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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSD
Closer Look: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS
SandForce SF-2281 SSD Controller
Features and Specifications
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
PCMark Vantage HDD Tests
HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD
OCZ Vertex 3 MI SSD Conclusion

SandForce SF-2281 SSD Controller

SandForce introduces their new second generation solid state drives to both consumer and enterprise segments, with seven different models to choose from. On the consumer (retail) side you've got models using the older SATA 3Gb/s interface as well as the latest SATA 6Gb/s interface, while all enterprise drives utilize the 3rd-generation SATA 6Gb/s interface. More than any other factor, it's the Flash Channels/Byte Lanes configuration that these separate models. SandForce's SF-2000 series of SSDs continue to feature up to 8 data channels organized into 16 Byte lanes; similar to the previous generation of SF-1222/SF-1565 series SSD controllers, but now some models are scaled down for usage scenarios not requiring massive IO activity.

SandForce second-generation SF-2200 and SF-2100 SSD processors aren't just SATA 6Gb/s on paper - they actually require the bandwidth afforded to the host interface to deliver sustained sequential read/write performance up to 500 MB/s. SandForce DuraClass Technology is still a staple part of their feature set, but now include Trusted Computing Group (TCG) Opal-compliant Self Encrypting Drives (SEDs) support with AES-256/128 and double encryption. SF-2200 and SF-2100 SSDs also utilize high-speed ONFi2 and Toggle flash interfaces in single-level (SLC) and multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash families from all major suppliers. The last major difference is the reduced minimum over-provisioning requirement, which continues to use an integrated buffer but returns more capacity for storage assignment.

OCZ-Vertex3-Max-IOPS-SSD-PCB-Top.jpg

Illustrated above is the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition printed circuit board, which looks nearly identical to previous SandForce PCBs. Eight topside NAND flash modules sit in ranks behind the second-generation SandForce SF-2281 SSD processor, and plenty of electronics fill the remaining space in-between. Another benefit of SandForce's SF-2200 architecture is that all data recorded to the SSD remains on the NAND grid and removes the need for a separate cache buffer DRAM module. Once the SandForce SSD board is turned to expose the underside (image below), SandForce's efficient "DRAM-less" design features DuraClass technology to negate a separate memory buffer chip and enables a more flexible compact design. The result is a faster transaction, albeit at the expense of total storage capacity.

Previous SandForce SSDs utilized an over-provisioning technology, which allocated a portion of NAND for data storage and the remainder reserved for transaction and cache buffer space. Their latest controllers still use this technology, however SandForce claims that the 2200 series has a 0% minimum over-provisioning improvement, which could open up additional storage space if the remaining capacity made it necessary to complete a write cycle. Greater levels of over-provisioning are used by their SSDs built to sustain Enterprise duty cycles.

OCZ-Vertex3-Max-IOPS-SSD-PCB-Bottom.jpg

The new SATA 6Gb/s SandForce SF-2281VA1-SDC-ES processor is part of their SF-2200 family of retail SSD controller chips, although and identical SF-2181 processor exists for older SATA 3Gb/s connections. Offering 8 flash channels with 8 Byte lanes configured (one lane per channel), the SF-2281 maintains a BGA-256 package whereas the top-end SF-2282 delivers two lanes per channel on a BGA-400 package. More detail is available in our SandForce SF-2000 Series SSD Processor Overview article.

All SandForce SSD controllers offer native TRIM garbage collection in supporting Operating System (such as Microsoft Windows-7), Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with 32 command slots, and basic Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) command set. SandForce built the SF-2200 series to produce 500 MB/s Sequential Read and Write bandwidth with 60K (burst)/20K (sustained) IOPS Random Write (4K transfers). Some manufacturers use unique component combinations to exceed these specifications, such is the case with OCZ's Vertex 3 MI.

SandForce-SF-2281VA1-SDC-ES-SSD-Controller.jpg

SandForce SF-2281VA1-SDC-ES Controller

The SF-2200 SSD processor provides enhanced ECC with BCH data protection, and also includes SandForce's unique RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology. RAISE provides the protection and reliability of RAID on a single SSD drive, thanks to flash architecture, without the significant write overhead of parity. The SandForce DuraClass technology automatically stores data using Trusted Computing Group (TCG) OPAL security with 256-bit AES encryption and automatic, line-rate double encryption with a drive-level password, preventing data extraction directly from the physical flash memory modules.

Toshiba-TH58TAG7D2FBAS9-Toggle-NAND-Flash-IC.jpg

Toshiba TH58TAG7D2FBAS9 Toggle-NAND Flash

SandForce enables support for advanced 30nm- and 20nm-class NAND flash from all leading flash vendors with Asynch/ONFi1/ONFi2/Toggle interfaces with data transfer rates up to 166 Mega Transfers per second. Their latest generation of controllers also offers advanced ECC engine correcting up to 55 bits per 512-byte sector to assure high data integrity and support for future generations of flash memory. On the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS SSD, sixteen multi-layer cell Toshiba TH58TAG7D2FBAS9 Toggle-NAND Flash modules are joined to the SandForce SF-2281 controller. Consumer-level SandForce SSDs generally allocate 7% capacity over-provisioning and 128GB devices will yield 120GB of usable storage space.

Because the SandForce SF-2200 SSD processor is a non-exclusive component available market-wide, Benchmark Reviews expects to see several new solid state storage products using this same controller in the very near future. Please continue on to the next section for details on this particular model, and performance SSD test results...



 

Comments 

 
# RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-05-25 00:15
Damn another good show from the OCZ labs. OCZ and SSD's are like Intel and CPU's....
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# RE: RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDOlin Coles 2011-05-25 07:47
I would agree. OCZ has transformed themselves into an enthusiast storage brand, and I would consider them an industry leader in performance storage products above all others.
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# RE: RE: RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDHsew 2011-05-25 17:30
Personally I'm just waiting for the Corsair Force 3 SSDs to become available (85k write IOPS advertised) and tested before a decision can be made.
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# RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDRobert17 2011-05-25 18:59
Another tip of the hat to OCZ is in order. Good review Olin.

The only "con" to your review, one of few I've ever had, is the slight hit you issued in your conclusion regarding "expensive enthusiast" product. OK, it is contrary to the masses and their hard earned dollars, no question. The 240 Gb version at $2.58/Gb is a goodly sum. But looking at it from a performance standpoint, and thinking of the terminology "enthusiast" makes me think of it not as a "con" but pretty mainstream, if not reasonable as far as bang-for-buck goes.

There's my two cents worth, raising the price to $2.60/Gb. But no one will pay, right?
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# Leading brand does not always equal bestAndrew Rose 2012-02-24 07:53
I just bought a new Sandforce 2281 based Sata III SSD from one of the lesser known brands Comay, cost me 135 ($211) for a 120GB venus 3e model. I put it on ATTO and it lives up to manufacturers claims, mind blowing performance:
80,103 IOPS Random Write (4k)
36,120 IOPS Random Read (4k)
556MB Sequential Write
515MB Sequential Read

Really solid build aswell, which perhaps isn't suprising since these guys apparently are better known in the military/rugged world. Shaping up to be one of best purchases I ever made!
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# RE: Leading brand does not always equal bestSteve watts 2012-02-28 16:47
Andrew can you tell us where? I only see them for sale on ebay, and they are more expensive on there. Are you running linux? I'm looking for an SSD with specs something like that with max 4k iops to give a performance hike to an Oracle database.
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# Performance varies greatly with capacity.Homer 2011-05-25 23:44
Theres not enough explanation in this review(and others) about performance with different capacities.

The 240GB drive is much faster than the 120Gb drive. It gets even worse with 60/64 Gb(like vertex 2 series) drives which can be 70% slower than the 240Gb drive with incompressible write speed.

This review gives people the impression that a 120GB drive will perform like a 240GB drive but they do not.

I know its part of the marketing to send only the big fastest drives to reviewers but the performance difference between capacities should be more clearly explained
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# RE: Performance varies greatly with capacity.Olin Coles 2011-05-25 23:53
You must not have read the review. I mention (in three places) that the 240GB version performs better than the 120GB version. This is also evident to anyone who can read the specifications.
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# RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDSteve White *The Stav* 2011-05-27 10:56
Re : OCZ Vertex 3
comment just sent - unclear as to why the above 2 fields have bounced back yet contents of message was sent?
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# RE: RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDOlin Coles 2011-05-27 11:16
Please explain. I'm not really sure what you're saying.
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# RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDThe Stav 2011-05-27 19:53
# OCZ Vertex 3 - The Stav
Olin, my response was not directed at your valid comment.
I simply sent a lengthy comment to Benchmark Reviews about the relevance
of the performance of the slowest component in a system - the hard drive.
It was not published.
I run 2 older Sata2 SSD's (A-RAM 32Gb) in Raid 0 to kick start the system and run a few apps. When I was using a single SSD and Ubuntu 9.04 the read/write speed was 270/253 Mb. In terms of the 'IOPS' I had no idea and didn't appreciate the importance as an equal indicator of overall system performance.
All of my other mid range bits that make up the system are more than adequate for what I do....6 core AMD,a GTX460, a Raptor storage drive, a SATA3 & USB3 motherboard, blue-ray burner,2 LED 22" screens etc.
My point and I'm sure many of you have read that the money spent on the hard drive replacement 'SSD' should be the priority.
When I get the bucks OCZ will be my next upgrade.
Question : when in Raid 0, is the read/write & IOPS doubled also?
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# RE: RE: OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Edition SSDOlin Coles 2011-05-27 20:21
It's impossible to say if RAID-0 doubles IOPS without testing. Some components will come close, while others will not. The host controller also comes into play, and can determine how much headroom is available for bandwidth.
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# Does RAID 0 double read/write & IOPsPaul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 07:23
As a general rule, RAID 0 arrays do NOT scale in a linear fashion.

And, as Olin wisely adds, a LOT depends on the controller.

The closest we've come to near-linear scaling was the combination of a Highpoint RocketRAID 2720 and 4 x Hitachi 15,000 rpm 2.5" SAS HDDs each with 64MB of cache:

3 x HDDs in RAID 0 topped out at 441 MB/second
4 x HDDs in RAID 0 topped out at 618 MB/second

We would not have ever tried 3 x HDDs, except that one was
defective from the factory, so we configured a RAID 0 with 3
of these Hitachis, while we waited for the replacement to arrive.

But, this near linear scaling has been the exception, NOT the rule, in our experience with RAID 0 arrays (which we use often, primarily for speed).


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Paul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 07:15
Hi Olin,

Thanks again for another good review.

A question keeps coming up, as I read these various reviews:
if TRIM does not work with multiple SSDs configured in a RAID array,
do you happen to know if TRIM will work if each SSD is configured
in AHCI mode, and then joined to an OS "software RAID"?

Do you have enough instrumentation at your lab to answer this question?

I'm aware that an OS "software RAID" cannot host the OS,
but I have an XP software RAID running well with 2 x 6G WD HDDs,
hosting a dedicated data partition, and it appears to work just fine.

RSVP if/when you have the time.

Thanks again! Keep up the good work.


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Olin Coles 2011-06-09 08:05
Hello Paul:

So long as the drives are in AHCI/IDE mode with an OS that supports TRIM (Microsoft Windows 7), then the commands will receive the SSD. Hardware RAID does not use AHCI/IDE mode, and will not pass along TRIM commands. So if you're using Windows 7 (not XP) and configure mirrored sets in the Disk Management console using AHCI/IDE SSDs, then it's not truly RAID and you'll have the benefit of TRIM support... with the penalty of a CPU/RAM hit for software mirroring.
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# RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Paul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 08:45
> configure mirrored sets in the Disk Management console using AHCI/IDE SSDs


Thanks again, Olin!

By "mirrored sets" do you mean RAID 1, for example, and not RAID 0?

Also, just to clarify, do you predict the same for RAID 0 / striped arrays using OS software RAID?

This could be the topic for another Review, perhaps.


p.s. With so many quad-core CPUs proliferating, now with hyper-threading too, the CPU-RAM hit does not seem to be a huge penalty to pay, particularly for desktop and workstation users.

Also, users who have shrunk their C: system partitions have probably also created dedicated data partitions e.g. D:+ Those dedicated data partitions would be good candidates for a software RAID, particularly if TRIM will work reliably, as described above.


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# RE: RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Olin Coles 2011-06-09 08:47
I don't mean RAID of any kind. Window Disk Management doesn't offer RAID, it offers Mirrored Disks. This is the most ideal software-based redundancy you can get.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Paul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 08:53
> Window Disk Management doesn't offer RAID, it offers Mirrored Disks.

XP/Pro supports software RAID 0 also:
we have it running on a P45 chipset
with 2 x 6G Western Digital 1TB HDDs.

I'm not currently a Windows 7 user,
but I would expect that the same is true
for Windows 7.

The partitions need to be changed to "Dynamic" first;
but after that, it's a piece o' cake to configure software RAID 0
as long as the drive letter is NOT C: .

One needs to use the OS to effect this configuration,
so structural changes to C: are not possible at this point.


Do you have some spare hardware laying around,
with which to try it? Maybe 2 x 6G SSDs (my preference)?

OCZ might be particularly interested in this experiment,
with your usual battery of benchmark tests.


You be the "Benchmark Man" -- to be sure!!


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Paul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 09:00
See e.g.:

##softwaresecretweap ons.com/jspwiki/windows-7-software-raid-disk-partition-and-volume-context-menus

"New Striped Volume" is an option.


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Paul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 09:03
Note:
somehow "softwaresecretweapon s.com"
became "softwaresecretweap ons.com" above:

just eliminate that extra space after "weap"


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Olin Coles 2011-06-09 09:15
Windows XP does not support TRIM.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Paul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 09:54
Yes, I realize that:

The experiment I'm suggesting would need Windows 7
to configure a software RAID 0 with 2 x 6G SSDs
initialized in AHCI mode.

The question at hand: will Windows 7 pass TRIM commands
to 2 x SSDs configured in an OS software RAID 0?


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: 2 x SSDs in OS "software RAID"?Olin Coles 2011-06-09 17:07
AFIK, Windows 7 doesn't support software RAID-0 with Disk Manager.
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# reportedly: 3 editions of Windows 7 support RAID 0Paul A. Mitchell 2011-06-09 17:41
#superuser.com/questions/7683/which-software-raid-modes-does-each-version-of-windows-7-support

[begin quote]

The Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate editions of Windows 7 officially support the following dynamic disk modes:

* Simple
* Spanned
* Striped (RAID-0)
* Mirrored (RAID-1)

These are the officially supported modes. It has been possible in previous Windows releases to enable unsupported modes through DLL modifications and/or registry changes, and this will probably be the case in Windows 7 as well. At your own risk, of course.

RAID-5 dynamic disks are only available in Windows Server editions.

Note that dynamic disks are not available in the Standard/Home editions of Windows 7.

[end quote]


Sincerely yours,
/s/ Paul A. Mitchell, Instructor,
Inventor and Systems Development Consultant

All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
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# crucial vs oczAleksander1337 2011-06-15 00:13
OCz used max performance but 4k its still to low. ... so its not top vs crucial c300 and we can say c300 is top still u know why ? When OCZ made max performance vs seq they loss vs crucial in 4k mode and why we need ocz just wait when comes new disk cruciall. .. u will see u will neeed more money to spend :D
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# RE: crucial vs oczOlin Coles 2011-06-15 07:16
Your message doesn't make any sense. The OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS edition SSD outperforms all of the Crucial SSDs in every IOPS test... especially 4K read/write tests. Did you even read this review, or do you just simply like Crucial product more?
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