Storage

OCZ Vertex 4 128GB Review

Introduction:

OCZ Technology, mostly referred to simply as OCZ, was founded by a bunch of overclockers and hardware enthusiasts back in 2002. It started solely as a memory manufacturer but it explored many markets like cooling and video cards. In 2007, they acquired PC Power & Cooling which is still working under OCZ but as a separate brand. In all the times, memory has been one of their main products but in start of 2011, they finally decided to leave this market too like they left cooling and video cards. A couple of months after announcing their departure from memory business they acquired Indilinx. It is a fabless provider of flash storage controllers. Right now, they are mainly focused on SSDs; both for consumers and enterprises. We can’t think of any other hardware company which explored this many businesses and did well most of the times.

Acquisition of Indilinx gave OCZ an edge over other competitors of having their own controllers which means full control over quality, validation and firmware. Prior to this, OCZ has been using SandForce contollers in their high-end drives. SandForce-driven drives are known to be buggy. Even though they have generally recovered from these issues but general perception about it hasn’t gotten much better yet. Anyhow, OCZ launched a mid-end SSD based on an Indilinx controller, the Everest, in the end of 2011. There are a couple of reasons why they possibly didn’t go for a high-end SSD with their first controller. First of all, it was quite risky to put a brand new and untested controller in a flagship SSDs and OCZ wasn’t ready to take any risks with their high-end drives after all the fiasco caused due to SandForce controller earlier in their Vertex 3 SSD. Secondly, may be the Everest controller wasn’t mature enough to drive a high-end drive and live up to the expectations.  However, after around 5 months, they finally launched a high-end drives based on their own controller. The drive is placed in their Vertex series which means that it obviously succeeds Vertex 3. It’s called Vertex 4 and it’s driven by Indilinx Everest 2 controller.

But wait, there is a catch; the Everest and Everest 2 aren’t actually made by Indilinx. They are made by Marvell but OCZ has licensed complete rights of the controller which basically means that they can write their own firmware. This doesn’t exactly give same kind of freedom and power that a completely in-house designed controller gives but something is better than nothing. OCZ can still swiftly fix firmware related issues and bring new enhancements whenever they want or whenever they are ready. We also saw an example of this immediately after the launch of the Vertex 4 back in the start of 2011. The samples reviewers got for launch day reviews had pre-production firmware due to which drive suffered a bit in some test but in less than a month after that OCZ launched two new firmware updates for Vertex 4 which gave it a considerable performance boost.

The Vertex 4 was launched around 8 months ago and now OCZ has also announced another SSD which is based on a controller completely made by them but I wanted to have a look at the Vertex 4 before we progress to the newer drive.

The Vertex 4 is running Indilinx Everest 2 controller but as I mentioned earlier both the Everest and Everest 2 use hardware from Marvell. OCZ doesn’t tell me which Marvell controller the Everest 2 actually is but some digging tells me its Marvell 88SS9187 SATA III controller. It has two CPU cores, AES encryption hardware and supports DDR2/3-800 DRAM cache. OCZ is running their own firmware with their Ndurance 2.0 technology which brings extended NAND flash life to the Vertex 4 with the help of advanced multi-level ECC and adaptive NAND management. The Everest 2 doesn’t compress data when writing to NAND as compared to SandForce controllers which also helps in increasing the NAND’s life and drives performance by reducing write amplification. The controller is accompanied DDR3-800 DRAM cache. According to OCZ’s site, the drives have up to 1GB of cache but my information tells me that it’s only up to 512MB. 1GB might have been listed for the 1TB version of the drive which OCZ initially planned but it never made its way to the market. In terms of NAND, the Vertex 4 uses Intel’s 25nm synchronous NAND.

The OCZ Vertex 4 is four capacities starting from 64GB to 512GB. Today, we’ve the 128GB version with us. It’s rated for 560 MB/s sequential read and 430 MB/s sequential write.

OCZ Vertex 4 Specifications
128GB
Controller  Indilinx Everest 2
NAND 25nm IMFT MLC
Interface  SATA III
Usable Capacity 119GB
Max Sequential Read  560 MB/s
Max Sequential Write 430MB/s
Max Random Read 90K IOPS
Max Random Write 85K IOPS

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