OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 120GB Solid State Drive Review

by AkG     |     July 22, 2010

A Closer Look at the OWC Mercury Extreme

Since our drive was sent in a non-retail package, we’ll skip right to the money shots of the Mercury.

The OWC Mercury is actually quite a stunning looking drive but all those looks will likely be for naught simply because it will spend most of its life within the dark confines of your case. We were disappointed with the lack of performance and power consumption numbers on the drive itself but if all else fails, you can find this information on OWC’s website.

The connector plate shows us basically what we have seen in the past from other SF-1222 drives: a SATA power connector as well as a single SATA II data port. There are none of the jumper pins we used to see on some other SSDs from the likes of Indilinx and JMicron.

On first glance this drive’s PCB looks very similar to all previous SandForce units we have looked at in the past. There are 16 flash chips, with 8 per side laid out in a C configuration, and one centrally located SandForce controller chip. However, first impressions can be deceiving for if you looked closely you will notice that this is not one PCB but in fact two. The give away – besides the screws holding the two PCBs together – is the fact that the power and data ports of the Mercury Extreme Pro are not on the side of the board as they usually are found in other SandForce drives. Each PCB is a one sided affair with either 8 NAND chips and a controller chip or 8 NAND chips and the SATA power and data ports.

As we have mentioned more than a dozen times already, the Mercury Extreme Pro uses the SandForce SF1200 (full model name is SF-1222TA3-SBH ) controller and not the SF1500 or SF1500 “lite” which were originally specified and used in the Mercury Extreme line. The heart of the SF1200 is a licensed Tensilica Diamond Core 570T CPU which is a 32bit RISC processor. While this may be just a guess, we would say that a the very least there are probably a few MB of onboard cache on-die as well. By keeping the cache on the chip it allows the controller to be much more efficient as it wastes less cycles waiting for data from an external chip

Just like the majority of SandForce drives we have looked at in the past, the Mercury Extreme Pro uses sixteen, Intel branded, 29F64G08CAMDB chips. To be precise these are also the exact same chips we found in the high end Vertex 2 and the Patriot Inferno. They also the same the mid tier NAND chips we first set eyes on in the G. Skill Falcon 2 - a more budget-oriented orientated drive. In other words except for the different PCB(s), the OWC drive is basically the exact same drive as all those other SandForce drives at the component layer.

While Intel is not exactly free with some of their specifications as other manufacturers what we do know is these MLC NAND Flash chips are 34NM 64gigaBIT (8GB) units. Since there are 16 of them, the Mercury is in fact a 128GB drive, with 8GB set aside for over provisioning.

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