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OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD Review

AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
OCZ’s transformation over the last year or so has been nothing short of drastic and the new ARC 100 series is yet another step towards their ultimate goal of a streamline, more profitable lineup. After the successive launches of highly-regarded SSDs like the RevoDrive 350, Vector 150 and Vertex 460 into the consumer market, it’s hard not to get excited about where OCZ is heading.

With all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding their latest releases, some forgot that OCZ’s lineup was missing something. High end and even mid range SSDs were being offered but the only way value-conscious consumers would go with an OCZ drive was to get a hefty mail in rebate on a previous generation example. With the ARC 100, that all changes since these new SSDs have been purpose built from the ground up to offer a nearly unbeatable price to performance ratio

3.PNG

OCZ’s current consumer roadmap is all about consolidation for their various series in order to save on overhead costs. We are now seeing the OCZ’s own Barefoot controller architecture cascading down throughout the lineup and, as is befitting of Toshiba’s stewardship, Toshiba 19nm NAND permeating ever corer of the product stack.

The ARC 100 features Toshiba’s latest generation A19nm MLC NAND along with OCZ’s own Barefoot 3 controller while the Vector series will also be receiving an A19 makeover. Other SSDs from the competition have been utilizing these modules for some time now but this will be their first outing in parallel with Barefoot 3 M10.

Moving into 2015 OCZ will see a drastic shift with a new controller architecture dubbed JetExpress. JetExpress will include parallel native support for PCI-E, SATA and NVMe, finally bringing every upcoming drive under a single unified ecosystem.

2.PNG

With prices ranging from just $80 for the 120GB, $120 for 240GB and $240 for 480GB, the ARC 100 is obviously meant for the value-oriented market above all else. However, that doesn’t mean OCZ have looked the other way when it comes to performance and, more important, performance longevity. By using sufficient over-provisioning, an in-house controller that’s situationally adaptable and high endurance NAND, this could be the cost conscious SSD entry level users and even some enthusiasts are looking for.

1.PNG

When placed directly against both higher and equally priced SSDs, the OCZ ARC 100’s on-paper specifications are indeed impressive. Sequential read and write numbers are competitive but what’s noteworthy is the stability of the ARC’s write performance throughout its capacity range. Most of the other SSDs exhibit a substantial drop in write throughput as the number of NAND modules decreases but not OCZ’s newest value drive. This should lead to more predictable expectations regardless of which model you buy.

Right now very, very few companies have the ability to release an entirely in-house built and designed SSD, but thanks to Toshiba, OCZ is one of them. This gives them an amazing amount of freedom on the hardware, software, and pricing sides of the equation. They simply don’t have to deal with or rely upon other companies to create a fully functional solid state drive which is why the ARC 100 can be delivered with mainstream performance but at a cut-rate price.

bottom_sm.jpg

Like the Vertex 460 and Vector 150 before it, the ARC 100 comes housed inside a durable full metal chassis that uses the newer and thinner 7mm form factor. This does allow it to fit inside Ultrabooks and other slim and light mobile devices without any issues. Unfortunately, OCZ has opted to forgo both the 2.5mm adapter bracket and 2.5” to 3.5” adapter but we can’t forget this is a value drive.

board1_sm.jpg

The ARC 100’s internal layout bears more than a passing resemblance to the Vertex 460. It uses sixteen 19nm Toggle Mode NAND ICs, the M10 variant of the excellent Barefoot 3 controller and two 256MB DDR3 Ram ICs as a cache buffer.

Unlike the Vertex series it uses the aforementioned Toshiba branded Advanced 19nm Toggle Mode MLC NAND. This second generation 19nm Toggle Mode NAND ICs are not only smaller but are also slightly faster than their predecessors found inside the Vertex 460. For most consumers the differences are not going to be noticeable, but they should certainly help boost overall performance and may prove to be a key differentiator in the ARC’s segment.

board2_sm.jpg

This ultra-low asking price combined with high performance components is the secret to the ARC 100 and the reason it will quickly grab knowledgeable consumers’ attention. Up until now value drives have either come with good NAND but a mediocre controller, or a good controller but mediocre NAND…or mediocre NAND and mediocre controller. Quite literally no one has been able to give consumers both a powerful controller and powerful NAND without significantly increasing MSRP. Not Intel. Not Samsung. Not even Crucial.

The ARC 100 may be something of a rarity but we do have to wonder how much massaging has been done in order to make sure there’s some separation between it and the other drives in OCZ’s lineup. On paper at least it can come within 15% of a much more expensive Vector and that's impressive.

One other thing we need to mention is the ARC 100's warranty. OCZ has implemented what is called their new ShieldPlus Warranty. All of the details (as per OCZ) are below. To us, this is one of the most enticing additions we have seen from any SSD manufacturer to date.

All ARC 100 SSDs are engineered and tested to ensure superior quality, reliability, and compatibility and also come backed with OCZ’s brand new “ShieldPlus Warranty”, an industry-leading approach to service that eliminates all the hassle surrounding support and warranty claims consumers often have to deal with.

With no original proof of purchase required, end-users simply provide their ARC serial number and a dedicated OCZ customer service representative will provide high-caliber troubleshooting and support. In the event that the product is determined to be defective, a brand-new ARC SSD of the same capacity will be advance shipped to the customer.

When the replacement is received, end-users will find a pre-paid return label and need only to place their original drive in the box for a free return to OCZ. With the value added ShieldPlus Warranty there is no support hassle, no endless return loops, no shipping costs, and end-users will benefit from significantly reduced downtime to maximize their SSD experience and productivity.

OCZ ShieldPlus is available in both North America and EMEA at time of launch, and additional supported regions will be announced in the future.

With the security of the ARC’s ShieldPlus Warranty, OCZ’s valued customers will have the peace of mind that they not only have a quality solid state drive, but also the very best service and support should they ever require it.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Test System & 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 an Intel DC S3700 800GB 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.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel 910 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB: 1.33
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
Angelbird Adler 640GB: AA3.15
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB:DXM06B0Q
Crucial MX100 512GB: MU01
Crucial M550 512GB: MU01
Plextor M6e 256GB: 1.03
Plextor M6s 256GB: 1.03
Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB: 5.60
OCZ Arc 100 240GB: 1.0


Samsung MDX controller:
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 controller:
Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

LAMD controller:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - Custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9183 controller:
Plextor M6e 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9188 controller:
Plextor M6s - Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9187 controller:
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Marvell 9189 controller:
Crucial M550 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial MX100 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vertex 460 (M10) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
OCZ Vertex 460 (M10) - A19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Novachips NVS3600A controller:
Angelbird Adler - ONFi 2 NAND

Intel X25 G3 controller:
Intel 730 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Write Performance


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


These results are pretty much in line with what OCZ's specifications lead us to believe. However, sequential file performance is not a good indicator of actual drive output.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
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.

atto_w.jpg

atto_r.jpg


To the untrained eye these results simply point towards the ARC 100 being a middle of the pack drive. However, because both the read and write performance curves are anything but smooth two things can be learned.

It looks like OCZ hasn't taken full advantage of the A19nm NAND. This is something we expect to change as time passes and new firmware versions are released.

The ARC 100 uses higher end NAND and has an extremely high performance controller but the firmware seems to be constantly throttling throughput to ensure it doesn't step on the toes of its bigger brothers. This is what causes the peaks and valleys we see throughout the tests. Basically it looks like OCZ is doing something similar to Crucial and their MX100 series; but instead of using a physical handicap (lack of NAND interleaving) to artificially lower performance there's a software solution at play here. We can easily see the controller straining at this artificial barrier and trying to unleash its full performance, but every time the drive reaches an arbitrary number the performance instantly gets throttled - thankfully for only for a very short time frame. This is why the performance randomly dips and then goes back up almost instantly.

More importantly, this throttling may only become apparent in synthetic benchmarks and could never be noticeable in real world scenarios.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


<i>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. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


PCMark 7


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Once again the combination of excellent NAND with an excellent controller proves to be a very potent combination. Even with heavy handed deeper queue depth throttling the ARC 100 is more than able to outpace typical value drives and even keep up with most 'mainstream' SSDs.
 
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AkG

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Messages
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AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Based on this level of performance the ARC 100 240GB is acting more like a mainstream drive, rather than what its unbelievably low asking price would lead you to believe. Put simply, very few drives can favorably be compared to the class of drives above them, but so far the ARC 100's performance is just that good and really needs to be compared against much more expensive offerings before similar performance levels are found.

With that being said, firmware based throttling is obviously taking place, but so far it is mainly focused on deeper queue depths. At low queue depths (scenarios which are more in line with what a home user will experience) any shortfall is completely unnoticeable.
 
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AkG

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Messages
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IOMeter

IOMETER


<i>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,32k,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.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Obviously OCZ and Toshiba were worried about the A19 Toggle Mode / Barefoot 3 M10 controller combination fighting outside its weight class and felt it necessary to have the firmware throttle performance down somewhat. By the same token it isn't somethign to worry about as long as it is limited to scenarios which are far outside the scope of this drive's intended niche. After all this is an entry level, home user storage device so having it avoid competing against more enthusiast / workstation variants is to be expected.
 
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AkG

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Messages
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Windows 7 / Adobe CS5 Load Time

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


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Adobe CS5 Load Time


<i>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! </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

The ARC 100's performance in real world scenarios is pretty impressive, even when compared against drives that cost significantly more.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>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 and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

These results are extremely good for a drive that only costs 50 cents per gigabyte. Put simply the ARC 100 is still more than fast enough in both read and write tasks, but OCZ obviously still need to tweak the read algorithms.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


<i>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. </i>

Synthetic Test Results

<i>For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/data_pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Results

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

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/OCZ_ARC_100/data_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


This is one area the Barefoot 3 controller and 19nm Toggle Mode NAND combination has always excelled at so we were expecting the ARC 100 to post some great numbers here....and it did. Performance retention allowed it to compete with some of the best SSDs on the market once 50% capacity was hit. What more is there to say?
 
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