OCZ is Indilinx Infused...Again

Today we start with a little history lesson so indulge us if you will. In the not so distant past when consumer SSDs were in their relative infancy, there were only a handful of controllers on the market. While JMicron, Intel, Samsung and Marvell were pretty much the main players at the time, the Intel controllers arguably garnered the most praise and attention from the reviewer community. As Nate was the first to discover, many of these had performance issues over time and TRIM wasn't even in the consumer vocabulary. It wasn't too long before an upstart named Indilinx came along and quickly became the darling of the SSD world although the Intel drives were still widely held to be the gold standard, so to speak. Ever the pioneers, OCZ was the first to partner with Indilinx and launched their extremely popular Vertex line powered by their Barefoot controller. OCZ sold a ton of these drives and it really was the impetus that helped propel them into the forefront of the consumer SSD market. It wasn't long before others joined in and there were a slew of Indilinx based drives on the market. Along came SandForce (of which OCZ was an early adopter) and Indilinx seemed to fade away with little fanfare.

OCZ Octane 512GB

Fast forward a bit to March of 2011, when it was announced that OCZ would be acquiring Indilinx. At the time, rumors had circulated about OCZ's interest in SandForce so it wasn't completely unexpected but was still a bit surprising. At the time, there was much speculation on would would come of this but OCZ kept much under their hat, so everyone took a wait and see approach. Finally, this month OCZ announced the newest Indilinx controller known as Everest which is featured in their new Octane drives. They sent us over a 512GB beast to bang around on and frankly we were chomping at the bit to see what they cooked up although this article comes out much later than we would have liked due to unforeseen circumstances, so we apologize for keeping our readers waiting.

OCZ Indilinx Drives

The Octane drives actually come in two flavors. The Octane with a SATA 6Gbps interface and the Octane S2 with a SATA 3Gpbs interface. The former features orange graphics and 25nm synchronous (faster) NAND and the latter having blue themed graphics with 25nm asynchronous (slower) NAND. This is probably a wise move since many still have older 3Gbps motherboards and care not to fork out extra bills for performance they can't even take advantage of. Each can be purchased in capacities from 128GB up to a monstrous 1TB which is the first such SSD in the 2.5" form factor that we are aware of! The pricing for the 512GB is expected to be around $879.99 MSRP for the 512GB version and the 1TB version pricing has yet to be announced.

OCZ Octane Features and Specifications

  • Available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities
  • Interface: SATA 6Gbps / Backwards Compatible 3Gbps
  • 512MB Onboard Cache
  • Indilinx Infused™
  • TRIM Support
  • Background Garbage Collection Support
  • Boot Time Reduction Opimization
  • AES and Automatic Encryption
  • SMART Support
  • Proprietary Indilinx nDurance™ Technology
  • Low-Latency Seek Time: 0.06ms Read; 0.09ms Write
  • Slim 2.5" Design
  • 99.8 (L) x 69.63 (W) x 9.3 mm (H)
  • Lightweight: 83g
  • Operating Temp: 0°C ~ 70°C
  • Ambient Temp: 0°C ~ 55°C
  • Storage Temp: -45°C ~ +85°C
  • Low Power Consumption: 1.98W active,1.15W standby
  • Shock Resistant up to 1500G
  • RAID Support
  • MTBF: 1,250,000 hours
  • 3-Year Warranty
  • Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, Linux, OSX
128GB Max Performance
  • Max Read: up to 535MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 170MB/s
  • Random Write 4KB: 7,700 IOPS
  • Random Read 4KB: 37,000 IOPS
256GB Max Performance
  • Max Read: up to 535MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 270MB/s
  • Random Write 4KB: 12,000 IOPS
  • Random Read 4KB: 37,000 IOPS
512GB Max Performance
  • Max Read: up to 535MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 400MB/s
  • Random Write 4KB: 16,000 IOPS
  • Random Read 4KB: 37,000 IOPS
1TB Max Performance
  • Max Read: up to 560MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 400MB/s
  • Random Write 4KB: 19,500 IOPS
  • Random Read 4KB: 45,000 IOPS
Part Numbers
  • OCT1-25SAT3-128G
  • OCT1-25SAT3-256G
  • OCT1-25SAT3-512G
  • OCT1-25SAT3-1T

OCZ Octane 512GB

OCZ touts the Octane drives as having up to a two times increase in the rated NAND program/ease cycles as a result of their nDurance technology. It employs proprietary algorithms to mitigate wear and maintain performance over the long haul. In contrast to the SandForce controllers, no compression is employed during the write cycle so performance should be consistent regardless of the type of data being written. OCZ also points out that the drive is designed to provide better overall performance on all file sizes rather than a small spectrum.

OCZ Octane 512GB

Gone are the traditional cardboard boxed packaging in favor of plastic blister packs. Thankfully, these are the easy to open ones with locking tabs at the top. No knives or hassle. Included is a warranty and instructions brochure and the familiar 'My SSD is faster than your HDD' sticker. Absent is a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate which is no big deal since many cases support 2.5" drives now and they are relatively cheap to purchase. The overall external design of the drive is not unlike that of the other drives OCZ offers with bold graphics, a black plastic shell and brushed aluminum back plate. Let's see what they did differently on the inside.

Indilinx Inside

Opening the drive consisted of the usual voiding of the warranty by peeling off the warning sticker and removal of four small screws.

OCZ Octane 512GB Opened

Four additional screws later and the PCB was set free from the aluminum back plate.

OCZ Octane 512GB PCB

On one side of the PCB resides a portion of the NAND, eight modules on the 512GB drive, and a cache chip sitting by itself in the corner. We'll talk more about that in a minute. As we've seen on many of their drives, the PCB is clearly labeled with the OCZ logo is it comes from OCZ fab along with the controller.

OCZ Octane 512GB NAND

A closer inspection of the MLC NAND reveals it to be of Intel manufacture and one of the few parts not fabricated by OCZ along with the cache. These happen to be 25nm synchronous chips which we know are the one of the faster varieties.

OCZ Octane 512GB PCB

Flipping the board over, we see the remaining MLC flash modules with the controller and another cache chip. There are a total of 16 chips at 32GB each for 512GB total raw capacity. Note the tiny Texas Instruments branded mystery chips dotted across the board. We weren't specifically told what function these serve but suspect they play a role in the 16-way interleaving listed in the feature set although how this employed, we aren't sure. A mystery to solve for another day.

OCZ Octane 512GB Cache

The Micron DDR3 SDRAM cache has a capacity of 512MB (256MB on each side) and is something you don't find on the SandForce drives which makes them fundamentally different.

OCZ Octane 512GB Indilinx Controller

Finally we get to the good stuff, the Indilinx Everest controller. Bearing an official part number of IDX300M00-BC, it supports both SATA2 and SATA 3 interfaces and features advanced BCH ECC capable of greater than 70 bits correction per 1KB of data. It supports the usual items like NCQ, S.M.A.R.T. reporting, TRIM and background garbage collection. Proprietary nDurance technology takes care of the wear leveling to mitigate excessive concentrated wear on the flash to prolong its life.

OCZ Octane 512GB info

For those (like me) who understand better through visualization, the block diagram above lays everything out nicely.

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 test drive was secure erased using an instance of Parted Magic since the OCZ Toolbox tool does not yet work with this drive. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below. We'd again like to thank ASUS for their generosity and support in providing the motherboard for our test bench.

LR Test Bench

P67 Test Bench

Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing

Processor

Core i5 2500k

Motherboard

ASUS P8P67 Deluxe

Memory

Crucial 2 x 2GB  PC3-10600

Video Card

Gigabyte GeForce GT 430

OS Drive

Corsair Force 40GB

Power Supply

Corsair HX1000

Operating System

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
CONTROLLER(S) TRIM? Interface
Corsair Force GT 120GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
Super Talent TeraDrive CT3 64GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
Kingston HyperX 240GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
Corsair Force 3 GT 120GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
Patriot Pyro 120GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 480GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)x4
Yes PCI-E
OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G 240GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
OCZ Agility 3 240GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
OCZ Vertex 3 120GB
SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
Yes SATA III
PQI S535 256GB
SandForce SF-1200 (SF-1222) Yes SATA II
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)
Yes SATA II
Corsair Performance 3 Series 128GB
Marvell 88SS9174
Yes SATA III
Intel 510 Series 250GB
Marvell 88SS9174
Yes SATA III
Plextor M2 Series 128GB
Marvell 88SS9174
Yes SATA III
Kingston V100 Series 128GB
JMicron JMF618 (Toshiba branded)
Yes SATA II
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)
Yes SATA II
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 SF-1200 (SF-1222) No* PCI-E
OCZ RevoDrive 120GB
2X 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)
Yes SATA II
Micron RealSSD C300 256GB Marvell 88SS9174 Yes SATA III
* TRIM is not supported due to the RAID controller.

In the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 4.0.2 we got a response that was a little unusual. Apparently it doesn't fully recognize the Indilinx powered Octane and so gave us an abbreviated listing of attributes and an 'unknown' health status. However, it did recognize that both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as well as TRIM. This is a great free tool to see lots of detailed information about the drive.

OCZ Octane 512GB CRYSTALDISKMARK INFO

On to the benchmarks!

ATTO & AS-SSD Benchmarks

ATTO v2.41

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

OCZ Octane 512GB ATTO

Benchmark Results: The Octane 512GB drive falls just a bit short of hitting the rated specs on the writes of 400MB/s with a top speed of 357.58MB/s. The reads were spot on the specs hitting exactly the 535MB/s as promised. Without compressing the data, the writes are functionally slower than what we see from the SandForce drives but best the Intel and Marvell drives. Being a benchmark employing highly compressible data, the results here were somewhat predictable.

OCZ Octane 512GB ATTO GRID

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.

AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) 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.

OCZ Octane 512GB AS-SSD

Benchmark Results: Moving to a benchmark that employs incompressible data, the Octane's write numbers actually get a little closer to the 400MB/s specification and the writes fall back a bit. Still, the writes here are where the SandForce drives really take a performance hit and fall significantly behind the Indilinx powered Octane. Only the Intel 510 series drive comes close.

OCZ Octane 512GB AS-SSD GRID

OCZ Octane 512GB AS-SSD

Benchmark Results: The graph above is very telling. For the SandForce drives, this graph usually ascends as you move from left to right on the writes data line showing the correlation between performance and data compressibility. Here, you can see the Indilinx Octane drive shrugging its virtual shoulder and showing indifference to the level of compressibility.

CrystalDiskMark and PCMark 7

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 x64 - Intel P67 Platform

OCZ Octane 512GB CRYSTALDISKMARK P67

Benchmark Results: Another incompressible data benchmark has the Octane drive strutting its stuff in the sequential writes department while doing very well in the sequential reads. The numbers closely resemble that of the Intel 510 series drive. Random reads were in the ballpark with everyone else but random writes lagged a bit - again along with the Inter drives.

OCZ Octane 512GB CRYSTALDISKMARK GRID

PCMark 7 Professional - Intel P67 Platform

PCMARK 7 Pro

We are continuing to use the new PCMark 7 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.

OCZ Octane 512GB PCMARK VANTAGE

OCZ Octane 512GB PCMARK VANTAGE

Benchmark Results: Really, not a whole lot going on here as scores are pretty close across the board. The Octane did take top spot in the video editing category.

OCZ Octane 512GB PCMARK VANTAGE GRID

OCZ Octane 512GB - 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.

OCZ Octane 512GB JPG Copy

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.

OCZ Octane 512GB MP3 COPY

Install Results: Really, we would have expected to see a little better times than what we got from the Octane given the data used was fairly incompressible but it ended up just above the median scores. Even so, times were only off of the leading SATA drive by literal seconds.

OCZ Octane 512GB FILECOPY CHART

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.

 DREAMWEAVER


OCZ Octane 512GB APP CHART

Install Results: The Octane actually fell towards the bottom of the pack here although like the file copy test, the score differences are scant seconds.

We'll wrap this with a look at the total drive capacity and our final thoughts.

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Once you do the conversion from bytes to GiB (1,073,741,824 bytes per) Windows shows the total capacity available to the user on the OCZ Octane 512GB drive to be 476GB. The overprovisioned space was not disclosed but on the typical modern SSD see about 7-10% so that probably holds true here.

OCZ Octane 512GB Properties


It's interesting to see how OCZ is marketing these new drives. They are 'Indilinx infused' vesrus 'SandForce driven'. Indilinx drives have nDurance technology while SandForce has DuraClass technology. I can't help but be reminded of the movie Coming To America where Cleo McDowell comments on his feud with McDonald's: "Look... me and the McDonald's people got this little misunderstanding. See, they're McDonald's... I'm McDowell's. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds."

Humor aside, there are a slew of SandForce drives on the market today but now OCZ has breathed new life into the Indilinx brand and are back to see if they can regain the preeminence they once briefly had. Although that may be tough in terms of units sold if OCZ is the sole manufacturer/reseller of Indilinx based drives. To OCZ's benefit, SandForce has had a few bumps in the road and there may be those that have been awaiting another alternative. Then again, customers may be gun-shy about a new and unproven (in terms of widespread consumer use) SSD while the original SandForce drives are getting long in the tooth and we are getting an idea of how they fare over time. There are certainly no shortage of people skeptical about the reliability of SSDs in general.

OCZ Octane 512GB Logo

In terms of performance, things need to be put into perspective a bit. If you look at the raw numbers alone, SandForce drives seem to be faster as their top speeds are indeed greater - especially in writes. However, that's only in the perfect setting with highly compressible data being sequentially written. Not the type of usage that typical consumer PC is going to see so those scores carry less weight when factoring overall performance. Where the SandForce drives rely on real-time compression of data to achieve maximum throughputs, the Indilinx controlled Octane has no such mechanism so has more consistent performance, regardless of the data type. As such, the user experience is going to be very similar. When compared to the top Marvell drives (Intel 510 Series and Crucial M4/Micron C400), the benchmark scores we saw were very similar as well since the Marvell controller does not employ compression either. Intel is due for a refresh of their own high-end controller so no one is going to be able to become complacent with the products they have.

OCZ Octane 512GB

As far as pricing goes we mentioned that this particular drive (512GB) is set for $879.99 MSRP which is right at $1.84 per usable GB mark. Not a bad price even though the $880 can buy you a whole new PC. No word on the 1TB pricing but the 256GB version can be found online now for $379.99. The smallest drive of 128GB will debut at $199.99 MSRP. OCZ offers a 3 year warranty on the drives which seems to be the industry standard anymore. What remains to be seen from the Indilinx Everest drives is how they fare over the long run. Based on our tests, TRIM works as expected and garbage collection does its thing in the background and does not appear to be overly aggressive. So far our experience has be very positive and we plan on using the drive in a 24/7 machine to really give it a long evaluation. Honestly, it's refreshing to work on a drive that isn't SandForce based and we welcome the change. Competition breeds excellence as they say so the fact that the Everest controller came out of its corner swinging is good for all of us. Givent that OCZ is offering two flavors of the drive - the Octane S2 with SATA II and slower NAND and the Octane with SATA III and faster NAND will mean that they'll be able to effectively compete with the higher-end enthusiast drives as well as the more value oriented drives. Overall, we have no complaints although we'd like to see the 4k writes comes up a bit as they tend to be lower than that of its peers. A firmware tweak could probably remedy that and OCZ has never been shy about updates to their drives. Speaking of firmware, the current OCZ toolbox app doesn't work with the drive but a new version should be out shortly.

OCZ Octane 512GB

We applaud OCZ for taking intelligent risks - something that has garnered them both praise and condemnation over the last few years. As mentioned, they were the first to step out on the ledge with Indilinx which ended up being huge for them and one of, if not the first to adopt the SandForce controllers. Again, huge. When they purchased Indilinx, many wondered if that purchase would make or break them and technically, the jury is still out. However, based on the initial results from the Octane drive, we'd say that it's looking like a good move on their part and they're positioned to be left standing when drive margins shrink to the point where attrition wipes out all but a few manufacturers. Until then, it's going to be interesting to see how they all duke it out.

Legit Bottom Line: Now that OCZ has resurrected Indilinx with the Everest controller, the industry better take note because they've put together a splendid line of drives with Octane series and we get the feeling that they're just getting warmed up.