Times are changing at OCZ. There's a new CEO at the helm, and the company is now focused on releasing fewer products but that have gone through more validation and testing than in years past. The hallmark aggressive nature that gave OCZ tremendous marketshare in the channel overstayed its welcome. The new OCZ is supposed to sincerely prioritize compatibility, reliability and general validation testing. Only time will tell if things have changed, but right off the bat there's a different aura surrounding my first encounter with OCZ's Vector SSD.

Gone are the handwritten notes that accompanied OCZ SSD samples in years past, replaced by a much more official looking letter:

The drive itself sees a brand new 7mm chassis. The aluminum colored enclosure features a new label. Only the bottom of the SSD looks familiar as the name, part number and other details are laid out in traditional OCZ fashion.

Under the hood the drive is all new. Vector uses the first home-grown SSD controller by OCZ. Although the Octane and Vertex 4 SSDs both used OCZ Indilinx branded silicon, they were both based on Marvell IP - the controller architecture was licensed, not designed in house. Vector on the other hand uses OCZ's brand new Barefoot 3 controller, designed entirely in-house.

Barefoot 3 is the result of three different teams all working together. OCZ's UK design team, staffed with engineers from the PLX acquisition, the Korea design team inherited after the Indilinx acquisition, and folks at OCZ proper in California all came together to bring Barefoot 3 and Vector to life.

The Barefoot 3 controller integrates an unnamed ARM Cortex core as well as an OCZ Aragon co-processor. OCZ isn't going into a lot of detail as to how these two cores interact or what they handle, but multi-core SoCs aren't anything new in the SSD space. A branded co-processor is a bit unusual, and I suspect that whatever is responsible for Vector's distinct performance has to do with this part of the SoC.

Architecturally, Barefoot 3 can talk to NAND across 8 parallel channels. The controller is paired with two DDR3L-1600 DRAMs, although there's a pad for a third DRAM for use in the case where parity is needed for ECC.

Hardware encryption is not presently supported, although OCZ tells us Barefoot 3 is more than fast enough to handle it should a customer demand the feature. Hardware encryption remains mostly unused and poorly executed on client drives, so its absence isn't too big of a deal in my opinion.

OCZ does its own NAND packaging, and as a result Vector is home to a sea of OCZ branded NAND devices. In reality you're looking at 25nm IMFT synchronous 2-bit-per-cell MLC NAND, just with an OCZ silkscreen on it. There's no NAND redundancy built in to the drive as OCZ is fairly comfortable with the error and failure rates at 25nm. The only spare area set aside is the same 6.8% we see on most client drives (e.g. a 256GB Vector offers 238GB usable space in Windows).

OCZ Vector
  128GB 256GB 512GB
Sequential Read 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s
Sequential Write 400 MB/s 530 MB/s 530 MB/s
Random Read 90K IOPS 100K IOPS 100K IOPS
Random Write 95K IOPS 95K IOPS 95K IOPS
Active Power Use 2.25W 2.25W 2.25W
Idle Power Use 0.9W 0.9W 0.9W

Regardless of capacity, OCZ is guaranteeing the Vector for up to 20GB of host writes per day for 5 years. The warranty on the Vector expires after 5 years or 36.5TB of writes, whichever comes first. As with most similar claims, the 20GB value is pretty conservative and based on a 4KB random write workload. With more realistic client workloads you can expect even more life out of the NAND.

Despite being built on a brand new SoC, there's a lot of firmware carryover from Vertex 4. Indeed if you look at the behavior of Vector, it is a lot like a much faster Vertex 4. OCZ does continue to use its performance mode that enables faster performance if less than 50% of the drive's capacity is used, however in practice OCZ seems to rely on it less than in the Vertex 4.

The design cycle for Vector is the longest OCZ has ever endured. It took OCZ 18 months to bring the Vector SSD to market, compared to less than 12 months for previous designs. The additional time was used not only to coordinate teams across the globe, but also to put Vector through more testing and validation than any previous OCZ SSD. It's impossible to guarantee a flawless drive, but doing considerably more testing can't hurt.

The Vector is available starting today in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities. Pricing is directly comparable to Samsung's 840 Pro:

OCZ Vector Pricing (MSRP)
  64GB 128GB 256GB 512GB
OCZ Vector - $149.99 $269.99 $559.99
Samsung SSD 840 Pro $99.99 $149.99 $269.99 $599.99

OCZ is a bit more aggressive on its 512GB MSRP, otherwise it's very clear what OCZ views as Vector's immediate competition.

Random IO Performance
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  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    So, a longer warranty is only good if you use it? Otherwise you're paying for something you don't need?

    And, you're paying extra for a 5-year warranty here? What, so all these top end SSDs, whose prices are lower than ever, are in fact over-priced with fake expensive warranties, so should come out with 1-year warranties and lower prices?
  • coder543 - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    a refurbished SSD? I'm not even sure what that means. That's like going to McDonald's and getting a refurbished McFlurry. It doesn't even make sense.

    This isn't a laptop, where worn parts can be replaced. This is a limited lifespan, consumable product, where replacing any parts is equivalent to throwing the old one away and pulling out a brand new one. If the warranty actually says this, then please, point me to it, but otherwise, I'm gonna have to call this bluff and say it's not practical.
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    The point that some of you seem to not understand is that the 5 year warranty does NOT mean that an SSD or other product is any better quality than a product with a one year warranty. And yes you are paying for the extended warranty no matter what the current price. SSD prices are dropping as cost to produce them is dropping. This particular OCZ model is not a highend model by any stretch, it's just the SSD-of-the-week to be superceded by a new model in a month or two.

    Refurbished can mean hand soldered chip replacement or other poorly executed repairs that would not be acceptable to most technically knowledgeable consumers. Reconditioned can mean it's been laying in the warehouse collecting dust for six months and nothing was actually done to repair it when it was returned defective. You would not believe some of the crap that ships as replacement warranty products.
  • zero2dash - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    ^^^ I'm with Beenthere.
    A 5 year warranty means a 5 year warranty; nothing more nothing less. The notion that '5 year warranty = great product!' is asinine.

    I think if you want to assume anything based off a 5 year warranty in this case, it's because the product is new, the controller is relatively new, and it's an OCZ SSD product.

    I'm not likely to buy an OCZ SSD anytime soon, but I'd definitely rather buy one with a 5 year warranty than a 1 or 3 year warranty....if I have to buy an OCZ branded SSD because every other brand is sold out.

    I owned a 30GB Vertex. For 9 months, it was great. Then it turned into a big POS. Constant chkdsk errors. I did a sanitary erase/firmware flash and sold it for what I could get for it.
  • melgross - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    I certainly would not want a refurbished SSD. It would NOT mean new NAND chips, which are the parts most likely to be a problem. Or a new controller. I would never buy a refurbished HDD either. These devices do have lifetimes. Since you have no idea how these drives have been used, or abused, you are taking a very big chance for the dubious opportunity of saving a few bucks.
  • Hood6558 - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    I can't help but wonder how many replacement SSDs it will take to get to the end of that 5 year warranty. If you go by the track record of Vertex 3 & 4, you can expect a failure about every 90 days, so that's 20 drives, less shipping time to and from, so call it 15 drives with a total downtime of 1.25 years. Wow!.. where can I get one? My Vertex 4 lasted 15 days, but I'm sure that was just a fluke...
  • melgross - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    I basically agree. From anecdotal reports, OCZ is one of the least reliable vendors, with their drives less reliable than the average HDD. While, so far, the average SSD reliability being about the same as the average HDD, despite people's expectations, this isn't good.

    Most people don't need the really high speeds a few of these drives support, higher reliability would be a much better spec to have. Unfortunately, these reviews can't indicate how reliable these drives will be in the longer term.

    While I see that OCZ seems to be thought of as failing, this is the first I've heard of it. Have their sales collapsed of late? I was surprised to find that their long time CEO whom Anand had communicated so often with in the past is gone.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    "FYI- A five year warranty ain't worth the paper it's written on if the company no longer exists." <- Depends on how you purchase it. Credit card companies will often honour warranties on products purchased from defunct companies. YMMV.

    "Most state that you will receive a refurbished or reconditioned replacement if your product develops a defect." <- Happily now everyone in the thread after you has used this conjecture to knock OCZ warranties. That's not really your fault, but I don't think anyone here has read the terms of OCZ's warranty on this product yet?

    The point being made here is that OCZ would not offer a 5 year warranty on the product if they thought the cost of honouring that warranty would eclipse their income from sales. This is why 1-year warranties are a red flag. So *something* can be inferred from it; just only about the manufacturer's confidence in their product. You can read into that whatever you want, but I don't generally find that companies plan to be out of business within their warranty period.

    Your comment about it increasing the price of the product is odd, because this product is the same price and specification as models with shorter warranties. So either a) you're wrong, or b) you're trivially correct.
  • JonnyDough - Friday, November 30, 2012 - link

    Here here. I second that. I am so tired of getting worn refurbished parts for things I just bought BRAND NEW. CoolerMaster just did this for a higher end power supply I bought. Why would I want to spend a hundred dollars for a used PSU? Seriously. Now all the components aren't new in it. Once the warranty expires it'll die right away. Where is the support behind products these days?

    It used to be that buying American meant you got quality and customer service. Gone are those days I guess, since all the corporations out there are about to start actually paying taxes.
  • smalM - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - link

    (e.g. a 256GB Vector appears formatted as a 238GB drive in Windows).

    Oh please Anand, the old "formatted" nonsens of all people from you?
    You really should drop this sentence from your phrase list....

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