Some time ago, we told you all about OCZ’s Agility 3, the representative of the company’s SSDs, so we got acquainted with the new generation of SandForce controllers through SF2200 present in the said device. Recently, we’ve received samples of their Vertex 3, as well as Kingston’s HyperX SSD devices, both of which are highly reminiscent of Agility 3 – not only do they share the same controller, but we also suspect the same for the memory modules contained within.
Both models we’re presenting today have 256 GB of memory at disposal, but as we already explained on several occasions, the new SandForce controller (SF-2281) doesn’t have a separate buffer chip, relying instead on one of the 16 GB modules to manipulate data when the SSD is full or replace failed cells. This gives an effective capacity of 240 GB, as well as a small reserve should some of the cells fail, which can’t hurt.
Kingston HyperX SSD
Kingston has been creating hype for their HyperX SSD series for a while now, calling them models for uncompromising users craving nothing but performance, so we’ve been more than eager to finally have one of them in our hands. In accordance with the HyperX brand reputation, the metal casing looks very firm, with a few blue plastic bits here and there to add to the peculiar looks of this model when combined with the metal frame and glossy stripes. The bundle also contains the 3.5” adapter, a blue HyperX SATA III cable, molex-to-SATA power cable, USB drawer for a 2.5” device, USB cable, installation screwdriver in the recognisable HyperX colours, as well as a CD with Acronis cloning and transferring software. All in all, a rich bundle indeed, entirely in line with this product’s class and price.
The interior of this SSD also conceals a thermal pad that stretches across the entire surface of PCB, spreading heat evenly across all components and conducting it to the body, which doubles as a passive cooler. Not that SF-2281 heats up a lot, but a bit of extra protection is always good to have. Expectedly, Intel’s 25 nm MLC NAND chips have been used, and they represent an upgrade compared to the previous generation in that they can do up to 5000 PE (program/erase) cycles instead of the up-to-now common 3000 PE cycles; this makes them much more agile and durable than their predecessors.
OCZ Vertex 3
The design differences between this and Kingston’s model are obvious. OCZ Vertex 3 has kept the conservative approach, with no additional ornate elements on the casing. The black top cover is made of plastic, while the bottom is metal, which makes the SSD significantly lighter than its Kingston counterpart.
The markings are minimalistic and say only the essential, which shouldn’t be considered a complaint; in fact, we might even prefer this approach to Kingston’s NASA antics. The Spartan bundle contains only the 3.5” adapter, with no cloning software of any kind, which we would’ve liked to have, as it can prove very useful, especially since the freeware versions are usually limited and impractical.
This model has no thermal paste, and the component layout is almost identical to the one seen in HyperX; even Intel’s memory chips are identical and distributed in the same way. Therefore, the only difference in performance between these two models would be caused by the firmware each SSD uses.
AMD and Intel?
As far as testing goes, both OCZ and Kingston requested that any testing be done on Intel’s Sandy Bridge chipset (P67 or Z68), with no extra explanation other than “it’s going to run better”. Not only have the test results varied depending on Intel storage driver’s version, but it’s even been common to get different results when running the exact same drivers.
We can only speculate whether insisting on Intel’s platform has anything to do with the fact that certain key shareholders are present in both Intel and SandForce Inc., but we were highly suspicious of tuning, i.e. making the product better-performing when running on an Intel rig.
Of course, we won’t waste time stating how ridiculous making a controller perform better on one manufacturer’s platform would be as a conscious decision, especially since the products would probably get pulled in the EU until three major exclamation marks are put on every box.
The standard test battery has been expanded with an additional few applications, so that you can see how well SSDs perform in various conditions. As far as ATTO Bench goes, the results favour OCZ in small data manipulation, while Kingston takes the cake when file sizes increase. With AS, the results are fairly consistent for both SSDs with smaller files, while bigger files fare better on OCZ Vertex 3, with speed differences of over 25%. CrystalDiskMark was undecided too, making HyperX better in reading data, but giving way to the other opponent in write operations. All-across system-testing applications such as SiSoft Sandra and PCMark 7 gave very similar results in their storage subsystem tests, putting both SSD results in the “top” category, with differences in the range of statistical error.
|OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB||Kingston HyperX SH100S3B/240G|
|Controller||Sand Force SF-2281||Sand Force SF-2281|
|Interface||SATA 6 Gb/s||SATA 6 Gb/s|
|Price per GB [€]||1,38||1,66|
|Price [€]||~ 330||~ 400|
The most important test (at least according to us), the one measuring real-world device performance by transferring a certain amount of data from one to another folder on the SSD, has seen a few changes. In order to provide more credible results, we’ve increased the sizes of test folders, thereby reducing chances of error caused by large number operations; the arithmetical average of three measurements is then taken as the final result. As expected, this test showed very little difference between the two SSDs, although OCZ emerged as the winner yet again, which might mean something to folks who tend to transfer data between partitions a lot.
|Results||OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB||Kingston HyperX 240 GB||2x Kingston HyperX 240 GB RAID 0|
|ATTO Bench 2.41|
|Read QD4 0,5 / 4 / 8 / 265 / 8192 KB [KB/s]||31.488 / 243.725 / 324.967 / 532.634 / 559.240||21.651 / 166.569 / 250.478 / 536.665 / 560.538||20.992 / 168.612 / 264.154 / 973.423 / -|
|Read QD10 0,5 / 4 / 8 / 256 / 8192 KB [KB/s]||41.472 / 328.851 / 402.653 / 555.213 / 561.841||39.808 / 293.011 / 401.080 / 557.784 / 650.538||59.116 / 319.635 / 421.028 / 1.061.553 / -|
|Write QD4 0,5 / 4 / 8 / 256 / 8192 KB [KB/s]||24.897 / 289.939 / 394.936 / 526.091 / 527.637||18.560 / 227.950 / 347.832 / 524.802 / 526.344||18.386 / 234.334 / 375.565 / 1.023.550 / -|
|Write QD10 0,5 / 4 / 8 / 256 / 8192 KB [KB/s]||37.888 / 334.707 / 419.037 / 526.091 / 522.926||30.515 / 366.264 / 450.678 / 524.802 / 522.926||57.216 / 407.777 / 494.338 / 1.002.027 / -|
|AS SSD Benchmark 1.6|
|Read Seq / 4K / 4K-64 Thrd [MB/s]||447,8 / 19,4 / 215,4||518,8 / 22,9 / 188,2||989,6 / 28,4 / 509,8|
|Write Seq / 4K / 4K-64 Thrd [MB/s]||294,7 / 74,4 / 233||239,2 / 93,2 / 212,4||437,3 / 94,2 / 409,9|
|Read 16 MB / 4K / 4K-64 Thrd / 512 B [IOPS]||28 / 4.971 / 55.146 / 6.927||32,4 / 5.868 / 48.183 / 7.676||61,9 / 7.259 / 130.507 / 6.342|
|Write 16 MB / 4K / 4K-64 Thrd / 512 B [IOPS]||18,4 / 219.054 / 59.655 / 4.514||15 / 238.855 / 54.380 / 4.911||27,3 / 24.111 / 104.926 / 5.350|
|Copy Benchmark ISO / Program / Game [MB/s]||200,2 / 152,6 / 162,7||164,2 / 153,6 / 164,4||336,9 / 288,5 / 293,9|
|CrystalDiskMark 3.01 x64|
|Read Seq / 512K / 4K / 4K QD 32 [MB/s]||509,7 / 448,2 / 33 / 216,5||522,1 / 462 / 37,2 / 211,9||934.4 / 759,2 / 36,9 / 408,8|
|Write Seq / 512K / 4K / 4K QD 32 [MB/s]||311,6 / 311,7 / 80,5 / 253,6||225,6 / 226,9 / 110,4 / 226||459,1 / 455,4 / 108,1 / 436,8|
|SiSoftware Sandra Pro Business 2011.SP5a|
|Read / Write [MB/s]||535,7 / 298,6||533,8 / 297,4||1007 / -|
|Random Access Time [ms]||0,01||0,02||0,26|
|HDD Test Folder|
|Small/Medium/Big files [MB/s]||16,9 / 167,9 / 155||17,4 / 133,3 / 130,6||17,3 / 217,4 / 240,7|
Most importantly, the sheer quantity of IOPS is more or less the same for both SSDs; that the performance offered by the SandForce controller is excellent; and that the disks based on same-gen controllers are nearly identical. Honestly, who cares that ATTO Bench measures more than 500 MB/s for read/write if these are results you’ll never achieve in real-world conditions? A realistic scenario in which you’d make use of great read/write speeds requires an SSD to transfer data from, such as for instance a RAID 0 stripe with two such SSDs, the results of which comprise the third column in our results chart. If we mention that the TRIM command is still unsupported even in RAID 0 stripes (although Intel has announced that this will be changed in the 11.5 revision of RST drivers), as well as the fact that the price of this SSD subsystem would surpass 800€, it’s easy to deduce that the number of people able to afford and appreciate this sort of speed is very low. On the other hand, the high number of IOPS means that performance will remain excellent even under maximum load.
Chosen ones only
It’s worrying that storage drivers still have problems, even on Intel’s 200€+ motherboards. Furthermore, AMD has supported SATA 6.0 Gbps natively for the past two generations, and the port which you’re connecting the SSD to makes zero difference on their motherboards, which isn’t the case with Intel – you’ll usually have only two fixed ports available for these. Don’t get us wrong, OCZ’s and Kingston’s superfast SSDs are excellent, and you shouldn’t question their performance at any time. The problem is usually in the lack of optimisation in Intel’s drivers, which has been known to cause consumer revolt, making SSDs take the hit without any trace of guilt, while it’s the chipset controller or the additional chip that’s making problems.
Since these are all high-capacity, stellar-performance SSDs, both with data manipulation and the number of input/output operations per second, it shouldn’t come across as surprising that they’re accordingly priced. OCZ’s Vertex 3 model has shown slightly better performance in real-world conditions, while costing much less than its Kingston counterpart, and finally dropping the price below 1.5€/GB. Kingston’s HyperX, on the other hand, contains a very rich bundle that few SSDs can compete with, and its performance remains top-level across all conditions. If you’re looking for the best, there’s no reason not to pick either of these two SSDs. Both manufacturers have played it safe and used only the highest quality memory and controller in their products, so any differences between the two will be settled on the firmware front – these will never be sufficient to call one of them a winner, though.
All in all, OCZ offers a fantastic SSD for anyone looking to seriously improve their storage subsystem. Kingston justifies its higher price by its bundle. It’s up to you to choose whether everything that Kingston has to offer is worth 70€ more. Whichever of these two you opt for, you won’t regret it – we guarantee it!