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The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector

Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB

Manufacturer: Corsair
UK Price (as reviewed): £401.38 (inc VAT)
US Price(as reviewed): $469.99 (ex tax)

Corsair has also debuted its latest SSD in the last few months. Dubbed the Neutron GTX (Castrol and Nvidia don’t have a monopoly on that GTX title) it also sports a new drive controller. Unlike Samsung or OCZ though, Corsair lacks an in-house controller dev-team, so has worked with Link_A_Media Devices to licence its LM87800AA drive controller. Right now, Corsair has an exclusive on this dual-core controller, so don’t expect to see it cropping up in every SSD partner’s products in the same way SandForce’s controller have.

The SSD Catchup The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector The SSD Catchup The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector
Corsair has an exclusive on the Link_A_Media drive controller

Crack open the silver casing and you’ll find a particularly dinky PCB, with the LM87800AA drive controller at its heart. For the Neutron GTX 480GB, Corsair has fitted the drive with 25nm Toshiba MLC Toggle NAND split between eight 64GB modules, while the standard (slightly cheaper) Neutron uses slower 25nm Intel/Micron Synchronous MLC NAND. A pair of Micron 128MB DDR2-800 modules are split between either side of the PCB and act as cache.

The SSD Catchup The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector
A 128MB DDR2-800 cache module is fitted to either side of the PCB

Despite not making use of similar compression wizardry as SandForce’s controllers, the Neutron GTX 480GB is more heavily overprovisioned than competing drives, with 12.7 per cent of its 512GB of NAND capacity handed over to spare area to aide in wear-levelling and block replacement. This means a lower formatted capacity of 447.13GB, compared to the 476.94GB you’d otherwise get on a 512GB SSD. Priced at around £400 for the 480GB version of the Neutron GTX we’re looking at here (£0.89/GB), the Neutron GTX is one of the more expensive SSDs on the market right now.

Specifications

Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Nominal capacity: 480GB
Formatted capacity: 447.13B (12.7 per cent over provision)
Controller: Link_A_Media LM87800AA
Cache: 2 x 128MB DDR2-800
Memory type/amount: 8x Toshiba 64GB 25nm MLC Toggle NAND flash
Warranty: Five years

OCZ Vector

Manufacturer: OCZ
UK Price (as reviewed): £194.70 (inc VAT)
US Price(as reviewed): $269.99 (ex tax)

Rounding out the line-up of new SSDs is OCZ’s Vector, replacing the Vertex 4 at the top of OCZ’s product stack. OCZ has both its own controller design team, having acquired Indilix in 2011, and the assets to produce SOCs (system on a chip) thanks to a purchase of PLX technology in the same year. The Barefoot 3 controller found in the Vector is the fruit of these acquisitions and is OCZ's first in-house drive controller (the Everest controller found in the Vertex 4 was a Marvell 9174 controller running custom firmware).

The SSD Catchup The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector The SSD Catchup The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector
The Barefoot 3 is OCZ's first, true, in-house drive controller

The new controller pairs an ARM Cortex processor with an OCZ co-processor, with OCZ purchasing enough NAND now to be able to brand that too (although underneath it’s still 25nm Intel/Micron MLC NAND). Alongside the 16, 16GB MLC NAND modules is a pair of Micron 128MB DDR3 1,600MHz modules for use as cache, with the 512GB version benefitting from a pair of 512MB cache modules.

While the SSD 840 and Neutron are more heavily over-provisioned, the Vector offers a formatted capacity of 238.47GB for a 6.9 per cent over-provision. Prices for the 256GB version are currently around the £195 mark (£0.81/GB).

The SSD Catchup The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector The SSD Catchup The SSD Catchup - Corsair Neutron GTX and OCZ Vector
OCZ's large-scale purchasing of NAND even allows it to brand it as its own, even though it's still 25nm Intel/Micron NAND underneath

As a launch partner OCZ caught the majority of the flak for SandForce's drive controller reliability issues, and has been keen not to repeat the situation with the Vector. It claims the Vector is it's "most extensively and comprehensively tested consumer SSD to date," with each driver receiving a factory burn-in before shipping. It's a positive response to some of the criticism aimed at OCZ.

Specifications

Interface: SATA 6Gbps
Nominal capacity: 256GB
Formatted capacity: 238.47GB (6.9 per cent Over provision)
Controller: Barefoot 3 (IDX500M00)
Cache: 2 x 128MB DDR3-1600
Memory type/amount: 16x Intel/Micron 16GB 25nm MLCNAND flash
Warranty: Five years