Monster Digital Le Mans 240 Gig: Taking the Test Drive
We have looked over a lot of SSDs over the last year or so and we continue to be impressed more every time we see one. SSD’s are one of the most transformative upgrades you can do to your PC. When in place an SSD changes every aspect of your computing experience by putting a snap into the system. Files open much faster and this translates into the whole computer just feeling faster.
When Monster Digital decided to get into the SSD market they had a problem, everyone was in the SSD market. So when you have a hot rod that is blazing fast with a smoking motor but the rest of the cards have similar motors how do you make yourself stand out? That was the issue they faced and Le Man’s is their answer.
The Le Man’s line of SSD makes use of the Sandforce 2281 controller, however by waiting until the controller had been out for a while Monster was able to get the most stable firmware right on release. To give themselves even more of an edge Monster cherry picked Toshiba toggle 2 NAND Flash chips to ensure only the best memory chips were used for the drives, achieving the highest possible performance and reliability. The wait was well worth it as the Le Man’s delivered the fasted benchmarks numbers of and SSD we have had in house topped our former champion by about 2% on average.
Not a bad start for a first SSD lineup but Monster released that even with these speed they needed a touch more so they pushed things over the top by adding accessories. Now to go back to our car analogy Monster did not just give us a fast sports car. This beats is equipped with Whale scrotum leather seats, mother of pearl shift handle and satellite radio with internet access.
To be specific they made the drive look a little different by forgoing a lot of colors and decals and instead did a simple silver finish. It might hold finger prints but it looks very sophisticated. It also comes with a matching SATA to USB adapter. This is not an enclosure but and small adopter piece that will fit on SSD’s, laptop drives or spindle drives.
Once you get past the packing foam you will find a bootable disk using Kamino Clone to make it easy for you to copy your existing HD to the SSD and then just swap to drives to enjoy SSD goodness. You will also find a small screw driver with interchangeable tips, a 2.5” to 3.5” bracket, mounting screws and the USB cable for the adapter. All of this is put into a nice heavy cardboard box that uses a flap design to open. The box is very high quality and has two magnets in the flap and two more in the side panel. All of this comes with a 5 year warranty, definitely a cut above the norm in the SSD world.
The drive we were sent is 240 gig and will carry a premium price, this will not be the cheapest date at the dance. However the feature rich package and out standing performance places this drive a cut above.
We did find a few things of note during our testing, bit none of it was with the drive performance. The screws that came with the kit are all torq screws, like that used in the Mac. Now personally I wish all PCs would move to these types of screws, they are much easier to work with and much harder to damage. However the simple truth is that the PC is built around the phillips head system and while this is a better solution it will cause an issue somewhere in the future.
The SATA to USB adapter is designed for USB3 and that is awesome, if you are already in windows. When using the kit for your upgrade this can cause some frustration. The adapted needs to be plugged into a USB 2.0 slot for the system transfer as the USB 3 ports will not have drivers loaded and the software cannot see the drive.
Speaking of the USB adapter, it has a place to attach an external power source. While the USB connection will provide enough power for an SSD and many laptop drives, it will not give the needed juice for a 3.5” spindle drive. We noticed that the power adapter was not included with the kit, nor was any way to order one or the information to pick up a generic adapter if you chose to do so.
We had a chance to talk with the people at Monster about these findings and they were very receptive. Based on our feedback I can tell you that the screws will be changed over to phillips, the quick setup sheet will include a notice about using the USB adapter in a USB 2.0 port for the data transfer and a section will be added with information to make it easy for you to get a power adapter to make the USB adapter even more versatile.
Now I have to admit I was already impressed with the Le Mans drive but talking to the company moved it up a notch. These people genuinely seem to care about making the user experience the best they possible can. During our discussion about the material mentioned above they took the time to explain the reasoning for each decision and then listened to our feedback with a very open mind. This attitude is something not seen often in this industry anymore and was a really welcome change of pace.
The Le Mans series comes in 80, 120, 240 and 400 gig sizes. All of the drives have the same bundle and will be premium priced for their size.
You know for a lot of people an SSD is an SSD. The truth is even the slower drives make a huge difference over a spindle drive. However when you are building that system for yourself sometimes you do not want good enough, sometimes you want something more, something a step above.With performance measuring the fastest we have seen to date, a 5 year warranty, a solid accessory package and a flashy finish the Le Mans is definitely a step above.
Sure the Mustang can give you a great sports card but sometimes you want more and go for the Porsche. The Le Man’s is aptly named, great speed and a lot of style.
Review of the Le Mans 240 Gig SSD as aired live 21 April 2012