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OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB SSD Review

AkG

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Since the release of their high performance Vector series, OCZ has been rather quiet but that silence ended with the OCZ Vertex 3.20. The Vertex 3.20 240GB is actually the first new drive from OCZ being released this year, which is quite the change for a company which used to have one of the broadest SSD portfolios around. However, this more sedate and measured release schedule is keeping with OCZ’s new focus which chooses quality over quantity. The new Vertex 3.20 240GB is a perfect example of this new commitment in action.

The original Vertex 3 lineup had its fair share of hiccups which were mostly caused by the use or lack of 25nm NAND and OCZ vowed never to repeat that performance. While this new Vertex 3.20 may resurrect the old brand name, there’s very few similarities between it and its predecessor. More importantly, this time around OCZ is being completely upfront with the NAND being used. The reason for the addition of the ‘.20’ to the name is simple: it uses latest generation 20nm NAND instead of 34nm or 25nm NAND found in previous Vertex 3 drives. Naturally, additional performance and cost benefits will stem from this decision.


Using this new NAND makes the new Vertex 3.20 quite unique in a number of ways. This is one of the few non-Crucial or Intel branded models to use IMFT 20nm modules, though the NAND shares more in common with the 20nm units found in Intel’s 335 series, rather than the Crucial M500 series. Specifically, OCZ has used ONFi 2.3 64Gbit MLC NAND rather than ONFi 3 128Gbit MLC NAND which is essentially a slightly lower binned version of what’s found inside of Intel’s drives. This does tend to negatively impact performance in comparison to higher-end models but the Vertex 3.20 also targets a much lower price point.


In many ways, this new Vertex 3 model is a testament to the longevity of OCZ’s original design. We know of no other solid stated drive model which has survived long enough to live through three separate and distinct NAND generations. Of course, there is a rather large benefit to using 20nm over 25nm. Unlike when the 25nm version was silently introduced, the new NAND type comes with a rather significant price reduction and there should be more than enough performance here to satisfy most users’ needs.

Speaking of price, with an online asking price of $240 (or less when on sale), the Vertex 3.20 240GB is one of the more affordable mi-tier drives available. This also puts it into direct competition against some of today’s heavy hitters like the Crucial M500 and Corsair’s Neutron GTX, both of which are great drives in their own right.


Opening up the Vertex 3.20 240GB we can see that the architecture follows the classic Vertex 3 layout with a single controller chip and 16 NAND ICs. Like all Vertex 3 models, this one houses an LSI SandForce SF2281 controller but instead of using the latest, more power efficient version – the ‘B2’– OCZ has opted for the older ‘B1’ model found in previous Vertex 3 models. This is in keeping with the budget friendly nature of the 3.20, but it will put this drive at a minor disadvantage when compared to some other newly released SF2281 based models. The largest improvement the B2 brought was lower power consumption, especially during idle periods.


On the positive side, thanks to aggressive pricing the power draw handicap will likely be rendered all but moot for most budget constrained consumers considering we’re talking about less than a watt increase during normal operation. But the true measure of this drive will come from its price to performance ratio, where the 3.20 will face stiff competition from newer controllers and more established competitors’ models alike.
 
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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 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.

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: Intel DC S3700 800GB, 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
Crucial M4 256GB: 000F
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
OCZ Vector 256GB: 2.00
Intel 335 180GB: 335t
Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB: 505
Kingston SSDNow V300 240GB: 505
Crucial M500: MU02
Vertex 3 240GB: 2.25
Vertex 3.20 240GB: 2.30

SandForce SF1200 Drives:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 Drives:
Intel 520 - custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
Intel 335 - custom firmware w/ 20nm ONFi 2 NAND
SanDisk Extreme - stock firmware w/ 24nm Toggle Mode NAND
SSDNow V300 - custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
Vertex 3 - stock firmware w/ 24nm ONFi 2 NAND
Vertex 3.02 stock firmware w/ 20nm ONFi 2 NAND

LAMD:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell:
Crucial M4 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector - ONFi 2 NAND
 
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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.



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.



The Vertex 3.20's read and write performance is right in line with what we have come to expect from a SATA 6Gb/s drive: excellent. It is interesting to see that while the average read performance of the Vertex 3.20 is better than that of the 25nm Vertex 3, the write performance of the ‘.20 is slightly worse. This minor decrease in performance could be from unrefined firmware or could be the lower binned NAND itself. In either case this is something we will be paying careful attention to, especially when it is placed up against some similarly priced competitors.
 
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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.




Once again the power curves are right inline with what we would expect from a SF2281 drive combined with ONFi 2 NAND. Unfortunately, once again while the performance curves are very good they lag ever so slightly behind original Vertex 3’s 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.







We would like to think that the lower write performance is due solely to unrefined firmware, as at least then it could be fixed in the future but in all likelihood the issue lies in the 20nm NAND’s performance characteristics. This would be in keeping with historical precedence as the 25nm Vertex 3 did have slightly worse performance than its predecessor the (original) 34nm Vertex 3. More worrying is the fact that OCZ's latest Vertex looses to similarly priced drives like the M500 and Neutron GTX.



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.




So far, everything does point to the Vertex 3.20 being slightly less capable than its predecessor and that includes its performance in PCMark as well.
 
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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.





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.




When Crystal DiskMark, AS-SSD andAnvil Storage Utilities Pro agree with one another about the Vertex 3.20's read performance falloff, you know there's something going on. The only thing which remains to be seen is if the slight improvement in read performance will make up for the reduction in write performance in real world scenarios. In either case, the difference is not that large and not overly worrisome given the price point this new 3.20 resides in.
 
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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,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.


Using any entry level SSD in a workstation or enterprise centric environment is never an optimal choice and the Vertex 3.20 once again proves why this is the case. Luckily, this new drive is meant for home user environments and its reasonably asking price backstopped by –so far – reasonable performance does make for a good overall choice.
 
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AkG

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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.




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 you can see the difference in performance between a Vertex 3 and Vertex 3.20 is minor at best. While there certainly is a minor reduction in write performance the slight increase in read performance does make up for it in real world scenarios. This is because most real world tasks involve a lot more read IO requests that write! If OCZ can indeed fine-tune the firmware for this new 20nm NAND, the new Vertex 3.20 may actually become noticeably better in real world scenarios than the Vertex 3 it replaces.

With that being said, competing drives like Corsair's Neutron GTX and Crucial's M500 do tend to beat this drive in real world testing, though not by all that much.
 
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AkG

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Firefox Portable / 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.



Once again changing to less expensive 22nm NAND doesn't change real world performance, but there isn't an improvement either. While the 3.20 is technically 1 second faster than its predecessor, we could consider it a ‘tie’ nonetheless. In either case, the Vertex 3.20 is an good performer with a good price to performance ratio but there are quicker alternatives like the offerings from SanDisk and Corsair that cost about the same amount.


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 and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found.





The Vertex 3.20's read performance does do a very good job at negating its lowered write throughput. The end result is that unless you are moving copious amounts of data the differences between the old and new Vertex drives will be minor at best.
 
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AkG

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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.


It appears that using OCZ's Vertex 3.20 at near capacity does indeed lower performance but the differences are rather small. In addition, it is interesting to see this drive actually coming ahead of Corsair's Neutron GTX which has some major issues retaining its numbers.
 
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