Vertex Does A Vector Impression
Well, here we are again with another iteration of the OCZ Vertex drive on our desktop. As we mused about in our Vertex 3.20 review, the Vertex series of drives have had quite a run after getting off to a superb start. Much as changed over the years with the Vertex line yet much also remains the same. It's been through several variations in controller hardware with shrinking NAND architecture and this latest version features the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller that made its first appearance in the much lauded Vector drive as well as 20nm NAND. This new Vertex carries the naming suffix of 450 and while the Vector now wears the flagship badge that proudly worn by the Vertex series for many years, the 450 is still one heck of a drive as our tests will bear out on the following pages. It's still king of the hill in their performance line of drives as OCZ now categorizes it. The Vector 150 SATA based drives belong in the enthusiast sector and the Vector PCIe series drives aptly fall into the workstation category. We received the mid-capacity 256GB version of the Vertex 450 for testing.
According to the press release OCZ provided, this drive is the first to be deployed with their own in-house ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) technology as they continue to move down the path towards a greater degree of self-sourcing of their programming, design and fabrication. This is a drum they'll need to keep beating and then some if they wish to remain competitive and profitable in this market space. With specifications of 540MB/s max reads and 530MB/s max writes, it comes within 10MB/s on the reads side of things to matching what the Vector drive offers while doign just that on the writes. On the IOPS side, there's a bit more disparity between the two although 85k/90k reads/writes are still impressive numbers.
Vertex 450 256GB (VTX480-25SAT3-256G) Features and Specifications:
- Proprietary Barefoot 3 M10 Series Controller
- SATA 3.0 6Gbps Interface
- 20nm IMFT MLC NAND Flash
- 2.5-inch 7mm Form Factor
- 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB Capacities
- Advanced Suite Of Flash Management To Increase Durability And Reliability
- High Performance And Endurance Without Compression/Loss Of Capacity
- Bundled With Cloning Software
- 256-bit AES-Compliant Data Encryption
- TRIM Support
- 3-Year warranty
- Rated for 20GB/day host writes for 3 years under typical client workloads
- Part Numbers/MSRP:
- 128GB - (VTX450-25SAT3-128G) - $129.99
- 256GB - (VTX450-25SAT3-256G) - $234.99
- 512GB - (VTX450-25SAT3-512G) - $499.99
|Sequential Reads (MB/s)||525||550||540||550||540||550|
|Sequential Writes (MB/s)||290||400||525||530||530||530|
|4KB Random Reads (IOPS)||75,000||90,000||85,000||100,000||85,000||100,000|
|4KB Random Writes (IOPS)||70,000||95,000||90,000||95,000||90,000||95,000|
This diagram should look somewhat familiar if you've read any literature on the Vector series drives. The Vertex 450 offers slightly lower clocked ARM Cortex processor paired with an OCZ Aragon co-processor that together, pump data through a SATA 6Gbps interface. They also power the 256-bit AES-compliant encryption, error correction and wear-leveling algorithm pieces. The DDR3 cache is accessed through the DRAM controller and communication with the NAND is performed across 8 parallel channels giving it breadth to hit those big numbers. All of this makes for very fast and consistent performance that competes with just about any SATA based drive on the market.
Following the trend in the industry due to smaller host devices, the 2.5" form factor has been reduced to a 7mm z-height from 9.5mm found on the now end-of-line Vertex 4. Still present with the drive is a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate adorned with the familiar OCZ logo as well as the jocular sticker professing love of OCZ SSDs. Lastly, they also include Acronis cloning software that's Windows 8 compliant. Let's have a peek inside.
Inside the Vertex 450
One thing that hasn't changed is that the drive is held together with four screws that join the rear plate to the front and four more screws holding the PCB in place.
A thermal pad covers the controller to mitigate physical shock, heat, and our attempts at product photography. This was present in the Vector drive as well.
Taking a look at one side of the PCB for the Vertex 450 256GB drive, we find a mix of components. Both NAND flash and a single cache chip cluster the board.
The flash modules are Micron branded IMFT 20nm MLC which is a change from the 25nm lithography NAND we saw on the last iteration of the Vertex 4 drives and the Vector drive. There are sixteen total on board with a density of 16GB to round out to 256GB.
Flipping the board over, we see much of the same save for the addition of the controller which is masked above by the aforementioned thermal pad.
There are 2 cache chips, one on each side at 256MB each. Both are also Micron in manufacture and exactly the same as found on the Vector drive. These DDR3 cache chips help buffer data when needed and can be spotted nearly all drives save for those with SandForce controllers.
Unveiled is the Barefoot 3 M10 Indilinx controller with part number IDX500M10-BC. The controller in the Vector carries part number IDX500M00-BC so they aren't identical although outside of a slightly lower clock speed, exactly how they differ has not been made known to us. Obviously, the firmware has been altered to support the new 20nm NAND. As we covered in the Vector launch, this is a 100% OCZ designed controller that we've seen put up some amazing performance. Unlike SandForce controllers which utilize compression to boost performance, the Indilinx controller offers greater consistency of performance when presented with variable data types. As usual, the controller does all the heavy lifting on wear-leveling and error correction activities. So far, we've not heard any complaints or issues arising from the controller in the Vector series which bodes well for reliability.
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.
|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||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||SATA III|
CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 Readout:
For the OCZ Vertex 450 256GB 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.
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 performance of the Vertex 450 256GB was only a hair off of the Vector drive and displayed the same dip in performance on the 32K reads.
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: As with the Vector, the incompressible nature of the data used in this benchmark has minimal effect on performance unlike that of the SandForce based drives. The LAMD and Samsung powered drives keep pace here.
Benchmark Results: The graph proves out what we referenced above with the performance remaining consistent regardless of the compressibility of the data.
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: This is another benchmark that uses incompressible data which the Indilinx Barefoot 3 process gobbles up. Clearly, through all the benchmarks to this point, we see that the Vector is just a bit better performance-wise over the Vertex 450.
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: Really solid IOPS performance and one of the few drives we see where reads and writes are more or less on par with each other.
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: It should be no surprise on this real world test that the Vertex 450 places near the top of the heap which is lead by its brethren, the Vector drive.
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: Both the Vector and Vertex 450 sandwich the LAMD powered Corsair between the first and third spot in boot times but they are all only off in a fraction of a second.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
Similar to the Vector drive, the capacity of the OCZ Vertex 450 256GB drive yields 238GB as reported by Windows after formatting, unit conversion (GB to GiB) and overprovisioning are taken into account. As usual, the capacity stated in the drive description comes from the available 256,058,060,800 bytes which equates to 256GB (1GB byte = 1,000,000,000 bytes) but 238GiB (1Gib = 1,073,741,824 bytes).
Knowing that the Vertex 450 was going to be very similar to the Vector series drives, we already had an idea of what we would see on the test bench. We certainly weren't disappointed with performance that lived up to the storied Vertex name. Specifically, we love seeing the consistent performance without the dips we've been so accustomed to seeing with the SandForce drives. The Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller is proving itself to be amongst the best available and frankly SandForce (LSI) needs to step their game soon if they wish to keep pace with what we are seeing from numerous other controllers. We saw reads and writes top out at 547MB/s and 524MB/s respectively at best and falling only about 10% on benchmarks where many other drives drop nearly in half. We weren't given that much time with the drive as it arrived just a few days prior to the NDA being lifted so we didn't get much chance to really spend some quality time with it but we don't anticipate any hiccups in performance during prolonged daily usage. The move to the smaller architecture 20nm does decrease the overall drive endurance but it's still rated to handle 20GB a day of host writes for three years. As such, OCZ does cover the drive with a three year warranty (the Vector has a five year) and they offer the use of their free drive toolbox for monitoring, firmware update, and secure erase purposes.
OCZ has been aggressive with the pricing. In fact, we received a late revision to the pricing where they reduced the MSRP from what we were originally given. This was probably to remain below the price points of the Vector drives which don't carry all that much of a premium - especially at the 256GB capacity. As of now, we are looking at $129.99 for the 128GB (VTX450-25SAT3-128G) version, $234.99 for the 256GB (VTX450-25SAT3-256G) version and $499.99 for the 512GB (VTX450-25SAT3-512G) version. For the 256Gb drive we tested, this pricing comes out to just a hair over $1 per usable GB which is very competitive for a drive of this performance level, matching what we could find for the similarly sized Samsung 840 Pro and below what we could find for the aging Intel 520 series drive. Of course, these are MSRP's and it's tough to tell what they open at on the retail market. Odds are good they'll be in high demand straight from the launch which may drive the price up.
Once again we have to commend OCZ for putting out a splendid drive and based on what we've seen from the Vector drive to date, it should have solid reliability to pair with its impressive performance. The Vector drive is certainly one of the best drives on the market and the Vertex 450 is not far off in terms of performance. That said, they certainly cannot afford sit back and make minor refinements going forward and hope to remain competitive with the likes of Samsung, Intel, Crucial/Micron and others of their ilk. They must continue to innovate and find ways to scare up supplies of NAND which they currently do not 100% manufacture - unlike those previously mentioned. As such, they rely on competitors for supply which surely hurts their margins, making it tough to dig out of the financial hole former CEO Ryan Peterson left them in. There have already been numerous speculations of their lack of solvency due to their continued Forms 10-Q filing delays with the SEC and the real possibility of being delisted by the NASDAQ for said tardy filings. Their share price has slipped over 50% in the last year though has recovered a bit as of late with the announcement of a business deal with NETGEAR. Honestly, we hate to even broach the subject and we've tiptoed around it to this point but at this time we feel it can't be ignored and is relevant information to our readers. This is Legit Reviews after all, and we're just as compelled to dish the dirt as we are the accolades. We certainly think OCZ is on the right track with their new products and revised business philosophy and sincerely hope they are able to get back solidly in the black soon. Competition breeds excellence and OCZ has proven to be a driving force in the SSD industry.
Legit Bottom Line: If the performance of the Vector series SSDs made you drool but a little out of your price range, OCZ may have just the thing for you with the Vertex 450 series that offer similar performance for less coin.