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If you're looking to upgrade the speed of your desktop computer, or want to avoid jumping through hoops with customer support when setting up a new drive, OCZ's Vector 180 solid-state drive (SSD) is for you. As long as you don't expect top benchmark numbers, you won't be disappointed.
Despite being intended as competition for other high-end SSDs on the market, such as the Samsung 850 Pro, the new drive didn't meet my expectations in testing, trailing behind its competitors in most tests. It also has half the warranty time and the endurance rating (how many bytes it can write to itself before going kaput). To make up for that, it carries a friendlier suggested price tag at launch of $90 (£58, AU$113), $150 (£95, AU$189), $275 (£178, AU$349) and $500 (£330, AU$634) for 120GB, 240GB, 480GB and 960GB, respectively. Furthermore, it includes advance replacement in case of defect, prepaid return and hassle-free support during its five-year warranty time.
In all, while the Vector 180 doesn't measure up to some high-end SSDs, it's still a very good replacement drive, especially for those who need help getting it up and running. For more choices, check out this list of current top SSDs.
For storage device the warranty is very important, and the Vector 180 delivers in this regard. While it carries only a five-year warranty -- which is generally excellent, though still just half that of the Samsung SSD 850 Pro -- the drive includes ShieldPlus support. According to OCZ, this means you just need to provide the drive's serial number to get support, and in case of defect, OCZ will ship you a unit in advance and provide a paid return shipping label for you to ship the old one back. On top of that, the company also promises "high-caliber" customer service in case you need help with the drive. (I didn't have a chance to try out the support since I tested the drive before it was officially released.)
The Vector 180 itself is a standard 2.5-inch internal drive that's 7mm thick. It fits in any laptop computer that uses a standard hard drive, including those that require low-profile hard drives. It also includes an adapter that permits it to fit in a desktop computer. To help users upgrade, the Vector 180 comes with a license for Acronis True Image HD, which is a very good software suite for data backups and drive cloning.
|Drive type||2.5-inch 7mm standard|
|Capacities||120GB, 240GB, 480GB, 960GB|
|Controller||OCZ Barefoot 3 M00|
|Flash Technology||Toshiba A19 MLC|
|Sequential Read||550 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||530 MB/s|
|Random Read IOPS||100,000|
|Random Write IOPS||95,000|
|Endurance||50GB/day for five years|
|Accessories||Cloning Software and Desktop Adapter|
|Warranty||Five years with ShieldPlus|
The drive supports SATA 3 (6Gbps) but will works with all revisions of the SATA standard. It's recommended to use it with newer computer that supports SATA 3, but even when used in older SATA 2-based computers that are equipped with a regular hard drive, the Vector 180 will still boost the performance greatly.
The Vector 180 has very similar specs to its older brother, the Vector 150, sharing the same OCZ's home-grown controller. But it uses the new Toshiba A19 MLC flash memory and has a feature called Power Failure Management to protect its data.
Basically, the drive has system capacitors that provide extra power for it to finish writing data before shutting down in case of unexpected power loss. This is similar to using a UPS with a computer. On top of that, OCZ says this feature also enables the firmware to periodically create snapshots of the drive's mapping table and continuously monitor the drive for power anomalies. While useful, I suspect this feature will hardly be evoked, especially in laptops where the loss of power doesn't occur very often.
What's more important than power management is its endurance, where, unfortunately, the Vector 180 doesn't stand out. Endurance, also known as program/erase (P/E) cycles, is the rating that quantifies the total amount of data that can be written to an SSD before the drive becomes unreliable. You can think of endurance as the drive's durability. (For more on the endurance of SSDs, check out this post.)
Generally, the endurance rating increases with capacities, but OCZ says all capacities of the Vector 180 share the same endurance rating of 50GB/day. This means if you write 50GB of data to the drive per day every day, it'll take five years for the drive to run out of P/E cycles. Effectively, this means the drive can handle up some 91TB of data written to it. While 91TB is a lot of data -- an average user writes just about 5GB per day, if that -- the Samsung SSD 850 Pro's endurance almost doubles that. The recently reviewed (and cheaper) Crucial MX200 even has an endurance rating of up to 320TB.
To be fair, a year ago, an endurance rating of more than 80TB, which is that of the SanDisk Extreme Pro, was considered extremely high. However, now the Vector 180's endurance is just about that of an average SSD and is far behind some. Though the drive has more than enough durability for the majority of home users, if you're looking for an SSD to write a lot of data on, such as using it for professional video editing and recording, it's a better idea to get a drive with the highest possible endurance.
Much more expensive than the average hard drives, SSDs have been cost-prohibitive to many consumers. OCZ intends to ease this pain with the Vector 180. However, currently don't count on it being much cheaper than existing SSDs.
This is because, at the time of this review, the prices of its competitors, which came out last year, have gone down significantly. However, if you compare pricing at launch, the Vector 180 is indeed a lot cheaper than the Samsung 850 Pro or the SanDisk Extreme Pro. For example, the 960GB capacity of the Vector has the suggested price of $500, while the 1TB Samsung and the 960GB SanDisk had the suggested price of $730 and $600, respectively. The lower suggested price generally means that the street price will also come down the longer the drive is on the market. So for the Vector 180 to be a great deal, you need to wait a month or so before making a purchase.
That said, it's safe to say that, among high-end SSDs on the market, the OCZ Vector 180 is likely going to be the most affordable. The question is whether it has the performance of its intended peers.
And the answer to that question is: Not really.
In most tests, the Vector 180 was behind other high-end SSDs. For example, in the sequential data transfer tests, which gauges a drive's raw copy speed, it scored a sustained speed of 175MBps when doing both writing and reading at the same time. That's some 80MBps slower than the Samsung (in non-RAPID mode) and the SanDisk. The same thing happened when the Vector was tested as a secondary drive doing writing and reading separately. In those conditions, it registered some 350MBps for both writing and reading and was about 100MBps behind the aforementioned Samsung and SanDisk.
This doesn't mean the Vector was slow. In fact, it was faster than many other SSDs, but among the high-end crowd, it sure wasn't impressive in sequential performance.
And it did even worse in PC Mark 8 storage benchmark testing, where it trailed behind most recently reviewed SSDs, both in terms of score and storage bandwidth.
However, in application performance tests, the Vector 180 did better, ranking above the average on the charts. It was even faster than the Samsung or the SanDisk with certain applications, though not by much.
In all, if you replace your hard-drive-based computer with the Vector 180, you will clearly see an improvement in performance. However, if you're already using an SSD, the Vector 180 doesn't have enough to warrant an upgrade.
As a high-end SSD, the Vector 180 doesn't reach the performance heights of its contemporaries. Thankfully, it also doesn't cost as much. However, it's still a worthy buy thanks to its Power Failure Management feature, especially if using with a desktop computer.
The drive's ShieldPlus warranty policy is also something worth considering, especially if you're a first-time SSD user. And if you're hung up on the endurance rating -- 91TB written is not the highest number among SSDs -- it's still more than enough for the drive to last for decades with regular usage.