The Last Vertex SSD Ever?

ocz-toshiba-logo

This is the first new drive we've received from OCZ since they filed for bankruptcy and were subsequently bought by Toshiba. It carries the storied Vertex name but given the company transition, does this mean that this will be the last Vertex drive ever? Not according to our friends at OCZ who say that this isn't necessarily the last and they'll be "keeping around the current series branding so Vertex/Vector/Revo for the foreseeable future". OCZ was honoring all of their old product warranties during the transition period (as OCZ Technology), but they are still working out the post transition details with Toshiba. In addition, mere hours before this article was set to go live, Toshiba announced the final acquisition of OCZ and rolled out a new logo that incorporates the Toshiba name. Per the press release:

“The acquisition of OCZ further expands our solid-state storage capabilities and represents Toshiba’s commitment to this high-growth area,” said Mr. Seiichi Mori, Vice President of Toshiba’s Semiconductor and Storage Company and Corporate Vice President of Toshiba.  “Our goal is to offer a leading edge portfolio of solid state solutions to address the storage challenges faced by both client and enterprise customers, and the acquisition of OCZ is an ideal addition to our team in realizing this strategy.”

So now it's OCZ Storage Solutions - A Toshiba Group Company, which is a mouthful. We'll still refer to them as OCZ informally for the sake of brevity and it will take a while for the new branding to make it to the products. Toshiba is a huge and well respected company so we expect great things to come, especially if the OCZ team gets R&D money to spend as they've shown to be very resourceful and innovative in the past.

Vertex 460

So, with that out of the way, let's get busy with the task at hand - checking out the new Vertex 460! We received a 240GB version this time around for evaluation which is pretty much the typical size of a review sample anymore. The Vertex 460 carries the same Barefoot 3 M10 controller we saw in the Vertex 450 and is now paired with 19nm Toshiba (go figure) MLC NAND. As far as features are concerned, not much has changed. It still carries the 2.5", 7mm form factor and SATA III interface with S.M.A.R.T. and 256-bit AES-compliant encryption supported by the controller/firmware. The warranty is three years which is two years less than the Flagship Vector drive. The performance specifications are impressive for what is essentially an entry-level 'performance' drive with reads hitting 545MB/s max and 525MB/s writes max. These numbers aren't far off what we saw with the Vertex 450 as we'll discuss. The exterior gets a bit of a makeover which a cleaner look and a splash of blue. I personally like the new look better but aesthetics aren't really a selling point for most. Like the Vertex 450, the 460 comes with a 2.3" to 3.5" adapter plate as well as a serial key for Acronis True Image HD 2013 drive imaging software which we use all of the time to clone and backup our SSDs.

Vertex 460 Features

OCZ Storage Solutions Vertex 460 Features and Specifications:

Performance 120GB 240GB 480GB
MSRP: $99.00 USD $189.00 USD $359.00 USD
Max Read: 530MB/s 540MB/s 545MB/s
Max Write: 420MB/s 525MB/s 525MB/s
Max Rdm Read IOPS (4K QD32) 80,000 85,000 95,000
Max Rdm WriteIOPS (4K QD32) 90,000 90,000 90,000
Steady-State Rdm Write IOPS (4K QD32) 12,000 21,000 23,000

OCZ Drive Compare

As compared to the enthusiast Vector drive, the Vertex 460 performance is very comparable and the biggest difference is the rated driver endurance and related warranty. There are incremental improvements over the Vertex 450, especially with the smaller 120GB and in the sustained IOPS performance. Let's a have a closer look at the components.

Vertex 460 Internals

A simple trashing of the warranty void sticker and four screw removals and we were inside the Vertex 460.

Vertex 460

The image looks virtually the same as we saw with the Vertex 450 including the thermal pad on the controller. As well it should. It's essentially the same save for the smaller architecture NAND which isn't exactly visible to the naked eye.

Vertex 460 PCB

The first side of the PCB carries half of the NAND packages and one of the cache chips.

Vertex 460 nand

The 19nm Toshiba MLC NAND carries the part number TH58TEG7DDJBA4C and is a change from the Vertex 450 which carried Micron NAND. Obviously, this is the result of the acquisition by Toshiba and frankly the one piece of the pie that OCZ was missing - in house NAND manufacture.

Vertex 460 PCB

Flipping the board over, we see the remaining NAND, the second cache chip and the controller.

Vertex 460 cache

The Micron DDR3-1333 SDRAM cache chips carry FBGA# D9LGK and are each 256MB in capacity giving this 240GB drive 512MB of cache which is the same as on the previous generation 450 drive.

Vertex 460 M10

The Barefoot 3 M10 Indilinx controller with part number IDX500M10-BC which is difficult to make out due to the degradation of the ink on the chip from the thermal pad. This is a 100% OCZ designed controller which as a bit slower than the M00 version found on the Vector drive. It would appear that the firmware has been tweaked to play nice with the 19nm NAND and to offer a bit better performance but on the whole, not much has changed.  This Indilinx controller offers greater consistency of performance when presented with variable data types as opposed to what we see with others that leverage compression technology to get optimal performance. As usual, the controller does all the heavy lifting on wear-leveling and error correction activities and now that this has been in consumers hands for awhile, appears to be a very stable and reliable controller.

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 own 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
VisionTek PCIe 240GB SSD SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281) x2 PCIe
WD Black² Dual-Drive 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD JMicron JMF667H SATA III
OCZ Vector 150 240GB Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 SATA III
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 6.0.4 Readout:

For the OCZ Vertex 460 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 – 1.0. This data can also be accessed via OCZ’s toolbox along with a method for secure erasing the drive.

Vertex 460 CrystalDiskInfo

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:

Vertex 460 ATTO

Benchmark Results: Scorching hot performance here with performance that exceeds the Vertex 450 and virtually equals the Vector drive. We're not sure what's up with the read anomaly on the 32K test but it persisted no matter how many times we ran the benchmark.

ATTO Grid

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.

Vertex 460 AS-SSD

Benchmark Results: It's always good to see the performance numbers not drop a ton when moving to the AS-SSD benchmark from ATTO which is the case here. The Vertex 450, 460 and Vector drives all perform more or less the same.

AS-SSD Grid

Vertex 460 AS-SSD Compression Bench

Benchmark Results: An absence of graph slope portrays the consistent performance regardless of the level of data compressibility.

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

Vertex 460 CrystalDiskMark

Benchmark Results: This is very near the best performance we've seen from any drive on this benchmark - only overshadowed by the Samsung EVO drive and right on par with the Vector drive.

CrystalDiskMark Grid

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.

Vertex 460 IOPS reads Vertex 460 IOPS Writes

Benchmark Results: There is virtually no difference in the results from the Vertex 460 and the 450. The Vector does punch out a bit more on the reads but overall excellent performance.

Vertex 460 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.

Vertex 460 JPG Copy

Benchmark Results: We find the Vertex 460 performs exactly the same as the 450 which shouldn't be too much of a surprise since the changes were subtle.

Vertex 460 File Copy 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 start up times of the drives. All of the instances of Windows were identical and freshly installed with only the video driver installed.

Vertex 460 Boot Racer

Benchmark Results: Again, little discrepancy between the Vertex 460 and 450 and each are at the top section of the chart along with the Vector.

Boot Chart

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

As usual, we take a look at what capacity is left for the user when the drive is ready to go and for the OCZ Vertex 460 drive, we won't stray from that task. On board, we saw that there are 256GB (1GB byte = 1,000,000,000 bytes) of NAND present and after the units conversion, over-provisioning and Windows have their share, we are left with 223GiB logically (1GiB = 1,073,741,824 bytes). Compared to the Vertex 450, you lose about 15GB more to over-provisioning but it shouldn't be seen as a negative since the increased spare area will offer longer drive endurance although that hasn't changed per the specifications of 20GB/day host writes over three years.

Vertex 460 Properties

We'll wrap up where we started with OCZ's recent acquisition by Toshiba which is a nice marriage of SSD manufacturers as OCZ's Indilinx controllers are some of the best in the industry and Toshiba is one of the few NAND manufacturers and a very competitive one at that. As such, their margins are better and can offer a lower price point. When the Vertex 450 was released in May of 2013, pricing for the 128GB, 256Gb and 512GB drives were $129.99, $234.99 and $499.99 respectively which is right around $1 per usable GB. The Vertex 460 is priced much more competitively at $99.99, $189.99 and $359.99 for the 120GB, 240GB and 480GB drives which ranges from $0.80 to $0.90 per usable GB is which is a significant drop. NAND prices have remained relatively steady as of late so would appear to be due to the influence of Toshiba being the parent company and poses significant competition to the likes of Samsung who offers a similar price and performance. Don't forget that also included with the drive is the 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate as well as the serial key for a copy of Acronis True Image HD software which both total up to be over $50 in extras.

OCZ Love

On the subject of performance, we were duly impressed again with the performance of this Barefoot 3 M10 controlled drive just like we were with the Vertex 450. There are some definite improvements but incremental and nothing that should make current Vertex 450 owners want to trade up. We witnessed sequential read speeds topping out at 552MB/s and writes at 532MB/s which is pretty much the max you'll get from any SATA III drive. Incompressible data did little to slow it down so steady, even performance is the name of the game which is something OCZ points out specifically with a higher level of sustained performance than that of its peers. It mostly mirrors the performance of the more expensive Vector drive which is quite a compliment although the Vertex carries a lesser warranty and drive endurance rating.

Vertex 460

Overall, not a single complaint about this drive - it's certainly one of the best available at its price point. Time will tell to see how sales go with customers maybe still unsure about OCZ's future despite their assurances otherwise and the latest announcement. With the finality of the acquisition, the resulting branding reads as OCZ Storage Solutions - A Toshiba Company, so the OCZ name lives on for now. Overall, this should solidify Toshiba/OCZ's standing in the top tier of the SSD market and make for some interesting competition in 2014. Perhaps even a price war as the many lesser players are lost to attrition and the few strong endure.

Legit Bottom Line: While only an incremental improvement over the Vertex 450, the OCZ Vertex 460 rings in 2014 with some performance enhancements, a more attractive price tag than it's predecessor, and now a new company name.