force GS series which has similar specifications. Corsair lists the 60GB, 120GB and 240GB drives on their site as $94.99, $149.99 and $259.99 in terms of MSRP. We were able to spot them online for £54.72, £87.74, and £153.89 (all including VAT) which is a bit less expensive than the MSRP but not much. Takeaway the 20% VAT and the difference is more substantial but you can't really skirt it so I chose to include it. For the 240GB drive we tested, that comes out to about £0.69 ($1.10) per usable GB which is pushing the boundaries of value pricing. To be fair, pricing usually drops a bit once the drives have been given ample time to saturate the market.
Overall, we can say that the Force LS series is a solid contender for your dollars for those wanting the speed of an SSD but not needing top performance or simply not willing to shell out the funds such a drive demands. Used to be that there was a sizeable rift in performance between budget drive and enthusiast drives. Not so much anymore and as such we’ve said many times that if you take the best SSD and use it for a week and then switch to a lesser drive, you’d be hard pressed to tell a difference unless you are moving gobs of data. The real world differences are a matter of few seconds here and there. Even then, we showed that the value oriented LS drive had some of the fastest boot times of all the drives we’ve tested. Given Corsair’s 3-year warranty and reputation for good customer support, we wouldn’t worry too much about the lack of history with the Phison controller and see no reason to shy away from recommending the Force LS series of drives, especially if we can see the price come down a bit.
Legit Bottom Line: The Corsair Force LS series drive makes a good argument for itself to be purchased and loved but only for those outside of the USA.