Although it's still early in the year and we anticipated it was going to get busy with new generation solid state drives, the OCZ Vertex 3 is going to be the one to beat. The Intel SSD 320 series is limited to SATA 3Gb/s and therefore stands no chance in the performance department, while the highly regarded Crucial RealSSD C300 simply looked outdated. We'll have to check out Crucial's new m4 before we can pass final judgment on where the company stands, and we plan to do so in the coming weeks.
Intel's 510 Series (Elm Crest) is also on our to-do list. This will be the next SSD we review, it's coming very soon, we promise. At least on paper it appears the Intel 510 is in direct competition with the Vertex 3 as 120GB versions of both products are currently retailing for ~$300, while the 240GB Vertex 3 is about $50 cheaper.
OCZ is reportedly shipping the final Vertex 3 drives to retailers as we publish this, though most stores appear to be out of stock. If we could get the Vertex 3 120GB down to the suggested $249 list price any time soon, that drive would be a steal when you consider that Intel's SSD 320 120GB is currently selling for $239. Based on reviews we've seen elsewhere, Crucial's m4 doesn't offer much of a performance gain over the existing RealSSD C300 and its 128GB model is also meant to sell for $250.
There's one thing we know for certain: you shouldn't even consider the Vertex 3 unless you have a quality SATA 6Gb/s controller, otherwise its performance will be severely hampered. Folks with new Intel Sandy Bridge-based machines will be able to fully utilize the drive, as will those who have recently purchased a motherboard that features the updated Marvell 88SE9182 controller.
After suffering the pains of hard drive upgrades that offered modest performance bumps, say when going from 7,200 RPM to 10,000 RPM HDDs (and still paying a ton for the luxury), it seems incredible to think that in just one year SandForce has updated its controller to roughly double the performance of its predecessor.
Outstanding product: OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD
Solid state drive technology is still far from becoming mainstream, but the introduction of faster SATA 6Gb/s drives will surely help to push down the price of slower products like the Vertex 2. Previous generation 3Gb/s drives still provide considerable performance gains over hard disk drives and as we've been saying for years, they're the single best upgrade you can make for improving all-around performance.