OCZ Vertex 2 120GB SSD Review

Today we’ll be looking at the OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB SSD, which will go head-to-head with the Patriot Inferno 100 GB. Will the Vertex 2 be able to extinguish the flaming Inferno? Read on to find out!

Specifications & Features

Straight from OCZ, here are the specifications & features. Take special note of the 4 KB aligned random write IOPS.

Specifications

  • Max Read: 285 MB/s
  • Max Write: 275 MB/s
  • 4 KB Random Write (Aligned): 50,000 IOPS

Key Features

  • Implements SandForce 1200 Controller with Max IOPS Firmware
  • Cost-effective 34 nm MLC flash with enhanced reliability
  • 13% over-provisioning for optimal performance and endurance
  • SandForce controller makes MLC flash viable for some enterprise applications
  • Improved Small File Random Write IOPS: 50,000 versus 10,000 (4 KB Aligned)
  • Bundled with 3.5” mounting bracket for desktops

These specifications are pretty standard for a typical SandForce controlled SSD until you see that 50,000 number. You see, OCZ and SandForce have a nice little deal going. Except for the Corsair SandForce drives (which use a release candidate version of the SandForce firmware), OCZ is the only manufacturer with these kind of small-file random write numbers. They are the only company running the firmware as sanctioned by SandForce (those tidbits come courtesy of Anandtech.)

When the Vertex 2 first came out, it used 28% over-provisioning like the Patriot Inferno we reviewed previously. Since then they have switched to a new firmware with only 13% overprovisioning, giving you more space for the same total MLC flash area. For more detail on that, check out this Anandtech article.

With specifications like that, it should beat out the Inferno on the write side of things for sure.

The Drive

It’s certainly a well packaged drive. Encased in protective foam inside what looks like a little SSD book, it will survive the trip no problem.

Vertex 2 Box

Vertex 2 Box

Rear of the Box

Rear of the Box

Box Angled

Box Angled

Contents Removed

Contents Removed

The Book o' Vertex 2

The Book o' Vertex 2

Well Protected Drive

Well Protected Drive

As the feature list tells us, the drive ships with a 3.5″ adapter. These are pretty standard with only the logo changing between the Patriot & OCZ drives.

Bracket With Screws

Bracket With Screws

Bracket Rear

Bracket Rear

Bracket Front

Bracket Front

The drive is finished in matt black with a silver and black sticker featuring some white text. Definitely understated, but elegant in its own way. The bottom-mount screws on SSDs are great for modders who want to make their own panel to show off their drives.

OCZ Vertex 2 120G

OCZ Vertex 2 120G

Drive Rear

Drive Rear

After voiding the warranty, we can see the internals of the drive. It uses MLC flash with a SandForce SF-1222 controller.

Drive Internals

Drive Internals

SandForce Controller

SandForce Controller

Inside and out, the Vertex 2 certainly looks good. Let’s get it into our test bed and see what it’s made of!

Test System & Methodology

Since I first put the Inferno to the test, I’ve learned a lot about testing SSDs. To keep everything on an even keel I’ve come up with what I think are a decent set of best practices to follow throughout testing these devices in the future. As this is a new methodology I had to test the Inferno again, so you’ll notice some numbers differ from the prior article; this is all in the effort to present as fair a comparison as possible. The method I now follow:

  • First off, AS Cleaner is horrible and does not do what it says it does. There was (and currently is) no known manual TRIM program for the SandForce-based drives, that one included.
  • In order to ensure the drive is absolutely clear, you need to give it a complete secure erase. The method I used appears to have disappeared from its server, but you can see the cached version here. All you need is a little common sense and a Linux LiveCD. I used Ubuntu 10.04 because I had a copy laying around.
  • The rest of the methodology is simple -
    • Boot up into Ubuntu & securely erase the drive.
    • Restart into Windows.
    • Run benchmark (sometimes formatting it first is necessary, depending on the bench).
    • Restart into Ubuntu & securely erase the drive.
    • Repeat ad nauseam.

Test System

CPU: AMD Phenom II x6 1075T
Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair IV Formula
Chipset: Northbridge: 890FX, Southbridge: SB850
RAM: G.Skill Flare Series
OS: Windows 7 Professional x64
Driver: The latest AHCI driver from AMD

Benchmarks

AS SSD

AS SSD is one of the most consistent click-it-and-forget it SSD benchmarks. Regularly they are within one or two points of each other with multiple runs.

AS SSD Benchmark (Read Tests)

Drive
Sequential
4K
4K-64Thrd
Acc. Time
Score
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
205.71
21.03
123.84
0.061
165
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
206.17
18.53
119.37
0.078
159

AS SSD Benchmark (Write Tests)

Drive
Sequential
4K
4K-64Thrd
Acc. Time
Score
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
131.67
66.56
93.09
0.229
173
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
133.41
65.96
107.93
0.521
187

AS SSD Benchmark Score

Drive
Total Score
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
428
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
431

Looks like the Inferno comes out slightly ahead when reading, but the Vertex 2 beats it when writing, giving the overall score to the Vertex 2.

CrystalDiskMark

There are three ways to test with Crystal Disk Mark. The first is by having the test throw random data at the drive. This is a bit tougher on the drives than the other options, which are to write simply all ones or all zeros.

CrystalDiskMark x64 (Random Data – Read Tests)

Drive
Sequential
512K
4K
4K QD32
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
214.2
203.1
21.47
128.3
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
213.0
201.3
19.26
128.5

CrystalDiskMark x64 (Random Data – Write Tests)

Drive
Sequential
512K
4K
4K QD32
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
140.1
137.4
75.83
65.10
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
142.0
139.5
72.25
123.8

The Vertex 2 continues to show its write strength. This firmware definitely helps out a ton in that regard. It’s also good enough to keep on the Inferno’s heels when reading but not quite enough to surpass it.

CrystalDiskMark x64 (0Fill – Read Tests)

Drive
Sequential
512K
4K
4K QD32
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
274.0
259.4
25.06
143.2
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
273.1
257.8
23.35
136.5

CrystalDiskMark x64 (0Fill – Write Tests)

Drive
Sequential
512K
4K
4K QD32
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
258.4
254.3
73.0
42.95
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
255.2
250.6
73.76
163.8

CrystalDiskMark x64 (1Fill – Read Tests)

Drive
Sequential
512K
4K
4K QD32
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
274.1
258.7
25.02
142.5
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
272.9
258.4
23.41
133.4

CrystalDiskMark x64 (1Fill – Write Tests)

Drive
Sequential
512K
4K
4K QD32
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
258.1
254.7
73.47
42.95
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
255.5
250.9
71.98
164.9

I think we can all see a pattern developing here. Reads: Inferno, Writes: Vertex 2. What you’ll notice is the huge disparity in the 4K QD32 tests with OCZ delivering an impressive performance every time.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO is an oldie but a goody, but with the ability to increase its queue depth to 10 it’s still a viable test for SSDs. These drives prefer a queue depth of up to 32, but we take what we can get.

ATTO - Patriot Inferno 100G

ATTO - Patriot Inferno 100G

ATTO - OCZ Vertex 2 120G

ATTO - OCZ Vertex 2 120G

Same story, different bench, at least with 4 K writes. The Inferno puts up some stout numbers here and beats the Vertex 2 in most other categories. The difference isn’t much but is definitely evident in ATTO.

Iometer

The gold standard of SSD testing, Iometer takes a bit more finesse to run. In learning about benching SSDs between my first SSD review and this one, I’ve found the most important aspect of all is setting the number of threads.

Previously (even in the Inferno re-bench), the threads were left at default, meaning the drive was only being benched with one. Now that I’m a little older and a bit wiser, now they are benched at 32. Thus, the numbers below for the Inferno differ from both previous articles.

Iometer 4K Random Read

Drive
IOPS
MB/s

Avgerage I/O

Response Time

Maximum I/O

Response Time

CPU Utilization
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
42768.71
167.07
0.7479 ms
32.1463 ms
10.20%
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
43608.98
170.35
0.7334 ms
84.6327 ms
10.58%

Iometer 4K Random Write

Drive
IOPS
MB/s

Avgerage I/O

Response Time

Maximum I/O

Response Time

CPU Utilization
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
10695.58
41.78
2.9915 ms
38.3816 ms
4.57%
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
40612.55
158.64
0.7876 ms
44.3103 ms
17.38%

Ahh, so the Vertex 2 can read faster, it just needs the right bench. Writes show an astonishing 4x increase in IOPS thanks to the firmware. All that write ability does take a toll on CPU utilization, but hardly anything to be concerned about.

Iometer 2MB Sequential Read

Drive
IOPS
MB/s

Avgerage I/O

Response Time

Maximum I/O

Response Time

CPUUtilization
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
134.42
268.85
237.9708 ms
242.0954 ms
1.00%
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
134.48
268.96
237.8712 ms
261.6163 ms
2.36%

Iometer 2MB Sequential Write

Drive
IOPS
MB/s

Avgerage I/O

Response Time

Maximum I/O

Response Time

CPUUtilization
Patriot Inferno 100 GB
125.59
251.7
254.6443 ms
284.9984 ms
2.46%
OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
125.11
250.21
255.6329 ms
299.3821 ms
1.27%

The 2 MB Sequential performance is entirely too close to call. They’re both Sandforce-based drives with MLC NAND flash and they both read and write 2MB almost identically.

Boot Time

Finally, there is this fun little application called Boot Timer. It’s easy as can be; you double-click on it and it restarts your computer while timing how long it takes for the OS to boot and startup programs to load. On the left is the Inferno and on the right is the Vertex 2.

Patriot Inferno Boot Time

Patriot Inferno Boot Time

OCZ Vertex 2 Boot Time

OCZ Vertex 2 Boot Time

Just barely, by less than a second (0.828 seconds to be precise), the Vertex 2 comes out ahead.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Straight down to the nitty gritty, here are all the benchmarks complied into read & write graphs:

Read Tests

Test Patriot Inferno 100 GB OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
AS SSD X
CrystalDiskMark
(Random Data)
X
CrystalDiskMark
(0Fill and 1Fill)
X
ATTO Disk Benchmark X
Iometer 4K Random X
Iometer 2M Sequential X X
Total Score 5 2

Write Tests

Test Patriot Inferno 100 GB OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB
AS SSD X
CrystalDiskMark
(Random Data)
X
CrystalDiskMark
(0Fill and 1Fill)
X
ATTO Disk Benchmark X
Iometer 4K Random X
Iometer 2M Sequential X X
Total Score 1 6

OCZ’s Vertex 2 is a very solid SandForce-based drive, made even stronger by its proprietary firmware. That arrangement appears to be very kind to OCZ.

The Vertex 2 120G currently sells for $229.99 with free shipping. The Patriot Inferno 120G is selling for $249.99, but with a mail in rebate (and we all know how fun those can be) that is reduced to $214.99 (though no free shipping).

With read speeds that just barely fall behind the Inferno but write speeds that absolutely decimate it with the ever important 4KB metric, the Vertex 2 gets my vote. Paying $15 for roughly an extra 30,000 4K write IOPS is certainly worth every penny. If you consider the retail prices, the choice is a no-brainer – OCZ all the way.

-Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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Discussion
  1. SeanOMatic
    It happens.

    I abuse the crap out of our SSD's and have yet to break one or have it go bad.

    It can happen, though. Hence a 3 Year Warranty. Did you get in touch with our support department for an RMA?


    it got an RMA from newegg. got a new one in the mail this week, setting it up tonight!
    Another excellent review Jeremy, your meticulousness attention to detail makes your reviews such a value added addition to this forums, I also like the hunourous bits that balance trhe technical threads.
    Nice review man.

    I installed this drive about a week ago and boy does it preform. Everything seems to be faster on terms of load time and general disk operation. Windows loads in like 2.2s lol/
    I got the same 120 reviewed. I think it's faster than my old Intel 40 GB, But I sure like the room 120 gives me.

    Nice writeup, glad my purchase was validated.

    Ohh, Newegg, $207 shipped after MIR.
    creecher
    I'm not trying to rain on a parade here, but mine failed in 2 weeks. Trying again though!


    It happens.

    I abuse the crap out of our SSD's and have yet to break one or have it go bad.

    It can happen, though. Hence a 3 Year Warranty. Did you get in touch with our support department for an RMA?
    Very nicely written, hokie!

    These drives just keep getting better. They are at last big enough to install the OS plus most major applications. I think when a drive of this size and performance gets down to $100 to $150, we'll really be in the sweet spot. (Wish I had the moola for one!:))
    MattNo5ss
    I don't know how you find time to do all of these reviews. Just dedication I suppose.

    I actually just bought a 50GB Vertex 2 today for $115, hope it performs as well.


    It's fun. I just really enjoy seeing what hardware can do. :salute:

    Congrats on the acquisition, if this is your first SSD, you're going to be amazed!

    EarthDog
    Another well written article!!!

    Just note, even with its ATTO's Queue Depth 'limitation' OCZ does state to use that test to make sure you are getting the 'advertised' speeds. The other tests as Tony over there put it, are worst case scenarios. :shrug:


    Interesting comments about ATTO. It did quite well; they both did. The Inferno just out-did the Vertex 2 in that one. :)

    bing
    Thanks Hokie for the review ! :thup:

    Btw, if you had a chance, could you do raid 0 benchmark with both Vertex 2 and the Patriot Inferno, really interested at the result especially at that SB850 Southbridge.


    It's possible, but not with the reviews currently on my plate. We're talking next year before I can get to it; sorry it can't be sooner.

    creecher
    I'm not trying to rain on a parade here, but mine failed in 2 weeks. Trying again though!


    Not raining on my parade for sure. This drive has been going strong for over a month now. Even after taking that beating of erase/pummel with random data/erase/pummel cycle it's purring along nicely.

    Some failures are inevitable no matter how good the QC is. Hope your second drive treats you as well as this one has treated me so far!

    To all - thanks for the kind words!
    Thanks Hokie for the review ! :thup:

    Btw, if you had a chance, could you do raid 0 benchmark with both Vertex 2 and the Patriot Inferno, really interested at the result especially at that SB850 Southbridge.
    Another well written article!!!

    Just note, even with its ATTO's Queue Depth 'limitation' OCZ does state to use that test to make sure you are getting the 'advertised' speeds. The other tests as Tony over there put it, are worst case scenarios. :shrug:
    Another great review by hokie :thup:

    I don't know how you find time to do all of these reviews. Just dedication I suppose.

    I actually just bought a 50GB Vertex 2 today for $115, hope it performs as well.
    Thanks!

    For anyone that has already read this, I just updated it with one bench I forgot to include - BootTimer. Less than two hours after it was published I'm not too concerned that a lot of people will have missed it, but just so you know.