OCZ is a company that is focusing more on becoming a premium brand. In past years, they would release a number of product lines for each generation of controller—at one point there were at least three products per controller (Vertex, Agility, Solid) as well as products using different controllers (Octane). While this covered every conceivable price point, capacity, and performance level, street pricing and sales often blurred the lines between product divisions and caused confusion over which product belonged on what tier. This year at CES, OCZ presented a more streamlined product portfolio demonstrating the company’s focus on becoming the premium SSD manufacturer.
The new consumer SSD lineup includes the usual tiers: Value, filled by the Agility 4; Mainstream, filled by Vertex 3 and Vertex 4; and Performance, filled by the company’s newest product line, the OCZ Vector.
The OCZ Vector is the new flagship device in the company’s SSD lineup. They are aiming to set new standards for performance, reliability, efficiency, and endurance through a number of technologies baked into Barefoot 3, OCZ’s first controller developed entirely in-house. Being the first such controller, the company wanted to make sure any issues were taken care of before the controller’s release. Vector has undergone an 18 month validation period by a large number of beta testers, and each retail drive will undergo a factory burn-in test before shipping. Any future firmware revisions will also undergo a longer validation cycle, so there should actually be fewer updates for drives.
Under the hood
Vector comes in a 7mm form factor—this is a departure from the typical 9mm thickness found in most 2.5″ devices. While 9mm is the standard used in most laptops, today’s trendy ultrathin systems may not be able to accommodate such a form factor. The Vector should play nicely with many of these systems.
Looking at the PCB, we see sixteen NAND modules (eight per side), all with OCZ’s branding. These modules are labelled with the part number “M2502128T048SX22”. A bit of searching revealed these modules are manufactured by Micron, and appear to be the same type of modules used in both the Vertex 3 and 4. Assuming this is the case, it speaks volumes about the quality and durability of the NAND. It also means the testing comes down to the controller for our test drives.
The OCZ Vector comes with a key for Acronis True Image software to allow a nearly seamless transition from your previous Windows boot drive to a new Vector SSD. To encourage the use of the latest version of the software (and possibly to retain OCZ’s traditional packaging), the software must be downloaded from the OCZ web site.
- NAND: 25nm IMFT MLC
- Available capacities and pricing (MSRP): 128GB ($149.99), 256GB ($269.99), 512GB ($599.99)
- Power consumption: 0.9W idle, 2.25W active
- Performance maintenance: TRIM support, Idle time garbage collection
- Sequential Read: up to 550 MB/s
- Sequential Write: up to 530 MB/s
- 4K Random Read: up to 100K IOPS
- 4K Random Write: up to 95K IOPS
The warranty period for the Vector is five years or 36.5TB of writes, whichever comes first. The write numbers work out to approximately 20GB of writes per day for five years—far more than the average user will do on a regular basis. OCZ feels these numbers are pretty conservative and with normal usage patterns these drives should last well beyond their warranty period.
Test setup and results
- CPU: Intel Core i7 2600K
- Motherboard: ECS Z77H2-A2X
- RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600
- GPU: AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
ATTO represents the best case scenario for SSDs: data is highly compressible and is sequentially read and written. The Vector, like the Vertex 4, starts out the test by reading more slowly than the SandForce-based Vertex 3. Things improve for the Vector starting at 4K and beyond—with the exception of a hiccup around 32K the Vector sits right at the top of the reading tests. It gets even better for writes as the Vector starts out at the top and maintains the lead for the duration of the write tests.
Just as ATTO shows the best case for an SSD, Crystal DiskMark and AS-SSD show the worst-case scenario—the data is uncompressible and (except for the sequential tests), the data is random. Despite this, Vector appears to be pushing the limits of the SATA 6.0Gb/s controller for sequential data, and even begins to trend towards that limit in highly queued 4K data. While Vector isn’t universally faster in every test, it does improve upon the Vertex 4’s numbers in nearly every respect.
Vector and its Barefoot 3 controller have found ways to squeeze more performance out of the NAND that’s now been in use for three generations of SSDs. OCZ’s first fully in-house developed controller shows a promising future for the company and for future drives based on it.
The Vector 256GB’s MSRP of $269.99 is pretty good, but Newegg and Amazon both currently list the drive for $229.99, which is even cheaper than the Vertex 4. Oh, and Vector comes with a free copy of Far Cry 3 to boot. We have no problem with awarding the OCZ Vector our Icrontic Stamp of Approval as a product we recommend for its consistent performance and excellent value.