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Best $100 SSD: OCZ Vertex 2 Review and Apple MacBook Pro Installation

The $100 price point is a highly competitive area for SSDs. There are offerings from Intel, Kingston, Samsung, Corsair, and several from OCZ. For the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of putting one of the most popular (and speedy) offerings through its paces: the Sandforce powered OCZ Technology 60 GB Vertex 2 Series SATA II 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive (SSD) OCZSSD22VTXE60G. The results in the MacBook Pro have been outstanding and I recommend this drive without reservation to all mobile users looking for an excellent value in a speedy SSD. At the time of this writing, these drives are trading at $113.95, but that’s pretty close to $100 and as you will see in the results below, that extra $13.95 will be well spent. Both testing numbers and real world results are quite strong with this drive.

Unboxing and Installation

As shown in the video below, the Vertex 2 is packaged quite handsomely, complete with a 3.5″ bracket for mounting in a desktop machine, installation screws, and a nifty sticker exclaiming “My SSD is faster than your HDD”.

Installation of the drive was very easy. The video shows exactly how I performed the installation. The testing computer is the mid-2010 Apple MacBook Pro, so if you have a different notebook and need further instructions, just search for another video. There are many different ones available around the web. For the duration of the test, I used the Vertex 2 alongside the internal SuperDrive (and an external hard drive for media), but you could install an MCE Optibay to add a larger secondary internal storage device to your notebook as described in my previous MacBook Pro SSD article.

MacBook Pro Stock Hard Drive Performance

Fig. 1: XBench Results: Stock Hard Drive

Prior to installing the SSD, we ran some tests on the stock hard drive with the XBench testing suite. The results are displayed in figure 1.

As you can see, the 320 GB Hitachi is no speed demon. But this is expected, since the street price on these drives is only about $50. Furthermore, no hard drive should be able to compete with a solid state drive. We were ready for some fast speeds, SSD speeds!

Fig. 2: XBench Results: Vertex 2

Vertex 2 Testing

After installing OS X, we installed the second disc of included mac applications before beginning any testing. As expected, overall performance of the computer was very snappy. We timed a few restarts and were easily getting full restarts at about 20 seconds, compared with at the at least 50 seconds required to boot the hard drive. We ran the same XBench testing suite with the SSD.  Read and write speeds were higher across the board. In some areas, the results were astronomically better than with the hard drive. For example, uncached 4K reads were over 40 times faster with the Vertex 2.

But this testing suite was rather limited in scope and we really wanted to put the SSD through some more extensive tests, so we ran the QuickBench suite, which examines read and write speeds with more file sizes. The results of the standard QuickBench test (depicted in figure 3)  were excellent speeds, with closely tied read and write speeds, and performance increasing in correlation with larger file sizes.

Fig. 3: QuickBench Standard Test Graphic Results: Vertex 2

This made us wonder how much faster the drive could get, when transferring larger sized files. So we changed the settings to QuickBench to measure “large size” images and the results are displayed in figure 4. In the extended test that we ran, speeds pushed up to 273 MB/S and remained that fast up to 100MB transfers.

Fig. 4: QuickBench Large Test Graphic Results: Vertex 2

As you can see, these speeds are very close to the “Max Performance”: numbers on the back of the box (below). “Box statistics” on consumer electronics are often only accomplished under strange, ideal situations, but here we were getting near maximum claimed performance. This on a mac without any TRIM support! These were very promising results. But we wanted to really see what it was like to live with the SSD and also monitor its performance after undergoing some stress.

Fig. 5: QuickBench Extended Test Results: Vertex 2

Real World Usage
We used the drive for several weeks. And, I mean heavy use. We filled the drive up with videos, then deleted them to make sure that we were using all the sectors. We did a lot of coding, some video editing, some audio recording, and of course web browsing and playing videos. Throughout the whole period, the computer just felt fast all the time.

At this point we re-ran the XBench and QuickBench tests. While the write performance was down a little bit in the XBench retest, the read performance had actually increased slightly from our initial tests. QuickBench results were only slightly reduced as shown in figure 6. Any SSD will experience a decrease in write performance after all the sectors have been written for the first time. The extra boost in write performance that you get when you install your applications on a new SSD is known as FOB or “Fresh Out of Box State”. This phenomenon is not limited to OCZ, nor is the reduction in write speed a defect on the overall design of the drive.

Fig. 6: QuickBench Standard Test After Extended Use

Throughout extensive use, real world performance has held up on this drive and we are still getting 20 second restart times, even while pushing the boundaries of its storage limits. This is an incredibly fast drive with an emphasis on fast write times. It just plain works well despite my attempts to push it to its limits.

Drive Size Choice and Conclusion

While OCZ makes this drive in sizes up to 480 GB, our test copy was only 60 GB. While this at first seemed very limiting, I quickly got used to the smaller size. Instead of storing media on the SSD, I throw them on an external drive. I still have plenty of media on my IPhone, which I sync with the external. In a strange way it’s kind of freeing to have a strict limitation on storage, because it ensures that you only install the absolute essentials on your machine. I’ve found that it helps keep me focused on coding. The price savings is nice too.

Back of the Box

In all honesty, if I was going to buy this drive today and I am very tempted to do so, I would get the 120 GB version. However  if I was offered the choice between a 320 GB hard drive, or even a 500 GB hard drive and a 60 GB Vertex 2, I would have to go with the 60 GB Vertex 2. The speed is just that much better. With the hard drive installed, I find myself noticing the extra length of time it takes just to open folders.

No TRIM on mac! But still great performance!

Also, I feel much more comfortable moving my computer around a room without a rapidly spinning hard drive inside. Some times I get excited about a YouTube video and want to show it to my wife really quickly. Hard Drives can and do fail at any time with the slightest bump. Yeah the Macs have sudden motion sensors, but you still have a thin metal object with your data on it, spinning 5200 times per second inside a slim metal case.  Sudden motion sensors are not foolproof and failures are a constant possibility. I’ll take solid state any day of the week. Nevertheless, SSDs can fail too, so don’t forget to back up.

That Nifty Sticker

Bottom Line:

The OCZ Vertex 2 at this price point is an unbelievable value.

Best SSD Rating: Excellent! 4 Stars out of 5!

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