OCZ Synapse reviewed

OCZ Synapse

When Intel launched its Z68 chipset with Smart Response Technology, many users showed their interest for a cache solution for their PC: cache is not as fast as a genuine SSD but it can be deployed without reinstalling the OS and can work to speed up a RAID array. Especially the second point is what matters to many people, including me: I need a solution for my home workstation (RAID 5 of 4 500GB disks on AMD controller). For Intel SRT you need a supported motherboard so there is room to sell alternative caching solution.

OCZ Synapse drive is one of those. Powered by a SF-2281 controller, this 64GB drive features an over-provisioning of half the disk (usable capacity is 32GB), to protect your data no matter what. OCZ sells the drive with a license of NVELO Dataplex included: it’s a simple and complete caching solution, similar to Intel SRT.

The drive installation is quite simple: you have to plug a SATA cable – it supports SATA 3 – and install Dataplex. It’s also possible to use the Synapse as a common internal drive but it doesn’t make any sense.

Dataplex installation-01

Dataplex installation-02

To use dataplex, you have to comply to some limitations of your storage configuration. The cached drive has to be your boot drive and has to be initialized to MBR disk. Even the Synapse have to be initialized to MBR or caching won’t work.

As I suggested above, a Synapse drive can speed up your RAID array and that’s a very nice usage. With a RAID 1 array and a caching SSD you will benefit of good data protection and a very reactive system.

Now it’s time to see how the drive perfoms on a common Windows 7 PC.

Here is the list of hardware components:

Intel Core i3 2120 skt 1155
ASRock H67M motherboard
4GB of Corsair value ram 1333MHz C9
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB as main drive
Intel SSD 320

I used the following benchmarks:

Intel NASPT – I know it was developed to benchmark network attached storages, but it does a nice job even with HDs and SSDs
ATTO
AS-SSD – both transfer rate and copy tests

Here are the results plots:

Intel NASPT

The Synapse isn’t a performance powerhouse, especially if you consider sequential tasks. But random tasks are good enough and they are the typical load of a cache drive.

The drive wasn’t created to be a system disk but a caching one and so, the comparision, isn’t fair. I tested the behaviour of the Synapse as a caching drive on the same machine. I booted Windows and launched several programs, to measure loading times. The results are quite impressive:

Boot and program launch time

As shown on the plot, the Synapse can boost up the performance and make your PC really responsive. Loading times are reduced even after a reboot: the feeling is the same of having a system SSD.

Of course, a system SSD would be faster than the Synapse. But there are some limitations: you have to re-install your operating system and you can’t protect your system drive with a RAID array but only your data. So, for about 100 bucks, the OCZ Synapse is a nice way to speed up your system in a few minutes. It’s not a drive for everyone, but OCZ has plenty of other products to satisfy performance enthusiasts while the Synapse makes sense for others.

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