SSD (Solid State Drive) has recently dropped in price and thus started finding its way to non-enthusiast customers. While a year ago an 60GB SSD disk would set you back more than €500, now you can get it for only €130, and the €500 can now get you a 250GB SSD. Still, as much as the price may drop, it’s still a bit pricey as €80 can now buy you a 1000GB hard disk. On the other hand, SSD drives feature much higher read and write speeds compared to regular hard disks. Another upside is the quiet operation, and shock resistance is not to be ignored either.
The mere phrase Solid State Drive might scare an average user, but you should know that SSDs are 100% compatible with traditional disks. This means that installing one or replacing your old disk with an SSD one will be a breeze. SSD disk will boost your access speeds, save some money on electricity, lower the weight of your rig, and provide you with inaudible operation and much better durability, as it lacks the moveable parts found in regular hard disks.
The picture shows the Apex SSD 120GB with a box, weighing in at 77g.
Solid State basically means there’re no moveable parts inside. If you’re wondering how is that possible the answer is simple – flash memory.
This type of memory is quite common (although some might not be aware of it) but its price per GB for SSDs is quite high. Flash memory is also found in memory cards, CompactFlash cards, memory sticks, etc.
The back of the box features some information on the product. The disk’s dimensions are 99.88 x 69.63 x 9.3mm, meaning that this is a 2.5’’ disk.
Laptop markets have practically been begging for SSD technology and now its time has come. Compatibility with the older, 2.5 inch disks is a great thing and it means that replacing your old disk won’t be a problem. Lower consumption should reflect on battery life but since the processor, the graphics card and the monitor are regular culprits for low battery life, the storage device will have only a minor effect on it. Due to mechanical components, regular hard disks consume more energy, as a motor has to turn the heads and such in order to read/write. These mechanical components, fortunately, are not needed in SSDs.
SSD disk is quite a durable component, and you’ll sooner break your laptop than inflict damage on the disk itself. We, however, do not recommend trying any of the above.
OCZ has a couple of SSD disks in their offer, divided into three series. The Apex Series, whose 120GB version we’re testing today, is positioned in the middle and with aggressive pricing and internal RAID design, OCZ plans to offer some nice performance to mainstream users.
It’s wrapped in foam and covered in protective plastic, all to protect the device until it reaches the customer. MTBF is 1,500,000 hrs.
OCZ Core series offers cheaper, budget SSDs, whereas premium quality is reserved for the Vertex series. Although all of us use flash memory, there are some differences in controllers of choice and memory organization. OCZ 120GB Apex, that we’re testing today, features internal RAID 0 architecture and in the best case scenario, read speeds of 230M/s and write speeds of 160MB/s.
Apex series, apart from the name and quality, differs from Vertex and Solid series by the orange color of the sticker.
JMicron controller chip is in charge of the I/O on the disk, but a newer JMF602B version is used – the Apex series actually features two controllers running side by side featuring RAID technology.
We opened our SSD by unscrewing four screws, something we would never advise doing with traditional hard disks.
On the left side (as well as on the back of the PCB) you’ll see two columns of Samsung’s K9HCG08U1M-PCB00 IC memory controlled by two JMicron SSD controllers. You can see they’re placed around the middle of the disk, whereas on the right you’ll find the JMB390 RAID controller handling the SSD controllers and linking them into a Raid 0 striped array. Each of the JMF602B controllers features 16KB on-die cache memory in order to improve write latency performance.
One of the important things is the lack of vibration and the crackling sound we’ve all heard numerous times while the head is busy reading or writing within a traditional hard disk. The following picture also shows WD’s 2.5’’ 320GB hard disk, which we took out of our MSI GX620 laptop and replaced it with OCZ’s Apex 120GB SSD one.