Quite simply the Vertex 3 is the SSD that all others will be measured by
Stunning read/write performance
Almost 2x speed of previous gen
Close to the limits of SATA 6Gbps
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Memory controllers are the super-model components of the SSD world, and OCZ is dropping the fastest consumer SandForce SATA 6Gbps controller on the planet with this the OCZ Vertex 3 240GB.
SSDs are now so numerous, it's hard to believe that the desktop digital drive in its current NAND-based state hasn't been around that long. That said the enterprise sector has had the pleasure of using SSDs in various guises for a lot longer and solid state storage technology itself has been around longer than you might imagine.
You can actually trace its lineage back to the 1950s.
The first of what most people would recognise as a modern SSD appeared in 1978 when StorageTek brought out its drive. With a capacity of just 90MB it cost a staggering $8,800 per MB which limited its use to industrial, military, medical and commercial applications.
But what transformed the SSD into the desktop drive we know today began life in the 1970's when Fujio Masuoka started to develop NAND flash architecture at Toshiba, the company patenting the technology in 1980 and the concept of NAND flash memory has been evolving ever since.
First came SLC (Single Level Cell) and then more recently MLC (Multi Level Cell). So what's the difference, you may ask.
Well it's all down to how the NAND flash cell stores the data and how data is read from it. A single cell can either store one bit of data (SLC) or two bits of data (MLC) which gives MLC greater storage density.
MLC-based drives may be the kings of the desktop but in the world of the enterprise drive, SLC still rules the roost due to its faster performance and perhaps more importantly in this market sector, its much better reliability.
A standard 34nm MLC drive has a cycle endurance of around 5,000 Write/Erase cycles while for SLC this figure jumps to around 100,000, and for Enterprise NAND it is higher still.
Intel being Intel was lurking in the background, watching the market and technology develop and then preceded to shake everybody up by launching the X25-M. Unleashing 50nm NAND technology in mid-2008 on an unsuspecting world the desktop SSD landscape was changed forever.
The X25-M offering very good performance but with a reasonable price tag, the M in the name was for mainstream, and the next version using 34nm NAND offered better performance still while lowering the purchase cost further.
Intel's aim then, as it is now, to drive down the cost of SSD drives and a gauge of just how successful that aim has been is that the X25-M is one of, if not, the best-selling SSDs in the world.
But while concentrating on the mainstream Intel left a gap in the high end of the market, step forward SandForce and its first generation of controllers whose performance was quite frankly a revelation and it's something Intel has yet to fully get to grips with.
A host of SSD manufacturers jumped on the controller, including SSD pioneers OCZ, making it an important part of the top-end drives.
Now SandForce has brought its 2nd generation controller to the table in the shape of the SF-2000 family, bringing with it the promise of even higher performance. Currently the roadmap shows seven controllers in the family at present; two for the enterprise segment, one for the industrial market and four for the market segment that most people are interested in, the desktop.
The OCZ Vertex 3 is our first taste of SandForce's new special source, so is it the technological leap forward we all hoped?