OCZ Vertex 2 120GB SSD Review

ajmatson - 2010-05-17 12:59:26 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: June 10, 2010
Price: $399

Introduction:

With solid state drives becoming more and more popular, gamers and enthusiasts are using them to squeeze as much performance out of their systems as they can. To keep up with the demand for speed, manufacturers are testing new hardware and technology to give the users what they want. A lot of the fading SSD drives were using the aging Indilix Barefoot Controller, which, while it was a tried and true technology, the times are changing. Some manufacturers are switching to a newer controller designed to push the limits even further, while providing newer technologies to further the solid state drive. This new controller is made by a company called SandForce and the design of the controller is definitely catching the eye of many SSD manufacturers, including OCZ. OCZ is using this new controller in their newest Vertex series, which is dubbed the Vertex 2. The Vertex 2 series is designed for maximum performance for the mainstream and performance sector and comes in sizes varying from 50GB to 480GB in capacity. While I have your interest, let's take a better look at the OCZ Vertex 2 SSD and this new controller.

 

Closer Look:

The OCZ Vertex 2 came packaged in a nice little box that just fitted around the drive, reducing waste and bulk. On the front of the package is a picture of the drive as well as the capacity, in this case 120GB, and some of the specifications. On the back of the package there is a more detailed list of the specifications and the features of the Vertex 2. Some of the key points of the Vertex 2 are that it is a high performance design with MLC Flash Technology, has TRIM support, and is RAID capable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the package gives you a protective insert which is designed to protect the drive as much as possible by encasing it in foam. This protective design ensures that your new purchase arrives in perfect factory condition with no damage. Included with the Vertex 2 drive is the 2.5" to 3.5" converting bracket, which allows you to mount the drive into your desktop chassis, the mounting screws, information guide, and a sticker that states "My SSD is faster than your HDD".

 

 

Now that we have the Vertex 2 out of the packaging, we can get a better look at the drive casing and internals.

Closer Look:

Just as with the packaging, the Vertex 2 uses a sleek dark design to hide its mysterious insides. On the top of the drive is the model sticker showing that the drive is an OCZ Vertex 2 SATA II 2.5" Solid State Drive. On the reverse side are the product sticker and the barcodes. On the top left of the drive you can see the warranty sticker covering a screw slot. This sticker keeps you from opening up the drive, which in turn will void your warranty and rendering your expensive drive irreparable should something happen to it. I do not recommend removing this sticker, in order to protect your warranty. I will be opening the drive to show you what is inside, so that you do not have to, thus keeping your protection intact. Once the screws are removed, the housing pulls away leaving the components we are really interested in. The drive is made up of the PCB, flash memory and the controller chip. There are 16 MLC Flash chips which make up the 120GB of storage. The chips total is actually 128GB, though some of the space is reserved for garbage collection for the controller chip. The actual formatted space of the drive equates to 111GB of storage space. The controller for the Vertex 2 series SSDs is manufactured from a company called SandForce which is designed to have better performance and support for features such as TRIM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The OCZ Vertex 2 uses a SATA II interface for the data transfer. The maximum transfer speed on SATA II interfaces is 3Gbps, which is more than enough for high-speed transfers for the SSD. Next to the SATA data interface is the SATA power interface to provide the low power needed to run the Vertex 2 drive.

  

Surrounding the PC board are the sixteen MLC NAND Flash chips, which are manufactured by Intel. These chips are model number 29F64G08CAMDB and are 8GB each, which equal up to 128GB total. The extra space that is not calculated in the total of the drive is used for wear leveling, which is needed to keep the drive running at top performance for as long as possible. The heart of the Vertex 2 is the SandForce controller. The SandForce controller used in the Vertex 2 is part of the SF-1200 series, or specifically the SF-1222 controller chip. One thing you may notice on the Vertex 2 PC board, is the lack of a cache chip. This is because the controller itself has a small cache on the chip, which eliminates the need for an external cache. The nice thing about the SandForce controller is no matter what the capacity of the drive is, the rated speeds of the drive remain the same. For the Vertex 2 series, OCZ states a maximum read of 285MB/s and a maximum write of 275MB/s.

 

 

Since the Vertex 2 is build using a 2.5 inch form factor, which makes it perfect for notebooks and other portables, OCZ recognizes that users want to install them into their desktops as well. To aid in the installation, OCZ has included a 2.5" to 3.5" desktop adapter for use without requiring any additional mounting hardware.

  

Now that we have seen the insides and accessories for the Vertex 2, I want to show you a piece of software OCZ is working on.

Closer Look:

OCZ is working on a tool for their SSD's, which will provide the user with utilities to help them get the most out of their new device. This utility is called the OCZ Toolbox and will only work on OCZ Drives. The utility is still being fully developed and is not available for the public use. However, OCZ has stated that it will be available in the future. This is version 0.60 and was sent to us to give you a preview of what it will be used for. There are several tools provided to you or your new OCZ SSD, including viewing the information about the drive and its current S.M.A.R.T data. One of the most important tools is to update the firmware on the drive. On some of the older OCZ drives you needed to set a jumper which would put the drive in the mode to update the firmware. Now all you do is select the firmware you want to update the drive with and the utility will do its job. Just like performing a BIOS update with a Windows-based utility. There are several other utilities as well, that will reset the drive to factory specifications, set the World Wide Name, format the drive with aligned sectors, set and remove a password and secure erase the drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last part of the Toolbox is the Details tab. There are two options here which show you the important details for the Vertex 2. The biggest option is to view the S.M.A.R.T. data on the drive to ensure that it is functioning correctly and there are no errors on the device. Some of the information you gather from the S.M.A.R.T. data is the number of writes and reads to the drive, error count, and how long the drive had been powered on or the lifetime of the drive.

 

 

Now that we have seen the hardware and software of the Vertex 2, we can move on to the testing phase.

Specifications:

 

Capacities:
50GB, 60GB, 100GB, 120GB, 200GB, 240GB, 400GB, 480GB
Maximum Read:
Up to 285 MB/s
Maximum Write
Up to 275 MB/s
Sustained Write
Up to 250 MB/S
Random Write 4K (Aligned):
50,000 IOPS

 

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of OCZ @  http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/solid-state-drives/2-5--sata-ii/performance-enterprise-solid-state-drives/ocz-vertex-2-sata-ii-2-5--ssd.html

Testing:

To test the OCZ Vertex 2 drive, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 Professional on it and installed all of the drivers and Windows updates available. I did the same for each comparison drive so that they were exactly the same. All tests were run with the additional hardware at the same speeds, timings, latencies and voltages. This will keep any outside variables from interfering with the score and throwing out the tests. To get an idea of how the new SandForce controller compares, the Vertex 2 will be put up against two other SSDs and a traditional mechanical hard drive. The two comparison SSDs both use the Indilix Barefoot controller and are 64GB and 128GB in capacity to show both the capacities above and below the 120GB for the Vertex 2. One item of note, is that we chose to run the drives as the main drive for the system and not as a slave. The purpose of an SSD is to increase performance for your system, so it will in most situations, be run as a system drive and not as a slave drive, because of the limit in capacity. For this reason we did not run the tests as a slave drive, because we wanted you, our readers, to see how it performs as it should - as the main system drive with an OS and data on it.

 

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. I/O Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown

 

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:

 

 

 

Between the comparisons the Vertex 2 was almost on-par with the Mushkin Callisto and faster then the Barefoot based controllers.

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

 

 

Again, the Vertex 2 and Callisto with the same controllers were close, but the Vertex 2 had a bit of a lead with the HD Tach average read test.

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. For the test we chose the 100MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The SandForce controller shows the increase in performance, especially in the write tests. Both the Vertex 2 and Callisto were head-to-head.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, the Vertex 2 and Callisto were close, except for the 4k tests. The Vertex 2 had a huge advantage over the other drives, winning both the 4k read and 4k write tests.

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark designed for the speeds of solid state drives, though 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the AS SSD tests, the Vertex 2 was slightly behind in the read scores, but had the best write scores - especially in the 4k runs.

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 become widespread within the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read:

 

 

 

Write:

 

 

 

 

While only a slight lead, the Vertex 2 pulled off the fastest IOMeter scores.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For PCMark Vantage, the Vertex 2 again, was the best overall out of the tests.

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 faster. The sweet spot has always be the 'Sub-30' boot time. In case you are not aware of what 'Sub-30' is, it is the number of seconds it takes to fully boot into the Windows desktop ready to go. The sweet spot is 30 seconds or better. With  conventional hard drives it is possible, but very hard to get. With the speed of SSDs, it should be easier, but there is only one way to tell, and that is test. 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, I timed from the press of the shut-down button in the start menu, until power to the system was off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While close with the sub 30-second boot time, the Vertex 2 was a split-second faster in starting up and a full second faster shutting down.

Conclusion:

While this is a fairly new controller for the SSD market, the SandForce SF-1222 really showed what it was designed for, and that is the increased overall read and write speeds. Sure, the read speeds are important, but the money matters on how fast the data can be written to the drive and that is what SandForce and OCZ concentrated on when they designed and built the Vertex 2 series. If you look back again at the benchmarks that were run, just about every time, the SandForce controller dominated in the write tests. When you take into account overall scores, it was the faster drive of the bunch. Real world speed is what I look for in a drive. For the read speeds, being in the 200's, who is really going to notice a slight difference between one drive or another? But if you switch hands and one drive is writing at 80MB/s and another is writing twice as fast, you are going to see real world results as your saves will happen more quickly, your programs will be more responsive and overall, your system will feel snappier. OCZ concentrated its development and firmware design on the write speeds with the new Vertex 2 and it seems it has worked - especially in the 4k tests.

With the new provisioning from OCZ for consumer based drives, they have been able to take the same 128GB of flash chips and decrease the size of needed space for the garbage collection, allowing you to have more storage space with the same performance as the past 100GB drives. With this extra space included, the drive the price to performance ratio rises and takes the sweet spot away from the cheaper Indilinx based SSD's. This evens the playing field, giving you close to the same storage as before, but with write speeds not obtainable on past drives. With the new SandForce controller, the performance hit on smaller capacity drives is also gone. Now if you purchase a 40GB or 400GB drive, the same read and write speeds will exist for all drives across the board, so no more settling for mediocre performance for the price.

With the OCZ Toolbox being developed with the Vertex 2 and other new SSD's, you will not have to jump through hoops to upgrade firmware and perform drive maintenance any more. Gone is the time of using jumpers and booting into special environments to upgrade the firmware for a performance increase. OCZ has literally put the work into the new Vertex 2 series, so you don't have to. With the technology that was packed into this little device and the extras that OCZ took to make it a top product, I highly recommend it to anyone wanting a high performing drive for the price. With the top performance it shows now at release, it can only get better down the road.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: