Posted by: Ed Tittel
Last week, after upgrading my 119 GB (actual) SATA II OCZ Vertex-2 SSD to a 167 GB (actual) SATA III Intel 520 SSD, I quickly realized that the SATA III Marvell 9128 controller on my Asus P6X58D-E motherboard wasn’t completely compatible with the SATA III implemented in the Intel drive (see my previous blogs “Interesting Wrinkles” and “Giant PITA” on this subject for more background and details). Before I switched the controller connection from the Marvell 9128 controller on my PC to an open ICH10R port, I ran CrystalDiskMark to record the following results:
But with this controller in use, I couldn’t get the Intel SSD Toolbox to work properly and comprehensively. It wouldn’t permit me to use the optimization tool (to my way of thinking, the best and primary reason to use Intel’s Toolbox in the first place), nor could I ever use it in the future should the drive’s firmware need an update, either. After switching the motherboard end of the drive’s SATA cable to an ICH10R port, all of these problems were resolved, as shown in the following series of screen captures from the Intel SSD Toolbox:
Furthermore, the Intel SSD Optimizer is now available to be used (and scheduled) as the software’s developers intended:
Even the SMART drive details are now completely populated and accessible:
But there’s a cost to the increase in compatibility, though it’s not as severe as I had feared. A re-run of CrystalDiskMark shows that there is a perofrmance price to pay for my ability to make full use of the Intel SSD Toolbox:
Interestingly, sequential read and write speeds actually improve slightly (from 260.1 to 271.7 MB/sec for write, and from 212.5 to 221.2 MB/sec for read) while 512 K block reads decline substantially (from 330.4 to 253.7 MB/sec) though writes also improve slightly (from 211.0 to 219.1 MB/sec). At 4K there’s a slight improvement, but with a queue depth of 32, both reads decline (from 215.3 to 177.0 for reads) and writes improve slightly (from 175.5 to 184.8). I am pretty much inclined to treat this as a wash, although the Windows experience rating for the drive declined from 7.9 (Marvell 9128) to 7.8 (ICH10R).
What’s the moral for this story? Steer clear of older Marvell SATA III controllers if you want to use Intel SSDs and the Intel SSD toolbox. I guess I could upgrade my motherboard to a newer model that includes Intel SATA III controllers, but I’m not sure that the performance boost is worth the time, expense, and trouble involved in a complete teardown and rebuild of my production desktop. Sigh.