Let's start with the elephant in the room. There's a percentage of OCZ Vertex 3/Agility 3 customers that have a recurring stuttering/instability issue. The problem primarily manifests itself as regular BSODs under Windows 7 although OCZ tells me that the issue is cross platform and has been seen on a MacBook Pro running OS X as well.

How many customers are affected? OCZ claims it's less than two thirds of a percent of all Vertex 3/Agility 3 drives sold. OCZ came up with this figure by looking at the total number of tech support enquiries as well as forum posts about the problem and dividing that number by the total number of drives sold through to customers. I tend to believe OCZ's data here given that I've tested eight SF-2281 drives and haven't been able to duplicate the issue on a single drive/configuration thus far.

Most of the drives were from OCZ and I've tested them all on four separate platforms - three Windows 7 and one OS X. The latter is my personal system where I have since deployed a 240GB Vertex 3 in place of Intel's SSD 510 for long term evaluation. If you're curious, the 3 months I had the 510 in the MacBook Pro were mostly problem-free. It's always tough narrowing down the cause of system-wide crashes so it's hard to say whether or not the 510 was responsible for any of the hard-resets I had to do on the MacBook Pro while it was deployed. For the most part the 510 worked well in my system although I do know that there have been reports of issues from other MBP owners.

But I digress, there's a BSOD issue with SF-2281 drives and I haven't been able to duplicate it. OCZ has apparently had a very difficult time tracking down the issue as well. OCZ does a lot of its diagnostic work using a SATA bus analyzer, a device that lets you inspect what's actually going over the SATA bus itself rather than relying on cryptic messages that your OS gives you about errors. Apparently sticking a SATA bus analyzer in the chain between the host controller and SSD alone was enough to make the BSOD problem go away, which made diagnosing the source of the BSOD issue a pain.

OCZ eventually noticed odd behavior involving a particular SATA command. Slowing down timings associated with that command seems to have resolved the problem although it's tough to be completely sure as the issue is apparently very hard to track down.

OCZ's testing also revealed that the problem seems to follow the platform, not the drive itself. If you have a problem, it doesn't matter how many Vertex 3s you go through - you'll likely always have the problem. Note that this doesn't mean your motherboard/SATA controller is at fault, it just means that the interaction between your particular platform and the SF-2281 controller/firmware setup causes this issue. It's likely that either the platform or SSD is operating slightly out of spec or both are operating at opposite ends of the spec, but still technically within it. There's obviously chip to chip variance on both sides and with the right combination you could end up with some unexpected behaviors.

OCZ and SandForce put out a stopgap fix for the problem. For OCZ drives this is firmware revision 2.09 (other vendors haven't released the fix yet as far as I can tell). The firmware update simply slows down the timing of the SATA command OCZ and SF believe to be the cause of these BSOD issues.

In practice the update seems to work. Browsing through OCZ's technical support forums I don't see any indications of users who had the BSOD issue seeing it continue post-update. It is worth mentioning however that the problem isn't definitely solved since the true cause is still unknown, it just seems to be addressed given what we know today.

Obviously slowing down the rate of a particular command can impact performance. In practice the impact seems to be minimal, although a small portion of users are reporting huge drops in performance post-update. OCZ mentions that you shouldn't update your drive unless you're impacted by this problem, advice I definitely agree with.

What does this mean? Well, most users are still unaffected by the problem if OCZ's statistics are to be believed. I also don't have reason to believe this is exclusive to OCZ's SF-2281 designs so all SandForce drives could be affected once they start shipping (note that this issue is separate from the Corsair SF-2281 recall that happened earlier this month). If you want the best balance of performance and predictable operation, Intel's SSD 510 is still the right choice from my perspective. If you want the absolute fastest and are willing to deal with the small chance that you could also fall victim to this issue, the SF-2281 drives continue to be very attractive. I've deployed a Vertex 3 in my personal system for long term testing to see what living with one of these drives is like and so far the experience has been good.

With that out of the way, let's get to the next wave of SF-2281 based SSDs: the OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS and the Patriot Wildfire.

The Vertex 3 MAX IOPS Drive

In our first review of the final, shipping Vertex 3, OCZ committed to full disclosure in detailing the NAND configuration of its SSDs to avoid any confusion in the marketplace. Existing Vertex 3 drives use Intel 25nm MLC NAND, as seen below:


A 240GB Vertex 3 using 25nm Intel NAND

 

Not wanting to be completely married to Intel NAND production, OCZ wanted to introduce a version of the Vertex 3 that used 32nm Toshiba Toggle NAND - similar to what was used in the beta Vertex 3 Pro we previewed a few months ago. Rather than call the new drive a Vertex 3 with a slightly different model number, OCZ opted for a more pronounced suffix: MAX IOPS.

Like the regular Vertex 3, the Vertex 3 MAX IOPS drive is available in 120GB and 240GB configurations. These drives have 128GB and 256GB of NAND, respectively, with just under 13% of the NAND set aside for use as a combination of redundant and spare area.


OCZ Vertex 3 MI 120GB

The largest NAND die you could ship at 32/34nm was 4GB - the move to 25nm brought us 8GB die. What this means is that for a given capacity, the MAX IOPS edition will have twice as many MLC NAND die under the hood. The table below explains it all:

OCZ SF-2281 NAND Configuration
  Number of NAND Channels Number of NAND Packages Number of NAND die per Package Total Number of NAND die Number of NAND per Channel
OCZ Vertex 3 120GB 8 16 1 16 2
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB 8 16 2 32 4
OCZ Vertex 3 MI 120GB 8 8 4 32 4
OCZ Vertex 3 MI 240GB 8 16 4 64 8

The standard 240GB Vertex 3 has 32 die spread across 16 chips. The MAX IOPS version doubles that to 64 die in 16 chips. The 120GB Vertex 3 only has 16 die across 16 chips while the MAX IOPS version has 32 die, but only using 8 chips. The SF-2281 is an 8-channel controller so with 32 die you get a 4-way interleave and 8-way with the 64 die version. There are obviously diminishing returns to how well you can interleave requests to hide command latencies - 4 die per channel seems to be the ideal target for the SF-2281.


OCZ Vertex 3 MI 240GB

Patriot's Wildfire
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  • lyeoh - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    Because the main reasons why so very many SSD drives fail does not appear to be due to the "nm" of the NANDs.

    As far as I know, the larger "nm" SSDs also have been failing a lot.
    Reply
  • Movieman420 - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    Can't wait until you guys get your hands on the hard to find/unavailable 240gb MaxIOP drive. It will obviously be the king once it hits the channel. Farther down the road, I dare say that the MaxIOP will be bested. How? you ask? The answer...the soon to be available Samsung 27nm DDR toggle nand said to out run the 32nm SDR toggle by 40-60 percent as well as match the durability (p/e cycles) of 34nm nand! Now the big question is...Does the SF2281 have enuff uuumph left to utilize the much faster DDR nand? I'm hoping that the lower cost of the 27nm process nand will offset the 'fastest nand' price premium that will surely be levied. Also, the new 27nm DDR will be available in both 32Gb and 64Gb dies which will allow there to be a higher performance 60GB SF2281 drive...atm the only Ocz 60gb SF2281s are the Agility 3 and Solid 3 which are almost beaten by the Vertex 2 34nm equivalent...that's why they didn't earn the Vertex 3 name tag. A higher performing small drive is just the thing that raid fanatics like me like to use. You can have a fast array without spending $300-$500 per drive for real sata III performance. This is why a 60gb Vertex 3 drive would sell like wild fire. Don't get me wrong, my current 4 x 34nm Vertex 2 60gb array is plenty fast but don't have near the compressed write resilience (aka less nand throttling) of the SF2281 drives. I look forward to spending ~$300 for 2 V3 60's that will totally blow away a single $300 120gb/$500 240gb V3. Reply
  • L. - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    I don't quite get what you are trying to say.

    But basically, DDR = RAID0 2 elements .
    So between 8 dies on an 8 channel controller and 8 ddr dies on a 4 channel controller you should see absolutely no difference.

    Now considering current controllers have 8+ channels and the smallest ddr at the expected time of implementation is a dual die 32gb nand chip .. that's 240GB and abbove.

    This is not the world of RAM where you can just stick more chips in parallel (ddr5...), then dual channel controller over that etc.

    Of course the same ideas are always applicable, but for those samsung ddr chips to be worth anything you'd need to go to 480GB+ and no they're not faster than anything they're just ddr, and that difference matters a lot.

    You will not find two 60GB drives that are better in raid0 than a single 120GB drive, because said 120GB drive is basically those two drives in raid0, with one less controller and the raid on the sandforce controller, better algorithm usage etc.

    Again, number of channels, nand packages, etc.

    Unless somebody starts making 32 GB DDR5 NAND dies I don't expect much change in there ;)
    Reply
  • Gittun - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    You do realize the 240GB max iops edition is already in the graphs? Reply
  • The_True - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    Well!!

    i wont say anything bad about anand, but i think anad is putting his hand on fire for OCZ SSD.

    i used to like OCZ, but i get tired of RMA and windows Reinstall every other week.

    i dont care about 20 or 30 MB/S faster, i care about relaibility, not benchmark the driver every hour to make me feel good.

    OCZ driver are not reliable, if you use your computer for work, go Intel is the only SSD out there that is reliable for business.

    MAX IOPS?? i called it MAX windows re install!!

    after getting two intel 510 250Gb, i been running windows without problems for two months, now i can work without worry.
    Reply
  • velis - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    I'd hardly call "I have 8 of these and haven't seen the problem so I tend to believe OCZ" putting one's hand into fire. He's just stating his observations.

    And just so you know:
    I started out with OCZ Core 120GB SSD (1st gen crap). Had to replace two of them before support finally figured out that my usage patterns burn out *every* Core SSD in about two months. And I most certainly don't blame OCZ - it was me who was uneducated and bought the wrong disk back then.
    So they gave me a Vertex 1 120GB (Indilinx) as a replacement. Been happy with it ever since (sept. 1009).
    Additionally I bought 3 Intel X25 80GB G2s. Each and every one of them has given me pain. Not lots of it, but it has. Every once in a while I get a corrupt sector or two, checkdisk runs on it and then I'm fine for the next few weeks. My main computer now needs reinstall because these once-in-a-while events brought the disk (in one year time) into such a state that I had to disable monitor sleep because otherwise the computer won't wake up after it any more. Not to mention other various BSODs and stuff. Luckily I keep my important data on spinning disks and back up to 3 different destinations. Any yes, I know I'm lazy :P

    On the other hand, the Vertex never gave me any reason not to like it. In fact - I use it in my work computer and brag about it to all the rest of the company I work for. Luckily for me my bosses don't want to invest into SSDs yet so currently I have the fastest "server" around :D

    So, as far as I'm concerned, it's intel who is unreliable, not OCZ...
    Reply
  • Jaybus - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    Why would you say that about the hand in the fire? On almost every one of these reviews, he says something like the following quote from this article.</p><p>
    "I still believe the Intel SSD 510 is a great balance of performance and reliability. If you want something with an even lower failure rate, there's always the Intel SSD 320 "
    Reply
  • Minion4Hire - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    I've had a very similar experience to Anand's. Between my own and my immediate family's computer's I am running 2 Intel drives (G2 and 320), 3 OCZ (Agility, Vertex, Agility 2) and Corsair (Force) and have not had the slightest issues with any of them. Of the various computers I have built for other people I have only recently seen a single SSD die, which was an Indilinx Agility from 1.5 years ago. Replaced it with a Vertex 2.

    People are going to have issues but I, like Anand, don't bother trying to optimize or tweak anything. AHCI enabled, all other drive, BIOS, and OS settings are on their defaults. Everything I've used has worked flawlessly. I'm not saying some people haven't had problems, but is this anger really any different than any other brand rage?

    Sandforce is arguably the most popular controller manufacturer atm. Frankly, one of very few options. Obviously some people are going to have problems. And those people are going to be able to find other people who ALSO have those problems. It doesn't mean everyone is having them.....
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    Anand is carring water for OCZ.

    A mystery fat envelop of cash showed up in someones mail box?

    So OCZ claims they have a ~1% failure rate, and you just belive them? what manufacture wont lie about that?

    P.S. your sample size of 1 or 2, is not good enough to make any claims as to the quality of the product.
    Reply
  • The_True - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    have you notice that in Anandtech are more Review about OCZ than any other site on the net?

    lol.... "A mystery fat envelop of cash showed up in someones mail box?
    " hahahahah...lol

    i mean what is going on Anand??
    Reply

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