Closer Look at OCZ Vertex 4
So far, the Everest 2 is only employed in one OCZ product. It is the Vertex 4 SSD. Having acquired an exclusive high-performance SSD platform, OCZ wants to profit by the newness of it and only then deploy it everywhere. It is quite natural to position the first Everest 2 based SSD as a replacement to top-end SSDs with the second-generation SandForce controller: the Vertex 4 is superior to the Vertex 3 in its specs. The following table shows you the specs of 240/256-gigabyte Vertex series products of different generations.
The high performance of the Everest 2 controller explains the superiority of the Vertex 4 over its predecessors at processing random-address data but the new SSD doesn’t look so good in terms of sequential operations. However, we should keep it in mind that, unlike the SandForce, the Everest 2 does not use any data compression, so its performance is consistent irrespective of data type. As opposed to that, the Vertex 3 series deliver varying performance which depends on data compressibility, so the numbers in their specs refer to the best possible scenario only. In other words, the Vertex 4 may turn out to be faster than the Vertex 3 series at sequential reading and writing in real-life applications.
The OCZ Vertex 4 series consists of four models with capacities of 64, 128, 256 and 512 gigabytes. As opposed to the Octane, there is no high-performance Vertex 4 with a capacity of 1 terabyte. Such a model is possible, though, and we may see it in the future. Right now OCZ is focused on promoting its Everest 2 based solutions as superior to the Vertex 3 series and other brands’ SandForce-based products.
The specs of the different Vertex 4 models are compared below:
Like with many other SSD series, the performance of a Vertex 4 depends on its capacity. As you can see, the highest-capacity model is the fastest. It’s different from the Vertex 3 series in which the 240GB model is the fastest one.
As for pricing, the Vertex 4 series comes at $1.15-1.25 per gigabyte of storage, which is rather high. OCZ isn’t into dumping. They try to market their new product as a high-quality and high-performance SSD. At the same time, being now a developer and manufacturer of SSD controllers, OCZ has more elbowroom for price maneuvering, so we won’t be surprised if the Vertex 4 gets cheaper in response to some changes in the market situation, especially as there has already been a certain price cut after the announcement of the series.
The OCZ Vertex 4 is shipped in the standard gray-and-black cardboard packaging of the Vertex series which is now embellished with an “Indilinx Infused” logo. The accessories are conventional, too. Besides the SSD, the box contains a user manual, a promo sticker, and an adapter for installing the 2.5-inch SSD into a 3.5-inch disk bay of the system case.
Except for the model name sticker, the Vertex 4 is no different externally from OCZ’s earlier products. Unlike most other brands of SSDs, OCZ ones do not have an all-metal case. The top panel is made of rather soft plastic.
The PCB of the Vertex 4 features an original design.
We can see that the Everest 2 controller is turned around by 45 degrees relative to the other chips. This solution is usually used to even out the length of interconnects to the memory chips for better synchronization.
Then, each memory chips is equipped with a dedicated multiplexor to enable interleaving.
The 256- and 512-gigabyte versions come with two 512MB DDR3-800 SDRAM chips of cache memory. The full 1 gigabyte is only used by the 512GB SSD whereas the 256GB Vertex 4 can only access half that amount for cache, the remaining half being unused. Take note of the supercapacitor next to one of the DDR3 SDRAM chips: it should keep the cache data safe in case of a power failure.
We can also note the consequence of the processor’s increased clock rate. There is a heat-conductive pad between the controller chip and the metallic part of the case. The Vertex 4 would get very hot during our tests.
In fact, the new product from OCZ is the hottest SSD we’ve ever tested. It would even overheat in a cramped disk rack without active cooling: at high continuous loads the SSD would have problems sending data via Serial ATA interface, so the controller switched it to 3 Gbit/s mode.
While the fastest SSDs available today feature 32nm and 24nm Toggle NAND from Toshiba, OCZ employs somewhat cheaper synchronous flash memory manufactured by IMFT on 25nm technology. So, OCZ may eventually come up with a faster modification, something like Vertex 4 Max IOPS.
The 256GB Vertex 4 is equipped with Intel chips that have ONFI 2.2 interface. Each chip contains two 64-gigabit NAND devices. The 512GB variant has similar chips, each of which contains four semiconductor dies with flash memory. Thus, the Vertex 4 256GB uses 4-way interleave per channel whereas the higher-capacity variant uses 8-way interleave. That’s why the performance in the Vertex 4 series increases along with the capacity.
The Vertex 4 has no excessive reserve memory pool typical of SandForce-based solutions. Only 7.5 percent of the total capacity is not accessible for the user. It’s reserved for the Ndurance 2.0 technology.
OCZ offers the OCZ Toolbox software for managing SSDs. This utility helps update firmware, view SMART information and perform the Secure Erase command.
As is often the case, the first version of firmware for the Vertex 4 series was far from final. A month after the announcement the manufacturer released firmware version 1.4 which improved the speed of the new SSDs. It is as yet Release Candidate rather than official firmware, but we used it for our tests anyway. Here is the difference between the two firmware versions according to the AS SSD benchmark:
OCZ Vertex 4 256 GB
OCZ Vertex 4 512 GB
These changes will affect the specs. The specified sequential speeds are going to be increased.
The 128GB model speeds up the most, especially at writing, but we can also see substantial performance benefits in terms of read speed with the higher-capacity models. The benchmark results above suggest the same thing.