Honey I Shrunk The Vertex 3 (Again)
OCZ is certainly getting a lot of mileage from the Vertex moniker. First introduced way back in early 2009, it seems a lot longer than just four years ago. They have good reason to perpetuate the name as the Vertex drives have been one of if not the best selling line of SSDs ever. Back in 2011, we first had a look at the Vertex 3 drives featuring the then new SandForce SF-2281 controller. At the time, it featured 25nm -34nm (keep reading!) MLC NAND and set the bar for enthusiast level SSD performance. Fast forward to 2013 and OCZ has quietly released the latest Vertex 3 incarnation with a .20 mantissa tacked on to represent the 20nm MLC NAND contained within. This is somewhat noteworthy in that there was a fuss raised by customers at one point when OCZ decided to move from 34nm to 25nm NAND and not overtly disclose it. Perhaps showing more maturity and proactive thinking from the new OCZ leadership, they've decided to forgo any customer ire by simply re-branding to Vertex 3.20.
What hasn't changed is the controller. It's still the SandForce SF-2281 that the original Vertex 3 came equipped with although this time around LSI is the parent company for the SandForce hardware. It carries the same three year warranty and is offered in 120GB (VTX3-25SAT3-120G.20) and 240GB (VTX3-25SAT3-240G.20) capacities. The 240GB will run you $216.99 and the 120GB Vertex 3.20 solid-state drive is $119.99.
The Vertex 3 was originally the flagship drive from OCZ at its inception but that honor now belongs to the Vector series. Still, one cannot scoff at the robust specifications of 500MB/s reads and 520MB/s writes. This is still a very fast drive although how it compares to the Vector and other competitors we'll let you see for yourself on the following pages.
OCZ Vertex 3.20 Features and Specifications:
|Random 4k Read:||20,000 IOPS||35,000 IOPS|
|Random 4k Write:||40,000 IOPS||65,000 IOPS|
|Maximum IOPS:||90,000 IOPS||90,000 IOPS|
- Usable Capacities (IDEMA): 120GB, 240GB
- NAND Components: 20nm Synchronous Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
- Interface: SATA 3 6Gb/s
- Form Factor: 2.5 Inch
- NAND Controller: SandForce® 2281
- Dimension (L x W x H): 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
- Weight: 83g
- MTBF: 2 million hours
- Data Path Protection: Up to 55 bits correctable per 512-byte sector (BCH)
- Data Encryption: 128-bit AES-compliant
- Product Health Monitoring: Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) support
- Power Consumption: Idle: 0.55W, Active: 2.1W
- Operating Temperature: 0°C ~ 55°C
- Storage Temperature: -45°C ~ 85°C
- Shock Resistance: 1500G
- Certifications: RoHS, CE, FCC
- Serial ATA (SATA): Fully compliant with Serial ATA International Organization: Serial ATA Revision 3.0. Fully compliant with ATA/ATAPI-8 Standard Native Command Queuing (NCQ)
- Operating System: Windows / Mac OS X / Linux
- Performance Optimization: TRIM (requires OS support)
- Other Performance Features: SandForce’s DuraClass™ technology for reliability, performance, and power efficiency. DuraWrite™ architecture extends flash rated endurance Service & Support 3-Year Warranty, Toll-Free Tech Support, 24 Hour Forum Support, Firmware Updates
- 120GB: VTX3-25SAT3-120G.20
- 240GB: VTX3-25SAT3-240G.20
The exterior design is almost dead on the original Vertex 3 save for the ".20" appended to the name. Black and silver is still the color scheme of choice.
Included in the packaging is a multilingual brochure with installation instructions and warranty information along with the latest sticker design professing fondness for OCZ SSD products. Everyone loves stickers.
Inside the Vertex 3.20
As usual, we cracked the case open to see what lies within.
The removal of four simple screws is all that is needed to remove the shell. Another four hold the PCB in place and nary a thermal pad in sight.
On the first side of the PCB, we find eight of the sixteen NAND modules.
The 20nm MLC NAND that give the Vertex 3.20 its unique name are fabricated by Intel and carry part number 29F16B08CCMF3. Each are 16GB in density.
As usual, there's no cache present as a companion to the controller so along with the controller on this side of the PCB are the remaining NAND eight modules.
Once again we gaze upon the SandForce SF-2281 SSD controller that's appeared in a vast array of drives over its lifetime. Once the premiere SSD controller on the market making its debut in the original Vertex 3, it now has many strong competitors with maybe the most formidable being PCZ's own latest Indilinx controller - a brand usurped by SandForce in the lineage of Vertex drives. Without going too in depth about the SF-2281 since we've covered it countless times, suffice it to say that it's a very competent controller doing an excellent job on wear-leveling, error correction, and other drive maintenance duties via its proprietary DuraClass Technology. It gets peak performance via real time compression which is extremely effective when it can be leveraged and outputs more pedestrian performance when not. Either way, it remains one of the best available controllers even though it's getting a bit long of the tooth which makes it all that much more impressive.
Test System & Comparison Drives
Legit Reviews Storage Benchmark Test System
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 an instance of OCZ's Toolbox. 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
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k|
|ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77|
|Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB|
|Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)|
|Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC|
|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.
|Samsung 840 Pro 240GB||Samsung MDX||Yes||SATA III|
|Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB||Marvell 88SS9175||Yes||SATA III|
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB||LAMD LM87800||Yes||SATA III|
|Intel 520 Series 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3||Yes||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||Yes||SATA III|
CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 Readout:
For the OCZ Vertex 3.20 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 2.30. This is confirmed with OCZ's own toolbox application which can also be used to secure erase the drive.
Let's look at some benchmarks...
ATTO & AS-SSD 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 Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: The Vertex 3.20 240GB drive posts some very nice numbers here and slightly above that of the specifications set forth by OCZ. On this benchmark, scores are very close to that of the Vector drive.
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.
Benchmark Results: Par for the course on the SandForce controlled drives, the benchmarks that employ incompressible data have a sizable impact on performance, particularly the writes. That's evident here with sequential writes falling to 314.70MB/s, a category lead by OCZ's own Vector drive..
Benchmark Results: This benchmark chart illustrates the impact of data compressibility on performance with performance increasing as the data becomes more compressible.
CrystalDiskMark and 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
Benchmark Results: Very much the same results here for the Vertex 3.20 as we saw on the AS-SSD benchmark with sequential writes dropping off a bit with the incompressible data. Still, for a SandForce drive it's solid performance.
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.
Benchmark Results: IOPS is one place where the 20nm specs are stated as lower than the original, larger architecture Vertex 3 drives. In practice, we see some really nice numbers here that rival the fastest drives in the comparison.
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.
Install Results: Real world performance shows performance very comparable to that of the Intel 520 Series drive and a handful of seconds off of the leaders.
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.
Test Results: Not a huge disparity in boot times between any of the drives in the comparison with only 1 to 2 seconds difference between the best and worst times.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The Vertex 3.20 240GB drive yields 223GiB in Windows which is no different than the 34nm or 25nm Vertex 3 drives of the past as the architectural scale has no bearing on drive capacity.
So the big (or small, such as it is) change for the Vertex 3.20 is the transition to 20nm architecture NAND. This impacts performance a bit with slightly more modest performance specifications, increases the amount of error correction needed to be handled by the controller, and has overall less endurance. However, for OCZ this means lower manufacturing costs and to the consumer it means a more affordable drive.
With this in mind, having a look at OCZ's product page I found an interesting illustration touting the benefits of a 20nm MLC drive versus a TLC drive as found on the relatively new Samsung 840 drive. A lot of attention was given to the Samsung drive due to the very favorable cost to capacity ratio. Obviously, OCZ is squaring off against Samsung here without specifically calling them out. As compared to TLC NAND, the drawbacks of moving to 20nm we've pointed out certainly seem less prominent and in reality they are merely footnotes as the performance and endurance decreases will be imperceptible to the vast majority of users.
Performance wasn't at all surprising, we pretty much knew what to expect. Even with the 20nm flash on board we were able to exceed the 550MB/s reads and 520MB/s write specifications on the ATTO benchmark and the IOPS performance appeared to be very good as well. So while not the leader of the pack in OCZ's shrinking drive lineup, it holds its own just fine. The 240GB drive retails for about $220 which comes out to a nearly even $1.00 per usable GB. This is very competitive pricing and there are few drives offering the same level of performance that can be found for less. The SSD trend is moving towards smaller architecture NAND so it won't be long until the Vertex 3.20 has company on the shelves.
Legit Bottom Line: The latest Vertex release from OCZ, dubbed 3.20, isn't a far departure from the original Vertex 3 with solid performance and a proven heritage.