Recently we have had several platforms in the lab that are able to accept mSATA SSDs. As a result, we are looking at inexpensive options for boot drives with the expectation that there is other shared storage in the environment. Today we are looking at the Mushkin Atlas Deluxe 120GB mSATA drive. The Mushkin Atlas Deluxe often retails on Amazon for under $80 (our review sample cost us under $75.) The Mushkin Atlas Deluxe is (allegedly) based on the LSI-SandForce SF-2281 controller which has been a very popular controller since its release. Recently we have been testing smaller form factor desktops such as the Supermicro X10SBA and several Intel NUCs which all work well with mSATA SSDs. This piece will be followed-up by more in-depth side-by-side comparisons in the near future as part of a sub-$80 mSATA round-up we are working on.
We are using our SSD test bed for these drives for consistency purposes. To make all of our mSATA SSD series drives work in the platform we are using a nice Syba mSATA to 2.5″ SATA converter.
- Processor: Intel Xeon E3-1275 V3
- Motherboard: Supermicro X10SAE (Intel C226 based)
- Boot SSD: Samsung 840 Pro 256GB boot drive
- RAM: 32GB DDR3 ECC 1600MHz 4x 8GB UDIMMs
We are not testing these drives on our LSI SAS controller configuration for a simple reason: the mSATA form factor is unlikely to be utilized with LSI controllers in end-user systems.
The Mushkin Atlas Deluxe 120GB mSATA SSD
The Mushkin Atlas Deluxe 120GB drive we are looking at here is a mSATA model. That is important as there are newer interfaces and various sizes for the newer form factor SSDs. These are not made for M2 NGFF slots. Also, size matters. As one can see from the screw hole attachment points, different cards will be different lengths. With the new generation of drives, this is going to be more critical to review as we are moving from generations of standard, slow moving form factors (5.25″, 3.5″ and 2.5″) to a generation of devices with different physical dimensions.
Underneath the Mushkin sticker we see a LSI SandForce SF-2141 controller. This is very interesting because the official spec sheet says it should have a SF-2281 onboard. The SF-2141 is spec’d as a SATA 3gbps part. We will see the impact on performance soon.
On the rear of the SSD we can see two more NAND packages likely with 32GB of NAND each. With four packages that gives us 128GB of raw NAND and since this is a SandForce controller, we have 8GB of over provisioning for a 120GB drive.
At this point, the question is, why is there the wrong controller obscured by a sticker on this drive? Perhaps the better question is: is there an impact on performance.
Mushkin Atlas Deluxe 120GB Benchmarks
It is important, especially with SSDs not to take a single test result at face value. One should look at a few different tests to get an idea of how the drives perform in different scenarios. To this end, AS SSD benchmark, CrystalDiskMark, ATTO all show different facets of performance.
AS SSD Benchmark
AS SSD is a solid benchmark that does not write compressible data to drives. The result is perhaps one of the best workstation SSD benchmarks available today.
Here we see 462MB/s reads and 124MB/s sequential. If this was a SATA II controller, we would expect to see a ~300MB/s cap on speeds. On many modern SSDs, we would expect to see write speeds at least twice as high on AS SSD. Given, this is a play for a proven SandForce controller rather than a performance drive.
CrystalDiskMark is another benchmark which gives non-compressible read/write numbers. This is in contrast to the ATTO Benchmark used by LSI/ Sandforce and its partners when they market a given solid state drive.
Here again we see nice read speeds while write speeds suffer. Again, sequential read speeds stay above 300MB/s so there seems to be OK performance here. Certainly a bit dated compared to more modern controllers.
The value of the ATTO benchmark is really to show the best-case scenario. ATTO is known to write highly compressible data to drives, which inflates speeds of controllers that compress data like LSI/ SandForce does prior to writing on a given solid state drive.
ATTO provides an interesting view on what is going on here. The Mushkin Atalas Deluxe looks like a very fast drive in these tests. What we have seen from recent testing, this is more competitive. We are certainly seeing the impact of highly compressible data and what appears to be a SATA III interface.
Keeping this in context, the Mushkin Atlas Deluxe mSATA SSD costs under $80 on Amazon. Performance wise, the Mushkin Atlas Deluxe 120GB is significantly slower than the MyDigitalSSD BP4 drive we recently benchmarked (and that can be found less expensively.) On the other hand, the LSI/ SandForce controllers are well known quantities at this point. We do see something very strange going on with this drive. It appears to have the incorrect part number on the controller, but can handle 128GB of NAND and is operating at SATA III speeds.