OCZ Vertex - A New Hope?

Following the release of the dual JMicron drive controller based Apex drives and the Samsung drive controller based Summit drives (which we’re yet to cover), OCZ has turned to newcomer Indilinx to supply the inner workings of its latest top end drive, the Vertex, and the result is a drastic change to what we’re used to.

Indilinx is a small company who are made up of ex-Samsung SSD controller employees. Having left to design their own, it's without doubt that there's some heavy Samsung-esq technologies inside, while inevitably also mixed with a dash of new blood and ideas.

Unfortunately (and somewhat comically we must admit) we were unable to crack the Vertex’s black 2.5” casing open to reveal said lovely innards following screwdriver mishaps, in which we managed to grind out all the screw heads. Luckily we have a stand-in in the form of G.Skill’s Falcon 128GB, which shares the same internal hardware as the Vertex, and which we’ll also be reviewing shortly.

While the banks of Samsung MLC NAND flash memory are familiar, using sixteen 8GB K9HCG08U1M modules, the Indilinx IDX110M00 ARM “Barefoot” chip is a new addition, replacing the JMicron drive controller on previous OCZ SSDs. This new chip claims to deliver up to 230MB/s read speeds and up to 170MB/s write, as well, crucially, coming optimised for response speed as well as sequential read and write.

OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD OCZ Vertex - A New Hope? OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD OCZ Vertex - A New Hope?
Click to enlarge

Accompanying the Indilinx ARM chip is an Elpida S51321CBH-6DTT-F 64MB SDRAM chip, which is used by the drive as a cache. Most of the SSDs we've seen so far have crucially lacked any sort of cache to assist performance when the number of read/write commands is high and this inclusion should prove to be central to the Vertex’s performance.

OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD OCZ Vertex - A New Hope? OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD OCZ Vertex - A New Hope?
Click to enlarge

Another interesting addition to the Indilinx drive architecture is the jumper pins placed next to the SATA data and power connections. These are used to set the drive into firmware update mode, which, when connected to a system booting from a separate drive, allows the quick and easy update of the drive’s firmware. Although this does result in the formatting of the drive, unlike Intel’s X25 series which can be updated without the loss of onboard data.

OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD OCZ Vertex - A New Hope? OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD OCZ Vertex - A New Hope?
Click to enlarge

OCZ has been very active on the point of firmware releases for the drive, and having launched the drive with version 0112 firmware have since released three updates, culminating in version 1.1, adding additional features and improving performance. This ability to easily deploy new firmware is a fantastic addition, and we’ll be testing the drive using both the 1275 and 1.1 firmware.

Also of interest is the Indilinx “Barefoot” chip’s claims of a more efficient mapping algorithm and more reliable wear levelling. One of the key issues we’ve found with Intel’s X25-M is that as a cell is rewritten again and again performance degrades alarmingly, so hopefully the Vertex will be able to avoid such an issue while maintaining its MTBF of 1.5 million hours.

So we’ve explained its predecessors, we’ve looked inside. All that remains now is to strap the OCZ Vertex into the updated bit-tech testing rig and see how it performs!
Discuss this in the forums