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4-Way SSD Round-Up Redux: OCZ, Corsair, PhotoFast
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Date: Sep 01, 2009
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and the OCZ Vertex (Updated)

Solid State storage products continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Over the last year or so, solid state drives, or SSDs, specifically targeted at PC enthusiasts have transformed from buggy, underperforming products to the preferred, high-end storage solution for performance hungry enthusiasts and even more mission critical applications. Available capacities have increased, cost per gigabyte has decreased significantly, and a number of useful features have been introduced that enhance or otherwise optimize performance.

We have already covered a number of different solid state storage products here at HotHardware, including the popular models features in this 4-way round-up, the ultra high-end options in this SSD grudge match, and we have of course featured Intel's recently introduced X25-M Gen 2. In this article, we're again rounding-up a quartet of solid state drives, but one of the entrants is a product we've already featured in the past.

The first drive we're going to show you is the OCZ Vertex Series 120GB SSD. This drive was featured in our last round-up, but since then a beta firmware has become available that features a "garbage collection" algorithm designed to scour and purge the drive of orphan data, and thus enhancing the performance of a well used, or "dirty" drive. We'll also be featuring a Vertex Turbo Series drive, Corsair's P64, and a beast of an SSD from Photofast, the G-Monster V5.

    

   
OCZ Vertex Series SSD--Now With Garbage Collection

OCZ's Vertex Series of SSDs use Samsung MLC NAND flash memory, coupled to 64MB of cache and an IndiLinx IDX110M00-LC controller that does away with the stuttering and performance issues that plagued early JMicron controllers. The drives feature the same 2.5" form factor as all of OCZ's previous SSD offerings and they are available in capacities ranging from 30GB to 250GB. The drive you see here is the 120GB model, but we should point out that its actually a 128GB drive--OCZ branded it as 120GB drive because that is its formatted capacity within an OS.

OCZ Vertex Series SATA II SSD
Specifications and Features

  • Available in 30GB, 60GB, 120GB, 250GB capacities
  • 64MB Onboard Cache
  • Seek Time: <.1ms
  • Slim 2.5" Design
  • 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
  • Lightweight 77g
  • Operating Temp: 0C ~ 70C
  • Storage Temp: -45C ~ +85C
  • Low Power Consumption: 2W in operation, .5W in stand by

 

  • Shock Resistant 1500G
  • RAID Support
  • MTBF 1.5 million hours
  • 2 year warranty

120GB Max Performance

  • Read: Up to 250 MB/s
  • Write: Up to 180MB/s
  • Sustained Write: Up to 100MB/s

 


According to OCZ, the Vertex Series drives have varying read / write speed ratings, depending on their capacity. The 120GB model featured here, is rated for read speeds up to 250 MB/s, with write speeds of up to 180MB/s and sustained writes of up to 100MB/s.


New Condition


Dirty Drive


After 5-min Idle


After Long Idle

As we mentioned earlier, a beta firmware for the OCZ Vertex Series drives incorporates a new garbage collection scheme. To give you an idea as to how this scheme can affect performance over the life of the drive, we've run a series of tests. What you see pictured above are four ATTO Disk Benchmark runs performed on the Vertex Series 120GB SSD. The first run was performed on the drive in brand new condition. As you can see, performance is high and consistent once the transfer sizes exceeds 64KB. The second run, however, was performed on the drive in a "dirty" or heavily used state, and as you can see, performance suffers dramatically with transfer sizes below 1MB. This is due to the performance penalty associated with block re-writing.

The third benchmark run was performed after letting the Vertex drive idle for about five minutes though, and as you can see performance has nearly been restored to like-new levels, save for a few MB/s drop in the middle transfer sizes. Finally, after letting the drive idle for about an hour, performance has been totally restored.

OCZ worked with Indilinx to develop the garbage collection scheme for the Vertex serie's drives, but we should point out they are not the only ones with this type of feature incorporated into their firmware. Intel has similar functionality in their X25-M SSDs, as do current generation drives based on Samsung's controller technology, like the Corsair P64 we'll show you a little later.

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OCZ Vertex Turbo

Next up we have the OCZ Vertex Turbo Edition SSD. The original OCZ Vertex SSD was praised for its strong performance and competitive price point. And it remains a very popular product amongst enthusiasts today. OCZ saw fit, however, to update the Vertex Series drives with faster cache and tweaked firmware to improve performance even further.

  

 
OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB Solid State Drive

The drive you see pictured here is a 120GB OCZ Vertex Turbo SATA SSD. It uses the same 2.5" form factor as most other SSDs currently available and is housed in a durable metal enclosure. The OCZ Vertex Turbo is built around an Indilinx controller, paired with 64MB of 180MHz DRAM cache--the original Vertex drives had 166MHz cache. And like the original Vertex drives, although it is branded at a 120GB model due to its in-OS formatted capactity, it is actually a 128GB drive.

OCZ Vertex Turbo Series SATA II SSD
Specifications and Features

  • Available in 30GB, 60GB, 120GB, 250GB capacities
  • 64MB Onboard Cache @ 180MHz
  • Seek Time: <.1ms
  • Slim 2.5" Design
  • 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
  • Lightweight 77g
  • Operating Temp: 0C ~ 70C
  • Storage Temp: -45C ~ +85C
  • Low Power Consumption: 2W in operation, .5W in stand by

 

  • Shock Resistant 1500G
  • RAID Support
  • MTBF 1.5 million hours
  • 2 year warranty

120GB Max Performance

  • Read: Up to 270 MB/s
  • Write: Up to 200 MB/s
  • Sustained Write: Up to 120 MB/s

 


As the specifications show, the Vertex Turbo Series of solid state drives have varying read / write speed ratings. The 120GB model pictured above, is rated for read speeds up to 270 MB/s, with write speeds of up to 200MB/s and sustained writes of up to 120MB/s.

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Corsair P64 SSD
In a previous round-up, we took a look at Corsair's P256 SSD. Like that drive, the P64 model pictured below features Samsung technology, with a Samsung controller and Flash memory paired to 128MB of integrated cache.
 

    

    
Corsair P64 SSD

As the "P64" in this drive's product name implies, Corsair's P64 features a 64GB total capacity. And as is the case with all of the other SSDs features here it has SATA 3.0Gb/s connectivity and a heavy-duty aluminum enclosure as well.

With the P64 disassembled, you can see the PCB and Samsung S3C29RBB01-YK40 controller used in the drive as well as its 128MB of on-board cache memory. Samsung MLC flash memory is also used in the drive, with six chips situated on the underside of the PCB and two soldered right on top.

Corsair P64 SSD
Specifications and Features

Model

  • CMFSSD-64GBG2D
  • Device Type: Internal Solid state disk (SSD)
  • Architecture: MLC

Expansion / Connectivity

  • Form Factor: 2.5"
  • Capacity: 64GB w/ 128MB Cache
  • Interface: Type SATA II

 

Dimensions

  • Weight: 0.18 lbs.

Performance

  • Max Shock Resistance: 1500G
  • Power Consumption (Active): 2W
  • Power Consumption (Idle): 0.5W
  • Sequential Access: Read 220 MB/s
  • Sequential Access: Write 120 MB/s
  • MTBF: 1,000,000 hours

 


Corsair's specifcations for the P64 claim sequential read and write speeds of 220MB/s and 120MB/s, respectively, with max shock resistance of 1500G and a mean time before failure (MTBF) of over 1 million hours.
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PhotoFast G-Monster-V5 256GB

When the PhotoFast G-Monster-V5 was first shown off at Computex a couple of month ago, the drive generated a bit of buzz due to its claimed 270MB/s read and write speeds. To approach speeds that high, Photofast uses a unique internal configuration, which is nothing like the other drives featured in this article.

  

  

  
256GB PhotoFast G-Monster-V5 SSD

The drive you see pictured above is a $999, 256GB PhotoFast G-Monster-V5. To an OS, the drive appears as a single volume, but internally the drive is comprised of a trio of components--two 128GB SSD modules and an adapter that "converts" the internal drive components in to a RAID 0 array. Each of the SSD modules is equipped with 128GB of Samsung MLC NAND flash memory, 64MB of Elpida DRAM cache memory (128MB total), and its own Indilinx controller.

Photfast G-Monster V5 256
Specifications and Features
Mfgr's part number V5 256GB
Capacity 256GB
Form Factor 2.5"
Dimensions Standard 2.5", 100.3(L) x 69.85(W) x 9.5(H)mm
Interface SATA-2 3.0Gbps
Weight 90g
SLC or MLC? MLC
Rated Performance 270MB/S read, 270MB/S write, 300MB/S host interface
Enclosure Metal
Operating Temp range 0 -70C


When connected to a SATA II port, Photofast claims the drive can read and write at a rate of 270MB/s. And like the other drives featured in this article, the G-Monster V5 sports a 2.5" form factor.
 

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Test System, IOMeter, and SANDRA

Our Test MethodologiesUnder each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, 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've noted in our previous SSD coverage, 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 the four drives featured in this article.

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 is an example of how random write operations detrimentally impact I/O throughput of most SSDs in IOMeter.  There is no question random write performance is the Achille's Heel of most MLC SSDs, though we should note SLC-based SSDs have a much easier time with it.

As you can see in the chart above, the OCZ and Photfast drives perform similarly according to IOMeter, with a slight edge overall going to the OCZ Vertex Turbo series drive, which was the best performer throughout. The standard Vertex Series drive and G-Monster trade for second position depending on the access pattern (the G-Monster was better with random writes), and the Corsair P64 brought up the rear.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -


Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7 920


Gigabyte GA-EX58-Extreme
(X58 Express Chipset)


GeForce GTX 280

6144MB Corsair DDR3-1333
CAS 7


Integrated on board

OCZ Vertex Series 120GB
OCZ Vertex Turbo Series 120GB
Corsair P64
Photofast G-Monster V5 256GB

Operating System -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows Vista Ultimate
Intel 9.1.0.1012
DirectX 10

NVIDIA ForceWare v182.50

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 read and write 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.


OCZ Vertex Series 120GB
(Read)



OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB
(Read)


Photofast G-Monster V5 256GB
(Read)


Corsair P64 64GB
(Read)


All of the drives tested here had drive index ratings well above the 200MB/s mark according to SANDRA. The OCZ and Photofast drives had the higest rating at right around 245MB/s, followed by the Corsair P64 with a ratings of about 208MB/s. What also interesting to note is how flat, and stable the performance of the Photofast G-Monster drive is throughout the entire benchmark run.


OCZ Vertex Series 120GB
(Write)



OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB
(Write)



Photofast G-Monster V5 256GB
(Write)


Corsair P64 64GB
(Write)

The Photofast G-Monster V5 simply chrushes the other drives here, with a write speed score of over 246MB/s. The Vertex Turbo takes second place at about 196MB/s, followed by the standard Vertex drive at 181MB/s and finally the Corsair drive at 136MB/s.

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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 .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes over a total max volume length of 256MB.  This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with NTFS partitions.

ATTO Disk Benchmark - Read/Write Performance
Version 2.02

   
OCZ Vertex Series 120GB

   
OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB

 
Photofast G-Monster V5 256GB

   
Corsair P64 64GB

As you can see, none of the solid state drives we tested really hit their stride until transfer sizes exceeded the 64kb mark. Once again, the Photofast G-Monster V5 came out on top in terms of average read and write scores here, that come extremely close to its advertised 270MB/s. The OCZ Vertex drives offer similar read performance (260MB/s+), but in terms of sustained writes they can't match the G-Monster. The Corsair P64 put up some respectable read and write scores of about 220MB/s and 163MB/s, respectively, but the other drives finished well ahead.

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HD Tach Testing

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
http://www.simplisoftware.com/


OCZ Verex Series 120GB
 


OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB
 



Photfast G-Monster V5 256GB


Corsair P64 64GB


The Photofast G-Monster V5 continued its impressive performance in the HD Tach benchmark.  Here, the G-Monster offered 223MB/s+ of read and write bandwidth, whereas the fastest of the other drives--the OCZ Vertex Turbo--peaked at about 212MB/s. The standard Vertex drive once again takes the third spot, with the Corsair P64 trailing the pack.

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PCMark Vantage

Next we ran the four drives 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.


Our initial PCMark Vantage test results are in stark contrast to all the others thus far. Here, the Corsair P64 puts up a strong performance, besting all other drives by a significant margin. The Photofast G-Monster V5 takes the second position, followed by OCZ Vertex Turbo and then the standard Vertex drive.

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PCMark Vantage (Cont.)

Our next series of Vantage tests will stress the 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, as is evidenced by our results below...

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

The rest of our PCMark Vantage results are somewhat mixed. Once gain, the Corsair P64 drive takes the top spot, folowed by the Photofast and OCZ Vertex Turbo drives which trade places for the second and third positions depending on the particular test.

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Power Consumption
Although solid state 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

Power consumption for all of the drives we tested was minimal, with only a watt or two separating the drives depending on the workload. The Corsair P64 consumed the least amount of power, and the Photofast G-Monster the most, but all of the SSDs featured here are certainly power-friendly offerings.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The OCZ Vertex Turbo Series and Photofast G-Monster V5 proved to be the highest performing drives in the group represented in this article. The G-Monster in particular offered strong performance in the ATTO, HD Tach, and SANDRA tests, where its read and especially write speeds were consistently highest and top notch of the bunch. We should also point out that the Vertex Turbo Series drive's faster cache gave it a marked edge over the standard Vertex drive, and while the Corsair P64 generally trailed the others, it surged ahead in the PCMark Vantage tests and offered strong performance overall.

In the conclusion to one of our previous 4-way SSD round-ups, we said: "While Solid State Drives are becoming more and more mainstream with each passing day, they are still much more expensive than traditional hard drives and offer much smaller capacities. As such, price is an important consideration and a significant differentiating factor with the current crop of SSDs. While fast, high capacity hard drives like Western Digital's 1TB Caviar Black hard drive can be had for under $100, or about $.10 per gigabyte, solid state drives currently command a few dollars per gigabyte." That statement of course remains true today.


We have the current prices for the four solid state drives we've featured here outlined in the chart above. As you can see, the Photofast G-Monster V5 is the most expensive overall, its cost per gigabyte is the highest, and it has the largest capacity, but it was also the highest performing SSD in general. The Corsair P64 is the least expensive overall and comes in second in the price per gigabyte category. OCZ's Vertex Series SSD is the second least expensive drive overall, but has the lowest cost per gigabyte, and the OCZ Vertex Turbo Series SSD falls right in between the standard Vertex drive and the G-Monster.

So, according to current pricing, the Corsair and Vertex Series drives are the most economical per gigabyte followed by the Vertex Turbo and then the G-Monster V5. If we factor performance into the equation, the trend remains largely unchanged--the fastest drive in this article overall was also the most expensive and the lowest performing drive was the least expensive, at least in terms of overall pricing.

In the end, all of the SSDs featured in this article will be a significant step-up in performance over a traditional, spinning platter-based hard drive and potential consumers should weigh their capacity needs against their budget carefully. Choosing between four solid products like these can be difficult.  Ultimately though, overall performance weighs heavily in our opinion, but we can't ignore the value proposition. Hence, we're giving the OCZ Vertex Turbo Series drive a strong recommendation---our Editor's Choice Award has gone to Intel's X25-M. But we also recommend and approve of the other drives as well, and think that most users would ultimately be pleased by the performance of any of the candidates represented here.

 

OCZ Vertex Turbo Series

 

  • Excellent Performance
  • Faster Than The First Gen Vertex
  • Stong Read Performance

 

 

  • Second Most Expensive Per GB

  • OCZ Vertex Series

     

    • Best Price Per GB
    • Fast Reads and Writes
    • Solid, Sturdy Enclosure

     

    • Outpaced By Two Other Drives

     

     


    Corsair P64

     

  • Good Performance
  • Best Scores in PCMark Vantage
  •  

  • Pricey
  • Low Capacity
  • Photofast G-Monster V5

     

  • Great Performance
  • Very Strong Sustained Write Speeds
  •  

  • Highest Cost Per/GB
  • Less Elegant Solution


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