random write speeds (but still at least half of single drive). but
this is advertised as a feature

Is this because of checksum verification (the need to read all
components) or something else? Any documentation/references?

RAID-Z stores a single checksum over the whole stripe, instead of
checksumming each disks's section separately, so it has to read from
all disks to validate the stripe.  Only random reads are penalized,
though.

random reads are most common read on unix, unless you process linearly huge files, but that's fast on UFS too.
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