OCZ Agility Series 120GB SSD Review

ccokeman - 2010-01-14 00:13:09 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 4, 2010
Price: $309

Introduction:

Solid state drives (SSDs) are no longer what would be considered "new" technology, but rather a technology that continues to evolve. Just about everyone has heard the horror stories about the early non-Intel drives having stuttering problems and poor write performance due to the early Jmicron controllers. Fast forward to the present and you have a whole different situation. The introduction of the INDILINX controller changed the way SSDs perform. Sure you had massive speeds and almost nonexistent access times before, but now you also have a smoother running drive that ultimately makes for a better experience. OCZ has been on the front lines of this story and has done a great job educating the masses on its support forums about the ins and outs of the SSD. OCZ makes more than a few series of SSDs, which include the Vertex series for performance and enterprise users, the Agility series for mainstream users, and the Value series for a more economical entry point into the world of solid state drives.

The Agility series 120GB SATA II 2.5 inch form factor drive is based on MLC NAND flash technology and sports an impressive list of performance ratings, with read speeds of up to 230MB/s and write speeds of up to 135MB/s. Furthermore, it's a large enough drive to do double duty as a single drive in a system, as long as you don't go overboard with the amount of installed programs. However, if you do need more space, a 250GB drive is available. This drive comes with a MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) rating of 1.5 million hours, so in reality, there should be no issues with warranty for a failed drive, as the MTBF equals a whopping 171+ years. Let's see if the OCZ Agility delivers the goods and whether it can improve the computing experience.

Closer Look:

The front panel of the packaging for the Agility series 120GB drive shows a representation of the enclosed solid state drive. The front panel also lists some of the features of this drive, such as faster SATA II access times, lower power consumption, RAID support, and shock resistance - all features that make this drive ideal for a portable PC. The back panel lists the specifications of the Agility series drive - up to 230MB/s reads and 135MB/s writes, with sustained writes up to 80MB/s. Shock resistance and the MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) are impressive at 1500G (.5ms) and 1.5 million hours, respectively. I think it's meant to last a lifetime or two!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tucked neatly inside the box, the OCZ Agility is inside a flip-open package that is a block of dense foam to protect the drive while being transported. The Agility drive is also enclosed in an anti-static bag, protecting it from any accidental electro-static discharge. Accompanying the drive is the requisite installation manual / warranty info, just in case you have trouble installing the drive or need the services of OCZ to repair or replace your drive!

 

 

The OCZ Agility comes with an impressive list of features and performance numbers, so let's see just what makes this drive tick.


 

Closer Look:

The Agility series from OCZ are the mainstream drives in its extensive line up of solid state drives. These drives are offered in capacities ranging from 30GB all the way up to 250GB, so at that point, space is most likely not an issue. The drive specifications differ on the 30GB model, with read speeds of up to 185MB/s, writes of up to 100MB/s, and sustained writes of up to 60MB/s. While those speeds are not bad, the rest of the Agility lineup soars to reads of up to 230MB/s and writes of 135MB/s, with sustained writes of up to 80MB/s - a substantial increase over the smaller drive's abilities. The NAND flash memory for this drive is housed in a sturdy aluminum case and comes in a 2.5" form factor - perfect for use in both portable PCs, as well as desktops. The front of the Agility carries the same graphic as the packaging, while the back side lists the serial number and data on the proper disposal methods, as well as stating that it is ROHS compliant. To mount the drive, you can use either the threaded bosses on the side or bottom of the drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connecting the Agility 120GB drive to the system is as simple as installing a standard mechanical drive with connectivity in the form of SATA power and data connections. The 2-pin jumper can be used when updating the firmware on this drive. Many of Agility drives will not need to use the jumper, but based on the drive's internal components, you may have to use the jumper. When updating to the latest firmware for this drive, revision 1.5, I needed to use the jumper and easy-to-follow instructions for updating the firmware. The back of the drive is featureless.

 

 

Now it's time to start poking around on the inside of the Agility 120GB drive. You could do the same, but then there goes your 3 year warranty - so instead, I can look inside and spare you the time and trouble. When you open the Agility up, you can see the controller, 64MB cache, and the 8 NAND flash modules per side of the PCB that make up the 120GB of storage space.

 

 

This Agility drive from OCZ is equipped with the INDILINX "barefoot" controller - a much needed improvement over the earlier Jmicron based drives for increased small file write performance. Along side the controller is the ELPIDA 64MB cache, which, when combined with the barefoot controller, gives the end user a drive that does not stutter or provide a less than satisfactory experience. The NAND in this particular drive is supplied by Toshiba, although the NAND flash memory used in the drive will vary depending on availability. I have seen Samsung, Intel and now Toshiba in Agility series drives.

 

 

Let's see how well this drive from OCZ performs when compared to some of the other popular drives on the market.


 

Specifications:

Maximum Performance
Capacity
30GB
60GB
120GB
250GB
Read
Up to 185 MB/s
Up to 230 MB/s
Up to 230 MB/s
Up to 230 MB/s
Write
Up to 100 MB/s
Up to 135 MB/s
Up to 135 MB/s
Up to 135 MB/s
Sustained Write
Up to 60 MB/S
Up to 80 MB/S
Up to 80 MB/S
 

 

Features:

 

 

All information courtesy of OCZ @  http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/solid_state_drives/ocz_agility_series_sata_ii_2_5-ssd

Testing:

To test the drives, I started with an image of Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit SP2 with all the latest updates and patches and the testing software. Each drive was filled with data, then imaged to simulate a used drive. Testing is accomplished by using the test drive as the main drive containing the OS. This is done so that the testing is not just plugging in a raw drive and showing stellar numbers. That's not real life - you don't purchase a new drive to let it go unused. Write testing was completed before the drive was imaged. As many of you probably already know, solid state drives slow down as the pages in the flash memory are filled and must be rewritten to each time data is stored. This is the basis for loading the drives up first and then loading an image to the drive with Acronis True Image. Comparisons will include both SSDs and standard hard drives.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Modules:

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. HD Tune 3.50 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2009
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. PCMark Vantage

 

The benchmarks will give a broad picture as to how each of the drives performs, so you can make your conclusions based on the performance of each drive. Most benchmarks are not yet optimized for solid state drives, but included in the benchmark suite is a new benchmark designed for testing SSDs, AS SSD.

Testing:

HD Tune 3.50 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 3.50 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but more precise file benchmarks, and a random access benchmark as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benchmark:

 

 

 

File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

Random Access Benchmark:

 

 

 

The 120GB OCZ Agility series SSD does not have the highest overall read speeds in HD Tune and is not the fastest drive by comparison, but what it does deliver are huge write speeds above the 4k block size in the file benchmark. Access times are a little slower, but coming from a mechanical drive you have performance far above what a mechanical drive can give you. And really, 0.1ms is not something you will see or feel when it gets down to day to day usage.


 

Testing:

HD Tach v3.0.4.0: HD Tach is another hard drive benchmark utility, much like HD Tune. This benchmark will measure the average read speed, the random access time, and the amount of the CPU used during operation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP3: SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.

 

Physical Disks

 

 

In HD Tach, the OCZ Agility had the lowest average read and burst speed results out of the 128GB drives I have tested. However, it is still well ahead of the mechanical drives. The access times and CPU usage are comparable. The Sandra Physical Disk testing shows the OCZ Agility with the highest drive index performance with comparable access times.

Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 2.2: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds for the drives in 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the 4K testing, the OCZ Agility tested slower on the read speeds than all the SSDs, save the Cavalry 32GB drive. In the 4k write test, the results are closer to the top than the bottom. In the 512k testing, the read speeds are still a bit short of the other 128GB drives, while the write speeds are very close to the Mushkin Io series drive. In the sequential testing, the Agility finds its legs and is very competitive in the read test and delivers the highest write marks to date.

Testing:

Atto Disk Benchmark v2.34: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good, hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you look at the results in the read testing, the OCZ Agility delivers read speed numbers right at its design threshold of up to 230MB/s. The write testing shows it exceeding the specification of up to 130MB/s from the 128k block size and up.

Testing:

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark designed for the speeds of solid state drives, however it will also work for traditional hard drives as well. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds and access time for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write and overall performance of the drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this test, the strengths of the OCZ Agility are on the write side of the testing. The sequential writes are the highest in the comparison data, while the results in the rest of the write testing put its performance close to that of the rest of the 128GB drives.

Testing:

PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the hard drive test suite. The measurement for the hard drive suite will be the total score, then the scoring for each test will be broken down. There are a total of eight hard drive tests within PCMark Vantage and all eight will be run to gauge the performance of each drive tested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The OCZ Agility does not deliver the highest overall scores, but delivers results that are competitive throughout most of the testing.

Conclusion:

A couple of things have kept the SSD market from really taking off - price, capacity, and the early bad rap they had due to stuttering problems associated with drives equipped with the Jmicron controller. The Indilinx "Barefoot" controllers and 64MB of onboard cache seems to have solved that problem, and it shows with the OCZ Agility. Capacity is the second item tossed around as a strong deterrent to ownership. Capacities have been increasing all the way up to 1TB, with OCZ leading the way with the OCZ Colossus and Z drives. So capacity is something of a moot point at this time. A 120GB drive offers more than enough space for your operating system and more than a few programs and games. However, SSDs are still best used in a combination with a mechanical drive to get the best of both worlds (speed and storage space) because of the final point - the price. Price is one of the biggest obstacles to widespread use. The OCZ Agility can be had for as little as $309 after rebate ($349 without), making the pricing of this drive aggressive when compared to many of the drives available at your favorite e-tailors. Of course, the pricing goes up exponentially as drive capacity rises. So really, you have to look at what fits your performance budget - a couple of smaller drives or a larger single drive.

When it comes to performance, the OCZ Agility had some mixed results. Don't get me wrong, this drive is miles ahead of any mechanical drive on the market, but seemed to struggle in the lower file size testing when compared to the comparison SSDs. However, it did perform quite well in the larger file size testing and delivered some excellent performance numbers. In the ATTO testing, I saw write numbers well in excess of the 135MB/s rated speeds, while the read speeds were right on the money at 230MB/s - both excellent performance indicators. However, not everyone is looking for a drive that "benchmarks" well, but rather one that offers a tangible feel of being faster than a mechanical drive. This the OCZ Agility does in spades. Booting the computer was faster and loading games happens faster. Loading this drive into my HP 311 Mini gave the same benefits, as well as increased the battery life in comparison to the standard mechanical drive that was installed in it originally. Feel is everything and is something the average user can relate to rather than just a bunch of numbers. As the old saying goes, actions not words, prove the point. This Agility drive was shipped with the 1.4 firmware and currently there is an updated firmware available for all the Agility drives. Initially there was a problem updating this particular drive, but this has been resolved with a fix in OCZ's support forums. The OCZ Agility series drives offer performance far in excess of a mechanical drive, comes in capacities from 30 to 250GB, come with a 3-year warranty, Trim support, Low power usage, and outstanding customer support - all for a price that won't quite break the bank.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: