When we reviewed Patriot Memory’s Warp SSD last fall, we noted that the drive had great application open times but suffered some slowness when zipping files or opening applications under stress. What a difference a few months and a new controller chip make: By using the same Indilinx Barefoot controller chip as the popular OCZ Vertex (and several other SSD drives), Patriot has created in the 128GB Torqx a sexy brushed-metal performance machine that is among the fastest SSDs we’ve tested. And, at $379, it’s one that’s priced competitively, too.
Design and Form Factor
The Patriot Torqx comes in a standard 2.5-inch form factor and uses a standard SATA interface. Most notebooks made in the past couple of years support drives of this size and come with SATA ports. However, some ultraportable and thin-and-light systems such as the Lenovo ThinkPad T400s use smaller 1.8-inch drives; before you upgrade, be sure to check your manual.
You won’t spend a lot of time staring at an SSD, so the way its casing looks isn’t critical. But after you spend hundreds of dollars on an SSD, it’s nice that the sexy black brushed-metal case of the Torqx makes you feel like you’ve bought a premium product. Unique among its competitors, the Torqx comes with a 2.5- to 3.5-inch mounting bracket that allows desktop users to install the drive into the larger bays on their tower cases. If you don’t purchase a Torqx, you can get a similar mounting bracket for around $20 on the aftermarket.
Controller and Cache Memory
Like all but the most expensive server-class drives these days, the Torqx uses multi-level cell (MLC) rather than pricey single-level cell (SLC) NAND Flash memory to store its data. While MLC-based drives used to be weak performers, current-generation controller chips have made it possible to achieve incredibly strong performance.
Just as the CPU is the computer’s brain, the controller chip does all the thinking in SSDs. Like several other leading SSDs on the market today, the Patriot Torqx uses an Indilinx Barefoot controller with 64MB of DRAM cache. The Barefoot is popular with vendors because it offers great read and write performance at a reasonable price, and because its firmware is upgradable.
The Patriot Torqx was placed into our standard testbed, a Gateway P-7808u FX with a Mobile Quad Core processor, 4GB of RAM, and Vista Home Premium 64-bit. We use this high-performance system with all of our drives so we can see their full potential. The Torqx was put through our standard suite of tests, which include:
Synthetic Benchmarks - Measures read transfer rate and seek time under ideal conditions.
File Transfer Tests - Time to copy files from one folder to another.
Zip/Unzip Tests - Time to create and extract large zip files.
Application Open Tests - Time to launch popular applications, both alone and while multi-tasking.
Boot Time - Time from power on to last tray icon loaded.
Synthetic Benchmark – HD Tune
To get a baseline idea of what to expect in terms of performance, we tested the Torqx using HD Tune, a program that measures both seek time (the time it takes for the drive to locate data) and read transfer rates (the average amount of sequential data read to the computer per second). While high transfer rates should help most with loading large pieces of data, low seek times allow a disk to quickly launch an application, which is made of many small files.
The Torqx, like almost every other SSD we tested, had a 0.2 ms seek time. Its average read transfer rate of 172.6 MBps is the fastest we’ve measured on any MLC drive, and is miles ahead of slower SSDs such as the Imation M-Class and Kingston V-Series—not to mention the Fujitsu MHZ2320BJ, the fastest 7,200 rpm hard drive we’ve tested.
File Copy Tests
To see how the Patriot Torqx was able to read and write data in real-world situations, we conducted two file copy tests. In the first test, we copied 4.97GB of mixed media files—music, video, photos, and documents—from one folder to another. In the second, we copied only one 3.5GB MPEG-2 video from one folder to another. Both tests were conducted three times, and the results were averaged.
The Torqx led the pack in multi-file copies, with its 51-second average time besting even the OCZ Summit, whose Samsung controller tends to offer better write speeds than Indilinx-based drives. On the single-file copy, the Torqx was also strong, posting a time of just 56 seconds.
In addition to simple file copies, we tested the Patriot Torqx’s ability to zip and unzip large files. In our first test, where we zip 4.97GB of mixed media files, the drive notched a respectable 4:37 completion time, which was at least 10 seconds behind other high-speed SSDs like the Vertex, Summit, and RunCore Pro IV, but well ahead of slower drives such as the Kingston V-Series. When unzipping the large zip file we’d created, the Torqx landed in the middle of the high-speed SSD pack, finishing in 2:44.
Application Open Tests
Perhaps the most important benefit a high-speed SSD can provide is faster application and file open times. The less time you spend waiting for programs to launch, the more time you can spend being productive. To measure this benchmark, we use custom scripts that display time stamps when apps start and finish launching.
The four programs we used were Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe Reader 9, Firefox 3, and Microsoft Word 2007. Firefox and Word were timed opening to blank pages, while Adobe Reader was opened to a large PDF (the 7.2MB, 567-page 9/11 Commission Report) and Photoshop was opened to a 398MB TIF file.
To ensure the accuracy of these tests, we disabled Windows Vista’s built-in SuperFetch service, which preloads frequently used applications into memory and affects open times. We tested each application three times, rebooting between tests to clear the system memory, and then calculated the averages. The chart below shows the average open time for each drive across all four apps, while the table shows individual open times for each app on each drive.
|Drive||Adobe Reader 9 PDF||Firefox 3||Photoshop CS4 TIF||Word 2007||AVG|
|Super Talent UltraDrive ME||5||0.8||9.2||2.1||4.3|
|OCZ Summit Series (120GB)||5.5||0.9||9||2.2||4.4|
|RunCore Pro IV (128GB)||5.3||0.8||9.4||2.2||4.4|
|Patriot Torqx (128GB)||5.8||0.8||9||2.2||4.5|
|OCZ Vertex (120GB)||5.9||0.8||9.1||2.1||4.5|
|Imation M-Class (128GB)||6.1||1.3||11.9||1.6||5.2|
|Fujitsu MHZ2320BJ 320GB (7,200rpm)||8.1||3.7||21.9||5||9.7|
Application Opens Under Stress
To measure the Patriot Torqx’s ability to handle multitasking situations, we ran the same application-open tests while zipping 4.97GB of mixed media in the background. The stress of performing an input/output-intensive task such as zipping slows down the open times of every application on every drive we test, but the amount of slowdown really separates the contenders from the pretenders. On the fastest drives, open times are still reasonable under stress but, on the slowest, the wait can be extremely annoying.
|Drive||Adobe Reader 9 PDF||Firefox 3||Photoshop CS4 TIF||Word 2007||AVG|
|OCZ Vertex (120GB)||5.7||1.8||18.2||4||7.4|
|Patriot Torqx (128GB)||5.9||1.9||19||3.7||7.6|
|Super Talent UltraDrive ME||6.2||1.9||19||3.6||7.7|
|RunCore Pro IV (128GB)||6.1||2||18.3||4.7||7.8|
|OCZ Summit Series (120GB)||6.1||2.1||20.6||3.9||8.2|
|Imation M-Class (128GB)||8.6||2.5||31.3||5.5||12|
|Fujitsu MHZ2320BJ 320GB (7,200rpm)||34.3||23.3||130.1||23.9||52.9|
When opening the PDF in Adobe Reader under stress, the Torqx returned a time of 5.9 seconds—only a tenth of a second slower than it took without any stress. Firefox 3 opened in just 1.9 seconds under stress, a mere 1.1 seconds longer than it took when it was launched alone. Under stress, the Torqx opened Word 2007 in just 3.7 seconds, which is only 1.5 seconds longer than it took alone, and still well ahead of the 7,200-rpm Fujitsu drive launching Word 2007 alone.
The Photoshop CS4 open test is the most intense, and it always shows in stressed open times. Here, the Torqx showed why it is a real champ, finishing in just 19 seconds, which was on a par with the Super Talent UltraDrive ME and just 0.8 seconds slower than the Vertex. The slower SSDs from Imation and Kingston took 30 and 60 seconds, respectively, while the mechanical hard drive took an interminable 2 minutes.
One common belief is that SSDs speed up boot times, but our tests show that’s not always the case. Still, the Torqx improved on the 7,200-rpm hard drive’s boot time by a couple of seconds. Perhaps if you’re loading a number of programs at start up, you will see an even greater difference.
Support and Warranty
Firmware updates have enabled OCZ and Super Talent to give users who bought their drives months ago the same performance as those who buy the new drives today. The Torqx comes with a jumper that allows users to flash update the firmware, and Patriot recently provided a downloadable firmware update on their Web site.
These updates will be even more useful in the future, as they will be necessary for users to take full advantage of Windows 7’s built-in support of Trim, a set of disk-cleansing commands that improve SSD performance. (For a detailed explanation of Trim, see Microsoft’s Q & A or this graphical representation from Anandtech.)
Because the Indilinx controller already supports Trim even without Windows 7, Patriot provides Torqx users with a performance refresh tool that purges pages of flash data that have been marked for deletion so it can maintain fast write speeds.
Patriot recently extended the warranty on the Torqx to ten years; while that’s more than three times the length of the warranties for the OCZ Vertex and Summit SSDs, it’s doubtful that users will keep a drive for that length of time, anyway. Patriot maintains an active support forum, though it has fewer posts than OCZ, and also offers e-mail support.
Value and Verdict
The Patriot Torqx is an attractive drive with blazing fast performance, and is competitively priced at $379. Like the other drives which use the Indilinx Barefoot controller, it will dramatically improve the performance of your notebook and, unlike most 2.5-inch SSDs, it comes with a bracket that makes it easy to be installed in a desktop system as well. Other Indilinx-based drives such as the OCZ Vertex and Super Talent UltraDrive ME offer comparable performance and cost about the same, so factor in street prices before you buy.