When it comes to upgrading something in your PC for the most noticeable performance gains, the SSD is probably the best place to start. Traditional platter based hard drives have served the PC masses for years now, but with cheaper production costs and huge technology investments, flash storage is readily becoming the way of the data storage future.
Today techAU puts three consumer Solid State Drives onto the testing bench to find out which offer the biggest gains, and which offers you the best bang for your buck.
Motherboard: ASUS M4A89GTD PRO USB3
CPU: AMD Phenom x4 955 Black Edition @ 3.8Ghz
RAM: 8GB DDR3 1600Mhz G-Skill Ripjaws X (9-9-9-24)
GPU: GTX 580 (1.5GB)
Note: All drives were benchmarked as is, out of the box.
AS SSD – 1.6.4237.30508
ATTO Disk Benchmark – 2.47
HD Tune Pro – 4.61
CrystalDiskMark – 3.0.1
Competing alongside each other today we have the 60GB OCZ Vertex 2, a small sized drive with an affordable price. The 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS drive, a mid-level drive with blistering random performance. And finally we have the 256GB Crucial m4 SSD, one of the most powerful SSD’s on the market offering blazing speeds and large space.
All three drives were wiped before having Windows 7 64 bit install on them. We then took the drives through a series of tests and benchmarks using common tools, the data and results of which have been provided below for review.
Test One: AS SSD
A common tool used to benchmark traditional Solid State Drives as well as having the ability to benchmark other drives and devices, AS SSD is a great piece of software. We ran all three drives through AS SSD’s extensive tests and compiled the raw data into easy to read graphs.
The sequential read and write test of AS SSD provides valuable information into the writing and reading mechanics of any drive. How fast the drive can write large amounts of data reflects how suitable the drive may be for tasks such as video rendering that reward faster dumps.
The Vertex 3 took first place with its impressive 474 MB/s read speeds however it then failed to trump the Crucial m4 when it came to writing, with the m4 pushing an impressive 258 MB/s. The Vertex 2 never stood a chance against the other two enthusiast drives, offering a dismal 55 MB/s write speed, a tiny 33.31% in comparison to the Vertex 3.
The 4K-64 Thrd read and write tests give us an insight into the SSD’s ability to load programs, and fast. So if you had a program that needs to load 80MB into RAM, and your 4k-64 result is 80MB/s, it would take two seconds to load said program.
I was quite surprised to find that the Vertex 3 didn’t wipe the slate, managing to only just beat the m4 in read speeds, yet being left in the dust when it came to writes. The Crucial m4 put up 154.4 MB/s and 201.77 MB/s in read and write respectively, with the Vertex 3 managing 175.79 MB/s and 161.74 MB/s.
The lower end Vertex 2 once again performed poorly, however its low storage and speed caps are sure to be throttling it.
The titular access time test does exactly that, test how quickly AS SSD can access the read and write functions of your drive. The Crucial m4 came out way ahead of both drives in the read section, posting an impressive 0.076 millisecond access time. The Vertex 3 didn’t perform nearly as well as I thought it would, yet still managed to post some impressive figures.
It’s also worth noting that the Vertex 2 beat the Vertex 3 in both read and write, albeit only by possible luck on the write.
German flag colouring aside, the AS SSD Overall Score test provides a final representative score that depicts the total performance of each drive.
Not surprisingly the Crucial m4 shot out ahead over the Vertex 3 in the write department, thanks to the impressive 258 MB/s write speeds we saw earlier.
The Vertex 3 however gained a leg up over the m4 thanks to its great reads, yet still fell three points short of winning the bout. The Vertex 2 due to its minimal performance, only managed close to 50% of what the other drives ended up getting.
Test Two: ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark (ATTO from here on out) is one of the most reliable disk storage benchmarking tools available. The freeware tool is widely accepted across the internet for providing accurate figures and results.
OCZ Vertex 2 60GB
The Vertex 2 provided mixed to average results, but reached its full stride towards the end of the ATTO testing.
With max reads of 281MB/s at both the 2 and 4k tests, the drive can perform in the right circumstances however these aren’t indicative of the overall experience.
Write speeds were slightly below the reads, with a max of 258MB/s, once again in the ideal circumstances that ATTO provides.
Crucial m4 256GB
The Crucial m4 put out impressive speeds during both read and write tests throughout the ATTO leg of our review.
Peaking at almost 460MB/s of write, and 279MB/s of read during the 2k test, Crucial’s drive produced high end results from this high end drive.
Something slightly concerning was the performance of the previous drive, the Vertex 2, in comparison to the Crucial. During the 2k test the Vertex 2 managed a maximum read of 281MB/s, 2MB/s over the performance of the significantly higher priced and technology filled m4.
OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120GB
The OCZ Vertex 3 provided the best results out of our three-way review, both in write and read speeds within ATTO’s testing procedures.
A whopping 556MB/s read result at the 2k mark was accompanied by a 460MB/s write result, making for quite an impressive show of brute force and hardware results across the board.
In addition to the already high and impressive results listed, we also saw a read of 473MB/s.
Test Three: HD Tune Pro
We used HD Tune Pro in our testing to determine a number of factors in the read only divison. Firstly, the program shows the IOPS performance of the drive on both the 512 bytes level, the 1 MB level and when used in a random fashion. We were then able to find out the average speed of the drive across all three size levels, as well as the access time.
Crucial m4 256GB
The Crucial put out impressive results, and strangely enough, listed a higher IOPS rating than the Vertex 3 and its Max IOPS model. The speeds we saw across the board were conclusive as to what we’ve seen earlier in the review, providing not only consistent evidence, but also proving that the m4 has the goods.
Vertex 3 120GB Max IOPS
As I mentioned in the results for the Crucial, the Max IOPS drive failed to list higher speed results despite its branding. The Crucial walked all over the Vertex 3 in all categories, despite the Vertex besting the previous drive earlier in the review.
Vertex 2 60GB
Finally in our results we have the 60GB Vertex 2, my personal drive of the last few months. Offering a low entry price and decent performance over a traditional drive, the results spoke in terms of the “Get what you pay for” ethos.
The Vertex 2 did manage to list a higher IOPS rating than its Vertex 3 cousin, however failed to show any other large results.
Test Four: CrystalDiskMark
CrystalDiskMark is the final program used for our review, and provides a swathe of results similar to that seen in AS SSD. Testing the drives across a number of fronts, CrystalDiskMark (CDM from here) is another comprehensive and widely recognised testing platform.
The sequential read and write test in CDM is identical to the one exhibited in AS SSD, and the results are similar, too. Once again the Vertex 3 came out on top with the Crucial falling behind by almost 100MB/s in the read category.
The Vertex 2 posted an extra 10MB/s in the write category however it did not make any gains in the read section.
The 512k test of CDM shows each drives performance at writing data in 512k blocks, which not only offers real world insights, but also shows us valuable data you can use when purchasing an SSD.
The Vertex 3 once again took the lead with almost 110MB/s read difference over the Crucial m4, however it was almost trumped by 85MB/s when it came to writing speeds. The Vertex 2 managed dismal results in the write section, only offering 48MB/s of performance in our test.
The 4k test, as with the 512k test, shows writing and reading performance to the drives but with tiny small file sizes.
For a change, the Crucial m4 out wrote the Vertex 3, albeit only slightly, and the Vertex 3 out read the Crucial m4. The Vertex 2 for the first time in our testing also managed to keep up with the pack falling less than 1MB/s behind the m4 in the read division.
Vertex 2 – Offering decent performance over a traditional platter based hard drive, the Vertex 2 60GB model is available at a discount price and is almost an essential product to any system. Although it failed to keep up with the higher end and more expensive drives, it still posted impressive speeds for its price and will please any low end user.
Vertex 3 – The Vertex 3 is an incredible drive, both in price and results. Consistent performance and high end speeds were met by fierce competition courtesy of the Crucial m4 however this drive still managed to break away by up to 100MB/s at some points. If you’re looking for the most powerful bootdrive you can purchase, both in bang for your buck and speed, the Vertex 3 120GB Max IOPS drive is it.
Crucial m4 – The Crucial m4 256GB model is one of the best Solid State Drives I have had the pleasure of both using and testing, for not only its SSD technology but also its storage size. Offering consistently high results and performance, the only thing letting this drive down is its high price point and significantly lower reads and writes when compared to the Vertex 3.