OCZ Z-Drive R4 PCIe SSD Performance Preview

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary:
OCZ's Z-Drive R4 offered breakout performance in almost every test condition we put it under.  In fact, we were able to realize the card's max read/write bandwidth specification in our ATTO test and watched it flat out crush competitive products in our IOMeter tests.  Where this product won't shine so much is with light-duty end-user type usage models.  Stress the card with video production or other workstation-class workloads and you'll realize amazing throughput.  In a Datacenter environment, the Z-Drive could very well be the fastest server-class SSD out there right now and by a long shot, depending on application and workload.  One caveat however is that this card needs strong airflow over it, in its current design.  Inadequate airflow resulted in failures. Since we tested an early prototype card, we'll remain cautiously optimistic that OCZ will get a better handle on the thermal solution before they ship in production volume.

 

There are other factors to take into consideration with this new solution from OCZ as well.  The Z-Drive R4 is based on MLC NAND Flash, which doesn't have the write endurance of SLC NAND.  Many competitive enterprise class SSD solutions are built with SLC NAND for this very reason.  However, OCZ offers a solid 3 year warranty and a 2,000,000 hour MTBF specification, so you can formulate your expectations from there.  One thing that's for sure, is that solid state storage technology in general has made leaps and bounds in terms of reliability and life expectancy.  This is thanks in no small part to companies like SandForce with their excellent SSD controller technology and firmwares (employed on the Z-Drive R4) that minimizes inherent SSD write amplification issues.

That said, once again, OCZ continues to impress us with their PCI Express-based SSD solutions.  As technology analysts we like to temper our evaluations with a bit of skepticism and realism.  Are the performance numbers really that good?  Is that a consistent trend we're seeing or just an anomaly for one specific test or setup?  Is it really all that?  These are the questions we always challenge ourselves with, every time we take to the test bench with something new.  The long and short of our opinion of the new OCZ Z-Drive R4 is; holy, sweet mother of ridiculous bandwidth this thing is FAST.

In fact, the Z-Drive R4 is so fast, you better make good use of that performance when the product comes to market (should you decide to grab one) or some of us might come looking for you with a proverbial dope slap.  At $5 - $7 per GB (again, OCZ is still finalizing pricing), the Z-Drive R4 is not cheap.  It's about two times the price of OCZ's RevoDrive 3 product, though surprisingly those cards are almost at price parity with top-end SATA SSDs.  Fortunately, the Z-Drive R4 can prove to be over twice as fast as OCZ's RevoDrive 3 as well. And that's an impressive watermark to exceed, versus what is arguably one of the fastest PCIe SSD solutions on the market currently.

We're looking forward to just a few more refinements with OCZ's new Z-Drive before it ships.  Cooling challenges aside, OCZ has designed yet another ground-breaking SSD product with the Z-Drive R4.  It's the kind of product that should leave some of the big name players like Fusion-io, Micron and LSI rather uncomfortable. But when it comes to technology and continuous innovation, uncomfortable is a good thing.

  • Fastest PCIe SSD we've tested yet
  • 2.8GB/sec bandwidth, on paper and in benchmarks
  • Bootable device
  • SandForce SF-2200 maintenance, wear-leveling and endurance second to none
  • A fraction of the cost of competitive enterprise-class PCIe SSDs (per GB)but still expensive
  • Thermal sensitivity requires lots of direct airflow around the card

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