OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 1
Introduction
 
OCZ have long been known as premier manufacturers for some of the finest enthusiast memory modules money can buy.
Not only that but they have also branched out into the PSU market and most recently, they are perhaps the premium brand to look for when deciding on an SSD.
 
We reviewed the all conquering Vertex drive a while back which was a vast improvement over the previous Core series, eradicating the poor write speeds the OCZ drives suffered. The new Summit drive we have for review today aims to improve those write speeds further by using a Samsung controller along with Samsung NAND flash memory (MLC) which, if OCZ claims are to be believed push the envelope even further with read speeds a little below that of the Vertex (up to 220MB/s) but write speeds, traditionally a weakness for Solid State Drives, increased up to 200MB/s.
 
OCZ have achieved this by incorporating the Samsung S3C29RBB01 controller along with Samsung's own NAND flash memory. Sadly this memory is still based on MLC technology as opposed to the flagship (and extremely expensive) Vertex EX's SLC tech. The jewel in the Summit's crown though is the massive 128MB of on-board cache which will smooth the drives performance when writing and totally remove the stuttering previous drives have been known to suffer in the past.
 
With so many SSD's now beginning to hit the market, the choice is becoming a little confusing so here's a quick breakdown of what OCZ offer the consumer with speeds rated in regard to the popular format of 120GB:
 
Name Read (MB/s)* Write (MB/s)* Cache Memory Type
Vertex EX 260 210 64MB SLC NAND
Summit 220 200 128MB MLC NAND
Vertex 250 180 64MB MLC NAND
Agility 230 135 64MB MLC NAND
Apex 230 160 16KB MLC NAND
Solid
155 90 - MLC NAND
Core v2 170 98 - MLC NAND
*Speeds advertised are 'upto' rather than guaranteed.
 
As you can see, the Summit class forfeits a little read speed for write that, along with double the amount of on-board cache should make the Summit drive the ideal choice for those looking to utilise an SSD for the main operating system drive which move small amounts of data around on a regular basis. Without this cache, data transfers will inevitably encounter stalling at one point of another and as such I would stay clear of drives that do not have some on board cache, preferably 64MB as a minimum. Luckily for us, the Summit has a full fat 128MB so this will hopefully be a none issue come testing.
 
Here's what OCZ had to say about their product:
 
Summit Series 2.5” Solid State Drives are tailored to meet the stringent demands of business professionals, enthusiasts, and entry-level enterprise applications. Summit Series strives to bridge the gap between the needs of high-end gaming and professional desktops and notebooks to small scale server PCs that require amplified criteria for maintaining a solid and stable work environment.

OCZ Summit Series SSDs provide the best of both worlds —the performance of cutting-edge technology paired with unmatched reliability, offering the ideal balance to store and transfer your most essential data. The Summit Series is the new wave in SSD solutions for users seeking an enhanced experience from their notebook or desktop, such as snappier speeds and access time, longer battery life, and shorter boot-ups. Ideal for even mission-critical systems, the Summit Series delivers best-in-class stability and dependability along with faster access times, lower power consumption, and superior durability compared to conventional hard drives.
 
 
Specification
 
The following specification was taken directly from the OCZ product page and are based around the 250GB model:
 
128MB Onboard Cache
Seek Time: <.1ms
Slim 2.5" Design
99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
Lightweight 77g
Operating Temp: 0C ~ 70C
Storage Temp: -45C ~ +85C
Low Power Consumption: 2W in operation, .5W in stand by
Shock Resistant 1500G
RAID Support
MTBF 1.5 million hours***
Read: Up to 220 MB/s
Write: Up to 200MB/s
Sustained Write: Up to 200MB/s
3 year warranty
Available in 60GB (64), 120GB (128), 250GB (256) capacities*
 
Nothing too extra ordinary stands out from the specification that we haven't already mentioned other than OCZ now offer 3 years warranty on their drives as opposed to the 2 year warranty served up previously.


OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
Much the same as the Vertex drive we reviewed previously, the Summit Solid State Drive is packaged in a small black box and in the case of our sample, arrived shrink wrapped. The front of the package is glossy in effect and has the main title including the size of the SSD emblazoned upon a sticker. The main features of the drive are listed toward the left of the box with the main specifications (again printed on a sticker) placed on the rear of the box along with a short introduction regarding the Summit SSD.
 
 box front box rear
 
Removing the shrink wrapping and opening up the outer sleeve we were greeted with a wallet type box which had the Summit drive neatly and securely held in place by a foam frame. The SSD was also sealed tightly in an anti-static bag to prevent any nasty electrical shocks. Talking of shocks, the Summit is capable of withstanding Ge-forces of up to 1500G! Sadly the editor would not allow me to test this feature of the drive out but rest assured, if this drive gives me as much frustration as the previous Core series then it could well make a short sharp trip out of the office window.
 
Included in the package is a short instruction and installation leaflet which to be quite honest is not really necessary. I would much rather see an explanation of how to tweak the drive to obtain maximum performance but information of this type is openly available on OCZ's great support forums.
 
box inner instructions
 
The drive itself is the standard 2.5" wide as with all of the Solid State drives on sale today to you may need to purchase a separate adaptor to fit this in your case should your enclosure not afford this width. Encased in plastic with a product sticker on top, the drive is very light, weighing a feather like 77g. As the drive has no moving parts, noise is none existent and heat is also kept to an absolute minimum with the drive certainly running a little over ambient temperatures during use. The drive also consumes a minuscule 2W during use and up to 5W when in standby mode. These features are perhaps one of the forgotten attractions to desktop and more directly, laptop users when heat, noise and power consumption are at a premium. 
 
SSD front perspective
 
The drive does not require any special adaptors so as long as your motherboard can take a standard SATA hard drive then you should have no issues fitting one of these drives. Consideration should however be given to your hard drive controller as some older controllers only support up to a theoretical 150MB/s which will again theoretically, severely restrict the potential of the Summit drive being that both the read and write speeds are above this value. We will be testing the drive using the ever popular Intel ICH10R controller so this should not be an issue.
 
tabs inner front
 
Voiding the warranty on this drive was a pretty much painless experience (I didn't pay for the drive!). Just four screws held the plastic/metal enclosure together. Beauty they say, is only skin deep but this is not the case with the OCZ Summit. The blue PCB of the drive was awash with 16 NAND flash (MLC) IC's, 6 on the top with a full compliment of 10 beneath.  On the 'top' of the unit, you will notice two extra chips alongside the six NAND memory chips. The largest of these is the Samsung controller with the 128MB of cache situated just below.
 
 inner back controller
 
As far as SSD's go, externally at least, the OCZ Summit is pretty much indifferent from other SSD's on the market being that the enclosure is a mixture of a plastic case with a stainless steel back plate. It's only when we delve a little further into the innards of the SSD that we see where those extra Euros went. The 256GB of Samsung NAND MLC (Multi layer cell) chips along with a complementing Samsung S3C29RBB01-YK40 controller and 128MB cache makes for one sweet setup in theory. 
 
Theory however is not what OC3D is about. Before we get this show on the road and put the OCZ Summit through it's paces, let's take a look at the test setup we will be using today along with a brief take on the competition we have in store for the OCZ SSD... 


OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 3
Test Setup
 
The test setup we will be using today for evaluation of the OCZ Summit drive is fully optimised for compatability and performance for testing SSD drives:
 
Processor: Intel Core i7 920 @ Stock Speed
Motherboard: Gigabyte UD4P X58
Memory: 6GB Corsair XMS2 1600Mhz
SATA Controller: On-board ICH10R Southbridge
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.0.1007
Operating System: Windows Vista x64 Ultimate SP1 + most recent Updates
 
Most people who will be considering the upgarde to an SSD drive will likely be making the jump from one of the many 'favourite' mechanical hard drives. With this in mind we will be assessing the OCZ Summits capabilities in comparison to the following drives with the previous results of the OCZ Vertex thrown in for good measure:
 
  OCZ Summit OCZ Vertex WD Velociraptor Samsung F1 WD Caviar Black
Read Seek Time <0.1ms
<0.1ms
 
4.3ms 8.9ms 12.2ms
Write Seek Time
<0.1ms
 
<0.1ms
 
4.7ms 8.9ms 12.2ms
Average Latency
<0.1ms
 
<0.1ms
 
5.5ms 4.17ms 4.17ms
Read Transfer Rate 220MB/s 250MB/s 120MB/s 175MB/s 106MB/s
Write Transfer Rate 200MB/s 180MB/s 120MB/s 175MB/s 106MB/s
Capacity 250GB 120GB 300GB 1TB 750GB
Cache 128MB 64GB 16MB 32MB 32MB
 
At the time of writing the review there were no publicly available firmware updates available for the OCZ Summit. Various Operating system and BIOS tweaks were however performed to obtain the absolute maximum operating conditions for the OCZ Summit SSD. These tweaks are:
  • Superfetch: Off
  • Indexing: Off
  • Search indexing: Off
  • Defrag: Off 
  • SATA Mode in BIOS was set to IDE for all hard disks
  • Drive was formatted with a 4096 cluster size
  • Enable Enhanced Performance was selected in device manager for all hard disks
 
Testing Methodology
 
While synthetic benchmarks such as HDTune offer a good insight into the performance of a mechanical disk drive, these figures do not always translate directly into real world performance, this is especially so for Solid State drives. I encountered numerous problems with HDTune Pro, especially with regard to the write speeds of the drive which were sporadic at best and demoralising at worst (see screenshot below).
 
read write
 
Despite numerous formats and tweaks, write speeds remained inconclusive so after two days worth of troubleshooting, I had to concede defeat and put this down to an incompatibility issue. For this reason I have not included the results of HDTune nor taken them into consideration when scoring the drive in the conclusion.
 
Before we get on-board with the testing, let's perform a run of HDTach, again not the best utility to use on SSD's but it should give us an idea of the performance to expect:
 
 hadtach
 
Not too shabby at all. with a sustained read speed of almost 180MB/s. This reading however is below the advertised speed of 'up to' 220 MB/s which is a little concerning. I'll wait and see what the other benchmarks report before commenting on this further.
 
Along with many other synthetic benchmarks run today, I adecided to perform several day-to-day operations (such as file transfer and Windows startup) in addition to the synthetic benchmarks. The full set of tests can be seen below
 
Synthetic Benchmarks
ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.34
PCMark Vantage HDD benchmarks
CrystalDiskMark 2.2.0f
File Write & Manipulation
Random file creation (15GB)
Sequential file creation (100GB)
OS & Gaming
Windows Vista Startup time.
Windows Vista Shutdown time.
Unreal Tournament III map load time.
 
Let's see how the OCZ Summit performed... 


OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 4
CrystalDiskMark
 
CrystalDiskMark is a free utility maintained by Japanese company Crystal Dew World. CrystalDiskMark evaluates the performance of your hard drives based on two tests – a sequential read/write test and a random read/write test. You can select the drive to test, the number of test and the size of the data to test which can be 50MB, 100MB, 500MB and 1000MB. The results displayed below have been conducted using 5 rounds of the 500MB test.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
As you can see from the results above, the OCZ Summit wins out in all but the highest sequential read test but still hitting the advertised speed with ease. This has put paid to my previous concerns regarding the HDTach and HDTune readings. In all the other tests, the OCZ Summit is clearly the fastest drive in both read and write tests. The mechanical drives simply pale in comparison with even the Velociraptor crumbling under the immense speed both the Vertex and more importantly, the Summit SSD's offer.
 
Let's move on...


OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 5
ATTO Disk Benchmark
 
ATTO Disk Benchmark may be one of the oldest hard disk benchmark utilities still in service, but many would argue that it still remains the best. Unlike HDTune Pro and many other benchmarking utilities, ATTO can be configured to write up to 256MB of data to the disk in file sizes varying from 5KB to 8MB. This is especially useful for SSD drives and indeed RAID configurations where performance can be heavily reliant on the cluster size of the disk. All tests were run with the default settings of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes with the total length of 256MB. For clearer comparative purposes, the key stages of the benchmark are included in the graphs below:
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
The OCZ Summit starts off well, beating it's stablemate, the OCZ Vertex in the 4KB test, however the tables were turned come the 32KB test and the OCZ Vertex kept the lead throughout the remainder of the ATTO benchmark. This is in stark contrast to the CrystalDiskMark results on the previous page so make of that what you will. I was particularly interested to see that the Summit appeared to struggled in comparison to the Vertex which uses a different controller with regard to writing small files in this benchmark. One thing is for sure though and that is the SSD's clearly out pace the mechanical drives of yesterday by a clear margin.
 
Let's see what PCMark Vantage makes of the drives...


OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 6
PCMark Vantage
 
PCMark Vantage may sound like potentially the most 'synthetic' benchmark on the market, but this couldn't be further from the truth. In a whitepaper published by Futuremark (developers of 3DMark and PCMark) they describe how PCMark mimics actual PC usage by performing application launches, web browsing, video playback, photo editing, file searching, and other day-to-day tasks. This potentially makes PCMark Vantage the most 'real world' benchmark of them all, and therefore we will be breaking down the HDD Suite benchmark into its various sections in the graphs to give you the whole picture.
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
The OCZ Summit and Vertex were evenly matched, with perhaps the Summit just squeezing out on top in a couple of tests. However, the Summit fell short in the media department, falling well behind the OCZ Vertex in both media player and movie maker tests. Worst of all was the media centre test where the Summit finished lmiddle of the pack.. This is possibly an anomoly though as throughout the other tests, no such problems were encountered.
 
Let's have a look at some real world tests...


OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 7
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 Vertex 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. The first 16GB benchmark writes a collection of files ranging in size from 1GB to 100KB, whereas the 100GB benchmark writes a single file of exactly that size to the disk.
 
 
 
Unreal Tournament 3 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.
 
 
Vista Boot/Shutdown Time
 
Quite a simple and self explanatory test. We took each of the 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 a text file placed in the startup folder. To ensure that the tests were fair the results were averaged over initial reboots. Shutdown time was also recorded, although this generally happened so quick that accuracy was hard to obtain.
 
 
Results Analysis
 
The OCZ Summit excelled at Dummy file creation, especially with regard to the 16GB random files. The OCZ Vertex however managed to claw back some pride with the 100GB single file test beating all of the drives on test today, even the mighty Summit. The same feat was repeated in both the Unreal Tournament level loading and Windows Vista start up/shutdown tests albeit by a much closer margin.
 
Let's head over to the conclusion where I will try to give my overall view of the OCZ Summit SSD...


OCZ Summit 250GB SATA2 SSD Page: 8
Conclusion
 
It seems every other week now yet another drive solid state drive is being released which claims to take the speed crown. The OCZ Vertex is a scorching drive attaining amazing speeds throughout and it seems every memory manufacturer out there are trying to better this amazing piece of kit by touting the read speed of the drives in bold font. However, read speed is not the be all and end all of data storage. It's a little like those etailors who promote an exceedingly good price then you notice the +vat and realise it's not such a bargain after all. The OCZ Summit caters for consumers looking for an all round, high performing drive which is fast at both ends of the scale, be it reading huge chunks of data or writing those tiny files that crippled the earliest revisions of SSD's.
 
I did encounter some frustrating problems throughout the testing, especially with regard to HDTune Pro which misreported the write speed of the drive, jumping from 150MB/s to 0 and back up again. The results it gave were sporadic and could not be reproduced time and again hence I did not include the results as they would have been misleading. Sadly, this is what you endure when using new technology - you just have to wait for software to catch up. No such problems were encountered with the remainder of benchmarks on test so I had to put this down to a software/hardware compatibility problem. At the time of writing the review there were no available firmware updates to rectify this fault. This is in stark contrast to other drives which appear to have firmware updates every other week! How you take this will depend on personal preference. Personally, I like to have an update as often as possible to keep ahead of the competition but some may prefer the updates to come slowly but actually make a difference. Hopefully there will be a future update for the Summit which will give slightly better speeds but I wouldn't say I was disappointed with the results the drive did manage to achieve, far from it.
 
The performance throughout the testing was exceptional, particularly in the CrystalDisk benchmark where the Summit dominated the competition. It's a shame I could not compare the drive directly against competitor models as stacking up against the no1 drive out there is perhaps not the best form of comparison in hindsight. That said it performed extremely well, often bettering the Vertex drive, particularly when writing small files which is widely considered to be the chink in any SSD's armour. The Summits read speeds, while slightly slower than the Vertex in most benchmarks but were still way above the mechanical drives and even snapped at the heels of the almighty Vertex on more than one occasion. The Summit then, appears to have compromised a little read speed for write speed which is no bad thing. Especially if you wish to use the Summit as an operating system drive.
 
The biggest challenge manufacturers now face is to get the prices down but while the technology is still being developed, premium prices are to be expected. This is perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks with a drive such as the OCZ Summit. The extortionate price you will have to pay to get your grubby hands on one is going to take your breath away. Are you sitting down? Expect to pay around £550 for the model we reviewed today. Yes, that's a serious amount of money to pay for 250GB, especially when you could now buy a 10TB raid array for less. Most folk however don't have the space, power or storage requirement for such a monstrosity. The OCZ Summit makes for a near perfect operating system drive thanks to the 128MB of cache which makes writing small files a breeze and after a few days use as an OS drive, I can confirm I never encountered any of the stuttering problems encountered by earlier SSD's.
 
In short, if you are on the lookout for a solid state drive that has fast read AND write bandwidth speeds, silly access times then you could do a lot worse than opt for the OCZ Summit. The Samsung controller is certainly a worthy opponent to other controllers out there and I have a hunch that, with a few firmware updates, the Summit drive could well become a clear winner. For now though, with all the above considered, I honestly could not choose between this and the OCZ Vertex. Both are exceptional drives and neither will disappoint, the decision will have to come down to whether you want an F1 car, capable of holding it's own for out and out speed against any opposition (Vertex) or a GT sports car being more versatile than an F1 car yet still has plenty of grunt and enough room to keep the Mrs happy (Summit). 
 
The decision as they say, is yours. 
 
The Good
- Improved Write speeds
- Exceptional all round performance
- Good packaging
- 3 Year Warranty with OCZ
- 128MB cache resolves stuttering
 
The Mediocre
- At this price I expect more than a photocopied instruction leaflet
- Firmware updates seem to be slow
- No drive mounting adaptors included
 
The Bad
- Expensive compared to similar drives on the market
 
 
 
Thanks to OCZ for providing the Summit 250GB for today's review. Discuss in our forums.