The new OCZ Vertex solid state drive is one of the most impressive SSDs we have tested to date.  I know that there is much excitement in the hardware community about this drive and for good reason: it uses a brand new controller from a brand new company and as such performance was an unknown.  Many in the community have been billing it as the first true competitor to Intel’s X25-M line of mainstream MLC drives and it indeed lives up to that status.

OCZ Vertex Series 120GB SSD Performance Preview - Indilinx makes an intro - Storage 46

The Indilinx Barefoot controller, based on a custom logic ARM processor, is doing nothing dramatically different than JMicron or Samsung or even Intel controllers; but it has proved itself to be a strong competitor for a first offering.  In my initial preview testing the OCZ Vertex drive offers read speeds just slightly below that of the Intel X25-M 80GB SSD but in most cases has a much faster write speed than the Intel drive thanks in large part to the addition of 64MB of on-drive cache.

Interestingly, the OCZ Summit, based on a new Samsung controller chip, also uses 64MB of cache and is also a strong competitor to the Intel X25-M and OCZ Vertex SSDs.  There are still a few question marks including IOMeter performance and fluctuations in the PCMark05/Vantage arena that we hope to work out by the time the drives hit the streets this month.

Firmware Enhancements

As I mentioned on the PCMark05 and Vantage pages, there were some differences between the benchmark results of our two different Vertex drives with different firmware revisions.  Just to illustrate that difference, look at the screen shots below:

OCZ Vertex Series 120GB SSD Performance Preview - Indilinx makes an intro - Storage 47
PCMark05 – first Vertex sample

OCZ Vertex Series 120GB SSD Performance Preview - Indilinx makes an intro - Storage 48
PCMark05 – second Vertex sample

You can see there are some pretty big differences here: pay attention to the first three benchmark results as they see a dramatic difference going from the first drive we received to the second. 

Needless to say, OCZ is working on performance improvements with the Indilinx engineers and they will likely have a new firmware installed on the Vertex series before they are sent to the retail market.  That does mean they will be released even later than expected; but I think we would all rather have the drives running at top speed. 

Capacity and Pricing

While the OCZ Summit series won’t be available until the end of March, the Vertex drive should have actually been for sale already.  The firmware updates are causing a bit of delay, but I would expect to see them for sale online as early as the end of February. 

The Vertex drives will come in 60GB, 120GB and 250GB variates with prices of $199, $399 and $829, respectively.  That actually puts the price per GB at an even $3.33; compared to the $/GB of the Intel X25-M (currently at $4.73) that is actually quite a good deal if performance on the Vertex lives up to what we have seen here.

Final Thoughts

The OCZ Vertex might be the most hyped up solid state drive yet to be released, thanks in large part to the new controller offering from Indilinx and the competitive price per GB.  As it turns out, the performance lives up to the excitement and expectations for the most part and we are hopeful that with one final firmware update OCZ will have a winner on its hands with the OCZ Vertex series. 

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