OCZ Technology is the Swiss Army of solid state drives. The company has a product in their line-up for every occasion. Until now desktop users have been forced to pay a premium for smaller 2.5" notebook drives that need a desktop adapter bracket. Notebook drives require larger flash modules and need an adapter to fit in desktops. These premium parts raise the cost of the SSD whether you need them or not.
Keeping with the overall strategy of a product for every use (like a Swiss Army Knife), OCZ now has a desktop specific SSD that uses less dense flash and a native 3.5" form factor enclosure. The new 3.5" design is available in both Agility 2 and Vertex 2 programming with the latter having a higher IOPS. At the time of writing the 3.5" models cost the same as their notebook cousins, but this should change over time since the 3.5" drives should cost less to produce.
Today we will take a look at the OCZ Vertex 2 3.5" 120GB desktop solid state drive. On the surface the new drive appears to be just a larger Vertex 2, but internally the design is fresh and we should see a different performance profile. Let's move on and see what is different.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
On paper the 3.5" Vertex 2 has the exact same specs as the 2.5" model. At this time OCZ is offering the drive in 90, 120, 180, 240, 360 and a massive 480GB. Performance for all but the largest are very respectable; 285MB/s read with 275MB/s write. The 480GB drive takes a performance hit due to its size.
Newegg lists the same 3.5" 120GB Vertex 2 that we are looking at today for 229.99 USD. The 2.5" Vertex 2 is also listed at 229.99, so there isn't a cost benefit at this time for choosing the desktop model, but this should change over time.
As you can imagine, the 3.5" packaging is larger than the 2.5" models we've looked at in the past. OCZ kept the same color scheme for the larger Vertex 2, the familiar black and silver bad boy look.
The back of the package lists specifications and features. These go hand in hand with that bad boy color scheme since the Vertex 2 maxes the SATA II specification with 285MB/s read and 275MB/s write speeds.
The inner package encases the drive in closed cell foam so the drive is secure for shipping. A paper manual and sticker is also included.
The OCZ Vertex 2 3.5" SSD
Just like any other solid state drive, the 3.5" Vertex 2 is pretty plain on the outside. The top cover that we see here is made from plastic with a dark smoke finish. It would have been really cool to put a clear cover on the SSD so users can see the inside, but smoke is what we got.
The rest of the drive casing is made from aluminum. On the bottom we found standard mounting points for the 3.5" form factor standard.
Here we see that the new 3.5" Vertex 2's height. The drive is thinner than standard desktop drives, but that won't be an issue for 99% of users. I am leaving a small amount of play in that statement since I don't have every imaginable configuration possible, but I tried the drive in several without issue.
The SATA power and data connectors are where they should be as per the SATA specification.
The side of the drive has all of the standard mounting points as well. At one point Maxtor and later Seagate released traditional platter drives in this same size.
This is where things get interesting. Here we see the controller side of the Vertex 2. There are 16 flash memory chips on this side, the same amount found on the 2.5" drive in total.
Here we see the other side; I call it the Supercap side. There are another 16 flash chips on this side. What this tells us is that OCZ is using flash modules that are less dense for the 3.5" drives. This should allow OCZ to manufacture the drives at a lower cost depending on the prices of flash at the time.
There is also a possibility of a performance increase since more flash is being read and written to at the same time. That is really what we are here to see, so let's get right to it!
Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI, Corsair. and Noctua.
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test productsin this article.
Even though we are winding down 2010, we plan to use our awesome 2010 test system well into 2011. Look for a few updates in the coming weeks, but this test we are using the same system as we did for the Vertex 2 2.5" reviews.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used:2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
In ATTO we found a maximum read speed of just over 280MB/s and a maximum write speed of 272MB/s.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used:4.00
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers.It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
It's no surprise that the sequential speeds are identical to the 2.5" Vertex 2 since both form factors are limited by the SATA bus. Here we see the same speeds that made the Vertex 2 our pick for the 'what to buy in the less than 256GB' category.
The write speeds are also just as high. Here we see the Vertex drives dominating the write speed charts.
Benchmarks - Everest Random Access Time
Everest Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used:4.60
Everest Ultimate and Corporate Edition offer several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in write the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron.
Access times are what give solid state drives their perceived speed advantage over traditional platter drives. Here we see the 120GB Vertex 2 3.5" running the exact same numbers as the 2.5" model.
It is difficult to imagine that both 120GB Vertex 2 drives are also running the exact same write latency speeds, even though their configurations are so much different.
Benchmarks - Crystal Disk Mark
Version and / or Patch Used:3.0 Technical Preview
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 is not available to the public yet, but the Technical Preview does allow us to test 4K performance at queue depths of 4 and 32 in addition to 1. The current release Crystal Disk Mark only shows us QD 1.
In CDM we get to look at the 4K and queue depth performance. This is one area that I thought the new 3.5" design would start to pull away from the 2.5" model, but it looks like I was wrong. For the most part both drives run nearly identical when measured at the same 120GB capacity.
Keeping with the theme so far, the OCZ Vertex 2 3.5" drive also matches the 2.5" model in 4K write speeds at depth. Let's get to the real world tests and see what happens there.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used:1.0.0
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
HDD1 -Windows Defender
HDD2 - Gaming
HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery
HDD4 -Vista Startup
HDD5 -Windows Movie Maker
HDD6 -Windows Media Center
HDD7 -Windows Media Player
HDD8 - Application Loading
I dislike it when I'm wrong, but can admit it when things don't go as I thought they would. In PCMark's Vantage we see that the real world performance of the 2.5 and 3.5" Vertex 2 is nearly identical. I really thought we would see the 3.5" version outperforming the 2.5" model since it uses more flash, but that wasn't the case. The good news is that desktop users won't take a performance hit and get native form factor support, making for an easier installation.
Benchmarks - AS SSD
AS SSD Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358
Developer Homepage:Alex Intelligent Software
Product Homepage:Alex Intelligent Software
AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.
In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).
Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.
- Copy Benchmark
In AS SSD we are able to gauge the real world file transfer performance in three different scenarios. For the first time we found the 3.5" version taking a slight performance hit to the 2.5" version, or so it may seem.
The 3.5" drive we used shipped with firmware 1.5. This was the first time we'd seen this firmware, but as the firmware revisions have gone up, the scores in these tests have gone down. We'll spend more time with this new firmware and add the data to our upcoming SandForce Firmware Revisions article coming next month.
Benchmarks - Passmark
Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests
Version and / or Patch Used:6.1
Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.
The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.
The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.
The server tests show more of the same when comparing the Vertex 2 120GB drives. Here we see that the two 120GB Vertex 2's score nearly identical in all tests.
The OCZ Vertex 2 3.5" form factor SSD is a story of equality for the desktop. For years now SSDs have been designed for notebooks and the desktop remained silent. Those days are over and the desktop has finally spoken up and OCZ heard the cries for lower access times and higher data transfer speeds.
In all seriousness, the OCZ Vertex 2 3.5" performs exactly like the 2.5" model, even with the different flash configuration. Going through the list of benchmarks, it's clear that the two drives are nearly interchangeable when it comes to both synthetic and real world performance. Yes, I am a bit surprised by this and was expecting something different, but it is what it is. The OCZ Vertex 2 3.5" drive has the same award winning performance as its 2.5" cousin does.
At the same time, the prices for both drives are exactly the same; 229.99 for the 120GB models at Newegg. The performance isn't going to change, but I think over time the price will. This is a strange time of year to look at e-tail pricing. The Christmas holiday has pricing bouncing all over the place with sale prices one day and inflated prices the next due to high demand. SSDs are on the top of many "computer guys" lists and OCZ's top notch marketing and high performance has led to the Vertex 2 being asked for by name more than any other SSD on the market. Once we get out of the holiday season we may see the 3.5" Vertex 2 and Agility 2 price decline slightly.
The real question for desktop users, though, is if the Vertex 2 3.5" drive is a proper fit for their systems. To answer that question you should really ask yourself what you plan to do with your drive after your next purchase. If the Vertex 2 is going to have a long term home in your desktop, then having the convenience of a native 3.5" install has a very positive outlook. If you are someone who will upgrade to the latest and greatest, possibly the Vertex 3 early next year, you might want to look at resale value or moving the Vertex 2 to your notebook.
I've said on many occasions that once you go with an SSD for your boot drive, you will never want to use a platter drive for anything. This goes for your notebook too, so even if you think one drive will do for now, you will want a SSD for your notebook sooner than you think. Because of that, the 2.5" drive might actually be a better buy at this time since the prices are identical and the 2.5" Vertex 2 ships with a desktop adapter. You lose the ease of installation of a 3.5" native install, but in the long term you set yourself up for SSD bliss all around.
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