Galax Gamer 120GB SSD Review

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To everyone that may be scratching their heads on the title, that is NOT a typo. Today we bring you a new SSD on the market from Galax, you know, formerly Galaxy, the maker of the infamous high end NVIDIA H.O.F. cards we all love so much?! Galax has teamed up with JMicron to bring you an SSD made for gaming primarily. While this data isn’t particularly special in how it needs to be handled, what we don’t need on a drive like this is blazing write speeds as once things get installed, its usually there. And even the slowest of the SSDs are still way faster than a HDD by leaps and bounds. Let’s see what the Galax Gamer 120GB SSD has to offer us, shall we?

Specifications and Features

Below is a list of specifications sourced from the Galax website for this drive. Out of the gate, we have the 120GB drive (111.79GiB), using the SATA III 6Gb/s interface, which is also backward compatible with SATA II. The Gamer SSD uses MLC NAND which is controlled by JMicron’s new controller dubbed Heracles.

Speeds on the drive can get up to 540/480 MB/s for sequential reads and writes, and up to 80K/70K IOPS using 4K random reads/writes. Not too shabby there! The thing here is the MTBF coming in at an astonishing 2,000,000 hours. That is a lot of time on the drive, no doubt! I couldn’t find any values on total writes per day however.

Galax Gamer 120GB SSD Specifications
Capacity/Actual Capacity 120GB/111.79GiB
Interface SATA III 6Gb/s (backward compatible with SATA II)
Controller Galaxy Heracles
Flash MLC NAND Flash
Form Factor 2.5 Inch
Dimensions 100mm x 69.85mm x 6.90mm
MTBF 2,000,000 hrs
Sequential Read/Write Speed (6Gb/s) 540/480 MB/s
Max random 4K Read/Write 80,000/75,000 IOPS

Digging in a little deeper, there are some major features on this drive that Galax would like to share below. Items of note are again the Heracles SATA III controller that was developed with JMicron, and the SLC Cache Auto-Release functionality that helps maintain full write speed over long file transfers and reduces/eliminates performance drops found in other SSDs. Award winning energy efficiency (3.3W peak, .7W average), particularly in idle (.3W), is a great thing to have, even if these sip on power in the first place. As with most SSDs of today, it supports ECC checking for secure data, TRIM, SMART, and Garbage Collection to help keep the drive in tip top shape! And if for some reason the drive borks during its warranty period (3 years, note), you have Galax’s “world class support” standing behind the drive.

Features:
  • Advanced Heracles SATA III controller developed in collaboration with JMicron Technology
  • SLC Cache Auto-Release maintains full write speed over long file transfers and extended use, eliminating performance drops prevalent in other SSDs
  • Large files transfer up to 400% faster vs. traditional HDDs
  • Lightning fast random read speed allows near-instant system startup and vastly reduced game load times
  • Pure silent operation with zero decibel noise output
  • MTBF rating of 2 million hours with 1500G shock resistance—over 3X the life expectancy and 9X the durability vs. traditional hard drives
  • Safe from the effects of magnetism
  • Award winning energy efficiency with among the lowest power consumption of any SSD in its class
  • Enterprise standard high temperature burn-in process
  • Supports TRIM, SMART and garbage collection

Packaging/Product Tour

Retail packaging has what I like to call the Galax grey theme with the silhouette of what looks like the sidekick from Gas Monkey Garage, Aaron Kaufman (it’s a show on the Discovery Channel for those that may not know). Being serious, it is a man with a pretty long beard there! Anyway, it shows the capacity and form factor on the front and, the back it shows more drive information and specifications. And when we open it up, we are greeted with the SSD sitting securely in a plastic tray along with its only accessory, a SATA cable.

Retail Packaging - Front

Retail Packaging – Front

Back

Back

What's inside

What’s Inside

The looks of the drive itself, like any SSD, doesn’t really havet much to get excited about, particularly a plain black one with a brushed aluminum finish. There is the word “Gamer” in the Galax font near the bottom right that breaks up the monotony of the black drive. But again, its an SSD, its not exactly something I want to be ‘blingy’ in the first place, ya know?

Flipping the drive over shows more high-level specs, and the serial number. We throw the drive on our invisible Lazy Susan again and spin it around for the next couple of pictures. Bazinga! Last but not least is just a different angle of the drive, but this time focusing a bit more on the SATA power and data ports.

I just do not have good luck. There will not be any pictures of the internals of the drive out of the gate. This one looks like I need to pry it open as there are not any screws or anything there that I can get a hold of in order to split the chassis apart. But I am not taking any chances.

Galax Gamer SSD - Front

Galax Gamer SSD – Front

Back

Back

Alt 1

Alt 1

Alt 2

Alt 2

It's SATA

It’s SATA

Software

This will be a short section as there isn’t any that comes with it! Not a huge loss considering its intended use is for gaming. That said, a data migration utility or something would be a great value add regardless of its intended use.

Testing and Benchmarks

Test System

Here is the breakdown of the components used in our test bed.

Test System Components
Motherboard ASRock Z97m OC Formula
CPU Intel i7 4790K Devil’s Canyon
Memory Kingston Hyper X Predator 2666MHz CL 15 @ 1866 9-9-9-24
SSD OCZ Agility 3 (OS)
Power Supply Seasonic 1000P
Video Card MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G

SSD’s Used in Testing: Samsung 850 Pro, Samsung 850 EVO, OCZ Vertex 460, Samsung 840 EVO, Samsung 840 Pro, and Patriot Ignite.

Test Method

Each SSD is Secure Erased (SE) by formatting the drive after each benchmark to make sure we get the best results possible. We do this before each and every test run to give the comparison samples the best environment possible for testing. Below are the tests we run with a brief description.

  • Crystal Disk Mark – Run at Default Settings (5 Pass)
  • AS SSD – Run at Default Settings
  • ATTO – Run at Default Setting with QD Set to 10
  • IoMeter 2010 – Ran Manually with QD32 for the 4K Tests

Performance

Our first test is from Crystal Disk Mark. One thing that you will see here is a reoccurring theme that this drive will likely not lead the pack. It’s quite frankly not meant to either. It is, for all intents and purposes a storage drive, bang for your buck drive if you will. Disclaimers aside, we see that the Gamer 120GB runs slightly behind all the other higher end drives here except for a last generation Vertex 460 (a performance oriented drive mind you), which it keeps pace with in the sequential and 512K benchmarks. When it hits 4K, it ends up beating the Vertex 460.

On the read side of things, it looks a lot better. It threw up numbers competing with and beating many in the round up, particularly with sequential reads and 512K. 4K reads and 4K QD32 reads are middle of the pack or so.

CrystalDiskMark - Read

CrystalDiskMark – Read

Writes

Writes

Moving on to AS SSD, the sequential reads are right up there, while the 4K reads are just beating the Vertex 460 again. While in the last test, 4K -64Thrd, it is bringing up the rear. On the writes side of the house, there is nothing terribly positive to report here with the Galax drive trailing in all tests here.

AS SSD - Reads

AS SSD – Reads

 

Writes

Writes

As far as access times go… middle of the pack for all intents and purposes. And the overall score comes in last against all the drives as it posted up a 980 mark. Again, this isn’t meant for blazing speeds, just for capacity. It clearly isn’t a slouch though!

Access Times

Access Times

 

Overall Scores

Overall Scores

Moving on to IOMeter, we will first look at IOPS. Here with 2MB writes, the Gamer 120GB had 246.xx which puts this in the middle to upper tier of drives. While the reads, though very close with the other drives, came second to last again beating the Vertex 460. In 4K IOPS, it was well behind in writes, hitting nearly 70K, and in reads it was middle/bottom of the pack.

When looking at the raw MB from IOMeter, it showed writes being up there above 500MB competing with other, faster drives, while barely bringing up the rear in reads, but still very close. In the 4K arena, 362MB writes was 5th of 6, but all drives were very close here. And last but not least, 4K reads where the drive was middle of the pack again.

IOMeter - 2MB/4K Reads and Writes

IOMeter – 2MB/4K Reads and Writes

 

2MB IOPS

2MB IOPS

4K IOPS

4K IOPS

Last up is ATTO. Here is where the manufacturers get their specifications from and we can see here it beats that specification of 540MB by reaching 546MB reads. Ramping up to that value was pretty slow and lagged behind the other drives but the peak was pretty close. Moving on to writes, here it did NOT reach the advertised speeds of 480MB for whatever reason. We managed to hit 460MB at peak. Again with writes, it ramped up and peaked a bit slower.

I am not sure why it didn’t hit those speeds here, but in similar tests, like in IOMeter, it did surpass or come close. I am wondering if it is because of the type of data in those tests (compressible vs uncompressible).

ATTO - Reads

ATTO – Reads

 

Writes

Writes

Conclusion

Well, there we have it folks, a new SSD from Galax has hit the ‘store’ shelves! We can see that performance isn’t up there with the big dogs, but that was never the intent of such a drive. It is a drive for storage, for laptops, for gaming. Blazing writes are not the main draw here, reads are, and in that realm it performed admirably. Not great, admirably. If you keep in mind the context of a gaming drive, admirable is plenty to get your games loaded up quickly, that is for sure.

Galax and JMicron worked hard to bring forward the new Heracles controller to support the MLC NAND under the hood and it seems to do a fair job. One area of note where it seemed to do particularly well in some testing was the sustained writes. That SLC Cache Auto-Release does seem to make a difference. The premise of steady wins the race (its not slow, just slower than other performance oriented drives we tested) really holds true here.

So what is the price? A very nice and low $59.99 at the Galax webstore. That compares to Samsung 850 Pro (128GB) at $95.99, the 850 Evo (128GB) at $72.95, and the Patriot ignite (480GB) at $190. About the only thing out there cheaper are some older Mushkin drives, and a much slower San Disk offering. So, at a quick glance the price seems to be pretty good overall. The larger 240GB drive is $104.99 at the website if you are looking for more space. Overall, if a simple storage drive is what you need and bleeding edge speed isn’t a requirement, go grab yourself one of these Galax SSDs. The price is right and the performance for its price is spot on.

Click me to see what I mean!

Click me to see what I mean!

– Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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Discussion
  1. Can we please stop this frivolous-lawsuit-bait? It's 120 GB. The disk properties in Windows will even say a capacity of 120,000,000,000 + a few spare bytes. If you must point out the lower number (which is always going to be the exact same ratio regardless of drive), use the specific (GiB) unit to differentiate.
    Robert17
    Thanks Joe. The roll out of this drive makes me think 'signal sent' in that there will be continuing downward pricing pressure for SATA SSDs; toss in the advent of m.2 and PCIe SSDs and I'm wondering if SATA SSDs won't come for free with the purchase of a box of cereal in my lifetime.:cool:


    I'm actually surprised more OEMs aren't making more low end prebuilts with 120-240GB solo SSDs and instead, opting for slower 500GB-1TB mechanical drives (slower in this case as in I doubt that $400 Acer on the shelf has a WD Black). Customers who just want a basic web surfing/word processing machine would like the speed increase and places like BB would love being able to charge $75 to install that HDD for those who need space, it's a win-win :D
    Thanks Joe. The roll out of this drive makes me think 'signal sent' in that there will be continuing downward pricing pressure for SATA SSDs; toss in the advent of m.2 and PCIe SSDs and I'm wondering if SATA SSDs won't come for free with the purchase of a box of cereal in my lifetime.:cool: