OCZ's Vertex 3: Second-Generation SandForce For The Masses

Final Words

SATA 3 Gb/s treated us very well, but the current generation of SSDs is just beginning to run into a bandwidth bottleneck. And that's what validates the inclusion of SATA 6Gb/s in the desktop space. Micron had the first SSD to exceed the limits of 3 Gb/s signaling, but it barely edged beyond that line in the sand.

What we see today from OCZ and SandForce is much more aggressive utilization of the storage pipeline. If this is just a preview, I can't wait to start testing drives when they start hitting retail next month. But performance is only one side of the coin. The other is price. After all, we are talking about SSDs. For the average user, the Vertex 3 Pro was so unrealistic because it cost $5/GB just to get in the door with the cheapest model. Today, we know that the cost to go from a SATA 3Gb/s SandForce drive to a SATA 6Gb/s will turn out to be small if OCZ sticks with its anticipated price strategy.

Market Price MSRP Cost/GB
Vertex 2 (E Series) 90 GB$199.99-$2.22
Vertex 2 (E Series) 120 GB$229.99-$1.92
Vertex 2 (E Series) 240 GB$449.99-$1.87
Vertex 3 100 GB-$249.99$2.50
Vertex 3 240 GB-$499.99$2.08

The problem is that any price above $2/GB is going to be a hard sell unless you're an early adopter by nature. Our choices in recent System Builder Marathon stories reflect this. Look at our December $1000 PC.

$1,000 Enthusiast System Components
MotherboardAsus Sabertooth 55i
LGA 1156, Intel P55 chipset
ProcessorIntel Core i3-550
3.2 GHz, Dual-Core, 4 MB L3 Cache
CPU Cooler
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus
MemoryGeIL Black Dragon 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3-1333
Dual-Channel Desktop Memory Kit
Graphics2 x ECS NBGTX460
GeForce GTX 460 SLI configuration, 1 GB GDDR5 per card
Hard DrivesWD Caviar Black 750 GB
750 GB, 7200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3Gb/s
OpticalLG 22x DVD – GH22LS50 OEM
22x DVD+R, 8x DVD+RW, 48x CD ROM
CaseNZXT Gamma
2 x APEVIA CF12S-BK 120 mm$8
PowerCorsair CMPSU-650TX 650 W
ATX12V, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Certified
 Total Cost$991

Even with a $1000 budget, you'll probably buy a large hard drive, decent video card, and flexible CPU rather than invest a quarter of your build (or more) into an SSD. That's why we have a hard time working an SSD in to one of our recommended builds. Until the entrance fee for performance SSDs fall well under to $2/GB, this isn't going to change.

Here is the good news: it is still my belief that we will see major price shake ups within the next few months. Competition is always a good thing in this industry. Intel's Elmcrest and Crucial's C400 are due to arrive very soon, and if Intel and Marvell can deliver controllers with as much of a performance jump as we see in our previews of second-generation SandForce drives, we are one step closer to seeing mainstream SSDs hit more palatable price points. Once that happens, SSDs are sure to be a standard recommendation in our monthly builds.