There have been quite a few reviews around the web touting the fastest and biggest solid state drives (SSD), but you have probably been turned off because of the hefty price tags associated with them.
In this review, we take a look at a SSD that is actually affordable. With a reasonable size of 32GB and a price tag potential of just under $100, this is a product that seems to be just right for a consumer looking to take advantage of this technology.
I personally believe that Solid State disks is the next step up in hard drive technology. SSD's are different than traditional hard drives (the kind where you see 5400RPM or 7200RPM on the box). How are they different? The first and most obvious answer is that that they have no moving parts. You've seen those tiny USB flash drives that you can easily find in your local electronics store. It is pretty much the same idea. If you are aware how a traditional hard drive works, you will know that there are metal plates that spin at high speeds with a tiny arm and head that reads data off those plates. Based on that kind of mechanism alone, if data is being read on one area of a plate and needs to access data on an area at the opposite side, it can take some time for the plate to spin just enough so the data can be read. This is called the access time. SSD's behave much differently. Since flash memory is being used and there are no moving parts, the data is always just there ready to be accessed instantly.
A Closer Look
Today, we will be looking at the Cavalry Pelican 2.5" Solid State Drive (SSD) with a capacity of 32 Gigabytes. With a 2.5" form factor, this is ideal for putting in a notebook computer since the majority of notebooks use a 2.5" hard drive.
The product came in a simple plastic container. It was surrounded by a clear plastic bag because there is a USB cable included with the product.
The back of the container listed the specifications of the product as listed below:
Interface Type: SATA & USB 2.0
Sequential Read: 130MB/sec
Sequential Write: 90MB/sec
Random Read: 80MB/sec
Random Write: 25MB/sec
MTBF: 2,000,000 (may be an error since the website says 1,400,000)
Power Consumption: 390mA active and 300mA idle
Temperature: Storage -40C to 85C, Operating 0C to 70C
Humidity: 95% under 55C
Mechanical: Shock: 1500/0.5ms, Vibration: 20G/20-2000Hz
Seek Time: 0.1ms
Operating System: Windows 98/2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS9 or later and Linux
There's not much to see visually when you see the product. It seems like a solid metal container. It is completely black, but there is a sticker on it identify that this is a Cavalry branded product.
What is interesting about this product is that it has both a Serial ATA (SATA) interface and mini-USB port. The SATA interface will mainly be used when it is put in a notebook computer that supports SATA. The mini USB port is very convenient in being able to use the drive as is for storage just like any other USB flash drive or USB key. After installing the SSD in a notebook, I immediately noticed a difference in noise levels. Since the SSD has no moving parts, there is a much lesser operating temperature. Because of that, my notebook was dead silent because it didn't need to turn on the internal fan to cool
I used HDTach to benchmark the read speed of the drive. I found a difference in the results when testing the USB vs the SATA interface. Using the USB interface connected to a desktop computer, I was able to achieve a sequential read speed of 31.3MB/sec, a sequential burst speed of 5.1MB/sec, a random access time of 0.5ms, and CPU utilization of 11%. When using a Hitachi Deskstar 320GB 7200RPM desktop hard drive, I was able to achieve a sequential read speed of 55.4MB/sec, sequential burst of 123.6MB/sec, a random access time of 13.5ms, and CPU utilization at 4%.
When using the Calvary SDD, I was able to achieve a sequential read speed of 80.4MB/sec, sequential burst of 111.3MB/sec, a random access time of 0.4ms, and CPU utilization at 22%%. It is interesting to note that a SSD will take a little more processing power. Out of curiosity, I also test a Corsair Voyager 8GB USB Flash drive. I was able to achieve a sequential read speed of 33MB/sec, sequential burst of 33MB/sec, a random access time of 0.5ms, and CPU utilization at 17%%.
When transferring large files on the notebook computer, the average write speed shown was about 20MB/sec. There is a big difference in comparison with a desktop hard drive which can get about 50MB/sec on my desktop.
I was able to boot a freshly installed XP from the moment of pushing the power button on the notebook and seeing the main desktop loaded in XP took an impressive 23 seconds. Doing the same test on the same notebook with a regular notebook hard drive, it took 29 seconds to boot.
Based on a my tests in this review, this budget SSD drive still has a way to go in terms of write speeds. Because of that, it is not as fast as a traditional hard drive yet. So who would this product be ideal for? I think this product would be great for those who do light to medium work on their notebooks. The incredibly fast access times translate to applications and documents that load up faster. In addition, it is also ideal for someone looking to cut their boot times down. At Buy.com this drive sells for $110 or $99 after rebate. That is considered a bargain for a SSD drive these days. But if you do gaming or heavy work, I'd recommend sticking with the traditional hard drive until the fastest SSD drives come down in price and until the technology matures even further.