OCZ SSD 32GB Solid State Hard Disk Page: 1
Introduction
 
Hard Disk, Hard Disk, Hard Disk. Over the past 10 years since I bought my first PC you've served me well. Sure there was one time when I knocked my tower unit off the desk and you decided to wipe off all my college work along with a years worth of files downloaded on my 56k modem, but hey it was my fault - I should have backed up.

I could probably also accuse you of being a bit slow and noisy at times, but in all fairness you've always grown to accommodate my ever expanding music, games and *ahem* movies collection. Sure, maybe I didn't treat you to a defragmentation as often as I should, but those frequent clicks, ticks and crunching noises of your heads moving back and forth gave me reassurance and added to the whole PC experience.

However my friend, your days might well be numbered. See, there's a new kid on the block called SSD. He's fast, doesn't mind being knocked about a bit and runs cooler than a cucumber. Sure he's still quite small and I nearly had to sell a kidney to buy him, but PC's are all about silicon and GHZ these days and those old mechanical motors of yours are getting quite dated. But before I tell you to pack your bags and demote you to my "storage drive", I'm going to give you one last chance to redeem yourself....
 
Velociraprtor vs OCZ
 
SSD for a long time has been many enthusiasts wet dream. The thought of being able to replace that mechanical hard disk with a circuit board full of NAND chips that have almost zero latency and a sustainable read/write speed across the entire disk seems to be the missing part of the high-performance computing puzzle. Today we're going to be taking a look at a 32GB SSD drive from well known performance memory manufacturer OCZ. With an SATA-II interface and up to 100MB/s read rate, the drive certainly promises to be blazingly fast.
 
Of course what good would any review be without some stiff competition! While the OCZ SSD will most definitely leave most normal hard disks begging for mercy, Western Digital have been manufacturing a range of prehistoric beasts under the name of Raptor for quite some time. Their most recently released Velociraptor hard disk features a 10,000RPM rotational speed, 16MB cache and 300GB storage space all served up on a 2.5" platter - making it an absolutely perfect candidate for a head-to-head battle.
 
But before we get down to business, let's get up-close and personal with OCZ's shiny bit of kit...


OCZ SSD 32GB Solid State Hard Disk Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
OCZ always seem to take the middle ground when it comes to packaging design - never going for any outlandish or garish designs and similary never under dressing their products either. The OCZ SSD in its blue and black printed cardboard box is testament to this and presents itself as both a professional and enthusiast marketed product.
 
OCZ 32GB SSD Box Front OCZ 32GB SSD Box Back
 
OCZ 32GB SSD Box Open OCZ 32GB SSD Box Open
 
Despite the Solid State Drive being able to withstand a full 1500G shock, OCZ have seen fit to encapsulate the device in a custom moulded styrofoam block that protects the disk from impact at any angle. Included in the box is a basic instruction manual with no other accessories or additional extra's. To be honest we would have liked to have seen at least a silver SATA-II cable to match the device or maybe even a 2.5" to 3.5" mounting bracket. But nope, nothing.
 
 OCZ 32GB SSD Top OCZ 32GB SSD Bottom
 
If there's one area we most definitely cant fault OCZ, it is in the style of the device. Coming fully enclosed in a brushed silver Aluminium casing with raised OCZ logo and "Solid State Drive" wording, the drive looks simply gorgeous and gives a feeling that your hard earned cash has been spent on something more than just a PCB full of memory chips.
 
OCZ 32GB SSD Front OCZ 32GB SSD SATA
 
As expected, the data and power connectors are located in the same positions you would normally find them on standard 2.5" hard disks. This allows the OCZ SSD to be a direct slot-in replacement for any SATA based laptop hard disk, offering increased battery life and a reduced chance of data loss should the laptop be dropped .
 
OCZ 32GB SSD Inside OCZ 32GB SSD Inside Back
 
Opening the device reveals a standard green PCB adorn with eight Samsung K9WBG08U1M NAND chips each with a 4GB storage capacity.  Very little information is available on the net regarding these chips, but quite interestingly when plugging the OCZ SSD drive into an SATA port it appears in device manager as a Samsung drive with no mention of OCZ whatsoever.
 
Now let's find out what hardware configuration and test methods we are going to be using..


OCZ SSD 32GB Solid State Hard Disk Page: 3
Test Setup
 
As we've already mentioned back on page #1, we wanted to put the OCZ SSD head-to-head with some of the fastest mechanical hard disks available in a similar price range. This turned out to be the recently released and extemely fast Western Digital Velociraptor and its elder brother the RaptorX - both of which were generously donated to us from Yoyotech.co.uk.
 
Specs List
 
In terms of performance both Western Digital drives are fairly well matched to the OCZ SSD. The Velociraptor shares a similar read speed while the RaptorX shares a similar write speed. Of course, both of these mechanical drives have significant seek times measured in milliseconds, whereas the OCZ SSD's latency is almost non-existent in comparison and measured in nanoseconds. With everything considered this should certainly make for an interesting set of results over the next few pages
 
To ensure that no part of our test system would be a bottleneck to the disk drives, an Intel X48/ICH9R based motherboard was used along with a Quad Core Q6600 Intel CPU overclocked to 3.6GHZ. Intel's latest "Inf" drivers and all Windows updates were also installed to ensure optimum performance and stability. The full system configuration can be seen below:
 
System Spec
 
While synthetic benchmarks such as HD Tune offer a good insight into the performance of a disk drive, these figures do not always translate directly into real world performance. For this reason we selected to perform several day-to-day operations (such as file conversion and Windows startup) in addition to synthetic benchmarks. The full set of tests can be seen below:
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
HD Tune Pro 3.1.0
 
File Write & Manipulation
WinAVI Xvid - DVD Convert
Dummy file creation (15GB)
Peazip file compression / decompression.
 
OS & Gaming
Windows Vista Start-up time.
Unreal Tournament III map load time.
 
Now that we've got the formalities out of the way, let's check out the results...


OCZ SSD 32GB Solid State Hard Disk Page: 4
HD Tune Pro
 
HD Tune Pro is a complete hard disk benchmarking, status and erasing utility by EFD Software. Our testing procedure involved running both the read and write benchmark tests on both the OCZ SSD, WD Velociraptor and RaptorX drives with screen shots of the results being taken at the end of each benchmark run. The results can be seen below:
 
OCZ SSD HD Tune Read
OCZ 32GB SATA-II SSD READ
Velociraptor HD Tune Write
Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB READ
 
WD RaptorX HD Tune Read
Western Digital RaptorX 150GB READ
 
The difference between the OCZ (Samsung) SSD and the two mechanical Western Digital hard drives is plain to see. The blue line representing the read speed across the entire disk stays in a totally flat line around the 90MB/s mark for the SSD while the two WDC drives start off with a high read speed and slowly curve downwards as they reach the edge of the disk.
 
While the WDC RaptorX can just about match the speed of the OCZ SSD at the inner-portion of the disk (83MB/s)  the Verlociraptor performs much better, actually beating the SSD with a maximum read spead of 123MB/s on the inner-portion of the disk, and coming within 9MB/s of the SSD right at the edge of the disk.
 
As expected the access times of the mechanical disks is much higher than that of the SSD with HD Tune reporting a 0.2ms access time for the SSD and 6.9ms and 8.2ms for the Velociraptor and RaptorX disks respectively. How this will translate to real-world performance is yet to be seen.
 
OCZ SSD HD  Write
OCZ 32GB SATA-II SSD WRITE
Western Digital Velociraptor 320GB
Western Digital Velociraptor 320GB WRITE
 
Western Digital RaptorX HD Tune Write
Western Digital RaptorX 150GB WRITE
 
Write speed doesn't seem to be a strong point for the OCZ SSD, with HD Tune reporting an average speed of 77.5MB/s and a much more impressive 102MB/s for the Velociraptor. Once again the mechanical drives take a dip in performance as they near the edge of the platter, but the Velociraptor still manages to keep its minumum write speed well above that of the SSD.
 
Access time is once again a strong point for the SSD with an almost non-measurable 0.1ms result.


OCZ SSD 32GB Solid State Hard Disk Page: 5
WinAVI Video Conversion
 
The transcoding of video files between different formats for use on devices such as portable media players or burning to DVD is becoming increasingly common in todays digital world. While the method of conversion is largely CPU intensive, it requires a fast hard disk to keep up with the stream of data. For this stage of the testing we used a 600mb Xvid encoded AVI file placed on each of the hard disks and then used WinAVI to transcode the file into DVD format. The time taken was recorded with a stop watch.
 
WinAVI Results
 
Both the OCZ SSD and the Velociraptor made light work of the XVID to DVD conversion with a negligble 2 second difference between them. The RaptorX showed that it couldn't quite keep up the pace of it's 2.5" counterparts, finishing up in last place with an 8 second gap.
 
 
Peazip File Compression
 
File compression is yet another area where the system is just as reliant on the performance of the CPU as it is on the hard drive. To simulate the compression of various types of files, a folder containing a collection of 200 text documents filled with random contents and file sizes varying from 1KB to 100MB was copied to each of the hard disks. This folder was then  compressed and decompressed using a utility called Peazip which provided us with an accurate "time taken" reading.
 
Peazip Compression
 
PeaZip Decompression
 
With identical results being scored from all thread of the drives on test, this could well be an indication that the compression process was bottlenecked more by the performance of the CPU than it was by the hard disks. However, when it comes round to decompression we can see that the Velociraptor decompressed the file in 6 seconds flat, while the OCZ SSD took a further 4.5 seconds. This somewhat mirrors the less than impressive write results seen over on the previous page.
 
 
Dummy File Creation
 
When performing manual "file copy" benchmarks, the performance of the drive that the files are being copied from can directly and negatively affect the results of the drive they are being copied to. This is something that needs to be taken into consideration when benchmarking high performance hard disks such as the OCZ SSD as it's performance easily excees that of a standard hard disk. Therefore, to test the write performance of each storage device a freeware utility called Dummy File Creator was used to generate files directly to each of the hard disks removing the possibility of any bottlenecks.
 
The results below show how long each of the drives took to write 20GB of files with sizes ranging from 1MB to 1GB.
 
Dummy File Creator Results
 
Once again we can see just how good the write performance of the WD Velociraptor is, with the full 20GB being written to the disk in almost 1/2 the time of the OCZ SSD. Even the RaptorX makes a complete joke of the SSD, completing the transfer 2 1/2 minutes faster.


OCZ SSD 32GB Solid State Hard Disk Page: 6
Windows Bootup Time
 
Quite a simple and self explanatory test. We took each of the three disks, installed a fresh copy of Windows Vista SP1 on to them and measured the time each took to boot into the Windows desktop and display the Welcome page. To ensure that the tests were fair and that Windows has fully completed installing all devices, the results were recorded after three initial reboots.
 
Windows Vista Startup
 
In all honesty we was expecting each of the three disks to come out with exactly the same results. However, as we can see from above, the OCZ SSD managed to boot into Windows and display the welcome screen a full 3 seconds faster than it's mechanical counterparts. While this may be no outstanding feat, it certainly goes to show that despite the SSD drive lacking in write performance, it's read performance and low latency results certainly can be seen in real world situations.
 
 
Game Level Loading
 
With a fresh copy of Vista installed on each hard disk, the final test was to find out if the Windows loading times seen above would also be applicable to the map loading time of a popular PC game. Once again, the test procedure was quite simple: Install Unreal Tournament III, load the game, select a map to play (ONS-Torlan) and measure the time taken from pressing the "Begin" button to the time the map is fully loaded. This procedure was repeated a total of three times on each of the hard disks, with a reboot in between each test to clear system memory.
 
Unreal Tournament III Results
 
Once again the OCZ SSD takes the top spot, loading the UT3 map in 9 seconds flat. The Velociraptor is a negligable 1 second behind with the RaptorX a further 2 seconds behind that.


OCZ SSD 32GB Solid State Hard Disk Page: 7
Conclusion
 
OCZ 32GB SSDSo, where do all these results leave us. Well at the end of the day there is no denying that the OCZ SSD is one extremely fast storage device. For use in a laptop where hard disks generally have a much smaller capacity and poor performance compared with their desktop counterparts, the OCZ 32GB SSD would be ideal. This combined with the fact that SSD technology in general consumes a lot less power and runs much cooler than traditional mechanical hard disks and OCZ could well be taking quite a few orders from the notebook community.
 
However, speed isn't enough to help the OCZ SSD when it comes to use on a performance desktop PC. While the drive may have been able to match and even beat the performance of the lightning fast Western Digital Velociraptor in benchmarks such as Windows Startup and Game loading times it really falls behind when it comes down to file copying and general write-intensive tasks. Sure the SSD is able to maintain an equal level of performance across the entire disk, but with the Velociraptor managing to almost match the average transfer speed of the SSD with its minimum transfer speed the OCZ SSD is going to have to get quite a bit faster before it can win any benchmarks hands-down.
  
This combined with the rather limited storage capacity of the device (which left us with about 10GB to play with after installing Vista + apps) positions the 300GB Velociraptor as a much more sensible purchase for the enthusiast seeking extreme performance along with adequate storage capacity. Even when we consider that the prices of SSD have tumbled from around £300 for a 32GB drive down to just over £100, there still really is no competition.
 
 
The Good
- Aluminium housing looks classy.
- Extremely good read and latency performance.
- Low heat and power consumption makes it ideal for notebooks.
 
The Mediocre
- Price no longer totally ridiculous.
- Write times just can't compete with a high-end mechanical hard disk.
 
The Bad
- Still too expensive considering the size.
- Too small to fit anything worthwhile on.
 
 
A big thanks to both OCZ for supplying the SSD and Yoyotech.co.uk for the Velociraptor and RaptorX drives used in today's review.
 
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