The three basic components of each solid state drive that fully describe its consumer properties are its controller, flash memory and firmware. Two of them are hardware and the last one is software, which means that the manufacturer has some control over its product even after the latter's release. The firmware can be easily updated by the end-user with special tools offered by SSD makers. New firmware can change an SSD’s behavior completely as it contains the algorithms that dictate that behavior. Thanks to that, some bugs or imperfections can be corrected without withdrawing the product from the market. Firmware updates with optimized internal algorithms can also bring about some performance benefits.
Well, it seems that the manufacturers have come to abuse this opportunity by releasing non-optimized products and polishing their firmware off afterwards. It is quite normal for a new SSD to get several firmware updates within its first months on the market which correct its critical (or not very critical) bugs and introduce some changes, often substantial, into its behavior. This situation transforms early buyers, who presumably want a new and stable product with known specifications, into a kind of beta testers. Fortunately for the manufacturers, this hasn’t been an irritating factor for users so far, especially as SSDs are mostly used as system disks rather than for storing important data. Still, we guess that ideally SSDs should have the same stable firmware throughout their entire life cycle.
Many companies have been noticed to polish their SSD firmware off after a product release. It would be even easier to name those who don’t do that. But today we are going to talk about OCZ with its flagship Vertex 4 series which is based on OCZ’s very own Indilinx Everest 2 controller. Not so long ago we tested this SSD with version 1.4 firmware which had changed its speed characteristics considerably, but recently the firmware has been updated to version 1.5. And again it brings about substantial changes in performance, making the Vertex 4 quite an unknown product. This alone is a good reason to test the series once again, yet we don’t want to repeat our previous review completely. So, this time around we choose another pair of Vertex 4 models and want to test the most popular capacities of 128 and 256 gigabytes.