With one of the largest introduction images I have posted in an article to date comes one of the biggest pricing reductions for the SSD market ever. Just a few days ago we told you that MyDigitalDiscount.com was selling the OCZ Vertex 2 100GB for 379.00 USD, a full 30 Dollars less than Newegg for this class leading next generation SandForce drive. Today OCZ is releasing their new updated 120GB Vertex 2, the Vertex 2 E (for Extended). At the same time, MyDigitalDiscount.com is offering breakthrough pricing on the new extended models, pricing them even lower than the original Vertex 2 drives for a limited time.
We worked with My Digital Discount and OCZ Technology to bring you the first review of the OCZ Vertex 2 E 120GB SandForce SSD. Over the last couple of days press releases have been hitting the tech news wire detailing the new extended capacity drives that are now being offered. Physically the drives are not changing as the same amount of flash on each drive will remain the same. The only real changes between a 100 and 120GB drive is the amount of flash kept in reserve, now 13% instead of 28%. Most other controllers up till now have used between 7 and 10% spare area, so the SandForce SF-1200 in extended capacity trim is still on the high side.
Before you get too excited, all is not tulips and rose petals just yet. SandForce designed one enterprise controller and later reduced functionality to get the consumer controller. As you can imagine, a lot of testing went into the enterprise model and at some point the 28% number tipped up. It is common place to see enterprise SSDs with a very large amount of spare area; just look at the Intel X25-E if you want a solid example. The new extended capacity SandForce drives will have a reduced lifespan; that is what the spare area is for. But how long are you really going to keep a hard drive around for? Would a reduction of 15 years to 10 years service life be acceptable? We don't have the data to give you a real number or length of time except that your cushion drops 15%. Still, that 15% is coming from an enterprise part that is designed to run for a lot longer than you or I would ever run a desktop part.
The next area of concern is drive performance since the spare area is used to improve write speeds. It's not like you just have a 13 or 28% area that does nothing until something else breaks. SandForce drives are dynamic and use all free space as spare area, kind of like having a bunch of NAND cache to bounce data around to when the controller sees fit. We are working on the next State of Solid State article now and will try some new testing procedures at that time on how volume fill affects performance.