OCZ Technology Vertex 3 120GB Retail Solid State Drive Review

With drives on e-tail warehouse shelves, it's finally time to take a look at the full retail OCZ Vertex 3 120GB.

Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
13 minutes & 12 seconds read time


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We plan to see a huge number of SandForce 2000 Series SSDs this year. SandForce has added even more partners in 2011, Intel being one of them. Even though Big Blue will take a shot at fame with a SandForce 2000 Series product, the Vertex 3 will still be the benchmark in which all others are compared. OCZ has dominated the consumer SSD market for the last several years and transitioned from a company making several products into a company whose primary role is solid state drives.

Keeping with tradition, OCZ dedicated itself to get the first enterprise and consumer SandForce 2000 Series products on the market. We first saw a working sample in January at CES and even had a Vertex 3 240GB drive in our hands when other companies were still talking about a strategy. When you are talking about solid state products you have to include OCZ Technology in the conversation.

The Vertex 3 is OCZ's newest SSD product line and is capable of sequential transfer speeds in excess of 500 MB/s read and write. Last month we tested a preproduction 240GB drive with early programming and firmware. On the surface everything seemed great, but a few firmware bugs let us know that the Vertex 3 wasn't ready for consumer use. That is all in the past now; the Vertex 3 is now sporting RC1 firmware and so far there are no known issues with this firmware. Eventually we will see MP firmware, but at this time there really isn't any need and that little TRIM issue we found is long gone.

Let's get this show on the road and move onto the full specification list before we dive in.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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It's retail ready and available now baby! Last month we could only write in future tense about the Vertex 3, but that has changed. A growing number of e-tailers now have stock of the 240GB and the most anticipated 120GB models. Today we are looking at the full retail 120GB drive. The 120GB capacity point offers exceptional performance at an incredible price point. OCZ Technology has a 249.99 Dollar MSRP on the 120GB Vertex 3, but expect to pay just over 300 USD while stock is limited. At 250 or 300 USD you are getting a hell of a lot of bang for your buck and to be honest no other drive currently on the market can compare to the Price / Performance ratio.

The Vertex 3 in 120GB trim offers 550MB/s read and 500MB/s write speeds as measured in ATTO. In order to achieve these remarkably high numbers you will need a SATA 6G port capable of high transfer speeds. Intel P67 chipset users will be fine, as will high end RAID controller users. If you are running an Intel X58 motherboard with SATA 6G you will NOT see the maximum speeds of the Vertex 3 in most cases due to bandwidth limitations of the Marvell SATA 6G ports.

All Vertex 3 products ship with a desktop adapter bracket whether you need it or not. This allows you to easily install a 2.5" form factor drive in your desktop that is set up for standard 3.5" drives. If you are installing the Vertex 3 in your notebook you can use the desktop adapter bracket for the old drive being removed. The Vertex 3 Series also includes a three year warranty.

You may have noticed we didn't get into a lot of performance information in the specifications. I say talk is cheap and want to just show you how fast the Vertex 3 is since you really won't believe me without seeing for yourself.

The Packaging

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OCZ has stepped up their product packaging with the Vertex 3 Series. A lot of information is on the front of the package, so you won't have to look around to fill in the blanks.

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On the back we found some general statements about the Vertex 3, but more importantly, we found a list of specifications that includes read and write performance data.

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OCZ made a couple of little changes to the inner packaging. The adapter bracket is now on the cardboard side offering even greater protection for the drive that is housed in the middle of closed cell foam.

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The accessory kit includes a paper manual, desktop adapter bracket, screws for installation and a "My SSD is Faster than your HDD" sticker (not pictured).

The OCZ Technology Vertex 3

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The front label is black with reflective chrome like accents and this is the same label found on all of the Vertex 3 capacity sizes.

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On the back is where you'll find the capacity size, model and serial number. All four standard 2.5" form factor mounting locations are where they should be.

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The side of the drive also has the standard mounting points. This is a 9mm height drive so you will not have a problem installing the drive in notebooks.

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The SATA power and data connections are where they should be for a 2.5" form factor drive. When the drive is mounting in the desktop adapter bracket, the drive is offset to desktop 3.5" power and data connection locations.

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On the inside we found a SandForce SF-2281 controller with sixteen Intel 25nm flash chips; eight on each side.

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The other side of the PCB is fairly bare other than a few surface mount components and the other eight flash chips.

Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

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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 products in this article.

We recently took a look at the OWC Mercury Extreme 6G 120GB drive in full retail trim and will be including those benchmark results today in this review. Also included in the comparison results are a collection of ultra fast drives that at one time topped our performance charts.

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.

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In ATTO we observed the 120GB Vertex 3 delivering read speeds of just under 500MB/s and write speeds that topped 560MB/s. These are speeds we saw last year with two or more drives running in RAID, but OCZ can now deliver amazing 500MB/s performance with a single drive, no trickery needed.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
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
Temperature display

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.

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Before we get started looking at the charts, I want to point out that the Vertex 3 240GB drive tested was an early sample and not a complete retail unit. The 120GB Vertex 3 tested today is the exact same drive sitting at Newegg right now.

The new Vertex 3 nearly doubles the read performance of the Vertex 2. Even the latest Marvell controlled offerings are down 30+ MB/s to the Vertex 3. OCZ's biggest competition will come from other SandForce SF-2200 drives like the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G.

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I have a feeling we are going to see the OCZ Vertex 3 and OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G dominating the charts all day. Nearly every product on our revised charts runs on a SATA 6G interface (except the Vertex 2), but the SandForce SF-2200 drives are dominant in both read and write speeds. Here we see the writes and there really isn't too much to say....speechless.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com
Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

AIDA64 offers 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 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 and Toshiba.

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Access times are what make SSDs feel quick. With ultra low read access times your windows, applications and games open almost instantly. The latest SandForce controllers have a little more latency when compared to the previous generation, but we are talking about thousands of a second here, so you really won't notice.

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The write access times for the Vertex 3 are in line with that of the Vertex 2.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark


Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.

Key Features:-

* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.

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CDM is our last synthetic benchmark and we use it to observe 4K and native command queuing performance. In its current firmware form the Vertex 3 is faster at 4K reads than the Vertex 2, but when you start adding command depth the Vertex 2 is a little faster. In most desktop situations there is very little NCQ going on, at least much less than found in enterprise workloads. It will be interesting to see what happens with more refined firmware releases.

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Things change quite a bit with the NCQ writes. Here we see the Vertex 3 120GB drive pouncing on the Vertex 2 in all of the tests.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
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.

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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

For Windows users the tests on this page and the next are the most important to look at, because these tests show performance in many of the most used tasks ran daily on your machine. The OCZ Vertex 3 dominated everything in the chart overall and was only outperformed by the OCZ Mercury Extreme Pro 6G in a couple of very close tests.

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article; full instructions are included.

Brief Methodology

SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.

Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test
Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)
60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB
120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB
240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB
Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.

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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

In this set of tests we see the overall performance from the PCMark Vantage HDD tests, but with data on the drive in 25%, 50% and 75% full states. The top and bottom numbers on the chart are with the drives void of data, the top in a clean state and the bottom in a dirty state.

The OCZ Vertex 3 120GB drive slows down as data is added to the drive. The lowest result in our testing of the 120GB Vertex 3 still shows the drive outperforming the Corsair Performance 3 in all but the 75% full state. Personally I feel this is the next frontier for SandForce and other controller developers to conquer, since the drop off in performance is so radical.

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
Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9

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

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All of SandForce's controllers struggle in the compressed data transfer tests since the controller is unable to further compress the data. The OCZ Vertex 3 120GB does show a large improvement over the Vertex 2, but the Marvell controllers have an advantage here.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

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.

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It comes as no surprise to see the new SATA 6G SandForce drives dominating the enterprise workloads in this series of tests. SandForce designs the best enterprise SSDs on the market first and then tunes them to client workloads for the consumer models. Nearly all of the same features found in the enterprise drives make their way to the consumer models and that is a big advantage in these tests when comparing the Vertex 3 to other client only SSDs.

Final Thoughts

The OCZ Vertex 3 120GB is a magnificent product no matter how you look at it. OCZ has been making great SSDs for a long time now and the Vertex 3 has allowed the company to standardize perfection. The price of the Vertex 3 120GB should be around 250 USD. We are not seeing that price yet, but that is the MSRP. When the Vertex 2 120GB launched it sold for around 450 USD just one year ago. OCZ is getting very aggressive with pricing and to be honest it is almost unbelievable just how low the cost of ownership is for the performance achieved.

Speaking of performance, really what more can you ask for? SATA III (6Gb/s) is just now hitting its stride with the Intel P67 chipset, but the Vertex 3 is already coming very close to hitting the limits of SATA 6G today. This is unprecedented; at no time before has a product been able to use such a large percentage of its bus so quickly. I really hope they get SATA 12G ready for 2012, because we are going to need it. The OCZ Vertex 3 is already achieving the advertised read speed of 550MB/s read and 500MB/s write on its first public firmware. Who knows what will happen as time passes and more optimizations are added.

When it comes to competing products, OCZ Technology is still sitting in a very good place. At this time the only competitor with a SandForce SF-2281 is Other World Computing. Recently we looked at the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 120GB drive and today compared the performance between these two next generation 120GB SATA 6G SandForce drives and the OCZ Vertex 3 came out on top performance wise in many of the tests by a small margin. Honestly, you are not going to see a few MB/s here or there when pushing performance to these levels. If you can feel that performance difference, then come and take my place on the stage. Where you are going to see a difference between the Vertex 3 and the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is price, availability and accessory package add-ons.

The OCZ Vertex 3 comes with a desktop adapter bracket that makes installing your Vertex 3 in a desktop much easier. It's way nice to have your 2.5" SSD securely locked into a desktop, I know; I have machines with drives loose in the bottom and desktops with drives secured in place. Guess which ones I have to check on after moving the systems around for cleaning...The desktop adapter bracket is the way to go.

Next, we have the pricing differences as well as availability. The OWC drive is only available at Macsales.com and costs (at the time of writing) 319.99 USD. The OWC site says that it ships in 5 days. The OCZ Vertex 3 is available at several e-tail locations. Newegg lists them in stock for 299.99 and the drive will ship out the same or next day. A quick search on Pricegrabber showed several results for the Vertex 3 as well. Before too long these drives will be all over the place, including local brick and mortar shops like Fry's and Microcenter.

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