Premium credentials at a mainstream priceThe need for speed
There's been significant upheaval in the solid-state drive (SSD) ranks the in the last 18 months. Considered to be premium, aspirational products at the start of 2009, SSDs are now legitimate upgrade options for many readers, primarily due to prices dropping to an extent where a 64GB drive - large enough to hold an operating system and commonly used programs - is available for under £100.
The benefits of SSDs are clear and obvious: super-fast read and write speeds are backed up by near-instant accesses. Indeed, the jump from a mechanical hard drive to an SSD represents, we believe, the largest advancement in the computing experience. The creamy-smooth feeling of running an SSD as the boot drive in your system is well worth the outlay.
While we're staunch advocates of SSDs, not all drives are created equal. One simply cannot take a look at the capacity and price and make a well-informed decision. This is why manufacturers often have numerous SSDs in their range, often with overlapping capacities, and a close look at the specifications is needed to ascertain the quality and value proposition of a drive.
Take OCZ Technology as an example. The firm has a long history of championing SSDs and was one of the very first to offer a broad range of drives to the consumer. The current catalogue consists of seven different families of 2.5in SSDs, headlined by super-speedy Vertex 2 EX. The mainstream performance offering continues to be the Vertex 2, and we're taking a look at a 120GB model in this review.
Premium SSDs in the second half of 2010 tend to ship with the SandForce SF-1222 controller. OCZ was one of the first manufacturers to bring it to the table in the form of the Vertex 2. The drive is currently available in standard capacities ranging from 40GB to 480GB and extended capacities that top out at 600GB.
Priced at a tempting £190, this Vertex 2E(xtended) 120GB falls into the extended category, which means that OCZ programs the drive to use a greater proportion of the SSD's NAND chips - the memory inside the drive - and leaves little room spare for what is known as over-provisioning, that is, keeping OS-unallocated space aside as a kind of buffer, to keep the SSD running at peak speeds. Over-provisioning is more important in the enterprise space than for consumer drives, by the way.
Providing a little extra functionality, OCZ also provides a piece of software dubbed Toolbox. This simple program enables you to secure-erase the drive to factory-fresh specs, update firmware from a Windows GUI, and optimise the drive for the operating system.
Backed by a three-year warranty and currently costing £1.58 per GB for 120GB of nominal storage, the SandForce-powered OCZ Vertex 2E ticks many of the criterions for a premium SSD. Let's now see how it performs.