OCZ Vector 180 240GB, 480GB & 960GB SSD Review
Since its inception, the Vector series has made a name for itself as the flagship drive within OCZ’s SSD lineup but it has begun to show its age. Less expensive, more capable competitors have been introduced from numerous companies but they’re about to face a newcomer: the Vector 180.
While the new and improved OCZ have created some very impressive mainstream and entry level drives, they have been curiously absent from the enthusiast market since their reemergence as a Toshiba-backed company. This did leave the existing SSD lineup in somewhat of quandary with their 'mainstream' Vertex 460 nearly equaling the older Vector 150's real world abilities. For enthusiasts the very idea of purchasing an enthusiast grade drive that can barely outperform the mainstream version was contraindicated to say the least.
Unlike its well-received predecessor, the Vector 180 is designed to put some distance between itself and the Vertex 460A but not necessarily from a raw performance standpoint. While it does offer some read and write IOPS benefits in comparison to lower end drives like the aforementioned Vertex and AMD’s R7 270, OCZ’s focus here was primarily upon two key aspects: sustained performance over time and longevity. You see, when it comes to read and write throughput, the SATA 6Gbps interface has nearly reached capacity so SSD manufacturers are looking for other areas to improve and assuaging long-term ownership concerns is a great place to start.
OCZ has taken a multi-faceted approach to enhancing the lifetime ownership experience. They have added a 5-year warranty, advanced data protection features, an architecture that enhances NAND endurance and one of the best after-sales support structures we’ve seen in a long time.
With new Vector 180 series OCZ is making a recommitment to the enthusiast community since its features solely focus on their requirements while still adding a good amount of value to the equation. This drive is about proving to the consumers looking for high performance desktop SSDs that the Toshiba-backed OCZ is capable of more than just entry level and mainstream consumer drives. To this end OCZ engineers have pulled out all the stops and by using a tuned version their award winning Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 controller, their highest binned Toggle Mode NAND, and a firmware that promises to be razor sharp.
Comparisons are a bit hard to draw in this instance since many companies have left well enough alone with their higher-end drives in preparation for a move to SATA Express or NVMe. As such, many flagship lineups have remained relatively untouched. With that being said, the Vector 180 does find itself competing against Crucial’s newly released MX200 and OCZ’s own AMD-branded R7 series.
So how does the Vector 180 hope to differentiate itself? As we mentioned before it comes with a 5 year warranty and thanks to OCZ’s ShieldPlus commitment, customers need not worry about RMA shipping costs (both way shipping is covered by OCZ), down time (advanced replacements are available), or even receipts (just provide the serial number).
That price quotient also takes a front seat here. With prices of $150, $275, and a very reasonable $500 for the 240GB, 480GB and 960GB capacities respectively the Vector 180 series may not have be able to compete in the cost for capacity segment with Crucial’s MX200 series, but the combination of a better warranty, a higher performance controller, better NAND and enhanced endurance may in fact make it the better overall value.
Externally all three capacities of the new Vector 180 series are virtually identical with only the small print listing their capacity to separate one from another. It looks like OCZ’s new branding, first seen on the ARC series, is now evident on this drive as well.
Like the Vertex 460 and Vector 150 before it, the Vector 180 comes housed inside a durable full metal chassis that uses the newer and thinner 7mm Z-height form factor. This does allow it to fit inside Ultrabooks and other slim and light mobile devices without any issues.
Unfortunately, as with the ARC 100 series, OCZ has opted to forgo the 2.5mm adapter bracket that has become the de-facto standard accessory for enthusiast grade drives. On the positive side, the Vector 180 series does include a 3.5" adapter plate which is much more important for the typical home storage enthusiast. Acronis True Image has also been rolled into the package, which should simplify migration.
On just a quick glance there is not much to distinguish the different capacities from one another. All three sizes offer sixteen 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND ICs, two RAM cache ICs, and a smattering of onboard capacitors. However on closer examination difference do come to light.
Obviously the 16 NAND ICs themselves differ in their density (16GB/32GB/64GB), but by modifying RAM allotment OCZ has created two separate and distinct Vector 180 'models'. The smaller capacity 240GB model offers a rather impressive 512MB via two 256MB Micron ICs and then the larger 480 and 960 are given a whopping 1GB of RAM cache spread across a pair of 512MB modules. Interestingly enough there is enough room for a third RAM IC, but we assume that preparation has been made for the possibility of larger Vector drives in the future.
The Vector 180 also provides partial power failure protection or what OCZ calls Power Failure Management Plus (PFM+). PFM+ allows the drive to detect power drops, and proactively use the small onboard backup capacitors to write a new mapping table to the NAND before shut down.
Unfortunately, true Flush In Flight abilities aren’t included since the capacitors are too small and too few for such capabilities. This means any data that was in the process of being written from the RAM buffer to the NAND will be lost. PFM+ is certainly is a good step in the right direction as it greatly reduces the chances of a corrupted OS or the destruction of system-critical software components but it is still a few steps behind what companies like Crucial offer in their latest SSDs with enhanced Data Loss Protection - let alone what Intel offers on their 730 with full Flush In-Flight abilities.
OCZ claims that through their new firmware optimizations and better NAND interleaving, they lead the pack when it comes to sustained performance. After two full drive writes every SSD out there has its performance fall off a veritable cliff and while the Vector 180 also suffers this fate, its long-term outlook is much better than competing solutions.
Will all of these features and an aggressive price make these drives the ones to have for enthusiasts? Can OCZ deliver on promises of top-shelf performance and enhanced longevity? We’re determined to find out.
|Latest Reviews in Storage|