OCZ Attempts To Vector Back

Vector 150

It was this time last year that we wrote about our affinity for the then brand new Vector series drive from OCZ which flaunted their homegrown Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 controller. We had high praise not only for the performance but also for OCZ's persistence with their Indilinx acquisition made a year or so prior, finally reaping the rewards with a finished product they could be proud of. The drive was a hit with the reviewer and consumer communities alike and the Vector effectively stole the OCZ performance crown from the once prominent Vertex line. That said, the success hasn't been enough to pull the company out of a difficult financial position they've been mired in since Ryan Petersen bolted from the company and left now CEO Ralph Schmitt to pick up the pieces. However, they are forging on with a revised business model and the same hard work that once made them one of the premiere SSD makers in the consumer market. Time will tell how it pans out.

Vector 150

To that end, they've unveiled the latest incarnation of the Vector drive named the Vector 150 which I'm sure they hope brings good fortune. Similar to the original Vector drive, it carries the same Barefoot 3 M00 controller but shrinks the MLC NAND die size down from 25nm to 19nm, following the industry trend. A reduction in NAND architecture generally yields less endurance but in comparison to the original Vector drive, the Vector 150 ups the anticipated endurance from a rating of a five year 20GB/day to 50GB/day which is quite an improvement. To accomplish this, they've upped the spare area allocation and although not stated by OCZ, we suspect that the firmware has been improved to optimize write amplification so as to incur less overall NAND wear. As such, we see drive capacities listed at 120GB, 240GB and 480GB for the Vector 150 whereas the original Vector offers 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. With this, they've been able to offer the same excellent 5-year warranty which is a trend we hope to continue to see. The MSRP's we have been given are $129.99, $239.99 and $499.99 respectively for the 120GB, 240GB and 480GB drives respectively.

OCZ Vector 150 Features and Specifications:

Performance specifications are nearly identical to the original Vector with sequential reads maxing out at 550MB/s and sequential writes hitting 530MB/s and IOPS being just a touch lower topping out to 100k reads and 95k writes. But it's not just raw speed to take into account. OCZ noted prominently in their launch press kit that this drive offers the industry's best sustained performance - outpacing even that of the original Vector drive. Though this is labeled an enthusiast drive, the sustained performance is more of interest to enterprise type users where the use case is more prevalent. Another notable change from the original Vector is the inclusion of the 256-bit AES-compliant encryption feature that many enterprise and even consumer users are starting to look for as a standard feature.

Vector 150 Rear

Included with the drive is a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate along with the usual warranty booklet and the obligatory sticker professing one's love for OCZ SSDs. They've also thrown in a license key for the 2013 Acronis cloning software - a tool we use frequently and highly recommend. Don't forget about the free toolbox utility that's downloadable directly from OCZ. This suite of software and accessories is similar to that offered by Samsung, Intel and others and typical for a drive of this caliber.

A Look Inside The Vector 150

Opening the drive is a breeze with only four screws holding the backplate on once you get past the pesky warranty sticker.

Vector 150 Open

Four more screws hold in the PCB and you can see that the controller in the center is occluded by a thermal pad which we also saw in the original Vector.

Vector 150 PCB

The first side of the PCB is found to have eight NAND modules in a J-shaped pattern with a cache chip off to the SATA end.

Vector 150 NAND

As we mentioned in the opening, the Toshiba branded MLC NAND is 19nm in architecture and carries part #TH58TEG7DDJBA4C. On this 240GB drive, each are 16GB in density for a total capacity of 256GB.

Vector 150 Cache

There are two Micron DDR3 DRAM cache chips at 256MB each. These are the very same parts we saw on the initial Vector drive and as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Vector 150 PCB

Flipping the board over we see the remaining NAND chips as well as the second cache chip all arranged in the same configuration as the other side save for the controller sitting in the middle.

Vector 150 Barefoot

The Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 (that's M-zero-zero, not moo like a cow) controller is the very same we first saw in the original Vector drive and has shown itself to be extremely capable with consistent performance regardless of the type of data being used. It supports the usual activities such as TRIM and idle garbage collection as well as handling wear-leveling duties and managing the workload for mixed reads and writes. This is key to supporting the five year 50/GB a day writes estimated drive endurance. It now supports the 19nm geometry NAND flash found on this drive along with offering 256-bit AES-compliant data encryption. To date, we haven't seen any large scale complaints about the controller and nor have there been numerous firmware updates to fix bugs which shows the improved quality control OCZ has been so focused on with their renewed company philosophy.

Test System & Comparison Drives

All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 8 Pro x64 with no other applications running while using AHCI mode set through the BIOS. Synthetic Benchmarks were run with the OS loaded on a 120GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the test drive was secure erased using OCZ's toolbox utility. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below.

Z77 Test Bench

LR Bench

Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform
ComponentBrand/ModelLive Pricing

Processor

Core i5 2500k

Motherboard

ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77

Memory

Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB

OS Drive

Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)

Power Supply

Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC

Operating System

Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit

Comparison Drives And Other Models We Have Tested

Since there are so many SSDs out there now with different controllers, we started a reference table of which controllers are used by each drive to help you compare results. Different controllers definitely perform differently and each has various strengths and weaknesses. Like CPU's, even identical drives will have variations in performance and part of that variance may be attributable to the NAND flash used. Since the tests of the drives listed have spanned different test benches and represent different interfaces, we have listed the most recent ones for easy reference.

SSD MODEL CONTROLLER Interface
Corsair Force LS 240GB Phison PS3108 SATA III
Samsung Evo 500GB MEX S4LN045X01 SATA III
Seagate 600 240GB LAMD LM87800 SATA III
OCZ Vertex 450 256GB Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10 SATA III
Crucial M500 480GB Marvell 88SS9187 SATA III
OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) SATA III
Samsung 840 Pro 240GB Samsung MDX SATA III
Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB Marvell 88SS9175 SATA III
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB LAMD LM87800 SATA III
Intel 520 Series 240GB SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) SATA III
OCZ Vector 256GB Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 SATA III
Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) SATA III
Samsung 830 Series 256GB Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040 SATA III

CrystalDiskInfo 5.6.2 Readout:

For the OCZ Vector 150 240GB drive, the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 5.2.0 shows that both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as well as TRIM and the interface is confirmed at SATA III (6Gbps). This is a great free tool to see lots of detailed information about the drive such as the firmware version for which we are running the latest available at the time of testing - 1.1. This data can also be accessed via OCZ's toolbox along with a method for secure erasing the drive.

CrystalDiskMark Info

Let's have a look at the performance with some synthetic benchmarks followed up by some real world tests.

ATTO & AS-SSD Benchmarks

ATTO v2.47

ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.

ATTO - Intel Z77 Platform:

ATTO

ATTO Grid

Benchmark Results: It's no surprise that we would see the Vector 150 put up nearly identical numbers to the original Vector drive on the ATTO benchmark with both effectively topping out with some of the best scores in the comparison.

AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) Benchmark - Intel Z77 Platform:

We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from two of them.

AS-SSD Bench AS-SSD Grid

Benchmark Results: It's with mixed data types that the Vector 150 shines with barely a noticeable performance impact which gives it great overall numbers.

AS-SSD Compression Bench

Benchmark Results: As evidenced by the graph above, the level of compressibility of the data being processed makes no difference in the performance.

CrystalDiskMark & Anvil IOPS

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 - Intel Z77 Platform

CrystalDiskMark CrystalDiskMark Grid

Install Results: Excellent scores on this benchmark with some of the most consistent high marks we've seen since we tested the Samsung 840 EVO drive.

Anvil Storage Utilities 1.050 RC6- Intel Z77 Platform

Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 32. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.

IOPS Reads IOPS Writes

Install Results: Strong and consistent IOPS performance with little disparity between reads and writes.

IOPS Chart

Real World Copy & Boot Tests

File Copy Times Via Teracopy 2.27:

One of the most common operations performed on a PC is moving/copying files. Using a free application called Teracopy, we copied large numbers of two file types from one folder to another on the same drive. Teracopy allows us to objectively measure the time of transfer and using the same drive prevents other devices from tainting the outcome. The operation requires the drive to perform both sustained read and writes simultaneously. The first set of files is a 5GB collection of JPG's of variable size and compression levels with a few movie (.MOV) files thrown in for good measure since most cameras now take video as well as stills. The second is a collection of MP3 files of various sizes which totals 5GB collectively. These file types were chosen due to their wide use and mixture of file sizes and compression levels.

JPG Copy

Install Results: The file copy times for the Vector 150 are very similar to that of the original Vector drive and right at the top of the comparison chart.

Filecopy Chart

Windows Boot Times Via BootRacer:

Windows start up/shutdown time is always something people are interested in and we haven't done it in a while because there was little variation with the majority of the SSDs. We recently began using an application called BootRacer to objectively measure the startup times of the drives. All of the instances of Windows were identical and freshly installed with only the video driver installed.

Windows Boot

Install Results: Boot times aren't all that diverse, separated by mere seconds but it's a good yardstick to make sure that all is well with the drive.

Boot Chart

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

The OCZ Vector 150 LS 240GB (1GB byte = 1,000,000,000 bytes) drive yields 223Gib (1Gib = 1,073,741,824 bytes) to the user after over provisioning and Windows formatting have their share. This is in contrast to the original Vector which had less over provisioning and yielded 238GiB.

Properties

There's not a ton new with with Vector 150 with a few notable exceptions although we'll start with what hasn't changed and that's the controller. The Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 controller is the very same as found in the original Vector drive and puts out some impressive performance with reads of up to 550MB/s and writes up to 530MB/s. OCZ has improved sustained performance which they claim is industry leading and has added 256-bit AES-compliant encryption which was a feature lacking in the initial Vector drive. New for this version is 19nm Toshiba NAND flash which despite the smaller geometry is afforded a generous 50GB/day for five years endurance rating, partially at the expense of expanded over provisioning.

Vector 150 Logo

Capacities available are 120GB, 240GB and 480GB and are set to be priced at $129.99, $239.99 and $499.99 which are all less than what the original Vector retailed for. For the 240GB drive, this comes out to be roughly $1.07 per usable GB which is at the high end of what we see on the market for SSDs but the enthusiast level drives always command a premium. Along with the drive you get a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate and a license key for the 2013 Acronis drive cloning software which helps sweeten the pot.

Vector 150

All in all we are as impressed with the Vector 150 as much as we were the original Vector drive and the changes bring it more inline with the top tier drives from their industry counterparts. With CES right around the corner, OCZ is sure to face some tough new competition as we expect to see new controllers from several companies announced soon.

Legit Bottom Line: The Vector 150 is a natural progression from the initial Vector drive with a shrink in NAND architecture and similar performance with addition of 256-bit AES compliant encryption.