OCZ Vector 256GB SSD Review
The past few months have been quite trying for OCZ. Everything from missed financial targets to rumors of layoffs and class action suits have filled the internet with “news” of their impending doom. Nonetheless, OCZ has still been trucking along and the development of new products has been progressing at a brisk pace. This brings us to the subject of today’s review: the all new Vector SSD series.
Based upon a brand new, cutting edge, extremely powerful and entirely in-house developed Barefoot 3 controller, the Vector is supposed to take over the flagship banner from OCZ’s venerable Vertex 4. Considering the Vertex 4 is one of the few drives that have remained atop our charts throughout most of 2012, the Vector could very well usher in a new age for SSD performance.
While the Vertex 4 has made a good accounting of itself over the long term, several competitors have released drives that have surpassed its benchmark numbers. This has left OCZ looking somewhat flat-footed since they didn’t have a quick response waiting in the wings. However, the Vector is supposed to be the much-awaited broadside that can sink all comers.
The Vertex 4 will stick around for the time being, offering an excellent mid-market drive that offers tons of performance without a staggering price. One the other hand, the Vector and the Barefoot 3 controller at its heart represent a new direction for OCZ’s Indilinx design team. Instead of focusing solely on sheer performance as the Vertex 4 did, this new controller has been designed with a high factor of reliability, enhanced endurance and sustained throughput as its core philosophies. As such, by using the Barefoot 3 as a starting point, OCZ can create several other drive families for the workstation and enterprise markets should they choose.
The reasonable - if slightly high - MSRP of $269.99 for the 256GB models reflects this prosumer/workstation orientation. Though with prices starting as low as 149.99 for the 128GB model the new Vector series certainly won't price itself entirely out of the market. However, the $550 512GB model is still priced above people's budgets.
Even from the outside OCZ's Vector 256GB SSD doesn’t look like your typical OCZ drive. In the past, OCZ had become synonymous with semi-plastic clad drives. Even their flagship Vertex 4 line of drives came in a plastic topped case. As part of OCZ’s renewed vigor the plastic case is gone and in its place is an all metal 7mm 2.5” form factor case which is extremely durable and weighs more than other drives in this segment. Its exterior also boasts a great looking matte finish.
Opening the case up and looking inside we can see that the internal architecture shares more in common with the Vertex 4 (Everest 2) than with Vertex 3 (SF2281) models which came before it. In total there are 16 ONFi 2 NAND ICs populating all 16 slots on the full size PCB. There is also one Barefoot 3 controller and a pair of 256MB Micron RAM ICs. Interestingly enough there is actually room on the PCB for an additional RAM chip and we assume the 512GB will receive three RAM chips for its external cache buffer compared to the two chips of the 256GB model.
The two RAM ICs are Micron MT41K256M8DA-125:M 256MB units which are rated to run at DDR3-1600 ram, giving the Barefoot 3 controller access to a total of 512MB of external ram cache. This is very similar to the amount of cache the Everest 2 controller required and comes as no surprise.
OCZ’s list included of accessories is actually quite impressive. We usually don’t dawdle over the accessories an SSD comes with since typically there are none. This is actually another way in which the Vector is different from previous OCZ drives. You not only get a metal 2.5” to 3.5” adapter plate and case sticker, but there’s also a serial number for Acronis True Image HD. This may not make the Vector unique, but its inclusion in the standard version alongside a 5 year warranty certainly speaks volumes to OCZ's renewed commitment to customer service.
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