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HD Tune
We'll kick things off with HD Tune, which replaces HD Tach as our synthetic benchmark of choice. Although not necessarily representative of real-world workloads, HD Tune's targeted tests give us a glimpse of each drive's raw capabilities. From there, we can explore which drives live up to their potential.

Of the new SSDs, all but the Plextor are within reach of 200MB/s in HD Tune's sustained read speed test. The SiliconEdge Blue's read speed regularly dips below that of the SSDNow, but it just manages a higher overall average.

The Nova V128 leads our collection of new contenders and just about catches the X25-M in this test. Unfortunately, the Plextor just isn't in the same league. The PX-128M1S's average read speed is a whopping 60MB/s slower than the closest contender, putting the drive closer to the latest VelociRaptor than to the other SSDs.

Writes prove even more problematic for the Plextor drive, which only averages 52MB/s. Not only is that slower than all of the mechanical drives, but the PX-128M1S writes at roughly half the speed of the X25-M, which already has substantially slower write speeds than the other SSDs.

Despite the fact that it has the highest write-speed rating of the bunch, the Nova V128 must settle for third place behind the SiliconEdge Blue and SSDNow V+. Those drives maintain more consistent write performance across their entire capacity, while the Nova's write speeds oscillate between extreme highs and lows in a sawtooth-like pattern that's nicely illustrated in the line graph.

Next up: some burst-rate tests that should test the cache speed of each drive.

The Nova takes this one easily, but I have some reservations about the test. We've seen the X25-M G2 produce much faster burst speeds in HD Tach on another test platform. Installing Intel's latest AHCI drivers didn't alter the X25-M's performance here, so the Microsoft drivers aren't at fault. I suspect something about the test itself is creating problems for the Intel, Plextor, and Western Digital drives, so I wouldn't put too much stock into their poor performances here.

Our HD Tune tests conclude with a look at random access times, which the app separates into 512-byte, 4KB, 64KB, and 1MB transfer sizes.

None of the new SSDs can match the X25-M's random read access times. The Intel drive is quicker with every transfer size, including the 1MB test that propels all the SSDs' access times nearly into mechanical territory.

The rest of the solid-state drives offer similar performance, with the 1MB transfer size separating the field the most. At that transfer size, the SiliconEdge Blue edges out the Nova for second place.

Intel maintains its lead when we switch to random writes, but only through the first three transfer sizes. The X25-M is slower at the 1MB transfer size than the Corsair and WD offerings.

The 1MB transfer size really spreads the SSDs out, and the Plextor drive turns in a much slower access time than the rest. I'm more interested in the results with the 4KB transfer size, though. Bucking convention, the WD and Kingston drives are both quicker at writing random 4KB chunks than they are with smaller 512-byte writes.