OCZ Vertex 460 SSD Review
By Olin Coles
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by OCZ Storage Solutions.
OCZ Storage Solutions, formerly OCZ Technology and now a Toshiba Group Company, was quick to produce its first performance product under the new company banner: Vertex 460 solid state drive. The new OCZ Vertex 460 SSD features an Indilinx Barefoot 3 (BF3-M10) controller and Toshiba 19nm Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND flash components with secure AES-256 data encryption and Trim support. Vertex 460 is good for 540 MB/s read and 525 MB/s write speeds over a SATA 6-Gb/s connection, and replaces the Vertex 450 as the fastest solid state drive in the product series. In this article Benchmark Reviews tests the 240GB OCZ Vertex 460 SSD, model VTX460-25SAT3-240G, against the leading competition.
On paper the OCZ Vertex 460 looks incredibly similar to the Vertex 450 it replaces. Both utilize a Barefoot 3 M10 controller that promises up to 540 MB/s read speeds and 85,000 IOPS performance, 525 MB/s write speeds and 90,000 write I/O, and both offer OCZ’s three-year product warranty. However, the key developments that improve Vertex 460 beyond Vertex 450 are the NAND flash and sustained IOPS performance: Vertex 460 uses Toshiba 19nm MLC compared to 20nm NAND components in Vertex 450, while sustained IOPS increased from 7,000 to 21,000.
OCZ Vertex 460 utilizes the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller, which was used on the OCZ Vector Solid State Drive series that debuted at the beginning of 2013. The BF3-M10 edition controller features a power-optimized clock generator that runs at a slightly lower clock speed. This produces lightly reduced transfer speeds and IOPS performance by comparison, but also improves yield which reduces cost to consumers.
Solid State vs Hard Disk
Despite decades of design improvements, the hard disk drive (HDD) remains the slowest component of any personal computer system. Consider that modern desktop processors typically have a 1 ns response time (nanosecond = one billionth of one second), while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional hard disk technology utilizes spinning media, and even the fastest mechanical storage products still exhibit a 9 ms (9,000,000 ns) initial response time (millisecond = one thousandth of one second). In more relevant terms, the processor sends the command, but must wait for system memory to fetch data from the storage drive. This is why any computer system is only as fast as the slowest component in the data chain, which is usually the hard drive.
In a perfect world all of the components would operate at the same speed: system memory signals as quickly as the central processor, and the storage drive fetches data as fast as memory. With present-day technology this is an impossible task, so enthusiasts try to close the speed gaps between components as much as possible. Although system memory is up to 90x (9000%) slower than most processors, consider that the hard drive is an additional 1000x (100,000%) slower than memory. Essentially, these three components are as different in speed as crawling (HDD) is to walking (RAM) is to running (CPU).
Solid State Drive technology bridges the largest gap in these response times. The difference a SSD makes to operational response times and program speeds is dramatic, and takes the storage drive from a slow ‘crawling’ speed to a much faster ‘walking’ speed. Solid State Drive technology improves initial response times by more than 450x (45,000%) for applications and Operating System software, when compared to their mechanical HDD counterparts. The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiasts make with regard to SSD technology is grading them based on bandwidth speed alone. File transfer speeds are important, but only so long as the operational I/O performance can sustain that bandwidth under load.
Bandwidth Speed vs Operational Performance
As we’ve explained in our SSD Benchmark Tests: SATA IDE vs AHCI Mode guide, Solid State Drive performance revolves around two dynamics: bandwidth speed (MB/s) and operational performance I/O per second (IOPS). These two metrics work together, but one may be more important than the other. Consider this analogy: bandwidth determines how much cargo a ship can transport in one voyage, and operational IOPS performance is how fast that ship moves. By understanding this and applying it to SSD storage, there is a clear importance set on each variable depending on the task at hand.
For casual users, especially those with laptop or desktop computers that have been upgraded to use an SSD, the naturally quick response time is enough to automatically improve the user experience. Bandwidth speed is important, but only to the extent that operational performance meets the minimum needs of the system. If an SSD has a very high bandwidth speed but a low operational performance, it will take longer to load applications and boot the computer into Windows than if the SSD offered a higher IOPS performance.