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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3
Closer Look: OCZ Agility 3 SSD
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
OCZ Agility 3 SSD Conclusion

OCZ Agility 3 SSD Review

Manufacturer: OCZ Technology Group, Inc.
Product Name: OCZ Agility 3 SATA-III 2.5" SSD
Model Numbers: 60GB: AGT3-25SAT3-60G, 120GB: AGT3-25SAT3-120G, 240GB: AGT3-25SAT3-240G
Price As Tested: 60GB: $130 Amazon/$135 Newegg, 120GB: $230 Amazon/$230 Newegg, 240GB: $485 Amazon/$480 Newegg

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by OCZ.

It might not seem like SSDs have been around very long, but OCZ has been a pioneer in the technology for almost four years already. They've traditionally offered several different options for performance enthusiasts, from economic yet responsive storage to premium high-speed enthusiast solid state drive solutions. While their Vertex series deliver the fastest SSD's available, the more affordable Agility family accommodates cost-conscious builders and comes available in 60-240GB capacities. In this article, Benchmark Reviews tests the OCZ Agility 3 SSD, model AGT3-25SAT3, which is based on the SandForce SF-2281 SATA 6Gb/s controller and IMFT-branded async-NAND flash components.

OCZ Technology first introduced their OCZ Agility series shortly after the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, which impressed consumers with an impressive blend of performance and value using the latest Indilinx Barefoot storage controller. Indilinx would go on to have a phenomenal year, and capture the consumer market with that same Barefoot controller. But market dominance is a short-lived success, and at the 2010 CES there was a new player in the market: SandForce Inc. This new company promoted the SandForce SF-1200 SSD Processor, which operated faster and more efficiently than the competition, and would be the foundation for OCZ's Agility 2 Solid State Drive. Like clockwork, OCZ debuted their next-generation enthusiast storage platform at the recent 2011 CES, and introduced their Agility-sequel to the market a short while later.

For many within the industry, SandForce was seen to control the 2010 market in much the same way that Indilinx did in 2009. The difference now is that SandForce's platform offers several technical benefits that the Indilinx platform was not capable of. Already into the Q3-2011, the landscape is approximately the same, but with some interesting new twists. OCZ Technology has recently acquired Indilinx, and while there's no word on any new project developments they've moved forward with the Agility 3 SSD based on the second-generation SandForce's SF-2281 SATA 6Gb/s controller. OCZ promises 80,000 combined IOPS from the Agility 3, with up to 525 MB/s read transfer speed. Benchmark Reviews confirms that they're keeping this promise with tests of the new storage device on a B3-stepping Sandy Bridge platform.

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. They've 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-Agility-3-SSD-AGT3-25SAT3-Angle.jpg

Even after decades of design improvements, the hard disk drive (HDD) is still the slowest component in 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 IOPS 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 (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.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3Robert17 2011-06-22 14:12
Good review Olin.
I note in your rating under "cons" that you say "some manufacturers offer 5 yr warranty"; in the section for specifications OCZ lists "5 yr consumer life cycle". Is there something I don't understand? Is there or is there not a 5 yr warranty?
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# Only 3-Year WarrantyOlin Coles 2011-06-22 14:18
ocztechnology.com/ocz-agility-3-sata-iii-2-5-ssd.html
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# Fix the imagecubebomb 2011-06-23 11:16
The title and the image are different

#i.imgur.com/2qaBU.png
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# RE: Fix the imageOlin Coles 2011-06-23 11:19
Sure enough, they are. I'll fix that right now.
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# conssadegh 2011-07-27 09:45
why dont you mention to the weak firmware & frequently hang & freeze of this bad new ssd & just advertising this!!!!!!!!!!
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# RE: consOlin Coles 2011-07-27 09:53
Did my benchmark result give you the impression that this SSD had weak firmware? Did I ever mention freezing or crashing?

I can't just make things up out of thin air; I only report what I experience first-hand.
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# RE: RE: consReza 2011-08-03 11:20
I agree with @cons!
I had a Corsair Force 3 series (120Gig) that uses this controller and for one week i tested this and re-installed windows thinking it was a driver problem or mobo or something else. I realized it was the Disk.
It didnt last more then 1-2 day or sometimes 1h before Windows froze. Also the installation refused to create the System partition on it for some reason when i had a second disk connected.
so yes this controller is very bad and i recommend people staying away from it until its confirmed its fixed.

I now use an Intel 510. It worked right away. System partition no problem, stability = rock solid.

You can find more info about my nightmare and what i tested here:
##tomshardware.co.uk/forum/294888-12-corsair-system-freeze#t2002139

Tomshardware (@jaquith) was extremely helpful and gave lots of useful tips on the matter but sadly this is a hardware issue rather then software.
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# Makes Me CryGrrr Power 2011-08-01 23:09
Loved the speed and convenience of my Agility 3.... until it crashed, and wouldn't be detected on boot. A cold power-out reboot fixed this, but this happened at least once every 24 hours.
I sent it back. Within 48 hours of my second one, the same thing. OCZ recommended upgrading the firmware. Tried it. Wouldn't work. They recommended another whole bunch of steps, but frankly, I'd just like to buy something and have it work. I already built my own system, I don't want to spend hours or days messing with this stuff.
Tried system with a different drive, worked fine. Ran my SSD in a friend's system- same result. Sent it back to my supplier.
Received a replacement. Installed it on Sunday, crashed last night. I will never buy an OCZ product again.. sorry guys.. :(
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# RE: Makes Me CryOlin Coles 2011-08-02 08:00
Thank you for reporting your experiences with this product!
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# RE: Makes Me CryReza 2011-08-03 11:21
Read what i said above and

##tomshardware.co.uk/forum/294888-12-corsair-system-freeze#t2002139

The problem is the Disk and not your pc sadly :(
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# RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3David Ramsey 2011-08-02 08:05
Gee, mine's working great. So far.
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# Machine dependent freezing....Neil 2011-09-09 01:08
Installed Ubuntu on a 60gb OCZ agility ssd installed in a Compaq mini cq10 netbook, then transferred the drive to an Acer Aspire L350. Worked fine for a day but had one or two unexpected reboots, not specifically related to playing a movie that I noticed. I don't recall if a video had been running at the time, but I was just highlighting files to copy from an external WD Passport drive at the time it first rebooted. Seemed to work excellent for several hours after that, without any other signs of problems.


Put the ssd into my netbook. Worked fine for the entire duration of visiting a friend and copying about 30 gb of files to it. Put the ssd into my Acer .... Worked fine for a few minutes, but crashed about thirty seconds to a minute into watching a video. Reboots, then same again each time. Seems to work fine until I start watching a movie. Tested whether it was just that video that caused the reboot, but it wasn't the case. Other videos did the same. So I installed a different video player. I still hung after about thirty seconds or so with a different player. Took it out of the Acer and connected it to a sata to usb adapter, with external power source..... Worked long enough to copy off the movies to the other drive. Still seems to be working as an external drive, and for the netbook, but the real # is that I bought it specifically for the acer....


I think I'm going to use it where it seems to want to work properly, namely in the netbook, and start pricing an Intel 510. I've seen other similar good reviews of the 510 to what Reza mentioned above, but I didn't bother to look into it before taking the ssd leap of faith with OCZ. I was hoping the bad press OCZ has been getting was just a vocal minority. I might be joining them.....


Something about the Ubuntu installation just doesn't like the ssd running in my Acer, but has no problems with the netbook. Next thing to try would be to reinstall with the drive in the acer, but a live usb of Ubuntu won't boot on the acer, and I don't have a cd drive at the moment, nor an install disk.

I'm going to have to get an external CD drive, and a burnt copy of Ubuntu Live before I can try that.....
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# Machine dependent freezing....Neil 2011-09-09 01:34
Ignore, or delete that last comment....

The acer just rebooted while playing 30 seconds of a video from a regular hdd. Different copy of Ubuntu, different drive... leaves only the Acer itself to blame.

Guess that I'm not going to be shopping for an Intel 510 until after I get a new machine.....

The process of elimination solved that mystery. The ssd is still working fine.

You'd think that would be good news....
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# RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3David 2011-10-14 09:53
I have an Agility 3 60GB. I've had it in my acer slim desktop for the past 12 hours and I've not had a problem. I'm currently running Windows 8 Developer's Preview build 8102 (official pre beta release) I'm pretty happy with the performance of even faster booting due to the OS and the SSD. I'll eventually get around to installing win 7.
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# RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3Howard 2012-02-13 02:54
Just pulled the trigger on buying the 120GB version of this drive. I was waiting to get my first SSD when the price went to $1.00 per MB. After reading the thorough review, (thanks Colin) and the posted feedback, I hope I'll be one of the satisfied ones. I will be doing a fresh, Windows 7, install on older hardware and will check and update the firmware immediately. I had read something on another site about the SATA driver on the motherboard and plan to get the latest BIOS and drivers as well. Thanks for the review and feedback.
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# RE: RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3Howard 2012-02-13 02:58
Sorry, Olin, for the misspelling of your name!
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# RE: RE: RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3Olin Coles 2012-02-13 07:24
It happens a lot, Howard... I curse my parents. OCZ recently published a firmware update, so it could be the last update we see for this drive for quite a while (which is a good thing). I really think you'll enjoy the SSD!
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3Howard 2012-02-13 09:07
Olin,
Thanks for the reply! I am really looking forward to the drive. I have a question, if you don't mind. I am currently running XP and am planning to install the new SSD to my systemas a second drive, temporarily, to perform the firmware update before installing Windows 7 on it. From what I read on the OCZ website it states that you can't perform the update running XP. I created an Ubuntu Linux CD and tried it out. When I downloaded the Linux firmware update instructions it looks like it is not very user friendly, (no GUI,) and may be beyond my comfort level. As a firmware update is not supposed to lose data, should I install Windows 7 on the SSD first and then upgrade the firmware? Any downside that you can think of? Thanks again for your great review of the drive and any assistance you can provide.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3Olin Coles 2012-02-13 09:16
As much as I love and miss Windows XP, I admit that it's not the best fit for a SSD. I highly suggest Windows 7, if not for the added TRIM garbage collection and improved AHCI support, at least have it for DirectX 11 graphics support in games. As for the firmware update, the Linux version is actually pretty easy if you follow the instructions. Please visit the OCZ forum for more details and firmware update guides.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: OCZ Agility 3 SSD AGT3-25SAT3Howard 2012-02-13 09:23
I don't plan to use the SSD on XP, only to upgrade the firmware and then load 7. If it's important to upgrade the firmware before loading 7, I will follow your advice and try to muddle through the Linux steps and see what happens. I had read about trim, etc, and know that it is not supported in XP. Defrag turned off as well! Thanks again!
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# Easier if SSD is not the boot driveBruce Bruce 2012-02-13 09:22
Are you hooking the OCZ Agility up as a secondary drive in a running system? I've had the best luck doing it that way....
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# RE: Easier if SSD is not the boot driveHoward 2012-02-13 09:26
Bruce Bruce, Yes, but only to upgrade the firmware. Then I am planning to do a fresh install of Windows 7 with a standard drive to hold programs and data.
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