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New Firmware Makes Vertex 4 A Monster

By Matt Simpson - Saturday, May 19, 2012

It’s likely we all know about the OCZ and the position they hold in the SSD market these days. They were one of the early adopters of the Sand Force controllers that have now swept through the ranks of SSD makers, proving almost all other comers to be utterly inferior.  Partnering with Sand Force may be been one of the best moves the company could have made, but with their most recent iteration of the Solid State Drive OCZ has chosen to abandon the hand that feeds them and instead design their own controller in house, with the Indilinx property they acquired some time ago.

OCZ

These days, OCZ seems to be riding on an unbeatable crest. Sure , there are some SSD’s that can outperform their offerings in one or two areas, the Intel models continue to be the likely pick for high queue depth I/O intensive scenarios, but these are server situations, and OCZ is aiming at the home user.

Things haven’t always been so peachy for OCZ however. They had a terrible run of luck with their memory modules that seemed to fail more times than not. In fact, for many users the problem was worse than an outright failure, the modules started developing errors over time, leading to seemingly random crashes and reboots. The memory would still pass a cursory inspection and therefore leading PC owners to spend time hunting down the source of their “mysterious” problems. Eventually, enthusiasts got wise to the issues and this gave OCZ a black eye it was questionable if they would ever recover from.

The Vertex

They did recover however, by offering some of the fastest SSD’s and offering them as what were competitive prices. Not that any SSD can be considered cheap and the earlier ones even less so, but they did make them more reasonable than many of their competitors. Then with the introduction of the Vertex 2 and its Sand Force controller, they took the lead in desktop SSD performance. They have more or less kept it through the Vertex 3 even though many others have started using the Sand Force controller. It was somewhat of a surprise then to see that they were ditching the Sand Force in favor of an in house design for the all important controller logic for the companies Vertex 4 line of SSD’s.

OCZ said that not only would their own controller outperform the Sand Force initially, but it would allow for much improved firmware updates as a much reduced time to market for any such updates. There was no doubt that the Vertex 4 drives were very fast, but many were more than a little skeptical of the company’s claims concerning the firmware. The Vertex 4’s also didn’t dominate across the board like its predecessors did, with some areas showing some apparent weakness in the controller choice. Even worse, the lower capacity drives had write performance of less than half of their larger and more expensive siblings. A new firmware update is in release candidate status now, however and it looks like OCZ wasn’t kidding at all.

Firmware Version 1.4

Not only is OCZ keeping its word when it comes to timely updates for the new drives, but the latest firmware makes huge performance gains as well, in some cases completely transforming the drives. The most notable of these is the sequential write performance of the budget, 128GB model, which has gone up over 200%. That correct a 200% increase just due to firmware. The read and write performance of the other models increases a fair amount, only paling in comparison with the previously mentioned change. Not many of us use our drive simply to see how fast we can read and write sequentially however.

Storage Review posted benchmarks from the new firmware using Intel’s Iometer, which is a better representation of actual use. The results were again very impressive, with improvements ranging from 16 to 75%. In all real usage scenarios, there were improvements in IO/sec, latency and overall throughput, with the important gaming scenario netting a 61% improvement.

Basically OCZ has taken a drive that rivaled for the top spot and has managed to dig a huge amount of additional performance out of it. That is performance that comes free of charge, simply with the update of the drives firmware. It seems unlikely that another firmware will be able to wring much in the way of additional performance out of this drive, but OCZ has regained a huge margin of their credibility with this release.




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