OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing

It became clean in our initial test that the Vertex 4 would have to work for the crown. Kings aren't made overnight so OCZ plotted a course to the title and are working to pick off the competition one by one.
@TweakTown
Published Tue, Jul 3 2012 6:12 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: OCZ

Introduction

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 01 | TweakTown.com
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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 1.4.1.5 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.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 02 | TweakTown.com

We've already taken some pretty deep looks at the OCZ Vertex 4. Our initial review of the 256GB and 512 GB drives started things off. Then firmware 1.4RC hit the lab and the 256GB and 512GB were once again under the microscope. Just days after that the new Vertex 4 128GB arrived and we were once again testing with FW 1.4, this time in public release form.

All three capacity sizes share the same accessories, five year warranty and package design.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 03 | TweakTown.com

It's difficult to nail down specific performance numbers in a data sheet because as you'll see today the Vertex 4 is growing in the performance area and with that appeal to enthusiasts. As these updates progress and the general consumer market will find purchasing an OCZ Vertex 4 more appealing.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 04 | TweakTown.com

In our reviews so far and more importantly in our real-world use of the Vertex 4, we've found that with this release, benchmarks only tell part of the story. With a massive DRAM buffer, the real-world feel of the drive supersedes the performance seen in benchmarks.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 05 | TweakTown.com

The buffer allows Vertex 4 to achieve extremely high IOPS performance. In the past we only related high transaction counts from IOPS to enterprise level tasks, but the numbers have increased so much with SSDs that high IOPS counts are having a direct affect on how a drive feels in your system.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 06 | TweakTown.com

Large buffers are generally associated with increased cost, but OCZ managed to deliver Vertex 4 at a solid price point. Newegg currently sells the Vertex 4 256GB that we're looking at today for $239.99.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 07 | TweakTown.com

SSDs for less than a dollar per GB are becoming common place, but it's still somewhat rare to see premium flagship models break this price threshold on a regular bases, i.e. not on sale or accompanied by a mail-in-rebate.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 08 | TweakTown.com

The performance we're about to see is just a snapshot of what I'd call a long term work in progress. Striped carnivorous types are already hinting at even larger improvements coming to the Vertex 4 line in the future. This led us to believe OCZ is being extra cautions with their validation process.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 14 | TweakTown.com

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, LSI, Corsair and Noctua.

You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.

In order to fully utilize SATA III you need a system with native SATA III support. P67, Z68, Z77 and X79 systems are preferred, but AMD has made advances in their newer SATA III systems as well. Older X58 systems with Marvell based SATA III ports do not deliver the same high levels of performance, so we recommend newer systems when available.

ATTO Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB with 1.4RC Firmware

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 15 | TweakTown.com

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB with 1.4.1.5 Firmware

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 99 | TweakTown.com

Across the board we see performance increases to both read and write speeds. These take place in every transfer size. ATTO is used by manufacturers to show claimed maximum performance and as you see here OCZ can now claim 511MB/s write speed, up from 470MB/s. The maximum read performance claim is now 560MB/s, up from just over 540MB/s.

The read performance of 562MB/s is the best we've seen to date on a 2.5" form factor SSD. This puts the Vertex 4 256GB drive right up against the limits of what we think is possible with SATA III.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00

Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:

Benchmark: measures the performance

Info: shows detailed information

Health: checks the health status by using SMART

Error Scan: scans the surface for errors

Temperature display

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 16 | TweakTown.com

We were told the new 1.4.1.5 firmware should increase sequential write speed and in some of our tests that was true. The single command performance, or 1 queue depth request still delivers around 300 to 310MB/s. We'll look at the multi-request reads a little later on.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 17 | TweakTown.com

The sequential write speed increased at peak and on average in this test across the disk. The annoying dip in speed right around the 70% mark is still present, but the 256GB drive goes back to full speed right away. In our testing with the 128GB Vertex 4 there is a loss of performance just after the dip, the larger drives do not suffer from the issue.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

AIDA64 offers several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.

Drives with only one or two tests displayed in the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 18 | TweakTown.com

The read latency has increased again since the first release. The first time we tested the 256GB Vertex 4 we recorded .07ms average read latency. The number increased to .11 with 1.4RC and it is now at .12. It's a small increase, but not as dramatic as the last one. Lower access times give you the sensation of going fast when moving around your desktop, opening programs and such.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 19 | TweakTown.com

The write access times held the same on average at .02 just like the other two firmware releases. The spike in latency at the 70% mark is no longer there which is nice to see in the chart and in the benchmark results. You wouldn't see that issue under use, though.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info

Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html

Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.

Key Features:-

* Sequential reads/writes

* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes

* Text copy

* Change dialog design

* internationalization (i18n)

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 20 | TweakTown.com

Using multiple threads to get a sequential read number we see the Vertex 4 256GB does get a nice boost over the last firmware, around 85MB/s to be specific. When copying data over for my fill test it was clear that the Vertex 4 was much faster this time around in preparing that test.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 21 | TweakTown.com

The sequential write speeds with threads took on a nice performance increase as well.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/

Buy It Here

PCMark(r) Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft(r) Windows Vista(r). PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft(r) Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.

FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 22 | TweakTown.com

HDD1 - Windows Defender

HDD2 - Gaming

HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery

HDD4 - Vista Startup

HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker

HDD6 - Windows Media Center

HDD7 - Windows Media Player

HDD8 - Application Loading

PCMark Vantage is just not a good benchmark for the Vertex 4 as it relies a lot on single request reads. If you are not a power user with a lot of multitasking going on then you aren't doing a lot of command stacking anyhow.

In this chart it looks like OCZ has removed some of the performance to regular computer users and built a product just for enthusiasts who multitask, but this chart doesn't really tell the whole story either. With the reduced read and write latency over the Vertex 3, Vertex 4 feels just as fast even though it might not actually be in some situations. We'll go into more detail in the final thoughts.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article - full instructions are included.

- Brief Methodology

SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.

Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test

Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)

60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB

120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB

240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB

Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 23 | TweakTown.com

HDD1 - Windows Defender

HDD2 - Gaming

HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery

HDD4 - Vista Startup

HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker

HDD6 - Windows Media Center

HDD7 - Windows Media Player

HDD8 - Application Loading

This is the best part about what OCZ did with their new beta firmware. Since there aren't many people that test SSDs with data on them this might be a big clue why OCZ sent us this firmware to test with today.

With the initial release firmware and the 1.4RC the drop off was very significant. We've stated for the last year and a half to two years that performance drop off is the next frontier for SSDs. It's easy to get amazing peak performance when an SSD is empty, but when the drive is populated, it is much harder to retain performance. Using the 50% of user capacity mark for our main gauge (blue-green line in the middle) we see that the drip off is less severe with the new beta firmware.

Since you do not use your SSD empty this performance increase is very significant! Much more so than any other test or benchmark we display in our review and preview articles.

Benchmarks - AS SSD

AS SSD Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358

Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software

Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software

Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9

AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.

In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).

Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.

- Copy Benchmark

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 24 | TweakTown.com

The file copy test increased bandwidth in two of the three tests, a good sign of performance in this area.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: BETA 11

So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.

The software can be used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

Fill Compressible Data

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 25 | TweakTown.com

Incompressible Data

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 26 | TweakTown.com

You asked for it and we delivered it, Anvil Storage Utilities benchmarks are now on TweakTown.

Vertex 4 does not take a performance hit when working with incompressible data. The new firmware actually gave the drive a boost when working with incompressible data over standard data.

Page 13 [Benchmarks - Passmark]

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.

The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.

The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 27 | TweakTown.com

In Passmark's enterprise tests we see roughly the same database and workstation numbers we had with 1.4RC. The file server and web server scores did drop which has us a little puzzled given their sequential tests mostly.

Page 14 [Final Thoughts]

Final Thoughts

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 28 | TweakTown.com

So, when will you be able to get your hands on the new firmware you ask? Well you are not, at least not 1.4.1.5 that we tested today. This was mainly a build to show reviewers some improvements coming to the Vertex 4. A couple of posts on OCZ's forums tell us that firmware 1.5 is very close and it will increase performance even more than the 1.4.1.5 beta build. I would love to be able to give you more information on 1.5, but that is as much as I know.

The OCZ Vertex 4, even with the beta firmware, still lacks single command sequential read performance. This is still a big issue for many users since copying large files still takes place with one file at a time transfer rates, i.e. when you copy and paste a file.

Things change when you open programs. Most programs will stack the commands and that is where the power of native command queuing kicks in. The NCQ read speeds are amazing with the Vertex 4, some of the best we've recorded to date. In order to get the full effect though, you have to have tasks lined up at least three deep.

One thing that has us a bit concerned is how the read latency keeps increasing as the firmware builds progress. The jump from .07ms to .11ms and now .12ms is something you can feel while working with the drive back to back, but not something you notice unless you are really trying to look for. When we first tested the Vertex 4 and hit the .07ms read access time, it felt faster when bouncing around Windows. The .12ms is still fast, much faster than most other SSDs, but the .07ms first release was incredible.

The most significant change to the Vertex 4 though is what OCZ is doing with the performance degradation when the drive has data on it. With 1.4.1.5 we observed a 5K Mark increase in Vantage when the drive was half full. This is the new frontier for SSDs at least we hope more companies start to pay attention to how their products behave when data is on the flash.

Keep the updates coming OCZ, the Vertex 4 is getting better with each new firmware.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.

The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.

The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 27 | TweakTown.com

In Passmark's enterprise tests we see roughly the same database and workstation numbers we had with 1.4RC. The file server and web server scores did drop which has us a little puzzled given their sequential tests mostly.

Final Thoughts

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Solid State Drive Firmware 1.4.1.5 Testing 28 | TweakTown.com

So, when will you be able to get your hands on the new firmware you ask? Well you are not, at least not 1.4.1.5 that we tested today. This was mainly a build to show reviewers some improvements coming to the Vertex 4. A couple of posts on OCZ's forums tell us that firmware 1.5 is very close and it will increase performance even more than the 1.4.1.5 beta build. I would love to be able to give you more information on 1.5, but that is as much as I know.

The OCZ Vertex 4, even with the beta firmware, still lacks single command sequential read performance. This is still a big issue for many users since copying large files still takes place with one file at a time transfer rates, i.e. when you copy and paste a file.

Things change when you open programs. Most programs will stack the commands and that is where the power of native command queuing kicks in. The NCQ read speeds are amazing with the Vertex 4, some of the best we've recorded to date. In order to get the full effect though, you have to have tasks lined up at least three deep.

One thing that has us a bit concerned is how the read latency keeps increasing as the firmware builds progress. The jump from .07ms to .11ms and now .12ms is something you can feel while working with the drive back to back, but not something you notice unless you are really trying to look for. When we first tested the Vertex 4 and hit the .07ms read access time, it felt faster when bouncing around Windows. The .12ms is still fast, much faster than most other SSDs, but the .07ms first release was incredible.

The most significant change to the Vertex 4 though is what OCZ is doing with the performance degradation when the drive has data on it. With 1.4.1.5 we observed a 5K Mark increase in Vantage when the drive was half full. This is the new frontier for SSDs at least we hope more companies start to pay attention to how their products behave when data is on the flash.

Keep the updates coming OCZ, the Vertex 4 is getting better with each new firmware.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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