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

Lost Capacity: Defining And Explaining The Scope

There are two fundamental issues to explore here: lower capacity and reduced performance.

Capacity is easiest to address, so I’ll do that first. OCZ says that it is going 25 nm across its product line to bring costs down. But the entire lineup isn’t being affected capacity-wise. According to OCZ, only the 120 GB and 60 GB models are affected (note that our contact at OCZ in Europe says the 90 GB drives are affected as well, though OCZ's US office has not confirmed this)—it says it isn’t shifting to 25 nm on the 40 GB drives, and SSDs in excess of 120 GB don’t give up capacity because they already have enough leftover space to address the root cause of this whole brouhaha, which I’ll explain in more depth. Even more specifically, only the E-series drives are affected (OCZSSD2-2VTXE120G). It just so happens that I had a drive with the E firmware, and that’s what I also found on Newegg.

The E in that model name actually stands for Extended. At one time, all Vertex 2s employed 28% overprovisioning. E-versions facilitate less overprovisioning. Now, if you look at the following table, that seems like a counter-intuitive claim. According to OCZ, resellers haven’t been receptive to adopting new part numbers as these drives have changed. So, the E has really lost its original meaning.

IDEMA CapacityRaw Flash CapacityWindows Capacity
OCZSSD2-2VTXE60G55 GB64 GB51.22 GiB
OCZSSD2-2VTXE120G115 GB128 GB107.10 GiB
OCZSSD2-2VTX60G60 GB64 GB55.87 GiB
OCZSSD2-2VTX120G120 GB128 GB111.75 GiB

I keep using the word “affected.” What does affected actually mean? With 64 Gb, 25 nm memory ICs onboard, more space has to be dedicated to SandForce’s Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements technology, which is tasked with improving reliability even in the face of block failures. That’s why you see lower capacities on the 120 and 60 GB models.

Why the bigger concession for RAISE? Currently, it’s being claimed that OCZ is setting aside more space for potentially bad blocks due to the 25 nm geometry. Twenty-five nanometer NAND has a harder time maintaining its structure than 34 nm NAND, so you get fewer write cycles out of it. SandForce skirts the issue by simply giving the controller more room to set aside blocks that eventually go bad. In reality, OCZ is actually forced to set aside more space as an artifact of the new 64 Gb ICs. Since full (now larger) bit planes are used for RAISE, shifting from 32 Gb to 64 Gb creates that discrepancy in capacity by inherently allocating more space per die to RAISE. According to OCZ, there is no functional difference in the uncorrectable bit error rate in moving to 25 nm. It simply is what it is.

OCZ's 34 nm-based 120 GB Vertex 2

But add up the fact that OCZ’s E-series drives were intended to squeeze down overprovisioning and the increased spare space set aside for ECC on 25 nm-based SSDs and you have a recipe for lower capacities. This is easily illustrated with my OCZSSD2-2VTXE120G. The first drive I received, based on 34 nm NAND, gave me 111.8 GiB (120 GB) of usable space. The second drive (exact same model number on Newegg) dropped to 107.1 GiB (115 GB).

Now, if you paid $250 for 111.8 GiB, you were paying about $2.23/GiB. If you pay $230 for 107.1 GiB, you’re paying $2.14/GiB. During a recent chat with Ryan Petersen, OCZ’s CEO, he noted that the shift to 25 nm is intended to lower the prices on SSDs, since the devices themselves cost less. Based on today’s pricing, Ryan’s reasoning holds up—we are, in fact seeing more aggressive prices.

Also based on a 16-chip design, the 25 nm-based Vertex 2 is a completely different PCB

But what if you bought one of the new drives last month when they transitioned, but prices hadn’t yet adjusted? Even more importantly, what if you had a 34 nm 120 GB Vertex 2 and now want to add a second drive in RAID 0 without mismatching the capacities? Certain customers are right to be upset about a capacity change unaccompanied by a SKU adjustment.

For those folks, OCZ is offering to swap out 25 nm drives with 64 Gb NAND for drives with 32 Gb NAND, which reverses the capacity loss. At first, it was asking that customers pay the difference in NAND costs. I didn’t like that plan much because the potential was there to penalize customers who bought the new version legitimately hoping to match it up to an old drive in RAID, only to discover its divergent specs, or even the customers who read a review of the 34 nm NAND-based drive and expected the same ~112 GB to show up. Now, OCZ is stepping up to offer the swap at no charge, which we applaud.

  • 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.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    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.
    Reply
  • binoyski
    Ok, but when will we be able to buy ssd's that are $100 @ 1TB capacity?
    Reply
  • 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
    Reply
  • nebun
    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
    Reply
  • dconnors
    Don't lie, Chris. We all know you still have (and love) that little Miata.
    -Devin
    Reply
  • yose3
    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
    Reply
  • Reynod
    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.
    Reply