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Corsair Nova 128GB SSD Review

Corsair Nova 128GB SSD Review

Manufacturer: Corsair
UK Price (as reviewed): £292.68 (Inc. VAT)
US Price(as reviewed): $659.99 (ex .Tax)

Indilinx’s Barefoot controller has been a great success since it first arrived on the SSD scene in early 2009 and has since been picked up by most of the SSD manufacturers in the market. The OCZ Vertex, Crucial M225, G.Skill Falcon, Patriot Torqx and the Corsair X-series have all been based on the controller, to great success. The support has flowed from Indilinx too, with a rapid succession of firmware updates improving speed and adding TRIM support.

Like the G.Skill Falcon 2, the Corsair Nova series is based around the combination of the Barefoot Eco drive controller chip and Intel 32nm NAND flash, rather than the Samsung 40nm NAND used in conventional Indilinx SSDs. Thanks to increased yields from the smaller production process, Intel NAND is cheaper than the Samsung NAND, allowing Corsair to undercut the price of SSDs with the Samsung NAND with its Nova.

Corsair Nova 128GB SSD Review Corsair Nova 128GB SSD Review
Click to enlarge – Indilinx Barefoot Eco, 64MB of Cache and Intel 32nm NAND combine!

As the Intel NAND was developed for use in Intel’s own SSDs, it also performs superbly, with a performance jump in comparison to the older Samsung 40nm NAND in some situations. This is reflected in the ambitious claimed performance numbers, with Corsair stating the drive can achieve 270MB/sec sequential read and 195MB/sec sequential write speeds. These figures are notably faster than Corsair’s original Indilinx-powered X-series.

Unscrewing the Nova 128GB’s casing reveals much the same PCB as we’ve seen in every Indilinx-based SSD, this time with the IDX110M01-LC Eco drive controller chip alongside the 64MB Elpida S51321DBH-6DTS-F cache chip. Sixteen 8GB 32nm Intel NAND chips are also present, eight on each side, with the drive lacking any kind of pins or jumpers that we’ve seen on other SSDs for use when updating the firmware. This is likely because Corsair has recently abandoned the old jumper-based firmware update method for a much easier DOS bootable flash drive application.

Corsair Nova 128GB SSD Review Corsair Nova 128GB SSD Review
Click to enlarge - It's a standard PCB layout, and the drive conforms to standard 2.5" SATA drive size specificatons

When it comes to firmware, the Nova 128GB ships with what Corsair calls version 1.0 firmware, but this is really Indilinx’s v1916, a slightly more up to date version than the firmware of the G.Skill Falcon 2 when we tested it. The Falcon 2 can be updated to the v1916 firmware. TRIM support (which maintains performance over time, but is limited to use in Windows 7) is included, as is a less effective automatic performance recovery algorithm that can run on any OS. We’d always recommend using TRIM, as its results are generally superb, whilst automated performance recovery can be unreliable and isn’t as effective. TRIM doesn’t run if you RAID your SSDs, but they’re fast enough as it is without the vagaries of RAID 0.

Specifications

  • Connection: SATA 3Gbps
  • Nominal Capacity: 128GB
  • Formatted Capacity: 120GB
  • Controller: Indilinx Barefoot Eco IDX110M01-LC
  • Cache: 64MB Elpida S51321DBH-6DTS-F
  • NAND flash: 16 x 8GB 32nm Intel
  • Claimed Sequential Read: 270MB/sec
  • Claimed Sequential Write: 195MB/sec