Specifications, Pricing and Availability
The OCZ Vertex LE is rated at 270MB/s read and 250MB/s write. This is the claim that OCZ make in their original release, but I have a feeling firmware updates may have moved that number up a bit. The claimed performance is slower than the Vertex 2's 285MB/s read, 275MB/s write speeds. Looking deeper at the spec sheet we see that the Vertex LE packs the 50K Max 4K IOPS firmware, a feature the LE shares with the Vertex 2 and an increasing number of SSDs that were launched after Computex.
We have been told that the OCZ Vertex LE blurs the lines between the SF-1200 consumer controller and the SF-1500 controller. At this point we are convinced that the physical controller is the same for the SF-1200 and SF-1500. To be technically accurate SandForce advertises two SF-1200s and four SF-1500 controllers by order number, none of which are advertised as hybrid consumer with enterprise features or enterprise hacked to consumer controllers.
SandForce is still a young company and at times I draw parallels with SandForce and a puppy. They are both cute and cuddly but as soon as you leave the room they are going to relieve themselves on the floor and chew of stuff that they shouldn't. The Vertex LE was one of the first retail drives to hit the market and either the business model wasn't completely established at the time or the controllers in them are something that SandForce wanted scrap for not living up to enterprise standards but OCZ found useful for the consumer market. Things are not as bad as they may sound when you look at the big picture. When SandForce started beating the big marketing drums a couple of years ago all of the frequencies were directed at the enterprise market and client drives were a bit of an afterthought. It is quite possible that this batch of 5000 or so controllers opened the door for client products and SandForce recognized that this could be a profitable area to get into while finalizing the enterprise products. There is a bit of speculation there but the logic could lead some to believe something like that could be semi accurate.
Many editors including myself have been using 'firmware' as a catch all for both firmware and programming and it has caused a bit of confusion. The high 4K IOPS feature is a programming feature and not something that will be turned on and off with firmware, the same is true for the standard and extended capacity. This is now apparent since the OCZ Agility 2, Vertex 2 and Vertex LE all share the same firmware updates from OCZ, each uses the same download link and installer file.
To clear up other inaccuracies the OCZ Vertex and OCZ Vertex LE are not part of the same family of controllers. The original Vertex line used controllers from Indilinx and the Vertex LE is a SandForce controller. A more accurate product name would have been Vertex 2 LE but once again the LE was an early SandForce product and our mid week quarterback skills are much better than when on the field with a linebacker blitzing on the outside. The SSD market moves fast and at times that is the kind of pressure marketing departments feel to meet deadlines and product launches.
Since we have yet to see a final official SF-1500 enterprise drive in house we are still caught up in the guessing game. We do know that many of the drives that will be advertised as SF-1500 will ship with the Super Capacitor, a feature that will most likely remain in the enterprise class drives due to cost. That stated, calling the OCZ Vertex LE an enterprise drive is not exactly spot on. Also, SandForce in their potty training stages has evoked strong NDAs with partners that make getting a check list of what is and isn't enabled impossible. One thing is clear, the SandForce controller, if a single chip for the entire range is very versatile and has many features that can be enabled and disabled in programming. A couple of years ago I was in a meeting with Transilica, the company that designed the CPU for the SandForce controller(s). Transilica's specialty is robust programmable system-on-chip design and what we are seeing with this controller is in line with some of the things I saw in our meeting where features could be programmed in rapidly if a product required changes. With that in mind, the final check list of features for this controller line many not even be complete as new features are being planned even now.
In the introduction I mentioned that the last batch of OCZ Vertex LE drives are not like the previous LE drives on the market. The My Digital Discount stock of OCZ Vertex LEs will ship to consumers with the latest 1.10 firmware that fixes nearly all issues found in the previous batches of drives. It has been stated in various forums that the first thing you need to do to ensure a smooth running Vertex LE is to flash the drive to the latest firmware and to do it prior to putting anything on the drive. I spent a few hours on the OCZ forums last night and this fact is pretty much considered gospel over there. The My Digital Discount Stock was delivered with FW 1.10 so your drive will be free and clear of a majority of issues that have been reported in many places.
At the time of writing there are two known issues that are yet to be resolved. The first is not a Vertex LE issue and is known to happen with other SandForce drives as well. When a system wakes up from hibernation a blue screen can occur. Not all users are reporting the issue and we were not able to replicate it on our sample Vertex LE 240GB drive in testing. That leads me to believe that a combination of software settings and possibly a combination of hardware is the cause. If there were a public log of issues then this one would be on it. If you are affected then take hibernation out of your power scheme. I would say this may less than 10% of users from what I read while researching the drive.
The second issue that I found in my research comes from Microsoft's AHCI drive for Intel platforms. This really shouldn't be an issue at since Intel's Rapid Storage Technology Drivers released March 19th 2010 are faster than the Microsoft AHCI drivers and do in fact support the TRIM command (even though some report otherwise). This is a data corrupting issue so use the Intel RST drivers in either AHCI or RAID mode. You can use the RAID mode even if none of your drives are in RAID, this is called nonmember RAID. TRIM will be passed along as long as you are not pairing two or more SSDs together. Microsoft has been made aware of the issue and it will most likely be dealt with in a hotfix for those who do not know any better. You now have the inside scoop on that one so use the Intel RST drivers if you have an Intel chipset. AMD chipsets are not affected even when using the Microsoft AHCI driver. If you have a new AMD chipset motherboard be on the lookout for an article in the coming weeks that will show you how to get the most out of your SSD on these new chipsets.
Up until now the lowest price we have seen for a 100 or 120GB SandForce controlled drive has been the My Digital Discount Vertex 2 sale which put the 120GB drive at 319.99 after a mail in rebate. That was a smoking hot price but one that is has now been obliterated. My Digital Discount has just announced the 120GB OCZ Vertex LE for 289.99 USD after a 30 Dollar Mail in Rebate. The 60GB and 240GB Vertex LE drives will also get price slashes that put them at levels unseen before. My Digital Discount has the 60GB priced at 149.99 after a 20 Dollar rebate and the 240GB LE at 549.99 after a 30 Dollar rebate. I think for most enthusiasts the 120GB capacity will be the hot item and with pricing less than 300 USD will sell out quickly.
Normally we are not worried too about availability as long as stock is available since more is usually on the way. This time things are different and availability is truly limited to a static number that will not change. My Digital Discount has 150 60GB, 150 120GB and 250 240GB drives on hand. These are the final run and stock will not be replenished. TweakTown gets around 1 million readers a month in the US and an additional 1 million worldwide non-US readers per month. My Digital Discount does ship globally so there is a chance that by the time you finish this article the most popular model may be sold out. I do hope you come back to finish looking at the benchmarks though. Here is the link to the My Digital Discount page for the OCZ Vertex LE with special pricing.