OCZ Vector 180 240GB SSD Review

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Today we get a chance to review OCZ’s latest enthusiast-level drive in the Vector 180 240GB. OCZ boasts the Vector series of drives is the “be-all and end-all of feature sets for the most demanding of users who won’t settle for anything but the best.” We will take a look at the feature set, check out the drive performance, and see how it stacks up to the competition.

Specifications and Features

Taking a look at the list below, we see the OCZ Vector 180 we have for review is the 240GB model, SATA3 6GB/s drive (as we would have guessed!). It’s controller is the Barefoot 3 M00 variation. This controller runs at 397 MHz while the lower M10 used in the Arc 100 and some 460 models, is clocked at 325 Mhz. OCZ finally made the switch in the Vector line to the newer 19nm MLC flash. This NAND is of course made by Toshiba who about a year and a half ago acquired OCZ. I would imagine we will continue to see their NAND in OCZ drives moving forward.

One feature that stuck out to me is the MTBF data of 2.3 million hours which is a holy ton and the most I recall seeing on a consumer-level drive. The NAND itself can handle 50GB/day host writes for 5 years under “typical client workloads.” Also a holy ton. So barring any premature failures, we should be able to pound on this SSD for years. Excellent!

Performance-wise, sequential reads and writes come in at a enthusiast-level 550MB/s reads, and 530MB/s writes for this model. The 120GB model has slower writes at 450MB/s. Random reads and writes come in at 95,000 and 90,000 IOPS respectively for the 240GB model we have, while the 120GB is a bit slower (85K/90K), and the higher capacity drives a bit faster (100K/95K). Not listed here, nor do we test for that at the moment, are sustained writes which come in at 20K.

See the list below for more details:

OCZ Vector 180 240GB SSD Specifications
Capacity 240GB
Interface SATA III 6GB/s (backward compatible with SATA II)
Controller Barefoot 3 M00
Flash 19nm Multi-Level Cell (MLC) Flash
Form Factor 2.5 inch, 7mm height (fits ultra-thin notebooks)
Dimensions 99.7 x 69.75 x 7mm
MTBF 2.3 million hours
Sequential Read/Write Speed (6GB/s) 550/530 MB/s
Max random 4K Read/Write 95,000/90,000 IOPS
Data Path Protection BCH ECC corrects up to 44 random bits/1KB
Encryption 256-bit AES compliant
Endurance 50GB/day host writes for 5 years under typical client workloads
Additional Reliability Power Failure Management Plus (PFM+) helps prevent ‘brick drive syndrome’ that can occur during sudden power losses
Included Software Acronis® True Image HD cloning software registration key (current version compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8)
Service & Support 5-Year ShieldPlus Warranty, Toll-Free Tech Support, 24 Hour Forum Support, Firmware Updates

Below is a list of features and a couple of slides from the OCZ Review/Media kit. A key feature worth noting is the Power Failure Management+ (PFM+) power loss protection which helps to prevent “brick drive syndrome” that can happen during sudden power losses for “at rest” data. On the fly data would not be protected.

OCZ also states that their firmware helps keep your drive at higher sustained performance over the long term compared to other SSDs on the market. Along those lines, this drive has an endurance rating of over 50GB/day of hosts writes for 5 years. So feel free to write on the drive to your hearts content.

And if the drive ends up borking, it is protected by their OCZ ShieldPlus Warranty. This warranty claims to be a industry leading hassle-free experience. All you need to do is provide your serial number (no purchase receipt required) to begin the process. Once it is determined to be defective, you get a brand new SSD. OCZ sends you a pre-paid return shipping label, and cross ships your new drive to minimize down time. That has to be one of the better RMA policies I have seen on SSDs.

The drive also comes with Acronis True Image HD (2013) cloning software to help transfer data from your HDD or other SSD. I have used Acronis well before it was packaged with OCZ drives and is my preferred cloning/data migration software. It’s simple to use and has enough options for most users, so this is a really nice value add.

Below are a list of features sourced from the OCZ Website:

icopfm Power Loss Protection
Power Failure Management Plus (PFM+) helps prevent ‘brick drive syndrome’ that can occur during sudden power losses
icopropritry Proprietary
Proprietary OCZ Barefoot 3 controller technology combined with the latest Toshiba A19nm flash
icostdyst Lasting Performance
Advanced firmware suite of NAND flash management keeps your drive at higher sustained performance over the long term comparing to competing solutions
icovaluadd Added Value
Bundled with 3.5” desktop adapter and Acronis® True Image™ cloning software to easily transfer data from your old hard drive or SSD
icoendrnce Endurance King
Excellent endurance rating at 50GB/day of host writes for 5 years perfect for power user applications and workloads
icomxdwrkld Superior Mixed Workload Performance
Excels in both incompressible and compressible data types such as multimedia, encrypted data, .ZIP files and software
icoslim Ultra Slim
Sleek housing offers slimmer 7mm z-height for compatibility with the ultra-thin notebooks
icosecure Secure
Superior reliability with in-house technology and high quality components based on the latest technology
icoshieldwrrnty

OCZ’s ShieldPlus Warranty

An industry-leading approach to service that eliminates all the hassle surrounding support and warranty claims consumers may have to deal with. NO shipping costs and NO hassle. (Currently available only for USA, European Union and Taiwan)

Below are a few slides from the media kit that go over some of the specifications and features mentioned above in perhaps a bit more detail.

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Packaging/Product Tour

The retail packaging is the ever familiar rectangle box just large enough to hold the drive and any goodies it may come with. The front for the OCZ Vector box is a simple black background with a picture of the drive on it. The model and capacity are listed across the bottom. If you turn the package over, you are greeted with some specifications and features. As always, not much on the sides but branding.

When you open up the package, you get to see the drive resting snug in clam shell packaging with the 3.5″ adapter sitting below it and a couple of mounting screws. There are included instructions as well as the Acronis key.

Retail Packaging - Front

Retail Packaging – Front

Back

Back

Alternate angle

Alternate angle

Inside the box

Inside the box

The Drive

Looking at the drive itself, there isn’t anything too flashy. It’s an SSD, so really does it need to be?! We see the now familiar OCZ light blue and white offset lines gracing the front of the drive with the OCZ brand to the right. The Vector 180 Solid State Drive naming is there as well. The back of the drive holds the SKU and serial number information. Here we can also see the standard SATA3 6GB/s connector along with SATA power all in the 7mm form factor, which can fit ultra thin laptops. After holding the drive for a bit, I have to say we have reviewed a few drives here at Overclockers.com and this one, and most of the OCZs I played with, are really the heaviest and feel the most sturdy. Not that anyone drives cars over these things, but was something I felt worth noting.

OCZ Vector 180 - Front

OCZ Vector 180 – Front

Back

Back

Alternate

Alternate

Other Side Alternate

Other Side Alternate

OCZ Vector 180

OCZ Vector 180

Close up

When we take apart the drive and expose the innards, we can see a full sized PCB, our first glimpse of the Toshiba A19nm NAND, and some thermal tape covering the Indilinx made Barefoot 3 controller (M00, the faster flavor). As mentioned earlier, this one works at 397 MHz versus the more budget/performance oriented OCZ ARC series using a different bin and running at 352MHz.

You can also catch a glimpse of the 256MB (512MB total – one on each side of the PCB) DDR3 cache memory. The Toshiba NAND is A19nm MLC. As we mentioned earlier these are said to handle a huge 50GB /day host writes for 5 years. An incredible amount of data that most people will never touch on a daily basis/average.

What is Inside?

What is Inside?

Why it's Toshiba A19 NAND!

Why it’s Toshiba A19 NAND!

PCB Only - Controller side

PCB Only – Controller side

Back

Back

Indillinix Barefoot 3 M00 Controller

Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 Controller

Software

Below is the OCZ Software, SSD Guru. This software is your new ‘OCZ Toolbox’ folks! SSD Guru feels much more refined than the previous software and gives you all kinds of information about your drive, from its SMART data, ability to manually over-provision the drive, send the TRIM command out, to used capacity. You can also Secure Erase and update the firmware through the utility. The Vector 180 is running on the factory firmware with no updates, but I did however update a Vector 460 with it successfully. Overall it is a pretty large improvement over the original OCZ Toolbox as far as looks and even functionality.

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Testing and Benchmarks

Test System

Here is the breakdown of the components used in our test bed:

Test System Components
Motherboard ASRock Z97m OC Formula
CPU Intel i7 4790K Devil’s Canyon @ 4 GHz
Memory Kingston Hyper X Predator 2666MHz CL 15 @ 1866 9-9-9-24
SSD OCZ Vector 180 240GB
Power Supply Seasonic 1000P
Video Card MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G

SSDs used for comparison: Samsung 850 Pro, Samsung 850 EVO, OCZ ARC 100, Samsung 840 Pro and Patriot Ignite.

Test Method

Each SSD is Secure Erased (SE) by formatting the drive after each benchmark to make sure we get the best results possible. We do this before each and every test run to give the comparison samples the best environment possible for testing. Below are the tests we run with a brief description.

  • Crystal Disk Mark – Run at Default Settings (5 Pass)
  • AS SSD – Run at Default Settings
  • ATTO – Run at Default Setting with QD Set to 10
  • IoMeter 2010 – Ran Manually with QD32 for the 4K Tests

Performance/Results

Our first benchmark is CrystalDiskMark. Here in the default random data test, the OCZ Vector 180 does it job and beats the ARC in sequential reads, but falls behind the rest of the field by a fair margin. The 512K length reads show the Vector coming in a surprising last place, with the same in 4K writes too. The QD32 results didn’t fare much better but it did beat the ARC again. Curious results considering the focus on 4K and particularly its mention of sustained writes being superior. I assumed, wrongly, that it would have been right up at the top here.

Moving on to the writes, the 180 makes a strong comeback beating the ARC 100, and falling only slightly behind the rest of the pack. In 512K reads, the Vector comes in second, while putting up a decent showing in 4K writes falling in the middle of the pack. The QD32 has it right up there fighting for one of the top spots. A much better performance here.

CrystalDiskMark - Reads

CrystalDiskMark – Reads

Writes

Writes

Next up is AS SSD where the Vector 180 is again just a bit behind the pack, but beating the ARC 100 out pretty easily in sequential reads. Moving down to 4K reads, again the Vector 180 surprisingly brings up the rear but then bounces back a bit in the 4K-64Thrd test.

Writes in AS SSD has the Vector performing well with the rest of the drives, but getting kicked around in 4K writes here. However, the 4K 64Thrd shows up fighting for first again. It seems it performs best when the queue depth is higher.

Access times were a bit slower than the pack and I can’t pinpoint why that would be, but it was repeatable after secure erases so it is what it is on this test bed. Wrapping up AS SSD is the overall score where the familiar story of it beating the ARC and falling a bit behind the pack pops up yet again.

AS SSD - Reads

AS SSD – Reads

Writes

Writes

Access Times

Access Times

Scores

Scores

Good old IOMeter shows just about the same story throughout the tests. We see it generally beating the ARC as it should, and for the most part, pretty close to its competitors except in 4K reads. The 2MB and 4K IOPS are in line with what we have seen earlier while the 4K comes in a little low from its ratings, with the write IOPS hitting 88k, and reads at 75k. Both are a bit low from the 95K/90K they mention, but those values are from a different application according to their media kit.

IOMeter - 2MB/4K R/W

IOMeter – 2MB/4K R/W

2MB IOPS

2MB IOPS

4K IOPS

4K IOPS

ATTO results show higher than the factory ratings in this highly compressible best case type situation, so we are good in this test. About the only other thing I can take away from this is that it seems to ramp up a bit slow.

ATTO - Reads

ATTO – Reads

Writes

Writes

Conclusion

Wrapping things up in this review, we can see that the Vector is a solid performer, but not at the top for a lot of the benchmarks we run. This drive though is no slouch. To be fair, most users would be hard pressed to know it tested a bit slower without benchmarking the drive anyway. The trusty old ‘butt-dyno’ knows this thing is fast!

OCZ has packed in a lot of great features including the PFM+ (Power Fail Management) to help prevent bricked drives due to power loss, 2.3 million hours MTBF, and 50GB host writes per day on the Toshiba A19 NAND. Not to mention their ShieldPlus warranty, which takes the pain out of the RMA process by giving you return postage and cross shipping to minimize down time. Last but not least is the inclusion of Acronis True Image Home 2013 software to help migrate data and backing up of the drive. Overall, a very useful feature set.

Pricing on the OCZ 180 240GB comes in at $139.99 at newegg.com. If you look at the enthusiast/performance level drive in the roundup, the Samsung 850 Pro at $159.99, we are priced right for the performance and features set. The Patriot Ignite throws things off a bit with its large 480GB capacity coming in at $180. Even so, where it is placed in the market the price is more than fair for what you get out of this drive. If you are looking for a performance oriented drive, with good write life (particularly sustained), and a great warranty, look no further than the OCZ Vector 180 line, folks. This SSD is Overclockers.com approved!

Overclockers_clear_approved

– Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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Discussion
  1. Thanks Joe, good review.:thup:
    If memory serves me, it's only been a couple of years ago that an SSD running at the through-put levels of all the drives compared in your review would have been considered bleeding edge, now just hanging with the pack. How quickly this product group has matured........