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Appeared on: Wednesday, May 20, 2009
OCZ Apex 120GB SSD

1. Features

Today we have in our hands one of the latest solid state drives (SSD) by OCZ. The OCZ Apex SATA II 2.5" Solid State Drive (SSD) Series is the affordable midrange offering for enthusiasts, system builders, and mainstream computer users demanding the latest technology in this fast-developing sector of the storage market. This cost-efficient SSD offers an upgrade from traditional hard disc storage while maintaining a price point that is within the reach of a wide range of consumers.

Offering your notebook or desktop system the benefits of flash-based storage, the OCZ Apex Series includes a new internal RAID 0 architecture, updated controller design, and 230MB/sec read and 160MB/sec write speeds.

The OCZ Apex Series drives feature a lightweight alloy housing, and because OCZ SSDs have no moving parts, the drives are more rugged than traditional hard drives. Apex Series SSDs have a1.5 million hour mean time before failure (MTBF)and come backed a two year warranty and OCZ’s service and support.

- Features

2. The package

OCZ Apex 120GB SSD retails for around $300 ($274 after $25 mail-in rebate). This is a good price for a 120GB SSD. The product is backed by a a two-year of warranty, which is much less than usual warranty offered for a HDD.

The retail package is small and easily recognizable, with the 'OCZ Technology' among with 'Apex Series 120GB' logos on it.

The drive is carefully placed into an anti-static bag.

The drive is also very lightweight ~77grams and of course, it has the typical 2.5"size.

The SATA I/II compatible drive comes with the typical power and signal connectors. This means you can easily use this as an replacement of your laptop's HDD or even install it to your PC making it almost noiseless.

The Apex series include the Samsung memory banks with two JMicron YMF602 controllers in Raid 0 configuration, offering a better performance compared with non-raid solutions. Hopefully this setup could eliminate/improve the shutter issues that many users are facing with MLC designs.

3. Benchmarks

Here is our test PC set up:

We choose the Windows Vista x64 OS for our tests with all the latest service packs/updates installed. Before you start using the device, make sure that the 'advanced performance' option is enabled, found under the 'Control panel>HDD drives' window of Vista.

We didn't perform any kind of optimizations as it is described in various websites, although it would be recommended to do so in case you plan to use the SSD drive as your basic storage device of your system.

Benchmark software:

Let's start with the HDTach RW benchmark. The long Bench test test gives us an idea of the overall performance. The drive's reading speed looks steady at 155MB/sec, while writing is much lower at 42.7MB/sec. The random access time is at 0.2ms, an impressive number, but we have to do with NAND memory here after all.

The HD Tune Pro software reports that reading starts at 130MB/sec and reaches the 200MB/sec at the 60GB mark. After than point, the performance drops again. The average reading speed is 165MB/sec, which is higher than the previous HDTachRW result:

We proceed with a Random Access test (read). The software measures the time needed to access and read files different in size. A very small 521byte file was accessed in just 0.16 ms and was read at an average speed of 3.078 MB/s. A 4KB file is accessed in 0.18ms and was read at 21.785 MB/s. An 1MB file was read at 203.347 MB/s but the drive was slower in accessing it (4.9 ms).

Reading files with random sizes was read at 186MB/sec:

Below you see a writing speed graph. The drive starts writing pretty fast at 151MB/sec but soon, the speed drops and and it is not stable, a behavior met in all the SSD drives. As a result, the average speed for write is 85.9MB/sec, almost the double the HDTachRW gave previously.

The Random write test shows that the drive... doesn't like very much random writing..As you can see below the drive writes the various files pretty slowly:

The ATTO Disk Benchmark provides even more results testing read/write tasks with files of different sizes:

CrystalDiskMark 2.2 with 100MB and 1000MB settings:

and PCMark Vantage HDD test suite

Finally, we performed the IOMeter tests at various drives we have available in our labs:

The OCZ Apex SSD drive performed better than the PatriotMemory Warp v2 128GB SSD, but the Write I/O time and average response time were much higher than what you would get from normal hard disk drive. While the shuttering effect may be present, there are various guides offering advices on how to further increase the performance of your SSD drives, which would probably work mostly on Windows XP systems.

Another IOMeter test taken from OCZ Technology forums simulates the boot up time of Windows 7 operating system. Again, the Average I/O and Maximum I/O response times are very high:

4. Final words

The OCZ Apex 120GB solid stage drive is an entry level product for users who need an SSD drive without spending a fortune. Aggressively priced at $274 and offering twice the capacity of the fastest SSD on the planet - the Intel X25m - OCZ's solution deserves some attention.

The 2.5" drive is also extremely lightweight (77gr) and is backed by a 2-year warranty. It's specifications indicate 230MB/sec reading and 160MB/sec writing, which turned out to be quite optimistic at least. The highest performance we got from our tests was 200MB/sec for reading and 40~80MB/sec for writing. While those numbers are far from the specs, the reading part is adequate.

The drive is based on the MLC technology with a RAID0 setup of two JMicron YMF602 controllers in order to deliver better performance than the single JMicron-based drives. While the average/maximum response I/O time was less than the PatriotMemory Warp v2 128GB SSD, it is much higher than what you will get with a normal hard disk drive. Although we did not experience any problems and the SSD worked just fine during our tests, there are cases where shuttering (pause) could occur so you'd better avoid it by following the instructions for optimization.

We cannot imagine why someone would not pay some extra money and grab the newest member in OCZ 's family of SSDs, the OCZ Vertex series, which deliver outstanding performance as the most reviewers and users tend to agree.

In our opinion, the OCZ Apex 120GB SSD drive is a good product if reading is important for you. For example for backing up your files and using it as an external drive connected to your notebook/PC, or just for boosting the reading performance for specific tasks. You may also use the SSD drive for installing Windows but still, you should disable several services/move page file, etc in order to reduce the writing load on the drive and avoid any unwanted shutter as you work.

- Positive

- Negative

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