We are all pretty used to reading reviews on 'state of the art' high performance SSDs here at Myce.com, and we enthusiasts usually demand the latest and greatest from a performance perspective. Having said that, there is a massive market for users who are still running an operating system from an old and slow HDD, and who would like an entry level SSD to breathe new life into an older PC, or for that matter would like to boost the performance of a new PC which was supplied with an HDD rather than an SSD.
Enter the budget or value line SSD. So what is the difference between a 'budget' SSD and a 'state of the art' high performance SSD?
The most obvious difference is the price. Budget SSDs by definition cost less than a 'state of the art' high performance SSD. So how can the manufacturer reduce the cost of the budget SSD?
Use cheaper components. State of the art high performance SSDs will use the highest quality 'binned' NAND, and the top of the line SSD controller. The budget SSD may use lower quality NAND, and may simply slow down the clock rate of the SSD controller, thus slowing down the write rate of the SSD. Slower writes mean better NAND endurance. So cheaper NAND can last as long as the higher quality NAND, if you take care of how quickly you program the NAND. Slowing down the SSD controller will of course reduce performance, but as a bonus, the SSD controller will consume less power.
Another way of reducing costs is to include fewer accessories in the package. You can remove the 3.5 inch to 2.5 inch converter bracket, and fixing screws. You can also remove the bundled software, and reduce the term of the warranty.
So we end up with a cheaper but slower SSD. Sequential reading and writing speeds will generally be substantially slower when compared to high performance enthusiast SSDs, small file random performance will also see some slowdown. Having said that, you can still have a very fast budget SSD, if the manufacturer gets the performance profile right.
Target the market segment that is likely to purchase a budget SSD, then adjust the performance profile of the SSD to meet that market. In my opinion that market will most likely be casual PC users, whose PC workloads are likely to be quite light when compared to the semi-pro user who is more likely to demand the performance offered by a 'state of art' high performance SSD.
So how do you tune the performance profile of a budget SSD, so that SSD feels just as fast to the casual user as a state of the art SSD?
If you have studied mainstream user workloads, you will find that pretty much everything happens at very low queue depths. As low as a queue depth of one or two, so tune the performance profile for high performance at low queue depths will result in an SSD that feels just as fast to the casual user.
It has been a while since OCZ released a budget SSD, but that is the market segment where the new OCZ ARC 100 series of SSDs is aimed at. The ARC 100 further consolidates OCZ's transition to all in-house components, in this case the transition to Toshiba A19 MLC NAND. The next SSD to make the transition to A19 MLC NAND will be the Vector 180, due later this year.
In 2015, OCZ expects to launch a new product family that will cover everything from mainstream to workstation class SSDs, with a new product family called JetExpress. Whilst there is no information currently available for this new family of products, I can speculate that JetExpress will cover PCIe (hopefully NVMe) and also include SATA Express variants. See the screenshot below.
Right then, let's get back to the ARC 100 SSD series. There are three capacities available, 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB. The version that I am looking at today is the 240GB version, which OCZ very kindly sent me for review.
So let's find out how this new SSD performs in our range of tests.
OCZ Storage Solutions company information
OCZ should need no introduction, but those of you who would like to find out more about OCZ, can do so at their website.
The OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD
Now it’s time to take a look at the drive itself and what it came shipped with.
OCZ ARC 100 SSD package
The review sample I received was a bare drive. Included in the package was the OCZ ARC 100 SSD, installation instructions, and warranty information.
Now let's head to the next page, where we look in more detail at the OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD.....