The Vertex Update

As you’d expect, a lot has happened since the article went live. On my end, I’ve started compatibility testing on the OCZ Vertex drives. As I mentioned at the end of last week’s article - OCZ and Indilinx, even collectively, aren’t anywhere near as large as Intel.

Firmware changes to the X25-M go through weeks upon weeks of validation at Intel; if the validation process is anything like it is for all other Intel components, the process is carried out on hundreds of servers making sure that every possible scenario is tested on the drive. Intel studied the usage pattern of hard drive users for quite a while before the X25-M ever made it to a reviewer’s hands; that’s why we didn’t have the stuttering problems on those drives. That’s why they just worked as intended right out of the box.

That’s also why the Intel drive commands such a high premium.

  Cost Per GB from Newegg.com
Intel X25-M 80GB $4.29
OCZ Vertex 120GB $2.91
Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB $0.12
Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB $0.77

 

OCZ and Indilinx want to slot their drive in between the JMicron garbage and the Intel drive. Unfortunately, without the resources of an Intel - it’s difficult to deliver the same sort of experience. That’s not to say that the only solid state options come from Intel, it just means that you should probably check to see if there are any compatibility issues before you pull the trigger on the Vertex.

Reading through OCZ’s forums there have been reports of drives not working in some notebooks. While the Vertex worked just fine in my X58 testbed, that’s hardly the most common motherboard out there. So before I left for GDC last week I started compatibility testing on the Vertex. I met with OCZ at their offices to share notes on compatibility testing with these drives. For example, I’ve seen issues with the ASUS P5B Deluxe and the P5K Deluxe and the Vertex drive being detected properly (or taking a long time to detect) but OCZ has not. I want to find out why.

I’ve also heard limited reports of Vertex drives dying after heavy use. The data loss/corruption issues appear to be related to firmware 1199, a revision newer than the 0112 version I tested with for last week’s article. While I recommended that OCZ ship with the firmware I tested for my review, it looks like some drives shipped with 1199. I don’t have exact numbers of how many drives used 1199 vs. 0112, but there are some out there in the market. Sigh.

The problem was quickly identified by customers, OCZ and Indilinx and fixed in a very short period of time with the 1275 revision. If you have a drive with the 1199 firmware it’ll appear as such in the BIOS and your best bet is to contact OCZ directly for the new firmware and instructions on how to upgrade to it.

While it’s great that OCZ has been proactive in releasing firmware updates, every time you update your firmware you do lose all of the data on your drive. If you keep persistent backups then it’s not a big deal; if you don’t, it’s a pain.

Index The Bright Side: The Vertex is Nearly 3x as Fast
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  • Patanjali - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    If Indilinx made the decision to do it off their own bat, OR it is not subject to a subcontracting agreement (that is, doing the firmware exclusively for OCZ), then they are free to offer it to all and sundry.

    In some industries, even though specific customers pay for changes, they are made available to all customers after a delay period.

    It really depends upon who has who over a barrel.
    Reply
  • siliq - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    With Anand's huge article and other articles, 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
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    They did test that, see the FarCry 2 installation directory at the end of page 6. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Page 5, page 5, edit, edit, edit... Reply
  • Patanjali - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    I don't know if I missed it in the article, but I didn't notice the reason for the degradation.

    Is it:

    a. Faults in the firmware

    b. Faults in the controller

    c. Faults in the flash devices themselves, or

    d. Progressive increase in the proportion of the SSD blocks that need erasing before rewrite?

    To me, it seems that it might be d, especially when using sectors that are small compared to the SSD native block size.

    I would be interested to see results for the same tests using 64kB sectors on all drives. For normal files (OS, apps and data), that would increase the space wastage by 8%, but is negligible for multimedia (where the file size is very large compared to the sector size).

    I would expect such a change may well produce better overall performance as it would reduce the multiple full block rewrites that result from changes to multiple small files in the same block.

    Some rough benchmarking I have done showed a 50% better real world copying of 1GB of files of various sizes between HDD drives compared to using default Vista sector sizes.

    If the random write performance is better with larger block sizes, some wastage might be a small price to pay. We have been used to the compromises in using HDDs for so long that compensating for some SSDs downsides should be allowed.


    My main interest in using SSDs is for a quiet and cooler Digial Audio Workstation (DAW). I currently have four 150GB WD Raptors making noise and over 40W of heat (requiring more noisy fans). A lot of planning and effort goes into optimising the HDD usage and partitioning.

    And now some modern software sampled instruments are hundreds of GB that need fast, responsive storage media. Streaming hundreds of sample streams at once, I would expect HDDs to be spending most of their time seeking. SSDs would seem to be the solution for this, in that they have very short access times, allowing many more accesses per second, coupled with fast read times (to allow getting to the next stream faster). Reading does not seem to have any of the issues giving SSDs bad press.

    However, having fast, silent drives for OSs (need multi-boot with one tweaked for audio performance) and projects (which have multiple read streams and simultaneous writes when recording) would complete the quiet profile.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    Not to put OCZ down as I wish for them to continue to be a contender and to bring on competition (it's good economics), but...

    for some reason it just seems like there is a little too much butt-kissing ever since the first article. Granted final points are made, but the first article was so objective and true. If you put out a crap product, then sales should drop. Anand, despite your relations with the manufacturers, if they want to stop sending you products, it's on them.

    You can just wait til retail versions to review them, but the truth is the readers are going to side with you and not buy a product they don't know much about.
    Reply
  • Tuvok86 - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    yeah I noticed a little butt-kissing going on, but I understand it, since OCZ was totally trashed by Anand regarding the whole Jmicron story so this kind of makes up for it, don't you think?
    It's good that OCZ recognised its errors and listened to customers and reviewers, and this has to be acknowledged to them
    Reply
  • LinkerX - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    I think OCZ does a good job with customer service and PR, which means a lot coming from a small firm. I decided to buy a vertex drive after reading these reviews because it beat up on the raptor.

    I do not mind firmware upgrades etc... as long as the performance keeps improving.
    Reply
  • 7amood - Monday, March 30, 2009 - link

    I am still amazed by your reviews... I just can't ask for more.
    Keep it from your heart.
    Reply
  • araczynski - Monday, March 30, 2009 - link

    very nice, good to see someone slapping intel around a bit, again. intel may be the cream of the crop right now, but at their prices, that cream can just sit out in the sun for all i care.

    looking forward to see how things change/improve when the real sized drives (500+GB) come out.
    Reply

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