With its aggressive marketing strategy, interesting products and extensive dealer network, OCZ Technology has risen up to a leading position on the market of consumer-class solid state drives. It is no wonder then that we often review its SSDs on our site, especially now that OCZ has got the Indilinx development team who have come up with two high-performance solutions, the two versions of the Everest controller, in the last few months. Using these controllers, OCZ has begun to produce unique SSDs that form a complete product range now. The company currently offers three SSD series: the high-performance Vertex 4, the mainstream Octane and the entry-level Petrol. We’ve covered the first two in our reviews already, so it’s time for us to take a look at the Petrol as well.
As a matter of fact, the OCZ Petrol was announced quite a long time ago, at the end of the last year, but we haven't been able to get a sample to test. The manufacturer was uncooperative and, considering the scarcity of reviews of that model on the Web, seems to keep the Petrol from mass media. Perhaps people at OCZ think that such entry-level products can find their way to the customer on their own, by means of the attractive price tag only. Or maybe their marketing department fears that publishing benchmark results for a slow entry-level SSD is going to harm the company’s reputation. On the other hand, this secrecy raises apprehensions about Petrol's competitiveness in comparison with other entry-level SSDs, especially as we can indeed find negative user reports about the Petrol's reliability and speed on web forums.
Whatever the reasons, the Petrol has found itself in a kind of informational vacuum, and we want to correct this now. You might be interested because the Petrol is one of the cheapest 6Gbit/s SSDs available in terms of the cost per gigabyte of storage.
Closer Look at OCZ Petrol 128 GB
So, what is the Petrol made of? Also based on Indilinx hardware, the midrange Octane and the high-end Vertex 4 employ flash memory with synchronous interface, so it is quite natural for the Petrol to be not only based on the junior version of the Everest controller but also have cheaper asynchronous flash. The result looks like a simplified Octane. The Petrol can't be fast with such memory inside, but its price is highly attractive.
The Petrol doesn’t come in too many variants. It is only available in capacities of 64 GB and 128 GB. The lack of larger capacities could be expected but some users would certainly find a use for a storage capacity in between these two. We've got the larger variant for our tests, so let's take a closer look at it.
The OCZ Petrol 128 GB is shipped in a standard plastic blister wrap. The lack of accessories is not surprising considering the manufacturer's desire to make this product as cheap as possible. A user manual and a small promo sticker are the only things you can find in this package besides the SSD.
The Petrol features OCZ’s traditional SSD case with a metallic bottom and a soft plastic top. There's a label with the series name on the latter. As you can see, brown is the distinguishing color of the Petrol series. The back of the case has a more informative label which at least tells you the storage capacity of the SSD.
The Petrol’s PCB resembles the Octane's in some respects, which might be expected since both use the same first-generation Indilinx Everest controller. Besides the controller chip, the PCB carries 16 BGA-packaged chips of asynchronous flash memory manufactured by SK Hynix. Each contains one 64-gigabit 26 nm NAND die.
This kind of flash memory is but rarely installed in SSDs. Being slow, it is mostly limited to smartphones, tablet PCs and USB flash drives, but OCZ thinks it a reasonable compromise between performance and price, especially as the Everest controller works in 8-channel mode with 2-way interleave to make up for the low bandwidth of the memory chips' interface. Another factor that should help accelerate the Petrol 128 GB is its cache memory represented by two 256 MB DDR3-1600 SDRAM chips from Micron.
Here is a summary of the Petrol 128 GB specs:
- Controller: Indilinx Everest;
- Interface: SATA 6 Gbps;
- Flash-memory: asynchronous 26 nm NAND;
- Size: 128 GB;
- Cache-memory: 512 MB DDR3-1600 SDRAM;
- Sequential read speed: 360 MB/s;
- Sequential write speed: 180 MB/s;
- Random read speed (4 KB blocks): 32000 IOPS;
- Random write speed (4 KB blocks): 14500 IOPS.
Even the official numbers declared by OCZ look downright poor compared to inexpensive SandForce-based SSDs with asynchronous flash. And the 64 GB Petrol is even slower!
Well, the Petrol has one indisputable advantage over its SandForce-based counterparts. The reserved pool of memory cells that’s used in garbage collection operations and to replace failed cells is 7 rather than 13% of its total capacity. Therefore, when formatted, the Petrol 128 GB offers the user as much as 119 gibibytes of storage.
OCZ provides its Toolbox utility for managing any Everest 1/2-based SSD. It helps you update firmware, view S.M.A.R.T. parameters and perform a Secure Erase command.
By the way, the S.M.A.R.T. parameters of our sample changed alarmingly during our test session, indicating that the SSD's flash memory had begun to wear off.
It’s the first time we see an SSD wear off that rapidly. Our tests do not usually affect SSDs as much as to cause reallocated sectors. We may have been unlucky to get a poor sample of the SSD, but we can also suspect that the entry-level Petrol just uses low-grade flash memory.
The current firmware for the Petrol series is version 1.3. It has already improved performance compared to the earlier versions, so we can hardly expect this series to change dramatically with future firmware updates.