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OCZ Vector SSD (256GB) - A Challenger to Marvell & SandForce

By Kenny Yeo - 30 Nov 2012

Introducing Indilinx Barefoot 3

Introducing Indilinx Barefoot 3

Earlier this year, we reviewed OCZ’s new Vertex 4 using what seemed to be an all-new Indilinx Everest 2 controller. However, upon further investigation, we found that its Indilinx Everest 2 controller was in fact based on Marvell’s new 88SS9187 controller, which has seen action in other SSDs such as the Plextor M5 Pro. Nevertheless, the Vertex 4 proved to be a competent SSD, recording some of the fastest write speeds we have ever seen.

For now, let’s turn the clock back to 2011. Early that year, OCZ acquired Indilinx, a South Korean firm specializing in SSD controllers and firmware. Prior to SandForce, Indilinx made pretty decent performance controllers in the earlier enthusiast SSD drives that we became fond of. Later in 2011, OCZ also acquired PLX Technology, a company which has experience in designing system-on-chip (SOC) solutions. The two acquisitions, made in quick succession clearly signaled OCZ’s ambitions. They wanted to develop their own controller and their own firmware.

The OCZ Vector uses the company's own controller and firmware, and its specifications certainly look impressive.

While it is true that the quality of the memory chips plays an important part in determining an SSD's performance, the controller and firmware is just as crucial, if not more so. To that end, OCZ wanted their own controller and firmware for two main reasons: a) to differentiate itself from the competition which typically use either SandForce or Marvell controllers; b) to have as much control as possible over the performance of their drives.

The fruits of their labor are therefore realized in the all-new Vector drive that we have here. The Vector uses an all-new, in-house developed controller called the Indilinx Barefoot 3 and also a fully in-house developed firmware. Thus, the OCZ Vector is one of the most exciting new SSDs in some time.

The block diagram of the new Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller from OCZ.

The new controller consists of a single ARM Cortex processor and an OCZ Aragon co-processor. OCZ doesn’t detail what each of the processor is responsible for handling but OCZ's ex-CEO Ryan Petersen mentioned that it was specially designed to support an SSD-specific RISC instruction set, making it the world's first SSD-optimized processor. This allows most instructions and branches to be executed in a single cycle, thereby improving performance.

The OCZ Vector itself comes in the slimmer 7mm form factor, so it should fit in most notebooks and Ultrabooks with ease. Another thing we noted about the drive is just how hefty and study it felt. Compared to other SSDs, the Vector feels much more solidly-built.

Before we evaluate its performance, here’s a closer look at the drive and the accessories it came with. 

The OCZ Vector comes with an installation bracket that holds the drive in place when slotted into typical 3.5-inch hard drive bays.

The new Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller (IDX500M00-BC) is concealed by a thermal pad. Surrounding it are eight NAND memory chips of 16GB density, OCZ-branded by actually supplied by IMFT. Finally, the smaller chip to the left of the controller is a 256MB DRAM chip from Micron.

On the flip side, there's an additional eight NAND memory chips and another 256MB DRAM chip for caching requests.



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  • Performance 8.5
  • Features 7
  • Value 6.5
The Good
Impressive performance in most tests
Read/write performance were equally consistent
In-house developed controller and firmware
The Bad
No frills or accessories
Commands considerable premium over other high-end SSDs
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