OWC has released a 960GB version of their Mercury Electra 3G SSD series. The drive uses two SandForce SF-2181 controllers, configured in RAID 0 using Silicon Image's RAID controller. There is actually 1024GiB of NAND flash on the board, 512GiB per controller, but as is usual with SF-2281 64GiB in total is dedicated to RAISE and another 71GB is for spare area. Here are the full specs.

OWC Mercury Electra MAX 3G (960GB) Specifications
Raw NAND Capacity 1024GiB
Formatted Capacity 894GiB
NAND 2Xnm Asynchronous MLC NAND
Controller 2x SandForce SF-2181
RAID Controller Silicon Image SteelVine Sil5923CNU
Sequential Read 254MB/s
Sequential Write 250MB/s
Price $1,270

OWC has not published any random read/write figures so analyzing performance at this point is rather difficult. Basically, we are looking at two SandForce SSDs in RAID 0 but throughput is handicapped by the SATA 3Gb/s interface. OWC told us that there are some architectural limitations which is why the drive uses SATA 3Gb/s instead of 6Gb/s. 

If you have been following the SSD market, you have probably noticed that 2.5" consumer SSDs top out at 512GB. The only other 1TB SSD is OCZ's Octane, but unfortunately we don't know what OCZ has done to achieve such capacity (and I couldn't even find a single review of the 1TB model). Once Intel's 128Gb 20nm MLC NAND die hits the market sometime in 2013, 1TB SSDs in 2.5" form factor should become more common as special tricks like RAIDing two controllers will no longer be needed. 

I'm very happy to see OWC making unique products but I'm not too keen on the idea of RAID 0. The risk of failure is twice as high because if one controller goes bad, all data will be lost. Furthermore, unless OWC has done something else, TRIM support will not be available. In this case performance gains are limited because especially sequential read and write speeds will be handicapped by the SATA 3Gb/s bus.

The pricing, on the other hand, is actually not too bad. The 1TB OCZ Octane costs $2,500, so you could buy two 960GB Mercury Electras for the price of one 1TB Octane. Sure, it's still noticeably more than what smaller SSDs cost in terms of price per GB, but there is extra expense coming from the second controller and there isn't much competition either. The 960GB Mercury Electra definitely has its niche since there are people who want an SSD but need more than 512GB. Desktop users can always put smaller SSDs in RAID 0 but laptop users are often limited to one 2.5" drive, which is where the market for 960GB Mercury Electra is.

We have already asked OWC for a review sample, so stay tuned for our review.

Source: OWC

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  • GotThumbs - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    So why would I be better off buying this instead of just buying TWO 512gb SSD drives and RAIDing them?

    While I can see the advantage for those groups working with such large files at one time (CAD, Graphic Design, etc), I fail to see the benefit this product provides that can't be obtained elsewhere?
  • boeush - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    One word: laptops.

    They frequently don't have the internal space for more than 1 mass storage unit, so you won't have the RAID option unless you want to 'upgrade' to something twice the girth and twice the weight...
  • ShieTar - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Or small business database servers maybe? The point then is not to maximize the storage of one disc, but the storage per SATA connection, which comes to the same result.
  • danjw - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    The only reasons I can think of is to save a drive bay and/or SATA port. Two 512 SSDs with the same SATA 3Gbps interface would be faster, in a RAID0, not really for a JBOD, though.
  • blanarahul - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Ah, 2 480 GB Agility 3s in raid 0. 1 TB of super speed storage at 700$!
  • Qapa - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Ok, I really don't know, so... why do we need to 128Gb chips to make a bigger SSD, wouldn't it be possible simply to put more chips together to make a bigger SSD?

    Suggestion: I saw this MyDigitalSSD SandForce mSata SMART SSDs... maybe it is a nice SSD and you guys to check it out more... SF mSATA opens new possibilities.

    And btw, anyway to know if a laptop has a mSATA port available? I found a couple of forums discussing it and it seemed not to be too available yet.. do you guys know if this is coming out in full strength in most laptops now?

    Thanks for any help!
  • Kristian Vättö - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    With the technology used today, eight NAND dies can be packed into a single NAND package. Since 64Gb is the biggest die at the moment, it means 512Gb (64GB) can be packed into a single NAND package.

    Most 2.5" SSDs have either eight or sixteen NAND packages. If there are eight packages, then the maximum is obviously 512GB (8 x 64GB). I actually don't know why you can't use sixteen 64GB packages as that would yield a capacity of 1024GB, but it's possible that controllers can only talk to a set amount of NAND dies (64 in this case). Either way, there is some limitation because e.g. SandForce spec sheet specifically lists 512GB as the maximum capacity and it also mentions that 8GB die is needed with some configurations.

    When we get a 20nm 128Gb die, the capacity of one NAND package increases to 128GB and eight of them will give you 1024GB.

    I've only seen Ultrabooks with mSATA SSDs (or other blade SSDs). The problem is that most laptops don't ship with SSD as a standard. Even if some model does, it's likely that the same chassis/design is used in some other configuration without an SSD. Hence it would be waste of space to have an mSATA slot, especially because you can use 2.5" SSDs instead.
  • Qapa - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks Kristian for taking the time to explain that.

    As for mSATA, I still believe it would make sense for laptops to ship with HDD (which is stable tech, you care about size and rpm, not so much brands...) and an mSATA so you could upgrade it to have an SSD (which is not so stable, each person prefer different SSDs for different reasons...). This would allow having the SSD+HDD which is what most people still want for price and overall space reasons...
  • drumm_22 - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Does this ssd support trim? or are you waiting for the full review to answer that?
  • ShieTar - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    "The only other 1TB SSD is OCZ's Octane, but unfortunately we don't know what OCZ has done to achieve such capacity (and I couldn't even find a single review of the 1TB model)."

    Almost true, there is also the OCZ Talos 2. But it is connected via SAS instead of SATA, as is the 800GB Seagate Pulsar. And both cost in excess of 2000$, so the OWC drive is really surprisingly good deal for the small niche of users that do need a >512GB SSD. And can't be bothered to use USB3 or Thunderbolt. Who are those people again?

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