We're really at an odd time right now for testing and publishing 'reviews' of the new SandForce SF-2000 products. The OCZ Vertex 3 we tested a few weeks back was early hardware (OCZ has stated that our sample drive can't be flashed with production firmware that is now shipping on the retail drives) and pre-production firmware. The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G that we tested today shipped with the full retail packaging, but had an engineering sample feel since it was missing a trace on the PCB and was filled in with a wire. The OWC also arrived with RC-1 firmware. History repeats itself since we also ran into the same issues with the SF-1200 / 1500 launch last year. OWC told us that everything is good to go, the new PCBs are headed their way and MP (mass production) firmware is going through testing now, so the performance we saw today will be that of the retail product that ships as early as next week.
This actually works out very well since we started to become worried after running additional tests on the prerelease Vertex 3 and found the TRIM / GC issues after that review went live. It now looks like SandForce and their partners have fixed the issues we found, and that makes nearly all of our Vertex 3 240GB tests invalid for comparison to existing products on the market. When looking at the big picture of things, that makes the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G our first retail or very close to retail SF-2200 product we've reviewed.
After last year's SF-1200 launch this really doesn't surprise us since OWC managed to get their products in our hands before many of the other partners could. OWC has once again proven that they have the capability to crank out products just as fast as OCZ and faster than many companies that have established themselves as large players in the SSD market. OWC is the real deal, a true power player when it comes to the SSD market.
When it comes to the performance of the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, we found that the drive performed very well at this stage. Performance can only improve as the firmware is refined, but since the drive is already the fastest single SSD we've tested we are happy with the results now. Moving from a platter drive to any SSD is a significant increase in performance and user experience, but moving from an older SSD to an OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G is just as much of a boost in user experience.
Many people on forums have expressed doubts about how much could possibly be gained from these next generation SATA 6 drives, but I'm running the new Mercury Extreme on a desktop now and 'feel' the difference between a Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB drive and the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G. The SF-2200 controlled Pro 6G is amazing at this point, even with the drive filled around 40% of capacity. If you are an enthusiast, look no further, your largest expectation will be exceeded instantly.
Of course, not everything is all rainbows and butterflies here, though. OWC is only offering a 3 year warranty with the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G. We'd really like to see this raised to around 5 years, the mark in which several other companies are now offering. In the past this really wasn't an issue since not many enthusiasts would keep a drive on their main system for three to five years, but the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G offers performance that will allow you to do so without regret. The OWC retail package also is void of a desktop adapter bracket, an accessory other companies are offering with their SSD products. I just installed four SSDs in a RAID array a few days ago and had a pile of desktop adapter brackets at my disposal - very few have this luxury and I would have to spend a few dollars if I was in that category. Worse yet, I would have to wait for them to arrive. No one likes waiting, so be sure to order a bracket if you plan on using your new SSD in a desktop.
The final hurdle is the price. Last year OWC was very competitive on pricing their SF-1200 products and kept up with pricing trends. The current trend is around 300 to 320 USD for a 120GB SF-2200 drive. With only two products available in the e-tail sphere, the OCZ Vertex 3 and the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, both companies can easily justify and charge what they want at this time. When more Team SandForce products are introduced we will see some variations and be able to get a better picture of where OWC will fall in the overall value category. At this time even the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G and Vertex 3 are limited in supply with demand far outpacing what is available. Expect to pay a bit of a premium for at least the next 30 days.