Review OCZ Nocti mSata SSD 120 GB
SSDs in mSata format are an interesting alternative for all notebook models. While small and mobile devices particularly profit from their low weight and small size, many different combinations up to RAID arrays are possible in bigger laptops. The Dell Precision M6600 for example can house up two 2.5" drives and an mSata SSD.
Our Lenovo ThinkPad X220 test sample can either solely profit from the lower weight or combine the advantages of a conventional hard drive (capacity) with the advantages of an SSD (performance). As the X220 uses 2.5" drives with a height of 7mm, the upgradability of mass storage capacity is limited anyway. Only expensive Intel SSDs offer more than 500GB.
As the Lenovo X220 only has a single mSata-slot, the internal UMTS module had to be removed for the test. It's possible to use both in bigger notebooks with two slots, such as the Dell Precision M6600.
The OCZ Nocti uses the Sandforce Controller SF-2100, which controls the MLC-NAND-memory. OCZ specifies a power consumption of 0.5 Watt in idle and of 1.7 when active. A warranty of 3 years and an MTBF (mean time between failures) of 2 million hours should suffice the security needs of most users. Three different models of the Solid State Drive are available: 30, 60, or, like or test model, 120 GB. At the time of writing, the prices ranged from 60 Euro over 110 Euro up to 180 Euro.
OCZ Nocti's weight of 10 g is hardly worth mentioning and the size conforms to the Mini-PCIe format. Control of PINs is based on the SATA-Standard. Therefore, pure Mini-PCI-e slots won't recognize mSATA cards. But it works vice versa. E.g., the Ericson F5521gw UMTS module (Mini-PCIe) and an mSata drive can be connected to the same slot. To be on the safe side, you should check the compatibility before buying, as some manufacturers favor their own solutions.
Depending on the laptop, cards might be quickly and easily installed (slot beneath a cover on the bottom side) or require a further disassembling of the laptop. In the ThinkPad X220 it is a bit more difficult to get to the slot as the palm rest area and the keyboard have to be removed.
Once the Solid State Drive is installed, it is immediately recognized during the boot process (Bios 1.16). Our drive was already NTFS formatted and could be used without further ado. It can be selected as boot drive in the BIOS.
ATTO SSD benefits from the fact that the Sandforce Controller can efficiently compress data. Therefore, OCZ uses the ATTO SSD benchmark in its performance quote. Crystal Disk Mark and AS SSD deliver different results as they are not capable of this. While ATTO complies with the manufacturer's information of up to 280 MB/s (read), the results of Crystal Disk Mark (108 MB/s) and AS SSD (104 MB/s) are significantly lower. The differences are similarly big in writing with 240 MB/s vs. 80 MB/s. In return, the access time of 0,081 ms is very low and daily work especially benefits from sustained data transfer rates of up to 202 MB/s (both: HD Tune).
Anyway, benchmark results and the noticeable performance gain are different things. In comparison to conventional hard drives, the Nocti can more than convince here. We installed 7 HP 64 bit, some software and quickly tested common applications like image processing, Office and Internet. Programs launch quickly, files open swiftly, and the transfer rates remain on a constant high level.
However, the OCZ cannot keep up with 2.5" models with SATA 6G interface. The latter achieves write and read transfer rates of above 300 MB/s and 500 MB/s. Nevertheless, our OCZ model can well compete with other mSata SSDs, e.g. Intel's 310. Despite a lower read performance, it is on a par in write rates. Furthermore, it is advantageous that it is also available in 120 GB. Due to this convenient size, a further drive is obsolete in subnotebooks. The Nocti has further advantages, like a noiseless operation and a low weight, in common with its mSata competitors.
Although OCZ's Nocti is not today's fastest mSata drive, it still delivers a decent performance. In particular compared to the still wide-spread conventional hard drives, the performance gain is significant in practice. What makes the mSata drive especially appealing is that it combines low weight, small size, and, considering the size, a high capacity of 120 GB. Thus, the Nocti can potentially replace other mass storage devices without limiting the capacity too much. The price of 1.6 Euro/GB is very fair and could be a decisive factor for potential customers.