OCZ SSD 64GB 'Core series' Solid State Disk Page: 1

Introduction

There have been many advances in PC technology since its birth some 25 years ago but the humble hard drive has seen little in the way of enhancements. Interface, platter and spindle speed have been improved drastically but due to the now somewhat dated mechanical design, the performance of such drives has almost reached a standstill. The advent of SSD (Sold State Drive) is about to change all that but unfortunately, price and capacity is an issue for most consumers looking to take advantage of the new technology on offer.

Enter OCZ. We recently reviewed OCZ's first entrant into the SSD arena with the 32GB OCZ SSD and although it was a very good performer we were disappointed that it didn't exactly show the leap in speed we were looking for compared to the best performing mechanical hard disks available. So, after lengthy discussion with the guys from OCZ, they sent us another drive but this time from its 'Core series' which promised to be even faster than the previous drive. Never being ones to just accept that fact we have hooked the drive up to our test rig and will compare it to the previous drives tested to see if there is indeed a leap in performance.

The Core series of SSD's uses highly reliable NAND Flash chips with a capacities up to 128GB. Due to the chips low power requirements and shock resistance it is the perfect alternative to conventional hard disks and ideal for mobile computing solutions. Today however we will be hooking up to a 'desktop' PC to see if it really can replace the larger, noisier, heavier HDD form factor.



OCZ SSD 64GB 'Core series' Solid State Disk Page: 2
Packaging and Appearance
 
The first thing I noticed about the OCZ SSD core's packaging was how small it was. At about the same size as a CD Jewel case (albeit thicker) you won't be getting murdered on any delivery costs. This is in contrast to the extremely heavy HDD's of old which are akin to lead weights.
 
 OCZ Core SSD Box Front OCZ Core SSD Box Back
 
The packing itself is very nicely designed with a jade and dark grey theme carried throughout. To the front of the box is the usual picture, capacity and basic features of the SSD and to the rear a more in-depth look into the specification of the drive itself.
 
OCZ Core SSD Box Specs OCZ Core SSD Contents
 
Opening the box up we see a rather nice interior box that folds out into two sections, one holding the drive itself which is encased in an anti-static bag and the other a compartment holding what we initially hoped to be 3.5" - to 2.5" drive converters, sadly it was just a very large hole containing nothing more than the installations instructions. We would have liked OCZ to add in 3.5" to 2.5" spacers and a few screws at the very least for those of us not wishing to install the SSD in a laptop.
 
For anyone who has installed a hard drive before, the instruction leaflet is pretty much useless but that goes for all hard drives I guess. Perhaps the only information of any real use is the notification of 2 years warranty which is less than the standard 3 years (and up to 5 years) given to conventional drives.
 
OCZ Core SSD Comparison 1 OCZ Core SSD Comparison 2
 
OCZ Core SSD Compare 3 OCZ Core SSD Compare 4
 
Looking at pretty pictures is all good and well, but I wanted you, the reader, to grasp the actual miniscule size of these new drives. I have compared the drive to both a conventional hard disk and my hand. Please note : I am not Jeremy Beadle! As the pics show, the OCZ SSD is both shorter and thinner than a HDD and as mentioned previously, the drive is also very light!
 
Perspective Top
 
The drive itself is a matt black plastic affair with a metal base. The Jade/Black theme from the box is carried through here with the top sticker and another sticker underneath with the usual warnings and drive size etc completes the appearance. I personally prefer the brushed aluminium of the standard SSD drive reviewed earlier but this no doubt adds to weight and even so, the black is a nice match for any case design.
 
Most review sites would leave appearance section there but here at OC3D we like to go that one step further for our readers not only that be we are as curious as you are to see what's actually inside one of these SSD's!
 
OCZ Core SSD Top OCZ Core SSD Underneath
 
OCZ Core SSD IC ID
 
As you can see, the main bulk of the drive are 8 x 8GB NAND chips from Samsung. Presumably the section underneath would also be populated with the same amount of chips, doubling the capacity to 128GB. Removing the outer casing is no hard task, 8 screws and it's done which makes installing the drive a cinch for laptop users.


OCZ SSD 64GB 'Core series' Solid State Disk Page: 3
Test Setup
 
As previously mentioned, OCZ generously sent us the Core Series SSD in the hope of finally persuading us, and therefore you, that the OCZ SSD 64GB Core series drive is a better solution than a conventional drive. We already know it is both smaller, quieter and more energy efficient that it's mechanical rivals but is it faster? To find this out we decided to pitch it against it's stable mate, the standard OCZ SSD and both the Western Digital RaptorX as well as the current speed champ, the Western Digital Velociraptor.
 
 
The blank scores for the solid state drives are too low to measure accurately as the speed would be in nanoseconds, so you can pretty much say the speed is instant. In contrast the conventional drives, while at the very pinnacle of their own game lag behind the SSD's by quite a margin due to their mechanical restrictions. Note that the above specifications for the OCZ Core are minimum performance. The actual figures may increase depending on the setup used i.e Read Transfer rate, OCZ claim has been tested to sustain 143 MB/s and a write time of upto 93MB/s. Those figures are certainly impressive indeed with the Core series excelling that of the WD Velociraptor in read transfer and catching up some lost ground with the write transfer speeds. Talk is cheap around here though and we trust no results but our own so without further delay lets move on to our test setup.
 
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: 
 
 
 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.
 
So can OCZ's Core series live up to expectations? Lets go find out... 


OCZ SSD 64GB 'Core series' Solid State 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 Core SSD                                                                   OCZ SSD
OCZ Core Read OCZ SSD
 
 
WD Raptor X                                                  WD Velociraptor
WD RAptorX Read WD Velociraptor
 
It's plain to see that the two different types of drives have very opposing results. While the Velociraptor and RaptorX start off well they tend to slow down once  the drive nears the outer edge of the platter. In stark contrast the SSD's are constant throughout the transfer. The Core series not only remains constant but is by far the quickest drive of the bunch, beating the best conventional drive out there aswell as nailing its older brother, the OCZ SSD.
 
 OCZ Core SSD                                                                 OCZ SSD
Core series Write OCZ SSD
 
WD Raptor X                                                         WD Velociraptor
RaptorX Write  Velociraptor Write
 
This is where I was hoping to see some improvement from the OCZ drive but sadly the write speed is still a weakness for the SSD. While the average write speed on the OCZ Core drive is respectable I was alarmed at the write speed to such an extent that I believed the drive to be faulty. A quick call to OCZ however confirmed that the drive was fine and it was actually the way that HDtune benchmarks, using small 1mb files. If these small files fall into a single block all is well, however if the files straddle over 2 blocks then the performance appears to be affected but this is not indicative of 'real world' performance. To verify OCZ's claims we also ran a quick test of the OCZ with ATTO:
 
 ATTO
 
Sure enough, ATTO showed average write speeds of 80mb/s which is more inline with OCZ's specs. It appears that the OCZ Core series SSD doesn't like using very small files but can handle the read/write of larger files with ease. Lets see if this performance does indeed translate to 'Real World' performance'...


OCZ SSD 64GB 'Core series' Solid State Disk Page: 5
Win AVI 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 today's 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.
 
 
 
Peazip File Compression

File compression/Decompression 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.
 
 
  
 
 
 
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 exceeds 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.
 
  
As the results show, the Core series is slower than all the hard drives tested and by a significant margin. This is a very disappointing show from the Core Series SSD as I not only expected it to be faster than the Velociraptor but at the very least better than  the OCZ SSD previously reviewed. Sadly on this occasion it was neither, being soundly beaten by both versions of conventional hard drives from Western Digital and also by it's older brother, the OCZ SSD. 


OCZ SSD 64GB 'Core series' Solid State 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.
 
 
 
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.
  
  
Here we see the OCZ Cores series comes into its own, running out joint quickest in the windows boot time and only just being beaten by its older brother and matched by the WD Velociraptor in the game level loading time. I must say at this point that not only was it nice to have a silent boot up and loading of games but the actual loading and boot up 'seemed' quicker than it actually was. Placebo effect ?-Who knows but it certainly impressed in this set of benchmarks. However, is this enough? Is the OCZ Core series all it's hyped up to be? Is it really ready to compete with the best of the best? Read on...


OCZ SSD 64GB 'Core series' Solid State Disk Page: 7
Conclusion
  
In testing the Core Series SSD we had high hopes of it being the fastest drive on test today. I honestly wanted to say it's time to dump the conventional drive and leap into this new technology as not only are OCZ one of our favoured brands but new technology is always appealing to us at OC3D. However, the simple fact is and as our results show, that as a desktop solution, solid state drives have some way to go before they can replace the current high end hard drives available.
 
That isn't to say the OCZ Core series SSD isn't a rapid drive as it plainly is but compared to the high end conventional drives available, it cannot quite compete, especially so with the Western Digital Velociraptor. As a laptop solution I have no doubt the SSD is the way forward due to its weight, power consumption and no doubt speed differential compared to 5400rpm drives often used in the mobile computing environment.
 
During the tests I initially felt that the SSD was faulty, however I now believe it could well be the SSD's inability to work well with Vista or the drive is having conflicts with the controller. Regardless of our concerns, it is the hardware manufacturers responsibility to ensure the product is good to go with the current software and drivers available.
 
So for the time being it has to be said that the OCZ Core series SSD ultimately fails in its quest to be the top end storage solution. With all new advances in technology their are a few obstacles to leap and with a few more tweaks and a little boost to the writing capabilities of the technology on offer, the SSD could well surpass the current cream of conventional drives but as our review has shown, if you want the ultimate in speed, the WD Velociraptor still reigns supreme.
 
 
The Good
- Phenomenal access and read speeds
- Lightweight
- Portable
- 100% Silent
- Cool
 
The Mediocre
- Poor instructions
- Price though better, is still not good value for money
- Size may still be an issue for some
 
The Bad
- Poor write speeds of small files
- No mounting screws/3.5"-2.5" converters
 
 
Overclock3D Innovation Award
 
Thanks to OCZ for providing the Core SSD for review. Discuss this review in our forums.