OCZ Vertex 2 Pro, Sandforce Powered SSD Preview - HotHardware

OCZ Vertex 2 Pro, Sandforce Powered SSD Preview

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What's this? Yet another SSD product from OCZ Technology? It's not like the company doesn't already have a staggeringly large selection of solid state drives of both the MLC and SLC varieties, with various controllers under the hood and even a RAID-driven, PCI Express based line-up. You wouldn't want another SSD from OCZ to choose from, with yet another Flash controller player to consider, now would you? Of course you would. The general consensus in the market right now is that both the consumer and OEM/embedded arenas can't get enough of solid state storage technology nor can it evolve quickly enough.   

What's interesting about NAND Flash storage is that the primary limiting factors, density and cost, are polar opposite to what the spinning hard drive technologies offer.  Hard drive technology has driven cost down to the pennies-per-gigabyte range and capacities are about as large as most end-users could want, though there's always a demand for more in the data center and perhaps in the enthusiast fringe. Conversely, SSDs have afforded an order of magnitude speed boost in most applications where hard drives have reached saturation, though there's always that insatiable need for more speed. 

Intel has arguably held the pole position in terms of SSD performance with their X25-M series of drives, but OCZ and others have had their sights set on knocking Intel from their perch for a while now. Though fledgling SSD technologies are still very much maturing in terms of cost and density, performance increases are coming along at regular intervals, so we knew it would be only a matter of time before there was a serious contender. OCZ's first gen Vertex series SSD came close to catching the X25-M's performance but the second coming of the Vertex, aptly dubbed the Vertex 2 Pro, is what OCZ claims will put them squarely in the lead.  In the pages that follow, we'll cover the performance profile of the new OCZ Vertex 2 Pro series 100GB SSD, though we should caution that we'll be showcasing an early engineering sample and these drives won't be available for about a month or two.  Regardless, we'll profile the performance to come with this new SSD and the NAND Flash controller newcomer, Sandforce.


OCZ Vertex 2 Pro Series 100GB MLC SSD - Sandforce 1500 under the hood

OCZ Vertex 2 Pro Series SATA II SSD
Specifications and Features
Specifications:
  • 100GB capacity (93.1GB usable)
  • 50GB, 100GB, 200GB and 400GB available
  • MLC NAND
  • Slim 2.5" Design
  • Power Consumption: TBD
  • MTBF: TBD
  • Warranty: TBD
 100GB SSD Max Performance:
  • Read: Up to 280MB/s
  • Write: Up to 270MB/s
  • IOPs (4K random write): 19000
  • Seek Time: < 1ms
  • Operating Temp: 0C ~ 70C
  • Storage Temp: -45C ~ +85C
  • RAID Support
  • Shock Resistant: 1500G



The OCZ Vertex 2 Pro series of SSDs will come in a few different capacities with sizes ranging from 50GB to 400GB.  We're specifically taking a look at the 100GB version here today.  It's an MLC-based drive with very robust looking read and write bandwidth up to 280MB/s and 270MB/s, respectively.  4K random write performance, which is sort of the Achille's heel of the modern SSD, is rated at 19000 IOPs.  All told, on paper the Vertex 2 Pro's specs are impressive.  Let's get a closer look at the hardware under its metal casing. 

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This sector is moving so fast, there seems to be new which impacts it almost daily in one way or another. For a data center these things are almost a god send. For a normal user as well as a hardware junkie, performance gamer etc. they are good editions, and getting better all the time.

I personally have not taken the plunge and gotten one (I also don't have the cash to get a performance model), but would very much like to. Having one of these for an OS and for reactive software such as games, with one of these 1-2TB beauties for a storage drive, seems to be the best setup. However just using these type of drives in multiple and or raid configs is also awesome.

Maybe I will have the money to get one some time. I think it will mostly be one of these OCZ units, they seem to be the fastest as well as most successful (in operational hardware, and of course transfer ratios now as well), names in this market to me.

I wonder when then new ultra low Nm specifications will start affecting this market as well.

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Totally agree rapid1. I do believe with the shrinkage that Intel/Micron just achieved will help out the SSD market and give us larger drives for less dollar.

I also have not made the jump to SSD but I am excited when I can. The speed these things offer will take all PC use to all new levels.

I found this from another site that might help some people pick out drives and give some info on SSD.

http://www.tweaktown.com/guides/3116/tweaktown_s_solid_state_drive_optimization_guide/index.html

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I have to say that after I installed my SSD Raid in my PC (ran it for a few days before), the change was dramatic in several areas.  I mean, my PC is rather crazy to begin with, but it is all the little things that the SSD does that makes it worth it.

However, since I did drop a lot of money into my drives already it will be a while before I think of upgrading.

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What seems to be the best strategy with SSD's is to just wait for the market to calm down a bit. Like Marco said, they have a strangely large selection of drives, which makes me think they are still figuring it out. I think a safe standpoint is to wait a couple months before moving in on one of these drives.

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To be honest... i'm a bit dissappointed in the IOPS on this. It didn't even come close to the 19,000 they claim. In some cases it was only slightly better than the Vertex drive. I'm hoping it is just some bugs they need to work out. I wouldn't say this put them "squarely in the lead" as OCZ claims. It has it's benefits and drawbacks compaired to the Intel drives.

Still... that being said. It's a pretty solid drive. Hopefully the price is reasonable.

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Acarzt, what are your thoughts on Iometer in general? We're not all that thrilled with it in terms of its relevance to real world performance. Look at virtually all the other tests we ran and the Vertex 2 Pro is stronger, especially versus what Iometer shows. We're considering dropping it (Iometer) all together actually... thoughts?

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Well, as far as getting an accurate count of IOPS... i'm not sure how true the numbers really are. But I do think it is a good gauge of how well the drive will perform in the real world.

It's really hard to say for sure if that test would really even be valid or worth using anyway because in the real world i think it would be quite difficult to find any program and usage that would actually use such an large amount of IOPS.

Considering HDDs have IOPS in the hundreds vs SSDs have IOPS in the Thousands... You would really only see the difference in a Server environment. I don't think applications are really tapping into the IO potential of SSDs. The proof of this is in the fact that load times in games don't really change. I think if games took more advantage or this they could get better load times.

I'm no programmer... but if I were to take a shot at how a game loads... they seam to read segments peice by peice... like textures, models, etc. in a certain order. If they were to load these things parrallel, or all at once and really take advantage of the IO power I think they could tap into more of the bandwidth available on these SSDs. But they are more geared towards HDDs and their lower IO.

With everything going multi-this and multi-that though, I think it's only a matter of time before SSDs can have that kind of effect. But in current usage I don't think any users really tap into the IO power they have. A server environment is where they will really shine where you have hundreds of users accessing the same data.

Then again my understanding of IO could be all wrong here :-P

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Great article Dave!

I was very impressed with the CrystalDiskMark benchmarks. I have to agree with rapid1, while I'm loving the performance increases in the SSD market, the price and size/density progression has been a little slow.

Especially interesting was the section of Durawrite. I'm a little confused by this. I assumed 1x would be limit for write amplification so Intel's 1.1x seemed pretty well optimized. With the 0.5x amplification, are we saying that 10GB of information will only occupy half as much on the actual SSD? Are we talking about some sort of data compression?

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Essentially Write amplification writes the data at a larger size to write it faster. For example 4kb of data would be written to an entire block as 128kb. This is an amlification of 32x. Datawritten / Data Size = Aplification.... 128/4 = 32. So then the reverse would be true Amplification * Data Size = Data written. So for Intel this would be 1.1 * 4k = 4.4k. So .5 * 4k = 2k...... Which shouldn't be possible... So there is a big question of how, and this is not really explained. 1 theory I have is that the data is held in cache until 2 blocks can be filled in a single pass instead of needing to do multiple passes.

This would explain why it performs so well on CrystalDiskMark at 4k and why you see the sea-saw effect in sisoft.

BUT, if this IS true then it would make the potential for data corruption higher due to a power failure because data will be held in cache slightly longer and this may be why response times also went higher(poorer) in IOMeter when more writes were involved.

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