OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB)

Manufacturer: OCZ Storage Solutions
UK price (as reviewed):
MSRP £114.99 (240GB); £214.99 (480GB); £404.99 (960GB)
US price (as reviewed): MSRP $139 (240GB); $263 (480GB); $493 (960GB)

Just over a year ago, OCZ launched the Vector 150, an update to the original Vector that moved from 25nm IMFT NAND to first gen 19nm Toshiba NAND. Since then, OCZ has transitioned its consumer portfolio of SSDs to the latest generation of 19nm Toshiba NAND, usually called Advanced 19nm NAND or A19 NAND for short. The Vector is the series last in the line-up to make the transition, and the result, which launches today, is the Vector 180, OCZ's new flagship 2.5-inch consumer SSD.

OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB)
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OCZ Vector 180120GB240GB480GB960GB
Max Sequential Read550MB/sec550MB/sec550MB/sec550MB/sec
Max Sequential Write450MB/sec530MB/sec530MB/sec530MB/sec
Max Random Read (4K QD32)85,000 IOPS95,000 IOPS100,000 IOPS100,000 IOPS
Max Random Write (4K QD32)90,000 IOPS90,000 IOPS95,000 IOPS95,000 IOPS
Steady-State Random Write (4K QD32)12,000 IOPS20,000 IOPS23,000 IOPS20,000 IOPS

With the new drive comes a new capacity; 960GB, which is a first for OCZ. As well as this, the usual 120GB, 240GB and 480GB are all present. These rounded capacities show us that OCZ is sticking to its standard levels of overprovisioning, making an extra portion of the NAND that's physically used inaccessible to users. At the cost of a small bit of available capacity, this breathing room allows OCZ to manage its NAND more effectively to maintain performance consistency and improve algorithms related to garbage collection, wear levelling and tackling write amplification, for example. The capacities used are the same as those in all of its other 2.5-inch SSD lines, so it's clearly a trade off the company believes in and benefits from.

OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB) OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB)
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Physically, the Vector 180 is again a hefty drive thanks to its sturdy metal chassis. Naturally, the drive uses the SATA 6Gbps interface and fits the 7mm form factor. Each drive is supplied with a steel adaptor for 3.5-inch mounts, as well as the requisite mounting screws and a code for a copy of Acronis True Image HD, a bundle OCZ values at $55.

OCZ is sticking to its tried and tested Barefoot 3 M00 controller, featuring an ARM Cortex core with an OCZ Aragon co-processor. It's the same platform used by all its 2.5-inch SSDs, though the lower tier Arc 100 and Vertex drives use the slower M10 version of the controller, while the AMD Radeon R7 SSD sticks with the M00. Like the majority of current SSD controllers, it features eight parallel channels. It is also cooled using a thermal pad sandwiched between it and the metal chassis.

OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB)
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Feature-wise, Barefoot 3 does lag behind the competition, with no low power state support (i.e. DEVSLP) and no encryption beyond the standard AES-256, which is less secure than the TGC Opal standards which many drives have moved to. This is because the controller is over two years old without a revision. Ultimately, this only means the Vector 180 is unsuitable for modern laptops and those for whom data security and protection is a top priority.

OCZ Vector 180 Specifications240GB480GB960GB
InterfaceSATA 6Gbps
Formatted capacity223.57GiB447.13GiB894.25GiB
ControllerOCZ/Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00
NAND dies64Gbit Toshiba Advanced 19nm Toggle 2.0 MLC
NAND layout16 x 16GB16 x 32GB16 x 64GB
DRAM cacheMicron DDR3-1600
DRAM config2 x 256MB2 x 512MB
Endurance50GB/day (~91TB TBW)
WarrantyFive years (ShieldPlus)

Also maintained is the five year warranty, which again covers 50GB/day of writes (~91TB total bytes written), and this is 20GB/day more than the AMD R7 SSD is rated for. This is a pretty solid rating, and it's good to see it maintained even with the move to NAND dies of higher density. It compares favourably to the SanDisk Extreme Pro, which has a ten year warranty but only covers 80TB TBW (~22GB/day). However, Samsung with its 3D V-NAND cannot be trumped on endurance, as its SSD 850 PRO offers both a longer warranty (10 years) and a higher endurance rating: 150TB TBW for 128GB and 256GB models, and a whopping 300TB TBW for the higher capacities. Still, OCZ will be looking to entice users with its ShieldPlus warranty, available in the USA, Canada and EU. For this, you only need the drive's serial number (found on the back), with no proof of original purchase necessary. OCZ will cover all shipping costs too, and send a replacement in advance of receiving the defective model – a pretty good deal, especially as it presumably carries over across second hand sales as well.

A new feature introduced for the Vector 180 is Power Fail Management Plus (PFM+), which provides a basic level of power loss protection through firmware logic and small capacitors on the PCB. While it won't protect data passing through the controller or cache, it is designed to safeguard at rest data and ensure the drive will not brick or have to go through a recovery process following a power loss. In such an event, the capacitance will keep the drive on long enough to snapshot the mapping table and save it to the non-volatile NAND, thus preserving functionality.

OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB) OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB)
Click to enlarge - The PFM+ capacitors (left) and the upgraded Toshiba NAND (right)

The PCB layout is the same on all three drives, with the controller on one side, the PFM+ capacitors on the other, and the two DRAM chips and 16 NAND packages split evenly across both. As said, the NAND packages are formed from Toshiba's 64Gbit A19 Toggle MLC dies. Naturally, being owned by Toshiba, OCZ has direct access to and top priority on the best NAND the company produces, as well as a good knowledge of how to get the best from it. OCZ has certainly been through tough times in recent years, but with a solid platform to build on (Barefoot 3) and a reliable supplier of NAND, it's now back in a strong position to compete.

OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB) OCZ Vector 180 Review (240GB, 480GB & 960GB)
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The DDR3-1600 RAM cache comes courtesy of Micron, with two 256MB modules in the 240GB model and two 512MB ones in the larger two. This means it's only the NAND that's changed, so performance will largely be the same as the Vector 150 and AMD Radeon R7 SSD.

OCZ has also updated its software package, now called SSD Guru instead of the old SSD Toolbox. As far as we know SSD Guru should be available to download either now or very soon. We have spent some time using it and it's a great piece of software with an intuitive interface that provides quick access to plenty of features: TRIM, manual overprovisioning, secure erase, SMART info, firmware updates and more. There isn't really anything here that hasn't been done before, but it's a welcome move nonetheless.
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