Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB Thumb Drive

We don't take the time to do reviews as many USB Flash drives as we used to because there are so many of them out there and people usually purchase them based on the price point with no concern about the performance.  Newegg for example currently has 15,575 USB Flash drives for sale, with prices starting out at around three bucks shipped. USB thumb drives are also given away by the thousand daily at trade shows around the world and it is a safe bet to assume that most households have one or more drives stuffed in a drawer. It's tough to do reviews when there are over 15,000 drives available to pick from, but we do take the time to review the super high-end flagship products that are game changers. The new Corsair Flash Voyager GTX USB Flash Drive appears to be pushing the boundaries for what one can expect when it comes to performance from a USB 3.0 Flash Drive, so we figured that it would be worthy of the time it takes to do a review. Corsair Flash Voyager GTX Series The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX USB 3.0 Flash Drive series consists of pair of drives that are 128GB and 256GB in capacity and run $119.99 and $199.99, respectively. Corsair claims that the Flash Voyager GTX delivers SSD-like performance in a compact thumb drive. Corsair says they are able to do this thanks to the use of a Phison PS3109-S9 SSD controller being used on the Flash Voyager GTX series. Corsair has had good luck with Phison controllers for some time now as we first saw them use one back in 2013 on the Corsair Force LS SSD series. Corsair didn't want to mention what type or brand of MLC NAND Flash was being used as some of the build components change over time due to availability and pricing. So, what kind of performance can you get from a USB 3.0 Flash Drive that has the Phison S9 controller running the show? Flash Voyager Performance Chart How does up to 450MB/s for sequential read and up to 360MB/s for sequential write speeds sound on benchmarks like ATTO? Corsair puts the same speed ratings on both the 128GB and 256GB capacity drives, but the 128GB drive is said to be just a "tish faster" and just so happens to be the model they sent for us to take a look at. Corsair included some benchmark numbers in a reviewers guide and in some benchmarks like CrystalDiskMark there is very less than a 0.1MB/s speed difference between the two capacities in both read and write tests, but in others there is a rather significant speed difference. corsair-benchmarks For example in AIDA64 the Random Read test showed a 84MB/s difference between the 128GB and 256GB drive on a system with Windows 7 and a less significant 28MB/s difference on Windows 8.1. The Anvil benchmark utility showed the Random Read scores were better on the 128GB drive and this time around it was significantly faster on the Windows 8.1 system than the Windows 7 system. Those are Corsair's internal numbers and aren't done by Legit Reviews.  The only reason we are selectively showing a couple results is to show the performance difference between the 128GB and 256GB drives. Corsair Flash Voyager GTX USB 3.0 Flash Drive Series Specifications: Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB Drive Corsair sent over a retail packaged Flash Voyager GTX 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive with part number CMFVYGTX3-128GB for Legit Reviews to try out. This isn't the highest capacity drive, but it should be the drive that has the best performance and we are sure that Corsair wants to show off the super-fast SSD data transfer speeds that this drive offers. If you buy one of these drives you should keep in mind that Windows 7 lacks native support for UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol) and requires motherboard driver support for UASP over the USB 3.0 ports. Windows 8.1 on the other hand has native support for UASP and should have better performance. How much better? Without a UASP driver, a system running Windows 7 can be as much as 35% slower on sequential write speeds versus a Windows 8.1 system with UASP.   flash-voyager-gtx-side The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX comes clad in a rugged anodized aluminum casing that is black and has kind of a matte finish that resists finger print smudges. The retail packaging says that this drive has a brushed aluminum finish, but we think that is a typo that got carried over from the Corsair Flash Voyager GS packaging as this drive does not have a brushed finish. Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB Drive Side Corsair went with red plastic accent pieces and adorned three of the four sides with Corsair logos. No capacity is shown on the outside of the housing and we like that. These high-end performance flash drives scream steal me to begin with and adding 128GB or 256GB on the outside only further entices those people. Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB Drive Cap Open The cap on the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX clicks on pretty solidly and doesn't feel like it will come off too easily. If you do hit the cap against something firmly it can be knocked off and lost, but all thumb drives with caps run that risk. The end of the flash drive has a keyring/neck-strap loop and also doubles as a storage cap holder. Corsair doesn't include a keyring or lanyard, but most people have access to one at home if it is desired. Patriot and Corsair Use Same USB 3.0 Cases Does the metal housing on the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX looks familiar, but you can't quite put your finger on it? That is because it has been around for a number of years and was used by Patriot on the SuperSonic Magnum series and Corsair used it on the Flash Voyager GS series last year. We love the heft of this metal housing as it has a quality feel too it, so no complaints there. The one big difference that we noticed between the two enclosures is that Corsair included an LED activity light at the end of the device. Other than that the devices are the same size. We've used the Patriot Supersonic Magnum for over a year and have found the size of the drive to be okay, but it does block the USB port next to it on some laptops and on others it blocks the laptop power port. At 77mm x 28mm x 8mm (L x W x H) and about 25 grams, the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX will be hard to lose! [gallery ids="147121,147122,147123"] Corsair told us that their SSD Toolbox utility could be used to manage TRIM on the Corsair Flash Voyager, so we fired it up to see what was going on there. We were always told that TRIM commands were for SATA attached devices only and that SuperSpeeD USB 3.0 devices couldn't pass the TRIM command. After firing up Corsair SSD Tool Box v1.2 we found that the options to optimize the drive with TRIM and the secure erase wiper were both greyed out and not available. The good news is that the Phison PS3109-S9 SSD controller has garbage collection algorithms in the firmware that help prevent performance degradation over time. 7/15/2014 2:30PM CT UPDATE: We contacted Corsair about not being able to manually TRIM the drive and they responded with this statement:
Under Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 the Voyager GTX can be manually trimmed or trimmed on predefined schedule using built in Disk Optimization tool. One detail to note is that for this to work, Voyager GTX needs to be formatted as NTFS. For compatibility with MacOS systems Voyager GTX ships as FAT32 drive. Under Windows 7 the Voyager GTX can be manually trimmed using Corsair SSD Toolbox version higher than v1.2.2.
So, Corsair ships the drive with the FAT32 file system to get the best out of the box compatibility for consumers. You might want to reformat the Flash Voyager GTX with the NTFS file system to remove the 4GB-per-file capacity limit before you start using it if you are a Windows user. Corsair Flash Voyager 128GB Capacity It also appears that the Corsair Flash Voyager is overprovisioned by about 8GB or roughly 6.25% of the NAND Flash isn't seen by the operating system and is reserved for garbage collection and wear leveling duties. On our 128GB drive we found that inside Windows that only 119GB of data is shown thanks to overprovisioning and the fact that most companies define a megabyte (MB) as 1,000,000 bytes, a gigabyte (GB) as 1,000,000,000 bytes and a terabyte (TB) as 1,000,000,000,000 bytes. A computer operating system, however, reports storage capacity using powers of 2 for the definition of 1GB = 230 = 1,073,741,824 bytes and therefore shows less storage capacity. Available storage capacity (including examples of various media files) will vary based on file size, formatting, settings, software and operating system, such as Microsoft Operating System and/or pre-installed software applications, or media content. Let's take a look at the test system and then get onto some benchmarks!

Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. Windows has had the power option set to high performance. Intel Z97 Test System
The Intel Z97 platform that we used to test the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB drive was based around the ASUS Z97-A motherboard with BIOS 1008 that came out on 5/29/2014. The Corsair Dominator Platnium 8GB 2133MHz memory kit was set to XMP 1.3 memory profile settings, which is 1.65v with 9-11-11-31 2T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD was used as the primary drive (uses 19nm NAND and M310 firmware).

Intel Z97 Test Bench

Intel LGA 1150 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing

Processor

Core i7 4770k

Motherboard

ASUS Z97-A

Memory

Corsair Platinum 2133MHz 8GB

OS Drive

Corsair Neutron 240GB

Power Supply

Corsair AX860i

Operating System

Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit
 

CrystalDiskInfo 6.1.14 Readout:

For the Plextor M6e 256GB M.2 PCIe SSD, the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 6.1.14 shows that APM, NCQ, S.M.A.R.T. and TRIM are available on the controller. The firmware version that we are running at the time of testing was S9FM0.17. It should be noted that the firmware could potentially be updated, but Corsair has no plans on releasing firmware updates for USB flash devices unless a critical issue is found.

voyager-gtx

Let's have a look at the performance!

ATTO, & AS-SSD, Anvil and CDM Benchmarks

ATTO v2.47

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-benchmark Benchmark Results: ATTO showed the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB thumb drive maxing out at 460 MB/s read and 210 MB/s write speeds on the standard overlapped I/O benchmark without the ASUS USB 3.0 Boost drivers.  With the ASUS USB 3.0 Boost drivers we were getting 463MB/s read and 372MB/s write speeds . The retail packaging for the drive says that Corsair gets 450MB/s read and 360MB/s write speeds on ATTO, so we are right where we expected to be with the proper USAP drivers installed on the Windows 8.1 operating system.  

AS-SSD (1.7.4739.38088) Benchmark:

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 all three of them. Windows 8.1: asssd Windows 8.1 w/ ASUS USB 3.0 Boost: assd-boost Benchmark Results: AS SSD showed the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB topping out at 434.01 MB/s read and 58.00 MB/s write in the sequential benchmark with a clean install of Windows 8.1. Once we installed the ASUS USB 3.0 Boost driver we found the sequential write speed jumped up to 171MBs/s and all other write scores were greatly improved.  

Anvil Storage Utilities 1.1.0

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 4, 16, and 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.

46% Compression (Windows 8.1):

anvil-app

46% Compression (Windows 8.1 w/ ASUS USB 3.0 Boost):

anvil-app-boost Benchmark Results: The overall Anvil SSD Benchmark score for the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB thumb drive was right around 1.700 with the applications preset (46% compression). We didn't find a significant difference between the UASP drivers on this benchmark utility.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64

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. Windows 8.1: CDM Windows 8.1 w/ ASUS USB 3.0 Boost Drivers: cdm-boost Benchmark Results: The Corsair Flash Voyager topped out at 439MB/s read and 63.6MB/s on the sequential test with the benchmarks default settings and hit 438MB/s read and 144MB/s write with the benchmark running in 0fill mode without the ASUS USB 3.0 Boost drivers.  With the ASUS USB 3.0 Boost drivers with the optimized UAS Protocol the write speeds jumped up to 189MB/s write in the standard benchmark and 359MB/s in the 0Fill benchmark. Corsair says we should be getting around 430MB/s read and 190MB/s write speeds on the sequential test, so we are spot on with the proper drivers installed.

Flash Voyager GTX 128GB Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive was found to be insanely fast on our Intel Haswell Z97 test platform that was running Windows 8.1. We were able to hit 463MB/s read and 372MB/s write in ATTO and we have to say results confirm that we are getting the Corsair promised "SSD-like" performance numbers out of this thumb drive. The only downside to the drive would have to be the slightly large size and that it could possibly block adjacent ports on the system it is being used on and that you have to have UASP drivers installed to get the most performance possible. Other than that, there really isn't much else to say or highlight as it is nothing more than a thumb drive that you use to quickly transfer your files from one place to another. Some people are starting to use cloud storage for their data storage and while that works great and you can access your data anywhere in the world there are some caveats. For starters you'd have to be willing to put your private data up in the cloud and most free cloud storage accounts only offer 5GB of storage space and then you need to start paying for monthly or yearly for additional space. Then if you are moving large amounts of data around you'd have to wait for long periods of time to upload all that information. The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB and 256GB drives are larger than most any paid cloud storage space and significantly faster, so it is safe to assume that USB Flash Drives won't be disappearing anytime soon even though we see people talking about their demise all the time. When it comes to pricing the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB carries an MSRP of $119.99, which breaks down to roughly $0.94 per GB. The Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 256GB is $229.99, but has a better $0.90 per GB ratio. The 128GB version is said to be a tad faster, but the factory speed ratings are identical. Both drives are backed by a 5-year warranty. Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB Drive Open Corsair has created one of the fastest USB 3.0 Flash Drives on the market and runs best on Windows 8.1 with the proper UASP driver or on a Windows 7 platform with UASP drivers. We tested on an ASUS Z97-A motherboard running Windows 8.1 and found a significant difference between the Microsoft drivers and the ASUS USB 3.0 Boost driver, so be sure to run the right driver! If you purchase one of these drives and use it without UASP you'll get significantly lower than expected performance, so just a heads up. If you move gobs of data around and are looking for the fasted portable USB 3.0 thumb drive around you should look no further than the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX.  This drive is significantly faster than any other USB Flash Drive that we have ever used and highly recommend it! LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line: If you are looking for a fast high-end USB 3.0 Flash drive, the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX series is as good as it gets today!