OCZ Rally Flash Drive Review

Author: Geordan Hankinson
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, September 26th, 2005
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/oczrallydrive/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Introduction

When a company asks to send us their latest USB key offerings with a promise of "ultra high performance", we are understandably a little wary of accepting. Most companies inflate their products rating to the point of disbelief and when actually tested, they almost always fall short. This is a common trend in the hardware industry but speed with usb keys is slightly more subjective because most people don't keep tabs on performance numbers the same way they might on their $500 video card.

OCZ is a new contender in the crowded flash drive market, though they are renowned for their dektop memory offerings. They have had a track record of offering extremely solid memory for a decent price and are favoured by many overclockers for the high clock speeds offered on some of their RAM.

Their latest product offering is suprisingly then not new RAM, but instead a seemingly simple USB drive. What this drive touts as its differentiating feature from the competition is its speed. With a claimed read speed of 28 MB's per second, the OCZ rally drive aims to trump every other flash drive currently on the market. Its 14 MB's per second write speed is commendable as well, though not as suprising as the Rally's high read speed.

OCZ have stated that current USB key offerings are slow due to their single channel nature, so they've designed the Rally drive with a dual channel memory configuration. Whether single channel flash memory causes a bottleneck or not is debatable, the added 'sweet' factor of dual channel memory in a thumb drive though, is not.

Transcend have been offering for a while a 2 GB version of their Jetflash 110 that purports to have dual channel memory, and though we didn't have one for testing, its 18 MB per second (however modest) claimed read time is not at the same level as the Rally's. The OCZ drive is also available in sizes right down to 512 MB that still retain the dual channel configuration of the larger models.

Impressions

The Rally feels extremely svelte. It's metal casing and matte black paint has a much more proffesional feel in your hand over competing flash drives on the market. Its translucent plastic trim looks good with the off white logo's on the cap and body. The small size of the device is another striking feature as though there are alot of flash drives on the market, there aren't many that allow you to plug them in to a crowded USB hub without first unplugging the devices surrounding the target port. It has a small, blue LED that lights up when the drive is in use, but its brightness is unimpressive to say the least. The blue theoretically would match the blue hue emanating from many modern cases, but the solid green of my Sandisk Cruzer looks cleaner.

The overall finish of the drive is fantastic, the problems arise with the fit. Though the plastic and metal pieces line up very nicely, the cap when in place does not fit squarely on to the drive. The problem can be made out just barely in images on OCZ's product page, and this poor fit really doesn't leave the same impression of quality as the build materials lend.

The cap being seperate is another issue as well. Though there aren't many drives that eschew the cap for some other form of integrated plug protection, the least OCZ could have done was package the drive with a replacement cap for when the first one inevitably gets lost. The cap does not stick to the back of the drive as some companies' products (like Sandisk's Cruzer line) do, making it even easier for someone to misplace the cap.

Features wise, the OCZ is decidedly barebones. Instead of delivering extra features that people may or may not use, the OCZ comes bundled with nothing but its high transfer rates. Where Kingston packages security and boot programs with its fairly speedy drives, OCZ provides no extra software for business professionals. This limits the OCZ drive to average consumers who may need fast speeds for moving music and video, or for gamers looking for the fastest, thinnest, and slickest package to move demo installers and game files. There is also a certain allure to having matching brand system memory and USB key, especially when it is as formidable a name as OCZ.

Testing

To measure for performance we used the USB test in Sisoft's Sandra benchmarking tool. The program gives weight to a score that is realistically worthless for the applications we would be finding ourselves using the rally drive for. What it does show though is the average read speed of the drive. This figure gives a good idea of how long it will take to move files between drives. We used HD Tach to get an alternate reading of the drives read and write performance.

The Rally's performance in Sandra is actually quite astounding. An average read speed of 28 MB's per second is extremely quick and outdoes anything else on the market today. Sandra revealed an extremely slow write speed for the Rally. Almost two times slower than what OCZ rates the drive for.

The Rally's score in HD tach is slightly less amazing, yet still thoroughly quick. We would be more inclined to say that a 28 MB per second burst speed is more accurate than a 28 MB per second average read speed, but it's average speed of 27 is still awesome.

The poor write speed revealed in Sandra is suspicious, and we would say that it is inaccurate as we have been using (just nearly relying on) the Rally for the past two weeks and have been amazed at how quickly it moves massive chunks of files. This drive is fast, and an artificial benchmark can tell you one thing, but real world performance is what matters.

We hucked across the 461 MB Starship Troopers demo file in 42 seconds, which works out to 11 MB per second. Not 14, but close enough to still be considered fast.

Conclusion

Though the drive's measured write performance doesn't match up with OCZ's claimed 14 MB/s read time, our reading of 11 is still fantastic and will beat many drives available on the market.

The OCZ drive carries a price premium over most competitors' drives, but seeing as it combines high performance, nice looks, and small size, this is not surprising. The drive is aesthetically pleasing as well as being nice in the palm, due to its metal enclosure.

The drive does not come packaged with any boot or security software, but our guess is that most people won't miss that as this stick is not targetted specifically at the business professional. Note also that those looking for security software could use a number of free, encryption software programs available on the net.

The overall build quality was a little disappointing, but hopefully OCZ will work some of this out. It should be as simple as adding a little more internal reinforcement to make sure that the plug is seated properly.

The Rally is a good drive for anyone looking to move large amounts of data around extremely quickly, and especially gamers who insist on having the nicest possible of everything. If any drive on the market right now were to be crowned cool, this is it. Beyond that, most people would have no need in buying one of these over the next brand. The drive offers no extra features beyond it's high speed rating, and it has an easily looseable cap, which will limit its appeal for some right there.

Slightly overpriced, luxury products rarely promise true practicality though, and its performance and name brand are what make the Rally the perfect companion for gamers who cannot live without the fastest of everything.

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