OCZ Vertex 3 .20 240GB SSD Review

OCZ brings makes changes to an old favorite and repositions SandForce to the mainstream market.

Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
12 minutes & 41 seconds read time


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OCZ felt the backlash from end-users when they moved from 32nm to 25nm NAND on Vertex 2 a few years ago. When the original Vertex came to market, it was nearly identical to the lower cost Agility product. The main difference was a fixed build of materials (BOM) on the Vertex. Although this rule was never expressed or implied on Vertex 2, end-users just carried the statement over the BOM to the next generation. When OCZ changed one of the two main components in Vertex 2, they caught hell.

OCZ has learned from the events of the last and now that 25nm is turning to 20nm, OCZ wasn't making the same mistake. The OCZ Vertex 3.20 uses the same LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller as the original Vertex 3. The NAND flash changed to new 20nm IMFT for the new .20 product, but that isn't the only change.

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Vector is the flagship in OCZ's stable and Vertex 3.20 is now a mainstream product for those looking to spend less on quality SATA III SSD performance. With the new mainstream designation, Vertex 3.20 gets a new mainstream package and smaller accessory parts list.

For most of our readers, the accessory goodies won't make a big difference, as long as the price reflects the change. We'll discuss this and the performance of Vector 3.20 today.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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OCZ is taking Vertex 3.20 to only two capacity sizes - the 240GB model we're looking at today and the 120GB model, which you can read about in a few days. Both capacity sizes share the same sequential read (550MB/s) and sequential write (520MB/s) performance. The 120GB Vertex 3.20 has a lower IOPS rating, 20K read and 40K write. The 256GB drive has 35K read and 65K IOPS write.

As we mentioned in the introduction, the new Vertex 3.20 uses the same LSI SandForce SF-2281 as the original Vertex 3. There are just a couple of changes - the largest is the new 20nm IMFT flash. Then the firmware, OCZ had to use a 5-Series firmware from LSI to use 20nm flash with the controller. Finally the packaging has changed and now reflects the value minded placement in the OCZ line up. That means you now get the drive only, no desktop adapter bracket.

Newegg already shows the two new Vertex 3.20 drives in stock. The Vertex 3.20 120GB sells for $114.99 and the 240GB model sells for $219.99. At the time of writing Newegg still had the original Vertex 3 120GB in stock ($119.99), but not the 240GB model. We suspect 25nm IMFT flash is drying up, just like 24nm Toshiba Toggle did a couple of months ago.


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Here we get our first look at the new Vertex 3.20 package. OCZ doesn't include desktop adapter brackets, screws or many of the goodies we see ship with their flagship models.

This helps reduce the cost over time, the main stable when competing in the mainstream / value market.

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You do get a paper manual that doubles as a quick install guide and guarantee information sheet.

OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB SSD

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Cosmetically the 3.20 isn't much different from the last known Vertex 3 drives on the market. It uses the same black plastic cover over a metal base tray.

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The part number now has an extra .20 at the end. All of the mounting points are located on the metal base tray.

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Vertex 3.20 remains a 9.5mm Z-height drive. Before OCZ neutered their product map, they had a 7mm Vertex 3, but those are long gone now. We're a bit surprised OCZ didn't move Vertex 3.20 over to the 7mm form factor and reduce the number of different cases used. The 7mm Vertex 3 appears to use the same case as Vector. Then again, OCZ may have several 9.5mm case in a warehouse and this drive is a good excuse to get rid of them.

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The SATA power and data connectors are where they should be.

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A peek inside the 240GB capacity size allows us to see the controller and sixteen 20nm Intel NAND flash chips.

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OCZ used the standard SF-2281 VB1 controller and not the new VB2 (B02 stepping).

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

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Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation

We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power tests as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.

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 nearly hit 555MB/s read and came just shy of 530MB/s write with a queue depth of 4.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

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 gained popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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Reading sequential data across a clean drive gave us an average speed of 412MB/s. The maximum and minimum speeds were very close to the average speed.

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The sequential write speed came in at 408MB/s. Both of the sequential results are close to the Intel 520, our LSI SandForce based reference drive with 25nm NAND flash.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

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The HD Tach run comes after all six tests in HD Tune Pro. This is a check to see the sequential write speed after a liberal dose of random writes to the drive. LSI SandForce drives do well here since the compression algorithm doesn't write all of the data to the NAND. This means your drive stays fast for a longer period of time without high doses of garbage collection.

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.

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The LSI SandForce architecture doesn't use DRAM to store user or page table data so the latency is a little higher than some of the other controller designs. The Vector 3.20 has a little higher read latency compared to the Intel 520, but the 5-Series firmware is responsible for some of that.

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We observed the same thing with the write latency, too. Compared to other SandForce based drives with 25nm and 5-Series firmware, the write latency is about the same. The Intel 520 used firmware based on 3-Series and we feel it is a bit faster in several areas.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC6

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 is 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.

0-Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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The SandForce compression algorithm means the drive writes incompressible data slower than it does compressible data. You can see the affect in the two images above. We saw a loss of around 800 points in Anvil. This is a lower margin than many of the other SandForce based drives, we generally expect to see around a thousand point loss.

Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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The OCZ Vector 3.20 does well at low queue depth IOPS and scales to just over 60K read IOPS at a queue depth of 16.

Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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The low queue depth write IOPS is very good as well. At a single queue depth, the Vertex 3.20 runs very close to Vector and the 840 Pro, both 256GB.

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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On the previous page we saw the IOPS, now we can see how scaling queue depth scales in MB/s. Vertex 3.20 does well in 4K QD1, 35MB/s. Just as we saw on the previous page, the drive doesn't scale as well as the Vector or 840 Pro.

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There is nothing to complain about when it comes to 4K writes, but this is also our first real look at the sequential incompressible data writes. Vertex 3.20 delivers around 333MB/s. The real comparison on this chart is to the Samsung 840, another mainstream drive and one that routinely sells out at my local Fry's. Vertex 3.20 rips the 840 non-Pro in incompressible data on this 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

We don't highlight this fact enough, but here you can see that the upper tier of high performance SSDs all perform very close to one another. With benchmarks we can point to specific areas and say one is better than the other, but in most cases, at least in the upper tier, we are comparing the latest Ferrari to the latest Lamborghini.

Moving down a tier to the mainstream market, we see more variation. Vertex 3.20 240GB looks right at home with the drives on the top of the chart with the leaders, but the same can't be said about the Samsung 840 or SanDisk Ultra Plus.

Benchmarks - 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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Here we see all of the drives with data populating the flash. We roll through different stages, empty, 25%, 50%, 75% and empty again after deleting all the data to test TRIM.

Vertex 3.20 is slower than the original Vertex 3 in both fresh out of box performance and at 50% full. We can't just point all of this to the NAND flash. The 5-Series firmware plays a role as well, we notice the performance loss on other LSI SandForce based drives with 25nm flash.

Benchmarks - BootRacer

BootRacer - System Boot Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0

Developer Homepage: Greatis

Product Homepage: BootRacer

Download here: http://www.greatis.com/bootracer/download.htm

Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation loaded with an operating system and several program files. The data on the drive at the time of the test is 45GB. The second test, 50GB Free, was ran with the drives filled with block data until only 50GB of free capacity remained.

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Boot times in our Lenovo W530 are fairly steady across the board.

Benchmarks - DiskBench

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used:

Developer Homepage: Nodesoft

Product Homepage: DiskBench

Download here: http://www.nodesoft.com/diskbench/download

Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB SSD to move a 15GB block of data to and from the target drive. This is part of our real world test regiment. Roughly 45GB of data resides on the target drive before the '15GB Block' is transfer. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.

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Reading a 15GB directory (a folder) of data to and from the drives gives us a good indication of performance when transferring data. Since the data is a mix of compressible and incompressible data the SandForce compressible data advantage doesn't get to blow out the other drives.

Vertex 3.20 writes the folder worth of data at a slower rate than anything else does on the chart. The performance is really close to the Samsung 840 non-Pro and SanDisk Ultra Plus, the two products in the same price category.

Benchmarks - Power Testing

Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.

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We really don't understand why OCZ didn't use the new B02 controller with Vertex 3.20. B02 would have delivered much better battery life performance. When paired with 19/20nm class flash, we've achieved over 300 minutes in our Lenovo W530, a notebook designed for high performance and not battery performance.

PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw

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Vertex 3.20 240GB is in bold yellow in the two power tests. Here we see a run in PCMark Vantage. The 20nm NAND doesn't peak as high as many of the other drives and has a lower idle power draw than the Monster Digital Daytona, another drive with a LSI SandForce controller.

Final Thoughts

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OCZ's Vertex 3.20 240GB is a bit of a mixed bag at this time. While you can still find them, I would choose an original Vertex 3 over the .20 option. The original ships with a better accessory package and performs better. If you can get OCZ firmware 2.25 on a drive then is even better. Vertex 3.20 ships with firmware 2.30 and we can tell it's based on LSI's 5-Series firmware so it's a bit slower.

Vertex 3.20 is a bit slower than the original as well in the flash department. The 240GB version isn't really that much different, a couple percent here and there compared to the 25nm model. I don't think anyone will really notice a big difference running real-world tasks even with two identical systems side by side. In a couple of days we'll have a look at the 120GB model and the same can't be said for that capacity size.

At the time of writing Vertex 3.20 still has its 'new' product price at Newegg. Other SandForce based drives like Vertex 3, Chronos DX and so on have come down from their introductory price. With Vertex 3.20 240GB costing over $200 and a handful of faster 25nm drives hanging between $170 to $185, there isn't really a reason to consider Vertex 3.20 at this stage. As it normally does, the introductory price will dissolve and then we will see the true Newegg price of this drive. In order to recommend the Vertex 3.20 240GB, the price is going to have to come down below $170, we would be happy at $150, but given the cost of flash, we're not even sure if that's possible.

Over time 25nm NAND will disappear. OCZ still needs 25nm for Vector production so it makes sense they moved Vertex 3.20 over to 20nm. Over time others will follow and move their existing products to 20nm.

Right now Vertex 3.20 isn't the best mainstream drive on the market, other SandForce based drives with 25nm are simply hard to beat. Once 25nm drive stock is sold and everyone is on 20nm, we'll take another look at Vertex 3.20, and see how it fits in. June or July would be a good time to take another look and see how the market sits at that time. OCZ is always on the cutting edge, but this time for them the edge was facing the wrong direction.

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