Last year was dominated by two SSD controller manufacturers: Intel and Indilinx. Intel delivered the performance while Indilinx offered a value alternative. Once SandForce hit early this year however, it was game over for Indilinx. We have reviewed a couple of Indilinx drives since SandForce hit but for the most part we've been enamored with SF and Crucial's offerings.

Over the summer Indilinx was supposed to have its next-generation controller ready for debut, codenamed Jet Stream. Unfortunately the 6Gbps controller has been delayed until 2011, leaving Indilinx with two options: quietly bow out of the SSD market, or update Barefoot.

And here we have the updated Barefoot:

The Indilinx Martini based OCZ Vertex Plus

The controller is still technically called Barefoot, although it is a new hardware revision. Martini apparently refers to the firmware designed for this new rev of Barefoot (no, it can't be applied to older Barefoot drives). The Martini firmware and new Barefoot revision are designed to work better with Intel's 34nm NAND. The 3Gbps controller is designed primarily to increase random write performance although there are other benefits along the way.

Spare area has increased. While the old Barefoot set aside ~7% of the NAND capacity for garbage collection and bad block allocation, Martini uses 10%. A Barefoot+Martini based drive with 128GiB of NAND will expose 115.2GiB of it to the user vs. 119.2GiB for Barefoot based drives. SandForce once told me that it expects all controller makers to begin setting aside more spare area and that seems to be the trend.

This is the OCZ Vertex Plus, the first drive based on the Barefoot+Martini platform:

The Vertex Plus will take the place of the existing Vertex in OCZ's lineup, just below the Vertex 2 and other SandForce equipped SSDs. I asked OCZ for target pricing on the Vertex Plus when it ships in a few weeks:

OCZ's Vertex Plus Lineup
  32GB 64GB 128GB
OCZ Vertex Plus $74.99 $114.99 $194.99

A 128GB SandForce drive will set you back around $229. The Vertex Plus will save you $35. The 64GB version will be $20 cheaper than Crucial's RealSSD C300.

The back

The Vertex Plus I tested is a beta sample and is rough around the edges, which is why this is branded a Preview and not a full blown Review. Thankfully I was able to run through our entire test suite (both published and unpublished tests I use internally) on the drive. From the old Barefoot camp I've got the Corsair Nova V128, one of the last popular Indilinx based SSDs so keep an eye out for that comparison to see how Indilinx has progressed.

The Test

CPU Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Chipset: Intel X58 + Marvell SATA 6Gbps PCIe
Chipset Drivers: Intel + Intel IMSM 8.9
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64
Random Read/Write Speed
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  • MeanBruce - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    With SandForce recently releasing their SF-2000 controller stats Intel has delayed the G3s my guess is to rework the entire M and X lineup. I love my little X25-M, but with SF claiming read/writes approaching 500mg/s Intel just has to do something to stay competative! You know SandForce is just a little company in California with 83 employees, and some 80M in cash, when they go public buy buy buy!
  • surt - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Sorry, but they are a HUGE ipo risk. They have one, first-generation product. It happens to perform better than the first generation products of huge, well known competitors. All competitors in this product space will be maxing out the interface bandwidth within 2 years. When that happens, do you think IT purchasers are going to choose sandforce over intel controllers? When that happens, their stock will tank on down to zero, and they will be a niche player if they are not out of business.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    They will be bought by a Fortune500 company.
  • MeanBruce - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - link

    I get where you're coming from, but SandForce is moving into using their controllers on PCIe cards with their newest client, guess who? Seagate! Yup knocked me off my chair when I heard the news too, but I think it's fantastic, no bandwidth problems there. Their first SKUs will be for enterprise. Thanks to SandForce the next offerings from Intel should be damn nice; things are getting interesting.
  • MeanBruce - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    Indilinx, I think I'll keep my shoes on!!!
  • jaydee - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    One of my big problems with all these SSD reviews, is they are almost always 120GB+ versions, when the mainstream market is 60-90GB and we have no idea how these SSD's scale down to smaller capacities.

    For instance, I WAS really impressed with the Crucial C300, come to find out just now that the 64GB version isn't in the same league as the 128GB. Others seem to take smaller performance hits as you move down in capacity (Intel X25-M 160GB vs 80GB). SandForce-1200? Who knows, there's no 60GB-90GB version in the storage bench, and I never see one in any of these benchmarks. Not everyone can afford a $200-300 SSD.
  • melgross - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    That's very true, but the market is going to larger sizes. The only reason they have those small drives is because of cost. A year ago, 64GB drives cost as much as 128GB drives do now, and people were buying them. most of us have no interest in a drive smaller than 128GB, and even that's too small for anything other than a notebook. In order to replace my boot drive in my Mac Pro, I need a 256, and those are still too expensive.

    it's interesting that notebooks get criticized for having 256GB HDD's, but those same people think that a cheap 64GB SSD is fine.
  • jaydee - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    "Most of us have no interest in a drive smaller than 128GB..."?

    Speak for yourself, I'm in the General Hardware forum everyday and there are way more questions about builds that have the budget for 60-80GB SSD's than 120GB+ (desktops obviously). The notebook market even futher proves this point, because 120GB still isn't enough for almost all laptop users.

    I agree that the market is trending towards larger capacities at lower prices, but the fact is, there's a huge market for people who only need 60-80GB of boot storage, independant of pricing. If 60GB's cost $120 now, and $80 later and 120GB cost $230 now, $150 later, I have the great suspicion that most people are still going to go with the 60-80GB, and put the extra money saved, towards a better CPU or GPU. Because even with a 120GB SSD, 99% of people out there are still going to want a storage drive and SSD's aren't going to increase your frames per second, encoding times, etc.

    I want to see a 60-80GB SSD roundup of different controllers! Indillinx, JMicron, Toshiba, Sandforce, Intel!
  • melgross - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    As usual, it's not likely the forums reflect the majority of users. I would imagine that some people use those small drives because they don't have a choice because of the price, but would rather have a larger model.

    I really wonder if managing the content on these small drives is worth the few seconds cut off from any work session. I can see one for a scratch drive for PS though.
  • jaydee - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - link

    At newegg the top 3 and 8 of the top 10 "most reviewed" SSD's are 64GB or smaller. They don't directly show sales numbers.

    TigerDirect, SSD "Tigers Top Sellers" has 6 drives <=80GB, 3 that are >=120GB and one hybrid.

    Superbiiz, sort the 2.5" SSD's 10 of the top 13 "best selling" are <80GB.

    What evidence do you have that supports your claim of most users having 120GB SSD's or larger?

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