The Agility 3 arrives in a sleek plastic and aluminum chassis, with a sticker differentiating the casing from any of OCZs other drives, like the Vertex 3. Underneath the skin are 16 chips of Micron 25nm asynchronous MLC NAND gates yielding a total of 120GB of available storage. MLC, which stands for Multi-Level Cell, allows for two bits of data to be stored in each NAND cell, which obviously leads to a lower number of NAND cells needed for a given capacity, and subsequently lower prices. We see MLC NAND in basically any mainstream drive, such as the Patriot Pyro and Vertex 3 series, to name a couple popular lines.
As long as the MLC NAND gates are high quality and algorithms are appropriately designed, they offer very little sacrifice over SLC NAND, but allow for potentially significant cost savings, and these drives have shown to be very popular. Since MLC has four different states to read between to SLC NAND's two, read and write operations take longer as there are more voltage states to check when writing, and the NAND cells wear more quickly because of the added read/write complexity of MLC NAND. However, with the widespread adoption of TRIM, which is native to Windows 7, manufacturers are promising nearly 10 years of drive life, and by that time you'll almost certainly have upgraded, so we wouldn't hang on the reduced lifespan of MLC NAND.
The back side of the drive is finished in the same way as the Vertex 3, with a brushed aluminum casing, which looks great. The NAND the Agility 3 utilizes is also asynchronous, which does not use a clock to synchronize the read and write operations, but instead occur at irregularly pseudo-synchronized intervals. Asynchronous NAND does not need a separate clock controller to synchronize read and write operations, which helps keep costs down further. In many situations you won't see much of a difference, but asynchronous NAND performs poorly in situations where it cannot utilize file compression during read and write operations, which we'll pour over in more detail when we get to the AS SSD benchmarks. In other benchmarks, we'll see how much of a difference this will make in most real-world situation, and whether or not you might want to look to other synchronous or Toggle NAND-equipped drives, such as the Vertex 3 Max IOPS.