The Vertex 3 To The Max
By now we've covered almost the entire OCZ SSD SATA III lineup and today we round things out with the Max IOPS edition of the Vertex 3. From the outside, it looks pretty much the same as the other Vertex 3 drives save for the "Max IOPS" verbiage on the front sticker and the part number. The real difference lies beneath the exterior shell with some hardware changes that have a significant impact on performance. Just how much we'll bear out in the testing but let's just say that it does not disappoint.
Unlike the 'regular' Vertex 3 drives, the Max IOPS (MI) edition only comes in two capacities - 120 GB and 240 GB, forgoing the 480 GB version which is not really attainable by most consumers anyway due to the lofty price. While on the subject of price, the 120 GB version can be picked up for $309 and the 240 GB for $556. Neither being cheap but these aren't value drives. Each carries a three year warranty and kick out reads of up to 550MB/s and writes of up to 500MB/s. In terms of IOPS, have a look at the table below and you can see they have been boosted in this edition as well.
|V3 MI 120GB||V3 MI 240GB||V3 120GB||V3 240GB||V3 480GB|
|Max Read:||up to 550 MB/s
||up to 550 MB/s
||up to 550 MB/s
||up to 550 MB/s
||up to 530 MB/s
|Max Write:||up to 500 MB/s
||up to 500 MB/s
||up to 500 MB/s
||up to 520 MB/s
||up to 450 MB/s
|4KB Random Read:||35,000 IOPS
||20,000 IOPS||40,000 IOPS
|4KB Random Write:||75,000 IOPS||65,000 IOPS||60,000 IOPS)||60,000 IOPS||40,000 IOPS
|Max 4KB Random Write:||85,000 IOPS)||85,000 IOPS||85,000 IOPS||85,000 IOPS||40,000 IOPS
|Seq Read (AS-SSD):||500 MB/s||510 MB/s||500 MB/s||510 MB/s||495 MB/s|
|Seq Write (AS-SSD):||230 MB/s||240 MB/s||155 MB/s||280 MB/s||225 MB/s|
|4K Random Read (AS-SSD):||47,000 IOPS||58,500 IOPS||29,000 IOPS||53,500 IOPS||56,000 IOPS
|4K Random Write (AS-SSD):||47,000 IOPS||48,500 IOPS||38,000 IOPS||56,000 IOPS||38,000 IOPS
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB MAx IOPS Edition Features and Specifications:
- Available in 120GB and 240GB Capacities
- MLC NAND Flash
- Interface: SATA 6Gbps / Backwards Compatible 3Gbps
- Native TRIM support
- Seek Time: .1ms
- Slim 2.5" Design
- 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
- Lightweight: 77g
- Operating Temp: 0°C ~ 70°C
- Ambient Temp: 0°C ~ 55°C
- Storage Temp: -45°C ~ 85°C
- Low Power Consumption: 3W Active, 1.65W Idle
- Shock Resistant up to 1500G
- RAID Support
- Included 3.5" Desktop adapter bracket
- Compatible with Windows 7, Vista, XP 32-bit/64-bit, Mac OSX
- MTBF: 2 million hours
- 3-Year Warranty
- 120GB Max Performance:
- Max Read: up to 550MB/s
- Max Write: up to 500MB/s
- Random Read 4KB: 35,000 IOPS
- Random Write 4KB: 75,000 IOPS
- Maximum 4K Random Write: 85,000 IOPS
- Max Read: up to 550MB/s
- Max Write: up to 500MB/s
- Random Read 4KB: 55,000 IOPS
- Random Write 4KB: 65,000 IOPS
- Maximum 4K Random Write: 85,000 IOPS
- OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB: VTX3MI-25SAT3-120G - $309.99
- OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB: VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G - $556.99
Packaged with the drive is a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate complete with screws, installation and warranty instructions, and your own personal bragging rights sticker. In this case, "HDD" can be changed to "SSD" and still be accurate in most circumstances.
Around back we have a shiny aluminum backplate with the OCZ product sticker and the pesky void if removed warranty sticker over one of the four screws. Not that we ever heed that around here so navigate to the next page to see the goods.
OCZ Vertex 3 MI - Under The Hood
If you had a look at any of our other Vertex 3 reviews you would have seen that removing the backplate for the OCZ Vertex 3 MI 240 GB drive is as simple as taking out four small screws. As seen in the image above, there are also four screws that hold the PCB in place.
A little different layout here than the Vertex 3 120 GB or the Agility 3 240 GB drives. Rather than two rows for four side-by-side longways, the NAND on the Vertex 3 MI has three rows with their short sides adjacent and the third row having one less than the other two. Still, there are eight total on this side.
The MLC NAND on board is of Toshiba manufacture which is again different that the 'regular' Vertex 3 drives which have Intel NAND. Specifically, its part number is TH58TAG7D2FBAS9 which indicates that it's 32nm toggle NAND which we've seen is very fast - rated at 133
megatransfers/second (MT/s) which is nearly triple that of most other NAND of the ONFI 1.0 variety. This is exactly what we saw on the Vertex 3 Pro drive. Sixteen modules at 16 GB in density results in 256 GB total capacity overall.
Flipping over the PCB we find the same configuration of the remaining NAND modules with the drive controller sitting in the its usual position.
That brings us to the seemingly ubiquitous SandForce branded controller. The SF-2200 is the latest generation controller that supports a SATA III interface and speeds that make platter hard drives seem to be the speed of pencil and paper. Supporting TRIM and featuring the DuraClass technology that handles wear leveling algorithms, error-correction and drive maintenance duties in addition to a number of other features such as data encryption and compression. The compression piece is what allows it to produce great numbers.
Comparison Drives & Test System
Legit Reviews Test System
All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 7 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 40GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the drive was secure erased using the OCZ toolbox. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below and we'd like to thank ASUS for their generosity and support in providing the motherboard for our test bench.
P67 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k
|ASUS P8P67 Deluxe
|Crucial 2 x 2GB PC3-10600|
|Gigabyte GeForce GT 430|
|Corsair Force 40GB|
|Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit|
Comparison Drives & 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 three different interfaces, we have listed them for easy reference.
| SSD MODEL
|OCZ Agility 3 240GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
|OCZ Vertex 3 120GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
|PQI S535 256GB
|OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 120GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|Crucial m4/Micron C400 256GB
||Marvell 88SS9174||Yes||SATA III|
|Intel 320 Series 128GB
||Intel PC29AS21BA0 (G3 FW)
|Corsair Performance 3 Series 128GB
|Intel 510 Series 250GB
|Plextor M2 Series 128GB
|Kingston V100 Series 128GB
||JMicron JMF618 (Toshiba branded)
|OCZ Vertex 3 Pro 200GB (beta)||SandForce SF-2500 (SF-2582)||Yes||SATA III|
|RunCore Pro V 120GB
||SandForce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Samsung 470 Series 256GB
||Samsung S3C29MAX01-Y340||Yes||SATA II|
|Zalman N Series 128GB||SandForce SF-1200 (SF-1222)
|Kingston V+100 128GB||Toshiba T6UG1XBG||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Force 40GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Intel X25-V 40GB||Intel PC29AS21BA0 (G2 FW)||Yes||SATA II|
|G.Skill Phoenix Pro||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Patriot Inferno 100GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB
||4X Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||No*||PCI-E
|OCZ RevoDrive 120GB
||2X Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||No*||PCI-E|
|ADATA S596 128GB||JMicron JMF612||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Force Series 120GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Patriot Zephyr 128GB||JMICRON JMF612||Yes||SATA II|
|Patriot Torqx 128GB||Indilinx Barefoot||Yes||SATA II|
|Kingston 30GB V Series SNV125-S2||Toshiba T6UG1XBG||Yes||SATA II|
|Kingston 128GB V Series SNV425-S2||JMICRON JMF618||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Force Series 100GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Nova Series 128GB||Indilinx Barefoot||Yes||SATA II|
|Intel X25-M 160GB G2
||Intel PC29AS21BA0 (G2 FW)
|Micron RealSSD C300 256GB||Marvell 88SS9174||Yes||SATA III|
|* TRIM is not supported due to the RAID controller.|
In the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 3.10.0, both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as is TRIM. This is a great free tool to see what version of firmware the drive is running in the event there are updates available and at the time of this review, 2.06 is the latest from OCZ. This is the same firmware version as we had with the regular Vertex 3 as well as the Agility 3, each of which are linked above in the table. Firmware is updated through their handy toolbox which can be downloaded on their site via their product pages.
On to the benchmarks!
ATTO & Iometer Synthetic Benchmarks
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 P67 Platform
Benchmark Results: While technically not posting the best scores, the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS drive is within a few points of the top scores which is certainly within the margin of variability in terms of benchmark scores. As always, the SandForce drives smoke this benchmark as it employs highly compressible data of which the controller takes full advantage.
This test employs compressible data showing the best case scenario in terms of data throughput for the SandForce drives. Let's have a look at a few others that use incompressible data to see how that impacts the scores.
Iometer 2008 (1.1.0)
Iometer is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation who has since discontinued work on Iometer and it was ultimately turned over to the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL). We chose the file sizes that best reflect many of the Windows transactions. 4KB random read/writes is very common on every day user machines. Large sequential writes represent large file copies. The drive block size is 512kb so it should give a very good indication of peak performance. We set the queue depth to 4 for the tests as generally Windows operations tend to happen at queue depths of 5 or less.
Benchmark Results: It's easy to see that the Vertex 3 MI drive has some significant performance advantages over the other OCZ SF-2200 drives, especially in the small 4KB files. The Intel 510 is no slouch either in the reads but does trail noticeably in the writes.
CrystalDiskMark and PCMark Vantage
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 3.0.1 - Intel P67 Platform
Benchmark Results: Benchmarks utilizing incompressible data like CrystalDiskMark really tell the tale of the Vertex 3 Max IOPS drive. As you can see, the sequential read scores more than doubles up on the Agility 3 and in the sequential writes shows the regular Vertex 3 who wears the pants in the Vertex family.
PCMark Vantage 7 Professional - Intel P67 Platform
This is our first use of the new PCMark software since they have updated it to version 7 which is specifcially designed for Windows 7. It measures the performance of the latest PC hardware across a variety of common scenarios. PCMark Vantage 7 supports both system level and component level benchmarking and comprises several different test suites but for the purposes of this review, we employed the secondary storage suite. The nice thing about it is that you can submit your scores online and compare against others.
Benchmark Results: If it's not already obvious, the Max IOPS Vertex 3 stood tall here, sweeping the pack with the best scores in every category - although not by wide margins.
AS-SSD Synthetic Benchmark
We continue on with our battery of benchmarks with the AS-SSD suite.
AS-SSD (1.6.4013.39530) Benchmark - Intel P67 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 all of them.
Benchmark Results: The OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB again showed its superiority over the other OCZ drives and posted the best overall score of any drives. The Intel 510 drive does top the list by far in the 4k reads and that's about the biggest margin of difference you'll see the Max IOPS drive trail.
Benchmark Results: Write speeds increase as the compressibility of the data increases just like we've seen with all the SandForce drives but the starting point is a lot higher than most of the other drives we've seen which is very nice to see.
Let's do some real world tests!
Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB - Real World Tests
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.
Install Results: Excellent times posted here by the Vertex 3 Max IOPS with times that are just a hair off the leaders showing that the synthetic benchmarks do show trends as to how real world performance will pan out.
We also timed the installation of a few rather lengthy applications/suites as app installs is something everyone does and waiting for completion can be a drag. We used Adobe Dreamweaver CS5, Microsoft Office 2010 Professional and Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage (v1.102.1901) as our test subjects with all install settings at default. Both were installed from an installer located on the target drive itself as installing from another drive, especially an optical drive, would cause a bottle-neck that would corrupt the results. The timing for these had to be done via stopwatch so there should be about a half second +/- error margin. Again, with the source and target drives being the same, concurrent read/write activity is required.
Install Results: All the drives show fairly close to the same performance with some a little stronger than others but nothing that jumps out.
We'll wrap this with a look at the total drive capacity and our final thoughts.
Capacity, Final Thoughts & Conclusions
While the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB drive has 256 GB worth of physical NAND on board, this pans out to be 223 GiB in Windows. This takes into account overprovisioning and the translation of GB (1,000,000,000 bytes per GB) to GiB (1,073,741,824 bytes per GiB) as well as the bits that formatting and Windows takes up.
We've done quite a few SSD reviews this year and frankly, some of the drives we test seem like carbon copies of the one before save for different branding. Performance tends to be relatively equal, at least within the standard deviation of the benchmarks used and it's rare for a drive to really stand out. The Vertex 3 MI is one of those rare drives that, in a sea of virtual SSD homogeny, distinguishes itself with all around performance perceptively better than any other single SATA III interfaced drive we've tested to date - except maybe the Intel 510 Series drive which is clearly its toughest competitor and posts scores that are impressive as well. While not having the best scores in every aspect of every benchmark, there are few instances where the Vertex 3 MI was bested by a wide margin. All of this is nothing new for OCZ who are really the only ones that currently offer a reasonably affordable PCI-E SSD solution and are generally leading the way in terms of putting their neck on the chopping block by being the first to run drives out to the end consumers. Yeah, they've been burnt by this more than once but they've generally stepped up and addressed the problems with customers and in the immortal words of T.S. Elliot - Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.
Much of the drive's success can be attributed to the 32nm Toshiba Toggle NAND and not derived from the firmware as one might suspect because it's the same version as the other Vertex 3 drives. Reads of 550MB/s are the same as the 'regular' Vertex 3 drives of the same capacity, but write specifications of 500MB/s are actually slightly below the other Vertex 3 drives; although we saw performance better than that in ATTO benchmark. In terms of specifications, the IOPS are cranked up a bit with the random 4KB write going from 60k to 75k on the 120 GB drive and 65k on the 240 GB drive. The SF-2200 controller does its usual admirable job keeping the drive speedy after heavy use, especially on systems where TRIM is employed and the 34nm has greater longevity expectations than that of the 25nm drive. OCZ estimates the Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) to be right around 2 million hours.
On the cost front, we find the 120 GB version to be retailing for $309 and the 240 GB for $556. This comes out to roughly $2.50 per usable GB on the 240GB drive and $2.75 on the 120GB drive. This is higher than the average price but premium performance always comes at a premium price. The Intel 510 Series is priced similarly so there's definitely some competition there. OCZ does offer a three year warranty on the drive and it ships with a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate for easy installation into just about any chassis. OCZ also offers their custom toolbox for updating firmware, secure erasing and viewing detailed information about the drive. This is extremely handy to have and only Intel offers a similar piece of software. The only negative thing I can say at this point is that OCZ may have too many overlapping SATA III SSD offerings with a total of three sets of drives in their "high-performance" category. Each are likely cannibalizing the sales of the others while they only have one offering in the "value" category where the focus of many consumers still lies in no small part due to the languishing economy. Between it and the Intel 510 Series drive, based on raw numbers I'd give the nod to the Max IOPS drive although in practical use, the end user would probably not be able to differentiate between the two. Most will probably stick with their brand of preference as long as prices remain roughly equal but if costs become disproportionate, buying preferences could shift.
Legit Bottom Line: The Max IOPS edition of the Vertex 3 line is the one of the fastest overall non-RAID SSD we've had our hands on although the Intel 510 Series is hot on its heels and the Intel brand has a substantial, loyal following.