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Conclusion: OCZ’s Sin

The OCZ Vertex 2 Conspiracy: Lost Space, Lost Speed?
By

If OCZ committed one sin here, it was that it should have been more forthcoming right off the bat about the changes in already-shipping products, especially when those changes adversely affected capacity and performance in certain environments (no matter how obscure). Had the story been reverse, and we were reporting on getting more space and speed in an existing product, I have to imagine the company would have eagerly broken that news on its own accord. If you take something away from your customer—anything—either be vocal about it or change the product’s name entirely to prevent a molehill from becoming a Miata.

The capacity issue is more than just a bummer. When you splurge on a 120 GB SSD or pinch pennies for 60 GB, every available gigabyte matters a lot (especially when you’re talking about a drive hosting Windows 7). Lower prices on these 25 nm flash-based drives mean you’re actually paying less per GB than the 34 nm versions. However, OCZ should really consider citing IDEMA (International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association) for its SSDs armed with E-series firmware, like it does for its non-E drives.

Incidentally, I don’t think I’m the first one to suggest that to OCZ. The company insists that resellers are the reason for its current naming conundrum—and the explanation make sense to me. There are already a dizzying number of SKUs representing SandForce-based drives from the organization’s various partners. While it seems ideal to revamp, reflecting the new 115 GB and 55 GB capacities, adding model suffixes to indicate different generations of flash, nobody really wants to address the potential confusion added on that end, either.

As a result, my suggestion doesn’t sound like it makes sense for OCZ. Instead, we’ll have to see how Corsair makes do. The company recently announced that it’d name its upcoming 25 nm-based SSDs according to IDEMA capacity, so a previously-120 GB SKU will become a 115 GB model. And a –A suffix will denote 25 nm NAND. If Corsair has luck pushing those new drives onto sites like Newegg, perhaps OCZ will be compelled to follow suit.

Resellers: realize that it’s better to give your customers what they expect than trying to push what sound like nice, juicy capacity points they won’t actually get (like 120 and 60 GB, for example).

I’m a little less alarmed with the performance situation than the loss of usable capacity. There’s nothing OCZ can do about the capacity—those 4 GB or so are gone. But now that this whole issue is blown open and (in theory) understood, OCZ can hunker down and address it. In desktop-class workloads, the 25 nm drives trade blows with the older drives. Really hammering the new SSDs with small 4 KB reads and writes is where they seem to choke up—and we think we know exactly why. OCZ has new firmware in the works, and we’re guessing ECC-based optimizations will slowly help draw down the load being applied to the controller. Until then, there remain several targeted ways to demonstrate performance getting hit, and we hope OCZ (and every other vendor that follows OCZ pairing SandForce controllers and 25 nm flash) can bring the speed of its new drives up to match the old ones in every discipline.

While we weren’t originally fans of OCZ’s decision to offer customers 32 Gb-based drives for the price difference separating 32 Gb and cheaper 64 Gb NAND, it has since revisited that offer and will now do the trade at no cost. Folks who bought the 25 nm-based drives in January for the higher price of 32 Gb flash can now get the capacity and performance they were expecting. You can create a ticket on OCZ’s site if you’re interested.

OCZ made what many (myself included) consider a mistake, got called out, and is now trying to make things right. Kudos to the team there for adjusting their approach to satisfy the company’s customers. And thanks to the Tom’s Hardware community for letting me know how important it was to see this covered. We’re here to serve you, after all.

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  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , February 21, 2011 5:10 AM
    Mushkin.com have a letter posted on the website that they will not be going to 25nm as the drives life cycle is less than half that of a 3*nm drive. Also the performance is not there.
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , February 21, 2011 5:25 AM
    LeekayMushkin.com have a letter posted on the website that they will not be going to 25nm as the drives life cycle is less than half that of a 3*nm drive. Also the performance is not there.


    Depending on supply of 34 nm NAND, that's probably not a sustainable position to take. IMFT isn't going to decide to shift back to 34 nm.

    At the risk of contradicting myself, Intel will be using 34 nm NAND on its next-gen 6 Gb/s Elmcrest drives. It's not like the flash isn't disappearing entirely, but the vendors making the switch seem to be motivated largely by cost-cutting reasons.
  • 4 Hide
    radiovan , February 21, 2011 6:04 AM
    Nicely done Mr. Angelini; however, I still think OCZ pulled a nasty car-salesman tactic on their newest 25 nm NAND SSD products, and as such will be looking elsewhere to purchase any future SSD. Blaming resellers or other sources for the SKU is an incompetent way of deflecting fault and has made them look even more silly.
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , February 21, 2011 6:17 AM
    Thanks radiovan. Like I mentioned in the story, we'll have to see if companies like Corsair and Patriot are able to get their upcoming renamed SKUs onto Newegg, Tigerdirect, Zipzoom, etc.
  • -1 Hide
    binoyski , February 21, 2011 6:40 AM
    Ok, but when will we be able to buy ssd's that are $100 @ 1TB capacity?
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 21, 2011 7:28 AM
    1.29 Firmware....how nice... pity that ocz only documents 1.28 for the moment.

    And then again why not update the 25nm to 1.29 too?

    But I guess consistency is not always wished when trying to demonstrate something
  • 1 Hide
    nebun , February 21, 2011 8:24 AM
    binoyskiOk, but when will we be able to buy ssd's that are $100 @ 1TB capacity?

    in about 10 years or so....that's a very big maybe
  • -1 Hide
    dconnors , February 21, 2011 8:29 AM
    Don't lie, Chris. We all know you still have (and love) that little Miata.
    -Devin
  • -1 Hide
    yose3 , February 21, 2011 8:29 AM
    binoyskiOk, but when will we be able to buy ssd's that are $100 @ 1TB capacity?


    when you throw a shoes to bush again meaby lol
  • 2 Hide
    Reynod , February 21, 2011 8:45 AM
    It is all about profit.

    The real reason is that going to cheaper flash with a 3000 cycle life to reduce the total cost of production (and therefore increase profit) means ... increasing the amount of redundant memory to replace the flash that dies due to wear ... and that process means better error correction is required to achieve that ... therefore performance is effected.

    Chris ... I got it into one sentence ... albeit a horrible one.

    Nice article mate.
  • 0 Hide
    cangelini , February 21, 2011 8:57 AM
    meanon1.29 Firmware....how nice... pity that ocz only documents 1.28 for the moment.And then again why not update the 25nm to 1.29 too?But I guess consistency is not always wished when trying to demonstrate something


    Update your drive with the 1.28 toolbox--it'll show up as 1.29 :) 
  • 0 Hide
    hannibal , February 21, 2011 10:06 AM
    Well normally moving to smaller production technology has mean better performance. I am not sure if the new situation where newer technolygy is inferior compared to old took manufactures by surprice?
    But in anyway their own tests should have shown it...

  • 2 Hide
    mike2100 , February 21, 2011 11:35 AM
    Mazda did the same thing in 2004 with the RX-8. Originally advertised 255hp dropped to 238 and it offered to buy back cars.

    Very bad move on OCZ's part. Justified or not, many people who hear this news will not be buying an OCZ drive.
  • 2 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , February 21, 2011 11:43 AM
    Great article.

    It appears as if OCZ was the first to market which would normally mean press releases, announcements, lots of hoopla, and technical reviews. Instead, OCZ chose to remain silent until customers complained. Silence had to be a management decision. What did management know?
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , February 21, 2011 11:51 AM
    BTW - Veteran posters at Tom's Hardware might remember what happened when OCZ acquired PC Power and Cooling. PCP&C had some of the best high quality power supplies available until OCZ acquired the company.
  • -1 Hide
    saint19 , February 21, 2011 11:51 AM
    The same was for Toyota with his brakes problems few years ago.

    OCZ is a good manufacturer, but at this point when they are out of the RAM business, they need fix that problems and avoid futures ones if OCZ as company wants be on the market for more years in future.
  • 2 Hide
    rantoc , February 21, 2011 12:20 PM
    So they pushed out a cheaper less performing model with same name and stayed quiet about it, not the best way to get customers to return to the brand!

    I don't like the idea of 25nm flash for several reasons, reliability is my main concern. Sure there are better block handeling in the last gen sandforce controllers (vertex3) but what about quicker dying cells and when the controller runs out of spare cells! When it comes to storage i rather let the tech mature at the expense of early adopters (paying betatesters!?) than have to restore an old backup and hassle with RMA.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 21, 2011 12:34 PM
    The "mistake" by OCZ was not a mistake at all.
    They are doing the same thing as before...
    With their Rally 2 USB drives to be specific.
    The Rally 2 did not have a model change at all (although it did have a different LED color), but users suddenly found out the new Rally 2 drives did not work in Xbox 360s and were slower.

    OCZ has been great with their SSD customer support, but this fiasco was a huge slap in the face to all of their fans.
    I know my next SSD will most likely be another brand unless the price is considerably less.
    It will most likely be a Corsair, Crucial, or Intel. Corsair, because they were completely up front with their transition to 25nm and will also continue to have the Sandforce based chips for their future SSDs.
  • 1 Hide
    compton , February 21, 2011 12:57 PM
    Good job, Chris.

    I'm glad the crew at Toms is on the case. A thorough analysis indeed. Keep it up.

    As a side note, I think I may stick with the 34u NAND drives for my third SSD purchase. I would always like more performance, but an SSD is basically destroying itself slowly. The biggest chunk of performance is gained simply by transitioning from HDD to SSD for OS and applications. Everyone wants a faster drive, but I also want my drives to last for a while. I'm concerned that reliability of ALL devices may suffer with smaller lithography. Maybe is't unwarranted concern. Time will tell.
  • 0 Hide
    scook9 , February 21, 2011 1:30 PM
    I got the 120GB Vertex 2 on the Jan 31 Shell Shocker on Newegg, since then I have been UNHAPPY with its performance. Now I know why.....I also had noticed the performance was lower than it should be

    I got the drive and threw it in the desktop to test before putting it in the laptop. Everything looked good. Threw it in the laptop and installed Windows 7 and a few basic programs. Performance now SUCKED (read was like 5% slow - 25% in 4k, and writes were all about %50 of what they should have been). Angry, I thought, maybe the laptop is bottlenecking it, threw the drive back in the desktop. Lo and behold, same abysmal performance. This was all with the drive having an on-time of about 45 hours since manufacturing......virtually NO use. I have now secure-erased the drive and that seems to have temporarily restored performance although the 4k speeds are still about 10 MB/s low (high 20's instead of high 30's)

    I have 6 SSDs right now and this is the only one I do not like. I am actually the happiest with the A-Data S599 rebrands that MicroCenter is selling (the $110 64GB ones - got 3).

    SO, I am interested in this thing that OCZ is doing, is that simply changing the chip density or also getting you a drive with 34nm chips on it? Will either do that or have newegg swap the drive with a different brand for me
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