Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/OCZ_Agility_2_60GB/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
The SandForce controller has been all the rage this past year, and even though the controller is relatively new to the market all major SSD manufacturers have or intend to have a drive based on the new design. There are a few main reasons behind the success of the SandForce controller. First is that it's capable of max write performance of 285MB/s and max reads of 275MB/s. The second reason is that it eliminates the need of on-board cache required by drives using the Indilinx Barefoot controller. This is done via SandForce's DuraClass technologies which essentially uses a real-time lossless compression algorithm to store data in the unallocated portion of the NAND flash memory, which can be accessed though the controller.
The SandForce controller can be found in both consumer and enterprise models and each have enhanced features depending on which market we look at. The SF-1500 is the enterprise model and as such includes larger amount of memory set aside for data protection, and technologies such as "Dura-Write" and RAISE. However, in the consumer market, data protection is not quite as essential so smaller amounts of memory are set aside, which increases the storage capacity. This is all done though the firmware, with a specific version used for the different segments of the market. The trade off for the consumer though is that models using the SF-1200 controller have a cap of 10,000 IOPS placed on the small file random write performance.
All of this build-up leads us to the Agility 2 "extended" from OCZ. This drive utilizes the SF-1200 controller, includes the consumer level firmware and is part of their value oriented lineup. This all allows the Agility 2 to offer users a high level of performance, but with a $169.00 price tag that places it firmly in the mainstream SSD market. For additional value this model gives the user increased storage via the firmware, which increases the drive capacity from 50GB to 60GB. Still, the Agility 2 does come with a much higher premium than a larger capacity HDD, so you are paying for a performance increase while sacrificing large amounts of storage.
The is the second SandForce based drive to enter our labs this month, and it will be interesting to see how it compares to the recently reviewed Corsair Force.
99.88 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
0°C ~ 70°C
Read Up to 285MB/s
Write Up to 275MB/s
Up to 250MB/s
4KB Random Write
Up to 10,000 IOPS
20G Peak 10-20KHz with 3axis
The OCZ Agility 2 comes packaged in a box that closely resembles the design of the SSD itself. The front of the box indicates everything that comes within the packaging and list some of the main features, such as the size and model. Turning the box over you are presented with the specifications and a quick read from OCZ regarding the Agility 2 series.
The drive includes the installation guide/manual, 3.5" adapter for desktop installation and a sticker with the modest statement "My SSD is faster than your HDD".
The drive comes packaged in a foam padded box that has a cover that opens and closes similar to a book. The drive is placed into a cutout in the foam so it easily fits into the packaging, which greatly reduces the amount of material needed to safely transport the drive.
The Agility 2 comes in a black casing that has a bright green rectangle surrounding the listed information of the drive. There really there is not too much visual appeal to the drive, but the green, and black color make it a distinct part of the Agility series. The drive uses the standard 2.5" form factor with exact measurements of 99.88mm x 69.63mm x 9.3mm. With the relatively small size of the Agility 2 it can easily fit into laptops and netbooks alike.
The Agility 2 is part of the OCZ "extended" series, which increases the storage capacity by reducing the amount of over-provisioning. This reduces the amount of NAND flash memory set aside for data protection, however; since this drive fits into the consumer market the reduction in over-provisioning and increase in storage capacity could actually increase the appeal for the drive, as no added cost is past on to the consumer.
The back portion of the drive uses a thin brushed aluminum layer that has a holographic product sticker on it as well as a sticker that explains the dangers of static electricity, dropping and pressing hard on the drive. Both of these stickers are meant to remain in place, so keep them on for warranty purposes.
The 3.5" adapter that comes with the drive is easily installed via four screws though the bottom. Once the SSD is connected to the adapter it can easily be installed into any desktop PCs 3.5" drive bay.
Well, I decided to break the seal, void the warranty and see what is on the inside. So, what we have is a standard layout for an SF-1200 based SSD. It has a total of sixteen (eight per side) Intel manufactured 34nm MLC NAND Flash memory chips on the PCB, each being 4GB in size. This means that OCZ has only set aside only 4GB of memory for wear leveling, and data correction, but this should still be an acceptable amount in the consumer market.
The SF-1200 controller comes with support for DuraClass technologies, native command queuing (NCQ), TRIM support for Windows 7, S.M.A.R.T monitoring technologies and utilizes the SATA 2.0 interface. Also, the SF-1200 based Agility 2 supports max reads of 285MB/s and writes of 275MB/s, which is getting very close to exceeding the speed limitations of the SATA 2.0 interface.
OCZ Agility 2 60GB
Patriot Torqx 128GB, Corsair Force 120GB
Patriot Zephyr 128GB
Since the drives were tested on two different platforms, we made sure that our benchmarks were not processor-bound. Hence why they are not exactly the same as in the OCZ Agility review.
This test consists of copying our standard 100MB, 500MB and 1GB folder also used in our WinRAR test from one partition to the other, thus requiring reads and writes. The chronometer is started as soon as the "paste" button is clicked and is stopped whenever the window indicating the copy status disappears.
The real-world benchmarks we perform are some of the most important in terms of showing how the drive will perform in the wild. In this benchmark, which tests the copy and paste performance, the Agility 2 was the fastest when dealing with the largest files. It also did very well with 500MB and 100MB files, matching the performance of the fastest drives.
Windows 7 Boot & Shutdown
The title of this test says it all. The countdown starts as soon as we hit "Enter" in the boot manager, until the desktop has appeared and the LAN is connected.
Again, in this real-world benchmark the Agility 2 did an exceptional job. It was the fastest when loading Windows and the shutdown time was tied with the Torqx. The operating system load and shutdown performance offered by SSDs is just phenomenal.
Call of Juarez
This time, the score used is not the benchmark score, but rather the time it takes to load.
While the Agility 2 came in behind the Corsair drive it was ahead of all other comparison models with a blazing fast 15 second load time.
Far Cry 2
It's the same principle here for Far Cry 2's built-in benchmark.
The Agility 2 was right in line with the other models and we had a three way tie between the Zephyr, Force and Agility 2.
HD Tune is an application for benchmarking hard drives. This time, both the read and write tests will be run.
The results in this benchmark were very impressive for the Agility 2, as the drive had the best maximum read and write scores, but the peroration swing was larger than the other drives so the Agility 2 didn't come out on top thanks to slower minimum read and write performance.
What is measured here is the write performance loss due to the write amplification. As said on the first page, SandForce's DuraClass technology achieves a write amplification factor below one, so the write speeds should not suffer compared to some other drives which need a utility to be run on them to get the same performance. Since HDTune writes tests write speeds everywhere on the drive, running it twice in a row will force the drive to write on used sectors. The numbers reported in the following graph are the performance loss from the first run to the second, in percentage.
One of the best aspects of the SandForce drive is that very little to no write amplification occurs. This means users of the Agility 2 will not see any loss in performance when quickly moving between applications.
Futuremark PCMark Vantage
PCMark is a benchmarking suite from FutureMark, who also make the renown 3DMark. It includes many tests to calculate overall system performance including hard drive performance. The hard drive suite performs tasks such as scanning for viruses, streaming, recording and more. It is a fairly good indicative of general real-world performance.
Well, there is no way to spin this, the bottom is the bottom and the OCZ Agility 2 finds itself there in this benchmark.
While most other storage benchmarks are designed with mechanical hard drives in mind, AS SSD, developed by Alex Schepeljanski, is built specifically for solid state drives. The application measure sequential and random read and write performance as well as access time. The first screen shot is of the Agility 2, followed by the Force 120GB, then the Torqx, and the last one is the Zephyr.
AS SSD had the Agility 2 slightly behind the Corsair drive. Even though it wasn't the fastest drive tested it did have amazing small write performance.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
The ATTO disk Benchmark, developed by a company of the same name, measures the storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Once again, the first graph shows results from the OCZ Agility 2, then the Corsair Force and the two others are for Patriot's offerings.
Once again we see a drive with very strong read and write performance even when dealing with small writes, which is the Achilles heel of Indilinx based drives. Additionally, the Agility 2 had the best max read performance at 285MB/s and write performance of 267MB/s in this benchmark,
SiSoftware Sandra 2009
Sandra, by SiSoftware, is a tool capable of benchmarking about every component found inside a computer. In this case, we are using the physical disk tool, which measures read and write performance of a given drive.
The Agility 2 performed very well in this test as it had the best read performance and only slightly slower write performance the the Torqx.
The SF-1200 controller is quite the amazing product. It offers extremely fast read and write performance, little to no write amplification and has better small write performance than other consumer based controller currently on the market. All of this translates into some very impressive real-world performance for the OCZ Agility 2, as it was the fastest drive in the test-bed in many of the non synthetic benchmarks. This is perhaps the best indicator of how a drive will perform in the wild, as many benchmarks that don’t deal with real-life performance, only showing what a product is capable of, and not how it would perform in day to day use. So, with the Agility 2 coming out ahead of the other drives in the file copy test and Windows boot time it is a good indicator that this drive will perform extremely well in any system.
The Agility 2 comes with amazing performance, but it does also has a few issues. The first is that the drive uses the consumer based firmware, which limits the small write performance to 10,000 IOPS, and the second is that even with this drive being marketed as a value based product it still commands a much higher premium than larger capacity HDD's. However, these issues are common for a consumer based SF-1200 SSD and despite the cap this drive still had phenomenal small write performance. Since this model is part of the "extended" series you get more storage capacity without a price increase, and still have your choice of 60GB, 120GB and 200GB models.
Ultimately, the Agility 2 is an amazing product that has performance to spare, and comes aggressively priced for a SandForce based SDD. So, if you're looking for a replacement for that pesky little bottleneck we call an HDD this could be a good option!
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