Corsair Force LX 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Corsair is known to provide us with a wide spectrum of Solid State Drives and we have already tested many of them in the past. Now the time has come for their newest entry level and budget drive in the Force family; the Corsair Force LX 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD).

There isn’t really any computer anywhere in the world that wouldn’t benefit from an upgrade of a solid state drive. You don’t need to have a brand new and high-end system to gain the benefits, even older system will benefit greatly in performance from such an upgrade. On top of that, it is one of the simplest and cheapest upgrades you can do. Solid state drive prices are dropping lower and lower all the time while the performance figures keep rising.

Corsair is trying a lot of new controllers since they moved away from the now out-dated SandForce controllers, and this drive is using a Silicon Motion controller. As comparison, their high-end and mainstream drives use the LAMD controller now. This drive also features Micron 20 nm MLC flash, and those two together should show us some stable figures.

Being a Corsair Drive it comes bundled with the Corsair SSD Toolbox; a collection of useful tools and information-readouts about your solid state drive. While other drives in your system will show up in the tool, the core functions are restricted to Corsair disks, as to be expected. But that is OK, as each company provide tools for the important things in one way or another.

The Corsair SSD Toolbox has a very simple interface and doesn’t look to fancy. This is a great thing for a tool like that. You can read out all the basic drive information like firmware, size and raid setup. It also allows you to update the firmware of the drive, a thing that has gotten easier since we’ve put the SandForce controllers behind us. It’s to be noted that for drives released prior to the Force3 series , they need their own independent tools.

Corsair have also switched to making drives without over-provisioning, they have however given the users the option to do this themselves if they wish to. This can of course also be done via the SSD Toolbox. It also has a page for all the S.M.A.R.T. information and a cloning tool to duplicate your old system disk onto a brand new high speed SSD.

On user request they have also added a feature for manual and scheduled TRIM functions for garbage cleaning. The final function of the Toolbox is the secure wipe function, one that is great to have directly there instead of having to boot into a separate Unix/Linux system to do so.

Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Over the last couple of years I’ve had a look at numerous SSDs from many of the leading manufacturers in the world of SSDs and storage in general, however there has been one vendor that I have not worked with up to this point. This is of course Plextor and as things go, This company is said to be right up there in the rankings with the likes of Kingston, OCZ, Corsair, Sandisk and many more; but flash-based storage is not where this company has its roots buried. Since the formation of the company way back in 1985, Plextor have been making their name well-known in the world of optical storage with their name being made synonymous with high quality optical drives and media that performed way above that of OEM grade drives and media.Back when optical based storage was much more popular than it is today, Plextor’s drives typically demanded a far greater price tag over white box products, however the end-user was prepared to pay the premium due to the fact that Plextor’s products were far less susceptible to errors when burning media, which would otherwise leave you with a pile of coffee mug ‘coasters’ as they were known. As the market has moved on and the popularity of optical media fallen, Plextor branched out to the solid state market with their first SSD, the M1, coming to market in 2009. Since then we have seen the M series of SSDs grow and mature through the M2, 3 and 4 series and on to the current generation M5 drives with all the leading technologies and performance figures that the end-user looks for and demands in today’s performance driven market.

The M5 Pro Xtreme is the pinnacle of Plextor’s SSD design today and over its little brother, the M5 Pro, the Xtreme on paper doesn’t seem to be different, but there have been one or two subtle changes made to give slightly better performance figures over the M5 Pro when handling smaller file sizes (~4K). Considering both use the same third-gen dual core Marvell controller and 19nm Toshiba toggle flash MLC NAND, the performance differences are purely down to the use of sixteen NAND packages on the Xtreme over eight on the Pro and lower level drives.

Inside the box we find a typical set of SSD accessories with two sets of screws and a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, installation and warranty leaflets and a copy of NTI’s SSD Solution for drive cloning and migration to Plextor SSDs.

DRAM Supply Shortage Will Last Until 2014, The End Of Cheap RAM?

According to Inotera Memories we will see a DRAM shortage that will last the full duration of 2013. As demand for tablet and smartphone DRAM soars exponentially, desktop RAM could see a shortage due to sluggish demand and lack of profitability. Inotera Memories chairman, Charles Kau, said that the DRAM shortage in the “high tech sector” will last the entire year and possibly into 2014.

The average DRAM price for the first half of April went up 8%, this was then followed by a further 13% rise in the second half of April. According to DRAMeXchange the average price of DDR3 4GB DRAM has jumped 70% in the past five months. Initially we had a prolonged price crash due to huge oversupply lasting most of 2011 and 2012. As DRAM manufacturers protected themselves by stopping or slowing production, this oversupply was slowly digested by the market without any new supply being added. Most DRAM companies suffered huge losses through this period and we even saw Elpida bought out by Micron to save it from a complete shutdown. Now we are at a point where demand has recovered but supply hasn’t fully kicked in again and so we will be left with dramatically rising DRAM prices over the next 12 month period until DRAM companies return to profit and increase production.

We are seeing this trend in DRAM company profit margins. For example in Q4 last year Nanya technology turned a loss of NT$8.8 billion but in Q1 of this year it turned a profit of NT$0.6 billion and is projecting an even bigger profit for Q2. Inotera posted a NT$3.7 billion loss in Q4 of 2012 and posted a reduced NT$0.6 billion loss in Q1 of 2013, it is projecting a return to profit at some stage this year.

So the message is, get your RAM soon as prices are constantly rising. If you can wait, then you’ll need to wait until mid 2014 for prices to drop back down again. Though it is unlikely prices will ever reach as low as they did in 2012 because that wasn’t economically sustainable for any DRAM company.

What are your thoughts on this rather gloomy projection courtesy of Inotera?

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