OCZ Vertex 4 256GB SSD Overview

Although SandForce controllers have powered much of OCZ's solid-state line of products, the company is moving to its own solutions after purchasing Indilinx early last year. The "Octane" flash drives were the first to use the Indilinx Everest controller this past Christmas season. After the SF-2281-based drives are over a year old, OCZ has started integrating Everest with the rest of its offerings, including the Vertex series.

The Octane drives showed impressive stability and speed with read and write performance of 520 MB / s and 410 MB / s, which is competitive with today's high-end SATA SSDs at 6 Gb / s. While it's a solid series, the pricing has made it not a particularly popular option with enthusiasts. As of today, the 256GB model costs $ 300 while the 240GB Vertex 3 is available for just $ 210.

Since introducing the Octane, OCZ has developed a second generation Everest controller, the silicon behind the company's new Vertex 4. Though the Vertex 4 touts more power than the Octane series, the price seems competitive with the existing SandForce, Samsung, and Marvell-based drives, which should make it a more viable option – if not de facto – under high- End system manufacturers …

OCZ Vertex 4 Series in detail

The Vertex 4 series is aimed at performance enhancers. The first models based on Indilinx Everest 2 offer capacities of 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB and 512 GB. The drives have a slim 2.5-inch design, are 99.8 x 69.63 x 9.3 mm in size and weigh up to 83 grams.

The power consumption is low compared to conventional hard drives, as the Vertex 4 only consumes 2.5 watts when active and 1.3 watts in standby mode. While this is less than what OCZ claims for the Vertex 3, it is more than what Intel claims for the SSD 520 series.

The 64 GB model offers read and write speeds of 460 MB / s and 220 MB / s. The 128 GB version is much faster with 550 MB / s reads and 420 MB / s writes. The 256 GB and 512 GB models offer the same 550 MB / s reads, but the writes are increased to 465 MB / s and 475 MB / s, respectively.

Using the SATA 6Gb / s interface is of course important to achieve these speeds. Currently, Intel's Sandy Bridge platforms offer native SATA 6 Gbps support, as does the AMD AM3 + platform.

All Vertex 4 models are equipped with a synchronous Intel MLC NAND (25 nm) flash memory. Our test device contains 16 Intel 29F16B08CCME3 NAND ICs with 16 GB and a capacity of 256 GB.

Once formatted in Windows, the original 256GB will be converted to 239GB, even though Windows shows it as 239GB. So it seems that 7% of the original capacity has been lost. At a current retail price of $ 240, the Vertex 4 256 GB is priced at $ 0.93 per gigabyte – excellent value for a high-performance SSD.

The Indilinx Everest 2 controller has a dual-core ASIC processor with 400 MHz and is coupled with a 1 GB DRAM cache. OCZ used a pair of Micron DDR3-800 512MB chips, one on each side of the circuit board.

The Vertex 4 also includes features that are supposedly unique to the Indilinx controller, including latency reduction technology to improve system responsiveness and enable instant startups. According to OCZ, the access times are only 0.02 ms. A "Fast Boot" technology is said to offer faster start times compared to existing SSDs. In addition, without data compression restrictions, as with models equipped with SandForce, users can expect better performance when performing certain operations with media files and the like.

There's also proprietary NDurance 2.0 technology, which increases the life of NAND flash memory by two times, from the 3,000 to 5,000 PE write cycles currently seen on 20nm-class NAND drives to the range from 6,000 to 10,000 we saw with 30nm -class NAND.

Despite NDurance 2.0, OCZ only gave the Vertex 4 a MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) rating of two million hours, which is identical to that of the Vertex 3.

Regardless of its MTBF, the Vertex 4 comes with a respectable five-year warranty, which is also backed by toll-free technical support and 24-hour web support on the OCZ forums.

The Vertex 4 drives support AES-256 and automatic encryption to secure critical data and offer enthusiasts unique enterprise features. Support for background garbage collection, TRIM, SMART, and NCQ is also provided.

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