Just as we were starting to hit the limit of what 3 Gb/s SATA can do, OCZ's Vertex 3 Pro makes SSDs exciting again (and just in time for widespread proliferation of 6 Gb/s controllers, too).
SATA 3 Gb/s treated us well for a very long time, but we are just starting to reach the point where it's not enough. Now we have 6 Gb/s connectivity on AMD’s SB850 and Intel’s P67. Up until now, we've seen this faster interface as an enabler of headroom for slower hard drives. After all, if you're buying storage controllers and paying per-port, 6 Gb/s gives you a lot more throughput. Suddenly, a four-port card can conceivably handle a 24-bay JBOD. But with products like the Vertex 3 Pro, we're moving beyond the transfer rates of a 3 Gb/s connection, meaning you need 6 Gb/s to enable the SSD's peak performance.
If you can remember that far back, OCZ announced Vertex 2 with a new controller from an unknown company in late 2009, and it took everyone by surprise. After the whole thing with JMicron, there were plenty of skeptics. Yet, SandForce decided to make its first public showing with OCZ’s Vertex 2 Pro. Back in early 2010, we could confidently say that Vertex 2 Pro was the fastest single-controller MLC-based SSD on the market. Even though we don’t have a Vertex 3 Pro running final firmware, we can again say that OCZ plans to maintain that title based on what we have seen today.
For the majority of users, the problem is going to be cost. Vertex 2 Pro’s dwindling supply still fetches close to $630 for the 100 GB model. Vertex 3 Pro changes the dynamic a bit. Not only is it bringing the next generation of performance, it is also doing it for a more attractive price. If OCZ actually manages to launch drives close to MSRP, we are one step closer to seeing performance SSDs priced around $2/GB.
Shortly after finishing this story, we got word that consumer-oriented drives aren't far behind. Stay tuned to Tom's Hardware for the first showing of SandForce's second-gen showing at price points that enthusiasts will be much more willing to pay.
Of course, the competition is hardly sitting still, so it's my hope that this is just the beginning. All of this has to make you wonder what Intel and Marvell have in the works. We are slated for more SSDs launches before Q2, which means everyone is going to be aggressive on price. If you're planning a new build and you haven’t yet pulled the trigger on a SSD, it’s time to set aside a budget.