Date: July 5, 2010
Author(s): Rob Williams
“Fast”. It’s a word that can be explained in a billion different ways, but one of my favorites is to talk about the potential of OCZ’s Enyo SSD. As a portable drive, it delivers mind-blowing performance, at up to 200MB/s for both the read and write, and as an added perk, it’s small, stylish, and priced surprisingly well.
The first USB 3.0 storage device to cross out path came last month, in the form of Super Talent’s 32GB SuperCrypt. As the drive was built with the super-fast 3.0 bus in mind, it was easy to expect some good performance, but considering it had internal hardware on par with what we’ve been seeing in 2.5″ solid-state drives, what we ended up seeing was performance that put our mechanical hard drives to shame.
An interesting thing about that drive though, is just how non-interesting it actually was. It didn’t look bad, but it didn’t look all too attractive, either. Instead, it was designed to look like a simple thumb drive, except bloated to support the SSD and USB controllers, and an undoubtedly different PCB design compared to most 2.0 drives. All-in-all, though, even though Super Talent’s drive didn’t wow us on the design, its performance was superb.
Though, there’s nothing wrong with having the best of both worlds. Thanks to OCZ, that looks to be a real possibility. Its Enyo portable SSD was specifically designed not only to offer outstanding performance, but to also become the most stylish USB device you’ve ever owned. It’s a good thing, too, because I’m still having a hard time getting past its strange name.
It’s hard to say why OCZ chose a name like “Enyo” for an SSD, but in Greek mythology (yes, I know… it’s rare to have products named after Greek God’s), Enyo was a war goddess responsible for destructions of cities, usually while accompanying the war god Ares. How this all correlates to an SSD, I’m unsure, but if anything gets destroyed in our testing, I hope it will be the performance numbers from previous drives.
OCZ calls the Enyo a “portable SSD” because that’s exactly what it is. The heart of this beast (or goddess, depending) is equipped with an Indilinx controller for the SSD, and a Symwave controller for the USB 3.0 support. Super Talent’s drive we mentioned at the outset also featured Symwave’s controller, but the company was never able to tell me what SSD controller it used.
Currently, the Enyo comes in three densities: 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. The 64GB model, as you’d expect, is the least-expensive of the bunch, but in addition, it also offers much “slower” speeds. The drive is still ultra-fast, though, featuring an even faster write speed than Super Talent’s drive. The top two Enyo models offer ridiculous speeds, up to 260 MB/s read and 200 MB/s write. Don’t you love USB 3.0?
Anyone seeking an SSD today generally looks for TRIM support, but there’s none of that here. That’s not the fault of OCZ, however. As far as I’m aware, and thanks to an hour worth of searching around the Web, it became clear that unless TRIM happens to come to the USB spec (it likely won’t), then it won’t be a possibility. To make up for this loss, OCZ and others implement “Garbage Collection” algorithms which help keep the drives in tip-top shape – at least, to the best of their ability. I’ll discuss this in more detail later.
I already mentioned that OCZ had a specific goal of producing a stylish drive, and it seems to have done a great job, as I’ve seen words like “sexy” and “ultra-stylish” floating around to describe it. Alright, yes, to be fair, those came from my mouth, but quick searches around the Web will bring up similar sentiments from others! It’s not just the drive that saw some special treatment in the design department, either, as even the box got some attention:
Like a box of chocolates, the Enyo box is comprised of two sections which must be separated from each other to reveal the drive and other goodies. As simple as it looks, the box is actually a little complicated to open, thanks to the power of air working against me. Once opened, though, you’ll be greeted to an Enyo in a protective anti-static bag. Given the overall style and “luxury” appeal of the Enyo, a nice touch would have been to have the bag made of a cotton-like material instead, since that would have added to the style even further. For a device with no components exposed, aside from the USB port, an anti-static bag isn’t really necessary.
Stylish and sleek are two good ways to describe this drive, and hopefully the pictures below explain it better than I can. It might be an external drive, but it’s slimmer than any 2.5″ external hard drive you’ve seen, both width and height-wise. The surface feels like a hard matte plastic to the touch, but it’s actually anodized aluminium. The fact that it doesn’t actually feel like metal is a good thing, and it’s nice to know that if you happen to drop it, it should still come out looking quite decent. It’s a very sturdy drive for only weighing 88g.
There are no real accessories included with the drive, unless you count a “My SSD is Faster than Your HDD” sticker. Aside from that, there’s an included USB 3.0 cable and a quick-start guide.
Sometimes it’s hard to gain an appreciation or understanding of the scale of a product without an actual comparison to another, so that’s what we have below. As you can see, the Enyo is clearly much larger than the two other drives, but that’s to be expected. The drive is about 1mm thicker than OCZ’s own Rally 2, but much thinner than Super Talent’s SuperCrypt. Actually, the Enyo almost looks like the result of someone taking Super Talent’s drive and crushing it with 1,000lbs of pressure. Hmm.
Overall, I’m impressed with both the aesthetics of the Enyo and the package as a whole… as simple as it may be. The drive itself is one of the best-looking models I’ve ever seen, but that of course means little if the performance doesn’t live up to our expectations. So, let’s hook this modest-looking drive up and see just what it’s made of.
For most of our performance-type content, we hold nothing back when explaining our methodologies and beliefs. But as this is simply an external storage review, we don’t feel there’s quite as important a need to do that. If you’ve read our other performance content, you already know how seriously we take our testing practises, as it’s obvious that coming up with an accurate end score for any benchmark is very important. In the case of flash drives, we repeat all tests at least twice to verify that our results are accurate.
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition – Quad-Core, 3.20GHz, 1.30v
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 (Rev 1.0) – X58-based, F5 BIOS
Kingston HyperX – 12GB DDR3-1333 7-7-7-24-1T, 1.60v
|Graphics||EVGA GeForce GTX 285 1GB – GeForce 197.45|
Dell 24" 2408WFP
For our real-world transfer tests, the source files are stored on Intel’s X25-M G1 solid-state disk, which avails us a top-end read speed of around 250MB/s. Unless the USB device we’re testing with is able to write in excess of that, there should be no bottleneck.
To start things off, we’re using Iometer, a popular storage benchmarking application that’s as effective as it is customizable. It’s for both of those reasons that we choose to use it, and also thanks to the fact that it’s capable of outputting the results to both MB/s and IOPS (in/out operations per second). The latter is the value we focus on, as it’s become a standard for measuring performance in enterprise/IT environments.
Admittedly, running this test on most USB flash drives, especially 2.0 models, is not entirely important given the typical manner they’re used, but it’s our goal to see where one excels over another when dealing with such an intensive test. IOPS performance would be very important if you were to install an OS on a flash drive, as long as the bandwidth throughput is also good.
Well, it’s clear that things are off to a great start for the Enyo. When I first benchmarked Super Talent’s drive last month, the IOPS performance was outstanding compared to what we were used to seeing with USB 2.0 devices, but the Enyo in every test simply blew that drive out of the water.
You might notice that our Enyo 2.0 IOPS performance saw a significant drop, and I attribute that to the fact that I conducted a lot of brutal testing on the drive before performing that testing. I’ll talk more about the reasons for this on page four.
One of the simplest methods for testing storage is with HD Tune, and as it’s able to give reliable and repeatable results, we like using it in our testing. Although the program offers a good range of testing methods, we use the basic test that gives us read speeds and also access latencies.
OCZ’s drive had parallelled IOPS performance, but where HD Tune is concerned, Super Talent’s drive manages to be just a little bit faster. In the real-world, differences this minor would be difficult, if not impossible, to notice. The Enyo does become the first USB 3.0 device we’ve tested to see a 0.1 ms seek time, though.
One of the more popular storage benchmarks currently is Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage. Even though this is a suite designed to benchmark your entire machine, it’s HDD suite test is quite robust and is good at delivering scores that scale well with the storage device you are benchmarking. Almost all of the storage companies we deal with regularly recommend using it, so we do.
The results here are interesting, and almost surprising. Both the Enyo and SuperCrypt drives posted almost the exact same results across USB 3.0 and 2.0. The Enyo did manage to pull ahead, but only by just a bit. As we receive more USB 3.0 devices to benchmark with, it will be interesting to see if we’re going to see a drive achieve a higher score than that, or see if we’ve hit some sort of ceiling.
Over the past year, many storage companies have been jumping on the CrystalDiskMark bandwagon to help strut their product’s performance, and it’s easy to understand why. Compared to others, CrystalDiskMark delivers results that are much higher, and in some regards, they could be considered unrealistic given that real-world tests and even other synthetic benchmarks never seem to back up its claims. We include it for the sake of interest and because it is still a very thorough benchmark.
Super Talent’s drive managed to surpass the Enyo in our HD Tune test, but OCZ’s drive blasts back with improved CDM results. The read speeds are not all too different, but the write speeds certainly are, with Super Talent’s drive at about 102MB/s and OCZ’s at 178MB/s.
While CrystalDiskMark does well to show the absolute top-end value of a storage device, ATTO doesn’t fall too far behind, if at all. Its test uses a wide-range of cluster sizes, for both read and write, but we only note 4KB, 64KB and 1024KB of the former. For those interested, we use a queue depth value of 10 for testing.
Although our graph puts OCZ’s drive on top, it actually only beat out Super Talent’s drive with the 4K reads. The SuperCrypt drive posted much-improved 64KB and 1024KB read performance.
For real-world testing, we use a set of files and folders for the sake of measuring transfer speeds, and also convert images and music on the storage device to see just how well it fares for large intensive operations. For the transfer speeds, we use both 4GB and 16GB files and folders, and for the former, we also perform copy tests, which refers to copying the file or folder on the storage device. We don’t do this for our 16GB files and folders as some 32GB drives refuse it due to coming so close to the total density.
If I could rewrite the definition of “Fast”, I might say “Being able to copy a 4GB file in 22 seconds”. That averages out to 186MB/s! It’s a bit strange that the file and folder copy tests proved so much slower, but Super Talent’s drive exhibited the exact same issue. Even more odd might be that Kingston’s super-budget DT 101 G2 drive was the only one to have speeds faster for copying on the same drive as it did having the data written to it from our fast SSD. Of course, looking at the performance numbers, there’s still not too much to brag about there.
The 4GB performance we saw with the Enyo was impressive, but the 16GB performance is even more so. Our 16GB file copied over in 84 seconds, which is just about 195MB/s. We didn’t quite hit the quoted max write speed of 200MB/s, but we did far surpass the “sustained” write speed of 150MB/s.
It seemed unlikely that our Adobe Lightroom test would see much of a gain on a super-fast drive, compared to even a standard USB 2.0 device, but I’ve been proven wrong. The Enyo shaved about 12 seconds off of the same test compared to the Super Talent drive, and took an even more impressive 34 seconds off of our dBpoweramp test.
For some reason, the test performed quicker while the drive was in USB 2.0 mode for both tests. Color me confused about that one.
As a TRIM option isn’t possible on an SSD connected to a PC via USB, companies such as OCZ have produced advanced “garbage collection” schemes, or rather algorithms, that help keep the drives as clean as possible so that the user won’t notice performance degradation. Ahh yes, it seems a bit ironic that as soon as our desktop SSD’s became equipped with TRIM, USB 3.0 came along and took it all away.
To my knowledge, there isn’t a feasible way to get around this. The only possible solution I could figure is if the drive had a built-in ATA controller that intercepted the connection between USB and the drive, but that sounds like more of a makeshift solution than one that we’ll ever see. There would surely be a performance hit in a design like that, and even then, it still might not be technically possible.
The fact that we’re treated to a garbage collection scheme at all is nice though, because otherwise these drives wouldn’t look quite as appealing, especially since you can’t perform a secure erase on them like you can to a regular hard drive or SSD. The reason I became interested in garbage collection on this drive was because after our battery of tests, I noticed that the performance degraded immediately. I found this strange, as I didn’t have that issue with Super Talent’s drive.
In talking to our resident SSD expert Robert Tanner, I was told that our Iometer test likely had something to do with it, as it’s quite brutal, and the Indilinx controller apparently doesn’t handle that kind of battery too well. The key with this drive is that it’s “idle” garbage collection. That means that if the drive’s plugged in and doing nothing, it will clean itself.
After I saw this performance degradation, I let the drive sit idle for a while and then came back to it, and sure enough, performance improved. But, the performance I saw during the second run wasn’t on par with factory-settings. Rather, it was on average about 5% slower. Nothing major, but notable nonetheless. So out of curiosity, I decided to see just how bad I could wreck the Enyo’s performance, and at the same time, see how well OCZ’s garbage collection scheme works.
Before I get into the results, I have to admit that my testing here was absolute overkill. Even just one hour of Iometer is rough on an SSD, but for maximum effect, I planned on running it for two or three. Well, leave it to me to forget that the test was running, only to realize it 12 hours later. Yes, twelve hours. After I stopped the test, I unplugged the drive to give it a break. After all, twelve straight hours of that kind of battery is a little much for any SSD.
With that said, behold the mess I created:
When HD Tach popped up with this result, I laughed so hard that I almost teared. Sure, I ran Iometer for a long time, but I didn’t expect to see a heartbeat monitor as a result. As you can see by the picture, the drive had a write speed of about 29.4MB/s, which is a far cry from the 150MB/s – 200MB/s that the drive is stated for.
At this point, I left the drive to sit idle for quite a while. As I do all USB benchmarking on my own PC, I have to boot between Windows and Linux regularly, since I use the latter as my primary OS. So it’s for that reason that some of the re-tests are spaced out time-wise. During these gaps, the Enyo was plugged in almost the entire time, so it had a good deal of time to clean itself.
The second run came five hours later, and as you can see, the Enyo did a commendable job of cleaning itself up. Interestingly, it seemed to have sacrificed its own read speed in favor of improving the write speed, as the read dropped from 164MB/s to 103MB/s, while the write improved from that sad 29MB/s up to 98MB/s.
About 90 minutes after that test, I re-tested once again, and the performance continued its climb back to its innate status. Here, both the read and write performance saw an increase. It’s very interesting to see the drive clean itself up this way, because you can begin to understand how the algorithm is thinking. Kind of.
After that last test was run, I ended up putting off a re-test for a little while due to other work that had to be done, so I ended up testing it again the very next day, after about 24 hours worth of idle time. I should note that in between all these tests, the drive was completely empty, so the only thing the GC had to clean was free space. When all said and done, the performance was about as remedied as it could be:
Until I decided to test the drive’s garbage collection, I hadn’t tested with HD Tach, so for that reason, I don’t have personal data from what would have been performance on a fresh drive. Thankfully, OCZ did the exact same tests in its own lab, and its performance on a brand-new Enyo was 199MB/s read and 177MB/s write, which means that in the end, our performance seen above with 188MB/s and 167MB/s averages out to a performance loss of 6%, which is exactly the same kind of loss we found in our numerous re-tests of other benchmarks.
As it appears, no matter how hard you are on the Enyo, its built-in GC can work wonders. It’s unfortunate to see a performance drop at all, but <6% is negligible, and very unlikely to even be noticed. The important thing is that even with our hardcore testing, the drive still managed to retain smooth performance across the board, so there was no retained stuttering after the GC did its work.
It’s no secret that OCZ produces some of the best SSD’s on the planet, if not the best in many cases, and it’s devices like the Enyo that helps keep the company’s name at the forefront of related technologies. This drive is not a typical desktop SSD, no, but it has all of the characteristics of one, aside from the physical and aesthetic design. Let’s face it, no desktop SSD is attractive. But the Enyo is, and when people call an SSD “sexy”, it must be.
Performance aside, the Enyo could almost sell itself based on its looks alone. The unit as a whole is clean, sleek and feels good to hold. It might be light, but it still feels like it has some substance to it, and wouldn’t break after a fall. And thanks to its aluminium chassis, it shouldn’t even have the ability to crack, which is a nice plus when dealing with a portable drive like this.
We’ve covered the fact that the Enyo looks good multiple times, but what about its performance? Well, our results should speak for themselves. Compared to Super Talent’s SuperCrypt drive, the Enyo is far superior. The SuperCrypt did manage to out-pace it in a few select tests, but in 90% of them, including the most important real-world ones, the Enyo came out the undisputed champion.
Out of the box, the Enyo can deliver read speeds of over 200MB/s, and write speeds on average of 190MB/s. Our absolutely first transfer (4GB) gave us 185MB/s speeds, while the second, a much larger file (16GB), delivered 195MB/s. We’re not quite reaching the top-limit that OCZ specs the Enyo for, but the performance we did see is simply incredible, and as far as competition goes, there is none.
That might seem like a line straight out of marketing material, but it’s the literal truth. I spent time searching around the Web for comparable devices, and the only models I found aren’t available yet. One example is Kingston’s HyperX, which from performance we saw last month, could provide OCZ its first bit of real competition, and consumers a price war. At least we could hope.
Speaking of price, the Enyo isn’t exactly inexpensive, but that’s to be expected given that it’s an SSD. Compared to other desktop SSD’s, it’s priced competitively, which is nice to see since I had assumed the portable nature of it would result in much higher pricing. For the 64GB drive, one current e-tailer is selling it for $200, the 128GB for $350 and the 256GB for $700. For comparison, the ultra-fast 120GB Vertex 2 we reviewed last month is selling for $330 at the same e-tailer. At Amazon.com, which is the only e-tailer I could find selling Super Talent’s drives, the SuperCrypt 128GB is selling for $473.
For even further comparison, just have a look at 128GB USB 2.0 drives from your favorite e-tailer. You might be surprised to see them selling for almost the exact same price as the Enyo, and of course, you sure don’t get near the same speeds. To be fair, the Enyo is much larger than a regular thumb drive, so it’s not quite as portable, but it’s far from large, and given that most people chuck a thumb drive in a bag, not a pocket, the larger size might not even be a big deal.
The Enyo doesn’t offer any fancy security software like the SuperCrypt, which is unfortunate, but that’s never been a focus of OCZ’s, and I’m not sure it will become one soon (I hope it will). If that lacking feature doesn’t bother you, there currently exists only one USB 3.0 portable option for those looking for the ultimate in performance, and that’s not surprisingly, the Enyo.
OCZ’s Enyo 128GB Portable SSD
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