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OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB SSD

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Posted September 2, 2009 by Jake in Storage, HDs & SSDs

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by Jake
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SSD Technology

For those who may be unfamiliar with Solid State Disk drives (SSDs), let’s have a quick recap to briefly explain some of the characteristics and benefits that differ from traditional mechanical hard drive counterparts.

First, it is important to note that SSDs are currently designed to meet connectivity standards of HDDs; they use the same SATA ports and power connectors, and may even fit the same drive bay racks and computer towers that we’re all accustomed to using. Many SSDs do, however, come in a smaller 2.5" form factor, same as notebook drives, which is a bit smaller than the traditional 3.5" size that most of us have. In short, SSDs can fit anywhere HDDs can, and in most cases the SSDs are even smaller. But most SSDs have mounting holes for adapters that can accommodate either a horizontal or vertical mounting position. Because the drive runs absolutely silent since there are no moving or mechanical parts, you can literally install the drive anywhere in your case with some double-sided tape or Velcro.  You won’t need to worry about any vibrations or even heat being produced, so you could even just tape it to the bottom of your case if you’re so inclined.

The other advantage of an SSD over a HDD is its durability; solid state drives are far more rugged, able to withstand up to 1500G over a 5 ms time frame.  So you don’t really need to worry about dropping it, though I didn’t actually toss any of our SSDs out a 7-storey window to test it.  Call me unadverturous but running the risk of trashing a fast new SSD isn’t my idea of a fun time.

Lastly, Solid State Drives have exceptionally fast response times which are almost instantaneous, while even the fastest hard disk drives on the market are downright sluggish by comparison. The OCZ SSD is supposed to have a response time of less than one millisecond, which is lightning quick and many times faster than even the most speedy hard drive on the market.

When pulling apart an SSD (which will void your warranty, so think twice before doing it) you’ll see that SSDs contain NAND Flash chips that are used with a wear-leveling algorithm to ensure the erase and rewrite cycles are spread across all of the storage chips. Therefore, should you have the misfortune of having a sector become corrupted, your previous data won’t be lost; it simply means that data can’t be written over again there. Consequently, this means that there shouldn’t be degradation of data in a physical sense, and when the drive’s lifespan is reached then you should have all your data still fully intact before the drive finally just wears out.

It is also important to remember that SSDs are still a developing technology with their fair share of bumps and blips along the way. Some drives have jumpers to update their firmware (although OCZ drives now ship with Firmware 1.3 and updates can be done jumperless) or utility programs like OCZ’s Garbage Collection Utility that help to restore performance and keep the SSD running at peak levels. Windows 7 will support TRIM (though Indilinx drives yet don’t, but hopefully will), a feature that helps restore SSD performance, similar to OCZ’s utlity application, since they degrade over time. Essentially this utility performs a defrag on your SSD since Windows Defrag can actually brick your drive, leaving you with a useless piece of PCB and memory chips. The Garbage Collection Utility finds the cells in the flash memory that are market as "free" (but really aren’t due to the way the cell information is recorded) and actually frees up those cells and restores performance levels to maintain close to the original high speeds.

On that topic, there are a few things that new SSD users need to know: some standard Vista functions that help hard drive performance can actually hurt solid state drive performance. We recommend turning OFF any sort of automatic Disk Defragmentation, disabling prefetch and superfetch, as lastly drive indexing as well. This will help reduce your SSD’s degradation and help keep peak performance for you.

We highly recommend checking out OCZ’s support site for all the latest information regarding the Garbage Collection Utility, flashing, installation guide, and other important questions and issues. You can find the information HERE on OCZ’s website.

So we essentially have a drive that is smaller, faster, quieter, cooler, and draws less power.  What’s not to like?  The price.  Solid State Drives are currently very expensive compared to mechanical hard drives, many times the magnitude of price per megabyte of storage.  Even within the SSDs market, there is quite a range of prices, with the OCZ Vertex Turbo120GB SSD costing approximately $439 USD at the time of this review.  This represents a cost of almost $3.65 per gigabyte, and this places the Vertex Turbo in the upper price range of premium performance SSD drive. This is not cheap, however, and the cost difference between an SSD and HDD is obvious. They remain at the upper end of "affordable", often relegated to enthusiast users with healthy budgets and an insatiable desire for speed and performance. However, as prices continue to drop, we’re not far off from far more widespread adoption for a greater number of users, which likely makes memory manufacturers that carry SSDs very happy with such a huge potential market share increase looming on the horizon.

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