Our first glimpse of how OCZ would approach the high-capacity solid-state drive (SSD) market following its acquisition of controller developer Indilinx in March 2011 came with the 512GB Octane late last year. But that drive was a new model, so how would the move from SandForce hardware affect OCZ’s existing SSD lines? We’re seeing that now with the release of the Vertex 4 series, which introduces Indilinx controllers into OCZ’s popular and high-performing consumer line. Judging by both the 256GB version and this 512GB version (which is priced at $699 list), the results are a tentative—but not total—success.
Of course you’ll find support for 6Gbps SATA III on the Vertex 4, but beyond that there’s also a new model of controller: the Everest 2. It touts random average random read speeds of 95,000 IOPS and random write speeds of 85,000 IOPS (4KB, with 32-bit queue depth), both significant improvements over what OCZ offered on the same-capacity Vertex 3 (40,000 IOPS in both cases). There are gains in sequential speeds as well, though they’re less dramatic: Reads have risen from 530MBps to 535MBps and writes from 450MBps to 475MBps.
Additional features include the presence of Ndurance 2.0, a suite of NAND management features that offer reduced write amplification without compression, advanced multilevel ECC, and adaptive Redundant NAND Array technology. The Vertex 4 is also equipped with automatic encryption (with support for AES-256) and an advanced ECC engine up to 128 bits per kilobyte). OCZ also protects the drive with a five-year warranty—two more years than you got with the Vertex 3. The 512GB Vertex 4 has approximately 447GB free once it’s formatted; this amounts to a price per gigabyte of about $1.47.
You can expect all these changes to translate to some performance boost, but not as much as you might expect or you might see from the Octane. Compared with the 480GB Vertex 3, the Vertex 4’s random speeds were impressive as measured on the AS SSD Benchmark: 7,515 IOPS versus 6,155 with 4KB reads and 21,592 versus 5,057 on 4KB writes. With the number of threads upped to 64, the Vertex 4’s 70,546 IOPS leapt beyond the Vertex 3’s 55,868 on reads, and its 65,815 on writes towered over the Vertex 3’s 38,096. The drives 512-byte read results were comparable (16,370 IOPS for the Vertex 3, 16,697 for the Vertex 4), but the newer drive’s 26,555 on writes catapulted past the Vertex 3’s 4,554. Its result in SiSoftware Sandra 2012’s Random Write test (419.7MBps) is also well above the nearest competitor (the 256GB Vertex 4, with 346.3MBps).
Otherwise, the Vertex 4’s strong suit was in sequential writes and treatment of data compression. Its 418.6MBps result in this part of the AS SSD Benchmark is the highest we’ve seen on any drive to date, and the same was true on CrystalDiskMark (453.9MBps). (It was just barely beat out on standard 4KB writes in CrystalDiskMark by the 256GB version of the Vertex 4, which rated 99.4MBps as opposed to 95.4, and in their QD32 version by the 256GB Plextor PX-256M3, which rated 264MBps as opposed to 254.4MBps.) In SiSoftware Sandra 2012 it also attained the highest Physical Disks and sequential write scores we’ve yet seen (457MBps and 434.8MBps respectively). And like other Indilinx-controller drives (such as the Octane), the Vertex 4 maintained consistent performance across every compression level when measured using the tool in the AS SSD Benchmark; this wasn’t true of the Vertex 3.
But if you demand superior read speeds, this Vertex 4 might not be the best for you. The Octane and the 480GB Vertex 3 were far better at sequential reads in the AS SSD Benchmark (503.3MBps and 491.9MBps respectively, against 429.3MBps) and on CrystalDiskMark (481Mbps and 499MBps versus 465.3MBps), and attained a higher Physical Disks read score (523.3MBps and 512MBps versus 429.7MBps) in Sandra; went toe to toe (and sometimes further) throughout the ATTO Disk Benchmark; and the Vertex 3 even did better than either drive in the Futuremark PCMark 7 secondary storage test (5,430 versus 5,147 for the 512GB model and 5,225 for the 256GB one).
There’s no question that the 512GB OCZ Vertex 4 is a good drive overall, but it’s not going to be a spectacular one for every user. For everyday computing, its optimizations for random performance will be helpful; and for sequential writing of files, particularly at higher queue depths, it’s tough to beat right now. But sequential reads are a different story, and if you know you depend on those regularly, the Vertex 3 is likely a better choice at the moment, even though it lists for slightly more ($769). The Vertex 4 shows that OCZ’s marriage to Indilinx is not without its benefits, even if not everyone is guaranteed to see them.