Conclusion: OCZ’s Sin
If OCZ committed one sin here, it was that it should have been more forthcoming right off the bat about the changes in already-shipping products, especially when those changes adversely affected capacity and performance in certain environments (no matter how obscure). Had the story been reverse, and we were reporting on getting more space and speed in an existing product, I have to imagine the company would have eagerly broken that news on its own accord. If you take something away from your customer—anything—either be vocal about it or change the product’s name entirely to prevent a molehill from becoming a Miata.
The capacity issue is more than just a bummer. When you splurge on a 120 GB SSD or pinch pennies for 60 GB, every available gigabyte matters a lot (especially when you’re talking about a drive hosting Windows 7). Lower prices on these 25 nm flash-based drives mean you’re actually paying less per GB than the 34 nm versions. However, OCZ should really consider citing IDEMA (International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association) for its SSDs armed with E-series firmware, like it does for its non-E drives.
Incidentally, I don’t think I’m the first one to suggest that to OCZ. The company insists that resellers are the reason for its current naming conundrum—and the explanation make sense to me. There are already a dizzying number of SKUs representing SandForce-based drives from the organization’s various partners. While it seems ideal to revamp, reflecting the new 115 GB and 55 GB capacities, adding model suffixes to indicate different generations of flash, nobody really wants to address the potential confusion added on that end, either.
As a result, my suggestion doesn’t sound like it makes sense for OCZ. Instead, we’ll have to see how Corsair makes do. The company recently announced that it’d name its upcoming 25 nm-based SSDs according to IDEMA capacity, so a previously-120 GB SKU will become a 115 GB model. And a –A suffix will denote 25 nm NAND. If Corsair has luck pushing those new drives onto sites like Newegg, perhaps OCZ will be compelled to follow suit.
Resellers: realize that it’s better to give your customers what they expect than trying to push what sound like nice, juicy capacity points they won’t actually get (like 120 and 60 GB, for example).
I’m a little less alarmed with the performance situation than the loss of usable capacity. There’s nothing OCZ can do about the capacity—those 4 GB or so are gone. But now that this whole issue is blown open and (in theory) understood, OCZ can hunker down and address it. In desktop-class workloads, the 25 nm drives trade blows with the older drives. Really hammering the new SSDs with small 4 KB reads and writes is where they seem to choke up—and we think we know exactly why. OCZ has new firmware in the works, and we’re guessing ECC-based optimizations will slowly help draw down the load being applied to the controller. Until then, there remain several targeted ways to demonstrate performance getting hit, and we hope OCZ (and every other vendor that follows OCZ pairing SandForce controllers and 25 nm flash) can bring the speed of its new drives up to match the old ones in every discipline.
While we weren’t originally fans of OCZ’s decision to offer customers 32 Gb-based drives for the price difference separating 32 Gb and cheaper 64 Gb NAND, it has since revisited that offer and will now do the trade at no cost. Folks who bought the 25 nm-based drives in January for the higher price of 32 Gb flash can now get the capacity and performance they were expecting. You can create a ticket on OCZ’s site if you’re interested.
OCZ made what many (myself included) consider a mistake, got called out, and is now trying to make things right. Kudos to the team there for adjusting their approach to satisfy the company’s customers. And thanks to the Tom’s Hardware community for letting me know how important it was to see this covered. We’re here to serve you, after all.