What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

OCZ Agility 4 256GB SSD Review

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
With nearly every company trying to expand their SSD lineup, there has recently been a veritable explosion of value orientated drives for consumers to choose from. However, long before most manufacturers were paying any attention to this end of the market, OCZ were hard at work creating multiple options including the venerable Agility line. The products housed within the Agility range have never been considered the fastest around, nor were they the least expensive drives on the market. They did however strike that enviable balance of performance and price which made them appealing to a wide customer base.

With the introduction of the surprisingly budget friendly Vertex 4 SSDs, it was only a matter of time before OCZ turned their attention towards updating the aging Agilities. With the recent release of the Agility 4 256GB they hope to further blur the line between high performance and budget orientated models. To help do precisely that, the new Agility 4 actually uses the exact same Everest 2 controller found in the Vertex 4.

Of the many benefits to opting for Indilinx’s Everest 2 controller, the largest is its compressed file handling abilities. No matter how compressed the data, this controller won’t be subject to the performance drop-offs which characterize LSI SandForce’s first and second generation controllers. This situation was further augmented when the SF2281 controller was paired with ONFi 1 asynchronous NAND, as it was in the Agility 3. While the Agility 4 still does rely upon this same ONFi 1 NAND, the newer controller’s features should keep it from suffering a similar fate.

With a combination of affordable NAND and a new controller that has been largely developed in-house, OCZ’s Agility 4 256GB is quite well priced. At $175 it undercuts higher end drives like SanDisk’s Extreme but may have some issues competing against other industry players like Crucial’s excellent but slightly flawed V4.


With its black and green color scheme, the Agility 4’s exterior is not all that different from past models. Unfortunately, while the neon scheme of the last generation has been replaced with a more subtle green, the half plastic case of the Agility 3 has been carried over to the Agility 4.


The layout of the various components may looks quite different when placed alongside an Agility 3 but the overall architecture is quite similar - albeit with one or two major points of convergence - to the Vertex 4 line’s. There are 16 NAND ICs populating the PCB’s 16 circuit slots alongside a large Indilinx branded Everest 2 controller chip and two external RAM chips. The only major difference between OCZ’s upper and mid tier drives is the use of ONFi 1 instead of ONFi 2 NAND and the RAM chips’ capacity. Instead of the Vertex 4’s whopping 1GB of onboard cache, the Agility 4 has access to 512MB via a pair of Hynix DDR3-1333 256MB ICs.


Likely due to its price, the Agility 4 does not come with a 2.5” to 3.5” adapter. Many of OCZ’s competitors have seen fit to include such an inexpensive accessory and this potential limitation should be taken into consideration before buying this SSD. However, with an asking price of only $175 the Agility 4 256GB unique attributes may allow it compete on overall value and not just price, lack of included accessories or not.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being a Kingston HyperX 240GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Please note:
Due to the unique nature of the hybrid setup certain tests results have been omitted as they require an unformatted drive to test or gave erroneous results.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Kingston HyperX 240GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB: 2.2
Patriot Pyro SE 240GB: 3.3.2
Crucial M4 256GB: 000F
Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120GB: 5.0.2
Intel 520: 400i
OCZ Vertex 4 512GB: 1.5
Corsair Force GS 240GB: 5.0.2
SanDisk Extrene 240GB: R201
Crucial V4 256GB: S5FAMM22
OCZ Agility 4 256GB: 1.5
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.



Write Performance


For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.


While the minimum write performance is a touch lower than we would like to see, both the average sequential read and average sequential write performance are right in line with what we have come to expect from modern drives. In these type of scenarios the choice of NAND has a minimal – at most- impact on overall performance.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.




While the power curves are very respectable for a budget orientated drive, the ONFi 1 NAND does appear to have a significant impact on overall performance in comparison to the Vertex 4. It will be interesting to see exactly how big a performance impact it is in real world scenarios, but we fully expect it to be both noticeable and pronounced.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.



It is blatantly apparent that the ONFi 1 NAND ICs housed inside the Agility 4 really does hinder performance but the numbers posted are still quite simply amazing. Based on experience with the Vertex 4 line, we know the Everest 2 controller is better than this but for a budget drive there's certainly nothing to complain about.


PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.


Once again the ONFi 1 NAND inside this drive is the obvious weak link in the Agility 4’s configuration. Seeing sub 5,000 results from a modern drive using an excellent controller just underscores what kind of difference NAND quality can really make.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.





Much like Crystal DiskMark results, the excellent Everest 2 controller can only do so much to hide the asynchronous NAND's performance dropoff.


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.



We do expect reduced performance from more budget orientated drives, but these numbers are lower than what we would want to see from any newly released model. A drive is only as fast as its slowest component and the ONFi 1 NAND is the obvious reason for the continuing string of rather mediocre scores.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
IOMeter

IOMETER


IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,3xk,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.


With the advent of cheap high performance NAND ICs – such as those found inside the SanDisk Extreme - we do wonder if OCZ’s adherence to their old Agility formula is going to be the Agility 4’s downfall. Once again, these results are decent.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Windows 7 Startup / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.


It seems that while the impact of OCZ’s choice of NAND IC’s is significant, the Agility 4 still posts a final score that is reasonably impressive. Not only is this drive significantly faster than a Crucial V4 256GB, it is also a touch faster than a Vertex 3 240GB drive. Unfortunately, the similarly priced (when on sale) SanDisk Extreme 240GB and its vastly superior Toggle Mode NAND ICs posts an even higher score.


ADOBE CS5 LOAD TIME


Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible!


Once again the performance of the Agility 4 is fairly good. Matching a Vertex 3 240GB is a very respectable showing from a budget orientated mainstream drive.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Firefox Portable Offline / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.



These results are fairly good for a modern budget solid state drive. The Everest 2 controller is a great controller and does do a decent job of dealing with the limitations of this drive’s NAND ICs. Unfortunately, there really is only so much the controller can do as ONFi 1 NAND is so vastly outclassed by modern NAND types.


Real World Data Transfers


No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy (set to 1 file depth) and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found.




As expected the large file performance of the Agility 4 256GB drive is very good. If you are looking for a secondary storage option which will mainly be dealing with large files then the Agility 4 would be a good choice. Unfortunately the small file performance of this drive is rather poor. Even though compressible versus incompressible data types doesn't matter all that much to the Everest 2 controller, the NAND type obviously does.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity.

Synthetic Test Results

For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.



Real World Results

For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.


Unfortunately, the use of asynchronous NAND causes the Agility 4 to take a noticeable performance hit when the drive nears its capacity limits. However, it still performs admirably in every scenario.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Latest posts

Twitter

Top