Archive for the ‘Hardware Review’ Category

Laptop SSD Upgrade – I Love SSD’s

January 11th, 2013 No comments

I just have to say. I love SSD’s.

I have a HP Pavilion dv6 3030tx. Its not the fastest machine.
It is a 1st generation Intel Core i5 540M, with 4GB of memory.

If you read the posts on this site I recently upgraded to 8GB of memory.
This made little performance difference.

I rebuilt my PC with Windows 8 and upgraded to a Samsung 830 256GB SSD.

To give you an indication of a general performance improvement, read on.

Performance Benchmark Prior to SSD upgrade

I am a software developer and I do all of my development in Virtual Machines.
My current VM platform of choice is Virtual Box.

On battery on my daily bus trip I do the following:

1. Login to Windows.
2. Start Virtual Machine – Windows Server 2012
3. Login to Windows VM
4. Start Visual Studio 2012
5. Load solution I am working on.

All the above tasks generally take approx 12 – 15 minutes before I am at a working visual studio solution in my VM.
As an example it was taking approx 1.5 minutes to reach my desktop alone.

The windows performance score was 5.9 with the lowest score being the Hard disk.

HP Pavilion Performance SATA Drive 8GB Memory

Performance Benchmark after windows 8 and SSD upgrade

All of the above tasks can now be completed in under 2 minutes, that’s about a 600% improvement.

The windows 8 boot time is unbelievable. I can be at a working desktop in about 15 seconds, including typing my password. Did I also mention shutdown is about 5 seconds.

The other noticeable benefit is the improvement in battery life.
On my daily 2 hour commute to and from work, I would generally be running below 10% battery and being asked to find power or shut down.

Today on a full trip and working the entire time, I still had 40% battery life left.

The windows experience score is now 6.6 with the disk now 7.6 up from 5.9

SSD Performance

Some of this start up improvement may be coming from the Windows 8 upgrade (don’t get me started on metro…), but its still awesome, I’ve been restarting just to see how fast it is.

Don’t throw out your old PC, just upgrade to a SSD, you will not be disappointed.

FYI this is what AS SSD showed about my drive in the laptop.

AS SSD benchmark on Samsun 830 256 GB

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ASUS U3S6 Review – Benchmark SSD on Sata 3 add-on card against Sata II onboard

February 23rd, 2012 17 comments

Part 2 of my SSD SATA III performance tests.

If you are here and haven’t seen part 1 “Sata 3 SSD running on onboard SATA II benchmark” go here >>>

The Question

Is there any reason to buy a SATA III expansion card to run your new SATA III SSD if your MOBO only has SATA II?

So I have a shiny new Corsair Force GT 120GB SATA III drive and an old SATA II motherboard.

Last article I benchmarked the performance to see what kind of experience you get when running on your onboard sata II connectors.

This article is the part 2 where I am going to benchmark the relative performance with a SATA III expansion card to see if there is any point is spending the money on one.

The Test Card – ASUS U3S6

Marvell 88SE9123 Chipset

It was a bit hard to track one down in Australia so I had to buy this second-hand off the overclockers australia forums, but I wanted this card for its x4 PCI-e v2.0 connection.

Details of the U3S6 here.

The U3 = USB 3.0 with a NEC chip set; and
The S6 = Sata III 6.0Gb/s Marvel 88SE9123 controller.


ASUS U3S6 Sata III PCIe expansion card

ASUS U3S6 Sata III PCIe expansion cardASUS U3S6 Default Firmware Boot Screen Shot










The card has yet to be flashed from its original bios which appears as

I decided to play it safe and rather than flash the bios and destroy the card I would start from scratch, benchmark it first. Later I will play and see if I can improve on stock performance results, buy flashing to later versions of the firmware.

At on OS software level I tested with 2 driver configurations: and
Marvell Driver Screenshot  

with some interesting results..

The latest drivers are best found on station-drivers. It’s french but version numbers can be read easily, go to the bottom for the MV91xx drivers and firmware.

The test rig

Mother Board: Socket 775, Gigabyte EP45-DS3
CPU: Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0Ghz, running overclocked @ 4.0Ghz.
Memory: 4GB (2x2GB) Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5C (1066Mhz)
Video: MSi R6850 Storm II 1G OC (R6850 PM2DIGD5)
SSD: Corsair Force GT 120GB, (1.3.3 firmware on SATA II in AHCI mode)
SATA III Card Asus U3S6 (firware 1012)
OS: Windows 7 SP1 – 64 bit

The U3S6 is a x4 card and will run on PCI-E v2.0. The EP45-DS3 only has 3 x PCI-e 1.0 x1 ports, and has a x16 and x8 PCI-e v2.0 slot.

The x16 slot is currently running my MSi HD 6850, and the x8 slot is free.

The U3S6 is therefore running in the x8 slot.

I was interested in seeing what might happen when running something like crysis whilst having the U3S6 trying to use the same bus.

Synthetic Benchmarks


My original SATA II Benchmark score on SATA II was 480! I did this benchmark on day 1 of a clean Windows 7 install. Since then I have been using the computer for a few months and the drive is about 50% full so I benchmarked with AS SSD again.

I did numerous benchmarks with in multiple different driver and SATA configurations. The Read speed seemed to give consistent results across similar benchmarks but the write performance (particularly the 4K-64-Thrd) was a bit all over the place and seemed to influence heavily the overall score giving results between 395 and 450.

The following results are the best of each run:

SATA II – Rerun
SATA II Benchmark

U3S6 –
ASUS U3S6 1036 Driver AS SSD benchmark

ASUS U3S6 Driver Compression Benchmark

U3S6 –

U3S6 on driver AS SSD benchmark

The U3S6 seems to have better sequential read of approx 340MB/s. This is only a 75MB/s improvement.

I noted that generally the benchmark results for the earlier driver were slightly better and more consistent than the later driver.

Also the Read performance was generally consistent but the 4k and 4k-64Thrd write times were up and down.

Crystal Disk mark

Given the fluctuations I also tried Crystal Disk mark which seemed to give similar results without the randomness.

SATA II – Rerun
Crysal Disk Corsair Force GT 120GB SSD Benchmark on SATA II

U3S6 –
Crystal Disk Corsair Force GT ASUS U3S6 Benchmark Driver

U3S6 –
Crystal Disk Corsair Force GT ASUS U3S6 Benchmark Driver

Again the driver seemed to out perform its older brother.

Windows Start Up Times

The test

Same as last time, the benchmark recorded the time from when windows started loading after the POST screen, until a working desktop was available. This was identified as the time at which the Gadgets appeared on the desktop. This was split into 3 timing points

  1. time to login screen
  2. time to login
  3. time to see the desktop and the gadgets loaded.

Windows 7 Startup times Benchmark SSD results
The fastest startup time was still SATA II and the driver made a difference but the 1.0.1036 was consistently a few seconds slower to boot.

Windows Experience

The only score to change when running the U3S6 was the Disk from 7.8 to 7.9. Note: 7.9 is currently the maximum rating.
Windows Experience Score on the SSD SATA III

Crysis Benchmarks

I didn’t bother with the load time tests as I figured they would be comparable.

I did however run the Benchmarks for both Crysis and Crysis 2 in the various configurations, with some interesting results.

Crysis Benchmark

The crysis benchmark was run @ 1920×1080 – 64-bit and DirectX 10
The benchmark was run with the following SSD connections

  1. SATA II
  2. U3S6

Crysis Benchmark

The results were almost identical. No change here.

Crysis 2 Benchmark

The benchmark was run on DirectX 11 on the Times Square Map.

Crysis 2 Benchmark

The most interesting thing here is that when the video card was being pushed by crysis 2, the PCIe channel appears to be compromised by the SSD drive running on the x8 port.

This can be seen in the poor fps on the two higher settings.

USB Performance

Just to see how the USB 3.0 worked I hooked up my Western Digital 1 TB external hard drive and did a 4.14GB and 15.5 GB file copy both up to and down from the External drive.

I found the 15.5GB copy onto the external drive took 10m 1s @ USB 2.0 but only took 3m 52s on USB 3.0. The copy down from the external driver took 9m 11s @ USB 2.0 and 3m 43s @ USB 3.0.
The copy rates were approx 27.1 MB/s combined for USB 2.0 whilst USB 3.0 achieved 67.9 Mb/s or 2.5 times faster. Nice.

Why so slow?

I have gotten around to flashing the Card. At first it felt like “flushing” not “flashing” as the firmwares I tried off “Station-Drivers” broke the card. After a few hours of flashing I finally got the driver working with Firmware revision 1028 “Firmware pour U3S6 Rev 0 (MV-9123) Version: Mod by Daoud333”

So when I start it up I see the following

ASUS U3S6 firmware 1028 Screenshot on startup

PCIe x1 5.0Gbps. x1 why x1, its a x4 card running in a x8 slot?

After some digging I found this spec document on the controller, Marvell 88SE91xx Product Brief. If you read this the spec fo the controller shows this..

Marvell 88SE 9123 x1 PCIe

The controller only supports a single x1 connection.

I feel a bit duped. I specifically got this card for its x4 connection, but given the fact the marvel controller only accepts a x1 connection the SATA will only ever be able to run at this speed. I have read other people suggest that the x4 is used to split the channel in half and use some of the x 4 bandwidth for the USB 3.0 controller, which would make sense but it seems like false advertising to me.


Overall I think if you are out of SATA ports on your PC and need a few more, then the card is OK as long as you are NOT using it for gaming.
The sequential read is slightly better but this is only a benchmark figure as it did not translate in the real world.
The only other nicety is the USB 3.0 which will come in handy in the future.

I think in the next few months The Marvel 92xx controllers
will start to appear and these may allow my SSD to run to its full potential as this supports PCIe x2.


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SATA 3 SSD running on SATA II benchmark

January 11th, 2012 35 comments

This benchmark and review is to show what performance differences you can expect when you try to run a SATA 3 SSD on older hardware that only supports SATA II (300 Mb/s) connections.

I was recently looking to purchase a SSD drive as an upgrade for my old socket 775 Core 2 Duo machine to keep it alive a bit longer. This meant purchasing a current SATA 3 drive and running it connected via the on-board SATA 2 connection.

When attempting to research whether I needed an add-on SATA 3 card I was unable to find any real world reviews of this type of upgrade, so this review is designed to fill this gap.

The Rig

Mother Board: Socket 775, Gigabyte EP45-DS3
CPU: Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0Ghz, running overclocked @ 4.0Ghz.
Memory: 4GB (2x2GB) Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5C (1066Mhz)
Video: MSi R6850 Storm II 1G OC (R6850 PM2DIGD5)
SSD: Corsair Force GT 120GB, (1.3.3 firmware on SATA II in AHCI mode)
ATA Drive: Segate Barracuda® 7200.12 1 TB
OS: Windows 7 SP1 – 64 bit

SSD Benchmark

The SSD drive in question is a Corsair Force GT 120GB.

Full specs and details can be found here on guru3D

This is connected via the on board SATA II Connection.

The theoretical throughput is 300Mb/s. The following is the results of AS SSD.

The overall score is comparable with the results from the guru 3d review with the obvious difference being the Sequential Read maxing out at 263Mb/s.

Here is the compression benchmark, so clearly the drive is not being pushed very hard..

OS Benchmark

The machine is running Windows 7 – 64bit, plus all the services and software one would expect, including:

  • AVG Anitvirus
  • Catalyst control centre
  • HP Printer Software
  • Msi Afterburner
  • Core Temp
  • Network and All CPU meter gadgets

The Test

This benchmark recorded the total time to startup the PC on the 7200RPM 1TB drive vs the SSD. The benchmark recorded the time from when windows started loading after the POST screen, until a working desktop was available. This was identified as the time at which the Gadgets appeared on the desktop. This was split into 4 timing points:

  1. time to login screen
  2. time to login
  3. time to see the desktop
  4. time until the gadgets loaded.

The windows startup time is now 4 times faster with the SSD drive, launching to a working desktop in less than 25 seconds, (including typing my password!)

Windows Experience Score

The windows experience went from…


The slowest component is now my CPU.. may have to tweak that overclock 😉

Edit Caveat: Note you will have to factor in the fact that the SSD benchmark is on a clean install Windows 7 whilst the ATA Drive have been running for a while, but even so I have been using the SSD setup over the past few weeks since writing this review and start up is still very quick with only a few seconds between clicking login and being able to use the computer 🙂


I timed the loading of the application and the loading of a new game.
With the following results.

The load times were generally faster on the SSD drive and seem to have a larger performance gap as we moved from Crysis to Crysis 2.

Crysis Benchmarks

I ran both the Crysis and Crysis 2 benchmarks with no consistent pattern of improvement. The tests were within 2 fps of each other but in some cases the SSD was better and some worse. So it appears the Disk has no real impact on Crysis frame rates.

General Performance

The general performance of loading applications like Internet Explorer and Firefox, windows media centre was recorded. In most instances the load times on the SSD drive was around the 0.5 – 2.0 seconds, whilst load times on the hard drive were sometimes comparable but more often they were slower (Browsers took approx 4 seconds to load to Google homepage), but the hard drive was inconsistent in performance with load times as high as 14.5 seconds for IE being recorded.

PC Mark – Vantage (

To give some kind of industry benchmark for the entire PC experience I benchmarked the machine for overall performance using PC Mark, the results were

Hard Drive Score – 6313
SSD Score – 10683

This is a 70% improvement over the Hard drives score.


The general feal of the machine is much snappier with the SSD drive. Applications install really fast, open quickly and it is a nicer experience to use with no major delays when using the applications. Also I just realised my computer is also eerilly silent on start-up no more mechanical whirring and noises

I would say that it was worth the money even with just an old SATA II connection. Also this drive will be a useful addition to my Laptop at some point in the future ;-).

SATA 3 add-on Cards

The next stage of this benchmark test will be to get my hands on a SATA 3 card like the ASRock SATA 3 card or the ASUS U3S6 and see if these cards actually provide any performance benefit, stay tuned…

EDIT: 24-Feb-2012 – Asus U3S6 Review – Benchmark Sata 2 add on card >>>

EDIT- 15 march 2012

SATA 3 SSD with no AHCI?

Neville asked…

So here it is.

Synthetic benchmarks

On AS SSD I did 3 runs on with both AHCI on and AHCI off (IDE)

With AHCI on I got the following results:

  1. 158 / 209 – 449
  2. 158 / 173 – 413
  3. 158 / 184 – 422

The best result is here

AS SSD benchmark Corsair Force GT 120 GB in AHCI mode

Note: similar to the later tests I did on the ASUS U3S6 you notice the read performance score is solid but the write performance is quite variable.

With AHCI off I got the following results:

  1. 66/158 – 261
  2. 68/159 – 266
  3. 68/171 – 277

The best result is here:
AS SSD benchmark Corsair Force GT 120 GB in no AHCI (IDE) mode

So the synthetic performance result is about 40% slower with AHCI off!!
Notice also that the 4K-64Thrd really drags the read score down, whilst all other values are comparable

Here is what Crystal Mark recorded..

With ACHI on
CrystalDiskMark corsair Force GT SATA II SSD with AHCI on
With AHCI Off
CrystalDiskMark corsair Force GT SATA II SSD with AHCI off (IDE)

Note again most figures are comparable except 4KQD32.

I did some digging and found this post
What is 4KQD32 and it is described as “4k 32 queue depth. There are 32 requests in line for 4k of data”.
If you read further they suggested this is an un-realistic test for real world usage as the disk queue for windows 7 is between 1-3 normally, (all of which backs up my next statements 😉 …)

Real world performance

But again these are only synthetic benchmark figures. What did this mean to the general performance of the PC?

  • Windows Experience I re-did the windows experience score and it was identical in all of the measures.
  • Windows Start Up I averaged around 22.5 seconds for the boot time using the same approach to measuring startup time.
  • General Feel The system seemed still quite fast to load apps and not dis-similar to running with AHCI on.
  • Crysis I re-ran the Crysis Benchmarks and found that the performance was within +/- 1 fps with AHCI on or off.

So if you look solely at the synthetic benchmark things don’t look so good, (AS SSD even says its BAD – checkout the screenshot) but in the real world you will notice a significant improvement in boot times, and general speed of your PC.

As an example I have a work laptop that is a Lenovo ThinkPad with a Centrino processor and it has always performed really well and I couldn’t work out why it was so good with such a small CPU in it. Only when I did some poking around when writing this post did I find it runs a 60GB SSD.. and it all started to make sense.

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Aywun A1-V10 Review

June 20th, 2010 2 comments

Firstly, I will start this article by saying, I am a novice overclocker, i.e. this is the first go at overclocking a CPU in anger.

On top of that I am one of these people who choose to stay a few steps behind technology because its cheaper, and I can’t justify spending thousands on a new rig every few years. So 6 months ago when my Pentium 4 finally bit the dust I headed to the internet, eBay and various local online distributors and purchased everything to build a new computer, full cost $550 for everything excluding the case which I kept from my last PC.

Therefore, the specs on the test machine are not the latest and greatest, but should be comparable to other reviews of various coolers on the web to allow a comparison. The test machine is spec’d as follows:

  • CPU* – Intel core 2 duo E8400
  • Motherboard* – Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 rev 1.0
  • Memory – Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5C – 4GB 1066Mhz
  • HDD – Seagate ST31000528AS, 1TB, 32M, 7200RPM SATA2 Barracuda 7200.12
  • Video* – ASUS EA-HD3850 512 MB
  • Cooler* – Stock Intel Pentium
  • PSU – Zalman ZM600-ST

* purchased second hand on e-bay.

So here I am wanting to get a bit more performance out of my CPU but the stock cooler will not do. A bit of research was done and I saw the A1-V8 had a few reviews that said it was good for the price, but I could find no reviews about the A1-V10, so thought I would do one for myself.

Aywun A1-V10 (May 2010 @ AU $43 )
Firstly be warned this is a big unit, dimensions:

  • Weight: 865g
  • Length: 131mm
  • Width: 103mm
  • Height: 153mm

The box says, a minimum 190mm case depth recommended. Fortunately my case is 205mm deep, but it only just fits, so be warned.

Here are some Photos:

The unit comes packaged with:

  • all the mounting brackets to support the various sockets that it is compatible with.
  • thermal compound, 25% silver, 🙂
  • adjustable fan speed controller, with double sided tape for mounting it on the case
  • anti-vibration rubber mounting brackets for mounting the fan to the cooler


Installation was relatively painless. As mentioned before the unit is big. The fan only just fit in but it does position well with the case fan so you get good ventilation with the Heat Sink fan blowing straight at the rear exhaust fan.

I used Artic Silver 5 Thermal paste for the installation.

The instructions were in pictures with very few words and I was a bit confused as the backing plate had a clear plastic covering on one side, and I was unsure as to which side was to go up. I put the plastic facing the underside of the motherboard, as the film would have interfered with the screws being able to slot firmly into the notches for the various sockets.

Pictures Again.

I have tested using both the Intel Burn Test 2.5 and Prime 95 @ stock 3.0Ghz, 3.6Ghz and 4.0Ghz.

Note: with the stock cooler it was unable to complete the intel burn test @ 3.6 Ghz. I stopped them when they reached 70 degrees.

All testing was performed with the Fan Setting on low. I found that the difference between Low and High was generally about 4 degress. I have a case fan that I run @ 1500 RPM, and at the same setting the A1-V10 adds nothing to the noise of my computer.

All testing was done with ambient temperature of  17 Degrees.


10 to 15 degrees cooler than stock !

The stock tests were stopped when it reached 70 degrees, even so that is 16 degrees cooler on the Burn Test Std. Also 7 degrees cooler @ idel.

With the fan on High these Intel Burn test would not get above 54 degrees. I intend to leave the fan @ 15oo RPM and in this test that raised the temp to 56 degrees.


When running overclocked @ 4.0Ghz (25% overclock), the A1-V10 gave results the same as the stock cooler @ stock 3.0Ghz.


  • Cheap
  • Good Cooling
  • Solid mounting
  • Adjustable fan speed.


  • Have to remove the motherboard to install.
  • Very big, so make sure your case is deep enough.

Overall, $43 well spent I say.

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