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OCZ Vector 180 960GB SSD Review

Final Thoughts

The difference between first- and second-generation 19nm Toshiba flash is die size. The older dies measured 19x26mm, while the new ones are 19x19.5mm. Toshiba is able to harvest more dies per wafer, and the wafer is a fixed cost. More dies means less money spent per part. So, it only makes sense for OCZ to adopt the lower-priced flash as quickly as possible. The first move to A19 happened in the Vertex 460 series, hence the Vertex 460A was born with its only differentiator being flash. OCZ didn't make a lot of noise about that introduction, and performance stayed the same.

On its top-of-the-line Vector series, OCZ took advantage of the change and looked for ways to improve reliability. All SSDs have capacitors to protect data as much as possible for a given build of material cost. We suspect the Vector series, with its faster processor, needed more power than the Vertex 460's components. This distinction may have increased returns by a few percentage points. OCZ addresses the issue with a tantalum capacitor that provides more charge to the Vector 180.

OCZ doesn't stop with the increase in charge density. The Vector 180's firmware adds other changes aimed at increasing reliability as well. For instance, the firmware creates a new mapping table snapshot and writes it to flash. This is an area we need to explore further, and you can bet we'll have more to report before reviewing any other members of the Vector 180 family.

On the 960GB model tested today, the table flush takes between one and two seconds due to a large 1GB buffer. OCZ tells us that the flush time shouldn't be an issue in consumer workloads, but we did find it affecting the performance of heavy workloads. We can test this two ways. First, using trace-based tests with samples taken at least every second. The other method (and the one we're using now) is running the drive in a notebook with real-world applications. So far, the buffer flush isn't an issue. But the drive also isn’t fragmented with lots of random data spread across the cells yet. Lower-capacity models with less DRAM should be impacted less. OCZ chooses to use a reliable approach in saving the entire table. Making updates would have had less impact on performance. 

Aside from the buffer flush that takes place every 20 seconds or so, the Vector 180 performs as well as the Vector 150 it replaces. Both drives are limited by the SATA 6Gb/s interface, though neither rises to the same performance levels offered by SanDisk's Extreme Pro or Samsung's 850 Pro. The Vector 180 finishes a close third place when it comes to latency in lighter workloads and second under heavy workloads. I classify OCZ's new flagship in the same distinguished group of top-performing SSDs.

One area where the Vector 180 outperforms its predecessor is mixed workloads. I’m impressed with OCZ’s decision to tune for real-world performance and make it a topic of discussion in the product brief. Over time, other manufacturers will follow suit. This benefits us all as the focus falls away from four-corner performance for marketing and towards real-world performance for users.

A 1TB-class version of the Vector 180 means there are now three high-capacity SSDs in the top performance tier. The new reliability features will mean more to some, but it's not like this type of product has a history of reliability issues. Money buys more than just performance, after all.

OCZ’s accessory package is the best amongst its competition. Perhaps you only need the desktop adapter bracket; others may value the cloning software. Both are included regardless, though. We can also add OCZ’s ShieldPlus warranty as a valued accessory, should you need it. OCZ provides cross shipping with an included return label as part of its plan. It's a nice feature, even if we hope we never need it.

Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.