The Mighty But Mini Atlas

Mushkin is best known for their memory products but they've spent a fair amount of time lately mixing it up in the SSD market as well, with drives available in the mSATA, SATA and PCIe categories. Mushkin released the mSATA Atlas Deluxe line of SSD drives including the 30GB, aimed mostly at the cache drive consumers. They also offer an Atlas Value line as well as a line simply named Atlas. All of which feature the SandForce SF-2281 controller which we are all familiar with by now and we talk a bit more about below.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD

Right now, the cheapest we could find online is $64.99 at a few select retailers. They'll probably be tough to find in most retailers because the demand just won't dictate large scale production of this capacity so distribution will be limited. Most will opt for the larger drives that Mushkin offers anyway with capacities ranging from the 30GB we received to 240GB. The mSATA interface is capable of SATA III speeds which is required to hit the 555MB/s reads and 365MB/s writes that the specifications promise.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD

If you've never seen an mSATA drive before, they are tiny! Measuring just 50.mm 80 x 29.85mm x 4.35mm, they're barely large enough to hold the NAND and controller.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD Features and Specifications:

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD

The controller is, as we mentioned, the SandForce SF-2281 controller that's used in a wide range of drives by a number of manufacturers. It plays nice with an array of NAND chips but in this case it's paired up with 32nm Micron NAND flash. The controller supports TRIM and idle garbage collection and does a great job of maintaining drive endurance through the proprietary DuraClass technologies it employs. They real key to the controller performance is the use of real time compression to boost write speeds on data that's compressible. When that's not the case, performance will scale back as you'll see in the benchmarks.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD

While many motherboards sport a dedicated mSATA slot (like on our test bench), ours is limited to SATA II speeds so we used an mSATA to SATA adapter card to perform the tests. It's also a nice way for those that lack an mSATA slot to buy an mSATA card and use it as a "normal" SSD.

Test System & Drive Info

Legit Reviews Storage Benchmark Test System

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.

LR Z77 Test Bench

Z77 Legit Reviews Test Bench

Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform
ComponentBrand/ModelLive Pricing

Processor

Core i5 2500k

Motherboard

ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77

Memory

Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB

OS Drive

Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)

Power Supply

Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC

Operating System

Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit

Drives In The Roundup:

For comparison to the Mushkin Atlas mSATA drive, we put it up against the Intel 525 Series mSATA drives.

 SSD MODEL CONTROLLER(S) Firmware Interface
Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA Marvell 88SS9175  504ABBF0 mSATA 6Gbps
Intel 525 30GB mSATA SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) LLKi mSATA 6Gbps
Intel 525 60GB mSATA SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) LLKi mSATA 6Gbps
Intel 525 120GB mSATA SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) LLKi mSATA 6Gbps
Intel 525 180GB mSATA SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) LLKi mSATA 6Gbps
Intel 525 240GB mSATA SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) LLKi mSATA 6Gbps

CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 Readout:

For the Mushkin Atlas mSATA SSD 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). The firmware version used for testing is the latest available at this time - 504ABBF0.

CRYSTALDISKINFO

Let's look at some benchmarks...

ATTO & AS-SSD 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 - Intel Z77 Platform

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD ATTO

Benchmark Results: The Mushkin Atlas 30GB compares directly with the Intel 525 drive of the same capacity with the writes just a bit lower but overall, excellent scores and almost dead on the rated specifications.

mSATA SSD ATTO GRID

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.

mSATA SSD AS-SSD

Benchmark Results: Again, the 30GB Intel 525 drive scores just a tiny bit higher in each of the benchmark metrics but nothing substantial that would prove out in normal usage.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD AS-SSD GRID

AS-SSD Compression Benchmark:

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD AS-SSD

Benchmark Results: Oddly, we see the read performance increase as compressibility increases along with the writes. Typically, we only see this on the the writes for SandForce drives and is not what we saw from the Intel 525 30GB drive.

CrystalDiskMark and 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

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD CRYSTALDISKMARK Z77

CRYSTALDISKMARK Z77

Benchmark Results: Not much of a surprise here with the Atlas putting up numbers very similar to the Intel 525 30GB drive and both trail the larger drives by wide margins.

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.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD Anvil Write IOPS

 

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD Anvil Read IOPS

Benchmark Results: The IOPS performance on the reads exceed the rating published by Mushkin of 70,000 although they do not list the write specification which are a bit behind that of the Intel 30GB drive.

mSATA SSD Anvil IOPS Chart

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Similar to the Intel 525 30GB mSATA drive, the Mushkin Atlas Deluxe 30GB drive yields 27.9GB (actually GiB) to the user in Windows. This is really too small for using as an OS drive and in fact, the drive image we use on all of our test drives for the real world tests, exceeds the available space on the drive as it's really intended more for cache drive duties. So, if you were looking for the real world tests, this is why it was omitted.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD

While larger form factor SSDs have been busily making their way into all manners of computers, mSATA drives are still emerging, mainly in small form factor machines which capitalize on the compactness of the drives. As such, there aren't a vast array of brands widely available. Mushkin chose to power the Atlas line with the SandForce SF-2281 controller which we're very well familiar with and know to be one of the best available controllers, and pair it with Micron NAND. This combination makes for a solid product which has proven out in the benchmarks.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD

While our performance comparison was limited to only one other drive of the same capacity, that comparison drive is probably is on top of the mSATA 30GB heap being an Intel 525 Series drive. That makes is a very nice yardstick to measure up the bantam Atlas Deluxe drive. In that regard, the Atlas measures up very well with performance numbers that are very robust for a drive of this size. The maximum performance attained is 555MB/s sequential reads and 379MB/s sequential writes. This is with compressible data and, like all SandForce drives, things change a bit when incompressible data is thrown at it. Max performance drops to 200MB/s reads and 40 MB/s writes which is on par with Intel 30GB drive as it features the same controller.

Mushkin Atlas 30GB mSATA SSD

For $64.99, you can pick one of these up at various retailers, but for a mere $10 more you can get the 60GB variety. Barring use as a cache drive, we'd recommend splurging the extra $10 for double the capacity or even step up to the 120GB drive. The larger drives garner better overall performance so you more than just more capacity. We're not huge fans of cache drive configurations, preferring a straight SSD solution, but if this is the route you must take, it still offers a lot of performance improvements. If a 30GB drive fits your needs, you can hardly go wrong with this one!

Legit Bottom Line: The 30GB Mushkin Atlas Deluxe mSATA SSD is a fine drive that performs remarkably well for a small capacity drive but it's that small capacity that makes it much better suited for a cache drive than a main OS drive.