When we peeked the innards of the Strontium Hawk 120GB drive, on board was 128GB (1 GB equals 1 billion bytes) worth of NAND. This is not what shows in Windows drive properties because the virtual measure is actually expressed in Gib (1 GiB equals 1,073,741,824 bytes) even though Windows does not label it that way. It’s a matter of nomenclature. Typical of a SandForce drive, 111GiB is what is left after this conversion and a modest amount of overprovisioning employed. This unmolested NAND, inaccessible by the user, is called upon to maintain drive performance and integrity when blocks begin to fade or swap space is needed.
There’s not a lot to complain about with the Hawk Series SSD other than there’s nothing really new here in terms of performance as the SF-2281 controller is going to yield results that are predictable once you know the accompanying hardware and we’ve seen enough of them to forecast the outcome. Consumers who haven’t checked out the reviews will get a nice surprise as the maximum performance specifications Strontium lists of 510MB/s reads and 470MB/s writes are a little understated. We saw them peak out at 557MB/s reads 530MB/s writes. Granted, this is best case scenario and performance but that’s typically what’s listed in the specs. The SK Hynix synchronous NAND, while unusual for a SandForce drive, performed well in tandem with the SF-2281 controller.
In a market saturated by SF-2281 drives, perhaps the best feature is the unique exterior design. The white case stands out and coordinates well with the rising popularity and availability of white PC hardware. For those who like to show off their rig and components, the drive really pops visually. Maybe less useful but nice just the same is the irregular but symmetrical shape of the case itself with a mix of rounded and squared edges. Small form factor and ultrabook users will also appreciate the 7mm height of the drive, which is only found on a handful of SSDs on the market currently.
Likely the biggest challenge Strontium will face in moving inventory is the limited retail channels for purchase. In fact, as of now the only option we could find is to purchase direct from Strontium. This effectively kills the impulse buys that may otherwise occur when a customer is browsing a diverse retailer like Amazon or Newegg. Still, it’s a solid product with a competitive price with 120GB priced at $100 and the 240GB running $170. This shakes down to $0.83 per usable GB for the 120GB drive and $0.76 per usable GB for the 240GB drive. Keep in mind that the drive comes solo with no accessories or software and it’s covered by a standard 3 year warranty against defects. They do tout Mac compatibility as well which expands the consumer base a bit but those using Lion or Mountain Lion will not benefit from the TRIM command since it’s not an OEM drive without using this TRIM enabler tweak.
Legit Bottom Line: The Strontium Hawk Series SSD is another in a long list of SF-2281 drives offering solid performance but adds some flair with its unique shell design and white exterior that may beguile those with a penchant for hardware exhibition.