Enter the Agility 3 – the low-cost offshoot of OCZ's Vertex 3. With the same SandForce controller but slower NAND flash, is the Agility 3 a good deal for those seeking an economical 6Gbps SSD?
Top-notch solid state drives make for interesting stories – the question is, do you really need that much performance? The jump from a hard drive to an SSD is immediately noticeable. However, the difference between a good SSD and an excellent one can be hard to tell in actual usage. If you are working within a tight budget, or would rather trade off performance for greater capacity, it would be prudent to look for a more economical model.
OCZ has launched the Agility 3 and Solid 3 series, targeted at the mainstream and value market respectively. Both drives use the same SandForce SF-2281 6Gbps controller as the flagship Vertex 3, but OCZ has managed to lower prices by using cheaper flash memory. This can lead to significantly lower prices as the biggest share of a SSD's cost comes from the flash memory, even though performance is in large part determined by the controller.
OCZ has sent us their Agility 3 240GB. While we would prefer to test the far more affordable 120GB part, this drive should suffice as a barometer for the difference between the two series.
Inside the box we have a 3.5" tray adapter, an installation guide, a sticker and mounting screws for the adapter.
Under the Hood
Our particular drives uses Micron 25nm asynchronous NAND compliant to ONFI 1.0. This looks to be a double whammy for performance: firstly, asynchronous NAND is slower than the synchronous NAND found on the Vertex 3. Secondly, ONFI 1.0 is only specified for 50MB/s per die, compared to 133MB/s for the ONFI 2.0 flash used in the Vertex 3.
OCZ's specifications, however, are far more optimistic. Across the board, there is not much difference between the Vertex 3 and Agility 3.
|OCZ Agility 3 240GB||OCZ Vertex 3 240GB||OCZ Agility 3 120GB||OCZ Vertex 3 120GB||OCZ Agility 3 60GB||OCZ Vertex 3 60GB|
|Random Write 4KB||45,000 IOPS||60,000 IOPS||50,000 IOPS||60,000 IOPS||50,000 IOPS||60,000 IOPS|
|Maximum 4K Random Write||85,000 IOPS||85,000 IOPS||85,000 IOPS||85,000 IOPS||80,000 IOPS||80,000 IOPS|
The Agility 3 is available in 60GB, 120GB and 240GB capacities.
The Agility 3 240GB uses 16 x 128Gbit NAND dies for a total of 256GB raw capacity. As SandForce controllers reserve a single die's worth of area for error correction data and OCZ further allocates some area for overprovisioning, the usable capacity in Windows is only 223.6GB.
|OCZ Agility 3||240GB||223.6GB|
|Intel SSD 510||250GB||232.9GB|
|Processor||Intel Core i3-2100 (SpeedStep, C-State disabled)|
|Memory||2 x 4GB DDR3-1333|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 2000|
|Storage||Western Digital WD3200AAKS|
|Power Supply||Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit|
Intel Chipset Drivers 126.96.36.1990
Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.5.0.1027
The following solid state drives were tested:
- Corsair X128 128GB (Indilinx Barefoot, Samsung 50nm MLC)
- Kingston SSDNow V+ 96GB (Toshiba T6UG1XBG, Toshiba
- OCZ Vertex 3 240GB (SandForce SF-2281, Intel 25nm MLC)
- OCZ Agility 3 240GB (SandForce SF-2281, Micron 25nm MLC)
- OCZ Vertex 2 120GB (SandForce SF-1222, Intel 34nm MLC)
- Intel SSD 320 300GB (Intel PC29AS21BA0, Intel 25nm MLC)
- Intel SSD 320 120GB (Intel PC29AS21BA0, Intel 25nm MLC)
- Intel SSD 510 250GB (Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2, Intel 34nm MLC)
- Strontium Matrix 120GB (Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2, Micron 25nm MLC)
- Strontium Gamma 115GB (SandForce SF-1222, Micron 25nm MLC)