OCZ has had its share of problems out of the gate with its low-end, consumer solid-state disk drive, the Apex Series SATA II. But its most recent economy SSD, the Agility Series SATA II 2.5-in., appears to be a successful effort to correct old problems with fresh technology. The Agility has ample cache to boost write performance and, most important, uses a higher-end controller. Yet it is only slightly more expensive than the Apex, which is still being sold.
The Agility SSD series is touted by OCZ as a great solid-state drive for people on a budget. While OCZ won't say so, for all practical purposes, it's the replacement for the Apex drive, which has had issues related to the JMF602 flash controller from JMicron Technology Corp., a company located in Hsinchu, Taiwan. (JMicron said it rushed its controller to market and has since corrected firmware-related issues.)
An OCZ spokeswoman said the company's goal is to offer a breadth of SSD options based on cost and performance, so "we don't discontinue any series if they continue to do well. We have many customers that don't seem to have any trouble at all with JMicron-based drives, and they prove to be the best cost option for them," she said.
Even so, the array of SSDs from OCZ is getting a little confusing. There are a number of different series: Vertex EX, Summit, Vertex, Apex, Solid and now Agility. The drives use a number of different controllers as well, from vendors such as Indilinx, Samsung and -- in the bargain drives -- JMicron.
Like the higher-end Vertex drives, the Agility uses Indilinx Co.'s Barefoot controller, which has a whopping 64MB of cache. That helps to greatly improve write speeds and reliability over the Apex, which has no cache.
All that extra cache, and the new controller, costs just a bit more than you'd pay for the Apex drive. The Agility 120GB SSD goes for $US329 on Newegg.com, while the Apex sells for only $US24 less.
The Agility SSD comes in 30GB, 60GB and 120GB capacities. I tested the 120GB version (Model No. OCZSSD2-1AGT120G).
OCZ lists the 120GB model as having a maximum performance of 230MB/sec. sequential read and 135MB/sec. sequential write speeds, and a sustained write rate of up to 80MB/sec.
For my tests, I used a Dell Latitude D830 laptop with a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor running Windows XP Professional SP2. I tested the drive performance using ATTO Technology's ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.34, and Simpli Software's HD Tach v3.0.4 benchmarking utilities.
Note: While I was able to successfully test both read and write performance with the ATTO app, I didn't measure write performance with HD Tach, because that test affects applications on the drive. But it is useful in providing average and burst read speeds along with CPU utilization and random-access times.
OCZ's Agility drive was true to its name. It was very agile, with some impressive I/O performance numbers. The ATTO tests revealed that the Agility SSD had a 144.5MB/sec. top sequential write speed and 238MB/sec. sequential read speed. HD Tach offered up vastly different numbers: 189.9MB/sec. average for data reads and 178.1MB/sec. burst speed. The test also showed an 11 per cent CPU utilization rate and a 0.1 millisecond random-access time. I was particularly impressed with the ATTO write results, but regardless of which test you go with, this drive returned very respectable performance.