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OCZ Vector Barefoot 3 Solid State Drive Review
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Date: Nov 27, 2012
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications
OCZ has been carpet-bombing the solid state storage market for years now. It seemed that every time a new controller technology emerged, OCZ was at the ready with a fresh batch of products and over time built a portfolio that targeted virtually every market segment. Consumer-class solid state storage is in an interesting phase right now, though. There was a time when there were only a couple of controllers on the market that allowed OEMs to produce drives capable of effectively saturating the SATA interface, while also offering strong all-around performance. That’s part of the reason everyone and their mother started producing SandForce-based drives. But now there are multiple solutions available that all have their strong suits and offer competitive performance.

So how do you differentiate in market rife with strong products based on similar technologies? One way is to acquire a controller design firm and to create a product that uses all in-house technology, which is exactly what OCZ has done with the new Vector SSD we’ll be showing you here today. The Vector is the first drive from OCZ to utilize only technologies developed by the unified Indilinx, PLX, and OCZ teams (except for the actual NAND flash), since OCZ’s acquisitions were completed. The Vector is based on the new INDILINK Barefoot 3 controller, which in terms of its features and specifications, looks competitive with everything else on the market currently. Take a look:

 
OCZ Vector SSD
Specifications & Features
128GB Model
  • Max Read: 550MB/s
  • Max Write: 400MB/s
  • Random Read IOPS: 90,000 (4K QD32)
  • Random Write IOPS: 95,000 (4K QD32)
 
256GB Model
  • Max Read: 550MB/s
  • Max Write: 530MB/s
  • Random Read IOPS: 100,000 (4K QD32)
  • Random Write IOPS: 95,000 (4K QD32) 

 
512GB Model

  • Max Read: 550MB/s
  • Max Write: 530MB/s
  • Random Read IOPS: 100,000 (4K QD32)
  • Random Write IOPS: 95,000 (4K QD32)

Vector leverages new leading-edge Indilinx Barefoot 3 Platform. Features include:

  • SATA 3.0 6Gb/s Interface
  • 25nm IMFT NAND
  • 7mm Form Factor
  • 128GB, 256GB, 512GB models
  • High performance and endurance without compression or loss of usable capacity
  • Low Power Consumption (idle .9w / active 2.25w)
  • TRIM Support
  • 5 year warranty


Before we take a look at the actual drive, we should talk a bit about the INDILINX Barefoot 3 platform. Here's a quick block diagram of the controller...

As the diagram shows, the Barefoot 3 features a native SATA 6Gb/s interface, with a DRAM controller used for cache purposes, 8 channels to the NAND array, and a flash controller with built in randomizer, ECC engine and interface compatible with ONFI and Toggle NAND. At the heart of the chip is an ARM Cortex processor paired to an OCZ Aragon Co-Processor. Unfortunately, at this time, we don’t have any information to share in regards to the OCZ Aragon Co-Processor. Hopefully, OCZ will release details soon. The Barefoot 3 platform also offers low write amplification, idle garbage collection, TRIM support, multi-level ECC, and adaptive NAND flash management.



 
The OCZ Vector SSD: Inside and Out

The OCZ Vector drive itself uses a new, metal enclosure design that feels very strong and sturdy. The drive conforms to the standard 2.5” form factor that’s common among consumer-class SSDs, but has only a 7mm Z-height.

Inside the drive, you can see the new INDILINX controller, which is paired to some Micron DRAM cache and OCZ branded NAND. We should point out, however, that the NAND is actually 25nm IMFT flash memory. This particular drive is a 256GB model, but 128GB and 512GB models will also be available. According to its specifications, the 256GB drive is capable of max reads of 550MB/s, max writes of 530MB/s, with random read/write IOPS of 100,000, and 95,000 (4K QD32), respectively. What the specifications don't show is that the drive's performance is not affected by the compressibility of the data being transferred.

The numbers all look good; let's see how it fares in the benchmarks, shall we?

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under 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. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased and left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state 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 P8Z6-V Pro
(Z68 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
Samsung SSD 830 (256GB)
OCZ Vertex 3 (200GB)
Corsair Force GT (240GB)
Crucial M4 (256GB)
OCZ Vector (256GB)
Intel SSD 520 (240GB)
OCZ Vertex 4 (256GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel 9.2.0.1030, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v4.61
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark 7
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 reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you an't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom 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.

The new OCZ Vector bested the competition with the IOMeter access patterns we used. With both the default and our custom workstation access patterns, the Vector put up the best scores, almost across the board. But where it didn’t top all others, it was still right in the mix.

The same rung true in terms of transfer speeds in IOMeter as well. The Vector offered up the best performance with IOMeter’s default pattern, but just missed the top spot with our custom workstation access pattern.
 

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SiSoft SANDRA 2012
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 2012
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

The new OCZ Vector couldn't quite catch the fastest of the SandForce-based drives in this group in SANDRA's Physical Disk test, but the deltas separating the fastest three drives here were tiny. For all intents and purposes, the top three drives performed identically here.
 

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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 I/O 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


The OCZ Vector was amongst the top performers in the ATTO Disk Benchmark as well. With about 4K to 16K transfers, the Vector is able to pull ahead of all of the other drives in both reads and writes. With smaller and larger sizes, however, the Vector trails some of the SandForce-based drives, but not by much.
 

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v4.61
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com







The OCZ Vector performed very well in the HD Tune benchmark. It put up the best write score in the sequential test and the highest burst rate. It was also amongst the fastest drive in terms of access time.
 

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides 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





The OCZ Vector also performed very well in the CrystalDiskMark benchmark. Here, the Vector was the fastest drive in the large sequential write transfer tests and among the best in the 4K transfer tests. Notice the strong performance in the 4K QD32 test where the Vector outpaced all comers, save for the Vertex 4.
 

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

The OCZ Vector rocked the AS-SSD Compression test. In the read portion of the benchmark, all of the drivers are tightly grouped. In the write test, however, the Vector not only blew past all of the other drivers, it offered perfectly consistent performance regardless of the compressibility of the data. That's an excellent trait for an SSD.

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a 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, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

Slightly lower scores than the other drives in the majority of PCMark 7's individual secondary storage benchmark tests dragged the OCZ Vector down here. The Vector did manage the best score in the application loaded test, but overall it was separated from the fastest drives by a couple of percentage points.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new OCZ Vector is one of the fastest, most consistent performing solid state drives we have ever tested. In a number of our tests, the Vector was arguably the best performer overall, as evidenced by its IOMeter, CrystalDiskMark, AS-SSD, and HD Tune scores. But even when the drive wasn't leading the pack, its performance was right in the mix. The Vector proved to be a strong performer with larger sequential transfers and with small file transfers at high queue depths. It's consistently high performance incompressible data was also a strong point for the OCZ Vector.


The New OCZ Vector Solid State Drive

There are still a lot of unknowns with the OCZ Vector, considering it is brand new to market and is OCZ's first drive which utilizes all in-house technology, save for the actual NAND. With that said, the OCZ Vector appears to be a very strong product. The Vector consistently performed among the best drives we have tested, occasionally outpacing what were considered some of the fastest drives on the market. Performance of the drive is strong at high queue depths and remains consistent, regardless of the compressibility of the data being transferred. Overall, this is one of the fastest SATA SSDs on the market currently.

The Vector’s long-term reliability remains to be seen, but OCZ is offering a 5 year warranty on the drive and says it is rated to deliver 20GB host writes per day for 5 years, or 36.5TB or writes. As for pricing, OCZ expects the 128GB model to retail for around $149, the 256GB model for $269, and the 512GB model for $559. At those prices, the OCZ Vector is somewhat more expensive than other high-end alternatives, but we expect street prices to dip lower once the drive is widely available.

All things considered, we think OCZ has a heck of a product on their hands with the Vector. Not only was it one of the fastest drives we’ve tested, it was also one of the most consistent. Factor in a very good warranty and OCZ’s historic commitment to supporting their solid state drives and there’s a whole lot to like here.

  • 5-Year Warranty
  • Consistently Strong Performance
  • 7mm Z-Height
  • MSRP Somewhat High

 



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