OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive Page: 1
Introduction
 
With every new release of Solid State Drive it seem performance is also increased. To meet the demands of the consumer, OCZ have recently unleashed the Vertex Turbo range of Solid State Drives which build on the phenomenally fast Vertex series (reviewed here). The original drive was reviewed like the majority of our reviews 'out-of-the-box' but newer firmware has since been released which increases performance even further and as such we are awaiting the latest firmware update for the Vertex Turbo which is receiving excellent reports thanks to the update incorporating much needed features such as garbage collection and TRIM support. We will keep you posted on further developments with a retest of the original and Turbo Vertex drives to see what exactly the benefits are along with a guide to flashing your solid state drive.
 
Until we receive the new firmware, we will show you today what you can expect from the Vertex Turbo at present. The speed of the Vertex Turbo has been increased over its brethren to 270MB/s read and 210MB/s write which is nearing the limit of current SATA technology. Fear not though because with 3rd generation SATA just around the corner boasting up to 6GBps the phenomenal bandwidth of upcoming drives will be accomodated.
 
Using the same Indilinx Barefoot controller of both the Vertex line and our current fastest SSD, the GSkill Falcon, OCZ are sticking to what is perhaps the best controller on the market. 64mb of SDR DRAM cache running at 128MHz (as opposed to 166MHz on the original Vertex) is also implemented which has proven to be more than adequate for preventing the previous problems when writing small files. Apart from this slight tweak the major difference between the Vertex Turbo and other drives of similar decent is the use of improved NAND flash chips that promise to push the performance envelope further than ever before.
 
One of the biggest drawbacks of SSD technology is that over a period of time NAND flash memory is effected by data fragmentation which can cause the drives to slow down considerably. While some sompetitors drives still suffer from this degradation, OCZ's exclusive firmware will maintain the drives peak performance throughout it's lifetime without any maintenance from the consumer thanks to the built in 'optimizer'. This little piece of code runs while the drive is idle so it will be unoticable to the end user. Also, OCZ  have stated that these drives will fully support TRIM with the impending arrival of Windows 7 operating system, making OCZ's drives a future proof investment.
 
For notebook users, the performance requirement is such that they are the ideal replacement for slower, heavier, mechanical hard drives which also consume a fair bit more power. Desktop users though are simply looking for power and storage.
 
Heres what OCZ had to say:
 
OCZ Vertex Turbo Series provides a cutting-edge design for enthusiasts looking to transform their desktops or laptops. Enabled by a proprietary firmware and 64MB of 180MHz DRAM cache, the Vertex Turbo Edition ramps up performance levels to new heights, while providing the snappy computing, longer battery life, and shorter boot-ups users have enjoyed from the original. The Vertex Turbo delivers best-in-class read and write speeds clocking in at up to 270MB/s read and 210MB/s write along with the lower power consumption and superior durability compared to conventional hard drives.

The OCZ Vertex Turbo drives feature a durable yet lightweight alloy housing, and because OCZ SSDs have no moving parts, the drives are more rugged than traditional hard drives. Designed for ultimate reliability, Vertex Turbo Series SSDs have an excellent 1.5 million hour mean time before failure (MTBF) ensuring reliability over the long term.
 
Specification
 
The specification below shows the current line up of OCZ Solid State drives with the technical information taken the the OCZ product pages:
 
Name Read (MB/s)* Write (MB/s)* Cache Memory Type
Vertex Turbo 270 200 64MB (180MHz) MLC NAND
Vertex EX 260 210 64MB SLC NAND
Vertex 250 180 64MB MLC NAND
Summit 220 200 128MB MLC NAND
Agility 230 135 64MB MLC NAND
Solid 2 125 100 64MB MLC NAND
Solid
155 90 - MLC NAND
 
As you can see, the OCZ drives are progressively becomming faster and faster with every release reaching the pinnacle in read speed with the Vertex Turbo I have for review today. It's not only the read speeds that are steadily increasing either, perhaps more importantly, especially if you intend to use one of these drives for a boot drive, the write speed has also increased massively to more than twice what the entry level drive offers.


OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
The packaging of the Vertex Turbo is near identical to that of other OCZ solid state drives being that it has a shrink-wrapped thin card exterior. The main difference is the Turbo emblem signifying that this is the enhanced version of OCZ's killer Vertex SSD. The main features of the drive are displayed on the rear of the package along with a brief, concise run down of the specifications. I'm still amazed at the weight of the SSD's which are much lighter than your average mobile phone.
 
rear
 
The interior packaging is also a standard affair with the foam padded box opening up to reveal the anti-static wrapped SSD itself. A token instruction leaflet is also supplied but in all honesty it offers little information of any real benefit. As with previous drives, I would prefer information on how best to 'tweak' an operating system to take maximum advantage of SSD technology.
 
package
 
The black coated metal casing has a mirror of the packaging design on a sticker which is placed upon the top of the drive. Because of the inherent design of SSD's. these things are virtually indestructible. That isn't to say you couldn't break one but you would have to be extremely unlucky to do so accidently. We are yet to see any cases that house the SSD without an additional bracket so it is a shame that a premium product such as the Vertex Turbo does not include such a device. The drive should not however present any issues being fitted to a notebook 2.5" drive bay thanks to the drilled and tapped screw holes. The rear of the SSD is bare metal and has a further sticker informing the user of handling procedures and that the interior houses static sensitive components and that the cover should not be removed.....
 
front rear
 
Of course we do not intend to follow those warnings (but you would do well to) and instead removed the backplate of the SSD via the removal of 4 tiny screws. The mainboard is very similar to that of the standard Vertex SSD however there are a few subtle differences.
 
inner top inner rear
 
Like the Vertex, there are two banks of 8 NAND Samsung K9HCG08U1M-PCB00 integrated chips. Because of the orientation of the 48pin NAND chips, each bank is multi -layered producing 64GBx2 (128GB). As we have previously seen, these Samsung chips fly when linked to the Indilinx controller. So far so good then...
 
 
SATA Samsung
 
The Vertex Turbo also uses the Indilinx IDX110 Barefoot controller seen in both the standard Vertex and GSkill Falcon, our previous top performing drives. The major difference however between those drives and the Vertex Turbo is with the 64MB of DRAM cache. While all of these drives use 64mb courtesy of Elpida, OCZ have 'overclocked' this ram to 133MHz (CL3-3-3). This tweak should further enhance the Vertex Turbos capability of writing small files.
Indilinx Elpida
 
I think we have shown there to be very few differences between the Vertex and the newer Vertex Turbo we see here today. Indeed cosmetically, the two drives are near identical save for the stickers. Even to the uninitiated, the interior would appear to be identical but the change in Samsung NAND flash IC's, and overclocked Elpida DRAM cache may well see an improvment over the standard Vertex. 
 
Before we crack on with the benchmarking phase of the review, let's take a look at the setup I will be using to test the OCZ Vertex Turbo and run a few familiar benchmarks which you may have used yourself....


OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive Page: 3
Test Setup
 
The test setup we will be using today for evaluation of the GSkill Falcon 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 upgrade 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 GSkill Falcons capabilities in comparison to the following drives:
 
  OCZ Vertex TurboGSkill Falcon OCZ Summit OCZ Vertex WD Velociraptor Samsung F1 WD Caviar Black
Read Seek Time 270<0.1ms <0.1ms
<0.1ms
4.3ms 8.9ms 12.2ms
Write Seek Time <0.1ms
<0.1ms
<0.1ms
<0.1ms
4.7ms 8.9ms 12.2ms
Average Latency <0.1ms
<0.1ms
<0.1ms
<0.1ms
5.5ms 4.17ms 4.17ms
Read Transfer Rate 270MB/s230MB/s 220MB/s 250MB/s 120MB/s 175MB/s 106MB/s
Write Transfer Rate 200MB/s190MB/s 200MB/s 180MB/s 120MB/s 175MB/s 106MB/s
Capacity 128GB128GB 250GB 120GB 300GB 1TB 750GB
Cache 64MB64MB 128MB 64MB 16MB 32MB 32MB
 
Rather than search for and flash the drive to the latest firmware, for our reviews of SSD drives we intend to test the drives as you would recieve them. Obviously flashing and thereby upgrading the drives will have an effect on the scores so this should be taken into consideration when viewing the results. Various Operating system and BIOS tweaks were however performed to obtain the absolute maximum operating conditions for the OCZ Vertex Turbo. 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. For the purposes of comparison to some of our previous reviews though I have included a couple of screenshots of the GSkill Falcons performance here although these should be taken with a pinch of salt due to the sporadic nature of HDTune Pro in testing SSD's:
 
read write
 
HDTune showed some excellent read and write speeds almost hiiting 200MB/s. However when you consider that the read speed of the Vertex Turbo is advertised at 270MB/s, some may feel a little short changed by this result.
 
Before we get on-board with the testing, let's also 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 and it's perhaps the most common utility used to compare hard drives:
 
hftune rw
 
 
HDTach backed up what HDTune was telling us and recorded speeds well below that what was advertised. This was on a clean, pre-formated drive. I decided to format the drive again using the 'default' cluster size but alas the results were the same. While these results are hardly what you could call slow, if they are to be believed then they are well below the advertised 270MBs which is not good at all as this drive is barely faster than a standard Vertex according to these results. However, as previously stated, HDtune and HDTach are not the best methods to test the true speed of an SSD so we have our own suite of benchmarks to try the OCZ vertex Turbo out on.
 
Along with many other synthetic benchmarks run today, I decided to perform several day-to-day operations (such as file transfer and Windows start up) 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 Vertex Turbo performed...  


OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive 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
 
Not a great start for the Vertex Turbo beating the Falcon in small 4k and sequential write speeds but losing out by a fair margin in the remainder of the read and write tests despite on paper being the faster drive.
 
Let's take a look at the ATTO benchmark...


OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive 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
 
Once again we see a comparative mediocre set of results from the Vertex Turbo. Strange as it may seem, the Turbo version actually fell behind the standard version at times. Thankfully on average, the Vertex Turbo was the quicker drive out of the OCZ drives, just but could not quite keep pace with the GSkill SSD in this round.
 
Let's see what PCMark Vantage makes of the drives...


OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive 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
 
PCMark Vantage completely backed up what we have found thus far in that the Vertex Turbo is only mildy faster than the standard Vertex but behind the Falcon which is surprising considering the Vertex Turbo is the advertised as the faster drive out of the bunch.
 
Synthetic benchmarks can only tell us so much though so let's put the drives to the test in a few real world challenges.


OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive 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
 
While the Gskill drive appeared to be better at random file creation, the OCZ Vertex Turbo was the quicker drive over the much longer test of 100GB.  The GSkill just took the spoils in the Unreal Tournament III level loading test while the OCZ won overall with the Vista boot time/shutdown. This goes to show that you cannot place too much faith in synthetic benchmarks because if I were to go off these 'realworld test' then the OCZ Vertex Turbo would clearly be the higher performing drive.
 
Let's head over to the conclusion where I will try to give my overall view of the OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB SSD...


OCZ Vertex TURBO 120GB Solid State Drive Page: 8
Conclusion
 
Before reviewing the OCZ Vertex Turbo I had very high hopes that it would become a clear leader in the current crop of solid state drives OC3D have reviewed. Sadly, the results from the benchmarks show otherwise. While the OCZ Vertex Turbo is certainly a high performance drive, we found that the improvements over the standard Vertex, while noticeable were not significant enough to topple our fastest SSD to date, the GSkill Falcon. That's only part of the story though as the Vertex Turbo WAS the fastest drive to use outside of the synthetic benchmarks. In terms of 'real world' usage, the drive felt just as, if not more snappy than the Falcon drive which goes to show, you cannot place too much emphasis on synthetic analysis.
 
I was initially dismayed that the drive did not peak at the advertised speeds and instead provided results that were actually quite a lot lower, hitting 242 MB/s according to CrystalDisk, some 28MB/s slower than what OCZ claim the drive is capable of . This is not a major issue though because it is a rare day indeed that specifications result into what you would get in the 'real world' with the usual 'upto XXXMB/s' disclaimer applying itself in this instance. At the time of writing this review, there were no available firmware updates to enhance this speed so the 1.0 version was used throughout the testing. With OCZ's fantastic support, I have no doubts that future firmware releases will increase the performance to that closer of the advertised speed.
 
I encountered absolutely no stuttering while using this drive as the main boot drive housing Windows Vista 64bit over a two week period and this is where I feel the drive comes into it's own. While some weight has to be added to the benchmarks we have run today, real-time usage of the drive also has to be considered and perhaps equally weighted. The drive was the quickest SSD on test in terms of Vista boot up and shutdown and more or less matched our previous quickest drive in the game level loading test. There is little to choose performance wise between the two drives, especially when it comes to the real world tests where you would struggle to fit a cigarette paper between the two. With that in mind there is no doubting that the OCZ drive is certainly a rapid, high performing  piece of kit.
 
The OCZ Vertex Turbos biggest obstacle however is it's price. Costing some £54 more than GSkill's offering at around the £340 mark, anyone looking for a top end MLC based SSD is going to find it difficult to justify that extra cash when similar (and at times faster) speeds can be had for less. Sure, speed binned NAND chips are going to be more expensive to source, as is the overclocked cache but when these appear to add little to the performance of an already outstanding drive one has to wonder how that extra cash injection can be justified. The 3 year warranty will go some way to advocate the extra outlay as would OCZ's terrific support, both of which a fair chunk so a lot will depend on how much value you place on these two propositions. Should you decide to lay claim to the OCZ Vertex Turbo, one thing I can guarantee you is blistering performance, the likes of which you have to experience to believe and no amount of text can describe the improvements an SSD of this caliber can make to a high end computer system.
 
The Good
- Fantastic performance
- Slight improvement over the stock Vertex
- 3 year warranty
- 180MHz cache
 
The Mediocre
- Did not reach advertised speeds during testing
- No included jumper for firmware flashing
 
The Bad
- The price may discourage potential buyers
 
 
 
Thanks to OCZ for supplying the 120GB Vertex Turbo SSD for todays review. Please discuss in our forums.