Fast is good. Faster is better. When the OCZ Vertex 2 first came out, the world was still mostly using SATA II ports, which carried a maximum of 3Gb/s throughput, or about 300MB/s. Not coincidentally, this is almost exactly what the SandForce-based Vertex 2’s performance numbers were. Of course, with new chipsets from both AMD and Intel, SATA III became more common. The new standard allows up to 6Gb/s per port, or upwards of 500MB/s transfer speeds. Of course, what good are those kinds of speeds if you don’t have a device that can use them?
The Vertex 3 uses a second generation SandForce controller, the SF-2281 to be exact. That controller provides support for capacities up to 512GB (~480GB usable depending on overprovisioning levels) and speeds of up to 500MB/s (SATA III level). Of course, OCZ has also customized their firmware to provide an even greater level of performance from the controller, as you’ll see below.
Here’s a rundown of some key technologies in the SandForce 2200-series controller:
- DuraWrite helps to extend the life of an SSD through wear leveling and compression. Current NAND flash memory has a life expectancy of about 5,000 program/erase (P/E) cycles. Using DuraWrite allows the SandForce controller to determine the best location to write data that would have the least impact to overall SSD lifetime. Controller-based compression means data is written to fewer storage blocks, further reducing the wear on memory cells and increasing write speeds.
- Hardware support for AES 256-bit and 128-bit encryption is also built into the controller. Data written to a SandForce 2200-based SSD is automatically stored using a double encryption method. If you want to keep your data safe, a disk-level password can be implemented—the password is required prior to system boot to enable access to the drive.
- TRIM support is also present in SF-2200 series controllers, and can be used in Windows 7, Linux (kernel versions 2.6.33 and later), and Mac OS X Lion. For operating systems without TRIM support, garbage collection is also implemented at the controller level.
- Overprovisioning also returns in the SF-2200 controllers. This is a withholding of a certain portion of total capacity for garbage collection, wear leveling, and mapping of bad blocks. In the review drives’ cases approximately 16GB of the actual 256GB is reserved, leaving 240GB visible to the user.
For the review, results from the Vertex 2, RevoDrive X2, and a 7200RPM hard drive are included. So how does the Vertex 3 stack up?
|OCZ Vertex 3||OCZ Vertex 2||OCZ RevoDrive X2||WD Caviar Blue|
|Available capacities||60GB – 480GB||40 – 240GB||100 – 720GB||80GB – 1TB|
|Maximum read||550MB/s||285MB/s||740MB/s||126 MB/s|
|Maximum write||520MB/s||275MB/s||690MB/s||not listed|
|Random 4K write||60,000 IOPS||50,000 IOPS||100,000 IOPS||not listed|
|Power consumption||1.65W (idle)
|Warranty||3 years||3 years||3 years||3 years|
|Price (Current on 30 Sep)||$134.99 (60GB)
$439.99 (240GB OEM)
$569.99 (240GB Retail)
|$33.99 – $64.99|
On paper, it looks like the Vertex 3 should be roughly twice as fast as the Vertex 2, moderately slower than the RevoDrive, and make the Western Digital hard drive look absolutely ancient.
Sandra Disk Suite
Sandra’s physical disk testing shows the Vertex 3 is about twice as fast as the Vertex 2 and about 12-20% behind the RevoDrive X2 for raw speed and all three are virtually tied for latency. Of course, the hard drive is left in the dust on all counts.
There was a problem performing the write test on the Western Digital hard drive, hence the zero score for both speed and latency.
Atto shows the best case scenario for SSDs—the data is highly compressible and is sequentially read and written. The Vertex 3 really shows off what a good SATA III controller can do— in this case it’s the controller in the Intel P67 chipset. Under most of the data sizes, the Vertex 3 nearly doubles the performance of a Vertex 2 and even approaches RevoDrive X2 speeds.
Just as Atto shows the best case for an SSD, AS-SSD shows the worst case scenario—the data is incompressible, slowing the SandForce controller down. The Vertex 3 really shows a huge lead over the Vertex 2 on sequential reads and writes. What’s even more impressive is the nearly universal lead it holds over the RevoDrive X2 (a quad Vertex 2 in RAID-0 SSD) in the write tests.
CrystalDiskMark tells the same story as AS-SSD: univerally much faster than the older Vertex 2, almost as fast as the RevoDrive X2 for reading, and significantly faster than the RevoDrive X2 for writing.
PCMark Vantage HDD
The Vertex 3 is significantly faster than the Vertex 2 using PCMark Vantages test cases, and in a few cases it even matches or outperforms the RevoDrive X2.
When it comes to getting your computer to a usable state, an SSD is the best way to go. In this case though, there just isn’t much difference between the Vertex 3 and its predecessor. One and a half seconds for booting and a margin-of-error lead in loading Crysis isn’t a whole lot. Still, it’s way faster than a hard drive.
The charts above are two different ways of looking at the same data. The first chart is the number of seconds it took to transfer a folder containing just over a gigabyte of files to and from a 4GB RAMDrive. The second is the transfer rate in megabytes per second. The Vertex 3 once again performs significantly faster than the Vertex 2, nearly doubling the performance.
There was an odd caching problem with the RevoDrive X2 that caused flawed results, so those have been omitted.
The 240GB unit is currently available for $439.99 for the OEM version, placing it in enthusiast territory. Considering the fact that in some cases it can outperform the RevoDrive X2 it seems justified. Most folks will probably want to look at the smaller and less expensive models, which carry more modest premiums over their respective Vertex 2 counterparts.
The Vertex 3 certainly delivers the SATA III speeds. Thanks to the customized SandForce controller, it’s even able to exceed the specs advertised by SandForce. If you’re already running a SATA II SSD, especially a Vertex 2, there might be some benefit to an upgrade, but it really depends on the application. New system builders or folks upgrading from a mechanical drive as their primary drive will definitely want to give the Vertex 3 a look—especially since SATA III ports are pretty much the standard now. The extra speed does justify the extra cost if you can fit it in your budget.
The Vertex 3 is the fastest MLC SSD we have ever tested. It is awarded the Icrontic Stamp of Approval.
The OCZ Vertex 3 OEM is available from Newegg in 60gb, 120gb, and 240gb capacities. The full retail version can be found at Buy.com and TigerDirect as well. Finally, they’re all available from Amazon: