Specifications, Pricing and Availability
We have covered the SandForce controllers a few times already and at this time believe the SF-1200 offers superior performance when compared to the current Marvell SATA 6G, Indilinx Barefoot and Intel controlled SSDs. Things may be about to change, however, since we've been told Crucial is releasing a new firmware this Tuesday, but as it sits right now the SandForce controller paired with Intel's latest RST 9.6 drivers offer best in-class performance in real world applications. There are a few small footnotes in that statement like a reduction in performance when dealing with compressed data, but for the most part SandForce SSDs are the ultimate in boot drive performance. When it comes to the OWC Mercury, there are three areas that stand out when compared to other drives already on the market. These are availability, price and warranty.
At CES we were given the opportunity to preview the RunCore Pro V SSD with a SandForce SF-1500 controller and were fed a line about it being production ready. Later we learned that was not the case and just yesterday we learned that the Pro V will not use the 1500 controller at all. After that came A-DATA's S599, a SF-1200 product with an MSRP of 380 USD and once again fed a line about availability coming within a week. What sets OWC apart from these companies is that they have products ready, packaged and shipping to customers today. All you have to do is hit their website, place your order and wait for USP to drop it off.
Just as impressive as having the products ready to ship is the price. Corsair wanted to tippy toe around the price issue and leave it up to the retailer to decide how much of a markup they could take. While they do have a small number of e-tail shops carrying the Force Series, we are seeing prices that linger around the 430 USD mark for the 100GB drive. The OWC Mercury 100GB drive is available today at Macsales.com, OWC's web store for 399.99 USD. Macsales.com also lists the OWC Mercury 50GB drive for 219.99 and the massive 200GB version for 729.99. When it comes to cost verses capacity, the 200GB model is the best bang for the buck, but many users will not need a full 200GB for their operating system boot drive.
If you have been around the computer industry long enough, you'd know that warranty lengths raise and fall like an accordion every few years. When one large drive manufacturer announces a longer warranty in an attempt to show a higher customer service value, others follow. Over time the long warranties get reduced little by little when new SKUs are launched, until getting back to typical one, two or three year coverage plans. At this time we are in a short warranty period where many companies are offering two to three year warranties, but OWC has given the Mercury SSDs a full five year warranty. For comparison I took a quick look around the web and found that Corsair is offering a two year warranty with their Force Series and OCZ has offered a three year warranty on their latest SSDs.