Corsair Accelerator 60GB SSD Cache Drive Review
As each generation of hard drives grew in capacity at a breakneck pace, storage space on spindle-based drives was rarely an issue. However, performance gains from one generation to the next have always been, at best, incremental. Now, with solid state storage in its ascendency, the opposite is true: SSDs offer massive performance but miniscule storage capacity relative to their cost. With the aptly named Accelerator 60GB cache drive, Corsair hopes to sell consumers on a solution that will give them the best of both technologies with none of the associated drawbacks.
Much like OCZ’s Synapse, the Corsair Accelerator relies on Nvelo’s Dataplex software to meld with the user’s existing hard drive into one “hybrid” storage solution. While this approach does require a certain amount of processor overhead, allowing the software to decide what gets cached on the speedy SSD and what can reasonably be tucked away on the slow-but-steady HDD has its merits. Namely, it allows for increased storage flexibility and performance while also keeping the associated hardware costs relatively low. As the Dataplex solution is fairly robust with only moderate CPU requirements, we have no concerns with Corsair’s decision to follow OCZ in this regard.
What is questionable is the actual solid state drive they have included as part of the bargain. Rather than using a Corsair Force 3 60GB for the Accelerator, Corsair has instead opted for their Nova Series 2 60GB drive. Unlike the competition, this drive uses the less capable SF-2181 controller. Furthermore, it has only the typical 7% overprovisioning found with the standard Nova Series 2 drives which could cause an issue for long term durability when used for caching purposes. This is completely different than OCZ’s Synapse series, which relies on a more capable, 100% over provisioned SF-2281-based Agility 3 60GB drive. With an online asking price of $90—or just ten dollars less than that of the Synapse 64GB—the Accelerator will have to be impressive if it hopes to overcome its potential limitations.
To keep things as fair as possible, we will be pairing the Accelerator with the same 1TB hard drive we tested the OCZ Synapse with. This will allow us to find out how much performance is possible from a truly budget setup and judge theAccelerator’s overall efficiency and effectiveness.
Compared to that of the OCZ Synapse, the Corsair Accelerator’s exterior is more robust and reassuring. While some SSD makers use a metal-and-plastic solution, the Accelerator’s outer shell is a full metal affair that seems like it could shrug off damage that would leave a Synapse in pieces.
Unfortunately, the interior architecture of the Accelerator is not as satisfying. Not only is the PCB half the size of what is normally found in SandForce-based devices, but so too is the number of NAND ICs greatly reduced. Whereas 16 dual-layer NAND modules are housed within most solid state drives, this model has only eight. This means that the density of the chips is higher than that of most contemporary 64GB SSDs. However, the Accelerator may not be able to take advantage of this moderate potential increase in performancefor the simple reason that (unlike any other SandForce-based drive we have reviewed to date) the Accelerator does not use an SF-2281 controller and relies instead on the slower and less capable SF-2181.
It is also unfortunate that Corsair—much like OCZ—opted for ONFi 1 NAND rather than ONFi 2 or Toggle-Mode NAND. Either of these superior NAND technologies should have allowed the Accelerator to avoid slipping into a degraded state over time.
It is also noteworthy that the software needed to actually run the Accelerator as intended is included neither in the box nor on the drive itself. Rather than bundle a CD with a potentially outdated version, Corsair simply supplies a serial number that can be used to download the Dataplex software.
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