OCZ Vertex 3 240GB Review

ccokeman - 2011-02-23 10:53:02 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: June 20, 2011
Price: $559


Technology continues to evolve at a blistering pace, as it seems that what was once new, hot, and labeled the best product of its kind, is now just old news. No where is this more evident than with solid state drives. NAND controllers continue to evolve and drive performance even higher. The Vertex 3 from OCZ is one of the latest generation drives that includes not only the latest controller from Sandforce, but uses a SATA 6Gbps interface to make sure the bus in not the determining factor in drive capabilities. With its recent acquisition of Indilinx, it is surprising that OCZ chose to use the Sandforce 2281 controller. OCZ has promised this drive has some serious read and write specifications that include maximum 4K write IOPs of 85,000, maximum read performance of 550MB/s, and maximum write performance of up to 520MB/s. These numbers are significant, as they are almost twice as fast as Sandforce's previous-generation controllers. Additional specifications include native TRIM support, 25nm MLC NAND flash, ECC, S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, MTBF of 2 million hours, and OCZ's three year warranty. The Vertex 3, much like other drives, comes in a variety of sizes from 60GB to 480GB, with pricing scaling up to $1799 for the 480GB version. The 240GB Vertex 3 I am looking at today comes in at $559, which seems to be carrying a pricing premium at online retailers. As you would guess, the Vertex 3 replaces the Vertex 2 in OCZ's "Performance" lineup. Let's see how close the Vertex 3 comes to meeting the paper specifications.

Closer Look:

The front of the packaging of the OCZ Vertex 3 shows the company name and model of this drive (Vertex 3), the capacity of 240GB, and a short list of specifications, including MLC flash and a SATA III 6Gbps interface with a Sandforce controller. Also of note is the inclusion of a 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch adapter for use in chassis that do not support the 2.5 inch form factor. The rear panel gives a synopsis of why OCZ solid state drives are better than the competition, with the short list of specifications that touches on the most important performance attributes.












Inside the packaging is a cardboard-coated, dense, foam booklet that holds the Vertex 3 drive, the OCZ branded 2.5 to 3.5 inch drive adapter, screws, the manual, and a nice little case sticker that states "My SSD is Faster Than Your SSD", which actually carries some weight when you look at the performance of this drive.



The drive is packaged in traditional form, but the performance promises to be any thing but traditional. Let's take a look a little deeper into what the OCZ Vertex 3 has to offer.

Closer Look:

Externally, the Vertex 3 looks much like just about any other solid state drive on the market. However, there has been a manufacturing change in the case of the drive with a switch to a hybrid plastic / aluminum casing. Not that it should matter, but the use of plastic should drive the costs on the drive down — if you have seen the price aluminum brings at the recyclers, you know how the prices have spiked. The front of the drive shows the product name in silver. The back side of the Vertex 3 shows the form factor, drive size, part number, and serial number of the drive. This one happens to be 240GB in size. The Vertex 3 is also offered in 120GB and 480GB flavors, to meet varying capacity needs and budgets.


















The side view really does not show much other than the mounting holes used to attach the drive to the included 2.5 to 3.5 inch adapter or into a 2.5 inch bay that are becoming more popular in chassis as time passes. There are threaded holes on the side and bottom of the drive for just this purpose. The business end of the Vertex 3 has the connection points for the SATA power supply connection and SATA 6Gbps data connection.



Opening up a $500+ drive to void the warranty is not something for the faint of heart. Not that it is difficult, but the ramifications of breaking the seal can prove costly if there is indeed a problem with the drive. That's why we take them apart to show the innards, so you don't have to — besides that, there is just genuine curiosity as to what really is inside. The PCB mounts to the plastic part of the drive enclosure with four screws. Removing them allows the PCB to be lifted from the housing. Internally, the drive sports a new look without the DRAM cache seen on earlier controllers' drives. The PCB is OCZ branded and houses the Sandforce 2281 controller and eight 16GB 25nm MLC NAND modules per side. This adds up to 256GB of NAND, but the controller sets aside a 16GB portion of the capacity for wear leveling.



The Vertex 3 is equipped with the latest controller from Sandforce, the SF2281TB1-SDC-ES. Sandforce's 2281 controller is a second generation product that uses enhanced Duraclass technology to deliver optimized power consumption, security, wear leveling, and drive performance in a single chip solution. The Vertex 3 has a total of sixteen 16GB 25nm MLC NAND modules on board, eight on each side of the PCB. The NAND is made from Intel, although you may see Micron on board. If you do the math, the total NAND equals 256GB, or 16GB more than the capacity of the drive. This extra space is used by the controller to keep the drive optimized and replace cells that may have failed.



Last, but not least, if your case does not have 2.5 inch drive bays, OCZ includes a branded 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch adapter to mount the Vertex 3 into a 3.5 inch drive bay. The drive is secured to the adapter with four included screws.



25nm NAND, 6Gbps interface, Sandforce 2281 NAND controller, and big read / write specifications add up to a drive that looks like it may be the next best thing on the market. Let's see if OCZ's concentration on solid state drives will pay off.


NAND Components 
2Xnm Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
SATA III / 6Gbps (Backwards compatible with SATA II / 3Gbps, but optimized for SATA 6Gbps)
Form Factor
SandForce® 2281
(L x W x H) 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3 mm
Shock Resistance
2 million hours
Power Consumption
Idle: 1.65 watts Active: 3 watts
Temperature Operating:
0 °C ~ 70 °C Ambient: 0 °C ~ 55 °C Storage: -45 °C ~ 85 °C
ECC Recovery
Up to 55 bits correctable per 512-byte sector (BCH) *varies depending on exact configuration
Product Health Monitoring
Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.)
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 and 64-Bit; Windows Vista 32-Bit and 64-Bit; Windows 7 32-Bit and 64-Bit; Mac OS X; Linux
Power Requirements
Standard SATA Power Connector
Performance Optimization
TRIM (requires OS support)
System Integration
Bundled with 3.5" desktop adapter bracket
Service & Support
3-Year Warranty, Toll-Free Tech Support, 24 Hour Forum Support, Firmware Updates



120GB Max Performance

240GB Max Performance

480GB Max Performance





All information courtesy of OCZ @ http://www.ocztechnology.com/ocz-vertex-3-sata-iii-2-5-ssd.html


Testing of hard drives can be done in a couple different ways. One is to leave the drive bare and hook it up as a secondary drive in an already existing system so that you can see the theoretical peaks in performance followed by a cleaning of the drive after each benchmark run through. The second method, which OverclockersClub employs, is to load the operating system and benchmarking suite onto the drive being tested. This more closely emulates how the drive will be used, so that the performance results are real world, not best case scenario results that you may never see unless operating the drive as a bare drive. Testing will be completed with the P67-based system listed below with a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit updated to SP1 and fully patched as of the date of the testing. The latest Intel Rapid Storage technology drivers and software have been installed for this testing with all tests run on the native SATA 6Gb/s ports on the P67-based motherboard. The connection to the drive from the motherboard is with a 6Gb/s SATA cable to eliminate any possible bottlenecks with the drive's performance.


Testing Setup:


Comparison Drives:



  1. HD Tune 4.60 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2011
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. I/O Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown


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 more precise file benchmarks and a random access benchmark as well.




















File Benchmark:



Random Access Benchmark:



Across this entire benchmark, the OCZ Vertex 3, with its Sandforce 2281 controller, easily out performs the previous-generation Sandforce and Indilinx-controlled drives.


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 the HD Tach testing, the Vertex 3 is once again easily the fastest drive in the comparison set. The results in Sandra bare this out as well, with the Vertex 3 delivering over double the performance of the last generation Sandforce-equipped drive.


Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: 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 1000MB option.




















The performance of the Sandforce 2281-equipped Vertex 3 again delivers higher performance in this benchmark with both improved read and write speeds over previous-generation products.


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.





















In this test, the Vertex 3 easily reaches its maximum read and write capabilities of 550MB/s read and 500MB/s write.

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. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds and access times for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write, and overall performance of the drive.






















The only weakness shown by the Vertex 3 is in the 4K read testing. However, the 4K writes are well above the previous-generation hardware, a trend that is seen in a few of the tests so far. Overall, the Vertex 3 is the highest-performing drive in this test — another continuing trend.


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, its use has become very wide spread within the industry.




















Across this test, the Vertex 3 was not the highest performer in the 4K random read and write tests.


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.





















Futuremark has a pretty comprehensive suite of hard drive tests that the Vertex 3 excels in when compared to the last generation hardware and mechanical drives. The 6Gb/s interface and Sandforce 2281 controller combine to provide a new level of performance.


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 quicker, 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, but very hard to attain this "golden" 30-second time. With the speed of SSDs, it should be easier, but there is only one way to tell and that is to test it out. 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 timed from the click of the shut down button in the start menu, until power was off to the system.



















Windows start-up and shutdown are things that are tangible and you can see the response and drive speed. The Vertex 3 was measurably quicker than the earlier drives during start-up, while delivering comparable shut down times to the SSDs. In this age of instant gratification, this drive delivers.


Installing a solid state drive is one of the enhancements that really offers a tangible reduction in time to complete both read and write tasks. As the technology improves, the gains in performance are steadily increasing, as seen when comparing the Vertex 3 to previous-generation SATA 3Gb/s drives. The Vertex 3 easily meets its 550 MB/s read and 500MB/s write specifications in the ATTO testing. In almost all the other tests, the SATA 6Gbps Vertex 3 was the highest performing drive with very few exceptions. This of course is the expectation based on the use of the Sandforce 2281 controller and 6Gbps interface. At times, the Vertex 3 doubled the performance of the older Indilinx Barefoot and Sandforce 1222-controlled drives. Again, an expectation just looking at the specifications on paper. The SF-2281 controller and SATA 6Gbps interface no doubt help the cause here in allowing a single Vertex 3 drive to reach performance levels previously seen only when running two solid state drives in a RAID array. Unfortunately, then TRIM was an issue. With the Vertex 3, TRIM is supported in compatible operating systems. The Sandforce 2200 series controller uses its exclusive Duraclass technology that includes Durawrite to effectively manage the write cycles to increase the lifespan of the MLC NAND, RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology that increases reliability, and AES encryption that happens full speed through the controller. Much has been made of the use of 25nm NAND and its lack of flash cycles before failure. Sandforces 2200 series controllers allow the lower spec MLC NAND to be used to deliver enterprise class performance instead of the more expensive SLC NAND. This helps drive down the cost of the drive.

Benchmark numbers aside, installing an SSD as a replacement for a spindle-based drive gives benefits that you can see and feel, such as reduced Windows start up and shut down times. Faster loading of large programs such as Photoshop and reduced file transfer times are added perks as well. Using this drive in a laptop or netbook again brings another benefit in reduced power consumption. My netbook saw the same increase in battery life that I have managed to see in past tests with an increased capacity and faster controller that does not have the added latency of DRAM cache. It's the small things that add up to a perception that the system is faster.

These benefits, which include the Sandforce 2281 controller and increased capacity, do come with a steep price tag. The current going price for the Vertex 3 comes in at $559 dollars for the 240GB version tested today and a massive $1800 for the 480GB version. This price seems to include a price premium due the availability of the drive. Unfortunately, much the same thing seen with any new tech sold online. Warranty support on this drive is three years. While that may not seem long, the drive should last well past that 3-year mark with a MFBF of 2 million hours. While Elvis may have walked out the door with the last of the DRAM at OCZ, the company has made a firm commitment to take solid state drive performance to new heights — something OCZ has most certainly done with the Vertex 3.