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OCZ Apex Series 120GB SATA II SSD
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Date: Mar 12, 2009
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

The solid state drive, or SSD, market is incredibly hot at the moment, with a constant influx of new products that seem to leapfrog previous offerings at every turn. No one has been able to overtake Intel's X25 series of SSDs in terms of overall performance just yet, but the SSDs available from many other companies today are clearly superior to the previous generation.

The latest offering to land on the HotHardware test bench is the OCZ Apex Series SATA II SSD. Like OCZ's previous solid state drives, the Apex series fits in a standard 2.5" form factor, but changes to some components and the internal configuration of the drive make the Apex series much more appealing. Take a look at the specifications below and we'll detail all of the changes and the performance of the drive on the pages ahead.

OCZ Apex Series SATA II SSD
Specifications and Features

  • Available in 60GB, 120GB, 250GB capacities
  • Read: up to 230 MB/sec
  • Write (120-250GB): up to 160 MB/sec
  • Write (60GB): up to 110 MB/sec
  • Seek: <.2-.3ms
  • Slim 2.5" Design
  • 99.88 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
  • Lightweight 77g
  • Operating Temp: -10C ~ +70C
  • Storage Temp: -55C ~ +140C
  • Low Power Consumption
  • Shock Resistant 1500G
  • Internal RAID 0 Support
  • MTBF 1.5 million hours
  • 2 year warranty

Part Numbers

  • 60GB - OCZSSD2-1APX60G
  • 120GB - OCZSSD2-1APX120G
  • 250GB - OCZSSD2-1APX250G

 


We've covered a number of other solid state drives in the past here on HotHardware. For a closer look at some competing offerings and explanations of many of the technologies employed in SSDs, we're recommend checking out the following articles:

In our Four-Way SSD Round-Up we explain the differences between SLC (Single Level Cell) and MLC (Multi-Level Cell) drives, and in our Intel X25-M coverage, we detail the specific enhancements Intel has made to their controller and describe the adaptive performance algorithm that has made their first SSD offering such a success in the eyes of enthusiasts.

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OCZ Apex Series 120GB SSD

Like the vast majority of SSDs currently on the market, OCZ's Apex Series drive uses a standard 2.5" form factor, with a rather unassuming enclosure devoid any features, save for a few decals and the drive's SATA power and data connectors.

    

OCZ Apex Series drives are available in 60GB, 120GB, and 250GB capacities; the drive you see here is the 120GB model. These are MLC (multi level cell) drives equipped with Samsung flash memory and JMicron controllers. 

    

What makes the OCZ Apex Series different than OCZ's previous solid state drive offerings, however, is the Apex series' use of what OCZ calls an "internal RAID 0 configuration" Instead of relying on a single drive controller, the OCZ Apex series is equipped with two controllers and the dual storage arrays are linked internally in a pseudo-RAID 0 setup. Although we should note, this is all transparent to the OS--the OCZ Apex Series drives appear as a single volume to the operation system.

    

With the drive opened up, you can see the array of Samsung flash memory chips that actually store the data copied to the drive. In between the memory chips and the SATA power and data connectors, the pair of JMicron JMF602 controllers are visible. We should also point out that these JMicron controllers are the 'B' revision of the chips, which minimize the stutter reported with the earlier revision.

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Test Setup IOMeter and SANDRA

Our Test MethodologiesUnder each test condition, the Solid State Drives were installed as secondary volumes in our testbeds, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations.  The SSDs were left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle before invoking a test.

The IOMeter Question:

As we noted in a recent SSD round-up article, though IOMeter is clearly thought of as a well respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're becoming increasingly uncomfortable with it for testing SSDs, as well as comparing their performance to standard hard drives.  The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to be accurate, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real world performance, at least for the average end user.  Regardless, here's a sampling of our test runs with IOMeter version 2006.07.27 on our SSD sample lot.

 

In the table above, we're showing two sets of access patterns; one with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and one with IOMeter's default access pattern of 2K transfers, 67% reads and 100% random access.  What you see in the table above is an example of how random write operations kill I/O throughput of SSDs in IOMeter.  There is no question random write performance is the Achille's Heel of MLC SSDs, though SLC-based SSDs have a much easier time with it.  OCZ's Apex SSD performed relatively well in our IOMeter tests, besting all of the other SSDs with the obvious exception being Intel's X25-M.

HotHardware Test System
Intel C2E Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850


Asus Striker II Extreme
(nForce 790i SLI Ultra chipset)


GeForce 8800 GTX

2048MB Corsair DDR3-1333
CAS 7

Integrated on board

Western Digital Velociraptor - OS
Western Digital Velociraptor - Test
300GB - 10,000RPM - SATA 3Gb/s

OCZ Apex Series SSD 120GB
OCZ Core Series 64GB

OCZ Standard 64GB
Super Talent MasterDrive MX 64GB
Intel X25-M 80GB


Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows Vista Ultimate
Intel 8.6.1006
DirectX 10

NVIDIA ForceWare v175.19

Benchmarks Used:
HD Tach 3.0.1.0
ATTO ver 2.02
PCMark Vantage
SiSoftware Sandra XII SP2


In our SiSoft SANDRA testing, we used the Physical Disk test suite. We ran the tests without formatting the drives and both write and read performance metrics are detailed below.  Please forgive the use of these screen captures and thumbnails, which will require a few more clicks on your part.  However, we felt it was important to show you the graph lines in each of the SANDRA test runs, so you are able to see how the drives perform over time and memory location and not just an average rated result.

SANDRA Physical Disk Read Performance


OCZ Apex Series SSD


Intel X25-M 80GB MLC 


OCZ Core Series


Super Talent
MasterDrive MX


According to SANDRA's Physical Disk Read performance test, the OCZ Apex Series SSD's performance of just over 165MB/s bests all of the competing offerings by a sizable margin, except for the Intel X25-M.  The Intel X25-M's 225MB/s simply can't be touched here.


SANDRA Physical Disk Write Performance


OCZ Apex Series SSD


Intel X25-M 80GB MLC


OCZ Core Series


Super Talent
MasterDrive MX

In the Write portion of SANDRA's Physical Disk Benchmark, the OCZ Apex series drive didn't fare as well.  Here, the Apex Series drive was a bit slower then the competition, by a few megabytes per second, and Intel's drive once again comes out on top.

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO is a more straight-forward type of disk benchmark that measures transfers across a specific volume length.  It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart.  We chose 8kb through 1024kb transfer sizes over a total max volume length of 32MB.  This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with NTFS partitions.

ATTO Disk Benchmark - Read/Write Performance
Version 2.02


OCZ Apex Series 120GB SSD
 


Intel X25-M 80GB MLC
 


WD VelociRaptor 300GB HD

 


OCZ Standard SLC 64GB

 
OCZ Core Series 64GB
 

 
Super Talent MasterDrive MX 64GB
 

The OCZ Apex Series SSD performed very well in the ATTO Disk Benchmark.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, once again, the Intel X25 came out on top in terms of overall performance--especially considering its Read performance, but the OCZ Apex Series drive did very well in writes and clearly outpaced the other drives.

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HD Tach Benchmark

Simpli Software's HD Tach is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices such as hard drives, removable drives, flash devices, and RAID arrays. HD Tach uses custom device drivers and other low level Windows interfaces to bypass as many layers of software as possible and get as close to the physical performance of the device being tested."

HD Tach v3.0.4.0
http://www.simplisoftware.com/


OCZ Apex Series 120GB

Intel X25-M 80GB



WD VelociRaptor 300GB HD


OCZ Standard 64B



OCZ Core Series 64GB


Super Talent MasterDrive MX 64GB

Although the graph looks very erratic, with large peaks and valleys, the OCZ Apex Series drive put up some good scores in HD Tach.  Its Read speed of over 169MB/s was the second fastest of the bunch, behind only Intel's SSD.  But the OCZ Apex Series drive's write performance was the best overall, at over 117MB/s.

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PCMark Vantage Testing

Next we ran the OCZ Apex SSD through a battery of tests in PCMark Vantage from Futuremark Corp. We specifically used only the HDD Test module of this benchmark suite to evaluate all of the drives we tested. Feel free to consult Futuremark's white paper on PCMark Vantage for an understanding of what each test component entails and how it calculates its measurements. For specific information on how the HDD Test module arrives at its performance measurements, we'd encourage you to read pages 35 and 36 of the white paper.

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

We really like PCMark Vantage's HDD Performance for its real-world application measurement approach to testing.  From simple Windows Vista start-up performance to data streaming from a disk drive in a game engine and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel confident that these tests best illustrate the real performance profile of our SSDs in an end user/consumer PC usage model.

We saw more of the same in our PCMark Vantage HDD testing.  Once again, the Intel X25-M comes out on top, followed by the OCZ Apex Series drive which itself outperformed all of the other drives by significant margins.

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PCMark Vantage Testing (Cont.)

Our next series of Vantage tests will stress the current weakness of most SSDs, that being write performance. Applications like video editing, streaming and recording are not what we would call a strong suit for the average SSD, due to their high mix of random write transactions.  We should also note that it's not so much a weakness of the memory itself, but rather the interface and control algorithms that deal with inherent erase block latency of MLC NAND flash.  SSD manufacturers are getting better at this, but still today, especially with consumer grade SSDs, spinning drives have the edge with respect to some write intensive applications over MLC-based Flash drives, but not as much over SLC-type SSDs.

Or so it would seem if you look at the current offerings from other manufacturers.  However, it appears Intel has found a way around this bottleneck.

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

The Apex Series SSD can't quite keep pace with OCZ's older SLC-based offering here, nor can it come close to Intel's X25-M.  However, it does do well against the other MLC-based drives and the 10,000 RPM Velociraptor.

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Power Consumption

Although hard drives don't typically draw huge amounts of power, we still wanted to see how this new breed of SSDs compared in terms of power consumption. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and under full load on a secondary test drive. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the drives alone.

Power Consumption
As Reported by a Seasonic Power Angel

There's not much to see here.  The OCZ Apex Series drive does seem to consume slightly more power than the other SSDs, likely due to the use of a second controller in the drive, but all of the SSDs use less power than the standard HD, and the deltas between the SSDs are minimal to non-existent.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Summarizing the performance of OCZ's Apex Series SSD is rather straight-forward.  The OCZ Apex Series SSD trailed the Intel X25-M is every benchmark in regard to Read performance, and generally trailed Intel's offering in write performance as well.  In some instances, however, namely ATTO and HD Tach, the OCZ Apex drive came out on top in regard to write performance.  In relation to the other OCZ and SuperTalent drives we tested, the OCZ Apex Series SSD was clearly faster than the other drives overall.



After rebates, the OCZ Apex Series SSDs can currently be had for $173, $299, and $769, for the 60GB, 120GB, and 250GB models, respectively. In the current market, considering the performance of the 120GB model we tested, that makes the OCZ Apex Series drives a good value in light of its competition. As we saw in the benchmarks, the OCZ Apex Series drive performs very well. It was the second fastest drive we tested, falling behind only Intel's X25-M. The OCZ Apex drive was much faster than all of the other drives, however. And despite being about $100 less than Intel's 80GB offering, the OCZ Apex drive sports 50% more capacity. The SSD market is still in constant state of flux as new drives are introduces, older models drop in price, and higher capacities become available, but all things considered OCZ's Apex Series drives seem like a good deal to us.  Cost per gigabyte is still astronomical in comparison to magnetic media, but that disparity will continue to diminish over time.  The OCZ Apex Series SSDs are proof of that.

  

  • Strong Performance
  • Relatively Good Value
  • High Capacities For An SSD
  • Not As Fast As Intel's X25-M
  • High Cost Per GB



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