OCZ Vector 256GB Review (Page 2 of 10)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Installation, Test System

As always, before we move onto the fancy technical details about OCZ's new flagship solid state drive based on the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller, let's briefly discuss the physical attributes of this SSD first. The OCZ Vector 256GB is actually quite different compared to anything we have seen in the past. Featuring rounded corners and a large label reminiscent of its packaging that covers the entire front surface, the OCZ Vector is actually a really good looking SSD to look at. The blue label on top of the flat aluminum cover is present to ensure the user will make no mistake that this is an OCZ Vector drive. What can I say? Their shift in focus from making just the fastest drives in the market to the best drives in the market in terms of speed, reliability, and durability starts off with a new look. Cool.

Measuring in at 99.7 x 69.75 x 7 mm, its thickness -- or lack thereof -- will ensure wide compatibility. That said, it is a bit heavier than other SSDs though, with a manufacturer's specification of a rather porky 115g. OCZ Vector drives will have no problems fitting into your laptop hard disk bay if you want to boost mobile computing performance. That said, I would still like to see a spacer included for those who have 9.5mm bay openings. On the other hand, if you want to use it in your desktop and your chassis has no 2.5" mount, then you are in luck -- as usual, a 3.5" adapter bracket is included right out of the box, so you can easily install this SSD in any standard desktop internal drive bay. This makes the Vector quite convenient to deploy in either environments for the end user. My only complaint is that the screw holes on the 3.5" adapter bracket is slightly smaller compared to the ones found on standard 3.5" hard drive, so if you need to use any other screws other than the ones provided by OCZ (Such as, if your are installing the Vector into a 3.5" drive bay that require screws provided by your chassis manufacturer due to use of vibration dampeners) then you will need to find your own solution.

Turning the SSD around reveals a flat metal backplate. This is something users will come to expect from a solid state drive, as there are no exposed printed circuit boards like you would normally see with a traditional hard disk. The only thing that is common between the OCZ Vector 256GB SSD and a traditional hard disk drive is its SATA 6Gb/s and corresponding power connector at the end. As shown in our photo above, you will find a large label with the usual series of certification logos, along with information on the brand, capacity, and serial number. In case you missed it, our particular unit is the OCZ Vector 256GB, haha. As with all OCZ SSDs, they are all made in Taiwan, and this one is no exception.

OCZ Vector 256GB has a separate top and bottom plate, and is attached to the metal frame by four small screws on each panel. Mine did not have a warranty seal over it, but a bit of CSI-like investigation revealed some glue over one of the screws. As such, it is reasonable to assume one of the screws will have a warranty seal over it; someone just ripped mine out before sending it over. Therefore, in order to take a peek inside the SSD, you will have to inevitably void your five year warranty. To save you some trouble, I cracked mine open to take some photos of its internals for you to see. And by doing so, it is unsurprising to find how simple an SSD is inside compared to a traditional HDD. As always, you will find a small OCZ designed green printed circuit board, and that is it. Of course, there is more than what that meets the eye. The heart of OCZ's Vector 256GB is the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller. Yep, it is not a SandForce SF-2281 or an Indilinx Everest 2 chip. As the drive controller is fundamentally very important to any SSD, let's dig more into the details of its brain.

To go back into a little bit of history, OCZ purchased Indilinx for $32 million in March of 2011. Prior to this, while OCZ has been designing and building their own PCBs, there was nothing that really differentiated their products from the competition -- every drive consists of pretty much off-the-shelf hardware. Companies like G.Skill, Corsair, and Patriot has been doing this as well, and other than optimizations you do on the firmware level, they are all essentially the same thing under the hood.

With the release of the Indilinx Everest controller seen in the OCZ Octane 512GB, and subsequently, the Everest 2 found in the Vertex 4 256GB and Agility 4 256GB, OCZ is now selling products developed in house -- so to say -- that sets it apart from the competition. This ambitious acquisition plugs OCZ into the ranks of being a genuine SSD manufacturer, and not just a run of the mill company slapping together parts available to every kid on the block. To be absolutely fair, the Everest series are not real in house controllers (They are actually Marvell licensed units with heavily customized firmware), the Barefoot 3 in the Vector we are reviewing today is the real deal. The Vector also represents a shift in ideology for OCZ's flagship drives. Yes, speed is still important. Rated at 550MB/s read, 530MB/s write, and 95,000 IOPS over SATA 6Gb/s, these figures are downright impressive. But performance is not everything. OCZ also claims quality, reliability, and stability are top priorities as well, and have done extensive work in their testing and validation for both its hardware and software. So for those who are scared of OCZ SSDs because you think it is a ticking time bomb, this is one shot they are coming in to change common consumer perspective. I honestly have had almost no problems with OCZ drives in the past before, but hey -- no one can complain about improved durability.

As aforementioned, the Barefoot 3 is the first controller developed 100% in house by OCZ. A thermal pad on the bottom metal casing helps out in dissipating heat away from the controller. The Indilinx Barefoot 3 IDX500M00 is an ARM Cortex architecture processor with a 32-bit OCZ Aragon co-processor at 400MHz. The ARM Cortex processor handles the SATA interface, while the co-processor manages the data moving in and out of the flash memory chips. The 8-channel flash controller features an internal randomizer, ECC engine, and ONFI/Toggle NAND compatibility.

While SandForce takes significant pride on their ability to do on-the-fly compression and the lack of need for external cache, the Indilinx Barefoot 3 does just the opposite. The OCZ controller is paired with 512MB of memory, in which we will take a look at in just a moment. Also, it does not compress information before writing, making performance identical regardless of the data written is compressible or not. Of course, you are going to sacrifice some speed (And possibly higher write amplification, but we have no specific information on that) when dealing with compressible data, but the speed and IOPS rating of OCZ's Vector is downright impressive. As usual, we have the standard array of features from the controller that works in the background, such as automatic garbage collection and TRIM. Other than that, OCZ withholds quite a bit of information about the Barefoot 3, so this is all we can talk about in this section.

A total of sixteen NAND flash chips are found on the OCZ Vector 256GB solid state disk, with eight on each side. The chips used are OCZ branded, IMFT (Intel/Micron Flash Technologies) manufactured M2502128T048SX22 asynchronous flash memory, with a capacity of 16GB per integrated circuit chip. These are multi-level cells manufactured on the 25nm fabrication process. Unlike SandForce based SSDs, there is no over-provisioning, so they all come together and make up for its 256GB storage capacity. You will see 239GB in Windows. Two Micron MT41K256M8DA-125 256MB DDR3 chips are present for a total of 512MB RAM; used with the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller to ensure smooth operation.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 4.50GHz
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake WATER2.0 Pro (Noctua NF-F12)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws-X F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL 4x4GB
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB OC
Chassis: Lian Li PC-B12
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1

Compared Hardware:
- OCZ Vector 256GB
- G.Skill Phoenix EVO 115GB
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB
- Kingston HyperX 120GB
- Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB
- 2x Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB RAID 0
- Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB
- OCZ Agility 3 240GB
- OCZ Agility 4 256GB
- OCZ Octane 512GB
- OCZ Vertex 2 160GB 25nm
- OCZ Vertex 2 60GB 34nm
- OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
- OCZ Vertex 4 256GB
- Patriot Pyro 120GB
- Patriot Pyro SE 240GB
- SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB

Page Index
1. Introduction and Specifications
2. A Closer Look, Installation, Test System
3. Benchmark: AIDA64 Disk Benchmark
4. Benchmark: ATTO Disk Benchmark
5. Benchmark: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0
6. Benchmark: HD Tach
7. Benchmark: HD Tune Pro 4.60
8. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Conclusion