In the introduction of this article I talked about the two major complaints that seem to stick to solid state drives - price and capacity. There is another one and this one brings fear with it - reliability. There has yet to be a single company that hasn't released a product they wish they could take back, at least for a short period of time. Even Intel with their industry leading validation process released code that was less than acceptable. Before that we had a bunch of JMicron drives that just sucked at everything they did. Last week I wrote about LSI SandForce's firmware TRIM troubles and right now I'm putting the OCZ Agility 4 in the same category.
I've seen images of a retail Agility 4 and images from another review sample. Both of those products shipped with Micron flash. The retail purchased drive is what we are more interested in. The drive was purchased at the Santa Clara Microcenter in California and was used in a review at RWLabs. Since it was plucked right out of a retail store we can't say that OCZ only released Agility 4 drives with Micron flash and OCZ branded flash is the only thing in the channel.
When OCZ released the first Agility product many years ago they stated that the Vertex brand was built with a specific build of materials list (BOM). The difference between the Vertex and the Agility was the Agility's BOM was ever changing. Users would get a drive with different components depending on what was available at the time and when I say available, I mean available at the lowest cost. For the first series products this worked out really well for consumers because many of the Agility drives performed the same as the higher priced Vertex model and had identical components for much of the production run. Flash was still being binned at the time, but not like it is today.
Looking at the Newegg reviews we have to point out that most people do not leave a positive review for a product if it does what it's advertised to do. Even in this world where a person gets an award for coming in last place, consumers tend not to go around touting that their SSD does what it's supposed to do. On the other hand, people who get a drive that breaks in two hours tend to be a little upset about it and are the first to go rant on forums and user reviews. I'm sure someone has done a study on this topic, but I've yet to find what percentage of satisfied users leave user reviews on Newegg. All we can say is the user review system is not a true one to one representation of every product sold.
So, sticking with what we know from a sample size of three, if you purchased an OCZ Agility 4 and it has Micron branded flash inside you have a 2/3 chance of the drive being fine, at least not dying in the first hour of use. Also, with the same sample size of three, if your Agility 4 has OCZ branded flash, you have a high probability of failure. With a sample size of only three we are making some big conclusions without a lot of data, but that is what the data tells us.
Given what we think is going on and the Newegg data, you shouldn't buy an OCZ Agility 4 unless you are feeling lucky. If you are feeling that lucky take the money to Vegas, turn it into more money and then buy a proven SSD like the Vertex 4 or better yet a Vertex 3 that has already went through reliability issues and is now a reliable SSD. With that out of the way, we can say that the OCZ Agility 4 has a very low price point. OCZ did a really good job on the price. We've even heard from other manufacturers that OCZ is really disrupting their product releases and prices, shaving the margins to little slivers of profit. Other manufacturers are the only people who can complain about OCZ's pricing on the Agility 4.
Then there is the performance. In a single user environment where low queue depths make up the majority of the reads, this drive is, well... it's just pretty bad. The low 170MB/s limits imposed for a single read request is very low for a modern day SATA III SSD. In our testing we had the Agility 4 coming in behind an aging Vertex 2 in the real-world single user tasks. This is something that enthusiasts and power users will notice when trying to work with large files.
That said, for many mainstream users, 170MB/s is enough to get the job done. Your Facetwit account isn't going to notice the read speed limit. If you are not working with massive pictures or editing large files, you will be fine with a working Agility 4. Given that OCZ claims this is a mainstream product, enthusiasts and power users are already warned. The low access times and high IOPS performance means the Agility 4 can even sneak into a power users system and feel fast until you try to do certain tasks.
Still though, until OCZ gets their reliability up, this drive needs to sit on store shelves.
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