Mushkin Callisto 120GB SSD Review

Back in early May of this year, Mushkin Enhanced released a new line of SSD named "Callisto" after one of Jupiter's moons, to go along with their earlier IO series.

The following review is from
May 24, 2010

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Mushkin has been a very well known and respected brand in the high end memory market for years. However, memory is not the only segment of the market where Mushkin products can be found, as it also manufactures power supplies, flash memory and, most recently, SSDs. Mushkin's entrance to the SSD market came in the form of the consumer based Io drives. These drives use the the INDILINX "Barefoot" controller and can be found in capacities of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. SSD technology has been changing at a rapid rate though, and in the few short months since we first took a look at the Mushkin Io SSD, Mushkin is now releasing a new line called "Callisto".

Like the Io series, the Callisto is a consumer grade SSD, which is currently available in 60GB, 120GB and 240GB capacities. However, instead of using the INDILINX controller, the Callisto uses the new SF-1200 controller from SandForce. The use of this new controller adds Mushkin to a growing list of manufacturers that are releasing drives that utilize the SandForce controller. And for good reason - this controller is capable of write speeds of up to 285MB/sec and reads of up to 275MB/sec, and unlike other SSD controllers, the SF-1200 is not reliant on the use of additional DRAM cache to prevent the stutter problems that were prevalent with older SSDs. The SF-1200 instead relies on a technology called "DuraWrite", which uses a real-time compression method, as well as a small amount of internal cache, to eliminate the need for large amounts of DRAM to be used as cache. However, this technology, along with Wear Leveling and SandForces data protecting RAISE technology, requires a large amount of NAND Flash memory to be set aside. This in turn will reduce the strorage area of a 128GB SSD to that of just a 100GB capacity. Setting aside such as large amount of memory would be necessary for enterprise devices, where a high degree of data protection is essential.

In the consumer market though, the cost to GB ratio is a factor that weighs heavy with those that are in the market for a new SSD. The way Mushkin has addressed this is by releasing the Callisto with the 3.0.9 firmware, instead of the standard 3.0.5. This firmware reduces the over-provisioning of the drive from that necessary for enterprise grade products to that of a much lower level. This means that only 8GB, not 28GB, will be set aside for controller functions. This will enhance the cost to storage ratio, adding value to the drive in the consumer market. Also, since this is done via the firmware, and not by adding any additional flash memory to PCB, there is no added cost to the consumer, essentially increasing the storage capacity by 20% with no price increase!


Muskin's decision to use the SandForce SF-1200 controller in its new SSD line has really turned out to be a good call. With this controller, you will not only get a drive that is capable of 285MB/sec read and 275MB/sec write speeds, but one that gives some of the best small write performance available for a consumer-based SSD. This allowed the Callisto drive to stay on par with, or ahead of, the INDILINX Barefoot controller throughout the read performance test, but it also allowed the Callisto to absolutely dominate the other drives when it came to write performance. The write performance will lead to real-life performance increases and is definitely a strong selling point for SandForce-based drives. However, the Callisto also comes with an added bonus that helps set it apart from the majority of other drives that use the same controller - a 20% capacity increase.

The reason for this capacity increase is that most SF-1200 drives use a firmware version that sets aside a large amount of Flash memory to be used for Wear-Leveling, DuraWrite and RAISE technologies. All of these are very important when it comes to longevity and data protection, but the 28GB standard was developed for both enterprise and consumer grade devices. We all know that an average consumer's needs are not going to match the requirement needs of an enterprise-based product, so it only makes sense that the 28GB could be lowered to a more consumer-friendly level. In the end, the amount of memory set aside was reduced to 8GB, effectively changing the drive from a 100GB model to a 120GB model - at no additional cost! This not only frees up more storage area, but also helps eliminate one of the main complaints leveled toward SandForce-based drives - that you pay the same price or more than that of SSDs using alternative controllers and yet receive less storage capacity. So, with Mushkin increasing the capacity of the drive without passing the cost to the consumer, the Callisto ends up in a much more competitive price range.

The fact that drives using the relatively new SandForce controllers can match and even exceed the performance of controllers that have been around for some time is very impressive. And with the controller being new, we can mostly likely expect future firmware releases that improve upon the performance even further. Changes to the firmware would require a utility of some kind from Mushkin though, and as of this review, the company has yet to release such a program. The Callisto drives can be found in either 60GB, 120GB and 240GB capacities, which thanks to the SandForce controller, all have the same amazing level of performance. The only real downside with the Callisto drive is that the firmware caps the 4K random writes at 10,000 IOPS. Even with this limitation though, the small write performance was still amazing when compared to the drives we had available for our side-by-side testing. Overall, the Mushkin Callisto paired with the SF-1200 controller is one of the fasted SSDs that I have tested to date.

  • Strong Overall performance
  • Very strong small write performance
  • 20% extra capacity (compared to other SandForce-based SSDs)
  • 2.5" to 3.5" adapter
  • TRIM support
  • Price per GB better than most SandForce-based drives

  • 4K random writes capped at 10,000 IOPS
This unit received the OCC Gold Award!

To read the rest of the review, go HERE

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