OCZ Z-Drive m84 PCI-Express SSD Review

Under The Hood Of The Z-Drive

This new version of the OCZ Z-Drive, versus the first iteration of the product we've seen, is significantly more elegant in terms of its design approach.  The product assumes a short full-height X8 PCI Express card form factor.  However, the width of the card does make it a little tight if there is another card in an adjacent slot.  If the adjacent card is something that runs hot, like a graphics card, we'd suggest ensuring there is ample airflow within the case the card is being installed into.  There is also a motherboard clearance issue with the card that OCZ has detailed for users here in this document.  Essentially, if there are any components, directly in back of the PCIe X8 or X16 slot you're installing it into, that are taller than 8mm (.320-inches) high, the card won't seat in the slot properly.  This situation represents a small percentage of motherboards on the market but it's definitely something to be wary of, if you're considering the Z-Drive.



The Z-Drive m84 256GB PCI Express SSD we tested is what OCZ calls their "mainstream" product.  It's based on a 4x64GB SSD RAID array and offers a bit less performance versus the p84 (Performance) or e84 (Enterprise) versions of the product.  The Enterprise banded model is built with SLC NAND flash technology while the Performance and Mainstream products are made of MLC NAND flash.  As you can see, disassembled, the Z-Drive is comprised of four primary components; the base RAID controller board and SSD shell housing, a backplane and power connector plate that provides data and power interfaces to the SSDs and the two SSD cards themselves.  The on-board LSI RAID controller also talks to the SSDs over a single connector on the backplate as well.



The flash memory boards are rather interesting designs with a pair of SSDs on a single PCB with a single SATA interface, but each driven by their own Indilinx Barefoot SSD controller.  Essentially, the design employs on-board RAID on a single PCB and across board RAID between the two SSD boards, hosted by the LSI RAID controller.  Again, since the BIOS is locked down at the factory to a RAID 0 config, there is no significant utility within the LSI RAID BIOS itself, though we'd encourage OCZ to perhaps offer user configurable options (other RAID modes?) in future iterations of the product. 

Regardless, as you can see, the solution is nicely packaged and again rather elegant, requiring a single 4-pin Molex power connector for the SSD array while the controller board derives its power from the PCIe slot.  Speaking of power; let's power it up.

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