OCZ Z-Drive m84 PCI-Express SSD Review

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Introduction and Specifications

An interesting thing about NAND Flash SSD (Solid State Drive) technologies, beyond the fact that the market is flush with competitive product offerings, is that the technology itself is very flexible and adaptable to a number of different design approaches, other just the straight-forward SATA-based SSDs.  Take for example the RAID 4-pack configuration we setup here with Intel's X25-M SSD or perhaps the omnipotent Fusion-io ioDrive.  Granted, these are rather high-end, pricey setups, but you get the gist that solid state storage arena is just getting warmed up.

In a sort of hybrid version of Fusion-io's product and our little RAID 4-pack array we setup for testing, memory solutions manufacturer OCZ Technology has introduced an almost fully integrated solution of their SATA-based SSD technology, along with a third party RAID controller, all wrapped up clean and tidy on a standard plug and play (no longer pray) PCI Express X8 adapter card.  Dubbed the Z-Drive, we first got a look at this wild-eyed beast back in May. It wasn't quite ready for prime time back then and it re-emerged again in early September with specs that admittedly caused a pavlovian response of our salivary glands. 

Today, we get to satiate ourselves with a deep dive look at the new OCZ Z-Drive, in a tasty 256GB variant that drops in at an almost reasonable $899 price point that is on near cost parity with a standard mid-range SSD.  This is a very different approach to SSD technology, one that occupies a PCI Express slot instead of a SATA port.  First we'll dig into what makes it tick and then we'll see how it ticks through our benchmark time trials.


OCZ Z-Drive m84 256GB PCI Express SSD
Specifications and Features
  • Available in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB (1024GB) capacities       
  • 256MB Local Cache
  • Onboard LSI RAID Controller       
  • PCI-Express interface (x8)       
  • For use as primary boot drive or data storage       
  • 195mm x 32mm x 127mm (L x W x H)
  • Weight ~ 500g       
  • Operating Temp: +5ºC ~ +55ºC       
  • Storage Temp: -20ºC ~ +80ºC       
  • MTBF 1,000,000 hours       
  • 3-Year Warranty       
  • Compatible with Windows XP 32/64, Vista 32/64, Windows 7 32/64
  •  $899.99 - 256GB,  $1399.99 - 512GB,  $2,999.99 - 1TB

There are a few notables to take away from the spec list here that tip us off to the fact that we're on to something unique.  First, the Z-Drive has a "hardware" RAID controller on board, namely the LSI SAS1068E 8-port SATA/SAS controller.  In fact, the underlying main card is a Supermicro AOC-USAS-L4I controller with 256MB of on-board cache.  As you'll see on the forthcoming page, the card has been heavily modified, however, and the SAS port on the front plate of the card has been removed.  The card requires a PCI Express X8 slot, which means it has more than enough bandwidth to handle the task at hand.  Finally, the 256GB model we tested was factory set to a RAID 0 mode configuration in the LSI BIOS with a 4x64GB OCZ Vertex style SSD setup. More details on these specific components, next... 

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