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OCZ Vertex 4 SSD review update

Author

Wendy Robertson
Senior Administrator and Reviewer
Article posted 07 May 12 15:00

Test PC and testing procedures

Test machine

For this review I will be using a computer with the following configuration:

Hardware:

  • Motherboard: Asus P8Z77 V Deluxe (Intel Z77 chipset)
  • Processor: Intel 3nd generation Core i7 3770K
  • RAM: 16GB Samsung Green DDR3 1600MHz (dual channel)
  • GFX: Onboard Intel HD 4000
  • Sound: Onboard Realtek ALC898 HD audio controller
  • Hard disk OS: OCZ Octane 512GB SSD
  • Hard disk storage: 1X 500GB Samsung Spinpoint F3, and 1X 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F1.
  • Case: Antec Performance One P280
  • PSU: Antec True Power modular 550W
  • Display: Dell UltraSharp U2412M 24” widescreen IPS LCD (HDCP compliant)
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit with Service Pack 1

 

The OCZ Vertex 4 SSD was connected to the Intel native SATA 6Gbps (port 0) on the Z77 motherboard of our review PC and all tests on the drive were carried out with the drive connected to this port.

AHCI mode was also selected for all drives in the UEFI of our test PC, and all tests were carried out in this mode.

The SATA 6Gbps drivers used on our review PC were the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) Version 11.1.0.1006


Test applications

To test the performance of the OCZ Vertex 4 512GB SSD, I will be using the following test applications in this review.


Test procedures

I will start off our testing procedures explanation by stating that I did not run many synthetic benchmarks on the OCZ Vertex 4 SSD. You may ask why I have run so few synthetic benchmarks?

SSD technology has moved so fast in the last couple of years, that basic synthetic benchmarks alone are now of very limited use, as they don’t really tell us much about performance and how the drive will behave in the real world. I have therefore decided to show some basic benchmarks of the OCZ Vertex 4 SSD, and will complement this with advanced benchmarks using IOMeter and AS SSD benchmark. I will also show how the OCZ Vertex 4 SSD performs in the real world with our MyCE Reality Suite test.

The reality of SSD performance

While I can easily show you which SSD is technically the faster, when you use one of these modern SSDs as an operating system drive it becomes very difficult to tell them apart as far as performance is concerned.

A typical use of a small capacity SSD at the moment is to have your operating system and applications installed onto the SSD. The performance difference compared to a traditional HDD is enormous, however when you start to compare SSD to SSD the difference becomes almost impossible to detect.

Let’s look at why this is the case.

Drive A can boot to the desktop in 8.11 seconds, and drive B can boot to the desktop in 8.12 seconds, the difference in time is milliseconds, and can one really tell the difference?

The fact is, all modern SSDs are only ticking over when they are only running the OS and launching applications, it’s only when you get to some of the larger capacity SSDs, with enough free space to be able to hold the actual data that you’re going to be working with, be that video, audio or pictures, for example, that you actually get a tangible difference in performance. This is where the SSDs with the better sequential performance start to pull well ahead of the SSDs which have lower sequential read/write performance.

Small file random IOPS vs sequential performance

IOPS

This is a fairly complex subject, but I will do my best to explain things in a manner that is easy to understand.

The term IOPS is the amount of input or output transactions that can take place in a one second interval, so for example, if an SSD is quoted as being able to cope with 20,000 4K random write IOPS, then the SSD should be able to cope with 20,000 input transactions in a period of one second. If the same SSD is said to be able to produce 20,000 4K random read IOPS, then the same SSD should be able to produce 20,000 4K random read output transactions in a one second interval.

Ok, now we have some figures to work with, the next question is how many IOPS are actually required?

This will depend on your usage pattern. If you are a typical desktop user who browses the internet, does some word processing or perhaps some audio or video editing, and perhaps plays a few games, then in actual fact, you don’t need to have massive 4K random read/write performance. The actual amount of 4K random performance that is required for a fast and smooth running system for a desktop user with a usage pattern similar to the above will be well under 1,000 4K IOPS.

On the other hand, if the SSD is being used for running a large and complex database server, then 4K random performance is the absolute measurement of how fast that server will run, as this type of application does most of its input and output transactions in the 4K domain.

So why would I need an SSD with 80,000 4K IOPS for a desktop?

In fact you don’t need this type of performance for a desktop, but an SSD which is capable of coping with 80,000 4K IOPS will be faster than an SSD which can only cope with 20,000 4K IOPS.

OK, I just said if under 1,000 4K IOPS are actually required for typical desktop usage, why is an SSD with 80,000 4K IOPS faster than an SSD with only 20,000 4K IOPS, confused?

You may ask, if I only require 1,000 4K IOPS surely the rest is wasted?

While you may never need 80,000 4K IOPS, IOPS is all about latency. The reason that an SSD can cope with as much as 80,000 4K IOPS is because latency in this domain is very low. With 4K files, even if you require to process 500 of them at the same time, you are not talking about a huge amount of data, it has far more to do with how long it takes the SSD to process a single file, and the amount of time required to process a single 4K is all about how long it takes for the SSD to access or store that data before it can move on to the next transaction.

In other words an SSD with 80,000 4K IOPS performance will handle those 500 files faster than the SSD with 20,000 IOPS.

So how will a desktop user even notice this faster speed if so little 4K random IOPS and data are actually used?

Multitasking is a good example. The more tasks you run at the same time, you more you will notice the speed difference.

Sequential performance

I have always maintained that sequential performance was every bit as important as small random file performance for a desktop SSD. Some highly regarded people on other sites found this statement quite funny a couple of years ago when I made it, but my, how times have changed in the world of SSD reviewing.

To me this was always so obvious for a desktop user. For example, let’s say you want to launch an application or game. Both have some fairly large files to load, and also a great many small files, but the point is, even the smaller files are sequential in nature. Now let’s say you’re into audio or video editing. Video files tend to be huge, and the files are written or read sequentially. Isn’t this how many users are using their PCs these days?

Summary

So how does this shape up in the real world? Which is better, massive 4K IOPS or massive sequential performance?

In an ideal world you want both, as an SSD with massive random 4K IOPS and sequential performance will always be faster than an SSD that has high sequential performance and moderate 4K random IOPS performance, and the same applies to an SSD that has massive 4K random performance and moderate sequential performance. The SSD which has high performance in both patterns will always be the faster SSD.

However, you can still have an SSD that is very fast for desktop use that has moderate random 4K performance and massive sequential performance, the same can be said about a drive having massive random 4K performance and moderate sequential performance, as it is about getting the balance right if you have to compromise on one or the other.


Test drives

  • 500GB Samsung SpinPoint F3 (HD502HJ) HDD
  • Plextor PX-256M2S SSD
  • Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB SSD
  • OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD
  • Intel 510 series 120GB SSD
  • Crucial M4 256GB SSD
  • OCZ Octane 512GB SSD
  • OCZ Vertex 4 512GB SSD
  • Plextor PX-256M3 256GB SSD

Drive preparation for running the tests

All the SSDs used in this article were in a clean and fresh state when the testing period started. From then on, each drive had to rely on its own NAND cleaning effectiveness for the remainder of the tests.

  • The spinning HDD drive was defragged before the start of each test.
  • All SSD and HDD used in this article had their partitions aligned to the Windows 7 x64 defaults.

Where I use graphs in this article to display results, I will use the following colours to make it easier, for our readers to see which drive we are reviewing.

 OCZ Vertex 4 512GB SSD (firmware 1.4)

 OCZ Vertex 4 512GB SSD (original shipping firmware)

 Comparison SSD

 Comparison HDD

 

Now let’s head to the next page, where I look at some basic benchmarks…

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