OCZ has released a new firmware update for its range of SSDs running Indilinx Barefoot controllers and 34 nm NAND flash. Specifically, Vertex, Agility and Solid2 drives made after December 2009. The Arowana Flash Translation Layer (FTL) firmware update brings the firmware version up to 3.55 and adds additional over-provisioning to the drives in order to boost performance and increase longevity.

The result is a loss of around 7% in usable storage capacity but better overall performance. For example, according to a post on OCZ's official forums, a 34nm Indilinx Barefoot based Vertex SSD will go from 119.24GB capacity on firmware 1.7 to 111.79GB with 3.55, while receiving a sequential write speed bump from 187.44MB/s to 216MB/s and 4K write benchmarks jumping from 9.9MB/s to 46.14MB/s.

There's a slight drop in read speeds -- from 228.28MB/s on the original 1.7 firmware to 219.27MB/s on version 3.55 -- but access times were also significantly cut and that's likely to provide a more tangible improvement for everyday usage anyway. That said, read speeds can be boosted further by enabling AHCI in the BIOS.

The SSD Review conducted its own tests using a 64GB OCZ Agility and saw similar gains all around. They also ran the drive through the PCMark Vantage testing suite and found that the Arowana 3.55 firmware provides a 78% increase in application loading and an average boost of over 37% for every other category in the test.

OCZ originally announced the Arowana FTL firmware in May 2011 promising substantial performance improvements to end-users, but up until now only the Vertex Plus family had received it. Good to see the company didn't leave its loyal Barefoot users behind even three years after those drives were released

To find out if your drive is eligible for the upgrade, download the OCZ Drive Identity Tool and after running the utility check if the returned code matches any of the following: 661502, 641502, 661302, 661402, 641402, 661102, 641102, 651102, 661202. Also, keep in mind that all data will be wiped from the drive during the update, so be sure to backup its contents before taking the plunge.

Download: Arowana Update for 34nm Vertex/Agility/Solid2 SSDs (Instructions here)