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OCZ Vertex 4 128GB Solid State Drive Review (with 1.4 R6 firmware)

The baby Vertex 4 128GB SSD grows up and with this newest firmware, it has quite a roar indeed.

@TweakTown
Published Tue, May 8 2012 8:34 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: OCZ Technology

Introduction

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With good reason OCZ didn't send reviewers the smallest capacity Vertex 4 for the big launch last month. The 128GB size looked puny on paper with a little whimper of write performance, just 200MB/s. The read performance was pretty good at 535MB/s, but in our initial review of the larger models, the single thread read speed was around just 200MB/s. That would of left the Vertex 4 128GB in a cat fight against some very impressive SATA III drives, all of which are capable of breaking 200MB/s even when 90% full of data.

Yesterday we published an article with a new firmware for the Vertex 4 series. At the time we didn't have a 128GB drive on hand to test, but a new day brings new adventures. The new firmware we tested yesterday was version 1.4 R4 and it was a reviewer only release. OCZ has now sorted out a few bugs and the firmware version is up to 1.4 R6. This new R6 revision is available on OCZ's website in the firmware update section so we don't feel like we're teasing you with a piece of software that you can't get on your own now.

With the new firmware OCZ's baby Vertex 4 grows up a bit. The whimper is now an adult roar and the stated performance shows it. The read speed has increased from 535MB/s to 550MB/s, right in line with the Vertex 3 models which OCZ is looking to bury in the pages of history. The largest improvement comes in the write category, now a respectable 420MB/s - up from the 200MB/s at launch day.

In just one month's time the OCZ Vertex 4 went from being an outcast of the pride to a true contender for king of the 128GB jungle.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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OCZ has yet to update their specs list on the webpage so we did it for them this round. The old and new performance claims are at the top of the chart while the data that stayed the same is located at the bottom. The Vertex 4 family is about IOPS performance. IOPS is a tricky thing when it comes to consumer SSDs, it doesn't always show up in benchmark results that heavily favor sequential performance.

OCZ has made another change to the specification list that we just noticed. Upon release the 128GB model was the smallest offered, at least publicly, but now we see a 64GB Vertex 4 listed. Other capacity sizes include 256GB and a massive 512GB size. We suspect at some point OCZ will release a 1TB Vertex 4, Computex perhaps? Let's hope so!

At the time of writing Newegg lists the Vertex 3 128GB model at $149.99. This is a little higher than what the Vertex 3 120GB is listed at, but still a very good price for a 128GB SSD. This summer we will continue to see SSD prices decline as new IMFT third generation 25nm flash is producing very good yields we hear.

When it comes to accessories and add-on goodies, OCZ includes their standard desktop adapter bracket, installation screws, quick install guide and a sticker that proclaims that your SSD is faster than a HDD. At some point we would like to see OCZ change that to My SSD is faster than your SSD or maybe even your HDD RAID array. All of these accessories are the same as those distributed with the Vertex 3. The Vertex 4 does have a new addition in the add-on category though, an industry leading five year warranty.

Packaging

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At some point this month I need to hit my local Fry's and see if they stock any Vertex 4s at the retail store. If you are shopping in a retail environment and find a V4, you'll see a nice package that is informative.

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The back of the package gives some general information about the drive.

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The inner packaging is typical for OCZ and their flagship product line. Everything is kept separated from the drive so it would be difficult to scratch the main component.

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In your kit you get the accessories we mentioned on the previous page.

OCZ Vertex 4 128GB SSD

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Here we get our first look at the 128GB model. Nothing has changed on the outside from the 512GB and 256GB you read about last month and yesterday.

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The model number, serial number and such are on the back of the drive like most OCZ SSDs.

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All of the mounting points are located in the under sheet metal. The Vertex 4 line does use a plastic top, though.

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The SATA power and data ports are offset to where they should be and the desktop adapter bracket offsets the drive so the ports line up in traditional 3.5" form factor locations.

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We expected to find just eight 25nm flash chips inside, but were pleasantly surprised to find eight on each side with a total of sixteen. In the middle you'll see the Indilinx Infused controller and just to the right of the controller is half of the DRAM buffer.

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OCZ has been fairly quiet on the buffer sizes in their specifications sheets. The 512GB model has a massive 1GB of DRAM capacity, the 256GB has 512MB of capacity and we expected to find 256MB on our 128GB sample today. We were wrong again; the 128GB Vertex 4 has the same markings on the DRAM as our 256GB drive (2DD22), so it should have 512MB of DRAM too, divided into two 256MB chips.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

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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.

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This last year OCZ started measuring their baseline performance in ATTO with a queue depth of 10. This is started to spread across the industry, but we're still using QD4. Because of this our maximum read and write speeds are a little different than OCZs, but still very close. In the write test we reached just over 400MB/s in several of the block sizes. The read test was very close to the claimed 550MB/s, our max was 546MB/s.

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.

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We've learned that HD Tune isn't multi-threaded when it requests data so this sequential test does not take advantage of the Vertex 4s unique ability to read multiple steams quickly. With the first firmware release each request was limited to around 200MB/s. With the new firmware the 200MB/s limit has increased to around 310MB/s on average for the first request.

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When it comes to writing data the Vertex 4 goes into weapons free mode, fire at will! There are a couple of things to talk about in this benchmark though, not everything is cut and dry here. HD Tune uses compressible data, so the drives based on SandForce controllers appear to have an advantage here. When working with compressible data that is the case, but the Vertex 4 does not slow down when using incompressible data, data that can't be further compressed. We'll look at the incompressible performance in a few pages.

Also, you may notice the Vertex 4 128GB's minimum performance of 187.3MB/s. With the new firmware we get a single dip about three quarters of the way through the test. This was the same on all three capacity sizes we've tested. The dip is very brief. If I were to guess it lasts for maybe a half to a quarter of a second.

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.

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The new firmware has doubled the read access times on the Vertex 4 family of products. The 128GB model we're looking at today has a steady flow on the chart though, a solid .12ms all the way down the line.

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The write access times were steady at just .02 milliseconds other than a small spike that shot the line up to .05. We are measuring in microseconds here, so I don't think you'll notice the spike.

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.

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Normally we just use CDM for the 4K and native command queuing performance, but since the test uses incompressible data, we can also use it to see how the Vertex 4 128GB compares to drives based on SandForce controllers. In the sequential test we see the V4 made it into the 500+ MB/s class with very few other drives.

The 4K QD1 performance is good, but we can see that other drives are a little faster. At a QD of 4 the Vertex 4 and Plextor M3 Pro take off and leave the SandForce drives behind. By the time we get to QD32 the V4 is in a class of its own delivering class leading 366MB/s performance.

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For the last year and a half when looking at 120/128GB capacity drives we have to take into consideration the SandForce wall. This hard stopping point occurs only on the 60 and 120GB class drives. The Vertex 3 Max IOPS didn't have this same limitation, but most SF based drives did. This happens in CDM because this test uses incompressible data. The new Vertex 4 128GB does not have the limit as you can see in the chart. The drive is able to surpass every other 120/128GB class drive in 4K performance and takes a massive lead when the commands start stacking up.

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 Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft 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.

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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

The new 317MB/s read limit on the 128GB model is still giving the Vertex 4 trouble in Vantage. I suspect once OCZ gets the Vertex 4 reading at full speed with a single command this number will shoot up with the highest performers in this test.

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.

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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

We still prefer our own version of Vantage where the drives have data placed on them. As you know SSDs slow as they become populated so measuring performance on an empty drive isn't that real-world.

The 128GB model doesn't take a big hit unlike some of the other drives we've tested. The overall performance isn't as high either, but Vantage relies heavily on very low queue depth reads, the one short coming on the Vertex 4.

TRIM is working very well on the Vertex 4 128GB drive. It is always nice to see the performance increase in our final test when we delete the data off of the drive.

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

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The file copy test shows very good performance on the V4 128GB. The Vertex 3 Max IOPS though produces some very, very good numbers. SandForce has had a year and a half to work on their firmware and OCZ is only a month in with this release, so we expect all of our benchmarks to increase over time.

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

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Incompressible Data

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

The first image is from the 0-fill test and the second is from the incompressible data test. As you can see the Vertex 4 does not take a very large hit when dealing with incompressible data unlike the SandForce drives.

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.

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OCZ has been pretty quiet about a Max IOPS Vertex 4. With the enterprise numbers we achieved, I don't see how they could do much better than this. The database test is unbelievable, even outperforming the SandForce drives that are based on enterprise models!

Final Thoughts

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Until now the difference in performance between a 128GB class SSD and a 256GB class SSD has been pretty large when it comes to write performance. The initial performance numbers released by OCZ led us to believe that would hold true again. This new firmware release is changing that perception. The 128GB Vertex 4 is still a bit slower in some categories when compared to the higher capacity model, but the difference is eroding quickly.

The Vertex 4 hit the market just a month ago and already OCZ's Indilinx Infused team is making significant progress with the firmware. I don't think anyone could have expected the large performance increase we've seen over the last couple of days, but then again OCZ is one company that likes to his us with big surprises, no matter how unrealistic they are.

Going into this article we held the belief that the Plextor M3 Pro was the fastest 128GB consumer drive on the market. After today I'm not so sure. Both the M3 Pro 128GB and the Vertex 4 128GB have very low access time, so they both feel snappy as your boot drive. In lower queue depths both of these drives perform about the same too, but at higher queue depths the Vertex 4 manages to outperform the M3 Pro. The same is true when it comes to writing data sequentially, advantage Vertex 4. The Plextor even uses 24nm Toggle Mode flash which is supposed to be the new hot technology on the SSD block. The new third generation IMFT flash is looking pretty good now, at least in the hands of OCZ and their Indilinx Infused team.

We should also point out that the Vertex 4 128GB costs a little more than $50 less than the Plextor M3 Pro. The difference is pretty large, a quarter less. I think we're going to need to see the Plextor M3 Pro 128GB get a price drop soon.

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There is still one other issue that should give you a reason to wait and see on the V4. The drive as a whole, the controller and the firmware is still untested when it comes to long term use. The firmware we are using today is version 1.4 R6. Just two days ago we tested with v1.4 R4. OCZ is still making changes and that is why this firmware is advertised as a release candidate. At this stage though, I don't think OCZ would release to the public a firmware that increases performance this much only to take it back and return to the slower firmware. If you already have a Vertex 4 and are using it in a primary system, we suggest you hold off updating your drive until after the new firmware passes through the release candidate stage just to be safe. Remember if you update your V4 SSD with one of these new firmware updates, backup your data first. It will be gone after the update.

As it sits now though, if the final firmware is as fast as this release that we tested the Vertex 4 128GB with today, this drive will be at the top of our buy list in this capacity size. The speed is undeniable; there just isn't anything else on the market in this size that is as fast in as many tests.

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