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And The Winner Is... (Surprise)
Typically, when we run these "versus" type articles it's difficult to pick a clear winner because the competition is so stiff. This, however, was not a closely contested battle. Blows were not traded back and forth. Instead, Crucial's v4 assumed the fetal position and was repeatedly pummeled by OCZ's Agility 4 in our tests.
On average, the Agility 4 was 60% faster than the v4 in our file transfer operations. This was backed by PCMark 7's benchmarks, which also revealed a 60% gap favoring OCZ's unit. Crucial's v4 had its best showing in our real-world application testing, but even then it lingered behind the Agility 4 by a disconcerting 30%.
Evidently the v4's SATA 3Gb/s limitation and its controller hinder the drive's speed, but this is intended. Crucial argues that its budget offering delivers the right balance of performance at the right price and that 6Gb/s support is overkill for most users as they are unable to utilize this new interface.
"In order to complement many pre-2011 systems, we thought it made sense to deliver a mainstream solution that would save customers money while maintaining a high level of SSD performance. Since the Crucial v4 SSD doesn't include pricey features that cater to high-performance systems, we're able to offer a high-quality product at an affordable price," the company told us. That sounds great, but does it hold true?
Not really. Both the v4 and Agility 4 launched at $190 and the v4 has since been cut to $180. At those price points we don't believe the v4 has a leg to stand on, regardless of whether or not your system supports SATA 6Gb/s. The v4 couldn't max SATA 3Gb/s, so the Agility 4 should still be faster when using that interface.
With the v4 being unworthy of consideration, the real question becomes: should you buy an Agility 4 or a Vertex 4?
Remember we said competition is usually stiff?... As of writing, the 256GB Agility 4 is only $10 cheaper than the 256GB Vertex 4, yet the latter is 17% faster in our real-world app tests and 48% faster when measuring file transfers. In other words, the Agility 4 doesn't deliver the same value as the Vertex 4, and we don't see how $10 of total savings would make a difference there.
Our advice is to spend a little extra on the Vertex 4 or even the Crucial m4 (not the v4) for the extra performance, unless you come across a deal where the Agility 4 is significantly cheaper than such flagships.
OCZ Agility 4 256GB scorecard
Pros: Solid performance that is only beat by the flagship crop. Attractive capacity for a mainstream SSD.
Cons: The Agility 4 like previous revisions tries to offer mainstream value, the only issue is that the Vertex 4 and other faster models cost pretty much the same leaving no room for compromises.
Crucial v4 256GB scorecard
Pros: Great capacity in a SSD but that's about it. Expensive versus the competition, including Crucial's own m4.
Cons: Weak performance. Crucial hindered the v4 too much and it shows. SATA 3Gb/s. The drive is not on par with today's drives, regardless of price point.