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

The OCZ Vertex 2 Conspiracy: Lost Space, Lost Speed?
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Several readers contacted me in the past two weeks, complaining about OCZ's recent adoption of 25 nm NAND and its effect on the capacity and performance of certain SSDs that they expected to be both larger and faster. I bought my own drives to compare.

Back in 2001, I saved up what I considered to be a significant amount of money—a little less than $30 000, if I remember correctly. Rather than doing something smart with it, I went out and bought a Mazda Miata, setting myself up for an endless stream Corky Romano jokes. Jerks.

Except, I didn’t keep the car for even 12 months. The 2001s were advertised with 143 horsepower in the US, though we actually got the 130 HP model. Mazda got called out on the missing ponies, confirmed it had screwed up, and offered to buy back—at full purchase price—the one-year-old cars.

I jumped all over that offer, turned around, and bought an IS300. Although I haven’t driven a Mazda since then, the fact was that the company’s willingness to satisfy its customers endeared it to me. And if there were ever another Mazda that I liked, I wouldn’t hesitate to be return business.

OCZ’s Miata?

More recently, several Tom’s Hardware readers brought to my attention that OCZ had recently stopped shipping its Vertex 2 drives with 34 nm NAND flash from IM Flash Technologies (and 32 nm memory from Hynix), replacing them with 25 nm flash from the same Intel/Micron joint venture.

IMFT's 64 Gb dual-die package, manufactured at 34 nmIMFT's 64 Gb dual-die package, manufactured at 34 nm

The switch-over completed in mid-January, according to OCZ, and it was largely low-key. That is to say, it wasn’t really picked up on until customers started seeing lower capacities and reporting reduced performance from certain models compared to the older drives.

Fast-forward to mid-February. Sensing increased discontent over the community’s reaction, OCZ released a notice announcing its industry-first transition to 25 nm NAND adoption. The news purported that the smaller lithography would translate to more affordable performance-oriented SSDs. Indeed, the last time I looked at Vertex 2 pricing was mid-January, and the 120 GB drive was selling for $250. Today you can find the "exact same" model for $230.

What wasn’t addressed in OCZ’s release was whether the $230 drive, with its fancy 25 nm IMFT-based NAND actually is any slower or smaller than its predecessor. Naturally, I wanted to dig. After all, the complaint I received over and over again from Tom’s Hardware readers was that they were buying specific models and getting less usable capacity and unexpected performance results. I was instantly reminded of my own Miata experience.

IMFT's new 64 Gb package, featuring 25 nm flashIMFT's new 64 Gb package, featuring 25 nm flash

Fortunately, I had an older OCZSSD2-2VTXE120G on-hand with the 34 nm flash. I hopped onto Newegg and purchased the same thing, hoping it’d be one of the new drives with the 25 nm NAND. All it took was a quick look at the drive’s capacity in Windows to know that it was, indeed, one of the new Vertex 2s.

So, is everyone making a big deal out of an over-hyped artifact of evolution, or is OCZ genuinely at fault for understating the effect of adopting the latest NAND devices?

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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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