SSDs are becoming an increasingly common part of many users’ computing setups – and it’s easy to see why. Not only do SSDs make a tremendous difference in the overall feel and performance of a computer – but they’re becoming more affordable, making them a serious option for a greater number of users.
We’ve reviewed a number of SSDs in the past, including OCZ’s Vertex 3 MAX IOPS (review). Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Vertex 3’s successor: The Vertex 4 – a much more affordable option that’s nearly as fast as its predecessor.
Like nearly all SSDs available today, the Vertex 4 is a SATA 3-based drive, meaning it can transfer data at up to 6Gb/s in either direction (read or write). The Vertex 4 comes pretty close to maxing out the SATA III connection, and does so while maintaining a very competitive price in relation to other offerings.
According to OCZ’s website, the Vertex 4 is capable of read speeds up to 550MB/s, and is capable of as many I/O operations per second (IOPS) as the Vertex 3 Max IOPS. We’ve put the 256GB model through the paces to see just how well it holds up to OCZ’s promises.
Test Method / Setup
My usual hardware setup for reviewing SSDs is a MacBook Pro 15-inch with the SSD in the main hard drive bay, as well as a traditional hard drive for storing files, which I keep in the optical bay using a caddy (in this case OWC’s Data Doubler).
Starting with this review, I’ve changed my standard setup and testing environment. Rather than booting off the traditional spinning hard drive, I boot into a fresh install of OS X Mountain Lion using an external FireWire hard drive. This ensures that tests are more accurate, as none of the drives physically installed in the MacBook Pro are tied up by the applications that I run.
I utilized multiple methods to benchmark the Vertex 4 – first, so-called “common” benchmarks in which I used OS X to transfer files and time-test booting, as well as app loading scenarios. I then used BlackMagic Disk Speed Test (Free, App Store Link) to capture raw read/write speeds from the drive. All formal benchmarks were conducted from an external drive. File transfers were between a LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt SSD (reviewed here) and the Vertex 4.
– Common Benchmarks
I began my testing using common benchmarks. These involved a Photoshop CS6 launch test, a system boot test using a fresh install of Mountain Lion (after Spotlight had finished indexing), and transferring approx. 83GB of files of various sizes (made up of MP3s on the small side, and 6-8Gb video files on the large side). In the CS6 launch test, I timed how long it takes the machine to fully boot a fresh install of Adobe Photoshop CS6.
With the Vertex 4 installed, I was able to fully boot Photoshop CS6 in just 1.2 seconds. The system boot test, in which I timed how long it took to launch a fresh install of OS X Mountain Lion from my MacBook Pro’s powered off state (with automatic log-in enabled), I was able to boot to the desktop and launch all startup services in 6.5 seconds.
Finally, I tested how quickly my 83GB collection of media files could be transferred to the drive, and then how quickly they could be transferred back off of the drive. I was fairly impressed with the results – the files were transferred to the Vertex 4 in just 3 minutes 27 seconds. Transferring them the drive took only slightly longer – 3 minutes, 36 seconds.
– Formal Benchmarks
The formal benchmark tests also provided interesting results. Using BlackMagic’s DiskSpeedTest to perform a speed analysis, I was able to achieve max write speeds of 441.5 MB/Sec and max read speeds of 460.3. Notably, these results are slower than those I captured using the Vertex 3 Max IOPS, although part of the reason behind the difference is that BlackMagic has since revised the way they measure transfer speeds.
Real World Performance
In everyday use, there was no noticeable difference between the Vertex 3 MAX IOPS and the Vertex 4 – although the Vertex 3 did manage some time fransfers and load large programs slightly faster than the Vertex 4. In practical terms, the actual real-world performance difference between these two drives was negligible.
While the real-world experience of using the Vertex 4 wasn’t vastly superior to other SSDs I have tested, the drive did benchmark quite well – and it performed better than I expected in file transfer tests.
Another significant factor in looking at the overall value of the drive is that the Vertex 4 included a standard 5-year warranty. By contrast, the Vertex 3 MAX IOPS only includes a 3-year warranty, giving the Vertex 4 some added value over its predecessor. As far as retail cost, the 240GB version of the Vertex 3 MAX IOPS retails for $200, while the 256GB Vertex 4 retails for $250.
The SSD Difference
While I’ve reviewed a number of SSDS, I always like to include a little piece about the advantage of using an SSD over a traditional hard drive. In comparison to a traditional hard drive, SSD’s really do offer a tremendous boost in both speed and performance. The hard drive is usually the performance bottleneck in modern computers – and an SSD changes that in a big way by increasing how quickly you can move data.
The difference is quite dramatic – measuring boot times and file transfers in seconds rather than minutes is a beautiful thing. Make no mistake about it – installing an SSD in your Mac will provide a serious boost in performance, which makes sense considering that a traditional 7200RPM hard drive can operate at a max of around 105MB/Sec, whereas a SATA 3 SSD can operate at over 5 times that rate.
In the long run, I consider the Vertex 4 to be the overall winner in comparison to the Vertex 3 MAX IOPS. While it scored somewhat lower in formal benchmarks, it made up for that under real-world conditions, and the added security of a 5-year warranty is highly significant.
All things considered, I consider the Vertex 4 to be among the best drives on the market. OCZ has a great reputation for quality and customer service, and for the price (128GB version can commonly be found for around $100), I consider an SSD like the Vertex 4 to be essential for getting the best performance out of your Mac.
Rating & Information
Considering the OCZ Vertex 4’s impressive real-world performance, decent benchmark results, high quality, 5 year warranty, and overall excellent value for the price, I alue for the money, and overall high quality, I award the OCZ Vertex 4 a 4.5 out of 5. It’s affordable, it performs very well, and it’s a great value – although it’s not the fastest drive available on the market.