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OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB Solid State Drive Review

The OCZ Vertex 4 is out, but when it comes to performance in the 120/128GB capacity size, the Vertex 3 Max IOPS is still hard to beat.

@TweakTown
Published Thu, Jul 19 2012 9:11 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: OCZ Technology

Introduction

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In early May, I made a few changes to our performance charts by clustering all of the SSDs together by capacity size. At the time, 24nm Toggle Mode flash was really starting to take off and products like the Plextor M3 Pro and SanDisk Extreme started to hit store shelves.

I decided to remove the Vertex 3 with IMFT synchronous flash and replace it on the charts with the Vertex 3 Max IOPS, another Toshiba Toggle Mode Flash drive, but based on the previous 32nm process. We already had the 240GB Max IOPS in the office; it was used in a gaming desktop for nearly a year. What we didn't have was a 120GB model to include in our smallest capacity performance charts. Luckily OCZ had a Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB on hand when we needed one and ever since this model has been part of our benchmark comparison foundation.

When it first hit the market, the Vertex 3 Max IOPS cost considerably more than the standard Vertex 3. At the time Toshiba Toggle Mode flash cost quite a bit more than the Intel and Micron 25nm flash. Even now with 32nm Toggle being in low supply, the price of the Max IOPS is quite a bit higher than the standard Vertex 3. While writing this article I found the unit we're reviewing today for roughly $185. Given that most SSDs are selling in the $1 per GB range the Max IOPS is still a little on the expensive side.

Let's not let that be a deterrent though because the Max IOPS is still an amazing drive and uses some of the best consumer grade NAND flash on the market. OCZ call it Max IOPS for a reason, let's take a look why.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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With only two capacity sizes and a higher price, the Max IOPS version of the Vertex 3 was never a wildly popular drive. As the benchmarks will show, the Max IOPS is one of the better SandForce SF-2281 based drives, even by today's standards. The drive managed to take advantage of newer firmware coming from SandForce and with each release the Max IOPS increased performance and reliability.

OCZ hasn't updated their Max IOPS spec sheet in quite a while even though new firmware has increased performance almost across the board. The quoted performance numbers for the 120GB model were looking at today is 550MB/s read and 500MB/s write speeds. We should be able to push past that performance easily today. The Max IOPS was the first SandForce SF-2281 drive to ship with a maximum 4K Random Write spec of 85,000 IOPS. Firmware updates allowed other Team SandForce manufacturers to make the same claims, but we'll let the benchmarks today speak for the performance.

At the time of writing the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB cost roughly $185 in the US. We used Google's Product Shopping feature to track down the best price online.

The drive receives a standard three year warranty and ships with a desktop adapter bracket, mounting screws, paper manual and a sticker.

Packaging

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The Max IOPS package is a little different from the standard Vertex 3 package. The shiny, chrome like print is a bit difficult to take a picture of.

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OCZ gives some general information about the Max IOPS products on the back, but also displays the full specifications on the right side as well.

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Inside the package everything is tucked away so the drive doesn't get scratched in shipping. The desktop adapter bracket is on the back side of the hard foam shell.

OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB SSD

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Here we get our first look at the Max IOPS drive. The shinny label makes this drive difficult to photograph because the auto focus wants to focus on the reflection image.

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The Max IOPS is a 2.5" 9mm height drive. The label on the back has the model, capacity size and serial number.

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All of the mounting points are where they should be so you won't have an issue running this drive in your notebook or in your desktop with the included desktop adapter bracket.

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The SATA power and data ports are offset to the left as they should be and the adapter bracket also offsets the drive so the 3.5" bracket puts the connectors in line with your standard mechanical drives.

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The Max IOPS uses the SandForce SF-2281 controller and pairs it with 16 Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND flash chips that use the 32nm package.

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8 flash ICs are on each side of the PCB.

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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Just as we predicted, we managed to outpace the quoted manufacturer's specifications. Our read performance was just over 560MB/s and the write speed hit 511MB/s. Our drive was still on SandForce 3 Series firmware so we don't have to worry about the Series 5 TRIM issue.

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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Given its age and older firmware you might think the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS is about to get its behind handed to it by the new Vertex 4 and SandForce drives with newer firmware. You thought wrong.

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When it comes to sequential reads and writes the Max IOPS is still down a little, but when SandForce releases 5.0.3, we'll see the performance pick up a bit.

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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The read access time on the Max IOPS is a bit higher than we expected considering this drive was developed to be an IOPS monster. The new Vertex 4 has a much higher IOPS rating, but we consider the Vertex 3 Max IOPS to be the perfect balance.

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The write latency is also quite high on this drive, but this will decrease when the new firmware hits.

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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You have to scroll down to the middle of the chart to get to the other SandForce based drives in the chart (Intel 520 Series and SanDisk Extreme). Here we really get to see the beauty of the Max IOPS. The 4K and 4 command 4K reads for the three SF-2281 drives are about the same, but when you get to 32 commands, the Max IOPS blows the other 2281 drives away.

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Other than the SuperSSpeed Gold Hyper SLC we reviewed a few days ago, the Vertex 3 Max IOPS was the only 120GB SandForce SF-2281 based drive that didn't hit the brick wall when writing incompressible data. The Max IOPS acts more like the 240GB SandForce drives than it does a 120GB.

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

With a good blend of sequential performance and IOPS power, the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS delivers a very good Vantage score.

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, 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

We still prefer our own version of PCMark's Vantage where we fill the drive to 25%, 50% and 75% of capacity. This way we get a better look at real-world performance when the drive is populated just like how it runs in your system.

With the older firmware we don't get the really high performance, but we also retain TRIM. This drive will be a beast when working five Series firmware hits.

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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The high IOPS and performance at higher queue depths allows the Vertex 3 Max IOPS breeze through the file copy 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.

In the compressible data test we reach nearly 90K write IOPS at QD 16. Most SandForce based drives don't get that close to 90K IOPS until the depth reaches 32.

Like most SF based drives, there is a significant drop off when working with incompressible data.

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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The Vertex 3 Max IOPS uses a controller / flash configuration that is very close to the Vertex 3 Pro, a proposed enterprise model that OCZ never actually produced for the enterprise market.

Final Thoughts

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When it comes to OCZ's stable of products the Vertex 4 is the new IOPS monster. When you start searching for balanced performance for desktop use in the lower capacity sizes though, the Vertex 3 Max IOPS still appears to be a better choice.

With high sequential performance, high IOPS that reach peak levels at lower queue depths when compared to most other SandForce based drives and real premium flash, this 120GB drive offers good performance in all categories.

The Vertex 3 Max IOPS is an aging drive, it's actually one of the first SF-2281 drives offered, but its performance is timeless. Still, two very big obstacles are in the way of you buying one. The first is the baseline Vertex 3 which costs quite a bit less and for most desktop users provides nearly the same sequential performance. The second obstacle is Vertex 4 with even more IOPS performance and an even lower price than both Vertex 3 and Max IOPS. Still though, the best mix between sequential and IOPS is the V3 Max IOPS, it's just too bad you have to pay so much more for it.

At the time of writing the Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB was online for roughly $180 shipped in the US. If you're looking to build a high performance RAID array with smaller drives or want higher performance than what your buddies have with their baseline drives, the Max IOPS is still a good choice.

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