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  (Source: DailyTech/Brandon Hill)
OCZ launches another line of mainstream SSDs

Although Thursday is the "official" first day of CES, the DailyTech crew has been buzzing through the pre-show coverage to get the scoop on the latest products beforehand. This afternoon, we had a chance to get a behind the scenes look at new OCZ products that will be hitting the market within the coming weeks. The most intriguing finds were three new additions to the product category that everyone likes to talk about these days: solid state drives (SSDs). OCZ currently has a three-pronged approach to multi-level cell SSDs; this includes the Solid, Apex, and Vertex Series SSDs.

The Solid Series is the at the very bottom of the product family and offers read speeds of up to 155MB/sec and write speeds of up to 90MB/sec. At the very top is the Vertex Series which DailyTech recently talked about. These SSDs features up to 64MB of cache onboard and feature read speeds of up to 200MB/sec and write speeds of up to 160MB/sec.

There is now a third series in the middle, the Apex Series, which will replace the Core Series that brought OCZ into the mainstream SSD market. Apex Series SSDs will feature read speeds of up to 230MB/sec and write speeds of 160MB/sec. Although the Apex SSDs have a higher theoretical read speed than the range topping Vertex models, they lack the onboard cache which will hinder performance somewhat.

The SSDs will be available in 30GB, 60GB, 120GB, and 250GB flavors and have a MTBF of over 1.5 million hours.

Pricing is not yet available on the new Apex Series of SSDs, but should be available once OCZ officially announces the drives.

I also got a chance to talk with OCZ's Alex Mei a little about the infamous JMicron memory controller in relation to OCZ's SSDs. OCZ Core Series SSDs and every other manufacturer’s SSDs that use a JMicron controller have had some issues with stuttering during write operations. Mei assured me that while the new Solid and Apex Series SSDs continue to use JMicron memory controllers, they have been heavily optimized to minimize any write performance issues that may crop up during normal use.

In addition, the range-topping Vertex SSDs don't even use JMicron memory controllers, so performance should not be an issue. In fact, Mei says that the Vertex's memory controller can be used for both MLC and SLC NAND flash applications, so we may see new, high performance SLC-based SSDs from OCZ instead of the current rebranded Samsung SLC offerings.



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What to look for in an SSD
By UsernameX on 1/7/2009 9:12:51 PM , Rating: 3
There's a variety of SSD's out there. Some w/ cache some without, theoretical read speeds, different types of on board hardware, etc. What are some of the key features to pay attention to when selecting an SSD?

Thanks in advanced...




RE: What to look for in an SSD
By TheSpaniard on 1/7/2009 9:29:07 PM , Rating: 5
price


RE: What to look for in an SSD
By FireSnake on 1/8/2009 4:21:34 AM , Rating: 3
Just can't wait for these kind of drives a price to come down.


RE: What to look for in an SSD
By Chemical Chris on 1/7/2009 9:38:09 PM , Rating: 4
The JMicron controller.
However, you will rarely find this information in the published specs, and can be somewhat tricky to find.
Also, the issue that it causes is not readily detectable by common benchmarking methodologies, so a drive that may look super-speedy may suffer the same debilitating condition in real-world use.
Almost all of the current SSD's use this buggy chip, with the exception of (at least) the top-range OCZ model mentioned in the article, and the new Intel SSD's.
So, if in the market, find some that suit your price range, and use google to help you find out which, if any, do not posses the dreaded JMicron controller.
Or, just go straight to Intel or the top-range OCZ model mentioned.

ChemC


RE: What to look for in an SSD
By UsernameX on 1/7/2009 9:58:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
do not posses the dreaded JMicron controller


That's exactly what I was looking for.

Thanks!


By retrospooty on 1/8/2009 8:46:06 AM , Rating: 2
Yup... but like he said, its not listed in the specs, so dont get anything that was just realeased, wait until it gets out there and then use google to see if there are too many complaints.


RE: What to look for in an SSD
By MrPoletski on 1/9/2009 4:53:39 AM , Rating: 2
You can solve all the write stuttering issues by getting a controller with cache on it. I use an AMCC 9650SE 4 port raid controller and 2 core v2 drives for a 60GB raid0 stripe.

Runs like a charm (when write caching is enabled).


By highlandsun on 1/9/2009 6:59:00 PM , Rating: 2
A fine solution in itself, but utterly useless for laptops, which is where a lot of these 2.5" SSDs are going.


RE: What to look for in an SSD
By m104 on 1/10/2009 4:57:57 AM , Rating: 2
"What are some of the key features to pay attention to when selecting an SSD?"

If u plan to use the disk for running an OS, then u should look for the random write speeds for small files - most SSDs on the market today has 10-20 times slower random write speeds compared to traditional HDDs. Since an OS makes constant small writes to the page file and to the regestry, I wouldnt recommend buying such an SSD - its a waste of money - they arent that much better than traditional HDDs


Is JMicron okay for Media Centres?
By Gastrian on 1/8/2009 7:18:36 AM , Rating: 2
I'm building a small form factor PC later this year and am really interested in SSDs for their quiet operation.

I've ripped all my DVDs to DivX and am looking to just put them all onto a SSD and leave them there. Once the disk is full its full and I'll look at another SSD further down the line to store more movies. Other than the initial write for each movie will the JMicron cause any problems and would the read speed on the cheapest SSD drives be fine for playback of SD and HD resolution movie files?




RE: Is JMicron okay for Media Centres?
By PhoetuS on 1/8/2009 8:21:55 AM , Rating: 3
I can't imagine why you would want to use SSDs to store & play DivX for a Media Center (I assume you mean HTPC). A crappy 5400rpm notebook drive is speedy enough to playback SD & HD files.

The only reason I can see for putting a SSD in a HTPC is because you have lots of cash burning a whole in your pocket and/or bragging rights.

If the physical size of the drive is the issue, a 2.5" notebook drive (320GB 7200rpm drives are under $100 at newegg) will work just fine for the playback of HD (1080p) files.

If you can use a 3.5" drive, then a high capacity drive is the way to go. For ~$110 you can get a terabyte drive that will store WAY more files then a SSD, cost less & play back HD video with no problems whatsoever.


By fishbits on 1/8/2009 9:23:08 AM , Rating: 3
"I'm building a small form factor PC later this year and am really interested in SSDs for their quiet operation."

Vanity silencing. Like the Princess and the Pea, homey can evidently hear the roar of a notebook hard drive in an enclosure, across the room, while it is playing a movie.


By FITCamaro on 1/8/2009 10:11:41 AM , Rating: 3
He wants quiet. But yeah a 5400 rpm 2.5" drive you're not going to hear. And you can get 500GB ones pretty cheap.


RE: Is JMicron okay for Media Centres?
By Reclaimer77 on 1/8/09, Rating: 0
RE: Is JMicron okay for Media Centres?
By Alpha4 on 1/8/2009 6:07:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I can't imagine why you WOULDN'T use one...
I'm certain PhoeTus is questioning the logic of purchasing an SSD exclusively for the purpose of storing & playing back HD Media.

PhoeTus rightfully suggests that any current 5400rpm notebook drive provides more than enough throughput for HD content. As I understand, the average Bluray video bitrate is between 39-40 mbits/second.


RE: Is JMicron okay for Media Centres?
By Reclaimer77 on 1/8/09, Rating: 0
By Alpha4 on 1/9/2009 12:44:40 AM , Rating: 2
LoL. I agree it's somewhat condescending to dismiss an idea as "unimaginable", and I might have detected a hint of jealousy when PhoeTus mentioned money burning holes in pockets. That aside I don't think it's fair to say magnetic storage is obsolete yet. I'm sure that as long as capacities remain significantly lower and costs higher, SSDs will only inhabit a niche market.

Props to OCZ for pushing the mainstream market so steadily though.


By partisan007 on 1/9/2009 11:21:54 AM , Rating: 2
Not recommended for this use becauase of the limited storage. But SSDs are great for HTPCs when the media is stored on a NAS or home server or something like that.


Why?
By diego10arg on 1/8/2009 12:42:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
...the new Solid and Apex Series SSDs continue to use JMicron memory controllers, they have been heavily optimized to minimize any write performance issues that may crop up during normal use.


I wonder why would I want to buy a SSD which has that crappy controller. I don't mind if they have minimzed any write performance issue, why wouldn't avoid them from scratch?




RE: Why?
By Chemical Chris on 1/8/2009 7:19:23 PM , Rating: 2
They dont avoid them from scratch for a few reasons, well, really just one reason: money
When SSD's first started to hit the market, there were very few suitable controllers for acting as a middle-man for the computer PATA/SATA to the SSD's flash memory. Flash was originally designed for use in cameras, cell phones, bla bla bla, not a computer. As such, the way the data is stored to the flash is not eye-to-eye with PATA/SATA protocol. So, there has to be a way of taking the data delivered from PATA/SATA interface, then making sense of it and storing/retrieving it from the flash memory.
Now, there was essentially NO market for this about a year ago, and so, there were very few chips on the market capable of fulfilling such a requirement for SSDs.
Enter the JMicron controller, it 'did the job', so everyone and their uncle started using it for their SSDs. Investing the money to develop a superior one may have been a tough sell to accounting, considering the limited size of the market. Time to market is also a factor; management/accounting will not want to wait a year for a high-quality product, when they can start selling a mediocre one today, then when the quality ones are done, they will switch over, cost permitting.
So, now that the market is starting to mature, and theres real money in it, other companies ARE developing controllers of their own. This does not happen overnight, and it will be another 6months to 1yr before more advanced alternatives are available in sufficient quantities for a low enough price for the buggy JMicron controller to dissappear.

Personally, I question the logic of releasing a product with known performance issues that will affect almost every user. The common user will not know or understand the cause of the problem, and will be 'turned off' SSD's and the company that made them, and they will not do repeat business with said company. If they do know the cause, they should be even madder at the company for selling them a 'faulty' product, and again, the company has lost a customer. Essentially, make $50 today from the guy, but never sell him anything again. I think its better to make $25 from the guy once a year for 10 years, but what do I know.

ChemC


RE: Why?
By highlandsun on 1/9/2009 7:03:17 PM , Rating: 2
That sounds like pretty bogus reasoning. CompactFlash cards have been around for years, and they've supported IDE (PATA) for the majority of that time. To claim that Flash is not eye-to-eye with PATA is pure ignorance. To claim that there was NO market for this a year ago is also pure ignorance.


RE: Why?
By aka1nas on 1/9/2009 2:20:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Jmicron-based SSDs work more-or-less fine(i.e. no stuttering) when put behind a controller with dedicated write cache. So, they are ideal for using with a higher-end RAID card, as they have high transfer rates and are much cheaper than the Intel drives or SLC SSDs.

The Apex series in particular is geared towards this, it has dual Jmicron controllers, and is going to be cheaper than the Vertex series will be.


Internal Raid0
By AlterBridge86 on 1/8/2009 10:50:53 AM , Rating: 2
I am surprised no one mentioned what makes these drives a big improvement over their previous "Core" siblings...the drives are internally striped by the jmicron controller. This allows for the drives to remain cheap while offering increased performance.

See Tony from OCZ's post on XS for more information on that:
http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php...




RE: Internal Raid0
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 1/8/2009 12:18:44 PM , Rating: 3
I actually spent about an hour talking with Tony last night at an ASUS get together -- what a great guy he is. He was telling me about the internal RAID, I just forgot to update the info once I got back to my hotel room last night.

He also explained all of the performance issues with the JMicron controller and how to SOLVE all of the issues using drive aligning (there's a post on it on the OCZ support forums).

We spent quite a bit of time talking about SSDs in general, and the rest of the time talking about Top Gear :-)


RE: Internal Raid0
By regpfj on 1/9/2009 2:34:15 PM , Rating: 2
Brandon -
Do you suppose Anand or one of the crew will test the fix? I have a serious hankering for Intel x25 performance at 0.3 cost.

By the way, does anyone else hear Robert Stack saying "give us the X-5 unit!" to Beavis when the name of Intel's ssd comes up?


Looking forward to this one...
By Ptaltaica on 1/8/2009 12:42:56 AM , Rating: 2
...so much so that I preordered one from Amazon with overnight shipping. Only piece of computer hardware I have EVER preordered. I'm expecting that the cache + the new controller will resolve the 'stuttering' issues.




By Ptaltaica on 1/8/2009 12:45:27 AM , Rating: 2
er, the Vertex, that is. Should've clarified that. x.x


Warranty?
By Trikat on 1/8/2009 12:02:56 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder what the warranty duration will be on these lines. The same ole 1 - 2 years?
I wouldn't consider purchasing a SSD until it hits a 5 year warranty. To me warranty length shows the true reliability of the drives.




"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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