Model: OCZ Agility 3 120GB Solid State Drive
Manufacturer: OCZ Technology
Provided By: OCZ Technology
OCZ Technology is no stranger to the computer industry. Founded by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, the company entered the memory market in 2002. Determined to manufacture the very best memory for overclockers, OCZ quickly established itself as a leader in the industry by breaking speed barriers and maintaining a reputation of quality. Today, OCZ continues to innovate. Along with their line of enthusiast-oriented power supplies, the company offers a wide range of high-performance SSD solutions for the enterprise and consumer markets.
One of the latest additions to OCZ's already impressive line of solid state drives is the Agility 3. Available in 60GB, 120GB and 240GB capacities, this cost-effective alternative to the popular Vertex 3 is based on the same SandForce SF-2281 controller and shares many of the same features including a SATA 6Gb/s interface and TRIM support. The biggest difference is that the Agility 3 uses asynchronous NAND, which is more affordable than the synchronous NAND found on the Vertex 3. This does result in some slightly lower performance numbers. However, the Agility 3 still delivers up to 525MB/s reads, 500MB/s writes, and up to 60,000 4KB random write IOPS.
For this review, OCZ sent us the 120GB version of the Agility 3. This SSD is capable of delivering up to 525 MB/s sequential read and 500 MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 20,000 random read and 50,000 random write IOPS.
|OCZ Agility 3 120GB Solid State Drive|
Dimensions and Weight
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the Agility 3 has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at OCZ's new SSD and then see how well it performs. Does the Agility 3 have what it takes? Can it deliver the performance we've come to expect from OCZ? Keep reading as we find out.
The Agility 3 comes in a small, black and green box. Along with a picture of the drive, the front advertises many of its key features including its 120GB capacity, SATA 6Gbps interface, SandForce controller and TRIM support. The back of the box provides a bit more information, including the Agility 3's specifications and a full list of features. Inside, you'll find the SSD, installation guide and a sticker that says "My SSD Is Faster Than Your HDD."
The Agility 3 looks very similar to OCZ's other 2.5" SSDs. The top of the outer casing is made out of plastic and has a matte black finish. There is also a large, green and black sticker showing that the SSD is part of OCZ's Agility 3 series. The bottom of the casing is made out of metal which has a brushed metal finish. The stickers on the bottom show the drive's part number, capacity and serial number.
As I mentioned earlier, the Agility uses SandForce's SF-2281 controller chip. The SF-2281 can be found in a number of other high-performance SSD's including the Corsair Force Series 3, Patriot Wildfire and OCZ's popular Vertex 3 and Vertex 3 Max IOPS Series.
For the Agility 3, OCZ opted to use Micron's 8GB 25nm 29F64G08CBAAA asynchronous NAND flash chips. Looking at the pictures above, you can see that there are eight of these chips on either side of the PCB. If you do the math, you'll see that this equals 128GB and not the 120GB of storage the drive advertises. The SandForce controller uses this extra 7% (8GB) to maximize read and write performance and extend the endurance and overall reliability of the drive.
The test system used in this review was an HP 8200 Elite. The computer came equipped with an Intel Core i5-2400 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 1333MHz memory, Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3250312AS 250GB SATA 6 Gb/s hard drive, NVIDIA Quadro FX580 512MB PCIe graphics card and an Intel 82579-LM gigabit network card. For the operating system, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 Enterprise.
To test the performance of the OCZ Agility 3, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark 3.0, HD Tach RW 18.104.22.168, ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46, HD Tune Pro 4.61 and Iometer. For comparison, I've also included test results from the Plextor PX-128M2S.
As I mentioned earlier, the Agility 3 is based on SandForce's SF-2281 controller. Like other SandForce controllers, the SF-2281 features a technology called DuraWrite, which uses data compression to lower write amplification and extend the life of the drive by reducing the number of program-erase cycles. This data compression also plays a big part in the controller's performance. The more the data can be the compressed, the faster an SSD like the Agility 3 is able to read and write. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see the considerable performance difference between incompressible (0%) and compressible (100%) data. This will come up a number of times in this review.
First, I ran a few quick tests using CrystalDiskMark. This benchmark tool measures the performance of a storage device by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its random read and write speeds using blocks 512K and 4K in size.
According to OCZ, the 120GB Agility 3 is capable of reading at 525MB/s and writing at 475MB/s when connected to a SATA 6 Gb/s port. The drive didn't come close to these numbers using CrystalDiskMark's default (random) test data. However, with the highly compressible 0x00 (0 Fill) data, the Agility 3 was able to read at 464.5 MB/s and write at 431.2 MB/s.
HD Tach RW 22.214.171.124:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the Agility 3's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.
OCZ Agility 3 120GB
Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the Agility 3 had average read and write speeds of 326.5 MB/s and 314.5 MB/s respectively, as well as a burst speed of 316.2 MB/s.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the Agility 3's sequential read and write speeds. The tests are run using blocks ranging in size from 0.5KB to 8192KB and the total length set to 256MB.
When tested with ATTO, the Agility 3's read speeds topped out at about 536 MB/s and its write speeds at 444 MB/s.
HD Tune Pro 4.61:
Next, I ran a series of tests using HD Tune Pro. This hard disk utility measures a drive's performance by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its access time, burst rate and CPU usage. For this review, I'm also going to use it to benchmark the Agility 3's random read and write speeds, random access times and the number of operations per second.
The Agility 3 performed very well when benchmarked with HD Tune. The drive had average read and write speeds of 486.9 MB/s and 381.0 MB/s, respectively, and a burst rate of 330 MB/s when reading.
The Agility 3 didn't disappoint when doing random reads and writes. When reading 4KB blocks, the drive reached 11339 IOPS and had an average speed of 44.295 MB/s. The Agility 3 was even faster when writing, reaching 17899 IOPS with an average speed of 69.918 MB/s.
Lastly, I ran a series of tests using Iometer. This tool can be configured to benchmark a number of things. In this case, I used it to measure the Agility 3's read and write speeds and the number of operations per second. The tests were run using both repeating and random bytes and a queue depth of 3.
The Agility 3's performance was very similar to what we saw in our other tests. With highly compressible, repeating data, the drive was able to read at 501.82 MB/s and write at 421.63 MB/s. Unfortunately, the Agility 3 did not perform nearly as well with random data. In our tests, the drive's read and write speeds dropped to 278.62 MB/s and 146.34 MB/s, respectively.
The Agility 3 performed very well when doing random reads and writes. With repeating data, the drive was able to read at 51.54 MB/s and write at a blazing 258.59 MB/s. Here too, the Agility 3 took a performance hit when tested with random data. However, it was still able to write at 139.15 MB/s.
According to OCZ, the Agility 3 is capable of 50,000 IOPS when randomly writing 4K blocks. In our tests, the drive reached 66,201 IOPS with repeating data and 35,623 IOPS with random data.
While SSD's offer many benefits, there are some downsides to using flash memory. One of the biggest issues people run into is performance degradation. Over time, an SSD will run out of fresh blocks and will have to write over data the file system has marked as deleted. This procedure is very complicated and can slow an SSD's write speeds considerably.
To address this problem, most manufacturers have added TRIM support to their SSDs. The TRIM command allows an operating system, such as Windows 7, to tell an SSD which data blocks are no longer in use. Using this information, the drive pro-actively erases these blocks and adds them to the free block pool.
To test the Agility 3's TRIM function, I first put the drive in a "dirty" state. I used Iometer to fill the entire drive and then ran a random write test for 20 minutes. Surprisingly, this had very little effect on the Agility 3's write speed. However, its average read speed dropped to 127.3 MB/s.
OCZ Agility 3 - Dirty
To see how well the Agility 3 could recover, I let the computer sit for a few hours and then reran the test. While the drive wasn't able to reach the factory fresh performance shown in our earlier tests, its average read speed climbed up to 258.4 MB/s.
OCZ Agility 3 - After Trim
Lastly, I used OCZ's Toolbox utility to perform a secure erase on the Agility 3. With the drive wiped clean, its read speed jumped back up to 327.5 MB/s.
OCZ Agility 3 - Wiped
While not exactly a "budget" SSD, OCZ's new Agility 3 delivers a lot of bang for your buck. Based on the same SandForce SF-2281 controller as the Vertex 3, the Agility 3 is capable of some impressive performance. Thanks to its SATA 6Gb/s interface, the drive performed very well in our sequential read and write tests, reading at speeds as high as 536 MB/s and writing at speeds in excess of 430 MB/s. These numbers dropped considerably when reading and writing incompressible data due in part to the Agility 3's asynchronous NAND. However, most consumers probably won't notice this unless they're working with video and music files that are already highly compressed. The Agility 3 also features TRIM support and is backed by a three year warranty which includes access to OCZ's toll-free tech support as well as their 24 hour support forums.
- Available in 60GB, 120GB and 240GB capacities
- Excellent sequential read and write speeds
- SATA 6Gb/s interface
- Supports TRIM, SMART and NCQ
- 3 year warranty
- Reasonably priced
- Considerably slower with incompressible data
- Does not include a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter bracket