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Appeared on: Thursday, July 22, 2010
OCZ Agility2 60GB SSD review


1. Features

Today will examine the Agility 2, a new 60GB SSD model that promises to deliver high performance while maintaining an affordable storage solution.

The 2.5" SSD drive is using the SF-1200 controller and it is based on a new architecture. SandForce’s architecture attempts to solve the issue of NAND write amplification by simply writing less to the drive through compression/deduplication techniques.

OCZ claims that the Agility 2 excels in both sequential and random read/write rates, featuring 4k random writes up to 10,000 IOPS to give a performance edge over the previous generation.

The Agility 2 is using affordable MLC flash memory (34nm NAND), it has a SATA 3Gb/s interface and features TRIM support to optimize performance over the drive’s lifespan . The drive comes backed by a 3-year warranty and 2 million hour MTBF.

- Features


2. A closer look

The OCZ Agility 2 60GB SSD retails for about $169 (after $10 mail-in rebate). Judging from this price, we could expect to see a decent performance from the drive.

The product is backed by a good three-year warranty but we would be a little be happier with a more generous one.

The package includes the OCZ Agility 2 60GB SSD, a manual with quick installation tips, a OCZ's "My SSD Is Faster Than Your HDD" sticker and a 3.5" bracket for installing the drive at a desktop PC. We couldn't ask for anything more:

The drive is very light at about 77grams and has the typical dimensions of a 2.5" SSD. As happens with all SATA I/II compatible drives, the usual connectors are found at the drive's bottom side:

The Agility 2 uses Intel flash chips fabricated with 34-nm process technology. As we previously mentioned, the drive is also based on the SF-1200controller, which comes with impressive specs: 260MB/s for sequential reads and writes, 30,000 IOps for 4KB random reads, and 10,000 IOps for random writes. SandForce claims that the DuraWrite technology extends the life of the SSD over conventional controllers, by optimizing writes to the flash memory and delivering a write amplification below 1, without DRAM caching requirements.


3. Tests

- Tests

Here is out testbed:

We didn't perform any kind of optimizations for the operating system since we didn't install the operating system in the Agility 2 SSD drive. We made sure that "enable advanced performance" feature was enabled (Control Panel-- Device Manager) before performing any test. We used the following benchmarking software with their default options:

In order to get the maximum performance, we used the SATA mode from IDE to AHCI. In order to do that, you can simply use this reg file and after reboot, install Intel's RST v9.6.0.1014 that also support TRIM commands even if the drive isn't used in a RAID configuration. The system will work just fine with MS standard drivers, but users have reported a higher performance after installing the latest Intel 9.6 driver pack.

After installation, we run the CrystalDiskInfo utility software, which monitors the installed SDD. As you can see in the screenshot below, the Agility 2 SSD 60GB SSD Ver.1.10 supports the S.M.A.R.T, 48-bit LBA, APM, NCQ and TRIM features:

We start the tests with the HDTachRW software. HD Tach is a low level hardware benchmark for random access read/write storage devices. The software measures the sequential read speed (at various points on the device), the random access speed and sequential write speed. We selected the full benchmark.

The drive's reading/writing performance is linear. The reported average reading speed was 254.80MB/sec and 247.40Mb/sec for write. The SATA2 port maxed out at 270.2MB/sec (burst speed).

The HD Tune Pro software is also a utility we used to measure the drive's reading performance. Although not necessarily representative of real-world workloads, HD Tune's targeted tests give us a glimpse of each drive's raw capabilities. This time we got an 194.8MB/sec speed for sequential read, which is slower than we saw with the HDTachRW software:

The random access read (and write) test is a very important performance area to look at on solid state drives as some controllers have problems with random writes.

The Agility 2 SSD  with the SandForce 1200 controller does in pretty well in the random read test. Below you can see the IOPs reported for different files:

Passing to the HD Tune Pro writing tests we saw the following writing behavior that resulted to an average sequential write speed of 147.7MB/sec. The drive fell short of their 250MB/s write-speed ratings.

Below you can see the random write tests:

The next benchmark is the CrystalDiskMark. The software provides throughput data based on sequential reads and writes, and random (512K/4K/4KQD32) reads and writes. We've used the default 1,000MB file-size for the tests:

The AS SSD Benchmark also provides sequential and random read/write tests, as well as other useful information about the drive's access times:

The next software we used was the ATTO Disk Benchmark. The tool measures storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. We got a high performance (273.913MB/sec write, 284.53MB/sec read) in both Queue Depth 4 and 10:

Iometer is run by using workstation and database patterns for queue depths (outstanding I/Os) of two and 32, representing very light and moderate loads. Iometer is both a workload generator (that is, it performs I/O operations in order to stress the system) and a measurement tool (that is, it examines and records the performance of its I/O operations and their impact on the system). The app's ability to bombard drives with an escalating number of concurrent IO requests also does a nice job of simulating the sort of demanding multi-user environments that are common in enterprise applications. It can be used for measurement of the performance of an SSD. We run the IOMeter tests using the Xtreme Benchmark template . Here are the results:

Compared with previous tested drives, the OCZ Agility 2 kept its promise and gave around 10.757 IOPS, a superb performance for OCZ's SF-1200-based SSD drive. The data generated by IOMeter may be particularly amenable to DuraWrite compression, as well. The software also reported a high maximum I/O response time of 98.6159 ms, an issue that could be fixed with a new firmware update.


4. OCZ Toolbox

The Agility 2 SSD will be able to use the OCZ Toolbox software utility.  This software will be made available to the public once it is fully ready. Developed by OCZ and  SandForce, the software is packed full of features that you are going to find useful over the life of the drive.

This software would be a swiss army tool for experienced users. In short you can control all the major functions of your newly bought SSD, like formatting, installing new software or password-protect your data.

 

Furthermore, the utility provides SMART Data reporting:


5. Conclusion

OCZ's Agility 2 series is a serious performer as our tests showed. The SandForce-1200 controller seems to have a great potential offering solid sequential throughput and very fast random access times across a range of transfer sizes. You may experience reading and writing speeds that reach the 250MB/sec. The SF-1200 also showed a great performance when the SSD handled random writes with larger transfer sizes, and this was proved in our IOMeter workloads that contained a mix of read and write operations.

The Agility 2 drive also supports TRIM function under Windows 7, however XP users should wait until a TRIM utility being released to the market. The retail package includes a very useful 3.5" bracket for users who plan installing it at a desktop system. The drive is also backed by a 3-year warranty - which is currently typical for this category of SSDs.

The drive's retail price is slightly higher than other comparable drives (for example Crucial's RealSSD 300 series) but OCZ's solution offers higher writing speeds.

We almost forgot to mention that OCZ's Vertex 2 series is also based on the same system and a special firmware allows up to 40K IOPS! However, you will have to spend more for a Vertex 2 SSD. Being among the the cheapest 60GB SandForce-based drive available out there, we can easily suggest this solid state drive to all users who wish to get a real upgrade for their desktop/laptop systems.

Positive

+ Very high reading/writing performance
+ Includes 3.5" mounting bracket for desktop systems
+ OCZ Toolbox offers advanced features
+ Drive worked great during our benchmark
+ Supports TRIM command
+ 3 years of warranty
+ Active forum community

Negative

- Retail price is higher than competition



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