- Review Price: £703.65
Solid State Drives (SSD) have long been hailed as the death knell for traditional hard drives. By using flash memory, like that found in USB memory sticks, to store data, rather than spinning disks, the data access speeds, power usage, and operating temperatures of SSDs can be orders of magnitude lower than hard drives. Indeed, it seems like SSDs should’ve had the storage market sewn up by now.
As we all know, though, this has been far from the case. While hard drive capacities are hitting such lofty heights as a terabyte (1,000 gigabytes), the largest SSD drive you’ll find is 256GB and that costs £3,500. Also, although SSDs can read and write small amounts of data very quickly, sustained read/write performance has so far been less than impressive. Indeed, the Samsung MCAQE32G5APP-0XA SSD that we reviewed a while back was significantly slower than the Hitachi Desktar 7K1000 HDD, a drive that was half the price and had 30 times the capacity.
Even so, there are several markets where SSDs are starting to make a significant impact. The most obvious examples are notebooks and other mobile devices. For these, the limitations of SSDs are felt less acutely and the benefits are greatly appreciated.
Specifically, notebooks and mobile devices seldom find themselves being used for large volume data transfers so the sustained read and write speed is far less important. Also, the high cost per megabyte is not so much of a problem because, for all but heavy duty gaming and workstation laptops, very little storage is actually needed – I’d be happy with 32GB for my notebook, and most people should find 64GB plenty. As for the benefits, the fast access times are very welcome because notebooks are more often than not used intermittently so having a system that boots up and loads programs near instantly is a huge boon. The fact SSDs also consume less power than hard drives has also made them the natural shoo-in for portable storage.
The Lenovo X300 is a perfect example of this as the 64GB SSD it employs brings a whole other level of snappiness to the mobile experience. Booting up, opening applications, and going in and out of standby are all noticeably quicker than on any traditional hard drive model – not instant, mind, but very, very quick. The simple fact of the matter is, if you can afford the SSD upgrade for your notebook, get it.
So, while SSDs do genuinely look set to be the way forwards for notebook storage, can they really make an impression in the desktop sector? Well, with the help of its snappily titled SATA II 2.5″ SSD, OCZ certainly seems to think so.
Available in 32GB and 64GB capacities and respectively demanding prices of £354.04 and £704.33, these new drives don’t come cheap. However, when you look at their statistics you soon realise what all the fuss is about. Their 100MB/s and 80MB/s read and write speeds are on a par with the fastest HDD and the access time of 0.2ms is 20 times faster than the fastest consumer hard drives. Shock resistance is also first rate as the drive can still operate, even when a force of 1500G is applied to it. Compare this to hard drives that generally fail when exposed to a shock of more than 50Gs. Finally, the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) is a whopping 2,000,000 hours, which is higher than any spinning disk drive in the industry. It also puts paid to any worries about the other common concern about SSDs, that of the inherently limited number of times data can be written to each bit.
”’(centre)The Picture above shows both sides of the circuit board, rather than two separate boards.(/centre)”’
OCZ 64GB SATA II SSD Features:
* – Read up to 100MB / sec
* – Write up to 80MB / sec
* – Slim 2.5″ Design
* – 100.2 x 70 x 9.5mm
* – Lightweight 77g
* – Low Power Consumption
* – Shock Resistant 1500G
* – High-Capacity 32GB and 64GB
* – RAID Support
* – MTBF 2 million hours
* – 1 year warranty
Physically, there’s not much to say about the drive – it’s a circuit board stacked with flash memory chips, mounted inside a standard 2.5inch hard drive chassis with a SATA II (3Gbit/sec) interface. Sure, it looks quite nice in its brushed aluminium livery but essentially this is a functional bit of kit. One thing that did catch my eye was how the chips are all mounted on one side of the PCB, rather than on both sides like the MCAQE32G5APP-0XA, and they are stacked two chips on top of another. However, these sort of details are of interest to true geeks only.
For testing we set up a test system using our usual CPU test bed that consists of an ASUS P5E3 motherboard kitted out with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700, 2GBs of Corsair TWIN3X2048-1333C9 DDR3, a BFGTech 8800 GTS 640MB graphics card, and an Ultra X3 1000W power supply.
As well as the OCZ drive, we tested three other drives that represent a broad cross section of the current consumer hard drive market. The first and most obvious candidate is the Western Digital Raptor X 150GB, which up until the release of its greatly anticipated successor, the VelociRaptor, was widely regarded as the fastest consumer hard drive available. Its disks spin at 10,000rpm, as opposed to the usual 7,200rpm, and its average access time of 4.6ms is half that of most hard drives. Next we went for sheer capacity with the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1,000GB. This is a more conventional drive that spins at 7,200rpm and its average access time is 8.5ms but the density of data stored on it also makes it a solid contender in terms of performance. The last drive we used was an 80GB Seagate Momentus 5400.3, 2.5in notebook model. Ok, this isn’t the fastest or largest notebook drive you can get but it will at least give us a clue as to the performance differences between the OCZ and a conventional laptop drive.
The first test we did was to add each drive to our test rig as an unformatted spare. We then ran the hard drive testing tool, HDTune. This program is quite simply marvellous at testing and displaying the raw performance of any given drive. It performs a complete read and write test from the start of the drive right to the end and also tests random access speeds as well. At the end it spews out a clear and easy to read graph. Run this test and it pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the performance of a hard drive.
Of course, while these numbers are all very useful, the real story of SSDs is the way they feel to use everyday. It’s that aforementioned snappiness that really makes them a pleasure to use. So, to test this we created a hard drive image containing an installation of Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit with all the drivers for the hardware, PCMark Vantage, and Crysis installed. We then loaded this onto each of the drives and tested how quickly each drive took to boot/shutdown/restart Windows and run through a benchmark of Crysis, then we ran the HDD portion of PCMark Vantage.
PCMark’s HDD test suite runs a total of eight tests including a simulated Vista startup, importing music into Windows Media Player, loading applications, and loading games. At the end of the tests PCMark gives the drive an overall score, which provides an easy single reference, but also lists the detailed scores for each section of the testing. We’ve reproduced the whole lot in our graphs at the end of the review.
Starting with the HDTune results, it’s immediately obvious the OCZ SSD is by far and away the fastest drive in every aspect. The average transfer rate is above any other drive and unlike all the hard drive’s the transfer rate doesn’t start high and drop off towards the end. On top of this, the access time is also orders of magnitude faster than the other drives. All in all, this OCZ turned in a very impressive performance.
It’s the same story when we look at the PCMark scores – the SSD simply trounces the competition – and our own more subjective tests also backed this up. Quite simply, this is the fastest drive we’ve ever tested, and by a long way. It’ll be interesting to see how Western Digital’s new VelociRaptor compares as it looks like this is the only hard drive that stands a chance of competing with this (and no doubt many upcoming) SSD. Even considering the cost, this is a tempting proposition.
The OCZ 64GB SATA II SSD is undoubtedly very expensive and won’t even be worth considering for most. However, if you do have deep pockets and want the ultimate performance from your desktop or notebook, then this drive is the way to go.
(centre)”OCZ 64GB SATA II SSD”(/centre)
(centre)”WD Raptor X 150GB”(/centre)
(centre)”Hitachi 7K1000 1TB”(/centre)
(centre)”Seagate Momentus 5400.3 80GB”(/centre)
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.