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SSD 2011 roundup: Crucial M4, OCZ Vertex 3, Intel 510/320
by Marc Prieur
Published on June 23, 2011

OCZ Vertex 3
The OCZ Vertex 3 is the first SSD to use the new generation SandForce SF-2000 controller. OCZ and SandForce have been very tight since the release of the Vertex 2s, which were also the first SSDs equipped with the previous generation controller. This SSD was, like the C300, one of the standout SSDs in 2010.

According to SandForce this new controller gives both reads and writes of up to 500 MB/s, namely double the speeds of the previous generation, while IOPS have also been doubled from 30,000 to 60,000. In practice, with the Vertex 3, OCZ is combining the general consumer and high end versions, the SF-2281 with 25nm IMFT memory. As with the Vertex 2s, the SandForce doesn’t use any external memory, which makes the SSD cheaper to produce.

For now, only 120, 240 and 480 GB versions are available, which leaves the field to the Crucial M4 in terms of the 60/64 GB versions. Note the disparities in performance between these three models, with the 120, 240 and 480 GB versions scored respectively at:

- Reads: 550, 550 and 530 MB/s
- Writes: 500, 520 and 450 MB/s
- Random reads: 20K, 40K and 50K IOPS
- Random writes: 60K, 60K and 40K IOPS

All these figures were obtained with highly compressible data, the most favourable type. To recap, in contast to other controllers, the SandForces compress data before writing it to flash memory. While this procedure is a boon with compressible files (text files for example), recompression isn’t really effective with files that have already been compressed, ie. those that generally take up most space (audio, photos, videos or simply RAR/ZIP type files).

In spite of the use of highly compressible data you can see that the 120 GB is significantly down on the 240 and 480 GB versions in terms of random reads.




In its 120 GB version, the Vertex 3 uses a SandForce SF-2281TB1-SDC controller (the end of the codename is masked), combined with sixteen 25nm Intel 29F64G08ACME2 chips. Unfortunately we don’t know how these chips are organised internally.



The 240 GB version tested, a preseries model, uses an SF-2281VA1-SDC-ES controller. ES must be what is masked on the 120 GB model. The 120 GB model was made for market but OCZ appears to be using SandForce ES chips, or prototypes, for SSDs that are nevertheless on sale in stores! This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this and it isn’t necessarily a problem as there hasn’t necessarily been a revision between this and the final version. It does explain however why the Vertex 3s were released ahead of the other models. The flash chips are 25nm Micron 29F128G08CFAAB chips that combine two 64 Gb dies and are made up of 8 KB pages and 2 MB blocks.

On the Vertex 3s, some flash space is used for wear leveling, internal optimisations and SandForce RAISE technology, which is designed to prevent the loss of data should part of the flash memory fail.

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