OCZ’s Octane 128GB solid-state drive

Manufacturer OCZ
Model Octane 128GB
Price $200
Availability Now

Imagine life as the smallest member of an SSD family. You have much less capacity than your larger siblings, who can store loads of games and applications in addition to a bloated Windows install. You typically charge more for each gigabyte that you do offer, so you’re a dubious value despite your budget price tag. You’re the slowest of the litter, too, a fact plainly illustrated in the spec sheets published by your, er, parent. Life is rough.

As we learned when exploring the impact of capacity on SSD performance, drives really do get faster as their capacity—and the number of NAND dies within—increases. The lowest capacities are the worst off, with much larger performance gaps between 64 and 128GB drives than between 128 and 256GB models. If you can afford to drop more than $300 on something around 256GB, that’s the way to go. However, folks are probably going to be more comfortable shopping in the sweet spot: 128GB drives that sell for around $200 or less.

Why is all this important for OCZ’s Octane SSD? Because unlike most families, this line of Indilinx-based drives starts at 128GB. That model’s capacity and $200 street price put it in the sweet spot, but as the smallest and slowest member of the family, there’s the potential for a bitter aftertaste.

We were encouraged by the Octane’s performance when we tested the 512GB model late last year. That’s the fastest of the bunch, according to OCZ, and it’s a tad expensive at $900. We decided to reserve judgment on the family until we had a chance to see how the 128GB version stacks up, which is why we’re here today. We’ve run the smaller drive through our gauntlet of storage tests, and it’s time to see how the Octane fares when picking on competition its own size.

Dies, packages, and performance ratings

If you’re unfamiliar with the Octane and its Indilinx Everest controller, do read our initial coverage. Since our focus today is on the 128GB variant, you’ll only get the Cliffs Notes on the SSD’s underlying architecture. The Octane is the first real fruit of OCZ’s acquisition of controller maker Indilinx. Inside the simple metal case sits an Indilinx Everest flash controller with a 6Gbps Serial ATA interface and eight memory channels. This chip is accompanied by a massive 512MB DRAM cache, and it’s tied to an array of 25-nm synchronous Intel NAND.

Don’t confuse the orange Octane with its light-blue Octane-S2 counterpart. The Octane-S2 is available in a 64GB capacity, and the line is distinguished by its last-gen SATA link that tops out at 3Gbps. The S2 has slower NAND, too, so it really isn’t in the same league as the standard offering. OCZ has positioned the Octane-S2 to take on cheaper SSDs, while the full-fat Octane targets the fastest drives on the market.

This faster Octane family spans 128, 256, and 512GB capacities. A terabyte model is planned, too, but it’s not on the market just yet. All the other drives are selling right now, and we’ve summarized their key characteristics in the chart below.

Capacity NAND

dies

Dies per package Max sequential (MB/s) Max 4KB random (IOps) Price
Read Write Read Write
128GB 16 x 64Gb 1 470 210 35,000 18,000 $200
256GB 32 x 64Gb 2 480 310 35,000 25,000 $370
512GB 64 x 64Gb 4 480 330 35,000 26,000 $899

As you can see, the 128GB model has by far the lowest performance ratings for writes, whether they’re sequential or random in nature. The drive’s peak sequential write speed is a full 100MB/s slower than the 256GB variant, whose write speed is only 20MB/s shy of the 512GB drive. The 128GB Octane purportedly cranks out 7,000 fewer IOps in random writes than the 256GB drive, while the random write ratings of the largest members of the family are only 1,000 IOps apart.

Even the Octane 128GB’s sequential read speed is slightly slower than the higher-capacity models’.

These performance ratings might make the 128GB model look more like a 64GB drive, but the die counts tell a different story. Most of the 64GB SSDs we’ve seen use eight 64Gb flash dies. The Octane also uses 64Gb dies, but it needs 16 of ’em to hit 128GB. SSDs with higher die counts can exploit more controller-level parallelism, leading to better performance. With 16 dies spread across the same number of physical packages, the Octane 128GB has a very similar NAND configuration to modern SSDs in the same capacity range, including the Intel 320 Series and most SandForce-based drives. The Octane 128GB isn’t as handicapped as one might expect from the smallest member of an SSD family.

The 128GB drive is a little worse off on the dollar-per-gigabyte scale, at least versus its 256GB compatriot. Expect to pay about $1.56 per gig for the 128GB version, which is a little more than the $1.44/GB you’ll shell out for the 256GB drive. The 512GB model we reviewed last year looks like a pretty raw deal in comparison. At $900 online, it costs nearly $1.76 per gigabyte.

Of course, the cost of each gigabyte is but one component of the overall value equation. Performance counts for a lot, and we’ll need to see how the Octane 128GB holds up against its contemporary rivals to get a real sense of the drive’s value proposition. Without further ado, let’s dive into the benchmark results.

Our testing methods

OCZ released a 1.13 firmware update for the Octane in late January, and we applied it to our 128GB drive before testing. This revision is supposed to “significantly” improve the sequential and 4KB random write performance of the 128 and 256GB Octane SSDs. Unfortunately, it can’t be applied without destroying all the data on the drive.

We have a full suite of performance results for literally dozens of different SSDs, but today, we’ve narrowed the field to include only models around the same 128GB capacity as the Octane. Our test methods and systems haven’t changed, so the Octane’s scores will be comparable to the much larger data set on display in our Intel 520 Series SSD review.

If you’re familiar with our test methods and hardware, the rest of this page is filled with nerdy details you already know; feel free to skip ahead to the benchmark results. For the rest of you, we’ve summarized the essential characteristics of all the drives we’ve tested in the table below. Our collection of SSDs includes representatives based on the most popular SSD configurations on the market right now. My apologies for the lack of results for the Samsung 830 Series 128GB. Despite multiple requests to Samsung for a 128GB sample, we’ve only been able to test the 256GB model. We gave that drive an Editor’s Choice award, so the prospects are good for the 128GB variant.

  Interface Cache Spindle speed Areal density Flash controller NAND
Corsair Force Series 3 120GB 6GBps NA NA NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Micron async MLC
Corsair Force Series GT 120GB 6GBps NA NA NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Intel sync MLC
Corsair Performance 3 Series 128GB 6GBps 128MB NA NA Marvell 88SS9174 34-nm Toshiba MLC
Crucial m4 128GB 6Gbps 128MB NA NA Marvell 88SS9174 25-nm Micron sync MLC
Crucial m4 128GB 6GBps 128MB NA NA Marvell 88SS9174 25-nm Micron sync MLC
Intel 320 Series 120GB 3Gbps 64MB NA NA Intel PC29AS21BA0 25-nm Intel MLC
Intel 320 Series 120GB 3GBps 64MB NA NA Intel PC29AS21BA0 25-nm Intel MLC
Intel 510 Series 120GB 6GBps 128MB NA NA Marvell 88SS9174 34-nm Intel MLC
Kingston HyperX 120GB 6GBps NA NA NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Intel sync MLC
OCZ Agility 3 120GB 6GBps NA NA NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Micron async MLC
OCZ Octane 128GB 6Gbps 512MB NA NA Indilinx Everest 25-nm Intel sync MLC
OCZ Vertex 3 120GB 6GBps NA NA NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Intel sync MLC
Seagate Momentus XT 750GB 6Gbps 32MB 7,200 RPM 541 Gb/in² NA* 8GB SLC
WD Caviar Black 1TB 6Gbps 64MB 7,200 RPM 400 Gb/in² NA NA
WD Scorpio Black 750GB 3Gbps 16MB 7,200 RPM 520 Gb/in² NA NA

Our performance data also includes a number of more traditional hard drives, including Seagate’s latest hybrid. I’ve grayed those out in the table and in the graphs on the following pages to focus our attention on how the Octane measures up to the other SSDs. Neither the mechanical drives nor the hybrid are in the same league, at least in terms of performance.

We used the following system configuration for testing:

Processor Intel Core i7-2500K 3.3GHz
Motherboard Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Bios revision 1850
Platform hub Intel P67 Express
Platform drivers INF update 9.2.0.1030

RST 10.6.0.1022

Memory size 8GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24-1T
Audio Realtek ALC892 with 2.62 drivers
Graphics Asus EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 1GB with Catalyst 11.7 drivers
Hard drives Corsair Force Series 3 120GB with 1.3 firmware

Corsair Force Series GT 120GB with 1.3 firmware

Crucial m4 128GB with 0009 firmware

Intel 320 Series 120GB with 4PC10362 firmware

Intel 510 Series 120GB with PPG4 firmware

Kingston HyperX 120GB with 320ABBF0 firmware

Corsair Performance 3 Series 128GB with 1.1 firmware

OCZ Agility 3 120GB with 2.15 firmware

OCZ Vertex 3 120GB with 2.15 firmware

WD Caviar Black 1TB with 05.01D05 firmware

Seagate Momentus 5400.4 250GB with 3.AAB firmware

WD Scorpio Black 750GB with 01.01A01 firmware

Seagate Momentus XT 750GB with SM12 firmware

OCZ Octane 128GB with 1.13 firmware

Power supply Corsair Professional Series Gold AX650W
OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Thanks to Asus for providing the systems’ motherboards and graphics cards, Intel for the CPUs, Corsair for the memory and PSUs, Thermaltake for the CPU coolers, and Western Digital for the Caviar Black 1TB system drives.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before almost every component of our test suite. Some of our tests then put the SSDs into a used state before the workload begins, which better exposes each drive’s long-term performance characteristics. In other tests, like DriveBench and FileBench, we induce a used state before testing. In all cases, the SSDs were in the same state before each test, ensuring an even playing field. The performance of mechanical hard drives is much more consistent between factory fresh and used states, so we skipped wiping the HDDs before each test—mechanical drives take forever to secure erase.

  • We run all our tests at least three times and report the median of the results. We’ve found IOMeter performance can fall off with SSDs after the first couple of runs, so we use five runs for solid-state drives and throw out the first two. The Hybrid drives have also been subjected to five runs, but only in tests that show their performance improving after the first one.

  • Steps have been taken to ensure that Sandy Bridge’s power-saving features don’t taint any of our results. All of the CPU’s low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the 2500K at 3.3GHz. Transitioning in and out of different power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

HD Tune — Transfer rates

HD Tune lets us present transfer rates in a couple of different ways. Using the benchmark’s “full test” setting gives us a good look at performance across the entire drive rather than extrapolating based on a handful of sample points. The data created by the full test also gives us fodder for line graphs.

To make the graphs easier to interpret, we’ve greyed out the mechanical drives in the bar charts and dropped them from the line graphs completely. The SSD results have been colored by drive maker, with the Octane 128GB set apart from OCZ’s other offerings in a yellow shade halfway between mustard and gold.

The Octane’s sequential read performance is only good enough to put it in the second tier of SSDs. All of the SandForce-based drives are about 50MB/s faster on average. Heck, even the Intel 510 Series squeaks ahead of the Octane in this test.

Things don’t improve for the Octane when we switch to HD Tune’s sequential write test. The SandForce-based SSDs reign supreme once more, while the Octane struggles to keep up with the Intel 510 Series and the Crucial m4.

At least the Octane’s write speed is more consistent than those of its SandForce-based peers. As the line graph illustrates, the write speeds of those drives oscillate between high and low extremes more than 200MB/s apart. The Octane traces its own sawtooth pattern, but the amplitude is an order of magnitude smaller at only 20MB/s.

HD Tune’s burst speed tests are meant to isolate a drive’s cache memory.

The Octane has a huge 512MB cache, but that cache doesn’t appear to be very fast. With read and write speeds topping out around 160MB/s, the Octane offers less than half the burst performance of nearly every other SSD in these tests. Even the mechanical drives boast higher burst speeds.

HD Tune — Random access times

In addition to letting us test transfer rates, HD Tune can measure random access times. We’ve tested with four transfer sizes and presented all the results in a couple of line graphs. We’ve also busted out the 4KB and 1MB transfers sizes into bar graphs that should be easier to read. Once again, we’ve dropped the mechanical drives from the line graphs.

Most of the SSDs turn in 4KB random read access times of less than 0.05 milliseconds. The Octane sits at the tail end of that group, between the Crucial m4 and the Intel 510 Series. Once again, it’s not fast enough to catch the SandForce-powered leaders.

Switching to 1MB random writes puts the Octane in a similar position. It’s not fast enough to match the m4 and SandForce SSDs, but it’s at least quicker than the cluster of slower solid-state drives.

The Octane fares comparatively worse with random writes. While only 34 nanoseconds separate the SSDs in 4KB test, the Octane is the slowest of the bunch. The magnitude of the gaps grows in the 1MB test, where the Octane’s random write speed trails that of the leading SandForce contingent by a wide margin. The Octane has slower access times than the Intel 510 Series and Crucial m4, too, although the differences amount to only about a millisecond.

TR FileBench — Real-world copy speeds

Concocted by resident developer Bruno “morphine” Ferreira, FileBench runs through a series of file copy operations using Windows 7’s xcopy command. Using xcopy produces nearly identical copy speeds to dragging and dropping files using the Windows GUI, so our results should be representative of typical real-world performance. We tested using the following five file sets—note the differences in average file sizes and their compressibility. We evaluated the compressibility of each file set by comparing its size before and after being run through 7-Zip’s “ultra” compression scheme.

  Number of files Average file size Total size Compressibility
Movie 6 701MB 4.1GB 0.5%
RAW 101 23.6MB 2.32GB 3.2%
MP3 549 6.48MB 3.47GB 0.5%
TR 26,767 64.6KB 1.7GB 53%
Mozilla 22,696 39.4KB 923MB 91%

The names of most of the file sets are self-explanatory. The Mozilla set is made up of all the files necessary to compile the browser, while the TR set includes years worth of the images, HTML files, and spreadsheets behind my reviews. Those two sets contain much greater numbers of smaller files than the other three. They’re also the most amenable to compression.

To get a sense of how aggressively each SSD reclaims flash pages tagged by the TRIM command, we’ve run FileBench with the solid-state drives in two states. We first test them in a fresh state after a secure erase. The SSDs are then subjected to a 30-minute IOMeter workload, generating a tortured used state ahead of another batch of copy tests. We haven’t found a substantial difference in the performance of mechanical drives between these states.

There’s almost no difference between the Octane’s fresh- and used-state copy speeds, which is a good thing. Overall, the drive sits close to the middle of the pack. Its copy speeds aren’t fast enough to catch the Intel 510 Series and the Crucial m4 in the movie, RAW, and MP3 tests. The 510 Series remains close to the Octane in the TR and Mozilla tests, while the m4 turns in much slower copy speeds with those smaller files.

The smaller, highly compressible files in the TR and Mozilla sets are fertile fodder for the write-compression mojo of the SandForce posse. That bunch takes the top five spots in the Mozilla test. In the TR test, the Octane’s used-state copy speeds are slightly faster than those of the asynchronous SandForce drives: the Corsair Force Series 3 and OCZ Agility 3. The other SandForce-based solutions use the same synchronous NAND as the Octane, but their copy speeds are a good 20MB/s faster.

TR DriveBench 1.0 — Disk-intensive multitasking

TR DriveBench allows us to record the individual IO requests associated with a Windows session and then play those results back as fast as possible on different drives. We’ve used this app to create a set of multitasking workloads that combine common desktop tasks with disk-intensive background operations like compiling code, copying files, downloading via BitTorrent, transcoding video, and scanning for viruses. The individual workloads are explained in more detail here.

Below, you’ll find an overall average followed by scores for each of our individual workloads. The overall score is an average of the mean performance score with each multitasking workload.

Again, the Octane finds itself squished in the middle of the field. The Indilinx-infused SSD crunches I/Os faster than the asynchronous SandForce configurations but not their synchronous counterparts. Amid that synchronous SandForce pack is the Crucial m4, which enjoys a healthy lead over the Octane. Let’s bust out the results for the individual DriveBench tests to see if the Octane makes an impression in any of them.

Indeed it does. When copying files is part of our multitasking workload, the Octane is unmatched. That’s its only breakout performance, though. The Octane fares better than average in the transcoding test, but it’s slower than most of the competition in the others. Only the Intel SSDs and Corsair’s old Performance 3 Series are consistently slower than the Octane.

TR DriveBench 2.0 — More disk-intensive multitasking

As much as we like DriveBench 1.0’s individual workloads, the traces cover only slices of disk activity. Because we fire the recorded I/Os at the disks as fast as possible, solid-state drives also have no downtime during which to engage background garbage collection or other optimization algorithms. DriveBench 2.0 addresses both of those issues with a much larger trace that spans two weeks of typical desktop activity peppered with multitasking loads similar to those in DriveBench 1.0. We’ve also adjusted our testing methods to give solid-state drives enough idle time to tidy up after themselves. More details on DriveBench 2.0 are available on this page of our last major SSD round-up.

Instead of looking at a raw IOps rate, we’re going to switch gears and explore service times—the amount of time it takes drives to complete an I/O request. We’ll start with an overall mean service time before slicing and dicing the results.

DriveBench 2.0 doesn’t show the Octane 128GB in a good light. The drive’s mean service time is more than double that of the fastest SSDs. Even the Intel 320 Series, which has a 3Gbps SATA interface and three-year-old controller technology, boasts a faster mean service time.

The Octane’s mean read and write service times are virtually identical, which is rather unique among the competitors we’ve assembled. That said, the Octane is much more competitive with writes than it is with reads. The drive has a slower mean read service time than all of the other SSDs. However, the Octane’s write service time slips between a collection of faster SandForce-based drives and a smattering of slower Marvell-based SSDs.

There are millions of I/O requests in this trace, so we can’t easily graph service times to look at the variance. However, our analysis tools do report the standard deviation, which can give us a sense of how much service times vary from the mean.

Things do not look good for the Octane 128GB. In addition to having relatively high mean service times, the drive exhibits more variance in those service times than most of its peers. Only the mechanical and hybrid drives have more variable service times, and then only with reads.

We’re going to close out our DriveBench analysis with a look at the distribution of service times. I’ve split the tally between I/O requests that complete in 0-1 milliseconds, 1-100 ms, and those that take longer than 100 ms to complete. Pay particularly close attention to those longer service times, which could be disruptive enough to notice.

The Octane looks a lot better when we consider the distribution of service times. The overwhelming majority of I/Os execute in less than a millisecond, which is true for all of the SSDs. Another trend: hardly any I/O requests take longer than 100 ms to complete. Only 0.2% of Octane service times fall into the 100+ ms category. While that’s a higher percentage than some of the solid-state drives, it’s not large enough to worry about.

IOMeter

Our IOMeter workloads feature a ramping number of concurrent I/O requests. Most desktop systems will only have a few requests in flight at any given time (87% of DriveBench 2.0 requests have a queue depth of four or less). We’ve extended our scaling up to 32 concurrent requests to reach the depth of the Native Command Queuing pipeline associated with the Serial ATA specification. Ramping up the number of requests also gives us a sense of how the drives might perform in more demanding enterprise environments.

We run our IOMeter tests using the fully randomized data pattern, which presents a particular challenge for SandForce’s write compression scheme. We’d rather measure SSD performance in this worst-case scenario than using easily compressible data.

Noticing a trend yet? The Octane 128GB is faster than some of the slower SSDs, but it can’t keep up with the leaders. The Octane performs particularly poorly in the web server test, which is made up exclusively of read requests. In that test, the Octane turns in the lowest transaction rates for our heaviest loads. The drive’s transaction rates level off earlier than those of its competitors, too.

The other tests mix read and write requests, and the Octane generally sits in the middle of the pack. The Intel 510 Series and Crucial m4 dominate overall, likely because our use of fully randomized data prevents the SandForce drives from flexing their write-compression capabilities.

Boot duration

Before timing a couple of real-world applications, we first have to load the OS. We can measure how long that takes by checking the Windows 7 boot duration using the operating system’s performance-monitoring tools. This is actually the first time we’re booting Windows 7 off each drive; up until this point, our testing has been hosted by an OS housed on a separate system drive.

The SSDs all line up within about a second of each other, with the Octane sitting near the back of the field. At least it’s not far off the lead.

Notice how the Momentus XT pulls close to the SSDs here. This hybrid drive has a section of its NAND read cache reserved for files associated with the Windows boot process.

Level load times

Modern games lack built-in timing tests to measure level loads, so we busted out a stopwatch with a couple of reasonably recent titles.

Again, the SSDs are all pretty close. Less than a second separates the fastest solid-state drive from the slowest in Duke Nukem Forever, and there’s only a 1.2-second spread in Portal 2. These results don’t make a compelling argument for one SSD over another. They do, however, make a case for moving one’s Steam folder from mechanical to solid-state storage.

Power consumption

We tested power consumption under load with IOMeter’s workstation access pattern chewing through 32 concurrent I/O requests. Idle power consumption was probed one minute after processing Windows 7’s idle tasks on an empty desktop.

Competitively speaking, the Octane is more power-efficient under load than it is at idle. The drive draws a little more than a watt when sitting at the Windows desktop and about double that when being hammered by a demanding IOMeter load. Only the Intel SSDs and the Crucial m4 draw less power under a torrent of IOMeter I/Os.

If you were hoping an SSD would extend the battery life of your notebook, guess again. At worst, the mechanical and hybrid notebook drives consume about a watt more than the most power-efficient SSDs. Our 3.5″ Caviar Black desktop drive is a whole other story, however.

The value perspective

Welcome to our famous value analysis, which adds capacity and pricing to the performance data we’ve explored over the preceding pages. We used Newegg prices to even the playing field, and we didn’t take mail-in rebates into account when performing our calculations.

First, we’ll look at the all-important cost per gigabyte, which we’ve obtained using the amount of storage capacity accessible to users in Windows.

Among the SSDs, the Octane 128GB’s cost per gigabyte sits in—wait for it—the middle of the pack. The Crucial m4 offers the same 128GB storage capacity for a lot less money, and it’s the cheapest option on this scale (apart from the mechanical drives, of course). We don’t usually see synchronous SandForce drives selling for less than their asynchronous counterparts, but the Corsair Force Series GT is deeply discounted right now, which is why it costs less per gig than the Force Series 3.

Our remaining value calculations use a single performance score that we’ve derived by comparing how each drive stacks up against a common baseline provided by the Momentus 5400.4, a 2.5″ notebook drive with a painfully slow 5,400-RPM spindle speed. This index uses a subset of our performance data described on this page of our last SSD round-up. Some of the drives were actually slower than our baseline in a couple of the included tests, so we’ve fudged the numbers a little to prevent those results from messing up the overall picture.

OCZ has outdone itself. Or, rather, OCZ outdid the Octane when it released the Vertex 3 and Agility 3 early last year. Those SandForce-based drives both score higher in our performance index. The Vertex 3, which uses the same synchronous NAND chips as the Octane, is faster by a substantial margin.

At least the Octane scores higher than all of the Marvell-based SSDs. That victory rings a little hollow considering that the Marvell controller has been around since the summer of 2010, though. It doesn’t help that the Intel 320 Series, which is anchored by an even older 3Gbps controller, sits just below the Octane in the standings.

Now for the real magic. We can plot this overall score on one axis and each drive’s cost per gigabyte on the other to create a scatter plot of performance per dollar per gigabyte.

The Octane 128GB does not occupy an enviable position on our scatter plot. Alternatives like the Force GT, Force 3, and Agility 3 all offer better performance at lower costs. The Crucial m4 is substantially cheaper without being a whole lot slower, while the Vertex 3 delivers a huge jump in performance for only a marginal increase in the cost per gigabyte.

See all the mechanical drives clustered in the lower-left corner of the plot? With massive capacities, the mechanical and hybrid drives clean up on the cost-per-gigabyte scale. They’re much slower overall, though.

Although this analysis is helpful when evaluating drives on their own, what happens when we consider their cost in the context of a complete system? To find out, we’ve divided our overall performance score by the sum of our test system’s components. Those parts total around $800, which also happens to be a reasonable price for a modern notebook.

Sorry for the crowded scatter, but it serves to illustrate a point. Only $75 separate the cheapest drive from the slowest. That might be a lot of cheddar when all you’re buying is a single drive, but it only amounts to about 7% of the total for our complete system—peanuts, in other words.

In this context, the Octane remains less appealing than the SandForce-based SSDs, including OCZ’s own Agility 3 and Vertex 3. Those drives offer better overall performance at slightly lower prices, although you’ll have to give up 8GB of storage capacity.

Conclusions

The OCZ Octane has been out for a couple of months now. We haven’t seen any reports of widespread issues with it, which is good news. However, there are fewer than 10 user reviews of Octane SSDs on Newegg, suggesting that the number of units in the wild—or, at least in the hands of enthusiasts—is relatively small. We’ll keep an eye on things moving forward, but it’s encouraging that the latest firmware contains performance enhancements rather than bug fixes.

While the Octane’s reliability story has yet to be told, we now have a clear sense of how the 128GB model performs. As we suspected, it’s not nearly as impressive as the 512GB drive we tested last year. The 512GB model often found itself among the leaders, but the 128GB variant is more of a middle-of-the-pack performer, wedged between slower Marvell-based drives and the quicker offerings built with SandForce’s latest silicon. Interestingly, both synchronous and asynchronous SandForce configurations score higher than the Octane in our performance index.

If you’re looking for the fastest performance, SandForce-based drives like OCZ’s own Agility 3 and Vertex 3 are better options… as long as you can get by with 120GB of storage. The Octane’s additional 8GB is a nice perk, and it helps to justify the drive’s $200 price tag. Newegg is throwing in a $15 gift card right now, and there’s a $20 mail-in rebate on top of that. However, the rebate expires today, and the gift-card promotion may not last.

Incentives like those will likely be the key to luring folks to the Octane and away from competing SSDs. As it stands, we’d have a hard time shelling out two Benjamins for an Octane when the Crucial m4 128GB sells for $164 and the Corsair Force GT 120GB can be had for only a dollar more. Then there’s the Samsung 830 Series 128GB, which costs the same as the Octane but comes with a copy of Batman: Arkham City and a full upgrade kit. The 830 Series 256GB is faster than the Octane 512GB overall, so I’d expect the Samsung SSD to have the edge in performance at 128GB, as well.

Although it’s a solid offering, the Octane 128GB’s combination of performance, price, and capacity fails to offer better value than the alternatives. We’re optimistic about the prospects for the Indilinx Everest controller, but OCZ will have to adjust the Octane’s pricing to make it truly appealing.

Comments closed
    • ghjtdge
    • 8 years ago
    • sooper8
    • 8 years ago

    This drive is $99 after rebate at microcenter as of 2/18/12. Might change the equation quite a bit…

      • Voldenuit
      • 8 years ago

      Looks like it’s over. As of 2/20, the Octane is [url=http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0380498<]$209 after rebate[/url<]. The Petrol is [url=http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0381969<]$109 after rebate[/url<], though. Are the in-store prices different than online?

        • sooper8
        • 8 years ago

        Sometimes..looks like it was in store over the week only
        but Vertex 3 is $149 after rebate on line…
        yes…start flames about BSOD…:)

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          Hehe. Is there *any* SSD line that hasn’t had a BSOD fix in the past year? Crucial had one. So have intel and Samsung.

          I work with a lot of incompressible data (RAW camera files and HD movies), and the Marvell drives are faster than the Sandforce drives under this workload (as seen in both TR and Anandtech’s SSD reviews). The Marvell controller also has the second-lowest write amplification next to Sandforce. It goes to show that usage scenario plays a significant role in the performance of a drive, and it’s worth digging into the benchmarks instead of just looking at the aggregate score.

          But who am I kidding, any good recent SSD (including the Indilinx Barefoot) is going to be fast enough for most users, even power users.

            • indeego
            • 8 years ago

            Intel 5xx/7xx series. Samsung series.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            Samsung [url=http://www.anandtech.com/show/5460/samsung-updates-the-firmware-of-ssd-830-series-fixes-bsod-issue<]issued a firmware fix for BSOD[/url<] on the 830 last month. The intel 510 is based on the same Marvell controller as the Crucial M4 but I haven't heard much about bsod-related problems with the intel drive, so I guess their firmware was better than Marvell's (ditto for 520 and sandforce controller).

    • Voldenuit
    • 8 years ago

    Just bought a Plextor M3 128 GB SSD for $159 ($149 after MIR) from the ‘egg. This is a rebadged Crucial M4 drive, and for less than many other similarly-performing SSDs, comes with a transfer kit and 3.5″ caddy.

    It would have been nice to get a Samsung 830, but it’s more expensive. Meanwhile, the Octane is slower than the Samsung (and on Anandtech Bench, slower than the M4) for the same price as the Samsung. I have seen the Petrol for as low as $134 (128 GB), but I haven’t seen many benchmarks of the Petrol (async NAND version of the Octane), and I’m still waiting to see how reliable the Indilinx controller will be in the long run, so the Plextor it was for me.

    • sdghjyukty
    • 8 years ago
      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      I feel compelled to buy these goods based on the high quality and relevence of this advert, combined with the…

      oh what? GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    I’m just RMA’ing my third Indilinx barefoot drive at the moment.

    I’ve used a lot of them over the last few years without issue, but they’re all dying on me after 18 months or more.

    My faith in Indilinx is shaken, because although there are no attention-grabbing firmware bugs that I know of, their drives just seem to fail without warning – twice now I’ve left an idle PC to get a coffee or something and come back to a locked-up machine with a dead OS drive.

      • guardianl
      • 8 years ago

      Your situation screams faulty capacitors (or related board bits). Nothing to do with the controller. Considering the vendor is the party responsible for the board, mind telling us who the vendor is?

        • Firestarter
        • 8 years ago

        Capacitors dying after 18months on such a low power device? Not unless they found a new extra crappy counterfeit recipe for those capacitors.

        • Chrispy_
        • 8 years ago

        It’s not vendor specific, I’ve been moving them around from laptops to HTPC’s to workstations. They all die in the same way too. Just suddenly not recognised by the BIOS.

        Two OCZ’s and a Patriot are my own dead SSD’s. There was a guy at work in the visualisation team who asked me if I would reimage his machine onto an SSD. It was a Super-Talent and I didn’t get the model number, but IIRC Super-Talent were only using Indilinx at around the time he brought it in. Anyway, that died around 2 months ago as well in the exact same way

        My sample size is not great – maybe a dozen indilinx drives, but that’s like 30% failure rate, and that’s across different vendors in different machines in different locations all dying between 1-2 years old and all dying in the exact same way.

        I’m also not convinced it’s defective boards or other surface-mounted components. Google-image for Indilinx barefoot boards, then compare to something like a Sandforce board. The Indilinx boards are barren by contrast, with few (if any) components other those little solid ceramic blocks (are they capacitors or resistors?)

          • Waco
          • 8 years ago

          I fixed my first-gen Indilinx drives by flashing the newest firmware to them – the 2142. It does, however, have an odd bug. If you have 2 of them in your system it screws up recognition of all other drives (including the second drive). Hotplugging works fine, RAID works fine, but if you use 2 of them in IDE or AHCI mode it will mess things up. :/

            • Chrispy_
            • 8 years ago

            Yeah, I was advised to try that prior to the RMA, but you need the device to be recognised in order to flash it. With or without the jumper – my drives have been totally dead.

            I guess there are several ways an SSD can fail, but the one people seem most worried about (reaching the end of your NAND’s write/erase lifecycle) is about the only way I’ve never seen or heard about yet.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    And it’s a pile’o poo. I’m not sure why anyone would opt for this drive over a Agility 3 (if you’re going OCZ). It’s more expensive and inferior… it’s like a double blow.

    Yay for customers that don’t know any better that will be buying this. I know! They should get Bestbuy to stock these. 😀

      • Firestarter
      • 8 years ago

      And on top of that, at least the Sandforce controller has been out in the field for a while, for better or worse. Who knows what bugs are hidden in Indilinx Everest and its firmware? If anything, this drive should be cheaper than the Sandforce drives..

    • Arag0n
    • 8 years ago

    Mmmm I don’t like the graph of overall system price that doesn’t takes into account that for any desktop solution, if you want to use a 120Gb SSD as main drive, you need at least another HDD for files…. you need at least 256 or 512Gb to go single drive at least….

      • odizzido
      • 8 years ago

      that depends on the person. I know plenty of people who use under 100gigs.

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      You’re right.

      For any system that I put an SSD in, I also have an accompanying mechanical storage drive.

      A 2TB WD Green for my desktop with its 160GB Intel 320, the 640GB drive my laptop came with in a USB3 enclosure to complement the 120GB Intel 320 I swapped it with, a Samsung 1TB F3 to go with the Corsair Nova I put in a sibling’s media editing machine.

      A single low-capacity SSD works when the machine isn’t used for gaming or media processing, sure. But you still have to be careful with that little space.

      So yeah, I think that some mention, if not a full accounting, of the requirements should be built in to their total system value configurations.

    • Airmantharp
    • 8 years ago

    Reliability will be key.

    I used a Corsair-branded Indilinx drive sometime back, migrating it to a media-editing machine as an OS drive due to it’s proven reliability and stability. It was, and is, awesome. If OCZ can deliver here, they have an alternative to their problematic Vertex series, with an in-house controller to boot.

    • cegras
    • 8 years ago

    Are we at the point where ‘casual hardcore gamers’ can buy a SSD for Steam and Windows? The price landscape still seems to be pigeon holing SSD’s for OS duty only.

      • Voldenuit
      • 8 years ago

      Use [url=http://www.traynier.com/software/steammover<]Steam Mover[/url<] and/or [url=http://www.stefanjones.ca/steam/<]Steam Tools[/url<] to move only your most commonly played games to the SSD (or alternatively, to move your less frequently played games off the SSD, depending on your installation paths). Note that these tools don't work with Valve games; if you want to move your valve games, google the mklink command. While mklink is more powerful and universal than steam mover and steam tools, it's also less convenient.

        • indeego
        • 8 years ago

        I just followed [url=https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=7710-TDLC-0426<]Steam's own guide[/url<]. It was about 10 minutes worth of effort and supported. After working with junction points years ago on various Windows networks I simply don't trust them. Many ways to break, and wasn't really fully supported until Windows 7.

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          Steam’s method doesn’t allow users to selectively install/move games across more than one drive at a time, which is what many SSD users would like to do.

          Junction links are not 100% reliable, but if you stay away from network-mapped drives, are usually pretty trouble free. You do want to be using Windows 7 (or later), though, and most guides will tell users this.

      • Firestarter
      • 8 years ago

      I’d say no. For gamers, dollars spent on a faster GPU, faster CPU or better screen yield a better experience, combined with an SSD for the OS and productivity programs. However, that also means that installing, updating and other operations are way fast for everything except that which you care for most: your games.

      Having a lot of RAM + an SSD for the OS will help out for the games on the HDD though, as the superfetch caching will ignore everything on the SSD and only cache stuff from your HDD. With a ton of RAM, that should at least help loading the games.

        • XTF
        • 8 years ago

        So when do SSDs on the desktop really make sense? With plenty of RAM Windows SuperFetch seems to do a good job of caching frequently used data anyway.

        I boot once a day, so boot time isn’t relevant.

        Saving a few seconds during game loading isn’t significant, especially in MP where you have to wait on others anyway.

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          It depends on the game. For most FPSes and RTSes, level loading only happens once in a blue moon. For RPGs and open ended FPSes, you will either have streaming levels or frequent level loads, and that’s when having a SSD will improve your experience.

          • indeego
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<]"I boot once a day, so boot time isn't relevant."[/quote<] You wait ~54 minutes more a year than people booting once a day on a SSD, (assuming a 9 second difference as per TR's review). You actually wait much more as shutdown times are also increased, as well as Virus scans/patches, and hundreds of other tasks that benchmarks don't really show.

            • Firestarter
            • 8 years ago

            Or (the horror!) Windows update rolls through at 8 in the morning and tells you to reboot (or else!). The whole experience is painfully slow on my otherwise pretty decent PC at work.

            • XTF
            • 8 years ago

            I don’t wait for shutdown to finish. I don’t really wait for startup either, I (can) do other things. Same with updates etc.
            And I save minutes/hours not having to navigate and move files between SSD/HDD.

            • indeego
            • 8 years ago

            Cool.

            I plan on never using mechanical for a primary drive ever again. Saw the light, several years ago. I cannot imagine going back to them.

            • travbrad
            • 8 years ago

            Of course SSDs will save you time. I think the question is, will it save MORE time than other upgrades that cost the same. If you do a lot of video encoding for example, a faster CPU (or better overclock/HSF) is probably going to save you DAYS over the course of a year.

            SSDs are a great “general purpose” upgrade to improve general system responsiveness, but the cost still may not be worth it for people on a budget. Many gamers would willingly trade a few seconds in load-time for higher frame-rates ($100-200 buys you a lot of extra GPU horsepower).

            Even the gaming load-times don’t always pay off either. In L4D2 for example I’m already one of the 1st people to load with a mechanical WD640GB drive. Skyrim loads so fast I can’t even read the “tips” on the load screen. I play BF3 with someone who has a crucial m4 drive, and sometimes I actually load faster than him (he has Phenom II+6970, I have SB+GTX460)

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      I found that the 240GB drives are the sweet spot for cost/gb at the moment, coming in at under £1/GB
      The 120GB drives are usually (just) over £1/GB

      Having picked up a humble 240GB Agility3 for £230, I would need say that Steam and Windows fit quite comfortably on them. I guess it depends how many massive AAA titles you own 😛

    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    How are prices determined? Date of review? Weekly average? From last SSD review? Too lazy to go back and look at the other reviews, but SSD prices fluctuate quite a bit week to week, even more with various rebates.

      • Dissonance
      • 8 years ago

      Date of review, always without mail-in rebates, gift cards, and other such promos. We update the prices for all of the drives, not just the one being reviewed.

    • Compton
    • 8 years ago

    At 120/128GB, coercing customers into buying the Octane is not an easy task. The 830, as is wisely pointed out, is around the same price or less. It comes with Ghost and a game that people might want to play. The 830 is sexy inside and out, and has all the benefits that Samsung can provide (it’s own fabs for example).

    That doesn’t mean the Octane isn’t a great drive, or worthy of purchase, just that I don’t think there is a clear and compelling reason for anyone to snag one over it’s rivals.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      Ya, if I were buying an SSD today, I’d ask myself one question: Do I want to play Batman AC? If yes, I’d get an 830. If no, I’d get an M4.

        • Firestarter
        • 8 years ago

        Or get a 830 and give Batman to a buddy! Too bad only the USA seems to get Batman though 🙁

        • Compton
        • 8 years ago

        Once you get to 240/256GB, things change a little, but around 120GB, the Plextor M2P/Corsair Performance Pro is pretty bad-ass. The 128GB 830 is awesome, and if you go both ways, the Patriot/Mushkin WildFire/Chronos Deluxe.

        • indeego
        • 8 years ago

        I’d ask the question: Should I buy a drive that is x more expensive than it needs to be because it has a subsidized game attached to it?

          • Compton
          • 8 years ago

          I would contend that if you were paying more for the 830, then it would not be worth it (assuming the game license costs Samsung anything). The 830 is somewhat unique, and Batman or no, it’s still worth the money — it’s usually between $180 and $200.

          For alternatives, the Plextor M3 has a 5 year warranty, and it’s it’s around $185. The M4 at it’s current price is hard to beat, but the 830 is a freak in the sense that Samsung has stuffed some 2xnm 32gbit devices in it. That’s more ammunition in the performance advantage vs. money debate IMHO, and the Corsair P Pro 128 and Plextor M2P 128 are also using (3xnm) 32gbit devices. Naturally, the Toggle NAND equipped 120GB SandForce drives use 32gbit devices too, but I think many are wary of SandForce these days, especially if the name “Intel” is no where to be found on the box. But I’ve used the Mushkin Chronos Deluxe for a while now, and it’s quite good for a 2281 — they even make a 60GB model, though it’s prohibitively expensive.

        • moose17145
        • 8 years ago

        I just bought a 128GB M4 yesterday on newegg myself. I really wanted the 830, but I couldn’t justify the extra 40 bucks (being in college and lack of money and all that). However I am also NOT putting this into my gaming desktop. The 500GB 5400RPM hard drive in my laptop failed, so the M4 was the replacement I bought. Pretty sure my HDD failed because of all the jostling and abuse my laptop gets put through on a daily basis… so for me it was more the durability against shock/vibration that I was going after. I will mainly only be using this for doing SQL / Oracle stuff for my database classes along with other productivity software, so I don’t need terabytes of space since I won’t be installing endless games on it (in fact that’s probably a good thing I WON’T be able to… will ensure i don’t get AS distracted in class…)

        The M4 seemed to be by far the best performer as well for what I am going to be doing… the drive is basically right in with the top performers when it comes to reading data, which is mostly what I will be doing… personally i am surprised to see the M4 as low in the “overall Performance” charts as they are considering how well they performed in most tests…. suppose it’s some of the lower write speeds in certain tests that killed the performance rating for it…

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