Silicon Power E20 128GB SSD full review

The Silicon Power E20 SSD series comes as quite a breath of fresh air. SSD storage is hot in the enthusiast segmen, and here's a new 128GB SSD from Silicon Power that balances price, performance and capacity.

Compared to normal hard disk drives, this SSD offers great read/write speed and great data access time. If the rest of your PC is configured well, this drive will pole-vault system speed and responsiveness by a big margin. It looks exactly like the (by-now) standard followed by SSDs, except for a colourful label affixed on top (as seen from the image above). The rest of the body is matte textured and black.

Silicon Power E20: Specifications

It looks like a standard laptop HDD, with a 2.5-inch form factor and the SATA-2 interface. Power consumption though, is orders of magnitude lower than spinning magnetic hard drives - when active and when idle, meaning some improvement in battery life on laptops. As with all current SSDs, the Silicon Power E20 128GB drive supports NCQ operation (for better speed), Wear-Leveling (for longer lifespan), and the TRIM command (to keep the SSD write speed fast). It uses MLC NAND flash, can withstand light shocks, barely gets warm in operation, and is silent.

The newer Silicon Power V20 SSDs tout their use of a SandForce controller, which would mean the E20 series d oes not use a SandForce controller on the drive side. Interestingly, the E20 128GB claims a built-in DDR2 DRAM cache memory, though I could not find out just how many MegaBytes the cache is. Silicon Power offers a three-year warranty on this product.

The Silicon Power E20 128GB SSD (model SP128GBSSDE20S25) provides 119.2 GB of usable space, after formatting. This data capacity is more than sufficient for an install of Windows 7 (OS), MS Office, Adobe CS5 and still leave space for multiple large games, a pagefile, and buffer drive space. With this much capacity, it is realistically conceivable that a laptop, or a desktop PC user could use it as the only drive in their computer. Compare this against lower capacity drives that could only be used as a "boot drive" for the OS and programs, forcing the user to have a large-capacity normal hard disk to accompany the SSD and fulfil storage requirements. You may still want a second drive (normal HDD) as the storage ground for data that would not benefit from the speed (movies, music, application installation files, downloads, etc) even with the E20 128GB, but the increased SSD capacity makes for a vast difference.

See also: Group test: what's the best SSD?

Silicon Power E20 Performance: Benchmark Tests

Tested in the Labs.

We run synthetic benchmarks and real world tests using the fastest PC components at hand, to remove most bottlenecks that hold back performance. The test-bed consisted of an Intel Core i7 965 processor, Intel DX58SO motherboard, AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, Intel X25-M 80GB solid-state drive, WD VelociRaptor 300GB, 12 GB of Silicon Power DDR3 RAM, Tagan BZ-1300W PSU and Windows 7 SP1 Ultimate. We used the latest signed drivers available at the time of testing. A RAMdisk drive was used for real-world file transfer tests.

Notably, I found the SATA ports of the Intel chipset providing a massive speed benefit, compared to Marvell or JMicron ports. So keep this in mind during purchase. The Intel SATA controller and the other two controllers supported 3Gb/s; they all turned in similar results when testing normal HDDs, but the controller made a huge difference with the E20 SSD. Only results of tests run on the Intel SATA ports (ICH10) are shown below.

In summary, a speed of approximately 200 MB/s was seen in both read and write operations. This is very good indeed, considering that it does not use a Sand Force controller. Being a solid-state drive with flash-memory, results were consistent across the drive, without dips in the speed graph. Click on the "Performance" tab of this review to directly view the performance details in tabulated form. In making sense of these numbers, remember higher read/write speed is to be interpreted as good, and lower access time is good.

For synthetic tests, we used a number of benchmarks. As each application has its own methods, and speeds were obtained across time gaps, you'll find tests diverging in the numbers they threw up. Note that each benchmark was run at least 5 times, and the images here are only a representation of one of these runs. For full details that allow you to draw your own opinions upon its performance, shown below are screenshots of some of the benchmarks run upon the E20.

Disk Benchmark: Read Test Suite, from AIDA64 (formerly known as Everest).

Read and Write graphs, from HD Tune Pro.

Read and Write, HD Tach RW.

Read and Write, Crystal DiskMark. Also shown is an SSDlife report.

Silicon Power E20 Performance: Real-world Tests

Real world write speed while copying a single large file of 6.42 GB onto the SSD stood at 198 MB/s. Copying multiple smaller files (800 files totaling up to 6.36 GB) onto the SSD was far slower as is normal, at 100.7 MB/s. Copying multiple small files from one partition to another (intra-disk file transfer speed), was at 52.9 MB/s. Now on to the reverse process, to quantify the read speed. Copying large and small files from this SSD onto our reference RAM drive (which is virtual but simulates a hard drive) was quick as it could be. The SSD supplied data at 217.1 MB/s which is not only very close to the potential shown in the synthetic benchmarks, but also means great real-world read speed.

No particularly remarkable "stutter" was seen at 4KB file size. Compared to a standard hard drive, we found that the Windows boot/reboot, application and game startup times improved drastically - graphs were not included since this varied a lot even when the hardware was unchanged.

That an SSD can improve system performance is established knowledge; see PC World India's comparison of SSD versus HDD to see proof of the difference in numbers. With this drive, sequential write speeds are much faster than a normal spinning/magnetic HDD, though the HDD can turn in better write speeds while writing multiple small file-sizes and while transferring data between partitions on the same drive. However, over 90 per cent of normal daily PC usage involves disk reads, so the fast read speed and low access time means an SSD will "feel" faster than a HDD in the real world.

NEXT PAGE: our expert verdict

Group test: what's the best portable hard drive?


Silicon Power E20 128GB SSD: Specs

  • Internal SSD hard drive
  • 2.5in form factor
  • DDR2 DRAM Cache memory implementation
  • 1.4kg