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OCZ's Barefoot 3 Paves The Way For Great Performance

OCZ Vector 256 GB Review: An SSD Powered By Barefoot 3

It's not July 4th, but OCZ has reason enough to celebrate. Barefoot 3 is the company’s first controller developed in-house. Aside from the NAND, which is still sourced from IMFT, everything else that goes into the Vector SSD comes from OCZ and its acquisitions. The only two other companies that can say this about their consumer-oriented SSDs are Intel and Samsung. Does that fact alone mean anything? Of course not. The product of OCZ's effort has to be compelling in order to earn our recognition.

Fortunately, the Barefoot 3 controller serves up enough performance to put the Vector on par with the 840 Pro. In the real world, it's almost a certainty that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between them (or a number of the nearly-as-fast but tangibly less expensive models featured each month in Best SSDs For The Money). More interesting than its tested performance is the speed at which the Vector is able to recover from taxing workloads.

While OCZ faces down the rest of its competition with admirable gust, the Vector is more importantly a notable improvement over the Marvell-based drives that emerged after OCZ stopped introducing new SSDs with SandForce controllers. Although the Vertex 4 was already approaching the limits of a SATA 6Gb/s interface, the Vector goes even further to improve sequential read and write performance. 

At the same time, its idle and load power numbers are both better than what OCZ was able to achieve with the Vertex 4. That's good news, because the Vector's predecessor turns in the worst power numbers of the 26 models reflected in our charts. The lower observed power numbers seem to help with thermals, too. In an open test bed without ample cooling, we've managed to get OCZ's Octane and Vertex 4 to overheat (enough so that the system no longer detected the drive). The Vector doesn't have the same problem. It gets significantly hotter than Samsung's 840 Pro, which is no surprise when you look at the power numbers, but we haven't run into any stability issues thus far.

Given the R&D that went into creating the Barefoot 3 controller, we were initially a little worried that OCZ would charge a big premium right out of the gate. And, it looks like OCZ basically saw that its Vector approached what Samsung's 840 Pro could do and priced the drive to match. It's not looking to undercut Samsung, even though it probably should, given OCZ desire to forge a new identity and the Vector's noticeably higher power use.

Cost Breakdown
Price Per GB
Samsung 840 Pro 64 GB
5 years
Samsung 840 Pro 128 GB
5 years
Samsung 840 Pro 256 GB
5 years
Samsung 840 Pro 512 GB
5 years
OCZ Vector 128 GB$150
$1.175 years
OCZ Vector 256 GB$270
$1.055 years
OCZ Vector 512 GB$560
5 years

The notable exception is OCZ's 512 GB Vector, which is set to sell for quite a bit less than Samsung's competing model. Notice also that OCZ isn't leading off with a 64 GB drive this time around. Really, we're fine with that. In an age of $1/GB for solid-state storage, we'd much rather recommend at least 128 GB anyway. 

Leading into the holiday season, it looks like there are two dominant enthusiast-oriented SSDs now, each from a vendor with its own controller technology. And while we're seeing the prices on second-gen SandForce-based drives dip under $.70/GB, these top-end creations are persisting above the one-dollar mark. Could competition between OCZ and Samsung nudge these powerful SSDs down 10 or 20% in the near-term? We can certainly hope so!

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