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Benchmark Performance SSD Testing: AHCI vs IDE
April 09 2010

Solid State Drive technology is unfamiliar to many consumers, and so long as there are different ways an SSD can operate there always be questions that need answering. Benchmark Reviews offers various SSD tests, but proving performance speeds and matching manufacturer claims is only part of the story. Each SSD processor has unique behaviors, with some working well with TRIM and offering improved performance in AHCI mode, while others include Garbage Collection (GC) and work best in IDE mode. In this article Benchmark Reviews demonstrates how SSDs are tested by the manufacturer, and illustrates how real-world performance is different for end-users.

When Benchmark Reviews first started testing SSD storage products two years ago, we discovered that there were just too many variables to alter benchmark results. For example, the exact same Solid State Drive may offer one specific write speed while connected to the Intel ICH10 controller, yet could operate up to 30% slower on Marvell or JMicron SATA controller. Additionally, immature driver software can further degrade performance, or optimized drivers can restore speeds. Complicating matters even more, SSD-specific firmware can add features and improvements, but may also reduce operational speeds.

Readers familiar with the new technology have learned to read reviews from as many sources as possible; which is exactly what we've been suggesting in our product conclusions for almost two years. Some websites don't use special drive conditioning tools such as DISKPART or Sanitary Erase, and other do. The same is true for SSD owner, which span from hardware enthusiasts to basic computer users. Benchmark Reviews has concentrated on including several different tools for realizing quantitative performance results for our articles, while other websites use real-world file transfers and application routines. It's all relative, subjective, and impossible to determine which method is best.

For this article, our tests will focus on three of the most widely used SSD processors from Indilinx, JMicron, and SandForce. Using the Intel ICH10 SATA-3.0 controller, our SSD tests will benchmark read and write performance speeds with pristine 'fresh' NAND conditions with Sanitary Erase (for Indilinx) and DISKPART with the 'clean all' command for drive conditioning. Operational IOPS performance will be tested in much the same way, and will reveal which SATA controller is best suited for SSDs.