Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/25/review_storage_ssd_ocz_apex_120gb/

OCZ Apex 120GB SSD

Quirky performer

By Leo Waldock

Posted in Hardware, 25th February 2009 09:02 GMT

Review From the outside, the 120GB OCZ Apex solid-state drive looks very similar to every other 2.5in SSD on the market, including the 80GB Intel X25-M that we reviewed last year.

OCZ Apex 120GB

OCZ's Apex: good price-per-gigabyte score

Internally, it’s a different story as the Apex uses two JMicron JMF602 Flash controller chips in conjunction with a JMB390 RAID chip so the Apex is effectively a pair of 60GB SSDs in RAID 0 configuration. If you check the specification, you’ll see that the RAID setup means that the 60GB model has a write speed of "up to 110MB/s", while the 120GB and 250GB models have a speed of "up to 160MB/s".

Our reference point for the OCZ Apex is the Intel X25-M, which launched at a price of £399 - £4.99 per gigabyte - and which has subsequently dropped to £315 - £3.94 per gig. Intel has announced a 160GB X25-M that costs £615 - £3.84 per gigabyte - so you pay a smidge less than £4 per gig if you shop with Intel and £2.67-3.25 per gig when you buy an OCZ Apex drive.

That’s a substantial saving provided the performance of the Apex is up to snuff. We tested both the Intel and OCZ drives along with a 1TB WD Caviar Black HDD on an EVGA X58 SLI motherboard with a Core i7 965 processor and 3GB of 1066MHz DDR 3 memory running Windows Vista Ultimate Edition.

OCZ Apex 120GB

Inside the Apex

OCZ Apex 120GB SSD Specs

  • Available in 60GB, 120GB, 250GB capacities
  • Read up to 230 MB/s
  • Write (120-250GB) up to 160MB/s
  • Write (60GB) up to 110MB/s
  • Seek <.2-.3ms
  • Slim 2.5in Design
  • Dimensions 99.88 x 69.63 x 9.3mm
  • Weight 77g
  • Operating Temp -10°C ~ +70°C
  • Storage Temp -55°C ~ +140°C
  • Low Power Consumption
  • Shock Resistant 1500G
  • Internal RAID 0 Support
  • MTBF 1.5 million hours
  • Warranty Two years

We installed each drive in turn as the Windows drive, with the other two drives as data drives, and ran HD Tach and PCMark05 benchmarks, as well as transferring 2GB of files between the drives.

OCZ Apex HD Tach Output

OCZ Apex 120GB

Click for full-size screengrab

Our initial impressions of the Apex were mixed. The figures from HD Tach 3 show the average write speed - 136MB/s - is rather faster than the Intel X25-M, which is 80MB/s. This seems to be evidence of the RAID feature in action. But then its read-speed is considerably lower than the Intel's: 166.5MB/s to the X-25M's 235.1MB/s

The Apex demonstrates a burst speed that is the fractionally higher than the WD and 12 per cent lower than the Intel drive.

In the HDD element of PCMark05, the Apex achieved twice the score of the WD Caviar Black. However, it was substantially lower than the Intel X25-M.

Both HD Tach 3 and PCMark05 are synthetic benchmarks that have been written specifically for rotating magnetic media - data are stored quite differently on an SSD. Specifically, the SSD uses algorithms that level the load to ensure the memory chips are used evenly to avoid wearing them out.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that synthetic benchmarks are a waste of time with an SSD, but it does mean that you have to use caution when you refer to the test results. We'd go further than that and say that the current crop of benchmarks reflects the way that Windows XP and Vista use hard drives. We won’t get a proper picture until Microsoft finalises the SSD-friendly Windows 7.

Intel X-25M HD Tach Output

OCZ Apex 120GB

Click for full-size screengrab

The software behemoth talked about Windows 7 Enhancements for Solid-State Drives at WinHEC 2008 and you can grab the PowerPoint here, but we warn you, it makes for dull reading.

PCMark05 HDD Results

OCZ Apex 120GB - PCMark05

Longer bars are better

HD Tach 3.0.1 Results
Random Access Time

OCZ Apex 120GB - HDD Tach

Time in Milliseconds (ms)
Shorter bars are better

Average Read and Write Speeds

OCZ Apex 120GB - HDD Tach

Speed in Megabytes per Second (MB/s)
Longer bars are better

Burst Speed

OCZ Apex 120GB - HDD Tach

Speed in Megabytes per Second (MB/s)
Longer bars are better

If benchmarks are a bit of a flop, the safe bet is to turn to real-world tests. We transferred a 2GB directory of files within each drive and also from one drive to another. Usually, we run a particular test a number of times until we are confident the results are both representative and repeatable and then we use the median figure. The OCZ blew that approach out of the water as the numbers were horribly inconsistent, so we have given the three median figures for each file transfer test.

2GB File Transfer Results
OCZ Apex as Data Drive

OCZ Apex 120GB - 2GB File Copy

Time in Seconds
Shorter bars are better

Intel X-25M as Data Drive

OCZ Apex 120GB - 2GB File Copy

Time in Seconds
Shorter bars are better

WD Caviar Black as Data Drive

OCZ Apex 120GB - 2GB File Copy

Time in Seconds
Shorter bars are better

When we timed how long it took to transfer 2GB of data within the Apex as the Windows drive these figures are 36.9s, 49.9s and 54.8s which is an enormous spread of 18s. When we ran the same test with the Apex as a data drive on the Intel SSD and WD Caviar Black, the range of the three median figures was much tighter at five or six seconds.

Duplicate 2GB on the Drive

OCZ Apex 120GB - 2GB File Copy

Time in Seconds
Shorter bars are better

This may be related to the Sequential Read Speed graph generated by HD Tach as it is as jagged and uneven as any graph we have ever seen.

The strange behaviour of the Apex is smoothed out when you’re transferring data from one drive to another. With the WD Caviar Black as the Windows drive, we were able to do a direct comparison between the Intel and OCZ SSDs and the OCZ Apex came out slightly ahead. During testing we were surprised to find that the smart metal casing of the OCZ reached a consistent temperature of 45°C. By contrast, the plastic casing of the Intel SSD didn’t get hotter than 25°.

You’ll have spotted that those conclusions have been couched in cautious terms as the OCZ Apex SSD is both fast and erratic.

This may be the reason that OCZ has announced the Vertex range of SSDs, which will switch from the JMicron JMF602 controller and will instead use the Indilinx Barefoot IDX22 chip, which has a write speed of 170MB/s and a read speed of 230MB/s.

OCZ Apex 120GB

SATA claws

The four Vertex drives will sell for £99 (30GB), £180 (60GB), £340 (120GB) and £640 (250GB). That makes it hard to recommend the current Apex SSD models when the new and presumably better Vertex series is just around the corner. At least OCZ has added to the downwards pressure in SSD prices.

Verdict

We have mixed feelings about the Apex SSD and sincerely hope that the Vertex will make strides to improve performance. ®

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