Back in July '08 Overclock3D got its first introduction to the Solid State Disk. Supplied in a 32GB capacity, the very first OCZ SSD to hit the market failed to impress our team with performance levels below that of the Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB mechanical hard disk. Not only that, but price and capacity were also major downfalls of the SSD due to lack of space after installing the bloated Vista operating system, and a price tag that although reasonable in comparison to other SSD's on the market, still couldn't be justified. As a result the OCZ 32GB SSD left Overclock3D awardless with it's tail between its legs.
However, unfazed by this OCZ continued to pursue perfection in the SSD arena, coming out with several revised versions of their 'Core' SSD series in an effort to improve performance and compatibility. Now, almost a year after our initial review, OCZ have a full range of new SSD's (Solid, Core, Apex & Vertex) aimed at all areas of the market from the budget to the high-end. Today we'll be taking a look at the latter of these disks in the form of the Vertex 120GB SSD, and what better place to start than some snippets from OCZ's website:
Starting with the basics, the Vertex series is available in sizes 30GB - 250GB. This is a massive improvement over the sizes available last year and thankfully prices have also taken a nosedive too. OCZ claim that the Vertex has an MTBF (Mean time between failure) of 1.5million hours which roughly equates to 170 years, but unfortunately for only two of those years is the drive actually under warranty. Power consumption is extremely low using only 2w during operation and 0.5w in standby, offering marginally increased battery life for laptop users.
Interestingly read and write performance figures vary depending on the capacity of the drive. Naturally you'd expect the smaller drives to have the best performance, but from the specs OCZ provide this is simply not the case, with the fastest drive being the 120GB version and the 250GB coming in a close 2nd.
Now that we've got all of the paper specs out of the way let's take a closer look at the drive.
Packaging & Appearance
In keeping with the packaging used on the original SSD and Core SSD drives, OCZ has placed the Vertex 120GB in a box of similar dimensions to a CD Jewel case (albeit thicker). This, combined with the light weight of the drive inside should result in fairly cheap delivery costs - providing your selected retailer passes the savings on.
The packaging design is extremely simple with the primary colours used being black and white. This gives an extremely fresh and professional appearance to the Vertex, but doesn't exactly scream "pick me up" if placed on a retailers shelf. The front of the box offers some basic specifications along with an image of the drive, while the back of the box contains much of the general blurb found on OCZ's website.
Opening the outer packaging up we see a rather nice interior box that folds out into two sections, one holding the drive itself and the other a compartment holding an installation manual. Unfortunately it would appear that OCZ haven't listened to our cry's in previous SSD reviews for a 2.5" to 3.5" drive converter and some screws to be included in the package. After all, the majority of users will more than likely be installing the Vertex in a desktop PC rather than a laptop.
The drive itself is essentially the same design on the outside as the Core series with a matte black aluminium top and silver brushed aluminium base. This theme is also carried along the Apex and Solid series albeit with different coloured logo stickers.
Removing the 4 screws at the base of the disk reveals the main PCB with a total of 8 NAND IC's neatly arranged in two rows on one side of the PCB and a similar arrangement also on the underside. Going in for a closer look we can see the IC's are manufactured by Samsung and carry the markings K9HCG08U1M. A quick search of the net reveals these to be 48-pin MLC large block IC's capable of operating at 2.7-3.6v with a 25ns speed.
Nearest to the SATA power and data connectors is the Indilinx Barefoot IDX110 ARM-Based controller along with 64MB of 133MHz SDRAM cache from Elpida. This combination of controller and cache replaces the JMicron JMF602 controller used in many of OCZ's earlier SSD drives and will hopefully rid the Vertex of the 'stuttering' issues that many SSD adopters reported with drives from various manufacturers using the JMicron chip.
Test Setup & Settings
In our original reviews of the OCZ SSD and Core SSD drives a comparison was made to the highest performing mechanical SATA-II based drives available on the market at that time. Their performance was somewhat underwhelming, managing to just about match the performance of the traditional platter based drives while only offering a fraction of the storage space. With the Apex 120GB it would appear that OCZ have upped the anti, and for this reason we're going to give the SSD a chance to redeem its self by once again placing it up against some of the fastest mechanical drives we could get our hands on. The selection of drives can be seen below:
|OCZ Vertex||WD Velociraptor||Samsung F1||WD Caviar Black|
|Read Seek Time||< 0.1ms||4.3ms||8.9ms||12.2ms|
|Write Seek Time||< 0.1ms||4.7ms||8.9ms||12.2ms|
|Average Latency||< 0.1ms||5.50ms||4.17ms||4.17ms|
|Read Transfer Rate||250 MB/s||120MB/s||175MB/s||106MB/s|
|Write Transfer Rate||180MB/s||120MB/s||175MB/s||106MB/s|
Unfortunately the results from our earlier SSD reviews could not be included in the graphs for the Vertex drive due to an entirely different benchmarking platform and test suite being used. However, as some of the results do appear to be quite similar to our original testing, we may refer to these results over the next few pages. Below are the specifications of the system used to conduct the testing of the above drives:
It is also worth noting that in order to obtain the best performance from the Vertex, the following additional steps were performed prior to benchmarking:
While synthetic benchmarks such as HDTune 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 transfer and Windows startup) in addition to synthetic benchmarks. The full set of tests can be seen below:
Now we've got that out of the way let's move on to the results...
HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro is a complete hard disk benchmarking, status and erasing utility by EFD Software. Capable of benchmarking performance across 100% of the disk HDTune is especially useful for mechanical hard drives that have greater performance towards the centre of the platter. As SSD drives do not suffer from any noticeable performance degradation across the entire capacity of the disk, this makes HD Tune an excellent utility for displaying the differences in performance between the two types of media. Our testing procedure involved running both the read and write benchmark tests on each of the drives with screen shots of the results being taken at the end of each benchmark run. The results can be seen below.
|OCZ Vertex - READ ||WD Caviar Black - READ |
|WD Velociraptor - READ ||Samsung F1 - Read |
In everything but the burst rate results the Vertex annihilated the competition with an average read speed of almost 100MB/s higher than the rest of the drives. Access time was also naturally good for the SSD drive with a measured speed of 0.2ms - 7ms lower than that of the Velociraptor. Interestingly CPU usage was reported to be 1% higher for the Vertex, but this could easily be attributed to Vista running background processes.
|OCZ Vertex - WRITE ||WD Caviar Black - WRITE |
|WD Velociraptor - WRITE ||Samsung F1 - WRITE |
Although slightly more erratic on the HDTune graphs, the write performance of the Vertex 120GB is simply awesome. Managing an average transfer rate of 171.4MB/s - almost double that of the Western Digital Velociraptor, it certainly looks like write performance has come a long way since we last got our hands on an OCZ SSD.
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
|OCZ Vertex ||WD Caviar Black |
|WD Velociraptor || Samsung F1 |
Starting with the writing of the 256MB file in 0.5K chunks, the Vertex falls behind the other drives by between 3-6MB/s. This defecit is soon made up however once the chunk size hits 4KB with the Vertex matching up to the other drives in the write results and flying ahead in the read results. From chunk sizes 128KB - 8192KB the Vertex performance remains quite consistent with a ~200MB write and ~230MB read speed. As with the HDTune benchmarks, this is more than 2x the speed of the Samsung F1 and Caviar Black drives and almost double that of the Velociraptor.
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.
|OCZ Vertex||WDC Caviar Black|
|WDC Velociraptor||Samsung F1|
A pattern is certainly beginning to emerge as the Vertex once again makes fun of the mechanical drives in the sequential and 512k read results beating them by around 100MB/s. The write results are slightly more evenly matched with the Velociraptor and F1 drives sharing almost identical scores, but the Vertex one again leading the pack by around 20MB/s.
Based upon the 5K chunk results produced from ATTO over on the previous page, we was half expecting the Vertex to fall short in the 4K CrystalDiskMark testing. However, once again the Vertex reigned supreme with an absolutely huge advantage over its opponents.
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.
The graph really speaks volumes about how much better the Vertex is than it's mechanical ancestors. While the Caviar, Velociraptor and F1 drives fight for their positions, the Vertex rockets into the lead offering performance almost 10x higher in certain areas of the benchmark. Keeping in mind that PCMark is one of the most comprehensive 'real-life' benchmarks used in our testing, it really does look like the faithful old hard drive has spun its last disk.
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.
Starting off with the 16Gb random files test, we can see that the Vertex manages to complete the creation over a minute faster than most of the drives, with the exception of the Velociraptor which still looses out by just under 50 seconds. In the 100GB file creation the gap widens further with the Vertex completing the benchmark in just under 14 minutes, whereas the Velociraptor takes just over 18 minutes and the Caviar Black more than 20 minutes.
To simulate the compression of various types of files, a folder containing a collection of 200 text documents filled with a combination of compressible and non-compressible contents in 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 an accurate "time taken" reading in milliseconds.
Interestingly there is very little difference between any of the file compression results indicating that possibly CPU performance was a limiting factor, or that there wasn't enough compressible files in the folder to give the disk drives a proper workout. The decompression results separate the drives a little more with the Vertex completing the task in just over 15 seconds with the Velociraptor and other drives finishing in between 22-24 seconds.
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.
Reinforcing the results from PCMark, our slightly crude testing using a stop-watch also showed a significant advantage for the Vertex in Windows Vista startup times. Booting in just over 24 Seconds the Vertex managed a full 7 second lead over the Velociraptor and came within a whisker of beating the Samsung F1 drive by a whole 10 seconds.
Unfortunately no recordable difference was seen in the shutdown times - but at 8 seconds anyway, you can hardly complain that the process is slow.
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.
Loading the Torlan map a full 10 seconds quicker than the Samsung F1 and WDC Caviar Black, the Vertex certainly gives you the opportunity to gloat at the poor performance of your friends PC's as you enter the next map while they're still staring at the loading screen. Admittedly the Velociraptor manages to hold its own tailing behind the Vertex by only 4 seconds, but still the winner is clear.
The Western Digital Velociraptor, Caviar Black and Samsung F1 drives may be among the fastest mechanical SATA disks on the market, but as we've seen today they are absolutely no match for the OCZ Vertex. In benchmarks such as HDTune and ATTO the Vertex produced read and write results almost double that of the ageing platter spinners and as if that wasn't enough humiliation, the Vertex totally dominated PCMark Vantage with some results coming out over 10x higher than than the rest of the drives. Simply awesome.
Unlike our original testing of the "OCZ SSD" the Vertex also produced tangible benefits in Windows start-up and game loading times. Unreal Tournament III went from menu to map in 1/2 the time of the popular Samsung F1 1TB hard disk, while Vista SP1 booted in screamingly fast 24 seconds - 7 seconds faster than the Velociraptor. Similarly the time taken to copy a massive 100GB file to the disk was also completed a whopping 4 minutes faster than its nearest competitor.
I'm sure many of you will be reading this review wondering if the 'stuttering' issues apparent on so many SSD's is also an issue on the Vertex. It's not. After using the Vertex as a primary OS drive in our test system for the past two weeks and also transferring the Vertex to my personal Macbook, no slowdown, stuttering or freezing issues were experienced what-so-ever.
As a final note, it'd be negligent of us to end this review without mentioning that capacity and price are still a little way off that of the mechanical drives. However, bearing in mind that 2009 has been filled with releases of new GPU's and Chipsets that offer little to no visual improvements in performance, replacing your OS hard disk with an SSD such as the Vertex instead of spending £300 on that 'new' graphics card just makes so much more sense.
- Read/Write speeds up to 100MB/s faster than some of the best SSD Hard Disks on the market.
- Extremely low latency.
- Visual benefits in Windows start-up, game loading and file copying.
- SSD's have inherently lower power consumption - useful for Laptops.
- Totally silent. More than can be said for the Western Digital (Verloci)Raptor drives.
- 2yr Warranty. Most mechanical hard drives have ~5yrs.
- Price still quite high, but you get much more for your money than last year.
- Package really basic. Throw in some drive bay mounts goddamit!
- No time to make a cuppa while waiting for file transfers :)
Thanks to OCZ for providing the Vertex for review. Discuss this review in our forums.