Going back to January, we had our doubts about Vertex 4 performance. At CES, we said Vertex 4 would have a difficult time overcoming the massive performance offered by Vertex 3. Making that claim was easy, to date the SandForce architecture has been able to walk all over the competition made up of mainly Marvel controllers. The SandForce advantage is in the design and the way it manipulates data to increase performance. The only way for competitors to overcome this edge is to find efficiency and efficiency comes from programming and firmware.
It's been said that performance comes from an SSDs firmware and after testing new, higher speed flash on current generation SandForce controllers, we'd say that's pretty accurate. Just slapping higher speed flash on a drive doesn't mean you're going to see any gains in performance at all. With SandForce based drives like the Vertex 3 all of the firmware comes from SandForce. Companies pick and choose features and the package. We suspect each of these features has a dollar value assigned to each one, but very few are willing to talk about the ordering processes.
Marvell controllers on the other hand appear to be 180 degrees in the other direction. Manufacturers seem to have a lot more wiggle room when building firmware and the underlying programming. We can take ten different drives based on Marvell silicon and get ten different benchmark results in each test conducted. Firmware actually matters and the company with the ability to best extract performance from the dual-core ARM SOC architecture will be the one in the best position to take on the Team SandForce mob producing very fast SSDs.
Last year OCZ Technology purchased Indilinx. Since then we've learned that the lead chip designer at Indilinx parted way with the company and now has his own company called Novachips. What remained at Indilinx was a talented team of software engineers, who are responsible for programming and firmware development. The Indilinx team gave OCZ the ability to jump right in with Marvell silicon and dub the operation Indilinx Infused.
Just calling the OCZ Vertex 4 a Marvell controller with Indilinx firmware would be a gross understatement of the facts. To date, OCZ is the only manufacturer with the new Marvell 9145 dual-core SSD controller in production and in circulation. OCZ always seems to find a way to beat competitors to market, but at times their eagerness to be the first means a higher number of firmware updates are associated with their products.
Personally I can't say I mind OCZ's quick launch nature followed by several firmware updates. It allows me to see the progression of the product first hand. Many other enthusiasts know exactly what they are getting into as well. You get the latest cutting edge technology and get to watch it grow as OCZ tweaks along during the product cycle. They are the SSDs that just keep on giving!
Today we're looking at a new firmware developed for the OCZ Vertex 4 256GB. At the time of writing this firmware wasn't available to consumers, but a version of it will follow shortly. The last firmware update we tested for Vertex 4 spanned the entire products line top to bottom and delivered massive performance increases. The 128GB capacity size saw the largest gains, enough so that we'd consider FW 1.4RC tuned specifically for the lower capacity drive and the others just went along for the ride. This time, with FW 126.96.36.199 the 256GB capacity size gets the fine-tuning.
Let's take a look at the OCZ Vertex 4 256GB and recap pricing along the way. Then we'll dive right into the performance with the new firmware.