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OCZ Vertex 3 SandForce SF-2000 Based SSD Preview
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Date: Feb 24, 2011
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Just last week, we gave you a glimpse of what OCZ has in store for the enterprise SSD market with our preview of the Vertex 3 Pro. Without giving away all of the juicy details, the Vertex 3 Pro essentially buried the competition and offered performance that was significantly better than any current-gen solid state drive. As we mentioned though, the Vertex 3 Pro is an enterprise-class drive, and as such, it sports a price tag outside of the realm of your typical PC enthusiast. OCZ did hint that the “non-Pro” version of the Vertex 3 was coming soon, however, and stated that it would be priced “significantly lower”.

Well, here we are, just one week later and we’ve already got a beta Vertex 3 in hand for some initial testing. As you’ll see in the specifications below, the upcoming Vertex 3 looks equally as impressive as the Vertex 3 Pro in terms of if features and expected performance, but what’s more exciting is that it’ll be price more in-line with current SSDs. Take a look...

OCZ Vertex 3 Solid State Drive
Specifications & Features

Performance Specifications
  • Max Read: 550 MB/s
  • Max Write: 525 MB/s
  • 4KB Random Write (aligned): Up to 60,000 IOPS
    • *Achieved on Intel Sandy Bridge platform which is recommended to show full potential of the drive

Key Features

  • SATA III / 6Gbps
  • Implements SandForce 2281 Client SSD Processor
  • Enhanced BCH ECC capability
  • Supports SATA-7 Security Erase
  • Efficient Write Amplification Factor of less than 1 (4K database transfer workload)
  • Significantly improved performance over previous generation
    • Delivers 20% faster IOPS, and 40% faster sequential read/write throughputs
  • Consumer solution that implements cost-effective 2Xnm MLC NAND Flash to deliver an excellent balance of performance and reliability
  • MTBF: 2 Million Hours
  • 3 Year Warranty


  

  
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB Solid State Drive

Despite the similar naming convention, the OCZ Vertex 3 is a completely different drive than the Vertex 3 Pro. The two have different controllers, different NAND flash memory, PCBs, and the more mainstream Vertex 3 lacks the “super-cap” that makes the Pro drive more suitable to mission-critical, enterprise applications.

The OCZ Vertex 3 drive you see pictured here is a 240GB model (224MB formatted) outfitted with 16 pieces of Micron NAND flash, totally 256GB—the additional capacity is over provisioned for wear leveling, data protection, and other functions. The controller on the drive is the SandForce SF-2281, and differs from the 2582 on the Pro edition in a few ways. The SF-2582 controller offers a few more features not available on the SF-2281, like additional flash support (eMLC and SLC specifically), SMART features, higher MTBF on the controller, better unrecoverable bit error read (UBER) rating, as well as adding the power loss data protection feature which is augmented by the super-cap.

In terms of its specifications though, the new Vertex 3 is very impressive. It has a SATA III interface with max reads of 550MB/s and writes up to 525MB/s, with up to 60K IOPs.

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Test Setup and IOMeter 1.1 RC

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, Vantage, and CrystalDiskMark 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.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-2600K


Asus P8P67 Deluxe
(P67 Chipset)


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Patriot DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
OCZ Vertex 3 (240GB)
OCZ Vertex 3 Pro (200GB)
OCZ Vertex 2 (120GB)
Corsair Performance 3 Series (128GB)
Intel X25-M G2 (160GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Intel 9.2.0.1021, iRST 10.1.0.1008
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 266.58

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tach v3
ATTO v2.46
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark Vantage
SiSoftware Sandra 2011

 IOMeter
 I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, 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 for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a gauge for relative available bandwidth with a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you really can't with most other benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and IOMeter's default access pattern of 2K transfers, 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

 

Somewhat surprisingly, the OCZ Vertex 3 put up the best scores we have seen in IOMeter, when using these two particular access patterns. We had expected the enterprise-class Vertex 3 Pro to hold onto a lead here, but with these access patterns and the standard Vertex 3's potential write speed advantage, it put up the best scores.

 

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SiSoft SANDRA 2011
Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.
 
SiSoft SANDRA 2011
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking


The upcoming OCZ Vertex 3 put up some excellent scores in the SANDRA Physical Disk benchmark. Here, only the Vertex 3 Pro managed a better read speed, but the standard Vertex 3 has the best write performance. Even when connected to a SATA II / 3G port, the Vertex 3 bests the previous-gen drives.
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ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds 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 and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB.  ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than IO response time, access latency etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

 

Intel X25-M G2


OCZ Vertex 2


Corsair Performance 3 Series


OCZ Vertex 3 Pro


OCZ Vertex 3 (SATA II / 3G)


OCZ Vertex 3 (SATA III / 6G)

Talk about impressive.  In the ATTO Disk benchmark, the OCZ Vertex 3 offered up the best all around scores, matching the enterprise-class Vertex 3 Pro. There was some anomalous behavior when the Vertex 3 was connected to SATA II port, but we hope anyone contemplating the purchase of this drive connects it to a SATA III port to let the drive really spread its wings.

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential as well as random small and large file transfers.  It does a nice job of providing a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers. 

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests
  

OCZ Vertex 3
 
 

OCZ Vertex 3 (3G)
 
 

OCZ Vertex 3 Pro
 
 

Corsair Performance 3 Series
 

OCZ Vertex 2
 

Intel X25-M G2

The OCZ Vertex 3 put up another batch of excellent scores in the CrystalDiskMark benchmark. It was only with regard to reads, with a queue depth of 32 was the enterprise-class Vertex 3 Pro able to overtake it.

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HD Tach Performance
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
More Info Here: http://www.simplisoftware.com
 

OCZ Vertex 3
 

OCZ Vertex 3 (SATA II / 3G) 
 

OCZ Vertex 3 Pro
 
 

Corsair Performance 3 Series
 

OCZ Vertex 2

Intel X25-M

The upcoming OCZ Vertex 3, once again, posted best-of-class scores. In these HD Tach tests, the Vertex 3 performed on par with the Vertex 3 Pro in terms of reads, but the 'standard' Vertex 3's write scores were the best overall.

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PCMark Vantage HDD
We really like PCMark Vantage's HDD Performance module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark Vantage offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple Windows start-up performance to data streaming from a disk drive in a game engine and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model.

This series of Vantage tests will stress read performance in real-world usage models, with a broad mix of sequential and random read transactions of both small and large file sizes.

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

Last week, we thought the OCZ Vertex 3 Pro's scores were pretty impressive, and yet here we are, only a few days later and the standard Vertex 3 outpaced the Pro drive in every single test, taking the top spot throughout.

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PCMark Vantage HDD (Cont.)
The following PCMark Vantage HDD tests are more write intensive (with the exception of the application loading test) and in some cases stress the Achilles' Heel of the average storage subsystem, that being random write performance.

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

 

With the exception of the Windows Media Player test, the upcoming OCZ Vertex 3 took the top spot in the remainder of the PCMark Vantage tests.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The OCZ Vertex 3's performance was impressive throughout our testing. With the exception of just a few tests where the more expensive, enterprise-class Vertex 3 Pro pulled ahead, the standard Vertex 3 was the fastest SSD we've tested. Read performance was consistently at the top of the charts and write performance was equally as good.

OCZ plans to initially introduce two solid state drives in the Vertex 3 line, a 120GB version and a 240GB version. The 120GB version is set to arrive with a $249 MSRP and the 240GB with a $499 MSRP. Looking at current pricing for the Vertex 2 (which has fluctuated significantly in recent weeks), it seems the Vertex 3 will carry a roughly 20% to 25% price premium when it arrives in a few weeks. Considering how strong the Vertex 3's performance was throughout testing and that it's likely to get better as OCZ has more time to work with and tweak the firmware on the drive, we can't help but be excited for this product, despite the price premium it will command.

If you've been waiting to make the move to a solid state drive, the arrival of the Vertex 3 (and a handful of other next-gen SATA III drives) is going to shake things up a bit.  Pricing on many of the current generation offerings is sure to fall somewhat, which we're will make the proposition more attractive to many users. And if you've got a system that doesn't have SATA III ports, by all means, consider the upgrade. If you've got a system with native SATA III support though, the Vertex 3 is one heck of a performer and will be worth the additional investment, as the numbers have shown.

  • Excellent Performance
  • Competitive Pricing
  • SATA III Interface
  • Will Command a Price Premium (at least at first)



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