|OCZ Agility-2 SandForce Solid State Drive|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 30 July 2010|
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OCZ Agility 2 SandForce-Driven SSD Review
Solid State Drive storage devices have become the hot ticket for high-performance computer enthusiasts. Impartial towards either PC, Linux, or Apple platforms, SSDs have the power to transform slow computers into blazing-fast speed machines. The SandForce SF-1200 has quickly become the de facto SSD controller for companies seeking recognition, and for good reason. The OCZ Agility 2 embraces the SF-1222TA3-SBH processor to produce up to 20,000 IOPS with only 7% over-provisioning to generate maximum performance with optimal capacity. The increase in storage capacity over 28% over-provisioned SandForce SSDs has earned the OCZ Agility 2 the 'Extended' title.
Just when PCs were starting to seem irrelevant in this fast-paced world of mobile gadgets and smart phones, along comes a new product that changes the entire landscape. SSDs, or more formally Solid State Drives, have finally lifted computers beyond the age of spinning metal magnetic platters. Delivering a boost in speed that no memory upgrade or new processor could ever dream of, solid state drive technology has sent hard disk drives packing. OCZ Technology, an enthusiast memory company and pioneer of consumer SSD products, further commits to their passion for high-speed storage and delivers the OCZ Agility 2. Based on the SandForce SF1200 controller, the OCZ Agility 2 Extended SSD delivers up to 20,000 IOPS with incredible bandwidth speed. In this article, Benchmark Reviews tests the 120GB OCZ Agility 2 Extended OCZSSD2-2AGTE120G against some of the fastest storage solutions on the market.
SandForce is clearly the driving force in SSD controller technology for 2010, offering outstanding bandwidth speed and operational performance. OCZ utilizes the SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH (SF-1200) processor in their Agility-2 enthusiast MLC SSD series, which features hand-picked high-performance NAND flash memory modules. SandForce RAISE technology provides redundant protection for single SSD computer systems, while data is automatically secured with AES-128 encryption. With transfer speeds nearly saturating the SATA-3GB/s interface, and operational IOPS performance reaching SLC-NAND levels, it makes sense for OCZ to use the new industry leader.
As of June 2010, the SandForce SF-1200 SSD controller has already found its way into many of the fastest SSDs available: ADATA S599, Corsair Force, RunCore Pro-V, Patriot Inferno, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE, G.Skill Phoenix Pro, OCZ Vertex-2, PhotoFast G-Monster 2, Mach Xtreme, and now the Agility-2 series. As we've discovered with our previous SandForce reviews, operational performance and SSD bandwidth speed is very similar across the spectrum. Selling virtually identical products has forced manufacturers to offer other consumer incentives, such as an extended warranty periods or custom SandForce firmware.
The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiast make with SSDs is grading them by their speed. File transfer speed is important, but only so long as the operational IOPS performance can sustain that bandwidth under load. Benchmark Reviews tests the OCZ Agility-2 SSD against some of the most popular storage devices available and demonstrates that 4K IOPS performance is more important than bandwidth speed. Additionally, Benchmark Reviews has used two similar SSDs to publish our SandForce SF1200 RAID-0 SSD Performance review.
For decades, the slowest component in any computer system was the hard drive. Most modern processors operate within approximately 1-ns (nanosecond = one billionth of one second) response time, while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) technology utilizes magnetic spinning media, and even the fastest spinning desktop storage products exhibit a 9,000,000 ns - or 9 ms (millisecond = one thousandth of one second) initial response time. In more relevant terms, The processor receives the command and waits 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; which is usually the hard drive.
The theoretical goal for achieving optimal performance is for system memory to operate as quickly as the central processor, and the storage drive to operate as fast as memory. With present 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, just consider 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. The difference a SSD makes to operational reaction 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 HDD counterparts.
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology Group, Inc.
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by OCZ Technology Group, Inc.
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 (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.