Corsair Force F90 90GB Solid-State Drive Review

by Robert Tanner on March 2, 2011 in Storage

There couldn’t be a better time than the present to purchase an SSD, and on the same token, it’s also a strange time. Performance drives cost the same as budget drives, and a perfect example of this is Corsair’s Force F90. It’s priced-right, offers incredible performance, and makes perfect use of its SandForce SF-1200 controller.

Page 9 – Real-World: Windows Experience, Boot Times, Game Level Loading

Windows Experience

This is a test that any Windows 7 user can perform on their own system without needing to download anything. For those curious, Vista should allow the same, but we can’t guarantee the results will be directly comparable due to changes made in the WinSAT program. To run the program, hit the Windows Key + R at the same time, and type cmd into the run box. In the command prompt window type (or right-click and paste) the following without quotes: “cd c:windowssystem32” and hit enter. Once there input, again without quotes: “winsat disk -drive c -ran -write -count 10” and enter again.

This command runs a small portion of the Windows Experience Index’s drive assessment, specifically it uses small random writes and calculates how fast in MB/s the drive can sustain it. As we mentioned before with the HD Tune results, regardless of what drive is in question, its actual performance depends on what file size is being referred to. The smaller the file size, generally the lower the performance for a hard disk drive. So again, the small random file writes will be brutal.

Windows 7 appears to rather enjoy the newer firmware on the Corsair Force drive, as it is able to surpass the Vertex 2 100GB SSD in this test by an opportune 5MB/s in WEI’s small file write test.

Boot Time

For the boot test, we perform a cold boot, with the stopwatch starting the moment the power button is pressed until the last systray icon has finished loading. A large number of factors can change how fast a computer boots, from motherboard to just the BIOS configuration, so these times should not be used as an expectation of how fast the SSD will boot in your respective system. With some newer motherboards condensing the time taken in the boot process, boot times could reach significantly lower than these.

Ignoring the Revo’s showboating, it is fairly clear the test system is limited to 55 seconds under most conditions. With ASUS replacing the old 80’s era BIOS with a new UEFI BIOS that finally brings the BIOS into the modern age, a P67, Z67, or mostly any new UEFI motherboard should allow for drastically lower boot times.

With the right settings we’ve heard 20 seconds is very possible, for example… my own personal gaming system is around 30 by comparison. Again this just illustrates that when considering any sort of computer upgrade, make sure the computer itself can actually fully utilize it before doing so. Back on topic however, it is clear the 90GB drive has no issue keeping up with the best boot times here, making it a good drive option for laptops in particular.

Game Level Loading

Last, but certainly not least, are the game level-loading times. SSDs tend to improve application load times significantly over their mechanical brethren, and games are no exception.

Crysis is still infamous for how well it could stress the entire PC, and although Crysis Warhead was a significant improvement and much better optimized than its predecessor, it still makes for one of the better gaming benchmarks to use. For this test, we timed how long it took to load the first level, Ambush. We also figured we would use the newer Left 4 Dead 2 game, for its slightly longer-than-average load times. Here, we timed how long it took to load the final chapter in the Hard Rain campaign.

While the difference between the best SSD and the typical HDD almost exactly halves the game loading time, that 15 seconds really doesn’t seem like much in L4D2, or 30 seconds in Crysis Warhead. At least until considering that each level load is one of many, then halving the load time really starts to add up. Some games involve quite a few load points or build them directly into the level (Half Life 2 being a good example), and smoother, more fluid transitions will greatly preserve game the immersion. In which case, for some gamers the answer becomes a definite yes.

Finally, we reach the most important of our benchmarks! Okay, maybe those were really the batch test scenarios, but admittedly games are more interesting! Choosing almost any SSD results in a near halving of load times over a mechanical drive, but don’t forget that is just a single level. Keep in mind just how many loading screens are seen during the typical single-player game; gamers can rather quickly come to appreciate having even a few seconds saved off load times rather quickly, and all the more so for those immersive titles.

Most SSDs are quick enough that there isn’t any distinction between them in our tests, and as hinted at before, this is because games, like most programs, are written to be especially frugal with hard drive accesses. Those that aren’t quickly earn a bad rep as poorly coded or simply unoptimized software due to the poor responsiveness they exhibit. Even so, we find it curious that the Force 90GB tied our best (and only) SSD to break away from the pack in the Crysis test. We can only attribute that to a quirk with Crysis itself, or perhaps some minor optimization in the drive’s newer firmware as compared to the Vertex 2.

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