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Appeared on: Wednesday, March 07, 2012
OCZ Octane 256GB SSD review


1. Features

Earlier this year OCZ acquired Indilinx, one of the first SSD controller makers to really make a splash in the enthusiast community. Some months later, OCZ debuted its first drive based on an Indilinx design: The Octane series of SSDs.

Based on OCZ's in-house alternative to SandForce, the Octane series do not set any performance records, at least according to their specs. However, they should remain competitive to other offerings.

 

OCZ's Octane series includes an 128/256/512GB and 1 TB versions. All are based on 25nm Intel Sync MLC NAND. The 256 GB version we have in our hands is rated as following:

The drive is available online for $340.

According to OCZ, the new Indilinx Everest platform is optimized for the complete spectrum of file types and sizes, with proprietary page mapping algorithms mirroring real world conditions across a wide range of applications.

The Octane series also includes features unique to Indilinx, including latency reduction technology to enhance system responsiveness and enable instant-on boot-ups, and proprietary NDurance technology to increase the lifespan of the NAND flash memory and minimize performance degradation. In addition, Octane drives support AES and automatic encryption to secure critical data.

Specifications

Capacity: 256GB
Interface: SATA 6Gbps / Backwards Compatible 3Gbps
512MB Onboard Cache
Indilinx Infused
TRIM Support
Background Garbage Collection Support
Boot Time Reduction Optimization
AES and Automatic Encryption
SMART Support
Proprietary Indilinx Ndurance Technology

Seek Time: 0.06ms Read; 0.09ms Write
2.5" Design
99.8 (L) x 69.63 (W) x 9.3 mm (H)
Weight: 83g

Operating Temp: 0°C ~ 70°C
Ambient Temp: 0°C ~ 55°C
Storage Temp: -45°C ~ +85°C
Power Consumption: 1.98W active,1.15W standby
Shock Resistant up to 1500G
RAID Support
MTBF: 1,250,000 hours
3-Year Warranty
Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7 (32/64 bit), Linux, Mac OSX


2. Package, installation

The slim drive retails in a plastic transparent package:

The Octane uses the newer SSD case design, with a plastic cover and metal plate. The stickers and branding are identical to the previous versions of the drive, and OCZ has chosen to make use of orange and black colors for the series.

 

 

The drive uses a SATA III interface, which offers a maximum data rate of 6Gbps. The front of the drive features a standard SATA power and data connection, with no debug pins next to the connector.

The drive measures 99.8 (L) x 69.63 (W) x 9.3 mm (H) and weighs 38g.

 

Disassembling the 256GB Octane SSD will reveal Intel 29F32B08JCME2 32GB 25nm synchronous NAND pieces and of course, the new Indilinx IDX300M00-BC controller.

The SSD can be easily installed in your chassis. The procedure is no different than installing any other drive. Connect the SATA and power cable, and you are good to go.

After installation, Intel's software in our test PC identified the drive as "OCZ-OCTANE" with firmware v1.13, and the available capacity was 244,198 MB:

More information about the drive is provided by the CrystalDiskInfo utility and the OCZ Toolbox:

 

For better performance under Windows Vista, you may need to disable any HDD optimizations such as drive indexing, prefetch superfetch disabled and defragmentation.

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 support the TRIM function, which the operating systems use when they detect that a file is being deleted from an SSD. Here is how it works: When the OS deletes a file on an SSD, it updates the file system but also tells the SSD via the TRIM command which pages should be deleted. At the time of the delete, the SSD can read the block into memory, erase the block, and write back only pages with data in them. This will result in no performance degradation for writes because the pages are already empty. As you realize TRIM only improves performance when you delete files and not when you overwrite an existing file.

You may also consider enabling the AHCI mode, which could give your SSD a little extra performance boost.


3. Benchmarks - page 1

Here is our testbed:

For the tests, we used the following software:

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.

The software reported an average sequential writing speed of just 197.5 MB/s and an average sequential reading of 398.2 MB/s:

These figures are not exactly those quoted by OCZ, especially in the writing part. This is is typical for the specific benchmark and it has to do with the fact that the HD Tach sequential read test is different from other benchmarks.

We move on to the HD Tune Pro software, another 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. In the a sequential read test, the drive read the data at 201.4MB/s (average). The reported access time was 0.157ms:

In the corresponding writing test, the drive wrote the data sequentially on the disc at 180.1 MB/s (average):

HDTune uses fixed strides across the array to measure small block sizes. If these blocks fall on page or chip boundaries, the time delays result in atypically low “calculated” performance spot data that are not completely representative of the drive’s real performance.

Here is another sequential file test. The SSD's average performance for write was 306.39 MB/s and 438.14 MB/s for read , close to the performance numbers quoted by OCZ. For this test we used the "Zero" data pattern.

Selecting the "Random" data pattern had an impact to the drive's writing performance. This time we got 271.589 MB/s average write and 440.124MB/s read:

A "mixed" pattern improved the performance of the drive:

 

 

 

The HD Tune Pro also allows random read tests. Here are some more results with the software to randomly seeks files of different sizes. Random read performance is very good on the Octane.


4. Benchmarks - page 2

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. The benchmark performs file transfers ranging from 0.5 KB to 8192 KB.

The drive gave the expected performance with an average more than 280MB/s for write and more than 460MB/s for read , with files larger than 256 KB, in Queue Depth 4:

Generally, ATTO is the preferred standard benchmarking software as while it runs spot data is has several advantages over other HDD benchmarks including the fact that it shows the specific speed of each file size transfer and shows a true average, this benchmarking product also doesn't seem to favor SRAM over DRAM caches.

Below you see a comparison of the performances of some SSD's compared to the Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD.

As you see below, the OCZ Octane 256GB SSD was not reading nor writing small 4K files very fast:

 

The drive performed better with larger files (2MB), especially in the writing part:

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.

CrystalDiskMark with its fully random drive benchmark showed the Octane's incompressible data strength over the SandForce models. For moving compressed video, the Octane is hard to beat:

 


5. Benchmarks - page 3

We proceed with the AS SSD benchmark, which contains five synthetic as well as three practical tests. The synthetic tests determine the sequential and the random read / write performance of an SSD. These tests are carried out without using the operating system's cache. The Seq-test measures how long it takes to read and write an 1GB file. Most importantly, this sequential benchmark uses incompressible data for all of its transfers.

The 4K benchmark tests the read and write performance for random 4K blocks. The 4K-64-THRD-test corresponds to the 4K procedure except that here the read and write operations are distributed on 64 threads.

The drive produced a good 434.96 MB/s read speed, and a great 280.94 MB/s write performance. The single-threaded 4K IOPS tests showed a very high 22.86MB/s for read but a rather slow write at 44.79MB/s write, while the 64-thread 4K reads recorded a good 124.01MB/s although the write performance was significantly lower at just 82.63MB/s.

 

In the following test, the Octane 256GB SSD is reading and writing files, which have been partially of fully compressed. The reading graph is smooth enough showing a consistent performance at around 420 ~ 440 MB/s no matter the compression degree of the files.

Writing was also stable although there are some dips in the graph. The average writing speed was around 290 MB/s, with peaks reaching the 318 MB/s:


6. Benchmarks - page 4

We proceed to IOMeter benchmark. 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 .

With just 11330.1 combined IOPS, the Octane 256GB SSD is positioned somewhere in the middle of the performance comparison graph, as you see below:

The next benchmark is the Anvil Pro, an ‘all inclusive’ storage utility. The software is tests transfer speeds as well as IOPS  The IOPS tests can be configurable with preset testing scenarios for read, write and mixed IO. 

We used the software with the OCZ Octane 256GB SSD and tested the drive with 0-fill compression (RAW), 8% compression, 25% compression, 45% compression, 67% compression and finally 100 % (incompressible data).

As you see in the results below, the drive's performance was very consistent and stable through out the tests, no matter if the files are compressed or not.

 

Below you see the results of Futuremark's PCMark 7 Professional edition. The drive scored 4912 points. Below you see the performance of the Octane 256GB SSD in various tasks defined by the software:

 

 


7. Final thoughts

The Indilinx Everest turned out to be a surprisingly competent controller and has helped the Octane 256GB SSD become a powerful competitor for the category. Let's summarize our findings.

Starting from the sequential read and write performance, the Octane 256GB is competitive, although not class leading. We measured an average writing speed of more than 290MB/s and more than 460MB/s for reading , especially with files larger than 256 KB. The drive was significantly slower with smaller 4K compressible files in both read and write tests.

Random 4K read performance was among the highest in the group, but overshadowed by the weaker 4K write speed, which didn't top out as high as other competing models.

The big takeaway is that performance doesn't suffer when you throw incompressible data at the Indilinx Everest controller. When it came to writing incompressible data, the Octane shined over some popular SandForce-driven SSDs, in the sequential read / write tests and 4K random read tests. An exception is the drive's performance with incompressible 4K random writing tests. Generally, if you are working with a lot of media files, drives like the Octane 256GB SSD would win out moving them around.

It's clear that the Octane is worth owning, as it performs well for its class. It is currently priced at $340, matching the price of the very popular Vertex 3 SSD, which however still suffers from firmware issues according to user's reports. To that end, choosing the Octane would make sense, as its firmware has been developed in-house by OCZ (Indilinx). Of course, waiting a bit more to see how the upcoming Vertex 4 drive (Indilinx Everest 2) will perform would be also a thought, although its price is not expected to be any close to Octane's.



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