IMG 7515 OCZ Vertex 3 240GB Review: Super Speed Demon

We take the OCZ Vertex 3 240GB for a test drive – and break some SATA speed limits along the way.

Many of you will be familiar with the SandForce SF-1200 series controllers that powered many solid state drives, most notably the OCZ Vertex 2. After a run of more than a year, SandForce has released the SF-2200 series. Once again, the OCZ Vertex 3 will be the first SF-2200 drive on the market, due to OCZ's agreement with SandForce.

The new controller incorporates the features of the previous generation such as DuraWrite and RAISE, and adds SATA 6Gbps support. Also new are AES-256 and 128 TCG Opal support for full drive encryption. SandForce has also released the SF-2100, a lower-end part that is identical in every respect except for the lack of SATA 6Gbps support. It is no surprise that the SF-2100 will suffer severely from an interface bottleneck. Based on SandForce's specifications, a SF-2100 drive would improve only on random performance compared to the SF-1200. We have yet to see any SF-2100 drives, but regardless we'll simulate SF-2100 performance in our tests by attaching the OCZ Vertex 3 to a SATA 3Gbps port.

SSD Processor: SF-2200 SF-2100 SF-1200
Host Interface: SATA 6Gb/s SATA 3Gb/s SATA 3Gb/s
Sequential Read/Write Performance: Up to 500/500 MB/s Up to 250/250 MB/s Up to 250/250 MB/s
Random Read/Write Performance: Up to 60K/20K IOPS Up to 60K/20K IOPS Up to 30K/10K IOPS
Supported Flash Classes: SLC/MLC 30nm, 20nm SLC/MLC 30nm, 20nm SLC/MLC 50nm, 40nm, 30nm
Flash Interface: Asynch, Toggle
ONFi2 (up to 166MT)
Asynch, Toggle
ONFi2 (up to 166MT)
Asynch, ONFi1 (up to 50MT)
ECC Protection: Up to 55 bits/512B Up to 55 bits/512B Up to 24 bits/512B
Security: AES-256 & 128 TCG Opal (optional) Double encryption AES-256 & 128 TCG Opal (optional) Double encryption AES-128
Capacity: Up to 512GB* Up to 512GB* Up to 512GB*
Package: 400-Pin TFBGA (14×[email protected])   256-Pin TFBGA (14×[email protected]) 256-Pin TFBGA (14×[email protected]) 361-Pin TFBGA (13×[email protected]

We'll be testing the 240GB model of the OCZ Vertex 3. At release, OCZ will also have 240GB and 480GB models. Everything smaller has been dropped from the lineup.

  OCZ Vertex 3 OCZ Vertex 2 (34nm)
Capacity 120GB 240GB 120GB 240GB
Max Read (SATA 6Gbps) 550MB/s 550MB/s N/A N/A
Max Read (SATA 3Gbps) 280MB/s 280MB/s 280MB/s 280MB/s
Max Write (SATA 6Gbps) 500MB/s 520MB/s N/A N/A
Max Write (SATA 3Gbps) 260MB/s 260MB/s 270MB/s 270MB/s
4KB Random Read 75MB/s 155MB/s 135MB/s 135MB/s
4KB Random Write 235MB/s 235MB/s 195MB/s 195MB/s
RAW Capacity 128GB 256GB 128GB 256GB
IDEMA Capacity 120GB 240GB 120GB 240GB

Specifications for the 120GB and 240GB drives are fairly similar, except for large gulf in 4KB random read speed. Unfortunately we don't have a 120GB model with us today, so we can't see just how much the performance difference is in real-world scenarios.

You may recall the uproar that occured when OCZ quietly replaced the Intel 34nm NAND on the Vertex 2 with Intel 25nm parts. Well, 34nm is gone for good, and you'll only see 25nm on the Vertex 3. 25nm NAND is rated to last 3000-5000 program/erase cycles. This is a significant step down from the 10000 cycles provided by 50nm NAND in days of yore. Still, with smart handling of writes, this should be enough for desktop users.

OCZ has also opted to keep RAISE enabled even though it is optional on SandForce's consumer level controllers, so the usable capacity is less than the raw flash capacity. For those of you unfamiliar with SandForce controllers, RAISE reserves one NAND chip as a spare for bad block remapping in the event of NAND failure elsewhere on the drive.

The Drive

The OCZ Vertex 3 is outwardly similar to the Vertex 2. The retail package also includes a 3.5" mounting adapter.

IMG 7507 OCZ Vertex 3 240GB Review: Super Speed Demon

The Vertex 3 we received uses 25nm Intel NAND. Both sides of the PCB are filled, with a total of sixteen 128Gbit parts.

IMG 7511 OCZ Vertex 3 240GB Review: Super Speed Demon

IMG 7517 OCZ Vertex 3 240GB Review: Super Speed Demon

Test Setup

The following setup was used for this review:

Motherboard Gigabyte H67A-UD3H
Processor Intel Core i3-2100 (EIST, C-State disabled)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 2000
Power Supply Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
Drivers Intel Chipset Drivers 9.2.0.1030
Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.5.0.1027

For the SATA 3Gbps simulation tests, the OCZ Vertex 3 was connected to the Intel H67 chipset's SATA 3Gbps ports.