Roughly a month ago we brought you an early preview of the OCZ Vertex 2 Pro SSD. This uber-fast product was supposed to be part of a new series of drives based on controllers from start-up SandForce. However, as we recently learned OCZ decided to scrap the Vertex 2 Pro altogether due to the high cost of its SF-1500 controller, and instead shift focus to the originally announced Vertex 2 and Vertex 2 EX.
The first is their mainstream product using the SandForce SF-1200 controller with MLC flash, while the Vertex 2 EX is aimed at enterprise customers and will feature the SF-1500 controller with SLC flash -- expect the pricing of this one to be simply frightening.
OCZ had hoped that SandForce would lower the pricing of their chips before the Vertex 2 Pro launch, so it would have a middle ground for businesses and enthusiasts, combining an enterprise-grade controller with MLC memory. Obviously this never happened, and this is exactly where the Vertex LE we are reviewing today comes in.
Initially it was said OCZ was using an early batch of SF-1500 controllers that they received at a discount rate from SandForce, but now they are claiming the Vertex LE SSDs carries a hybrid model that is neither a 1200 nor a 1500. According to their description, it’s not an SF-1500 because it doesn’t have the extra SMART data, the extra ECC, or any of the enterprise SF-1500 features. In other words, it has the feature set of the 1200 but the performance of the 1500, which is why we can expect it to perform similarly to the Vertex 2 Pro. It may as well be the case, they simply disabled these features on the firmware, but don't want to tell you about it.
Regardless of those details, this limited edition Vertex will be sold in limited quantities, 5,000 units in total to be precise. OCZ is asking $399 for the 100GB model and $799 for the 200GB model. This is only slightly more than the current Vertex drives, which given the expected performance boost sounds like a very nice deal indeed.
The problem with SandForce-based drives at this point is that their reliability is largely unproven, whereas the original Indilinx Barefoot Vertex is now a tried and true product that consumers can purchase with a great deal of confidence.
Nonetheless, OCZ is prepared to take care of its customers with a 3 year warranty to protect against failure. They've reportedly put some drives aside as replacements for any defective products. Additionally, if your Vertex LE drive dies in a year or two, OCZ claims they will replace it with a product of equal or superior performance. Chances are that in a few years doing so will not be difficult, but the idea of losing data due to failure sounds like a bigger concern than getting a drive replacement.
With limited units available, OCZ expects these drives to sell out quickly. As of this writing there appears to be no problem getting either model, though retailers seem to have both units selling for quite a premium, $430 for the 100GB drive and a staggering $900 for the 200GB part.