Impact of Idle Garbage Collection
The other option that Indilinx provides its users to improve used performance is something called idle or background garbage collection. The idea is that without any effort on your or the OS’ part your drive, while idle, will defragment itself.
The feature was actually first introduced by Samsung for its RBB based drives, but I’ll get to the issues with Samsung’s drives momentarily.
It either works by looking at the data on the drive and organizing it into a less fragmented state, or by looking at the file system on the drive and attempting to TRIM based on what it finds. Both Indilinx and Samsung have attempted to implement this sort of idle garbage collection and it appears they do it in different ways. While the end result is the same, how they get there determines the usefulness of this feature.
In the first scenario, this is not simply TRIMing the contents of the drive, the drive doesn’t know what to TRIM; it must still keep track of all data. Instead, the drive is re-organizing its data to maximize performance.
The second scenario requires a compatible file system (allegedly NTFS for the Samsung drives) and then the data is actually TRIMed as it would be with the TRIM instruction.
Details are slim, but the idle garbage collection does work in improving performance:
PCMark Vantage HDD Score New "Used" After TRIM/Idle GC % of New Perf
Corsair P256 (Samsung MLC) 26607 18786 24317 91%
Presumably this isn’t without some impact to battery life in a notebook. Furthermore, it’s impossible to tell what impact this has on the lifespan of the drive. If a drive is simply reorganizing data on the fly into a better (higher performing) state, that’s a lot of reads and writes when you’re doing nothing at all. And unfortunately, there’s no way to switch it off.
While Indilinx is following in Samsung's footsteps with enabling idle garbage collection, I believe it's a mistake. Personally, real TRIM support (or at least the wiper tool) is the way to go and it sounds like we’ll be getting it for most if not all of these SSDs in the next couple of months. Idle garbage collection worries me.