Introduction And Specifications
OCZ's recent reliability study claims that Vector 150 had a confirmed failure rate of .05% in 2014. The Vector 460 performed even better, with a failure rate of just 0.006%. But one failure is too many in the eyes of OCZ Storage Solutions, so the company is addressing a potential point of failure in its new Vector 180 by adding a capacitor to ensure data at rest can make it to the flash should you lose power.
Recently, OCZ Storage Solutions followed Intel and Plextor's lead, disclosing product failure rates dating back to the SandForce era. As expected, second-generation SandForce drives with a number of early firmware issues had a higher than normal return rate. The Vertex 4 series with Marvell's controller and OCZ firmware lowered returns significantly. But it was only when OCZ moved to Toshiba flash that the return rate dropped to its lowest levels.
The Vector 180 we're testing today is expected to cut into that critical figure even further thanks to Power Failure Management Plus (PFM+) technology.
PFM+ is more than just a capacitor on the PCB, used to keep critical components running long enough to flush data. In our testing, we observed the snapshot feature passing an image to the non-volatile flash every 20 seconds, while aggressively testing performance. Pardon me while I don my flame-proof suit (for the comments about to appear in the thread below), but OCZ may have built the most reliable consumer SSD ever.
In an earlier review, one of our readers mentioned that his or her way of testing an SSD was to first power cycle the drive twenty times to see if it still worked. Many dismissed his methodology. However, there is some validity to it. One of the easiest ways to break an SSD is to corrupt its page table map data. Over the years, we've found map corruption to be a big issue. We often encounter less-than-ideal weather in the Midwest, so country mile power outages are common in the Spring. Our notebook battery life test even ends with a power failure. That's not a graceful shut-down. We've killed more SSDs in our notebook power test than every other metric combined. Some drives simply prove more prone to this type of failure. One of my sons has a Crucial m4 in his system, and it's not uncommon for that SSD to experience a boot failure after inclement weather. The m4 rebuilds its map after being powered on for 24 hours, and a reboot brings the system back to life. That's fine for a kid's gaming system. But it's not acceptable in a notebook or desktop requiring 24/7 stability. OCZ's Power Failure Management Plus feature addresses those issues. However, there is a price to pay.
Our Vector 180 960GB sample uses two Micron 512MB DRAM packages, totaling 1GB of map data. The size is fairly standard on a terabyte-class SSD. Writing 1GB of data to flash takes almost two full seconds. And under heavy use, we observed several performance drops that lasted about that long. In normal client applications, you shouldn't run into a problem. But if your system is waiting to write data for two seconds every 20 or so, you'll notice the same phenomenon under taxing workloads.
OCZ will sell the Vector 180 in four capacities. Included is the company's first-ever terabyte-class flagship enthusiast product. The marketing names represent final capacity after over-provisioning: 120, 240, 480 and the 960GB model being reviewed.
Even with its second-generation 19nm flash, the 120GB model still delivers solid performance. The 240GB and larger capacities increase sequential write speed to 530 MB/s, up from the 120GB drive's 450 MB/s. Random performance also scales as size increases. The 960GB model we're testing today delivers up to 100,000 random read IOPS and 95,000 random write IOPS.
OCZ rates the Vector 180 family at 50GB writes per day for five years. This endurance rating is exceptional, but also expected on the company's flagship enthusiast model.
For the first time that we can recall, a client-orientated SSD is tuned for mixed workload performance. I published an early look at mixed workload testing last August, and companies are starting to embrace the new (to client testing) methodologies. These optimizations will benefit users with lower latency while multitasking.
The Vector series' most prominent addition is the PFM+ feature that secures data at rest. This is a reliability-oriented feature, so its usefulness can only be measured over time by a large sample of end users. We did run one experiment with DriveMaster 2012, though, to see if the capacitor is able to power the critical components long enough to support data in-flight. This test sends data to the drive and then physically turns power off through a hub. Our results were mixed, though to be fair, the was designed for measuring in-flight (and not at-rest) transfers. The drive was power cycled over 100 times in a two-hour span and survived the abuse.
Pricing And Accessories
According to OCZ, the 120GB model will sell for $90, and as capacity increases, value per gigabyte improves. The 240GB version has an MSRP of $150, the 480GB should be priced around $275 and the 960GB flagship is expected to go for $500. Of course, the best value comes from that 960GB implementation at $0.52/GB, though OCZ's MSRP is higher than some other flagship SSDs. A lot of those products were introduced in 2014, so they have an advantage in time-on-market. Over time, prices on the Vectors will fall, too.
OCZ ships the Vector 180 with Acronis True Image cloning software, as well as a desktop adapter bracket and mounting screws.
OCZ's ShieldPlus Warranty debuted alongside the Vertex 460 shortly after the acquisition by Toshiba. Its big advantage is cross-shipping, which minimizes downtime. OCZ will send you a replacement and return shipping label, so you aren't out of pocket on getting the damaged drive returned.