OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Things are looking really good for OWC and their Mercury Extreme Pro 6G. Chris tests the new 240GB model today, but does it perform as well as the 120GB?
@ChrisRamseyer
Published Tue, May 10 2011 3:50 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Other World Computing

Introduction


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VIEW GALLERY - 24 IMAGES




After our recent review of the 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, I think you are familiar with Other World Computing. The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G didn't put the company on the map, but it did verify that OWC belongs in the same legend as OCZ, G.Skill, Patriot and the rest of the Team SandForce landmarks.

Of all the SandForce Driven partners, only OWC and OCZ have been able to list products on the market. Normally that would worry us in regards to quality, pricing and availability, but the 2011 SSD season is unlike any other. First off, both the OCZ and OWC SF-2281 products are very stable. I have yet to find a forum thread or comment with anyone talking about a drive dying. Since I have an engineering sample drive from OCZ, I've actually been trying to kill it with an obscene amount of random writes, but it just keeps on chugging along without issue.

When it comes to pricing, there is some room for improvement, but let's be honest, around 300 USD for a drive capable of 550MB/s read and 500MB/s write....we should be paying 400 USD for a 120GB drive like last year's model.

Before we bite off too much, let's move over to the specification page and take a look at what the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G has to offer.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability




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In our first review of the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G we snickered a bit about OWCs very conservative sustained read and write performance quotes. On the day our article went live OWC changed their estimates and the revised spec list now reflects the same performance we observed in our article. The new revised spec list shows the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G achieving 559MB/s read and 527MB/s write when using SATA 6G. At this time IOPS is quoted as 60K IOPS at random 4KB.

OWC is in the process of rolling out three capacity points for the new Pro 6G SF-2281 models with 7% over provisioning. Those are 120GB, 240GB and a large 480GB capacity size. Each size will have a little different real world performance, but for the most part all drives are pretty equal in these three capacity sizes.

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When it comes to pricing and availability, I've ripped an image from OWC's website from the time of writing. The 120GB drive is already available and shipping. The image shows the 240GB as being in a pre-order status, but by the time you read this, they will be shipping as well. The 480GB model will be ready just shortly after.

When it comes to add ons and accessories, OWC has a 3 year warranty with their Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, but the drive does not come with a desktop adapter bracket. OWC does list a few aftermarket brackets for both PC and MAC users on their website, macsales.com.

The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 240GB




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OWC's retail blister back is fairly straight forward and does the job of keeping your drive secure.

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No performance data is given, but you do get a clear image of what is inside the package and what is included...just the drive.

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The drive itself is an aluminum casing with four screws holding the case together. I've always been fond of the blue color and the beveled edge.

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On the back is where you'll find the label with the model and serial number. Capacity is also listed on the back label.

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The standard 2.5" form factor mounting locations are present on the side of the drive.

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The SATA power and data connections are located where they need to be, so you won't have any trouble installing the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G in your notebook or desktop with the appropriate bracket.

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Inside we found a SandForce SF-2281 controller and sixteen Micron Technology flash chips, eight on each side.

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In our review of the 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G we talked about the wire soldered across the four capacitors and thought this might later be replaced with a trace on the PCB before the retail drives ship. OWC has told us that the wire is there to stay, at least for now. This doesn't really compromise the quality, but it is a bit odd to see this on a shipping SSD.

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.


In order to get the highest speeds from your SATA 6G SSD you will need a next generation SATA 6G port on your motherboard. Intel's Sandy Bridge chipsets will deliver the highest results.


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, the industry standard for manufacturers to make performance claims, we achieved a maximum read speed of over 560MB/s. The maximum write speed recorded was nearly 500MB/s on our GIGABYTE P67A-UD5 motherboard. These are the exact same results achieved with the 120GB Mercury Extreme Pro 6G.

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 start digging too deep into the benchmarks, I need to preface the results. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB drive on the chart is our preproduction unit that was tested with older firmware. The 120GB Vertex 3 and OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G represent shipping products. OCZ has dispatched a retail 240GB drive, but at the time of writing it has yet to arrive.

When it comes to reading across the drive the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is the fastest single drive we've tested to date. With an average speed of 430MB/s, the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is hella fast.

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All three of our SandForce SF-2281 based drives perform about equally when writing data across the drive. The average speed for the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G was 388MB/s. To put that into perspective you would need three to four platter drives in RAID 0 to achieve the same speed.

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 and it doesn't matter how many platter drives you add to an array, you will never get SSD like access times. I've added the WD VelociRaptor back to this chart so you can clearly see how much quicker the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is when compared to the world's quickest consumer platter drive.

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Void of moving parts and mechanical latency, the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is able to access data much faster than even the platter drive, but it is also quicker than some of the other SSDs as well.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark


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; we use it to observe 4K and native command queuing performance. The SF-2281 delivers around 10MB/s more than the SF-1200 controller, but 4 depth 4K is around 30MB/s lower. That changes when we get to a queue depth of 32. The 32 depth 4K read goes all the way up to around 215MB/s, an improvement of 60+ MB/s over last year's consumer SandForce drive.

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The 4K writes on the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G are faster than last year's consumer SandForce controller across the board. Here we see the Pro 6G outperforming the Crucial m4 and all other Marvell based SSDs on the chart.

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

Last year we spent a lot of time analyzing the Vantage performance, but this year we are dividing the commentary between Vantage and our fill test runs on the next page.

The overall performance of the SandForce SF-2281 is very impressive, faster than anything we've tested to date. The Marvell controller used in the Crucial m4 manages to take a few key wins in specific tests, but the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is the total package.

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

Until today we haven't published a lot of information on this test and the Crucial m4. The m4 performs really well in our 'out of the box' Vantage test, but once data is added to it the performance drops off....a lot! With the Crucial m4 being the closest competitor to the SandForce SF-2281 products, this information is important to include. I spent a lot of time verifying the data, more than I would normally spend on a set of tests but with results so dynamic and warranted the scrutiny.

With that in mind, let's look at the performance drop off on the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G. The drive scales as data is added, but its lowest point is right around 49000 Marks. This result was measured with the drive 75% full, but it is still faster than the Crucial m4 when just 25% full.

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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SandForce has improved the file transfer performance on the new SF-2281 controlled drives. Here we see almost 2x the transfer speed over the SF-1200 in one test and a large improvement in the other two tests.

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's no surprise to see the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G doing very well in the server tests. With a new 6Gb/s ceiling for the interface, the Pro 6G takes off to levels not possible on the SF-1200.

Final Thoughts




The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is an exceptional product with class leading performance and a reasonable price point. The only problem we really have at this time is all of the unknowns about future products. To date only OCZ and OWC have released products based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller, but we know more are on the way. The day I was writing this article OCZ announced a new model called Max IOPS. The new Max IOPS version increases the IOPS from 60K to 75K in the 4K block size.

Last year we had standard and High IOPS models and the real world difference for typical consumers wasn't very large at all. To be honest, you really couldn't see or feel the difference unless you were benchmarking the drives and even then you had to look really hard for it. I can speculate that will be the case this year, but I'm not prepared to go that far out on the limb before seeing a Max IOPS drive. Thankfully one is on the way!

The next area we have to warn about is the price and how it also relates to the accessory bundle. The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is basically the same drive as the OCZ Vertex 3 when it comes to the hardware internals, but at the time of writing it costs a hair higher. More disturbing is the lack of a desktop adapter bracket. This really only affects PC desktop users, though, since notebook users don't need a desktop adapter and MAC users need a special MAC bracket. Still, PC Desktop users make up a large portion of target audience for this product.

As it sits now, the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is in a limited class of products that outperform all others on the market. As time goes on, the limited portion of that statement will fall to the way side, but we don't see anything on the horizon that can dethrone the SF-2281 controller based products. With 550MB/s read and 500MB/s write performance it will take awhile before the competition catches up. Look for 2011 to be dominated by SandForce.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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