MyDigitalSSD “Bullet Proof” 128GB mSATA SSD – A Basic Review
In response to a short FAQ I wrote about mSATA Solid State Disks, Matt, a representative of MyDigitalDiscount, asked me if I would be interested in reviewing their MyDigitalSSD 128GB mSATA SSD. He offered to send me one; the only thing asked of me was that I mention I was using the drive in my forum signature, something I agreed to. The remaining information is based on my questions to him, his answers, and the basic testing I conducted.
This SSD, like Intel’s 310 “Soda Creek” and Renice’s K3vlar drives, is meant to fit in the mSATA slot in compatible notebooks, primarily found in systems based on Intel’s Huron River platform for the second generation Core i-Series (Sandy Bridge) processors. The great advantage of mSATA on a notebook platform is getting the best of both worlds; that is, having a fast SSD as your operating system drive for quick booting and application load times, while still having a larger, less expensive mechanical drive for storage, all without greatly increasing the size or weight of a notebook. A number of Lenovo’s newest ThinkPads and Dell’s Latitude E-Series laptops support this new technology, and it is likely to experience additional growth in the near future, as ultralight platforms have become increasingly popular.
mSATA SSD installed in a Lenovo ThinkPad W520
MyDigitalSSD is a relative newcomer to this market. Their “Bullet Proof” line of drives currently offers the largest mSATA SSD capacity for purchase at 128GB (Renice’s largest being 120GB, and Intel’s at 80GB). With high demand for the Intel 310 constraining supplies, they have an opportunity to compete with only two other vendors in what can only be a growing niche.
The 128GB model of the MyDigitalSSD drive uses four Toshiba 32nm 32GB MLC NAND flash chips, and a Phison PS3105-S5 controller, lesser known but also found in Patriot's Torqx 2 line of 2.5" SSDs. A Zentel 64MB DDR chip is used for onboard cache. I am told by MyDigitalSSD that the drive has eight channels between the controller and its memory, which would equate to two channels per module. The drive carries a standard two-year warranty through their reseller, MyDigitalDiscount.
Test configuration system:
Lenovo ThinkPad T420, Core i5-2520m processor, 8GB RAM, Windows 7 SP1 x64 Enterprise
MyDigitalSSD 128GB BulletProof mSATA SSD, Intel 310 “Soda Creek” 80GB mSATA SSD
Both drives were run as the boot drive, with a Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB drive as a D: drive.
All benchmark applications were run directly from the C: drive itself. Intel’s latest Rapid Storage Technology (RST) AHCI driver, version 10.1.0.1008 was used.
First, I used HDTune Pro 4.61 to test read speeds of both drives.
HDTune Pro 4.61 Read
As you can see, the MyDigitalSSD drive has higher minimum read speed, but falls behind the Intel 310 drive slightly in maximum and average read rates. Burst transfer is the one other significant difference, where the Intel drive has a significant advantage over the MyDigitalSSD drive.
As the write test of HDTune Pro requires a formatted drive, I ran the "Extra Tests" instead.
HDTune Pro 4.61 Extra Tests
In sequential seeks, the MyDigitalSSD drive is only slightly behind the Intel 310. The Soda Creek drive has the upper hand on random seeks.
Next, I ran the AS SSD Benchmark, designed specifically for SSD testing.
AS SSD Benchmark
The MyDigitalSSD drive has a significant advantage in sequential writes. That said, the Intel 310 doubles the performance of the MyDigitalSSD drive in 4k and random 4k asynchronous/64-Thread reads. These two numbers are what gives the Intel its winning score in this benchmark; the other results go to the Intel, but by a lesser margin.
Crystal DiskMark 3.01 x64
Many consider Crystal DiskMark to be a gold standard in testing. It also has the advantage of making multiple test runs to form its result. I used the default setting of five runs per disk.
Once again, Intel continues its trend as the leader in random 4k reads and writes. The MyDigitalSSD drive shows its prowess in sequential writes and the larger 512k random writes. The remaining results are relatively close.
Just for a reference, I also ran Crystal Diskmark on a fully defragmented Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB drive, regarded as one of the faster notebook drives available:
Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB
As you can see, both SSDs soundly trounce the Western Digital drive.
As a final test, I ran the aging, but still useful HDTach benchmark. While I had to run it in compatibility mode for Windows XP, once set, it ran without obstacles. In this benchmark, I also added the Scorpio Black as a reference comparison. Unlike SSDs, which should not be defragmented, the Western Digital drive was defragmented prior to any testing to ensure best performance.
Western Digital Scorpio Black 500GB
It’s really no surprise that the MyDigitalSSD drive wins over the Intel here, as the drive has consistently tested faster for sequential reads, and also leads the field in burst transfer rates. The Scorpio Black is far behind in sequential reads; oddly enough, it beats the Intel in burst speed. This may be an anomaly in an aging benchmark.
Since less people have had experience with the MyDigitalSSD drive, I wanted to get a good feel for everyday use. To that effect, I have used the drive in my primary laptop for a month to compare to the Intel, which I had in my system for several months. Installation did not vary between the two drives, and there were no errors or compatibility issues with hardware or software. I would measure the MyDigitalSSD drive as about 2-3 seconds slower from power-on to boot for those of you obsessed with startup times, but I never found it an issue; once again, both drives offer significantly faster startup times than a mechanical hard drive. I have had no issue during regular use, which usually runs from 2-5 hours a day, seven days a week, with periods of sleep mode or hibernation in between, with apps varying from Office 2010, to Adobe Photoshop, to VMWare Workstation, as wel as Mozilla Firefox 5, usually with 10-20 tabs open. I have also tested with streaming video and HD playback and found no performance issues. With all of this in mind, I think that those concerned about reliability have nothing to worry about by using this drive, especially considering that the flash memory has been manufactured by Toshiba, who has a proven track record.
So what does this all mean?
In my opinion, your choice comes down to your patterns of usage, and how much space you need. The Intel 310 “Soda Creek” drive does provide a faster performance in random reads/writes, and if random performance is your goal, then that is your choice (note: the 40GB model is slower than the 80GB model reviewed here, which should be taken into account at purchase time).
However, the MyDigitalSSD drive offers a capacity that is currently the highest in the market, at a price that is roughly $60 less than the second-largest drive by Renice, and only $40 more than the Intel drive for over 40 gigabytes of additional storage. If you’re the type that considers Adobe Creative Suite or some other large program bundles to be your daily-use apps, or someone who hopes to save weight by using just an mSATA SSD, this drive will be your go-to choice to ensure you have space to do what you need. Since mSATA drives are often used as a boot/apps drive (with read-speed being the primary factor), write speeds may not be significant in your choice of drives, and the MyDigitalSSD drive does have the upper hand in sequential reads.
In the end, both drives are significantly faster than any mechanical hard drive on the market, and make a good choice for a boot-drive replacement. Where you go from there is up to you.