OCZ Agility 4 256GB Review

ccokeman - 2012-08-06 17:02:42 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: August 27, 2012
Price: $189

Introduction:

History has shown that the solid state drive has had a profound impact on the end user. Drastically reduced access times and much faster read/write throughput have been benefits to users willing to make that jump from a traditional spindle drive to a NAND-based solution. OCZ has led the way through several iterations of it popular Vertex and Agility lineup, with the former the high end offering and the Agility targeted at the mainstream. Version four for each drive maintains this status quo with the Agility 4 targeted for use by the mainstream user. As such OCZ has targeted both of the impediments to SSD adoption in both capacity and cost. Priced at $189, the Agility 4 256GB delivers capacity and a price per GB of less than 75 cents. Not bad at all when you look at just strictly the price point. Having already looked at several drives based on OCZ's own Indilinx Everest 2 controller, including the OCZ Vertex 4 and OCZ Octane, it has been shown that OCZ's acquisition of Indilinx has paid dividends.

The feature set of the Everest 2 platform include a SATA 6Gb/s interface, advanced ECC engine, superior NAND flexibility for use with 2Xnm Asynchronous Multi-Level Cell NAND from different suppliers, a three-year warranty, NDurance 2.0 technology featuring Reduced Write Amplification without Compression, Advanced Multi-Level ECC, Adaptive NAND Flash Management, TRIM support, Static and Dynamic wear leveling, and Redundant NAND Array™ (RNA) Technology. The Agility 4 comes in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities, with pricing ranging from $85 to $379 depending on the capacity. Performance wise the OCZ Agility 4 is rated to deliver sequential read speeds of up to 420MB/s with sequential writes of up to 410MB/s and random 4K read/writes of 48,000/85,000 IOPS on the 256GB drive I will be looking at today. If the Agility 4 delivers on these marks it should prove to offer another drive in OCZ's product stack that hits the mark on price and performance. Let's see what it has to offer.

Closer Look:

The packaging for the Agility 4 is purely no frills mainstream. Packed in a plastic clamshell enclosure, the Agility 4 can be viewed easily on store shelves. OCZ has put the capacity in the lower left corner of the product sheet with the 'Indilinx Infused' logo at the top right. The back side of the package illustrates additional features of the drive including the use of MLC flash memory, Indilinx Ndurance technology, TRIM support, and that the Agility 4 uses the SATA 6Gbps interface. Aside from the features OCZ has a short introduction to the Agility 4 drive and why it is better than spindle-based drive. Inside the clamshell is a product installation guide with warranty information and a sticker that can proclaim your use of an OCZ SSD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OCZ's Agility 4 drive is built within the confines of the industry standard 2.5" form factor allowing for usage scenarios including notebook and desktop applications. Instead of using a casing made from aluminum and steel or just steel, the two piece design is made from plastic to house the PCB and a steel shell to provide stability and use as a thermal conductor to carry away the heat from the Everest 2 controller. Much like the Vertex 4, the Agility 4 is built around the OCZ/Indilinx Everest 2 controller and is available in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. Drive mounting locations are standard for the 2.5" form factor. The casing is held together with four screws instead of clips. OCZ installs a tamper seal on just one of the screws to validate the warranty and provide proof of tampering. OCZ's Agility 4 uses a SATA III or 6Gb/s interface and is backwards compatible for usage in earlier systems, however the drive performance will be reduced to the limits imposed by earlier interfaces. Once inside the drive housing, the OCZ-built PCB is a snug fit. A large, thick thermal pad is used to allow the heat generated by the Everest 2 controller to flow to the steel half of the drive housing.

 

 

 

Built around the Everest 2 platform controller, OCZ's Agility 4 is equipped with an Indilinx IDX400M00-BC 8 channel NAND controller. Much like the Vertex 4, the Agility 4 uses 16GB 25nm OCZ-branded Micron Synchronous Multi-Level Cell NAND modules to make up the 256GB capacity on this drive. Wrapped around the controller in a circular pattern on the OCZ-branded PCB are eight NAND modules per each side of the PCB. Located between the Indilinx IDX400M00-BC controller and the 6Gbps interface is a Hynix 512MB DDR3 module; another populates the opposite side of the PCB for a total of a 1GB worth of DRAM cache. Equipped with the latest firmware, the Agility 4 is rated to deliver sequential read speeds of up to 420MB/s and sequential writes of up to 410MB/s, along with up to 85,000 Random 4K Write IOPS.

 

 

 

Packed full of all the tools put into the Octane and Vertex 4, the Indilinx Infused Agility 4 should offer a good mix of performance to go along with the low cost per GB.

Specifications:

Performance
256GB
Sequential Reads
420 MB/s
Sequential Writes
410 MB/s
Random 4k Read IOPS
48,000 IOPS
Random 4k Write IOPS
85,000 IOPS       
Maximum IOPS
85,000 IOPS
Physical
Usable Capacities (IDEMA)
64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
NAND Components
2Xnm Synchronous Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
Interface
SATA III / 6Gbps (backwards compatible with SATA II / 3Gbps)
Form Factor
2.5 Inch
NAND Controller
Indilinx Everest 2
DRAM Cache
Up to 1GB
Dimensions (L x W x H)
99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3 mm
Reliability/Protection
MTBF
2 million hours
Data Path Protection
ECC corrects up to 78 random bits/1KB
Data Encryption
256-bit AES-compliant, ATA Security Mode Features
Product Health Monitoring
Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) Support
Environmental
Power Consumption
Idle: 1.3 W    Active: 2.5 W
Operating Temperature
0°C ~ 70°C
Ambient Temperature
0°C ~ 55°C
Storage Temperature
-45°C ~ 85°C
Compatibility
Serial ATA (SATA)
Fully compliant with Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 3.0.
Fully compliant with ATA/ATAPI-8 Standard Native Command Queuing (NCQ)
Operating System
Windows XP 32-bit /64-bit; Windows Vista 32-bit / 64-bit; Windows 7 32-bit / 64-bit; Linux; Mac OS X
Additional Features
Performance Optimization
TRIM (requires OS support), dynamic and static wear-leveling, background garbage collection, Indilinx nDurance 2.0 Technology to extend SSD lifespan
Other Performance Features
Ndurance 2.0 Technology (Reduced Write Amplification without Compression, Advanced Multi-Level ECC, Adaptive NAND Flash Management)
Service & Support
3-Year Warranty, Toll-Free Tech Support, 24 Hour Forum Support

 

Features:

 

 

 

 


All information courtesy of OCZ @  http://www.ocztechnology.com/ocz-agility-4-sata-iii-2-5-ssd.html#overview

 

 

 

Testing:

Testing of hard drives can be done in several different ways – one method involves leaving the drive bare and connecting it as a secondary drive in an existing system. By simultaneously cleaning the drive after each benchmark run-through, this allows you to see its theoretical peaks in performance. However, these results would only represent a best-case scenario – one that you may never see unless operating a bare drive. The second method, which OverclockersClub employs, involves loading the operating system and benchmarking suite onto the test drive itself. This would give performance results that emulate real-world usage more closely. Testing will be completed with the P67-based system listed below, alongside a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit that is updated to SP1 and fully patched as of the date of testing. The latest Intel Rapid Storage technology drivers and software have also been installed. All tests are conducted with the drive connected to a native SATA III 6 Gb/s port on the motherboard, in an effort to eliminate any possible bottlenecks with performance.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Drives:

 

Benchmarks:

  1. HD Tune 4.60 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2012
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. IO Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown

Testing:

HD Tune 4.60 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 4.60 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but run more precise file and random access benchmarks as well.

Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

Random Access Benchmark:

 

 

 

In the HD Tune tests the Agility 4 is one of the lower performers in each of the tests. Where it does its best work is in the file benchmark write tests where it is ahead of the Octane.

Testing:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

In the HDTach testing the Agility 4 seems limited in both the burst and average read tests to just over 170MB/s. In the Sandra Drive index test test the Agility 4 is still at the low end of the spectrum.

Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see so far, read speeds are not the the strongest suit for this drive. The write testing shows where the performance curve takes off delivering performance similar to the Vertex 4 in all four tests. This test is meant to test both compressible and incompressible data streams and shows the Agility 4 handles this load better than all but the Vertex 4.

Testing:

Atto Disk Benchmark v2.47: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The read/write specifications for this drive are almost met in the read tests and exceeded in the write tests. The 4K write performance is just shy of the Vertex 4 and ahead of the Sandforce and earlier generation controller equipped drives at 305MB/s.

Testing:

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark specifically designed to test the speed of solid state drives. However, it also works for traditional hard drives. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds, as well as access times for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write, and overall performance of the drive.






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance of the Agility 4 in AS SSD is again similar to that of the Vertex 4 in the write testing and high queue depth read testing. Where this drive does not fall off is when writing incompressible data.

Testing:

IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998. Since then, it has seen widespread use within the industry.





 

 

 

 

 

 








 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Agility 4 shows the workloads it excels at in this series of tests. Write performance is similar to that of the Everest 2-equipped Vertex 4. CPU overhead was not a high as the Vertex 4 but still showed an increase over many of the comparison 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.








 

 












 

 

 

 

 

 

In this test the Agility 4 is delivering performance just ahead of earlier generation hardware.

Testing:

In the world of computing, everyone likes a computer that can start up and shut down quickly. The ability to boot into your system as fast as possible allows you to start the tasks you set out to do that much more quickly. Not to mention the older you get, the greater the chance is that you'll forget what you wanted to use the computer for in the first place! The sweet spot is about 30 seconds or less. It is possible with conventional hard drives, though very difficult to attain this "golden" 30-second time. This time should be easier to attain with the speed of an SSD, but the only way to tell is to test it. To run these tests, I used a stopwatch to calculate the number of seconds it took from pressing the power button on the case, to having a fully-functioning desktop. For the shut down test, I began timing from the click of the shut down button in the start menu, and stopped when the system power was off completely.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 






 

 

 

Whereas the Vertex 4 and Octane both deliver similar times to boot and shutdown, the Agility 4 is slower slightly on both counts; a real surprise in terms of the feel of the system.

Conclusion

When you look at the testing overall the Agility 4 is not the fastest drive on the market but one that functions well when used with workloads that exploit its strengths. Overall read performance is lower than most of the drives I have tested while the write performance in most tests is almost on par with the enthusiast level Vertex 4. That being said the drive is worlds apart from a pure mechanical or even Hybrid drive in just about every test. This gets to the crux of the matter as OCZ is positioning the Agility 4 as an entry level drive. As such the Agility 4 is going to offer that significant increase in how the system feels when compared to a system equipped with a spindle-based drive for users looking to upgrade, but don't want to spend a significant portion of their budget on a single storage drive. OCZ is able to keep costs in check by using its own in-house Everest 2 controller and 2Xnm asynchronous MLC NAND. Priced at $189, the 256GB Agility 4 is available for less than 80 cents per GB; a game changer in terms of cost in an entry level 256GB solid state drive.

Performance wise the Agility 4 was able to over deliver its rated sequential write speeds of 410MB/s and come close to the read specification of 420MB/s in the ATTO testing. Access speeds are low throughout the testing as you might expect with a solid state drive and on par with the rest of the comparison drives. The Agility 4, much like the Vertex 4, shows significant gains in write performance without a performance hit when working with compressed workloads, illustrated in the Crystal Disk Mark and AS SSD testing, so much so that the Agility 4 and Vertex 4 are the fasted drives in these workloads.

As an entry level drive the warranty for the Agility 4 is three years, down from the five on the Vertex 4. Not to worry though, because should something go wrong within the typical three year upgrade cycle OCZ has an excellent support system in its support forums where you can get all the information needed to take care of a defective disk or get general tips for maximizing performance. OCZ's Toolbox can be used to update the firmware as well as perform a secure erase of the drive. This drive came with the latest firmware of 1.5 already installed and was tested in this state. Additional updates should be available more for compatibility than for raw performance increases.

Offered at an attractive price point, the Agility 4 is available in capacities from 64GB to 512GB. Each of the drives comes equipped with all of the tools to deliver an excellent user experience. Much of what you see in a disk drive review is just pure data that shows the capabilities of a drive, but the subjective feel is something that is more difficult to get across. As an everyday drive the Agility 4 feels much faster than a traditional drive and gives back those things that stick out most; faster boot times and improved access to data at a great price for the capacity.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: