Corsair Performance Series Pro 256GB SSD Review

Today we review the 256GB Corsair Performance Pro SSD. Corsair provides enthusiasts with both sides of the SSD controller coin by offering both Marvell and SandForce controlled SSDs in its product lines. Today we will take a look at the Marvell powered 256GB SSD and the Toshiba Toggle NAND that Corsair has chosen for it.

Performance Series™ Pro Basics

There are a finite number of successful SSD controllers in the wild today, few enough that you can count those on one hand. For the vast majority of users, the purchasing decision usually supplies the buyer with either a Marvell or a SandForce controlled SSD.

Both controllers have strengths and weaknesses. Many enthusiasts are either strongly for or against one of these controllers, and this of course leads to many long and drawn out forum threads with one team pitted vs. the other. These debates can get as heated as the AMD and NVIDIA comparisons that have seemingly endured forever.

Corsair was among the first to take the unique path of using both of these high performance controllers with its current SSD product lines. This unique position of offering both controllers in its line of SSDs gives Corsair the ability to appeal to both sides of the SSD "fence." Corsair is leading the way and others are following suit. Intel first followed by adopting SandForce after using Marvell. Later OCZ joined the ranks of the multiple controller crowd, adding the Marvell controllers to further its existing SandForce line.

Both brands of controllers have advantages and disadvantages. From the customer’s point of view, Marvell based SSDs feature steady performance without any preference for whether the data is compressible or not. The SandForce based SSDs provide slightly higher performance, but these can be fickle, relying upon compressible data for its higher performance specifications.

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From the manufacturers point of view it’s a bit more complex. Marvell controllers typically come with a lightweight firmware that requires an experienced firmware team and some tweaking. This allows the companies to control the performance to varying degrees, and can lead to some distinction between its products and the competition’s. The SandForce controllers come with a much more rigid structure, with part of the firmware being unalterable. This leads to less lead time for manufacturers, and less of an upfront investment. However, being plug and play isn't always desirable, as there is very little to separate some SandForce controlled drives from the competition.

Beyond the controller we have the NAND Flash Memory. With two major players in this ring as well, you have Toshiba Toggle NAND in one corner and Intel/Micron IMFT NAND in the other. With several different styles of NAND to choose from, Corsair has chosen to go with the Toshiba Toggle NAND on the Marvell controlled Performance Pro. For Corsair’s SandForce offerings it has chosen to go with the IMFT NAND.

Perhaps Corsair feels that each type of NAND is better suited for each different controller, so let’s take a look and see what the results with the Marvell and Toshiba Toggle NAND equipped Performance Series™ Pro 256GB SSD.