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OCZ Vertex 3 .20 120GB SSD Review

Today Chris tests the new OCZ Vertex 3.20 120GB and finally gets a chance to put IMFT 20nm next to Toshiba 19nm NAND.

Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
13 minutes & 13 seconds read time


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At Computex 2012 we took over the LSI suite to get an early taste of 19nm Toshiba Toggle flash and 20nm IMFT flash from Intel and Micron. At the time, we stated that 19nm looked a little better, but every major component was an early sample. We've had a handful of early samples with both 19nm and 20nm, but today we finally have two comparable retail products in to put side by side.

Last month we tested the Kingston V300 120GB with new Toshiba 19nm and just yesterday we published the new OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB review. Comparing these two products wouldn't be fair since the capacity sizes don't line up, but now that we have a 120GB Vertex 3.20 with 20nm NAND, we can finally get this article on TweakTown.

At the same time, we'll take a deep look at the new OCZ Vertex 3.20 120GB. OCZ is moving the Vertex brand to the mainstream market, an area formally owned by Agility. We've heard from several companies that our dream is finally coming true, asynchronous NAND is out, synchronous NAND will also go into mainstream SSDs.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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The OCZ Vertex 3.20 comes in two capacity sizes - 240GB and 120GB. We reviewed the 240GB model yesterday and now we have the 120GB in the lab for a rundown. The new product in the Vertex 3 family pairs LSI's SF-2281 controller with new IMFT 20nm flash. OCZ is one of the first significant SSD players to bring 20nm flash to the market, but we've seen Toshiba's 19nm Toggle used for the last four months in retail products.

In our testing we found the 240GB Vertex 3.20 to be a good performer with only a minor performance loss when compared to the original Vertex 3 240GB. Looking at the specs of the Vertex 3.20 120GB, the same can't be said. OCZ rates the 120GB model at 20K read IOPS and just 40K write IOPS. Both new Vertex 3.20 share the same sequential performance - 550MB/s read and 520MB/s write.

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 at $119.99, but not the 240GB model.

The new mainstream placement for the Vertex brand means new packaging and a new accessory package. You still get a three year warranty, but the desktop adapter bracket is gone with 3.20. Let's take a look at everything included.


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Mainstream packaging from OCZ means a drive in a blister pack. You could fit several of these on rack in a retail setting. SSDs have really come a long way.

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On the back you get a little information, but we didn't find any performance claims.

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Inside we found a paper manual and a sticker.

OCZ Vertex 3.20 120GB 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 cases in a warehouse and this drive is a good excuse to get rid of them.

As I was writing this article ADATA announced a 7mm move for their entire product line. We hope OCZ follows suit soon.

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

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Just like the 240GB Vertex 3.20, the 120GB model uses sixteen NAND flash chips, eight on each side. The familiar SF-2281 controller keeps everything in line, but we noticed that OCZ didn't use the new B02 stepping that reduces power.

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The big change with this product is the new 20nm Intel flash.

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 achieved just over 550MB/s read and 525MB/s write speed. ATTO measures maximum performance and is used mainly for product marketing statements.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

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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Our OCZ Vertex 3.20 120GB arrived well tested with 1TB of data written to the flash and around 27 hours on the clock. We normally don't see this, but media sample are sometimes tested before shipping out for reviews. Our testing methodology states that a drive starts from fresh out of box condition and then we chip away at the flash in the early tests and get to true consumer steady state by the middle of the review.

The first thing we did was secure erase the OCZ Vertex 3.20, but from the results above I'm not entirely sure we managed to get the drive to steady state. We used two tools, OCZ's SSD Tool and later Parted Magic after seeing the performance delivered after using OCZ's official secure erase.

In this test in what should have been a clean state, Vertex 3.20 is down quite a bit to other LSI SandForce based drives with 120GB. In my opinion, the best MLC SandForce based drive is still the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS with 3xnm Toggle, as you can see there is a wide margin in sequential single queue depth read performance. The 3.20 120GB is also much lower than the Kingston V300 120GB, a new product that uses Toshiba 19nm Toggle flash.

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We observed the same thing with the write performance. The 3.20 did very well at its peak, but the low and average results were down quite a bit compared to most everything else on the chart.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

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In this test the drive is no longer is a FOB state because we've written a significant portion of the drive with random data. This test also uses 128K blocks, HD Tune Pro runs 64K blocks. You can see on this graph that used blocks only make a small portion of the drive since the SandForce architecture compresses data before it hits the flash.

That means you tell the drive to write a fixed amount of data, but the controller doesn't pass all that data long as you transmitted it. As you know, when NAND has data residing on the flash it slows so this method keeps the SSD running faster for a longer period of time.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

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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Latency is the reason why SSDs feel so fast in your computer, the lower the latency, the less delay between your input and the system's actions. Vertex 3.20 keeps the latency in line with other OCZ offerings based on SandForce controllers.

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Both the read and write latency are nearly identical to the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB we tested.

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. The 120GB model has a larger drop off than the 240GB drive did when we tested it.

Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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Here we see random read IOPS performance with an emphasis on the 3.20 and V300 - 20nm vs. 19nm. The single queue depth read is pretty good, but the performance doesn't build as fast we we're used to seeing as the queue depth increases.

Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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The Vertex 3.20 120GB does well with random write IOPS. Here we see a nice starting point and a nice increase as write commands are stacked.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark


Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Download here:

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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Here we carry over the 4K scaled queue depth testing into CrystalDiskMark. Like the previous page, we see the 4K reads starting off low and then scaling at a slow pace.

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Here we see our first real test with incompressible data being written to the drive. The sequential test shows the V3.20 at 132MB/s, but the V300 with Toshiba Toggle 19nm achieves 172MB/s. The V300 also has a higher 120GB 'brick wall'.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

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

Using real-world, daily use software to measure performance with Vantage we see where each flash works better and where the flash is slower. Overall, both drives do well in daily use tasks, much better than what the previous benchmarks would lead us to believe.

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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Filling the drives with controlled data gives us a look at consumer steady state performance. SSDs slow when they have data on the flash, but some flash and some controllers do better than others.

The Toshiba Toggle in the Kingston V300 does better than the Intel 20nm here. TRIM seems to work better with Toshiba 19nm as well.

Benchmarks - BootRacer

BootRacer - System Boot Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0

Developer Homepage: Greatis

Product Homepage: BootRacer

Download here:

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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The time to desktop performance between the most of the drives in the chart is fairly close. The OCZ Vertex 3.20 120GB does a little better than the Kingston V300, but the results are close.

Benchmarks - DiskBench

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used:

Developer Homepage: Nodesoft

Product Homepage: DiskBench

Download here:

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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Nether of the two next gen drives in 120GB capacity do well when transferring data to the drive. The Toshiba Toggle flash does better than the IMFT flash in the V3.20.

Benchmarks - Power Testing

Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

Developer Homepage:

Test Homepage:

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.

OCZ Vertex 3 .20 120GB SSD Review 67

The OCZ Vertex 3.20 does a little better in our battery life test when compared to the Kingston V300. OCZ chose to us the standard controller and didn't use the new B02 that increases battery life while reducing power consumption.

PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw

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Here we see where the longer battery life comes from. The Vertex 3.20 120GB has a lower idle power draw than the V300 120GB. When in use, the V3.20 pulls more power, though.

Final Thoughts

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In the coming weeks we'll do a proper 19nm vs. 20nm article with a handful of other drives in different capacities. After talking to several people in the industry, we're learned that 24nm Toshiba Toggle flash is pretty much a thing of the past. 25nm IMFT flash is still circulating, but the price has increased and it won't be long before it drops off as well. Looking at OCZ's new, shrinking product lineup, it makes sense for OCZ to get their mainstream low cost products off 25nm flash. This gives OCZ a little more time to keep Vector on 25nm and at the same time bring the mainstream product prices down.

At the time of writing the Vertex 3.20 120GB costs less than the original Vertex 3 at Newegg, but only by a small margin. Considering the new 3.20 ships without a desktop adapter bracket and performs worse than the original V3, I'd say buy an original Vertex 3 while you still can. If you have one now, buy another and run them in RAID. Better yet, look long and hard for a Vertex 3 Max IOPS because it is the pentacle of SandForce performance and longevity. The price of these drives are still much less than top tier Vector and Samsung 840 Pro drives, but as time passes and supply drives up, these drives will cost more than the top tier drives. If you plan on running RAID and need a second drive from the 32nm/25nm Vertex 3 era, this is your last call.

Looking at the image above we see the 120GB SandForce 'brick wall' when it comes to incompressible writes. The OCZ Vertex 3.20 has a lower ceiling than most of the SandForce drives we've tested in this capacity size. It's almost like getting async performance from a sync drive. I really don't think this is all OCZ's fault because we've seen lower performance with SandForce 5-Series firmware. We know the faster 3-Series firmware doesn't work with new NAND flash technology and Microsoft's Windows 8 WHQL requirements play a role in the evolution.

Making matters worse, if you have to trade performance for newer flash, getting better battery life is a must. OCZ used the original SF-2281 stepping and didn't go with B02, as they should have. Maybe in the future the BOM will get changed to include B02, but as of right now, you get the same battery life as before. B02 would have increased battery life on our Lenovo W530 6-cell by at least 40 minutes according to our estimates.

At this time, with other 25nm drives on the market that cost less than the Vertex 3.20 120GB, we have to pass on this one. After Computex when most of the 25nm drives have sold out, we'll take another look at OCZ's Vertex 3.20 and see how it compares to other products on the market. Look for the retake in June or July.

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