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Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage
Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Features and Specifications
First Look: OCZ Agility EX SSD
Indilinx Internal Components
SSD Testing Methodology
Random Access Time Benchmark
Basic IO Bandwidth
Random Access IOPS Tests
I/O Response Time
Linear Bandwidth Speed
Sequential Performance Tests
Buffered Transaction Speed
Solid State Drive Final Thoughts
OCZ Agility EX Conclusion

OCZ Agility-EX SSD Review

OCZ has earned the pole position in the race for Solid State Drive consumer supremacy. Most of the OCZ SSD product line is sold at retail to enthusiast end-users, but the EX-series offers SLC construction and delivers premier performance to the Enterprise sector and an affordable price. Corporate environments offer vast potential for SSD technology by offering drive performance faster than SAS-based storage, and dramatically reducing heat output. In this article, Benchmark Reviews tests the 60GB OCZ Agility EX SSD OCZSSD2-1AGTEX60G, and Indilinx-based SLC Solid State Drive.

The Indilinx Barefoot controller has become the backbone chip for over a dozen different SSD models, first introduced in the OCZ Vertex SSD and later in the Vertex-EX SLC SSD, the IDX110M00-FC reinvents itself as the OCZ Agility-EX SLC SSD series. Identical to the popular OCZ Vertex series in every aspect except NAND selection, the Agility EX series offers the same Indilinx 'Barefoot' controller and 64MB of DRAM buffer, but now boasts ultra-fast 270/200 MBps read and write speeds. Benchmark Reviews tests the reaction time and bandwidth performance for the 120GB OCZ Vertex Turbo SSD OCZSSD2-1VTXT120G model against over two dozen other storage products in this article.

Very recently Seagate introduced the Barracuda XT hard drive, and while you might be wondering what that has to do with an SSD article I have a point: Seagate is the first to offer a product for the SATA 6Gb/s (SATA-III) interface. This is good news for hard drives, but it's even better news for SSDs, which have encroached upon the 300 MBps SATA-II throughput barrier for quite some time now. The first two SATA-6G motherboards have already been announced: the ASUS P7P55D Premium and GIGABYTE GA-P55-EXTREME, which will open-up desktop performance and eventually lead to improved SOHO server architecture.

The competition among Solid State Drive manufacturers is reminiscent of the video card wars between AMD and NVIDIA a few years ago. The invention of new controller technology has slowed somewhat, while each company races to combine high-speed NAND with custom firmware tweaks to produce the fastest SSD speeds possible. The Indilinx Barefoot controller has exploited a dominant hold over the consumer SSD market during the past several months, and 'overclocked' Solid State Drive products are beginning to replace 'new' product designs. In this article, Benchmark Reviews compares the fastest SLC SSD we've discovered to-date: the 60GB OCZ Agility-EX OCZSSD2-1AGTEX60G.


Anyone familiar with articles published at Benchmark Reviews is very well aware of our obsession with Solid State Drive technology. They're complex, and every SSD is different than the next. Nothing like Hard Disk Drive technology, which improves as spindle speed and cache buffer are increased, SSDs are the future and because of this their internal architecture is constantly evolving. This is why we offer so much coverage on the topic: it's interesting and exciting. Plus, they can turn the average computer system into a roaring beast. It's not marketing hype; for once the truth is stranger than fiction.

Since first making a public debut at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, Solid State Drives (SSDs) have been a topic of hot discussion among performance enthusiasts. These nonvolatile flash memory-based drives feature virtually no access time delay and promise a more reliable storage medium with greater performance while operating at a fraction of the power level. Moving into 2008, SSDs became a consumer reality for many performance-minded power users. Now that 2009 has proven how strong the industry support behind Solid State Drive technology is, we should hope that mainstream acceptance moves faster than it did for DDR3 SDRAM.

Solid State Drive products are no longer restricted to bleeding edge hardware enthusiasts or wealthy elitists. Heading into 2009, SSD storage devices were available online for nearly $2 per gigabyte of storage capacity while the most popular performance desktop hard drive hovered just above $1/GB. While most consumers are waiting for that day when SSD costs the same as HDD, they seem to be forgetting how Solid State Drives have already surpassed Hard Disk performance in every other regard. Our collection of SSD reviews is a good starting point for comparing the competition.

SSD Testing Disclaimer

Early on in our SSD coverage, Benchmark Reviews published an article which detailed Solid State Drive Benchmark Performance Testing. The research and discussion that went into producing that article changed the way we now test SSD products. Our previous perceptions of this technology were lost on one particular difference: the wear leveling algorithm that makes data a moving target. Without conclusive linear bandwidth testing or some other method of total-capacity testing, our previous performance results were rough estimates at best.

Our test results were obtained after each SSD had been prepared using DISKPART or Sanitary Erase tools. As a word of caution, applications such as these offer immediate but temporary restoration of original 'pristine' performance levels. In our tests, we discovered that the maximum performance results (charted) would decay as subsequent tests were performed. SSDs attached to TRIM enabled Operating Systems will benefit from continuously refreshed performance, whereas older O/S's will require a garbage collection (GC) tool to avoid 'dirty NAND' performance degradation.ocz_logo_200px.png

It's critically important to understand that no software for the Microsoft Windows platform can accurately measure SSD performance in a comparable fashion. Synthetic benchmark tools such as HD Tach and PCMark are helpful indicators, but should not be considered the ultimate determining factor. That factor should be measured in actual user experience of real-world applications. Benchmark Reviews includes both bandwidth benchmarks and application speed tests to present a conclusive measurement of product performance.

About OCZ Technology Inc

OCZ Technology Group, a member of JEDEC, designs, develops and manufactures ground-breaking, high performance memory and computer components that set industry standards. OCZ products are the first choice for users needing high-reliability, ultra-high performance solutions. In 2007, PC Power & Cooling and Hypersonic PC were brought into the OCZ Technology Group, forming a well-rounded, highly innovative organization that places the company at the forefront of high-end computing. All of OCZ Technology Group's products are available through its worldwide network of distributors, online resellers and retail stores.


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