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OCZ Vertex 450 256GB SSD Review

AkG

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OCZ’s Vertex lineup’s status as one of today’s preeminent SSDs may have been recently usurped by the high end Vector series but its evolution has continued unabated. The Vertex 3.20 was announced earlier this year and the Vertex 450 is its latest iteration, promising top shelf performance without breaking the bank. As a matter of fact, the 256GB version we are reviewing here only goes for about $230.

While the Vertex 450’s cost puts it into a hotly contested market. Drives like Corsair’s Neutron series, Crucial’s M500 and SanDisk’s Extreme series all but dominate this segment but OCZ has several tricks up their sleeves to ensure their continued dominance.

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Much like the Vertex 3.20, this new Vertex 450 features a seamless blending of existing and new technologies in order to ensure optimal performance. It uses the new IMFT 20nm ONFi 2 NAND with an already proven Barefoot 3 controller. However, its specifications and internal design actually make the 450 more of a follow-up to the Vector series than the Vertex but that’s a point that will likely be hotly debated.

The Vertex 450’s specifications and raw throughput numbers make it look very much like a Vector when both are compared on paper. Indeed, there may be some segment creep between these two drives since a mere $30 of daylight exists between the 256GB versions. The Vector will however continue to be OCZ’s flagship SSD for the time being, or at least until its successor arrives sometime in the near future.

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By labeling this drive a Vertex 450, OCZ has perfectly sidestepped any potential pitfalls which plagued the Vertex 3’s 34nm to 25nm NAND transition. It also ensures both the Vertex 4 and Vector’s reputation remain unblemished due to the new market realities. Simply put the 25nm ONFi 2 NAND housed inside the Vertex 4 series is becoming harder to reliably source as manufactures hurry to move production to 19nm and 20nm NAND. In other words, the transition from 25nm to 20nm had to occur if OCZ wanted to continue selling any ‘Vertex 4’ branded drives.

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Moving onto the Vertex 450 256GB itself, we were instantly impressed with this drive’s exterior features. Gone is the half black plastic, half silver metal Vertex 4 case and instead OCZ is going with their ultra-durable Vector full metal case.

As a side benefit, this SSD uses a 7mm form factor whereas as the original Vertex 4 was a 9.5mm height model. This will allow it to fit inside Ultrabooks and other slim and light mobile devices without any issues. Unfortunately, OCZ has opted to forego the 2.5mm adapter bracket which many other companies include free of charge, though a 2.5” to 3.5” adapter plate is present.

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Opening the case up and looking inside we can see that the internal architecture also shares more in common with the Vector than the Vertex 4. In fact it is almost identical to the Vector 256GB model.

In total there are 16 ONFi 2 20nm NAND ICs populating all 16 slots on the full size PCB. There is also one Barefoot 3 controller and a pair of 256MB Micron RAM ICs. Interestingly enough –and just like the Vector 256GB - there is actually room on the PCB for an additional RAM chip. We assume the 512GB version will receive three RAM chips for its external cache buffer compared to the two chips of the 256GB model.

Closer inspection of the Barefoot controller shows that this is the newest “M10” iteration compared to the Vector’s M00 version. Very little is known about this new revision, but supposedly it runs at a slightly slower clock speed in order to optimize power consumption. This will be of little interest to PC enthusiasts but consumers looking for extended battery life should take note.

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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
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 240GB: 505
Crucial M500: MU02
Vertex 3.20 240GB: 2.30
Vertex 4 256GB: 1.51
Vertex 450 256GB: 1020

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 3.20 stock firmware w/ 20nm ONFi 2 NAND

LAMD:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND

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

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector - ONFi 2 NAND
OCZ Vertex 450 - 20nm 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.

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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.

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As expected, the sequential read and write performance of this new drive is everything we have come to expect from a new release: excellent. However, what is interesting is this drive is slightly faster than the Vertex 4 it replaces and is nearly as fast as the Vector 256GB model.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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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.

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Once again the Vertex 450’s power curves share more in common with the Vector 256 rather than the Vertex 4 it replaces. In fact, the power curves hint at this drive –almost- being a Vector competitor. Considering the Vector series is one of the better enthusiast grade drives available today - and the Vertex 450 is meant to be a mainstream offering - this is indeed impressive.
 
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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.

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As you can see, the large file performance of the Vertex 450 is very similar to what the Vertex 4 and Vector offer. Anyone would have trouble distinguishing between them based solely on large file read and write performance.

Turning our attention to the small file performance, things become much less murky. This drive once again shows its Barefoot 3 heritage as both the read and write performance is much better than the Vertex it replaces.


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.

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As we have seen in the past the new 20nm NAND has unique characteristics which will take time for firmware to adjust to. In the meantime, instead of a minor improvement / minor decrease as we saw with the Vertex 3.20 we are seeing an excellent boost even with rather immature firmware.
 
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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.

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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.

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While Anvil Storage Utilities Pro’s results are slightly less enthusiastic than AS-SSD’s, both synthetic tests show excellent improvements over the Vertex 4. In some cases the Vertex 450 is very close the Vector 256GB's performance level. The slight differences between testing suite write results are obviously because of the new 20nm NAND. With time and some firmware maturation we expect the write performance to noticeably improve across all queue depths and it is within the realm of possibility that the Vertex 450 will come even closer to matching the Vector 256GB’s numbers.
 
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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.

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Thanks to the robust Barefoot 3 controller, the Vertex 450’s IOMeter results are much better than previous OCZ 20nm upgraded drives. This new 20nm NAND may not be completely utilized thanks to its new operating characteristics, but the enhanced controller does make up for this shortcoming rather nicely.
 
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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.

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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!

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Based on the synthetic test results we were not overly surprised to see the Vertex 450 nipping on the heels of OCZ's Vector 256GB. This drive not only out performs its predecessor but nearly every other ‘mainstream’ drive we can think of. This really is an enthusiast class SSD, packaged into the form of a value-focused product.

Of course, when you do compare it to enthusiast grade drives these results not quite as impressive. After all OCZ is using new 20nm NAND and they – like most other companies – have not fully optimized their firmware for its unique characteristics. As it stands the write performance does somewhat hinder overall throughput, but the read performance does make for a generally great mainstream drive.
 
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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.


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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.


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Thanks to its Barefoot 3 controller the Vertex 450 once again acts more like a Vector than a Vertex class solid state drive.
 
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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.

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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.

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If there was any doubt about this drive having more in common with the Vector series than the Vertex 4, these results should remove them. Even though 20nm NAND does handicap the Barefoot 3 controller’s abilities somewhat, the results are better than any previous Vertex drive.
 
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