by Robert Tanner on June 22, 2011 in Solid-State Drives
OCZ’s Vertex series of SSDs have earned the reputation as being some of the best, by offering excellent throughput and random 4KB IOPS performance. Vertex 3 takes things to an entirely new level, in some cases doubling the performance of its predecessor, and gives us an uncompromising balance across any performance metric you care to throw at it.
These tests are perhaps the most important in our battery of benchmarks as they give us a wide range of real-world results. They range from very light to downright grueling, and will showcase which drives can shine under the most demanding scenarios they might encounter in your personal system. Few computer users run their tasks in a vacuum; often several programs are in use concurrently while others are running in the background.
To excel in these tasks the SSD controller and firmware will need to be well-balanced. It will need to have excellent random read, small random write capability, and still have enough sequential writes to get the job done quickly. It is admittedly hard for an SSD controller to be optimized for all three things at once, and typically some SSDs are only optimized for sequential writes at the expense of everything else. Still, fast access times will give any SSD an inherent advantage over a mechanical hard drive.
First up is our light batch test. This test is a simple batch file placed into the startup folder, which Windows 7 will automatically execute at startup. This is perhaps the most directly relevant test to our readers, as almost everyone has to endure boot times and then the additional time it takes for their usual or favorite programs to load before they can start using their system.
The batch file will open four websites in Firefox, load five 5MB or greater images in Photoshop CS5, and open a document in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint each, which adds an additional 15MB. As a final measure, a few small system monitoring applications are started, a 3MB PDF file and zip archive are both opened for viewing, and while everything proceeds to load, an old, favorite FLAC music file (56MB) is loaded into Winamp for playback. If it sounds like the light batch file needs to go on a diet, then the results should surprise!
Our Medium batch test is similar although timers are built in to space out the user commands. Time begins counting from the launch of the batch file and ends when all tasks have completed. The medium test consists of the following:
- Playback of a 56MB FLAC music file in Winamp.
- 50 ~8MB JPEGs queued to open in Photoshop CS5 64-bit.
- Opening of three Excel, three Word, and one PowerPoint files (various large sizes, for example one Excel file consists of a 72MB database).
- Browsing to four different websites in Firefox.
- Extraction of a 1GB RAR containing numerous “program file” folders (2.1GB uncompressed).
- Extraction of an 4.5GB ZIP containing 500 RAW images.
- Copy of a 4.5GB file to a separate location on the same drive.
- Viewing of two PDF documents.
- Viewing of two small RAR utility archives
- Execution of four small system utilities
- Launching of Adobe Lightroom
To keep things simple, the heavy batch test is identical to the medium test in all respects save for one key difference. Computer users should be familiar with the slowdown or even molasses-like feel that occurs from an anti-virus scan running in the background. The heavy test will capitalize on this by running an anti-virus scan from Microsoft Security Essentials on a static, unchanging 5.1GB test folder that contains 19,748 files and 2,414 sub-folders copied from the Program Files directory. Because it is otherwise identical, results from the medium & heavy batch tests are directly comparable.
Granted, even with a Core i7 processor, no computer user using a hard drive would be performing all of these tasks concurrently unless they wish to see their computer go unresponsive for up to 30 minutes at a time, but with an SSD this is almost child’s play. For a good quality SSD, the above isn’t even enough to make the system crawl or go unresponsive. Playing a game with an anti-virus scan in the background without losing FPS is very possible. So if this sort of system abuse, or “multitasking” sounds vaguely like your daily routine when you sit down at the PC, then the results may be of interest.
So, a few walls of text and a single graph later, what do we have? Well from the press of the power button to the very last image loading in Photoshop CS5, the entire system boot and Light batch test completes in an average of 39.4 seconds with the OCZ Vertex 3. Since most computers can’t even load Windows 7 in that time-frame, that should say something. A traditional hard drive requires almost three minutes completing the same test the Vertex 3 can finish in less than forty seconds, system boot time included.
The medium batch test is where the real stress begins for these drives. As we continue to re-add drives to our new test system, the full spread of SSD results will again become apparent, but it is pretty clear the Vertex 3 brings more muscle to the table than even its own predecessor. OCZ’s Vertex 3 completed the entire workload in slightly under an impressive three and-a-half minutes. The nearest SSD, the V2, required an additional 108 seconds or 1:52 to complete. To keep things in perspective a large capacity, the modern mechanical drive mustered up nine minutes for the same task.
Things get really interesting with the heavy batch test. Results are directly comparable to the medium test here, as the only change was the addition of the anti-virus scan. Raw sequential performance won’t win this benchmark. Those controllers with high queue depths to handle the multitasking load will shine here, and will quickly separate the men from the boys.
Although it was clear the Vertex 3 was going to win, it was disconcerting to see an anti-virus scan only add an average of 20 seconds to the task time. To try and put this into perspective, a full scan of a 5GB folder containing 19,748 program files only required an additional 20 seconds to perform concurrently while the medium batch test was running. That same task more than doubled the time required for the Toshiba-based SSD to complete the entire test, and an additional five minutes to the hard drive time which ended up taking over 15 minutes to finish.
The Vertex 3’s predecessor finally shows its true strength here as well, but even the Vertex 2 required an extra two minutes here. The Vertex 3 was simply able to finish in 2/3rds the time of the V2. These tests throw everything except a photo of the kitchen sink at these drives, and stress every possible aspect of the SSD controller. Queue depth for multitasking, random reads and lots of small random writes, and even some sequential reads and writes, but the Vertex 3 doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses regardless of workload, even despite the huge jump in sequential read and write performance this drive brings to the table.