The OCZ Vector 256GB yields 238GiB available to the user in Windows. The difference being the change in measure from GB (1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes) to GiB (1GiB = 1,073,741,824).
Ever since OCZ purchased Indilinx, we’ve been waiting for them to leverage the brand’s technology to put out a difference maker. Since the last branded Indilinx controller was eventually revealed to simply be a Marvell controller with custom firmware, there were rumors and speculation that a true next-generation Indilinx controller may never see the light of day. Thankfully for consumers, it has made an appearance and really gives the existing controllers some fierce competition with amazing performance. OCZ’s renewed commitment to stability, reliability and quality – helped along with nearly all components and software under OCZ’s oversight – make the release a compelling event and perhaps hindsight will eventually show this to be a pivotal point in the company’s history – especially if they can get their books far into the black.
While we’ve only had the Vector 256GB drive with the Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller for a short time, we are very impressed with what OCZ has done. While 550MB/s reads and 530MB/s writes doesn’t break new ground with a number of drives on the market that match these specifications, the trick is to hit these throughputs, or close to it, consistently. We know that the SandForce controllers really take a performance hit on incompressible data but not so with the Barefoot 3. With it, we saw very consistent performance across various benchmarks across all file sizes. The Corsair Neutron GTX drive also does very well across data types with its Link_A_Media Devices (LAMD) LM87800 controller, but doesn’t appear to be quite as strong with the smaller file sizes. Samsung’s controller is also a very strong contender but doesn’t quite put up the raw numbers that the Vector and Neutron GTX does. It looks like it’s time for Marvell to step up their game and we’re still waiting for Intel to release their own homegrown next generation consumer SSD controller.
Of course, similar to the LAMD controller, this is the first time the Barefoot 3 will be set loose in the wild. Even though OCZ has done extensive testing including leveraging an array of beta testers, it’s always an unknown when you start putting it on the myriad of hardware combinations found on consumer machines. We had no issues on our test bench and frankly on the rare chance issues do creep up, it would likely be minor and easily fixed with a firmware tweak. OCZ does offer a generous 5-year warranty which further demonstrates their confidence in their manufacturing and software engineering quality. In all likelihood, this drive will end up in my personal system so I can see how it performs over time and if any anomalies surface during longer term real-world use.
As an enthusiast drive and what would now be OCZ’s flagship drive, the price reflects as much. The 250GB drive we tested is slated to carry an MSRP of $269.99 which works out to be $1.13 per usable GB and is slightly above where we can find the Neutron GTX of the same capacity. Obviously OCZ is ramping up production on these and as they do, they’ll be able to offer a lower price point. Certainly cheaper drives can be had with many well below the $1/GB mark, but none of those will offer the performance of the Vector Series. Actually very few drives available will. Given OCZ’s new strategy, we don’t expect to see a more value oriented version soon (if ever) so if this drive intrigues you (as well it should) don’t wait for its little brother. Overall, the Vector Series drive is quite impressive and with OCZ having exclusive rights to the controller and fabrication, it places them in very select company. We’ve already said on several occasions that we expect to see attrition in the SSD market soon, starting with those that are simply offering re-branded drives and we expect that OCZ won’t be one of the companies without a seat when the music stops.
With the SATA III interface effectively being maxed out, the focus is going to start widening from the best performance to also encompass power consumption as a major factor in drive ratings. With so many users migrating from desktops to laptops, the reduction of power draw from the drive is becoming more and more scrutinized. While power consumption is decent on the Vector Series – an improvement from the Vertex 4, it would be one area where we would expect to see improvements going forward. In comparison to the Vector Series, the Samsung 840 Series drive we just looked at uses 2.18W less power in an active state and 0.858W less in an idle state. That’s huge. Granted there is a sizable performance difference as well, but it illustrates how much opportunity there is for improvement. Until then, CES is right around the corner and we look forward to seeing what new and exciting SSD products await us!
Legit Bottom Line: OCZ has finally pulled the cover off of their very own Indilinx Barefoot 3 controller found within their new Vector Series drives and appears to have hit a home run with very fast and consistent performance.