In our first solid-state drive round-up last year we quickly learned that a SSD can only be as good as the controller working the magic behind it. That was the last time we checked a solid state drive from G.Skill, who is better known for its overclocking friendly memory modules.
As you may recall G.Skill's early entry in the SSD arena, the 128GB Titan was plagued with stuttering problems attributed to the small buffer size used by its dreaded JMicron 602B controller. This controller was an improvement upon the 16KB on the original 602A, but still paled in comparison to the 256KB cache offered by the Intel X25-M and the 64MB off-chip DRAM supported by the Indilinx Barefoot controller.
It became widely known then that the lack of a proper cache would cause poor write performance, particularly when dealing with small files as evidenced in random 4KB write tests. Struggling to sell any products using JMicron's chip, manufacturers quickly moved to newer controllers from Samsung and Indilinx, including G.Skill, who eventually dropped their Titan line in favor of the the Indilinx Barefoot-based Falcon series.
Intel subsequently released their second generation X25-M SSDs using newer 34nm MLC NAND flash memory to increase data density and help make the product affordable. And eventually, more affordable it became. Whereas their original 80GB X25-M SSD was introduced at around $595, the 'G2' version offering the same base capacity is currently priced anywhere from $250 to $290.
In an effort to remain competitive G.Skill announced the Falcon II series last November. This new SSD line features an updated Indilinx ECO controller, which as you may have guessed provides support for 34nm NAND flash memory as well as the latest firmware from Indilinx (v1819) with improved support for the Windows 7 TRIM command.
It's still hard to tell for sure where these new Falcon II SSDs will be positioned in terms of pricing as they are somewhat hard to find, with none of the larger retailers carrying any in stock. A deeper online search showed retailer MemoryC.com selling just a handful of them starting at $214 for the 64GB version and $365 for the 128GB. The former should achieve read and write speeds of 220 and 110MB/s, respectively, while the larger model we are reviewing today is rated at 220 and 150MB/s.
Interestingly, these specifications are lower than the claimed speeds of the original Falcon series at 230 and 190MB/s. Apparently this has to do with the new v1819 firmware supporting Windows 7's TRIM command.
The performance penalty may seem like a bad deal on paper. However, with TRIM support enabled the new G.Skill Falcon II SSDs should be able to operate at peak performance consistently over time rather than suffering the common degradation problems of early MLC-based drives. It can't be emphasized enough that the controller's efficiency plays a major role in solid state drive performance, so we are eager to see how the new Indilinx ECO-based SSD pairs up against the competition. Read on for an in-depth look.