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Review: PNY Prevail Elite (240GB)

by Tarinder Sandhu on 15 March 2013, 16:00 3.5

Tags: PNY

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Industry-leading reliability?

We believe that solid-state drives (SSDs) are, without doubt, the best upgrade that you can make to a modern system. And the attractive pricing means that most can afford an SSD as a boot drive for the operating system. The problem that many consumers now face is in differentiating between quality drives, as the internal speed of premium SSDs is able to saturate the SATA 6Gbps interface present on motherboards. We'll only see genuine performance differentiation once premium drives move on over to a faster PCIe interface, most likely starting later this later.

Perhaps, for now, SSD-makers need to look at other criteria than speed as the main selling point. PNY manufactures SSDs on behalf of HP and also retails two sets of consumer (XLR8) and enthusiast/enterprise (Prevail) drives. With reference to looking at something other than pure speed, we're taking in the range-topping Prevail Elite today.

Best of the best?

PNY Prevail Elite Specification

SandForce SF-2281
IMFT 25nm
SATA 6Gbps
Sequential Read Speed
Up to 550 MB/s
Up to 550 MB/s
Up to 550 MB/s
Sequential Write Speed
Up to 515 MB/s
Up to 520 MB/s
Up to 520 MB/s
Random Read Speed
Up to 85,000
Random Write Speed
Up to 85,000
Active Power Consumption
5W (max)
Performance Optimisations
P/E cycles
5 Years
UK Retail Price

PNY uses a familiar formula for constructing the Prevail Elite line. Presented in 120GB, 240GB and 480GB capacities that all connect to the system via a SATA 6Gbps interface, SandForce's SF-2281 controller is married to NAND chips from IMFT. Having seen more than our fair share of SandForce-powered SSDs pass through the labs, the potential 550/520MB/s sequential read/write and 85,000 random 4K IOPS is standard fare.

The question, then, is what makes these 'enterprise' drives tick, as the consumer XLR8 Pro range also uses the SF-2281 controller? The answer has to do with the enhanced Program/Erase (P/E) cycles and warranty for the Prevail Elite. Let's explain some more.

All about P/E

Better NAND has a P/E of 3,000 cycles and premium NAND, as used here, a P/E of 10,000 cycles. A high P/E rating ensures the SSD is primed for heavy read/writes on a regular basis.

An SSD's P/E rating approximately defines the number of times a memory cell can be written and erased before its lifespan is negatively impacted, and SSDs use intelligent wear-levelling algorithms to not overuse one particular area of the NAND. The cheapest memory, usually known as triple-level cell (TLC) has a P/E rating of 1,000 cycles. This means that, on average, available cells can be written to 1,000 times before problems should manifest themselves. Better NAND has a P/E of 3,000 cycles and premium NAND, as used here, a P/E of 10,000 cycles. A high P/E rating ensures the SSD is primed for heavy read/writes on a regular basis.

But let's not get carried away with myopic focus on the P/E. As an example, a 240GB SSD with a low-ish rating of 1,000 cycles, half-full, should, ceteris paribus, last over 10 years if as much as 30GB of data is written every single day. A P/E of 10,000 cycles, therefore, intimates super-resilient NAND that's ideal when writing 100GBs per day. PNY sensibly leaves reasonable room for over-provisioning on these SSDs, which keeps some user-hidden capacity in reserve for instances when the drive is almost full and spare memory cells are in short supply - you don't want to be writing to comparatively few cells regularly.

Having a high P/E rating enables PNY to push the warranty out from a standard three years to five years on the Prevail Elite. Focussing on meeting the needs of users who need reliability in the face of extremely heavy reads/writes, there are no consumer goodies in the box - imaging software and a 2.5-to-3.5in bracket are conspicuous by their absence.

A 240GB Prevail Elite is currently available for around £180, and this pricing puts it up against some high-quality competition such as the OCZ Vector, Samsung 840 PRO, and Plextor M5 Pro. All comparison drives ship with a matching five-year warranty, too.