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OCZ Octane 512GB SSD Review

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AkG

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While it has been a couple of generations since Indilinx based drives ruled the enthusiast market, under the stewardship of OCZ, the original controller powerhouse is now looking to make a comeback. Since the Barefoot controller days, Indilinx fell off the radar when their promised JetStream architecture never really came to fruition. In the interim OCZ swooped in, purchased Indilinx and the “Indilinx Infused” OCZ Octane 512GB is one of the first drives to come from this new collaboration.

Last week we looked at the new Indilinx Everest 2 controller-based Vertex 4 and many were probably wondering how the second generation Everest came into fruition. Well, the original Everest is housed within the Octane series and was released only a few months ago as a slightly lower cost solution for mid-tier mass market drives. Having two levels of the same controller could prove to be a major advantage for OCZ since they no longer have to rely upon outside manufacturers for most of their SSD needs.

A major benefit from making the controller “in house” is the ability to have fine grain control over the firmware, hopefully speeding up revisions and allowing for quick reactions to any potential issues. It also leads to the possibility of offer larger capacity drives at more reasonable price points.

The Octane may not be designed – or marketed – to be direct competition for SandForce SF2281 based drives like the Vertex 3 MaxIOPS, but this doesn’t mean it is a low performance “budget” drive either. It just happens to be a budget friendly performance orientated drive that is supposed to combine performance and capacity. Unfortunately, OCZ’s release of the Vertex 4 512GB at $699 caused the higher capacity Octane some problems since its price of $819 didn't seem in touch with the current market realities. OCZ had other plans though and the Octane 512GB should be retailing for around $650 (plus rebates) or less once Vertex 4 stock hits the channel.


While the Octane’s exterior is no different than other OCZ drives like the Agility 3, when you open the case and look inside the differences are readily apparent. Much like Marvel, the Indilinx Everest controller relies on external RAM. In the case of the 512GB Octane this takes the form of not one, but two 256MB Micron branded DDR3 SDRAM ICs for a whopping 512MB of cache.


While the total of NAND ICs is no different than any other large capacity drive we have looked at, it is not all that often that you will see sixteen 256Gigabit NAND ICs on a single controller board, but that is exactly what this monster boasts. These high performance ONFI 2 ICs may be of higher capacity than the ones typically found in other drives, but we’ve seen their like before and likely will again.
 
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AkG

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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.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel 520 240GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
OCZ Vertex 3 MI 240GB: 2.1.5
OCZ Vertex 4 512GB: 5.10.31
Corsair Force 3 GT 120GB: 1.3.3
Patriot Pyro 120GB: 3.3.2
Kingston HyperX 240GB: 3.3.2
Crucial M4 256GB: 0309
Mushkin Chronos 120GB: 3.3.2
Intel 520: 400i
OCZ Octane 512GB: 1.13
 
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AkG

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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.



With an average in the high 400’s the OCZ Octane 512GB drive may not be the absolute fastest sequential read drive we have tested to date, but the performance is still impressive. When you compare what this Everest based drive can do to that of a mid-tier SF2281 like the Corsair Force 3 (ONFi 2 based SF2281) or Patriot Pyro (ONFi 1 based SF2281), things certainly point to OCZ being right to expand their lineup as it is just as fast – or faster.


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.



Thanks to its use of ONFi 2 rather than ONFi 1 NAND ICs the OCZ Octane 512GB is able to handily outperform most mid-tier drives. In fact, this new Everest based drive is able to come close to that of what high performance / enthusiast grade drives such as the Intel 520 and Vertex 4 can do.
 
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AkG

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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 it may not be able to compete in performance with the likes of Vertex 3 240GB MaxIOPS and Vertex 4 , the OCZ Octane 512GB still has very decent overall benchmark curves with particularly good small file numbers.
 
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AkG

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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.





Thanks to above average incompressible data handling abilities the Octane is able to posts some numbers that very good but the read 4K and 4K32 queue depths numbers are a touch on the low side.

Sadly the Write side of things are not quiet as impressive. This drive may indeed have better sequential and larger file write performance than what you will get from a mid-tier SF2281 drive but the 4K and 4K32 aren't good at all. It is unlikely that you would notice much difference in the real world, but it is unfortunate nonetheless.


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.



While the Octane 512GB is only able to post an average in the 4800’s, this isn't anything to sneer at either. More to the point, these numbers are a lot better than we what we have come to expect budget orientated devices. In all likelihood the lowered small file write performance is what keeps the Octane from encroaching on high performance SF2281 territory, but that is to be expected.
 
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AkG

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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.



As with Crystal DiskMark, the Octane 512GB posts some downright good performance numbers but it starts to fall by the wayside at deeper queue depths.


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.





As seen in our previous tests, the Everest controller housed within the Octane 512GB is just not able to handle deep queue IO requests as efficiently and effectively as an SF2281 controller. Luckily, any SF2281 drive in its price range is hobbled by ultra inefficient ONFi 1 NAND and this does help make the Octane’s overall performance appear much more respectable. Sadly, the lowered write performance once again keeps the Octane from being able to rise above its mid-range classification.
 
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AkG

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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.



This drive is never meant to be used in server orientated environments and the rather low showing in IOMeter just underscores this fact. Once again, we keep coming back to the fact that while the performance may not be up to modern standards, the results are still decent.
 
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AkG

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Windows 7 Start Up / 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.




While a touch slow compared to some, the OCZ Octane's numbers are once again are very good. Sadly, it truly is a case of too little too late as the larger enthusiast grade SF2281 controller based drives are simply too powerful for it.


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!


As with load time, the Octane 512GB performs admirably well in real world scenarios. The difference in synthetic performance compared to SF2281 drives really doesn't count for all that much, as it simply does not translate to a huge real world performance difference.
 
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AkG

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Firefox 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.



Because of the fact it has been released so late in this generation’s cycle, the Octane will never be considered a true enthusiast grade “high performance” drive. However, if it had been released before the SF2281 these numbers would have certainly been good enough to earn it such accolades. Considering many consumers still use Vertex 2 drives, the Octane with its massive size yet –relatively- reasonable asking price can easily be considered a solid choice for budget buyers.


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.





The small file transfer speed may be abysmal, but thanks to its better handling of uncompressible data the overall performance picture is a lot more rosy than it otherwise would be. Unfortunately, the weak link of the Octane really is its write performance, especially when dealing with a lot of small files.
 
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AkG

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NON-TRIM Environment Testing

NON-TRIM Environment Testing


In many ways, a Intel 520 RAID array should be severely handicapped in an environment that doesn’t support TRIM. To recreate this, we first modified our testbed so that it would not pass on the necessary cleaning commands. Meanwhile, to artificially induce a degrade state we ran eight hours of IOMeter set to 100% random, 100% write, 4k chunks of data at a 64 queue depth across the entire array’s capacity. At the end of this test, the IOMeter file is deleted and the drive was then tested. This will replicate drive performance after extended heavy usage prior to any self maintenance routines kicking in and is indicated by the “Dirty” results below.

In order to allow each drive’s self-maintenance routines to kick in, we then wait 30 minutes (Dirty + 30 results) with the system at idle and rerun the tests.

To help give as both a detailed and practical overall picture of a given drive’s ability in this severe environment we have chosen two tests: one synthetic and the other more real world in nature.


Real World Results


For a real world application we have opted for our standard Vista load time test.


This really does change the way we look at the Octane.....and not in a good way. To be blunt, if your OS doesn't support the TRIM command, look elsewhere for an SSD. This one just takes too long before it can get out of a degraded state.
 
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