|120GB OCZ Vertex 3.20 Solid State Drive|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 29 March 2013|
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OCZ Vertex 3.20 Solid State Drive Review
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology Group, Inc.
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by OCZ.
OCZ Technology launched their Vertex 3 solid state drive based on the second-generation SandForce SF-2281 processor back in early 2011, making it a familiar storage product among high-performance enthusiasts. Two years later they've revisited the popular design, and made several improvements. Now available with 20nm Synchronous Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND flash components, Vertex 3.20 is designed to offer better performance for less cost. In this article Benchmark Reviews tests the 120GB OCZ Vertex 3.20 SSD (model VTX3-25SAT3-120G.20), and compare it against the fastest SATA 6GB/s storage solutions.
What makes the Vertex 3.20 different than it's original namesake is the use of 20nm Synchronous Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND flash components, and refined controller firmware. The Vertex 3.20 SSD is based on the second-generation LSI-SandForce SF-2281 SATA 6Gb/s controller, which debuted back at the start of 2011, making it one of the most mature SATA controllers found in modern storage devices. Vertex 3.20 arrives in 120GB and 240GB capacities, both offering 550 MB/s reads and 520 MB/s writes.
The second-generation SF-2281 SSD processor maintains all of the original core technology SandForce originally introduced in the SF-1200 series, but now improves SSD performance with 20% faster IOPS and 40% faster sequential read/write throughput. LSI-SandForce has enhanced BCH ECC capability, and the new processor now supports ATA-7 Security Erase. Finally, the new SF-2200 series implements cost-effective 20nm-class NAND flash from all leading flash vendors with Asynch/ONFi1/ONFi2/Toggle interfaces. OCZ promises 20K/40K read/write IOPS from the 120GB the Vertex 3.20 SSD, and 35K/65K IOPS from the 240GB version.
Solid State vs Hard Disk
Despite decades of design improvements, the hard disk drive (HDD) is still the slowest component of any personal computer system. Consider that modern desktop processors have a 1 ns response time (nanosecond = one billionth of one second), while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional hard drive technology utilizes magnetic spinning media, and even the fastest spinning mechanical storage products still exhibit a 9,000,000 ns / 9 ms initial response time (millisecond = one thousandth of one second). In more relevant terms, the processor receives the command and must then wait for system memory to fetch related data from the storage drive. This is why any computer system is only as fast as the slowest component in the data chain; usually the hard drive.
In a perfect world all of the components operate at the same speed. Until that day comes, the real-world goal for achieving optimal performance is for system memory to operate as quickly as the central processor and then for the storage drive to operate as fast as memory. With present-day technology this is an impossible task, so enthusiasts try to close the speed gaps between components as much as possible. Although system memory is up to 90x (9000%) slower than most processors, consider then that the hard drive is an added 1000x (100,000%) slower than that same memory. Essentially, these three components are as different in speed as walking is to driving and flying.
Solid State Drive technology bridges the largest gap in these response times. The difference a SSD makes to operational response times and program speeds is dramatic, and takes the storage drive from a slow 'walking' speed to a much faster 'driving' speed. Solid State Drive technology improves initial response times by more than 450x (45,000%) for applications and Operating System software, when compared to their mechanical HDD counterparts. The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiasts make with regard to SSD technology is grading them based on bandwidth speed. File transfer speeds are important, but only so long as the operational I/O performance can sustain that bandwidth under load.
Bandwidth Speed vs Operational Performance
As we've explained in our SSD Benchmark Tests: SATA IDE vs AHCI Mode guide, Solid State Drive performance revolves around two dynamics: bandwidth speed (MB/s) and operational performance I/O per second (IOPS). These two metrics work together, but one is more important than the other. Consider this analogy: bandwidth determines how much cargo a ship can transport in one voyage, and operational IOPS performance is how fast the ship moves. By understanding this and applying it to SSD storage, there is a clear importance set on each variable depending on the task at hand.
For casual users, especially those with laptop or desktop computers that have been upgraded to use an SSD, the naturally quick response time is enough to automatically improve the user experience. Bandwidth speed is important, but only to the extent that operational performance meets the minimum needs of the system. If an SSD has a very high bandwidth speed but a low operational performance, it will take longer to load applications and boot the computer into Windows than if the SSD offered a higher IOPS performance.