Final Words

From a technological standpoint, the Vector 180 is the most interesting Barefoot 3 based SSD that we have seen in a while. With partial power loss protection (PFM+) and a new 960GB capacity, it's able to bring something new to the now two and a half year old Barefoot 3 platform and most importantly it offers some long desired differentiation to OCZ's client SSD lineup.

I'm not sure what to think about PFM+ because drive bricking due to sudden power losses is fortunately quite rare, and if it was a critical issue then all client-grade SSDs should incorporate some level of physical power loss protection -- not just the high-end drives. In my mind it mainly offers an extra layer of protection and peace of mind, but OCZ would have had to go with full power loss protection in order to add real value to the end-user (although in that case OCZ would have jeopardized its own enterprise SSD sales). I think PFM+ is a nice addition and at least brings something slightly new to the market, but I wouldn't consider it to be a deal breaker because any user that really needs power loss protection will still have to look for enterprise drives.

One point I want to bring up is the performance consistency at different capacities. It really looks like the Barefoot 3 was designed ideally for 240/256GB as going above that will result in some issues with performance consistency. It's normal that companies have an optimal capacity in mind when designing a controller because optimizing for higher capacities will always require more processing power due to the additional metadata handling, which in turn results in higher cost. Back in 2012 when the Barefoot 3 was launched the price per GB was nearly double of what it is today, so it made sense to focus on 120GB and 240GB capacities since 480GB and higher were a small niche due to the high price. Fortunately the IO consistency issues didn't translate to our Storage Benches, but still there are better optimized high capacity SSDs available that don't have any consistency issues. 

It's also too bad that the Barefoot 3 lacks support for slumber power states because its active power consumption is simply the best we have tested so far (excluding the 960GB model) and the difference in favor of the Vector 180 is in fact quite substantial. The Vector 180 would be a killer for mobile use if it had proper slumber power management, but since the idle power consumption is ~700mW at its best whereas other drives are able to achieve 20mW, I just can't recommend the Vector 180 or any Barefoot 3 SSD for a laptop/tablet. OCZ's next generation controller, the JetExpress, will support DevSleep and slumber power states and I certainly hope it will share Barefoot 3's excellent active power consumption behavior. 

Amazon Price Comparison (3/24/2015)
  120/128GB 240/250/256GB 480/500/512GB 960GB/1TB
OCZ Vector 180 (MSRP) $90 $150 $275 $500
OCZ Vertex 460A $65 $106 $200 -
OCZ ARC 100 $60 $85 $157 -
Corsair Neutron XT - $170 $260 $540
Crucial MX100 $72 $110 $209 -
Intel SSD 730 - $144 $240 -
Samsung SSD 850 EVO $70 $117 $210 $370
Samsung SSD 850 Pro $100 $155 $290 $500
SanDisk Extreme Pro - $146 $285 $475
Transcend SSD370 $58 $90 $175 $360

Since the Vector 180 is OCZ's flagship, it's also priced accordingly. The MSRPs are very close to what the 850 Pro and Extreme Pro currently retail for and it's clear that OCZ is considering the two as direct competitors to the Vector 180. The problem, however, is that the 850 Pro is better as it's faster, more durable and has longer warranty and better hardware encryption support (Opal & eDrive), so the only area where the Vector 180 can compete is the price, which isn't happening with the MSRPs (of course, actual street pricing may end up being different). 

All in all, despite PFM+ and a 960GB capacity, the Vector 180 is ultimately the same Barefoot 3 that we have seen numerous times already, and it's a natural transition to more cost effective Toshiba's A19nm NAND. The performance is good and roughly on par with the Extreme Pro, but it's not high enough for the Vector 180 to truly have an advantage over other high-end drives. To be frank, there's no arguing about the fact that the 850 Pro is a clear leader when it comes to SATA 6Gbps performance. On the other hand, given that client PCIe SSDs are only a quarter or two away, I think anyone who is considering a high-end SSD should hold off their purchase for now. There is no point in upgrading from a SATA SSD to another SATA SSD at this point because the performance benefit will be marginal compared to what PCIe will bring to the table, so you will simply get far more value for your money if you wait a bit. That's also where OCZ's focus is right now and the JetExpress definitely looks promising. 

Idle Power Consumption & TRIM Validation
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  • zodiacsoulmate - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    PFM is so much needed for ocz drives... almost all my dead vector drives are because of sudden power loss...
  • ocztosh - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    As this is my first post on this article please allow me to identify myself as an OCZ representative.

    Hi Zodiacsoulmate thank you for your comment. We do feel like PFM+ helps add more protection for power users and ultimately it was our goal with this drive to create a product that delivered both high performance and enhanced reliability by leveraging some of the features from our enterprise drives.

    Thank you for your business and we are sorry that you have had issues with any of our drives in the past and in regards to the very first Vector drives we have released a firmware update that addresses sudden power loss issues. If you currently are experiencing any issues please do not hesitate to contact our support team and we will be happy to support you.

    Over the last two years we have made significant upgrades in our products and processes to impact quality and continue to make investments in this area. All of our drives leverage premium Toshiba NAND and that complete access to next generation flash is enabling us to develop some very exciting new solutions that are both focused on enhancing performance and driving down cost.
  • zodiacsoulmate - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    wow cool man, yea quite some vectors died but the 5 year warranty got them all replace, one 256gb died so many times that OCZ replaced it with a vector150 which is running strong since then...
  • ocztosh - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    Hi Zodiacsoultmate. Thanks very much for the feedback and glad to hear that your Vector 150 has been running great. Again sorry that you had issues with the original Vector and thank you very much for your business. We have made significant changes and improvements to both products and processes and will continue to moving forward. Thanks for sticking with us.
  • Spoogie - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    Glad to see you're watching.

    I've had two failed OCZ drives, one DOA and the replacement 8 months later. The packaged replacement (unopened) was sold on eBay out of fear, at which point OCZ was sworn off.

    I believe in redemption, and I'll be watching the consumer feedback. Good luck.
  • ocztosh - Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - link

    Hi Spoogie. Thank you for your comments and your business. I am sorry to hear that you had issues in the past. I know it is easy to say but we are a completely different company/organization today as part of the Toshiba Group. We certainly realize we need to continue to work diligently to support our customers and appreciate the feedback and open dialogue.
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I had two expensive (at the time) Vertex 2 drives. One bricked after about two weeks. The RMA drive bricked immediately when updating the firmware. I have the replacement drive but I don't trust it enough to use it. The other drive I bought worked through several firmware updates (a few months) but bricked after I put my second Macbook Pro to sleep. I was busy with graduate school and a job and didn't have a chance to update my backup and part of the next day's final presentation for a course and also some important poetry. I had been lulled into a false sense of security because the drive had operated with no trouble for several months.

    When Anandtech wrote about how OCZ started selling Vertex 2 drives with half the NAND chips in them, without changing the specs, it didn't say anything about reduced reliability. However, from my experience and from what I've seen from comments on the Net (such as Amazon reviews), the failure rate for these drives was extremely high. Also, when OCZ offered a replacement option for those burned by the bait and switch hidden 32-bit NAND (full chip complement) to 64-bit NAND (half the chips) transition -- it never offered it for the 240 GB model. One of Anandtech's writers also said they didn't experience failures with their Vertex 2 drives but those were most likely all 32-bit NAND drives.

    OCZ never released a utility for dealing with bricked Sandforce drives due to their "panic mode" that would help users get some data recovered. Instead, their forum staff just said "RMA or send to DriveSavers". From what I gathered from my Google searches, the panic mode (which Anandtech's Vertex 2 reviews didn't mention as I recall) was designed to protect Sandforce's flaky firmware from reverse-engineering at the cost of making it extremely difficult (impossible for consumers without spending thousands for DriveSavers) to obtain their data. And, since these drives love to corrupt themselves at the drop of a hat (possibly due to deduplication of critical filesystem data), it's unlikely that most of the panicking is caused by serious problems with the drives like the actual failure of a NAND chip.

    So, it seems like I received a product that not only had a poorly-engineered anti-consumer controller but which also had half the NAND chips and thus the loss of performance, capacity, and apparently also stability. I think these Vertex drives were rated at 1 1/2 stars on Amazon or something similarly low. I also remember reading about a lot of problems with Vertex 3/Agility 3 drives so it seems that the continuing defectiveness of the OCZ/Sandforce combination moved forward past the Vertex 2 era and the first-generation controller.
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    "it's unlikely that most of the panicking is caused by serious problems with the drives like the actual failure of a NAND chip."

    Although there is also a rumor that part of the failure rate is due to OCZ using its own NAND which may not be as reliable as less generic NAND. Rumors abound but concrete information is hard to come by because the whole mess was brushed under the rug.
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I was also the lucky owner of an IBM 75GXP "Deathstar" hard disk so I have an almost supernatural knack for picking the worst possible drives for my data apparently. Like the Vertex 2, the Deathstar was hyped by reviews for being so wonderfully quick — until they started to blow up.
  • AssBall - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I had 2 Deathstars and both worked for 4 years. They probably still work. Guess I was lucky.

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