Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD Performance Review
On May 11, 2010 Mushkin Enhanced announced the release of a new Solid-State Drive (SSD) series called, Callisto. Mushkin might not be the first brand name that rolls off your tongue when you think about SSDs, but don't count them out. Mushkin has been making high-quality PC components for 15 years and we have been reviewing their power supplies and memory modules for the past seven years without once having and issues with the company. To be honest with you the SSD industry is much like the memory industry was years ago as any company can take some off the shelf parts and come up with some fancy packaging and bring a product to the market. SSDs are made up of five critical components; the controller, NAND Flash, printed circuit board (PCB), enclosure/housing and of course the every important firmware. The reason most SSDs look the same today is because they actually might be in some situations. Why am I telling you all this? Because we are getting to a point in the SSD market where it is becoming harder to differentiate between drives.
The Mushkin Callisto SSD series has sequential read speeds of up to 285MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 275MB/s. These impressive numbers are thanks to the fact that the Callisto series of SSDs comes equipped with the Sandforce SF-1200 controller. The Sandforce SF-1222 has been getting a ton of attention these days on hardware review sites as it is the same controller found on numerous drives now.
Solid-State Drives Using The Sandforce SF-1222 Controller:
- A-DATA S599 Series
- Corsair Force Series
- Mushkin Callisto Series
- OCZ Agility 2 Series
- OCZ Vertex 2 Series
- Patriot Inferno Series
The only thing that really separates these drives from each other would be the bundle, the drive appearance, warranty and possibly the firmware. The firmware being used on the Sandforce SF-1200 series has become interesting as Sandforce has given OCZ exclusive rights to a firmware that gives their drives better performance than the rest. Anand Shimpi did a great article on the Sandforce firmware situation here that you should take a look at to understand what is going on with the firmware. The drive that we are looking at today uses mass production firmware with all the latest fixes. Let's take a look at the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD and see how it stacks up.
One of the first things I asked Mushkin when I received the Callisto drive is why did they call this Solid-State Drive (SSD) series the Callisto? Do you know what Callisto means? Mushkin informed us that Callisto, just like their Io Series before it, are named after moons of Jupiter.
"Callisto is a moon of the planet Jupiter, (pronounced /kəˈlɪstoʊ/, named after the Greek mythological figure of Callisto, Greek: Καλλιστώ) . It was discovered in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. It is the third-largest moon in the Solar System and the second largest in the Jovian system, after Ganymede. Callisto has about 99% the diameter of the planet Mercury but only about a third of its mass. It is the fourth Galilean moon of Jupiter by distance, with an orbital radius of about 1,880,000 km." - Wikipedia
They went on to say that they have some big NASA/space fans inside
Mushkin and they thought it reflected the growing, groundbreaking effect
that SSDs are having on the storage market. Another employee inside
Mushkin said that it was to show the "out of this world" performance
benefits of SSDs over traditional HDDs. All we know is that Jupiter only has four moons, but I doubt they will name an SSD Ganymede or Europa. Actually, you never know!
The Mushkin Callisto series will be 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. The Mushkin Callisto series happens to be very price competitive with other SandForce SF-1200 series drives!
Inside the retail bundle we found that Mushkin has included a 3.5" desktop adapter bracket with the Callisto SSD. This is a nice touch as most of the cases that have been sold in recent years were not designed to store 2.5" SSDs, so you have to have a way to secure them. Notebook users will have no need for this, but it is nice that companies are including these adapters. Some companies like Corsair and OCZ have their name printed on the adapter bracket, but that wasn't the case here.
The drive that we are reviewing today is the Mushkin Callisto 60B model with part number MKNSSDCL60GB. It features a gun metal grey finish and has the drive name and Mushkin logo silk-screened onto the drive. You can't really dress an SSD up to make it look better, but for most of us appearance doesn't matter as it will be locked into a laptop or drive bay in your chassis and not be seen for years if all goes as planned.
||Controller||NAND|| Max Read
|Mushkin Io 64GB
|| Indilinx Barefoot
|Mushkin Callisto 60GB
The Mushkin Callisto, with the latest revision of its firmware, has been rated with transfer rates at up to 285MB/s read and 275MB/s write. The drives are shipping with firmware revision 3.0.9 and we asked Mushkin if the firmware will be end-user upgradable and how their firmware competes with OCZ's offerings since they are said to have a higher level of performance. This is what Mushkin had to say:
"Yes; we will have a firmware tool and the firmwares available as soon as the SF-1500 is available. These will be available at our website. I can tell you that the SF-1200 was intended to be the client-level controller with lower write IOPS (10k vs 30k) than the SF-1500 but with less over-provisioning (13% vs 28%). To my knowledge the equivalent OCZ drive to our Callisto would be the Agility 2 but again, to my knowledge, they are using a 28% over-provisioning firmware at this time. We are currently gauging interest in SF-1500/MLC based drives which will offer higher write IOPS but with 15% less formatted capacity. We felt that for client applications the end-user would prefer the greater capacity over the higher write IOPS since that is only typically needed/desired in enterprise applications." - Mushkin PR
From that question we got a loaded answer with plenty of interesting information.
The Mushkin Callisto has native TRIM support and measures in at just 99.88 x 69.63 x 9.3mm in size. The drive has a shock tolerance of up to 1500G and a MTBF of 2 million hours. The Callisto is backed by a 3-year warranty in the event that it should ever fail. Flipping the Callisto 60GB SSD over gives you get a better look at the back of the drive. Notice that it has threaded mounting holes on both the bottom and sides to fit in various cases and laptops.
Here is a better look at the SATA II header and the SATA power connector on the Callisto. Notice that this drive doesn't need a jumper for firmware flashing. The SATA 2 storage interface is backwards-compatible with SATA 1. For maximum performance, Mushkin recommends installing Callisto series SSDs on a SATA 2 controller and enabling ‘AHCI’ mode in the BIOS. This drive does not support SATA 6Gbps, which is a bit of a bummer, but the factory ratings are very impressive and this drive should scream in the benchmarks.
Let's take a look the new controller and then we will crack open the drive to give you a look inside so you can see what makes it tick.
Inside the Callisto SSD
Since we have never seen what components are being used inside the Mushkin Callisto SSD series we opened up our 60GB Callisto drive to see what the
internals look like. We found it interesting that the Callisto didn't have a warranty sticker on it, so we opened up without having to worry about breaking the seal.
After removing the four small Allen head screws that hold down the Callisto Series cover we were able to lift off the cover and
see what makes this little SSD tick.
Here is a closer look at the main component side of the PCB where you
can make out eight Intel 34nm MLC NAND Flash memory chips and the SandForce SF-1200 series controller that is being used on this Solid-State Drive.
Flipping the PCB over we can take a look at the other side, which is
bare and has just eight more Intel MLC NAND memory chips on it.
The heart and soul the Callisto is the SF-1200 series controller seen
above. Some companies have started to market their drives as having a SF-1222 controller as it sounds newer. The Mushkin callisto has the SF-1222 as that is the specific name for this controller and it is part of the SF-1200 series of controllers. As we noted, the Callisto doesn't have any cache chips on it
as that is because the SandForce controller itself is said to carry a
small cache inside that is a number of megabytes in size. Inside the
controller there's also the Tensilica DC_570T CPU core; this is used in
both the SF-1200 and SF-1500 models. This controller includes support
for all the latest features like native TRIM support. Mushkin claims maximum
read/write performance of 285/275 MB/s with their revision 3.0.9 firmware. The interesting thing about SSDs with the SandForce controller is that performance doesn't vary with capacity size. A 60GB, 120GB and 240GB Callisto have the same speed ratings.
The Callisto features Intel 29F32G08AAMDB MLC flash memory. In total there are 16 chips and each IC is 4GB in density. That adds up to 64GB of storage space, but only 55.8GB of it will be usable space! The 'hidden' capacity is used for wear leveling, which is crucial to keeping SSDs running as long as possible. Mushkin is using less over-provisioning than some companies as they reserved just 13% of the MLC NAND for wear-leveling. SSDs with the Idilinx Barefoot controller only reserve 7% for wear-leveling, so they feel that 13% is more than enough. Mushkin told us that with the SandForce firmware at 13% in combination with the much lower write amplification compared to other controllers due to Sandforce’s proprietary techniques, that they are not too worried about reliability. Client usage patterns typically involve fewer writes than enterprise use, so that’s why you see less over-provisioning on client drives. Remember, the SF-1500 controller was supposed to be for enterprise use, which is why it had 28% of the drive reserved for wear-leveling.
The Test System
Before we look at the numbers, here is a brief glance at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Intel Core i7 test system was run in triple-channel memory mode at 1600MHz with 8-8-8-24 memory timings. The ASUS P6X58D Premium motherboard was run using all the latest drives and BIOS 0702. The ASUS P6X58D Premium motherboard uses the Intel ICH10R south bridge chipset, which we used to run our 'boot drive'. The boot drive used in our test system was an Intel X25-V 40GB model with TRIM enabled. We then used the Marvell 9123 PCIe SATA 6Gbps controller that is on the motherboard to test the SSDs that are used in the benchmark charts. All of the SSDs were tested in a fresh out of the box (FOB) state and had the latest firmware installed on them when testing was done.
The Marvell 9123 SATA 6G Controller was tested using driver version 220.127.116.116 or 1036 for short.
|Intel LGA 1366 Test Platform|
|Core i7 920
ASUS P6X58D Premium
6GB Kingston HyperX T1 1600MHz
ATI Radeon HD 5670
Intel X25-V 40GB
CoolerMaster UPC 1100W
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit
SSDs and HDDs Included in the Benchmarking:
- Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB - Firmware 0001
- Intel X25-M G2 160GB - Firmware 02HD
- Mushkin Callisto 60GB - Firmware 309A13F0
- OCZ Vertex 2 Pro 100GB - Firmware 232A11F0
- OCZ Vertex 2 100GB - Firmware 1.0
- OCZ Vertex LE 100GB - Firmware 1.0
- OCZ Vertex 120GB - Firmware 1.5
- Toshiba THNS256GG8BBA 256GB - Firmware AGYA0201
- WD SiliconEdge 256GB - Firmware 5.12
- WD VelociRaptor 300GB - Firmware 04.04V01
- WD VelociRaptor 600GB - Firmware 04.05G04
Detailed Information on the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD:
Let's take a look at the benchmarks and see what the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD has to offer!
HD Tach v18.104.22.168
HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives (ZIP/JAZZ), flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device possible.
Benchmark Results: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD was able to reach 241MB/s read and 202MB/s write. The random access time and CPU utilization were really low, which is what we like to see on SSDs.
Comparison Chart: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD does very well and hangs right with the other SSDs that use the Sandforce controller. The vast majority of these recent SSDs are right around 240MB/s read and 200MB/s write. It's tough to go wrong with most of these drives!
HD Tune v4.01
HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.
Benchmark Results: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD's average read speed was found to be 224MB/s with an average write speed of 181MB/s. The read and write tests had an access time of 0.1ms.
Comparison Chart: When comparing the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD with the SandForce 1200 controller to the OCZ Vertex 2 that also uses the SandForce 1200 controller with a different firmware revision they look very similar..
64MB File Test
Benchmark Results: Running the built-in file benchmark test in HD Tune 4.01 showed once again just how the drive performs with various file sizes. This test shows the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD topping out at nearly 265MB/sec in the read test and 225MB/sec in the write test.
HD Tune v4.01 - Random Access
The random access read and write test is a very important performance area to look at on solid state drives as some controllers have problems with random writes. In recent years the controllers have improved and the firmware has been better optimized for random read and write performance.
Random Access Read Test Results:
Benchmark Results: When it comes to the random access read performance test the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD with the SandForce 1200 controller in it does pretty well. For example, this drive scored 7219 IOPS in the 4KB test file size. The OCZ Vertex 2 100GB drive scored 8607 IOPS in the 4KB test file size with it's different firmware in case you are curious.
Random Access Write Test Results:
Benchmark Results: The write performance test results of the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD were very solid.
4KB Random Write File Test Results Chart:
Benchmark Results: Compared to other drives the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD finished in the top half of the drives and looked good. Compared to the Western Digital VelociRaptor 600GB SATA III 6Gbps hard drive the SSDs are in a league of their own!
ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.41
ATTO is one of the oldest hard drive benchmarks that is still used today. 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 you can easily interpret. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes with the total length being 256mb.
Benchmark Results: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB solid-state drive was able to reach 233MBps on the read test and 233MBps on the write test in the I/O Comparison benchmark.
Benchmark Results: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB solid-state drive was able to reach 281MBps on the read test and 237MBps on the write test in the Overlapped I/O benchmark.
4MB Files Test Comparison Chart - Overlapped I/O: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD scored very well against the drives in the benchmark and we nearly reached its 285MB/s peak read speed!
SiSoftware Sandra 2010
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. Sandra provides most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. In order to test the hard drive, SiSoftware Sandra 2010c was used as part of the test suite. The graphical results that Sandra gives you after the test is completed nicely shows how drives perform over time and where on the drive the performance is seen.
READ Performance Testing:
WRITE Performance Testing:
Benchmark Results: The Mushkin Callisto drive did great in Sandra 2010 and was found to have an average read score of 254MB/s with a write score of 174MB/s. The read and write access times also looked good, but how do they compare against the popular SSDs?
Comparison Chart: The Callisto does great in the read test, but fell short a bit in the read test when it comes to MB/s. The access times on the Callisto were impressive, but were exactly twice as high as the OCZ Vertex 2.
CrystalDiskMark is a small HDD benchmark utility for your hard drive that enables you to rapidly measure sequential and random read/write speeds.
100MB Files Test:
Benchmark Results: With Crystal Mark v3.0 run with a file size of 100MB we were able to get solid performance numbers, but the write scores are lower than what other benchmarks were showing. This is a little strange, but the results were the same every time we ran the benchmark.
100MB Files Test Comparison Chart: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD scores scored at the bottom of the SSDs for the read and write tests in Crystal Disk Mark for sequential read and write speeds. The drive makes a solid come back though as the 4K read and write speeds were much higher than most other hard drives and SSDs.
AS SSD Benchmark
A new benchmark is in the works for Solid State Drives - AS SSD Benchmark. We have run this benchmark for nearly a year now and found that it is a great SSD benchmark that shows 4K read and write speeds that so many of our readers want to know about.
Marvell 9123 SATA III 6Gbps Controller with AHCI Enabled:
Benchmark Results: The 4K tests were observed at 21MB/s read and 64MB/s write in AHCI mode on the Marvell 9123 controller. The 4K-64Thrd benchmark results were decent as were the sequential read and write speeds of 198MB/s and 96MB/s.
Marvell 9123 SATA III 6Gbps Controller with AHCI Enabled:
Copy Benchmark Results: The Copy benchmark test showed some fairly solid performance numbers with the average transfer speed being 88.4MB/s.
PCMark Vantage v1.01 is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and hi-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. The PCMark Vantage benchmark was run in 64-bit mode for the results shown below.
Benchmark Results: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB solid-state drive had an overall score of 38007 in PCMark Vantage when run in 64-bit mode and the individual test results can be seen in the image above.
Comparison Chart Results: The Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD had roughly the same overall score as the Intel X25-M 160GB 34nm SSD. It scored lower than the OCZ Vertex 2 and Vertex LE drives that also use the SandForce controller that doesn't limit the IO performance.
Iometer is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998 - since then it got wide spread within the industry. Meanwhile Intel has discontinued work on Iometer and it was given to the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL). The project is now driven by an international group of individuals who are continuously improving, porting and extending the product.
Iometer version 2006.07.27 was used for testing and while we tested a dozen different file sizes we will be looking at the ones that are important to Windows users. In the Microsoft Windows operating systems many of the transactions are done at 512B/4kB/8kB/32kB/128kB, with the vast majority at 4kB, then 128kB / 512B, then the rest. Very few Windows applications use transfers larger than 128kB. We began the test by filling the drive completely full of data first and then testing 100% random IOPs in a 4KB region. We set the queue depth to 32 for this test.
Read Performance in IOps
Benchmark Results: IOMeter showed that the Mushkin Callisto 60GB SSD has has solid performance across the board when compared to seven other SSDs.
Write Performance in IOps
Benchmark Results: When it comes to write performance it is clear that nearly all of the drives have been optimized to perform best at the 4KB file size. The Mushkin Callisto has comes with firmware that limits the drives 4K write IOps to ~10,000 and we see that to be true here. The OCZ Vertex 2 and Vertex LE drives come with the enterprise firmware that limits the 4K write IOps to ~30,000. You can really see the difference between the firmware versions used here in this benchmark.
Our readers requested that we show just 4K writes in a chart, so here you go! Again you can see that the Mushkin Callisto 60GB drive does better than some SSDs when it comes to 4K write performance, but falls behind several of the other drives since it has been firmware limited.
Free Capacity and Final Thoughts
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.
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
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?
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
|| $204.99 - 60GB
|| $349.99 - 120GB
|| $629.99 - 240GB
| Corsair Force
|| $409.99 - 100GB
|| $719.99 - 200GB
| OCZ Agility 2
|| $169.99 - 50GB
|| $359.99 - 100GB
|| $639.99 - 200GB
| OCZ Vertex 2
|| $189.99 - 50GB
|| $399.99 - 100GB
|| $749.99 - 200GB
| Patriot Inferno
||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!