One thing AMD has taught me is that you can never beat Intel at its own game. Simply trying to do what Intel does will leave you confined to whatever low margin market Intel deems too unattractive to pursue. It’s exactly why AMD’s most successful CPU architectures are those that implement features that Intel doesn’t have today, but perhaps will have in a few years. Competing isn’t enough, you must innovate. Trying to approach the same problem in the same way but somehow do it better doesn’t work well when your competition makes $9B a quarter.

We saw this in the SSD space as well. In the year since Intel’s X25-M arrived, the best we’ve seen is a controller that can sort-of do what Intel’s can just at a cheaper price. Even then, the cost savings aren’t that great because Intel gets great NAND pricing. We need companies like Indilinx to put cost pressure on Intel, but we also need the equivalent of an AMD. A company that can put technological pressure on Intel.

That company, at least today, is SandForce. And its disciple? OCZ. Yep, they’re back.

Why I Hate New SSDs

I’ll admit, I haven’t really been looking forward to this day. Around the time when OCZ and Indilinx finally got their controller and firmware to acceptable levels, OCZ CMO Alex Mei dropped a bombshell on me - OCZ’s Vertex 2 would use a new controller by a company I’d never heard of. Great.

You may remember my back and forth with OCZ CEO Ryan Petersen about the first incarnation of the Vertex drive before it was released. Needless to say, what I wrote in the SSD Anthology was an abridged (and nicer) version of the back and forth that went on in the months prior to that product launch. After the whole JMicron fiasco, I don’t trust these SSD makers or controller manufacturers to deliver products that are actually good.


Aw, sweet. You'd never hurt me would you?

Which means that I’ve got to approach every new drive and every new controller with the assumption that it’s either going to somehow suck, or lose your data. And I need to figure out how. Synonyms for daunting should be popping into your heads now.

Ultimately, the task of putting these drives to the test falls on the heads of you all - the early adopters. It’s only after we collectively put these drives through hundreds and thousands of hours of real world usage that we can determine whether or not they’re sponge-worthy. Even Intel managed to screw up two firmware releases and they do more in-house validation than any company I’ve ever worked with. The bugs of course never appeared in my testing, but only in the field in the hands of paying customers. I hate that it has to be this way, but we live in the wild west of solid state storage. It’ll be a while before you can embrace any new product with confidence.

And it only gets more complicated from here on out. The old JMicron drives were easy to cast aside. They behaved like jerks when you tried to use them. Now the true difference between SSDs rears its head after months or years of use.

I say that because unlike my first experience with OCZ’s Vertex, the Vertex 2 did not disappoint. Or to put it more directly: it’s the first drive I’ve seen that’s actually better than Intel’s X25-M G2.

If you haven't read any of our previous SSD articles, I'd suggest brushing up on The Relapse before moving on. The background will help.

Enter the SandForce
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  • fertilizer - Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - link

    First of all, my complements to a great article!
    It provided me with great insight!

    It seems to me that SSD manufacturers are spending a lot of time complying to the world of HDD based Operating Systems.
    Would'nt it be time to get OS's to treat a SSD differently than a HDD?
    Reply
  • j718 - Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - link

    the ocz vertex ex is an slc drive, not mlc as shown in the charts. Reply
  • j718 - Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - link

    whoops, sorry, it's just the anandtech storage bench charts that have the ex mislabeled.
    Reply
  • Donald99 - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Any thoughts on potential energy use in mobile environment? Compared to intel MLC. Still better energy efficiencey than a traditional drive?
    Performance results seem uber.
    Reply
  • cliffa3 - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    Great article, will be an interesting technology to watch and see how mature it really is.

    Question on the timeline for the price drop: When you said 'we'll see 160GB down at $225', were you talking about the mid-year refresh or the end of year next-gen?
    Reply
  • MadMan007 - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Is it just me or is it inaccurate to mix GB and GiB when calculating overprovisioning at the bottom of page 5? By my reckoning the overprovisioning should be 6.6% (64GB/60GB, 128GB/120GB) not double that from using (64GB/55.9GiB etc) Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Anand, the right column of the table should be marked as GiB.

    The last paragraph should take that into consideration. Either the second column should first be converted into GiB, or if it already is (and hard to believe it is), then you could do direct division from there.

    The new table:
    Adv.(GB) Tot.(GB) Tot.(GiB) User(GiB)
    50 64 59.6 46.6
    100 128 119.2 93.1
    200 256 238.4 186.3
    400 512 476.8 372.5

    The new percentages should be:
    (59.6-46.6) / 59.6 x 100 = 21.8% decrease
    (119.2-93.1) / 119.2 x 100 = 21.9% decrease
    (238.4-186.3) / 238.4 x 100 = 21.9% decrease
    (476.8-372.5) / 476.8 x 100 = 21.9% decrease


    And the second table:
    Adv.(GB) Tot.(GB) Tot.(GiB) User(GiB)
    60 64 59.6 55.9
    120 128 119.2 111.8
    240 256 238.4 223.5
    480 512 476.8 447

    The new percentages should be:
    (59.6-55.9) / 59.6 x 100 = 6.21% decrease
    (119.2-111.8) / 119.2 x 100 = 6.21% decrease
    (238.4-223.5) / 238.4 x 100 = 6.25% decrease
    (476.8-447) / 476.8 x 100 = 6.25% decrease


    Note, I did not use significant figures, so all numbers are approximated, yet suitable - the theoretical value may be slightly different.


    vol7ron
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    Anand, the right column of the table should be marked as GiB.

    The last paragraph should take that into consideration. Either the second column should first be converted into GiB, or if it already is (and hard to believe it is), then you could do direct division from there.

    The new table:
    Adv.(GB) Tot.(GB) Tot.(GiB) User(GiB)
    50 64 59.6 46.6
    100 128 119.2 93.1
    200 256 238.4 186.3
    400 512 476.8 372.5

    The new percentages should be:
    (59.6-46.6) / 59.6 x 100 = 21.8% decrease
    (119.2-93.1) / 119.2 x 100 = 21.9% decrease
    (238.4-186.3) / 238.4 x 100 = 21.9% decrease
    (476.8-372.5) / 476.8 x 100 = 21.9% decrease


    And the second table:
    Adv.(GB) Tot.(GB) Tot.(GiB) User(GiB)
    60 64 59.6 55.9
    120 128 119.2 111.8
    240 256 238.4 223.5
    480 512 476.8 447

    The new percentages should be:
    (59.6-55.9) / 59.6 x 100 = 6.21% decrease
    (119.2-111.8) / 119.2 x 100 = 6.21% decrease
    (238.4-223.5) / 238.4 x 100 = 6.25% decrease
    (476.8-447) / 476.8 x 100 = 6.25% decrease


    Note, I did not use significant figures, so all numbers are approximated, yet suitable - the theoretical value may be slightly different.


    vol7ron
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Sunday, January 03, 2010 - link

    Your pricing estimates for Intel's refreshes worry me, and I worry that you're out of touch with SSD pricing.

    Intel's G2 x25-m 160GB drive currently sells for $500-550, so claims that Intel will be selling 600GB drives at the same price point raise some eyebrows.
    Reply
  • kunedog - Monday, January 04, 2010 - link

    I couldn't help but roll my eyes a little when I saw that Anand was again making Intel SSD pricing predictions. Even the G1 X-25Ms skyrocketed above his predictions for the G2s:
    http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=36...">http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=36...

    And the G1s are still higher at Newegg (the G2s are still a LOT higher). Anand has never acknowledged the stratospheric X-25M G2 pricing and how dead wrong his predictions were. He's kept us updated on negative aspects like the firmware bugs, slow stock/availability of G2s, and lack of TRIM for G1s, but never pricing.
    Reply

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