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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  • sotoa - Friday, April 03, 2009 - link

    Long time reader, first time post.
    I really liked the background story and appreciate how Anand delves deep into the the SSD's (as well as other products in other articles).

    Thanks for looking out for the little guy!
    Keep up the great work!
    Reply
  • siliq - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    With Anand's excellent article, it's clear that the sequential read/write thoroughput doesn't matter so much - all SSDs, even the notorious JMicron series, can do a good job on that metric. What is relevant to our daily use is the random write rate. Latencies and IOs/second are the most important metric in the realm of SSD.

    Based on that, I would suggest Anand (and other Tech reporters) to include a real world test of evaluating the Random Write performance for SSD. Because current real-world tests: booting windows, loading games, rendering 3D, etc. they focus on the random read. However, measuring how long it takes to install Windows, Microsoft Visual Studio, or a 4-GB PC Game would thoroughly test the Random Write / Latency performance. I think this is a good complementary of our current testing methodology
    Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    Just wanted to add my thanks to Anand for this article in particular and for the quality work he has done over the years; I am so grateful for Anandtech's quality and information and the fact that it has been maintained! Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    Oops didn't proof, sorry about the misspell Anand! Reply
  • hongmingc - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    Anand, This is a great Article and a good story too.
    The OCZ story caught my attention that a quick firmware upgrade make a big improvement. From my understanding that SSD system designers try to trade off Space, Speed, and Durability (Also SSD :)) due the nature of NAND flash.
    We can clearly see the trade off of Space and Speed when SSD is getting more full the slower the speed (This is due to out-of-place write to increase the write operation and a block reclaim routine). However, Speed is also sacrificed to achieve the Durability (by doing wear leveling). Remember SLC nand's life time is about 100K write, while MLC nand has only about 10K write. Without considering doing wear leveling to improve the life cycle of the SSD, the firmware can be much simple and easy which will improve the write operation speed quite a bit.
    I echo you that the performance test should reflect user's daily usage which can be small size files write and may not be 80% full.
    However, users may be more concern about the Durability, the life cycle of the SSD.
    Is there such a test? How long will the black box OCZ Vertex live?
    How long will the regular OCZ Vertex live? and How long will the X25 live?
    Reply
  • antcasq - Sunday, April 05, 2009 - link

    This article was excellent, explaining several issues regarding performance.

    It would be great if the next article abou ssd addresses durability and reliability.

    My main concert is the swap partition (Linux) or virtual memory file (Windows). I found an post in another website saying that this is not an issue. Is it true? I find it hard to believe. Maybe in a real world test/scenario the problem will arise.
    http://robert.penz.name/137/no-swap-partition-jour...">http://robert.penz.name/137/no-swap-partition-jour...

    I hope AnandTech can take my concerns into consideration.

    Best regards
    Reply
  • stilz - Friday, March 27, 2009 - link

    This is the first hardware review I've read from start to finish, and the time is well worth the information you've provided.

    Thank you for your honest, professional and knowledgeable work. Also kudos to OCZ, I'll definitely consider the Vertex while making purchases.
    Reply
  • Bytales - Friday, March 27, 2009 - link

    As i read the article, i'm thinking of ways to slow down the down the degrading process. Intel is gonna ship x-25m 320gb this year. If i buy this drive and use it as an OS drive, i will obviously won't need the whole 320GB. Say i would need only 40 to 50 GB. I can make a secure erase (if the drive isn't new), made a partition of 50GB, and leave the remaining space unpartitioned. Will that solve the problem in any way ?
    Another way to solve the problem, would be a method inside the OS. The OS could use a user controlled % of the RAM memory, as a cache for those small 4kb files. Since ram reads and writes are way faster, i think it will also help. Say you got 8GB ram, and use 2gb for this purpose, and then the OS would only have 6gb ram for its use, while 2gb is used for these smaller files. That would increase also the lifespan of the SSD. Can this be possible ?
    Reply
  • Hellfire26 - Thursday, March 26, 2009 - link

    In reference to SSD's, I have read a lot of articles and comments about improved firmware and operating system support. I hope manufacturers don't forget about the on-board RAID controller.

    From the articles and comments made by users around the web, who have tested SSD's in a Raid 0 configuration, I believe that two Intel X25-M SSD's in a RAID 0 configuration would more than saturate current on-board RAID controllers.

    Intel is doing a die shrink of the NAND memory that is going into their SSD's come this fall. I would expect these new Intel SSD's to show faster read and write times. Other manufacturers will also find ways to increase the speed of their SSD's.

    SSD's scale well in a RAID configuration. It would be a shame if the on-board RAID controller limited our throughput. The alternative would be very expensive add-in RAID cards.
    Reply
  • FlaTEr1C - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - link

    Anand, once again you wrote an article that no one else could've written. This is why I'm reading this site since 2004 and will always do. Your articles and reviews are without exception unique and a must-read. Thank you for this thorough background, analysis and review of SSD.

    I was looking a long time for a solution to make my desktop experience faster and I think I'll order a 60GB Vertex. 200€(germany) is still a lot of money but it will be worth it.

    Once again, great work Anand!
    Reply

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