OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G SSD Review

We’re back with another SSD review for you today. The last OCZ Drive we looked at was the Vertex 3 240 GB. We’ve seen one other SATA 6Gb/s drive since – the Crucial M4 256 GB. Today we look at the purported IOPS powerhouse, the OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS.

First Impressions & Specifications

The packaging is just like other OCZ drives with clean aesthetics and shiny product names.

Vertex 3 Max IOPS Box

Vertex 3 Max IOPS Box

Vertex 3 Max IOPS Box Rear

Vertex 3 Max IOPS Box Rear

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G

Inside you’ll find it is packed just like their other drives as well. The 3.5″ adapter is held on the outside of the padded ‘folder’ if you will. The SSD is nestled inside in an anti-static bag and well protected.

Box Padding

Box Padding

3.5" Adapter

3.5" Adapter

Tightly Packed

Tightly Packed

I really like OCZ drives. They’re understated and elegant with just a touch of bling. The silver is actually a metallic, reflective sheen that looks nice.

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G Rear

Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240G Rear

The front of the drive doesn’t betray the capacity, which is 240 GB as you can see on the back. Wherever you mount this drive it’s going to look good for sure.

Speaking of specifications, this drive is a 240 GB model, which is the larger of two capacities available for the Vertex 3 Max IOPS series. The other option is 120 GB. They have slightly differing specifications.

OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Specifications

  • Available in 120GB and 240GB Capacities
  • MLC NAND Flash
  • Interface: SATA 6Gbps / Backwards Compatible 3Gbps
  • Native TRIM support
  • Seek Time: .1ms
  • Slim 2.5″ Design
  • 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
  • Lightweight: 77g
  • Operating Temp: 0°C ~ 70°C
  • Ambient Temp: 0°C ~ 55°C
  • Storage Temp: -45°C ~ 85°C
  • Low Power Consumption: 3W Active, 1.65W Idle
  • Shock Resistant up to 1500G
  • RAID Support
  • Included 3.5″ Desktop adapter bracket
  • Compatible with Windows 7, Vista, XP 32-bit/64-bit, Mac OSX
  • MTBF: 2 million hours
  • 3-Year Warranty

120GB Max Performance*

  • Max Read: up to 550MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 500MB/s
  • Random Read 4KB: 35,000 IOPS
  • Random Write 4KB: 75,000 IOPS
  • Maximum 4K Random Write: 85,000 IOPS

240GB Max Performance*

  • Max Read: up to 550MB/s
  • Max Write: up to 500MB/s
  • Random Read 4KB: 55,000 IOPS
  • Random Write 4KB: 65,000 IOPS
  • Maximum 4K Random Write: 85,000 IOPS*Max performance achieved using Native SATA 6Gbps chipset. Please refer to product sheet for additional performance metrics

Part Numbers

  • 120GB: VTX3MI-25SAT3-120G
  • 240GB: VTX3MI-25SAT3-240G

Rated performance differs a little bit between the two, with the 240 GB version gaining 20,000 random read IOPS and losing 10,000 write IOPS. Not that anyone will notice that difference in every day use, no matter how big the numbers may seem. Max data transfer speeds don’t change between the two.

Drive Internals

Pulling the drive apart we can see a standard SSD-shaped PCB.

Drive Opened Up

Drive Opened Up

PCB Front

PCB Front

PCB Rear

PCB Rear

This drive comes with eight chips of Toshiba MLC NAND flash and the venerable SandForce SF-2281 controller. This controller hasn’t been without its issues (to wit, this is the second drive I’ve tested – the first one died apparently from sudden SandForce death syndrome), but with the latest firmware -2.15- those issues are hopefully a thing of the past. This drive is running as a primary drive to test it right now and has been for over a week. Considering the other drive with the old firmware lasted, oh, about a day, that’s a big improvement.

Toshiba NAND Flash

Toshiba NAND Flash

SandForce SF-2281 Controller

SandForce SF-2281 Controller

Enough staring at the pretty chips though, let’s test this thing.

Test Setup

The test bed has changed over time, but results are pretty comparable across platforms. As long as you have the proper AHCI driver installed there should be very little variation. This test setup is:

  • Intel i7 2600K @ Stock
  • G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-2133 / 9-11-9-28
  • ASUS P8P67 WS Revolutiion
  • Windows 7 Professional x64
The drives compared will be the SATA II, SandForce SF-1200 based OCZ Vertex 2 120 GB and two SATA 6Gb/s drives, the OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB and Crucial M4 256 GB.

Benchmarks

(Note: The graphs below can be clicked to increase the size for clearer text.)

First up is CrystalDiskMark. You can run three different iterations of this benchmark, with random data (by far the harder of the three) and then 0Fill and 1Fill, which write only 0′s or 1′s to the drive, respectively.

CrystalDiskMark

Let’s see how the drive handles random data thrown at it.

CrystalDiskMark - Random Data

CrystalDiskMark - Random Data

When reading, the Vertex 3 and M4 are both pretty close to the Max IOPS. Only in 4K reads does the Vertex 3 come out on top, but when you saturate it with a queue depth of 32 the Max IOPS regains its top standing. When writing there is simply no comparison; the Max IOPS totally blows the other drives out of the water, though the M4 did a have a strong 4K QD32 showing.

CrystalDiskMark - 1Fill

CrystalDiskMark - 0Fill

CrystalDiskMark - 1Fill

CrystalDiskMark - 1Fill

Looking at the 0Fill tests, except for sequential reads (which went to the M4 by a nose), the Max IOPS comes out on top with all read and write categories.

1Fill tests were interesting. While the read tests stayed relatively close (with the Max IOPS out performing all of them), the write tests tanked on this drive. It’s not horrible really – the max write specification on the Max IOPS is actually lower than the vanilla Vertex 3 by 20 MB/s so this is well within specifications, it’s just surprising compared to the other tests.

AS SSD

Up next we have AS SSD, which is a nice and easy test for SSDs with a convenient scoring system.

AS SSD Speed Results

AS SSD Speed Results

Sequential and especially 4K 64Thrd read speeds are strongly in favor of the Max IOPS, with the M4 coming out on top in the 4K test. Writes are a totally different story. 4K came out on top but the other two tests lost to both SATA 6Gb/s drives.

Access Times & Scores

Access Times & Scores

Access times are also a mixed bag, but in the other direction. Read access times were slightly slower and write access times were quite a bit faster. Interestingly, the Vertex 2 had better read access times than this drive and better write access times than any of the drives.

All tests are considered when the score is calculated and the Vertex 3 Max IOPS comes out above the rest in read, write and total score.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark shows read and write tests throughout a spectrum from 1 KB to 8 MB. A graph comparing all of those data points would be entirely too large, so I’ve selected several from the field as a sample of performance across the board.

ATTO Disk Benchmark - Read Tests

ATTO Disk Benchmark - Read Tests

All but one read test (4096) came out in favor of the Max IOPS. The speeds on larger files are simply amazing as they were on the Vertex 3, but the smaller the file, the further this drive steps out in front of its competition.

ATTO Disk Benchmark - Write Tests

ATTO Disk Benchmark - Write Tests

OCZ’s Vertex 3 drives steal the show when writing. Crucial has a very strong drive, but its forte is reading, not so much when writing. The Vertex 3 (non-Max IOPS) actually edges out its more expensive sibling in several of these tests, trading blows from the bottom to the top of the spectrum.

IOMeter 2008

IOMeter is an older but very strong test of SSD capabilities. We’ll begin with Transfer Speeds.

IOMeter 4KB and 2MB Transfer Speeds

IOMeter 4KB and 2MB Transfer Speeds

It stands to reason that the Max IOPS drive (which has a strong focus on small 4KB file IOPS) would eclipse the other drives for 4K reads and writes and it does just that. Its 2MB sequential transfer speeds were slightly disappointing, losing to the vanilla Vertex 3 by a little bit in both reads and writes.

IOMeter 4KB and 2MB IOPS

IOMeter 4KB and 2MB IOPS

IOPS. 2M IOPS aren’t all that impressive, reaching near parity with the Vertex 3.

It is on 4K IOPS that these models are focused and where they shine. 87,242.51 4K Read IOPS. Yes, that’s eighty-seven thousand. It beats the rated specification by over 2,000 IOPS. That’s not just a maximum either; that’s sustained over a 180 second IOMeter run; so it actually beats its specification by 32,000 IOPS.

4K write IOPS are nothing to sneeze about either, coming in at over 79,000, which beats its rated speed by over 14,000 IOPS.

Boot Timer

Last we have a fun little bench called Boot Timer. It’s a very simple program – you run it, it asks if you want to restart. Say yes and it records the amount of time it takes to boot your system (after POST) to fully loaded status. This was a real world test of a 24/7 operating system with normal startup programs – Antivirus, Catalyst Control Center booting to Eyefinity and any number of update monitors like Adobe and Google…you know, the normal stuff that starts up on a person’s PC.

Unfortunately these aren’t comparable across systems (EarthDog’s times were lower and I guarantee he had a lighter OS install, but you’ll get the gist of what is like to switch. First up, the drive in this PC before the Vertex 3 Max IOPS – a Corsair Force Series F160, a SATA II 160 GB drive with the older SandForce SF-1200 controller.

Corsair F160 Boot Time

Corsair F160 Boot Time

As you can see, it’s already pretty speedy at a meager 17.331 seconds to boot. With all that stuff installed that really is impressive to begin with. Now, after cloning the same install, we see the Max IOPS gets….

OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Boot Time

OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS Boot Time

14.367 seconds, just a few thousandths away from a full three second gain. That’s not earth shattering and is certainly no reason to upgrade in and of itself, but it is indicative that this drive will save you time.

It’s not really feasible to perform a real world objective, timed test for every day use, but I’ve used this drive about a week now. Opening internet browsers, messing with MS Office, minor photo manipulation all felt pretty much the same as the SF-1200.

What didn’t feel the same is important to many of you – gaming. I had to perform some testing on Eyefinity with Battlefield 3 and some other game benchmarks. The difference loading games is noticeable and welcome.  Every time I loaded up BF3 it was pleasantly surprising how fast the game popped right up. While it was already fast with the SF-1200 drive, this was a palpable difference.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Fast. Really, really fast. That’s the best way to describe this drive. Its IOPS are second to none, unless you count PCIe-based drives, for which you’re also going to pay a very hefty price premium.

This drive beats out the older SATA II drive by leaps and bounds. It also lays a pretty good whoopin’ on the Crucial M4, which can keep up when reading but not nearly as much so when writing. When it comes to read and write speeds, the Vertex 3 and Vertex 3 Max IOPS are very similar and if that’s your focus they are very close to the same drive.

Then you have the IOPS, oh the IOPS. So very many IOPS! The question is – is it worth it? Well, let’s mosey on over to Newegg. Here we have the Vertex 3 240 GB drive for $439.99 ($409.99 with rebate) shipped. But what’s that you say? Just below that you see the Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240 GB drive going for $439.99 ($439.99 ($409.99 with rebate) shipped? Are you sure? Yes, indeed…the two drives are the same price.

Now, some of you may keep looking around and notice drives like the Corsair Force 3 and Mushkin Enhanced Chronos are both 240 GB, appear to have the same specifications and cost only $315. Don’t be fooled. Those drives have asynchronous NAND, which is much cheaper (and resides on OCZ’s Agility 3 at the same price point). The Vertex 3 and Vertex 3 Max IOPS have synchronous toggle NAND, which is more expensive but handles incompressible data much better than asynchronous NAND.

AS SSD and CrystalDiskMark both test incompressible data. While we don’t have either of those drives to test, our friends at Hardware Canuks did review the Force 3. If you look at their CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD results, you will see just how much of a difference that makes.

That, ladies and gentlemen, makes buying this drive a no-brainer for those that want absolute performance. It performs just as well as its vanilla counterpart and for the same price comes with IOPS that make anyone but a Revodrive owner jealous.

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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4 Comments:

Convicted1's Avatar
Great write up!
bmwbaxter's Avatar
Another great review and another great product by the looks of it.
kayson's Avatar
Nice review! I just picked up a 120GB version when it was cheaper than the vanilla Vertex 3. Worth every penny.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Thanks, and agreed...these things are incredibly fast
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