Disappointed, I went back to OCZ

OCZ was worried. The last time I reviewed one of their SSDs I was truthful about it, and it hurt their sales considerably. Customers were returning drives, and to OCZ’s credit, they stepped up and even accepted some returns themselves - something that most manufacturers wouldn’t have done. Regardless what they had told me, there was some admission of fault there. Those JMicron drives were nothing short of crap.

As soon as OCZ started getting word that I wasn’t pleased with Vertex, they went into a state of panic. These drives all do very well in synthetic HDD tests like HDTach and ATTO, that’s generally all they’re reviewed in, so that’s all they’re tested in. But now OCZ was hearing that the Vertex wasn’t passing some of my tests and they had no idea what it was failing or why.

I tend to do a good job of keeping what tests I run secret until the review is published, so there isn’t any unfair optimization. I purposefully introduce new tests to our performance suites to help keep manufacturers honest and optimizing for real world usage scenarios rather than specific benchmarks. OCZ had no idea what I was running, but they knew that the Vertex wasn’t doing well.

Summit on the other hand was performing just fine, but that’s an expensive drive. Vertex was supposed to be good, it should’ve been good, there’s no reason for it to be performing this poorly. I ran the infamous iometer test to see what was going on:

Iometer 4KB Random Writes, IOqueue=1, 8GB sector space IOs per second MB/s Average Latency Maximum Latency
Original Pre-release OCZ Vertex 20.7 0.08 MB/s 48.2 ms 484.5 ms

 

How on earth is this acceptable at all? Average latency of 48.2ms and a maximum latency as bad as the Apex and G.Skill Titan drives? I’ve heard some SSD vendors dismiss the iometer results but let me caution you against that. What these numbers are telling us is that on average, when your OS goes to write a 4KB file somewhere on your drive, it’ll take nearly 50ms. That’s 4.5x longer than a 5400 RPM 2.5” notebook drive and that’s the average case. What part of that sounds acceptable? Anyone who tells you otherwise is delusional.

I thought for sure that the drive was broken and that we’d made no progress since last fall. But the drive hadn’t launched yet, while there were glowing reviews of it, no one had wasted any money. I wrote an email to Ryan Petersen, OCZ’s CEO. I described my findings and told him that while the Vertex’s performance was better than any of the JMicron solutions, it was unacceptable for anything other than perhaps extremely light, single-tasking usage.

I told him it sucked. He said that wasn’t fair. We argued over email but he came back and asked me what I needed to see to make the drive better.

I told him I’d need an average response time in the sub-1ms range and a max latency no worse than Intel’s 94ms. I didn’t think it would be possible. I was prepared for OCZ to hate me once more. He told me to give him a couple of days.

OCZ Sends Me SSDs, Once More Once More, With Feeling
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  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    If all you were going to throw on the drive is the OS and a game, a 32GB drive should be plenty. The reason the 80GB and up range is important is so general consumers can load all their programs on it.

    But yes, in consumer usage other than a laptop, some people who were previously using one drive for both boot and storage would likely need a mechanical HDD is addition to the SSD. OTOH, those who were using a Velociraptor (or RAID array) for boot and another drive for storage will see their power consumption decrease.
    Reply
  • sawyeriii - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Have you used a SSD? (If so which)

    I would state that it is not a luxary product, it is a premium product. The price difference you pay WILL translate to faster performance (if you choose correctly). More RAM only helps upto a point.

    Remember performance is based on a system of parts...
    CPU
    RAM
    NORTHBRIDGE
    GPU
    SOUTHBRIDGE
    I/O INTERFACE
    HDD/SDD

    Microsoft's Windows Experience Index has specific flaws, but the concept is sound... The system can only go a fast as the slowest component in the system (relative to the amount of time used by that component).
    Reply
  • Testtest - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    ... there's also Supertalent's Ultradrive ME (MLC) and LE (SLC) and Photofast's G-Monster v3

    At least the Supertalent drives are quite a bit cheaper with the same drive layout/controller than the Vertex drives and only differ in the firmware (which isn't bad either).

    It's however possible at least with the Ultradrive ME currently to provoke a kinda timeout error after they've been fully filled once and then still beeing written on. I don't own a Vertex so I can't test that there but if it was a controller issue, it should pop up there sooner or later as well (if you take a look in their suppport forum some error reports seem very similar).

    Intels have their 80% bug, Indilinx drives have their issues too it seems - let's hope that firmware can cure it!

    Great article btw!
    Reply
  • iwod - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    Both SuperTalent and OCZ 30 / 32 GB drive cost exactly the same on NewEgg
    $129
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    If you get Newegg's specials, one of the codes is for the 30GB for $103 with a $20MIR, so $83 with shipping if the rebate comes through. At the size I would want (~120) the Super Talent undercuts the OCZ slightly.

    Does anyone know if you can install the firmware of one maker to another maker's SSD? For example, assuming both the Ultradrive ME and the Vertex use the same Indilinx controller, and say Super Talent chose to release it with the firmware which optimizes for higher sequential speeds, would the user be able to choose the firmware which optimizes for less latency?
    Reply
  • Testtest - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Ah, no editing?!

    A-Data's "300 plus" SSD also uses the Indilinx controller.
    Reply
  • vailr - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    "The Anatomy of a SSD" should instead read: "The Anatomy of an SSD" Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Yes, because S is a vowel... Reply
  • abudd - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Assuming SSD = "es-es-dee" then "an SSD" is right. If it *sounds* like a vowel, use "an". Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Yes, *but* SSD could also be read as "Solid State Drive" instead of "ess ess dee", in which case you would say "a SSD". I tend to read it as "ess ess dee", but Anand thinks of those letters as "Solid State Drive".

    Potato, potato, tomato, tomato... let's call the whole thing off!
    Reply

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