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OCZ Vector 180 240GB, 480GB & 960GB SSD Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Since its inception, the Vector series has made a name for itself as the flagship drive within OCZ’s SSD lineup but it has begun to show its age. Less expensive, more capable competitors have been introduced from numerous companies but they’re about to face a newcomer: the Vector 180.

While the new and improved OCZ have created some very impressive mainstream and entry level drives, they have been curiously absent from the enthusiast market since their reemergence as a Toshiba-backed company. This did leave the existing SSD lineup in somewhat of quandary with their 'mainstream' Vertex 460 nearly equaling the older Vector 150's real world abilities. For enthusiasts the very idea of purchasing an enthusiast grade drive that can barely outperform the mainstream version was contraindicated to say the least.

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Unlike its well-received predecessor, the Vector 180 is designed to put some distance between itself and the Vertex 460A but not necessarily from a raw performance standpoint. While it does offer some read and write IOPS benefits in comparison to lower end drives like the aforementioned Vertex and AMD’s R7 270, OCZ’s focus here was primarily upon two key aspects: sustained performance over time and longevity. You see, when it comes to read and write throughput, the SATA 6Gbps interface has nearly reached capacity so SSD manufacturers are looking for other areas to improve and assuaging long-term ownership concerns is a great place to start.

OCZ has taken a multi-faceted approach to enhancing the lifetime ownership experience. They have added a 5-year warranty, advanced data protection features, an architecture that enhances NAND endurance and one of the best after-sales support structures we’ve seen in a long time.

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With new Vector 180 series OCZ is making a recommitment to the enthusiast community since its features solely focus on their requirements while still adding a good amount of value to the equation. This drive is about proving to the consumers looking for high performance desktop SSDs that the Toshiba-backed OCZ is capable of more than just entry level and mainstream consumer drives. To this end OCZ engineers have pulled out all the stops and by using a tuned version their award winning Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 controller, their highest binned Toggle Mode NAND, and a firmware that promises to be razor sharp.

Comparisons are a bit hard to draw in this instance since many companies have left well enough alone with their higher-end drives in preparation for a move to SATA Express or NVMe. As such, many flagship lineups have remained relatively untouched. With that being said, the Vector 180 does find itself competing against Crucial’s newly released MX200 and OCZ’s own AMD-branded R7 series.

So how does the Vector 180 hope to differentiate itself? As we mentioned before it comes with a 5 year warranty and thanks to OCZ’s ShieldPlus commitment, customers need not worry about RMA shipping costs (both way shipping is covered by OCZ), down time (advanced replacements are available), or even receipts (just provide the serial number).

That price quotient also takes a front seat here. With prices of $150, $275, and a very reasonable $500 for the 240GB, 480GB and 960GB capacities respectively the Vector 180 series may not have be able to compete in the cost for capacity segment with Crucial’s MX200 series, but the combination of a better warranty, a higher performance controller, better NAND and enhanced endurance may in fact make it the better overall value.

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Externally all three capacities of the new Vector 180 series are virtually identical with only the small print listing their capacity to separate one from another. It looks like OCZ’s new branding, first seen on the ARC series, is now evident on this drive as well.

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Like the Vertex 460 and Vector 150 before it, the Vector 180 comes housed inside a durable full metal chassis that uses the newer and thinner 7mm Z-height form factor. This does allow it to fit inside Ultrabooks and other slim and light mobile devices without any issues.

Unfortunately, as with the ARC 100 series, OCZ has opted to forgo the 2.5mm adapter bracket that has become the de-facto standard accessory for enthusiast grade drives. On the positive side, the Vector 180 series does include a 3.5" adapter plate which is much more important for the typical home storage enthusiast. Acronis True Image has also been rolled into the package, which should simplify migration.

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On just a quick glance there is not much to distinguish the different capacities from one another. All three sizes offer sixteen 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND ICs, two RAM cache ICs, and a smattering of onboard capacitors. However on closer examination difference do come to light.

Obviously the 16 NAND ICs themselves differ in their density (16GB/32GB/64GB), but by modifying RAM allotment OCZ has created two separate and distinct Vector 180 'models'. The smaller capacity 240GB model offers a rather impressive 512MB via two 256MB Micron ICs and then the larger 480 and 960 are given a whopping 1GB of RAM cache spread across a pair of 512MB modules. Interestingly enough there is enough room for a third RAM IC, but we assume that preparation has been made for the possibility of larger Vector drives in the future.

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The Vector 180 also provides partial power failure protection or what OCZ calls Power Failure Management Plus (PFM+). PFM+ allows the drive to detect power drops, and proactively use the small onboard backup capacitors to write a new mapping table to the NAND before shut down.

Unfortunately, true Flush In Flight abilities aren’t included since the capacitors are too small and too few for such capabilities. This means any data that was in the process of being written from the RAM buffer to the NAND will be lost. PFM+ is certainly is a good step in the right direction as it greatly reduces the chances of a corrupted OS or the destruction of system-critical software components but it is still a few steps behind what companies like Crucial offer in their latest SSDs with enhanced Data Loss Protection - let alone what Intel offers on their 730 with full Flush In-Flight abilities.

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OCZ claims that through their new firmware optimizations and better NAND interleaving, they lead the pack when it comes to sustained performance. After two full drive writes every SSD out there has its performance fall off a veritable cliff and while the Vector 180 also suffers this fate, its long-term outlook is much better than competing solutions.

Will all of these features and an aggressive price make these drives the ones to have for enthusiasts? Can OCZ deliver on promises of top-shelf performance and enhanced longevity? We’re determined to find out.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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 Z97 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 i7 4770K
Motherboard: Asus Z97 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
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
OCZ Vector 150 240GB: 1.2
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
AMD R7 240GB: 1.0
Crucial MX200: MU01
Crucial BX100: MU01
OCZ Vector 180 240/480/960GB: 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:
Intel 520 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND

LAMD controller:
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:
ADATA SP920 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial M550 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial MX100 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial MX200 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector 150 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
AMD R7 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND w/ custom firmware
OCZ Vector 180 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

SMI 2246EN controller:
Crucial BX100 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

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

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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/Vector180/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/Vector180/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Since OCZ does not make use of, nor claim to use, any hybrid SLC technologies the sequential real and write tests do not tell us anything overly useful. That is to say all three models are extremely fast and extremely powerful for enthusiast grade drives, but thanks to SATA AHCI architecture they do not distinguish themselves from either each other or the competition in any meaningful way.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>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. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Vector180/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Vector180/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

While there is slight separation between the three capacity models the differences seen in ATTO are rather minor. This in and of itself is rather impressive and point towards the power of OCZ's excellent Barefoot 3 controller alongside proper interleaving.

If you delve deeper into the numbers (beyond what the resolution of the chart can show) all three models are actually posting different performance when dealing with small file size chunks of data. Specifically the 240GB is the slowest, but still not 'slow', the 480GB is the fastest version, and the 980GB model is in-between. If this trend continues it will point towards the 480GB being the optimal choice for enthusiasts not willing to compromise on performance. More importantly it will highlight why this will probably be the last Barefoot 3 controller based OCZ drive: the underlying architecture does not scale all that well past a certain point which, in this case, seems to be 16 32GB NAND ICs. Plus, the Jet Express architecture is right over the horizon.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your 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/Vector180/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Vector180/cdm_w.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/Vector180/pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Once again both the 480GB and 960GB models post slightly better yet completely unnoticeable performance results than the 240GB model. However the 240GB is still no slouch and easily qualifies as an enthusiast grade drive, just without the usual enthusiast grade price tag.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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/Vector180/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Vector180/asd_w.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/Vector180/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Vector180/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

This new Vector 180 series may only be slightly faster than its predecessors, but even small improvements do allow this series to boast some rather impressive performance levels. Once again however, the three capacity models do differ ever so slightly in their individual performance characteristics, with the 480GB being the front runner by a hair.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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/Vector180/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

At lower queue depths the differences in performance between the various sized Vector 180's is minor at best. It is only at deeper queue depths we once again see a divergence between the models, with the 480GB being the fastest and the 240GB being the slowest. Even with this minor divergence the partnership between the Barefoot 3 M00 controller with razor sharp Toggle Mode NAND is an impressive combination regardless of which capacity you opt for.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Windows 7 Boot Time / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up w/ Boot Time A/V Scan


<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/Vector180/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/Vector180/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

OCZ has obviously spent as much time and effort refining their Barefoot 3 controller's firmware for Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND as Crucial and Intel has spent on their controller of choice for IMFT NAND. The end result is the Vector 180 being an awesome competitor across the board, regardless of capacity.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfer

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 worst 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/Vector180/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot 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/Vector180/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Vector180/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Once again the Vector 180 series posts excellent numbers that belie its almost mainstream asking price. No matter what capacity version you look at, the Vector 180 simply exudes value, and that is something which was sorely lacking in the enthusiast corner of the marketplace.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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/Vector180/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/Vector180/data_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

When it comes to the Barefoot 3 controller bigger is not always better - it simply is bigger; however filling a 960GB drive to near capacity is a much harder task than filling a 480GB model. The same cannot be said of the smaller 240GB model, but even this diminutive capacity model still posts some great performance retention numbers that put to bed the idea that you need to spend a veritable fortune to get outstanding performance from a Solid State Drive.
 
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