Transcend Gets In On mSATA

While the Transcend brand may not be as recognized here in the states as it is in Europe and Asia, they have a substantial line of products; most of which deal with memory components. In fact, their clever tagline is 'good memories start here'. Most will probably recognize them for their flash media cards of which I personally own several. In addition to full sized SSD desktop drives for both consumer and enterprise applications, they are now offering a line of mSATA solid state drives for smaller form factor devices. What we'll be having a look at today is their 128GB MSA720 mSATA drive based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller.

Transcend 128GB mSATA

Available in capacities of 64GB (TS64GMSA720) and 128GB (TS128GMSA720), these SATA III interfaced drives are configured to hit lofty performance numbers of up to 560MB/s reads and 530MB/s writes. We are finding these in the wild at $161.75 shipped at Amazon for the 128GB version and the 64GB version for $101 shipped. Each come with a three year warranty and are compatible with Intel's Smart Response Technology for use as a cache drive.

Transcend 128GB mSATA

Transcend TS128GMSA720 128GB mSATA SSD Features and Specifications:

Transcend 128GB mSATA NAND

The Transcend MSA720 mSATA SSD uses SanDisk branded Flash with the part number of SDZNPQCHER-032GT. These chips are made on the 24nm process and are of the toggle-mode MLC variety. As the part number suggests, each are 32GB in density for 128GB on board for this 128GB model.

Transcend 128GB mSATA Controller

The controller is none other than the LSI owned SandForce SF-2281 controller that we've seen quite a number of times and has proven to be a very solid and reliable piece of hardware. Leveraging its proprietary DuraClass technology, it not only manages the I/O operations but also wear-leveling, encryption, and error correction duties to name a few. It also employs real time compression to boost writes and keeping write amplification modest. There's a good reason why nearly every manufacturer features at least one drive with this controller.

Test Sytem and 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 Deluxe 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 Transcend 128GB 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 - 5.0.4.

CRYSTALDISKINFO

Transcend also offers their own SSD applications called SSD Scope which is a handy piece of software that allows a peek at the drive information including S.M.A.R.T. data, update firmware, perform a secure erase and perform a diagnostic scan.

Transcend Scope

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

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD ATTO

Benchmark Results: Being the best case scenario performance for SandForce controlled drive the Transcend MSA720 doesn't disappoint with reads just shy of 560MB/s and writes peaking at 525MB/s.

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: As usual, incompressible data puts the brakes on a bit with reads still seeing a very respectable 483MB/s but reads declining further to 158MB/s. Still, very much on par with the similarly sized Intel 120GB 525 Series mSATA drive.

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD AS-SSD GRID

AS-SSD Compression Benchmark:

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD AS-SSD

Benchmark Results: For readers who have paid attention to this part of our drive reviews should see a familiar sight with the typical pattern for SandForce drives of write performance ramping up as compressibility increases.

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

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD CRYSTALDISKMARK Z77

CRYSTALDISKMARK Z77

Benchmark Results: Like the other mSATA drives in our comparison who also happen to be powered by the SF-2281 controller, there's a marked dip in write speeds as compared to the ATTO benchmark. Again, the Transcend 128GB MSA720 scores very close to that of the Intel 120GB drive.

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.

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD Anvil Write IOPS

 

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD Anvil Read IOPS

Benchmark Results: The IOPS performance falls just a bit short of the Intel 120GB drive and a little closer in writes than reads..

mSATA SSD Anvil IOPS Chart

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.

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD JPG Copy

Install Results: Real world performance on file copy operations shows a small performance deficit in comparison to the Intel 120GB drive but overall pretty quick copy times.

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD FILECOPY CHART

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.

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD Bootracer

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD Boot Chart

Test Results: Not much separates the best and worst drives in the comparison but the MSA720 actually posted the second best times.

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Once all hooked up, formatted and inspected by Windows properties we find the Transcend MSA720 128GB yielding 119GB to the end user. The rest is tied up in the overprovisioning or lost in the translation of GB to GiB, The overprovisioning allows the controller to have spare NAND available for drive maintenance duties to help overall drive endurance.

Transcend 128GB mSATA SSD

Transcend has a nice mSATA product on their hands with the MSA720 although it could easily get lost in the shuffle of the numerous SF-2281 mSATA drives popping up all over. It doesn't appear to be as widely available at retailers as some other brands. We were able to find the 128GB version at Amazon for $161.75 shipped which rounds out to $1.35 per usable GB and more or less on par with where we see a comparably sized Intel 525 mSATA drive.

Transcend 128GB mSATA

Performance overall was very good and where it should be based on our experience with this controller/NAND configuration. We saw max read/writes at nearly 560MB/s and 525MB/s respectively and the predictable dip in performance when subjected to incompressible data. Such is life with the SF-2281 controller. Still, it's one of the most popular controllers and has been shown to be a very reliable over time. Overall, there's little to differentiate this drive from many of the others we've tested but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Transcend 128GB mSATA

Legit Bottom Line: Transcend offers up a solid performing line of mSATA drives that offer performance that is extremely competitive with the other drives is their class.