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OCZ Vertex 3 480GB Solid State Drive Review

The largest Vertex 3 has seen its cost reduced to half of what it was on launch and is still a flagship offering even though Vertex 4 is quickly catching the aging drive in performance.
@TweakTown
Published Tue, Jul 10 2012 7:18 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: OCZ Technology

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 26 IMAGES

Few people realize how long OCZ keeps their products on e-tails shelves for. I'm sure several of our readers would be surprised to learn that you can hop online right now and find a first generate OCZ Vertex drive. The day I wrote this article, Newegg even had a first generation Vertex on their site with a Shell Shocker deal.

This isn't last year's tech, this is a drive from 2009! If your plan is to purchase an SSD today and slowly add drives in RAID as you need more capacity and performance you don't have to worry about OCZ pulling the carpet out from under you. Their products, even when considered end of life (EOL) are still floating around, new in the box and from reputable seller. We can't say that about every manufacture and I don't think we can really say that about any other manufacture now that we give it some thought.

As we all know, the OCZ Vertex 4 is out and quickly gaining performance due to firmware updates. Even at launch the Vertex 4 512GB was a very good performer, but the older Vertex 3 model is a very good drive that is not ready to die off just yet.

The OCZ Vertex 3, even though it's a grandfather in SSD age is still one of the best SSDs money can buy. The price is now less than half of what it was when released, something that will bring a smile to everyone's wallets. The largest capacity size, 480GB that we are looking at today has seen an incredible price decrease, even since we first looked at it during the Vertex 4 256GB and 512GB product launch a few months ago.

Let's take a look and see just where the Vertex 3 480GB stacks up with the latest and greatest offerings on the market today.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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I think we've all see the general spec sheet for the Vertex 3 product line. This had to of been the most awarded SSDs in history thanks to solid performance and a very high marketing budget that put Vertex 3s in the hands of every reviewer on the planet. In most of the cases the 60-240GB drives were reviewed, but a handful of 480GB drives did make it out for the V4 512GB launch.

The 480GB Vertex 3 has the lowest IOPS, read and write performance of the Vertex 3 products. This was always a mystery to me until we got our hands on one. We'll cover the performance in depth today and see how the drive fairs and also talk about why the performance is reduced.

The all-important part with this drive is capacity and price. With 480GB of capacity, you simply can store more data on your high speed SSD. You can also store more data on the drive before it slows from SSD performance degradation as well, a very important thing not to be overlooked.

Then there is the price. On release the Vertex 3 480GB was really up there in price. At one time if memory serves correctly I think Newegg listed them at around $1700. Eventually the price dropped to around $1200 and it sat at that level for a long time. Today, using Google Product Search we found the largest Vertex 3 for just a pinch over $500. At that price I don't expect everyone to jump and get their wallet especially considering Newegg has the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe, another SF-2281 / synchronous flash drive for roughly $380. I don't see OCZ letting another company beat them in the price war for very long so there is a good chance OCZ will react and amaze the world with a price slash before too long.

The OCZ Vertex 3 480GB ships with a three year warranty, desktop adapter bracket, paper manual, sticker and mounting screws for installing your drive. The Vertex 3 480GB is still a 9mm z-height drive so you won't be dropping these in your ultrabook anytime soon, but the new Vertex 3 Low Profile take the Vertex 3 to 7mm.

Packaging

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Being one of the highest awarded drives in history we'll breeze right through the box shots.

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On the front and back the 480GB model has the same data that the previously reviewed Vertex 3s have. The only difference is the large 480GB that is on the front and the specifications sticker on the back.

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You get the full retail kit with the drive and all of the packaging keeps the drive from being damaged or scratched during shipping.

OCZ Vertex 3 480GB SSD

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We've had the pleasure of shooting the Vertex 3 several times and each time the shiny surface on the chrome look sticker is difficult to get an in focus image.

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The capacity is listed on the back of the drive and this is where you'll find the serial number and model number.

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All of the mounting points are where they should be so you won't have any issue installing this drive in your notebook or desktop with the included bracket. OCZ also fixed the wide case issue quite a while ago so that is no longer an issue either.

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The included desktop adapter bracket offsets the drive to the left so your SATA power and data cables line up with your existing 3.5" HDDs. This makes for installing the SATA power cables much easier than when using brackets that place the drive in the middle.

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To date we know of two configurations for the 480GB drives based on the SandForce SATA III controller. The first is what we see here, a SF-2281 with sixteen flash chips, eight on each side.

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The second configuration we know of uses the SF-2282 controller and 32 flash chips. At this point, we can't really say which is faster because we only have the 16 IC design on hand.

Benchmarks - 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, 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 fully utilize SATA III you need a system with native SATA III support. P67, Z68, Z77 and X79 systems are preferred, but AMD has made advances in their newer SATA III systems as well. Older X58 systems with Marvell based SATA III ports do not deliver the same high levels of performance, so we recommend newer systems when available.

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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What we really like about this drive is it doesn't ship with the TRIM killing firmware from SandForce. OCZ has their own naming system for firmware so we weren't sure if this was 3.3.2 or 3.3.4, but it was definitely not 5.0.1 or 5.0.2. What that means is you still have working TRIM and when OCZ's version of 5.0.3 comes out with working TRIM, you'll get a nice performance increase too. The 5 series firmware is around 10% to 15% faster than the older 3 series.

That said, the Vertex 3 480GB does take a performance hit when compared to the 240GB and even the 120GB. Can you really complain though about 540MB/s read speed and 460MB/s write speed? We didn't think so and even the most critical of performance have to admit that having 480GB of SSD capacity is means you can trade off some performance and still walk away with a big smile. This goes double for notebook users who don't have the space to install more than one SSD.

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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When it comes to single command, sequential read performance the SF-2281 with synchronous flash still can't be beaten. Even with the older, slower firmware and the high-density flash penalty the Vertex 3 is the star of the chart for this particular task.

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The Vertex 4 has already caught the V3 in sequential write speed in the high capacity size. The other drives just sort of fade away into the background.

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 cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

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On release, the Vertex 4 512GB had a big advantage over the V3 480GB in access time, but after the 1.4RC release the two seem to be pretty even. The Phison and Marvell controlled drives from other manufacturers did do a little better in this test, though.

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The write latency for the Vertex 3 is in line with other SandForce based drives. The write latency and the IOPS that goes with low write latency is where the Vertex 4 really outshines just about every other SSD on the market.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical PreviewDeveloper Homepage: http://crystalmark.infoProduct 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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The single command 4K read performance is the second best on the chart. We observed good scaling when going from 1 to 4 commands and another nice increase when moving to 32 commands.

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The 4K writes seem to be an issue with the SandForce controller and 16 ultra high-density flash chips. All of the 4K write tests are lower than what we get with 240GB and even 120GB SandForce based SSDs.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct 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

Even with the older 3 series firmware the Vertex 3 480GB still easily outperforms the other large capacity drives on the market in light use, real-world, daily activity tests.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

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, 45GB120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB240GB Fill " 60GB, 120GB, 160GBEmpty 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

We still prefer our own version of Vantage where data is populating the drives when tested at 35%, 50% and 75% of NAND capacity.Using the 50% capacity level as our testing mark, we see the Vertex 3 still outperforms nearly everything else, but the Crucial m4 does manage to take a slight lead here.

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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Once an area where SandForce SSDs struggled, newer firmware releases have given the Vertex 3 the ability to perform really well in these tests.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: BETA 11

So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.

The software can be used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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You asked for it and we delivered it, Anvil Storage Utilities benchmarks are now on TweakTown.

Here we see the reduced 4K reads and writes with the high-density flash. The SandForce architecture with 16 x 32GB NAND ICs really takes a hit when writing incompressible data as well.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.comTest 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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The Vertex 3, which is based on technology from an enterprise FPU, has always been a strong performance in these tests, but when it comes to the highest capacity size, the Vertex 4 takes a lead in three out of four tests.

Final Thoughts

As we said earlier, there are two versions of SandForce 480GB drives manufactured with the SF-228X and synchronous flash. The first we reviewed today that uses 16 NAND ICs, but a few other companies went with a slightly modified controller (SF-2282) and 32 NAND ICs. We have two 480GB drives here now with the 16 NAND IC configuration and several more on the way with unknown configurations. By this time next month, we'll have stacks of 480GB and 512GB drive with and without SandForce controllers.

Back when 480/512GB drives cost over $1000, many companies were reluctant to ship these high dollar products. With flash prices coming down, retail prices are starting to look good and the 480/512GB products are the new 256GB drives. They still cost more than the 128GB and 240GB drives of course, but many enthusiasts are willing to speed $300 to $500 on a good SSD. Before long, we'll have 19nm and 20nm flash so the prices could drop another 10% to 15% before Christmas.

Back to the task at hand, the Vertex 3 480GB. This drive isn't the cheapest large capacity SSD on the market, but there are some add-on, value added goodies that should be weighed in before letting price become a deterrent. One of the biggest right now is the firmware that is still shipping on these drives. We know many companies have moved over to the new 5 series firmware and you really can't go back to 3.3.4 once you go 5. If you spent $400 to $500 on a drive and you lose half of the performance in two months because TRIM isn't working right, well that is an issue. As far as we can tell, the 480GB V3 drives are still shipping with the 3 series firmware, so you don't have to worry about the drop off in performance due to TRIM issues.

OCZ also has a solid support network that works well when you need it, too. On top of the support network is the info we found over the last couple of days with the length of time OCZ offers their drives. When you need a RAID pair, it looks like you'll be able to find a match, even a year or two down the line.

All things considered, I like the Vertex 3, but I don't really care for the current price. This is where OCZ has a problem and it isn't just a Vertex 3 problem. If they drop the price too much then it eats into Vertex 4 sales. If they keep the price where it is then we have to talk about the Mushkin DX 480GB and that isn't where OCZ wants to be at either. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

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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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