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Not All SSDs Are Created Equal: The Story Continues

Friday, March 18th, 2011 | Author:

We want to be very clear right up front about what goes into an OWC SSD and what you should expect from a Solid State Drive marketed as “high performance.” At OWC, we take your data seriously. It doesn’t matter if it is your corporation’s database, pictures of you family’s vacation, or a spam email. If it is on your drive, we have done everything we can to ensure that it stays there until you decide what to do with it. When we designed our SSDs, we spent the extra time to ensure that the circuits would work in any environment you may use the drive in, we use better quality passive components in our manufacturing process, and we always use first quality Flash storage devices. We could make a few more cents by using cheaper components, but it’s not worth risking your trust.

That’s why the product specification tables for OWC products exhaustively cover every aspect because we want to ensure you have all the information needed to make a properly informed purchase decision. OWC has nothing to hide and has always built our products for extreme performance.

Go ahead; check any of the OWC Mercury SSD models’ specs…you’ll see that we only use premium Tier 1/Grade A flash memory components. Then, check other SSD brands. Can’t find what type of flash memory they’re using? Perhaps there’s a reason for that.

We are always interested in being as competitive as possible against products that are presented as comparable to our own. OWC is the only company with volume SSD production and design in the USA and that in itself affords a level of control in the manufacturing process not typically found in other brands.

That said, another SSD manufacturer, OCZ, somewhat defies the norm. Some documented investigation on our behalf, however, may explain how OCZ can price the way they do and why they should not be seen as comparable….and if you’re an OCZ owner, you might not like what we found.

If you recall about a month ago, we ran a post about how OWC SSDs can actually get faster over time. That post also touched on the questionable decision of OCZ’s to market a new drive model as 120GB when they actually only offer 115GB of capacity.

We recently acquired three of their Vertex 2 SSDs, one 120GB and two 240GB versions, models that compete with and some believe to be comparable with our Mercury Extreme Pro SSD model. The Vertex 2 falls under a High Performance heading on their site.

click to enlarge

As you can see from the screen shot above, this OCZ SSD ordered Wednesday from a major retailer and received yesterday is still advertised as 120GB, yet is actually a 115GB version.

Then, when you watch the unboxing video below, you see the memory chips used are considered “OEM grade”—not the Tier 1 quality grade used in the OWC Mercury SSD family.

Do not open your OCZ drive, as this will void your warranty. If you have any questions, we recommend contacting OCZ.

click to enlarge

The truth is, we did not set out to see whether OCZ had cleared up the capacity discrepancy. Rather, the original inquiry was to determine if these retail sourced SSDs shared a troubling concern we uncovered with the third SSD, a 240GB Vertex 2 model, obtained directly from OCZ.

When we took the cover off of this third, direct from OCZ SSD, we found a ‘S’ stamped over Micron logo on all the flash devices (see the image to the left). This indicates the device is “off spec” product because it failed some parameter of Micron’s full performance and/or quality specification testing. “Off spec” memory is typically used in low-level applications such as toys, offering considerable cost savings over Tier 1 level to an SSD manufacturer.

As OWC only uses (and would only ever consider using) Tier 1/Grade A chips in our Mercury SSD models, an inquiry was made with a Micron product representative on their thoughts on the use of off-spec flash memory in a Solid State Drive application.

“It is a very brave action to take, using these chips in a data storage device,” was the reply given.

Receiving that statement from a device expert is what’s most troubling and was the impetus for this post. When we discover anything that potentially puts the reliability of your data at risk, regardless of the source… well, we’re going to call that out faster than if we found a four-leaf clover. Quite simply, we don’t think you or other consumers would make a risky decision of using anything less than full spec flash memory in your SSD if you had the choice.

Therein lies your dilemma if you own or are considering an OCZ SSD. You can‘t open the case to determine what quality of flash memory it has or you void your warranty; and because the type of flash memory isn’t specified in any product description we could find, you really are playing the lottery with less than full spec flash memory when it comes to the reliability of your data.

Now perhaps our findings could just be chalked up to a manufacturing anomaly and an isolated incident. After all, many review sites have shown the Vertex 2 with full Micron spec memory. But, when you order three SSDs in the same family and each uses a different spec level of memory, to us, that just goes to show that truly, not every SSD is created the same.

If you’re left feeling like the old adage “buyer beware” now exists in your SSD purchasing decision, we have a simple solution for you. Unless the brand of SSD you are buying clearly specifies the key internal components used – there are better – and perhaps more reliable – choices on the market. It’s one thing to think you’re comparing “apples to apples” when it comes to a price being paid, it’s totally different if in reality there could be a worm in that apple and, at that, while it would surprise you – it wouldn’t surprise the provider of said apple since they’ve made certain decisions in their component selection that open the door for just that.

Stay tuned to this saga, as we have a dozen more drives on order, all of which will be received with a videotaped unboxing so you have reliable source in which to base your important data storage purchasing decisions upon.

——

UPDATE 3/22/11

As we had several requests for additional images of the SpecTek flash memory to show it was absolutely genuine and unaltered by us, we’ve created this extensive gallery for your perusal:

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    1. Matthew says:

      So is the cheaper 25NM flash only in the new 480GB model? I’d like to get an SSD to replace the 500GB HDD in my laptop, but I need lots of space and would need one with at least 240GB in capacity, but at $499.99 USD, the 240GB drive’s still priced much more than I’m currently willing to spend.

      Also even though my 07 MacBook has SATA II ports, I would still expect a SATA III SSD to perform better on my machine, so I’m also hoping like Dennis that OWC releases new models with SATA III.

      Also, I use Boot Camp. Would OWC SSDs work O.K. with Windows XP?

    2. jonas says:

      Hello OWC Grant,
      Does size matter in term of performance?

      thanks.

    3. Jon says:

      Thank you Grant for that response. I do trust you guy and respect your analysis…

      I want to point out that saying you asked “…a Micron product representative on their thoughts on the use of _off-spec flash memory_ in a Solid State Drive application” is different (at least to those of us reading it here) than asking them “…on the use of _SpecTec_ flash memory”.

      I sincerely do hope you secretly have a Sata3 SSD in the pipeline and announce it soon. I may wait until the Intel drive comes back down to MSRP which I thought was $580… but frankly more than $2/GB is kinda my breaking point and I’m really looking forward to SSD’s getting down to $1/GB (which I know will be another couple years).

    4. Dennis says:

      Hello OWC Grant,

      I’m eagerly waiting for OWC’s new SATA III SSDs. I see that you don’t release information on new products until they are ready to ship. Does that mean when new products are announced that they are ready to ship same day or some known/announced number of days?

      Thanks.

    5. Jon says:

      Like many latter in the comments seem to be expressing, I’m now more uncertain than ever.

      Upon reading the article (today, not a week ago when it was published) I was immediately livid with OCZ. Adding this to they 34nm to 25nm switch they pulled which DID for them result in a substantial performance hit I was ready to write off OCZ forever… even though I’d been eagerly awaiting retail availability of the Vertex 3.

      Reading through the comments though it seems clear that OWC isn’t really sure what grade the SpecTek chips are. The responses to questions about this seem to avoid addressing the uncertainly directly. OWC doesn’t now the chip are off-spec, but is inferring they are based on them being branded by SpecTek instead of Micron. While OWC’s experience might make this leap reasonable it does not make it a certain fact and with all OWC’s talk of honesty and transparency it ought to be said clearly.

      It seems to me you started this controversy and it’s your responsibility to use your industry contacts to get ahold of Micron and/or Spectek and ask specifically “Are SpecTek chips rated -AL tested to the same standards as Micron shops rated -AL?”.

      It sounds to me you can’t actually answer that yet with anything other than a _guess_ on your part that if the chips could pass Micron’s testing they’d never get sent to SpecTek.

      You and Anand (quoting hardware.fr) certainly convinced me that all SSD’s are not created equal and that quality matters:

      http://www.anandtech.com/show/4202/the-intel-ssd-510-review/3

      Regardless you’ve also convinced me not to wait for the Vertex 3 to become available and to go ahead and buy an Intel 510. Sorry, but without any indication a Sata III drive is in the works I’m not waiting for OWC.

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hi Jon and thanks for your feedback. For certain those s-blast chips (from SpecTek, a subsidiary of Micron) are not Micron chips or they wouldn’t have the s-blast logo over them. And the Micron quoted source said:
        “It is a very brave action to take, using these chips in a data storage device,”
        So we did consult an industry contact to ask about this use.

        OWC Larry summed this issue most eloquently:
        “Just because a memory device fails to meet one specification doesn’t mean it can’t be re-graded to be useful for another. In this case, Micron parts which did not pass a given spec were then ‘treated’ with that ‘S’ Blast logo over the original module and the new SpecTek coding applied. If the part met original spec, then it would have been sold under the original p/n vs. moved through SpecTek – which typically offers such parts at a substantial discount.

        About the SpecTek grading/decoder info. While it does appear that these parts are marked with SpecTek’s highest grade, there is nothing on the SpecTek site to suggest the testing criteria used for this grade are comparable to the testing done for SSD drive application grading. There are references on SpecTek’s site for them having NAND solutions aimed at a variety of applications including Flash memory cards and USB Flash Drives. This potentially would suggest that criteria applied are based on use for those kinds of applications – not the same criteria for a device being screened for a Solid State Drive application. It may be the highest grade SpecTek bins to, but there is no basis we have seen to assume how that relates to the original Micron p/n specification.”

        Like any manufacturer, we have products in continuous development and in majority of cases, do not release information on such until they are ready to ship. Because if a delay occurs, all a pre-announcement does is disappoint customers.

        • Nila says:

          Hello Grant,
          Really thanks for your post, searching for the SSD market all over the world, OCZ Vertex2 seems to be the cheapest between all Sandforce based SSD, I am so curious about this. And in many forums, too many Vertex 2 users said their SSD failure. Your post give us a clear statement.

    6. Berg says:

      Why OCZ SSD still seems valid and not giving big problem?

      Briefly, these non-Tier 1/Grade-A chips are binded with Sandforce Controller only. Which has a very strong ability: Limiting the number of writing under the default number of warranty. It means before the warranty is finished, it is very hard to have big problem with these SSD. But some users may find that after numerous write, their SSD will become very slow on writing, because the SF controller is keeping the SSD alive before warranty expires.

      Source:
      http://www.pceva.com.cn/html/2011/storgetech_0319/229_2.html
      Translation: http://translate.google.com/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=zh-CN&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=zh-CN&tl=en&u=http://www.pceva.com.cn/html/2011/storgetech_0319/229_2.html

    7. OWC Grant says:

      A few comments ago (#52 to be exact) I posted links to two sites I found that explained various device grades. I wanted to post them here again as my original comment somehow dropped them out:

      http://ezinearticles.com/?Nand-Flash-Chip-Grades-Explained&id=3302766

      http://blog.premiumusb.com/2010/03/differences-in-flash-chip-quality/

    8. OWC Larry says:

      Concerning our prior and current 480GB SSD model offering. The model we were actively offering until about week ago is built with 34NM Flash devices. The new model, which does have a new p/n, is built with a new 25nm Flash device which has received approval only just recently. As it stands now, we do expect to begin shipping these new 25NM based solutions within the next 2-3 days with a ‘same day’ shipping status established by early next week with supply.

      Now – our team is very accommodating and within 30 days we will have no issue allowing you to return the 480GB 34NM p/n model you have now so you can take advantage of lower price offered for the new 25NM version. Although in all respects we are seeing performance of an equivalent level between our 25nm and 34nm flash based models, we do have customers that have qualified existing pre-25nm versions and are not ready to move to 25nm just yet. In any event – by building exclusively with Tier 1/Grade A flash components in intelligently configured solutions – we are enabling the highest performance, reliability, and long term durability customers expect of all OWC products.

      Sorry for any confusion related to this and I believe our customer support team is reaching out to you.

      Thanks!

    9. Marc says:

      Thanks for your answer!

      “to us this is simple…Tier 1/Grade A has the Micron logo”

      Is this anyone’s guess or do you have a confirmation for this statement from either Micron or SpecTek? At the moment I am not convinced that SpecTek is equivalent to “off spec”.

      Moreover, you are now talking of being “less than full spec”, not “off spec”. I am no expert, but perhaps being slightly less than full spec is still sufficient for reliable operation and not really off spec.

      Don’t get me wrong, I really prefer your products over OCZ. But I think we need an unbiased, independent opinion to this topic before bashing OCZ.

      • OWC Michael says:

        Hello Marc,

        We’re not bashing OCZ and that was never our intention. We’re simply putting the information we found out there and letting people draw their own conclusions.

        Other World Computing not only provides our own products, but we are a widely-known online reseller of computer upgrades, parts and accessories. We pride ourselves on having the most complete information out there in regards to every product we carry.

        Before OWC makes the final decision to list items in our online marketplace, they need to meet our stringent guidelines which includes passing our own independent physical and performance testing.

        You’ll notice we do carry other SSD brands along with our own… Intel, Crucial, and Seagate’s Hybrid drive. However, during our review of the Vertex 2, we were surprised when we opened it and found the SpecTek stamped flash.

    10. Marc says:

      Let me put this straight:

      You imply in your article, that the “S” stands for off-spec. In fact, this “S” stands for SpecTek, a company and subdivison of Micron. In my view this is intentionally misleading.

      You then ask Micron if using off-spec NAND is a goof idea. Of course it is not, but the question remains: Where is the proof, that SpecTek NAND is off-spec?

      I am not defending OCZ, but what are you guys thinking?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hi Marc….to us this is simple…Tier 1/Grade A has the Micron logo. It meets their full specification testing. Anything less is just that….less. Glad you agree that using anything less than full spec in an SSD is not a good idea. A high performance storage device should utilize the best components available…in our learned opinion…to ensure the reliability of both the device itself and perhaps, more importantly, your irreplaceable data.

    11. Rick M says:

      The other thing I forgot to ask about: my drive is currently partitioned with the GUID partitioning scheme. Does that mean I won’t be able to upgrade my firmware? Or will the upcoming updater also support that?

    12. Rick M says:

      Hi. I bought my Pro 480 a couple of weeks ago and then the price dropped considerably. I called yesterday to see if I could get a price adjustment. The rep said sure, and put me on hold. Then he came back to explain that the new drive is actually a different device (using the new Flash process), and so would need a supervisor’s approval to issue the refund. That would have to wait ’till today.

      When I didn’t hear back from him at the appointed hour, I called OWC back, and spoke to a woman. We went through the same song and dance, and she went to get a supervisor’s approval. When she came back, she told me that she could not issue the refund because the new drive is slower than the old one. I asked her to tell me how much slower it is, and she said had to go to Product Development to find out, and that she’d get back to me.

      She called a couple hours later and left voicemail, but didn’t leave the actual information. She said she’d call me back tomorrow morning. In the meantime, a friend of mine (who just ordered one of the new 480s) contacted the live chat support, and was told:

      “The new flash is actually the reason for the price reduction, that is correct. However OWC has seen no significant performance changes. As always, OWC SSDs use tier 1, grade A flash which in most cases has shown to even improve performance slightly over time, rather than decrease like some other SSDs out there. Thanks to this evolution in flash technology, you will continue to see the OWC capacities expand over the next few years without the price fluctuations controlled by the cost of the previous flash technology.”

      Now I’m faced with a situation in which the reason I’m being denied a price adjustment is because my drive is ostensibly superior to the new model (hence, why it is worth more). However, the other rep. suggests there is no significant performance difference. While OWC has said I can return this drive and order the new one, that’s a rather big inconvenience.

      Either the two drives are equivalent in every meaningful way, or they are not. If the former is true, I feel I should be issued the refund. If the latter is true, then OWC is currently deceiving customers who are in the process of making a purchasing decision based on the promise and reputation of the old drive, only to get a new drive with significant performance differences.

      In all this, I’m still waiting to hear what the actual performance difference is.

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hi Rick….at this point we’ve forwarded your situation to be addressed by one of our lead support representatives. You should be expecting direct contact via email within 24 business hours.

      • OWC Grant says:

        OWC Larry pretty much summed up the salient points Rick but just want to make sure you understand that there is nothing, and forgive me for using your own words, “ostensibly superior” about the 480GB you currently have. Really just new technology option with a more competitive price point…which allows us to pass the cost savings on…and thanks to our 30 day money back guarantee…which we were first in industry to offer….you can enjoy those savings as well.

        So…long way of saying all good on all aspects!

    13. Linuxhippy says:

      Could you please elaborate why you think the SpecTek memory is fall-out grade? After all, all the “S” on the chips says is, it was sold by SpecTek.

      According to their datasheet the chips you made pictures of are of “AL” grade, which is even better than usual OEM grade NAND.

      • OWC Grant says:

        We approved your similar question from 3/20 and with our replies today, we feel we’ve addressed pretty thoroughly the issues related to using SpecTek NAND in a “high performance” SSD. Thanks!

    14. OWC Grant says:

      One more note of interest…while we do NOT encourage anyone opening up their drive, a Vertex 2 180GB owner did so and found SpecTek flash memory as well:

      http://img51.imageshack.us/i/img0377wk.jpg/
      http://img705.imageshack.us/i/img0379y.jpg/

      Just saying we’re not the only ones then…

    15. OWC Grant says:

      For some background, OWC has been in the memory business for over 20 years. We have a good understanding of different memory grades available. We utilize Tier
      1/Grade A flash memory in our drives because experience supports this to be the best choice for the performance, reliability, and longevity characteristics required in a Solid State Drive. Here are just a couple of articles that may offer you some independent insight on differences in available memory grades:
      http://ezinearticles.com/?Nand-Flash-Chip-Grades-Explained&id=3302766
      http://blog.premiumusb.com/2010/03/differences-in-flash-chip-quality/

    16. OWC Larry says:

      Just want to take a moment to say thank you for all your feedback and comments.

      In terms of OEM vs. Major logo. The best memory devices from a given wafer are those that will have the major brand logo along with part number. These are full spec parts with the best level of qualification. This is not to suggest that OEM isn’t bad, but OEM – Non-major brand logo memory devices typically do not have as high a criteria as the Tier 1/Grade A would. I would not compare Intel’s branded OEM components to non-branded OEM memory devices, let alone SpecTek.

      About SpecTek – among other things they do today, this is a owned subsidiary of Micron that does ‘component-recovery’. Just because a memory device fails to meet one specification doesn’t mean it can’t be re-graded to be useful for another. In this case, Micron parts which did not pass a given spec were then ‘treated’ with that ‘S’ Blast logo over the original module and the new SpecTek coding applied. If the part met original spec, then it would have been sold under the original p/n vs. moved through SpecTek – which typically offers such parts at a substantial discount.

      About the SpecTek grading/decoder info. While it does appear that these parts are marked with SpecTek’s highest grade, there is nothing on the SpecTek site to suggest the testing criteria used for this grade are comparable to the testing done for SSD drive application grading. There are references on SpecTek’s site for them having NAND solutions aimed at a variety of applications including Flash memory cards and USB Flash Drives. This potentially would suggest that criteria applied are based on use for those kinds of applications – not the same criteria for a device being screened for a Solid State Drive application. It may be the highest grade SpecTek bins to, but there is no basis we have seen to assume how that relates to the original Micron p/n specification.

      Perhaps there is someone who manufacturers some receiver for a GPS tracking. They have a specification for accuracy to 1 Foot for this high end application. They have a batch that fails and it’s sent off to a secondary division for re-testing. This division supplies for GPS units of a different application. Perhaps they do testing for accuracy of within 10 feet and will provide grades of accuracy for units to 30 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet, better than 10 feet. They may mark parts with their best rating of better than within 10 feet, but that doesn’t make it equal in spec or application use to the original manufacturer spec criteria to be accurate within 1 foot.

      There is a difference to be expected between major Tier 1/Grade A logo branded components, OEM grade, and re-graded modules (such as the SpecTek). Costs are also lower the grade and actual specification committed for the part received.

      At the end of the day, isn’t it fair to know what grade of flash component is in your SSD? Looking at various major site reviews, all the images we could find of opened units showed the presence of Tier 1/Grade A flash on board. But that doesn’t appear to be absolutely representative of the real mix of grades being used, although I believe most would assume otherwise.

    17. KJ says:

      Do you guys have a reseller in Korea or do you guys ship directly to South Korea? Thanks

    18. Mr Mordred says:

      OEM Grade doesn’t mean it’s any less quality.

      Intel does lots of OEM gear, does that make their gear any less quality? Didn’t think so…

    19. Justas says:

      Thank you, Grant.

    20. james42 says:

      The picture (“click to enlarge”) on the article above looks like it has different flash chips than the SSD in your video. In the video, all I can see is a very blurry single line of text on the flash packages. On the picture in your article, I see:

      9Z53 (edge of chip)
      “S” and “M” logos
      ODB18
      NW181
      PF458 AL

      Would you post a high-resolution picture of the flash chips from the SSD in your video?

    21. james42 says:

      OCZ is saying that these are “AL” grade chips from Spectek, a division of Micron. OCZ says that the AL grade are the highest grade from Spectek.

      Can OWC verify any of that from Micron or Spectek? I do not trust what OCZ says.

      In your picture, here is what I can see on the chips in question:

      9Z53 (edge of chip)
      “S” and “M” logos
      ODB18
      NW181
      PF458 AL

      Can you decode any of those part numbers, using either Micron or Spectek spec sheets?

    22. Justas says:

      Will you post our products to Russia?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hi Justas…if you mean do we ship to Russia or not…we do not directly to Russia at this time. You can always hit a buy now button on a product and then check the drop down Destination field under the Estimate Shipping Charges to see if we update that in the future.

    23. Hamish says:

      If I buy an OWC drive through Macfixit.com.au in Australia, I presume I am getting the same thing. They appear to be an Australian version of you guys?

    24. Brian says:

      Grant, re: comment #8 first wanted to thank OWC for releasing the update. Agree that normal sleep/wake works fine. The problem is that sometimes, maybe once or twice a month, my MacBook Pro sleeps long enough (time depends on battery remaining) to auto enter hibernate mode. When that happens my experience is the ‘fail to wake from hibernate’ bug is 100% repeatable and known issue with all Sandforce based SSDs. It’s not that it only affects some % of users, it’s that most laptops don’t enter hibernate mode very often, and let’s say it did but the SSD was installed months ago and they don’t make the connection it might be the hard drive so OWC support doesn’t get the call. Finally, from some blogs I realize the note was posted at the very bottom of a long spec page, although I was able to purchase the drive without being directed to that page (and even if I was, it’s a huge scroll down to the note).

      Again, thanks for releasing the fix as I love the drives and this should make an infrequent problem go away.

    25. Darren says:

      Well that was a bit frightening. After I clicked ok for the firmware to install windows went right to the shutdown screen displaying “Shutting Down…”, but froze at that screen. I waited 10 minutes and nothing changed, so restarted taking a risk. But rebooted and ran the tool again and it shows my firmware on the 240gb MPE ssd as version 360A13F0 now. So I guess it worked. : )

    26. Darren says:

      I bought a 240gb ssd from you recently for my new 2011 macbook pro 15″. I also bought a drive extender to hold the original apple 500gb 7200rpm hd. The 240gb ssd is in the main drive bay.

      I spent today getting boot camp installed. To do that I had to put the dvd drive back in and remove the drive extender since it wouldn’t run the boot camp install from a usb dvd drive I have.

      I got windows 7 pro 64bit installed and running independently with boot camp now so I downloaded the firmware update too and ran it but it show a different file than the MP3-343 Field.pkg. Instead in the firmware file it has one titled MP4-360.pkg.

      I notice that the firmware updater says I already have 343A13F0 installed though since I bought it just a week ago from you. So I guess it was updated. I’m about to update the firmware to the drive now though so I hope this new file will be ok. Maybe you can change the info on that firmware page to reflect the new file name.

      I just wanted to say I really appreciate your business. I loved the data doubler and tools included. Very happy with your service.

    27. Linuxhippy says:

      I don’t see whats wrong with the SpecTek logo on the chips.
      The chip is “AL”-Grade, which is even better than standard, according to spectek’s data sheets.

      Could you elaborate why you think this is fall-out nand?

    28. aph3x says:

      Did some research. Looking at the shot you took of that drive:

      Looks like the S marking on that drive simply means the NAND is sourced from SpecTek.

      AL = full spec with tighter requirements.

      So what makes you guys think its below grade? I’m not trying to defend OCZ here but I’m wondering if you guys did research before posting this blog. Are you guys trying to infer that ANY memory sold by SpecTek is inferior?

    29. jw42 says:

      OCZ is saying that these are “AL” grade chips from Spectek, a division of Micron. OCZ says that the AL grade are the highest grade from Spectek.

      Can OWC verify any of that from Micron or Spectek? I do not trust what OCZ says.

      In your picture, here is what I can see on the chips in question:

      9Z53 (edge of chip)
      “S” and “M” logos
      ODB18
      NW181
      PF458 AL

      Can you decode any of those part numbers, using either Micron or Spectek spec sheets?

      • OWC Grant says:

        This looks interesting. Upon using Google Translate, appears there’s another source (dated well before our post) that is questioning the quality of NAND used and shows a failure chart.
        Perhaps with a better translation service, the complete and accurate information could be evaluated.

    30. Sanata says:

      You are MISleading people!!! The S on the NAND means SPECTEK and you can find more information about them here http://www.spectek.com/menus/about.aspx . AND when you search better, you can find out exact information about the NAND here http://www.spectek.com/menus/nand_mark_code.aspx and than combinating with this PDF http://www.spectek.com/pdfs/SpecTek_pns_Flash.pdf where you can find, THAT the nand chips on the picture you have is PF 458 AL and AL means : -AL = Full spec w/ tighter requirements!!!! So you SHOULD really fast APOLOGIZE to everyone!!! I have spent all night worrying and searching for the truth…

    31. O-Dub Scott says:

      @Matt Comment #22-

      I bought my (well, the original one) Mac Pro Westmere 12 Core in early November 2010. I’m now on my third….about 5 months later- the’ve sent me two brand new replacements. The third time though- I absolutely INSISITED and wouldn’t take no for answer that they send it to the Apple Store and I’d swap- rather than their usual send it in, then they send your new one out 3-5 days later, which is actually about 3 weeks.

      So, there are two main issues w/ the newest Mac Pro. In order of worst issue to second worst issue:

      1. Graphics Card flickering (analogue snow weird flickers) 5770, 5870 / Multiple Displays (w/ only dual link DVI to minidisplay port issue still prevelant)

      2. 4th HD bay

      The only reason I know this for sure is because I deal w/ the same senior tech dude for the whole 4 month process (I’ve had this one now for a month) and we got to be sorta buds. Anyways- long story short, I, too thought I had one out of 4 bad OWC SSD’s and I even contacted OWC- turned out it was indeed the 4th bay of the Mac Pro.

      O-Dub Scott

    32. m3kw says:

      One more question, you guy are selling the 400gb mercury extreme pro using 25nm flash, is the performance exact same as 35nm you had before?? I notice the prices is way down as reflected by your article, but is the performance the same??

      • OWC Grant says:

        Naturally, we are working on the evolution of our SSD line, but have not made any formal announcement on such. Believe this change occurred late Friday.

        And yes…according to specs on the page, performance is the same.

        We also, I believe, will be re-announcing the 480GB early next week.

    33. Stephen says:

      OWC 360 SSD for the 11″ MacAir won the first place award at MacWorld, but it’s vaporware. I ordered and paid in January and am still waiting. The two units shipped were defective.

      • OWC Grant says:

        Actually Stephen, our entire Aura Pro Express for 2010 MacBook Air line won the Macworld Best of Show for hardware. Yes, the 360GB has been delayed…and you couldn’t have paid for it if you are still waiting for it…we cannot process a credit card order until it ships.

    34. Matt says:

      O-Dub Scott: Yes — these are used in a Mac Pro. Tested each before deploying so I could use the fastest pair where it mattered.
      Have since replaced that Mac Pro (Nehalem) with another (Westmere) but haven’t retested (I use Diglloyd Tools DiskTester). Interesting point about the 4th bay… might need to retest sometime.

    35. m3kw says:

      Why don’t you have the specs for number of writes before failure listed?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Actually we do…if you are referring to overall reliability…from very beginning when the Extreme Pro was introduced, we had/have listed:
        Reliability 2,000,000 hours Mean Time To Failure (MTTF)
        (based on SandForce processor operation)

    36. Tim says:

      So, no Mac or bootable CD iso compatible firmware upgrade option?

    37. jeremy says:

      “Go ahead; check any of the OWC Mercury SSD models’ specs…you’ll see that we only use premium Tier 1/Grade A flash memory components.”

      I found your technical specifications on the Pro RE drives that do list tier 1, but I don’t see anything stated in the specs for the Pro drives, is that just an omission and they do indeed use the same chips as the RE drives or are they different?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hi Jeremy…on every SSD model specification page…the capacity model where you can actually ‘buy now’….in the specs table under the NAND heading, you’ll see the Tier 1 info…

        This spec line is found in all of our individual SSD model lisitings:
        NAND Flash Components: Tier 1/Grade A Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND Flash Memory

    38. Bill says:

      “a 240GB Vertex 2 model, obtained directly from OCZ.”

      AFAIK, OCZ doesn’t do direct sales.

      Was it an engineering sample or review copy you got instead of a SSD intended for retail distribution?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Well Bill…we have the invoice to prove it was direct from OCZ. And why would an engineering sample or review copy be different than a retail distribution version? That would be unethical no? Don’t you expect when you read a review of a product that you can go purchase the same product?

    39. O-Dub Scott says:

      Hey Matt-

      Are you using a Mac Pro?

      The reason I ask is because the day I got my 4- one was doing the same thing.

      Long story short- turned out to be the 4th bay in the Mac Pro and Apple sent me a new one ( a new Mac Pro ).

      O-Dub Scott

    40. SSD Fan says:

      Somehow I’m not surprised after doing some digging at Ocz’s forum. They have recently switched to 25nm nand and elected to use 64Gb ICs that not only caused the capacity issues but totally tanked write speeds of compressed data. We all know that SF drives don’t handle incompressible data to well but these new 25nm 64Gb drives hit a new low. Seq. writes are as low as 35MB/s! The previous 32nm based drives hit ~100MB/s. The ‘newer’ drives are a whopping 60% slower by their own testing.
      http://www.ocztechnology.com/images/OCZ_Vertex2_2.5_AS-SSD.pdf

      Even with this huge change in performance, OCZ elected NOT to change model numbers that would differentiate between the slower and faster drives…there is absolutely no way to tell what drive your getting. It’s a shame they’ve elected to deceive their customers in this manner. To get an idea of how customers feel about this underhanded move, all you have to do is glance through the 26 page complaint thread. It is very clear that Ocz has lost the trust of the enthusiast users for whom their products are supposed to cater to.

      http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?84686-complaint-about-25nm-SSD-drives

      Seems they’ve chosen profits over customer satisfaction.

    41. Matthew says:

      So this (or a newer) firmware update will be applied to all OWC Mercury Extreme Pro & Pro RE SSDs sold direct by you guys before shipping them out from now on?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Yes Matthew…any drive shipping from 3/18 on will have that new firmware update….until another update is made available. And on that last note, don’t read into that…nothing I know of on the docket so to speak.

        This takes care of the very isolated hibernation issue.

    42. Matt says:

      When I bought 4 of these OWC SSDs last year I found the performance of each of them was not consistent. 1 of them actually performed quite average (i.e. much worse than advertised), 2 were within advertised specs & the other somewhere in between. Why would 4 “identical” SSDs vary so widely? Reconditioning made no difference.
      On the OCZ comparison, I have a PCIe SSD board from them where you can see what chips are used… but back to topic…. I thought OWC would have released the PCIe SSD product by now… there was a press release last year from OWC… when can I expect to be able to get one of those to compare to my OCZ Revo drive?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hi Matt…our expectations for development time on that PCIe card were a bit aggressive. No new news or eta on that.

        Regarding your inconsistent performance, that is not consistent with what all the reviews have reported…as well as our own internal testing. We were the first SSD manufacturer to offer a 30 day money back guarantee…and still have a three year warranty on the Pro and five year on the Pro RE. So, if you are dissatisfied with one of more of your drives, contact our customer service department and arrange for an RMA.

        We do thoroughly test all products returned to us and honestly…as close as I sit to and interact with our product development team, I have not heard of wide variance in the performance of our SSDs.

    43. O-Dub Scott says:

      Hey OWC Grant-

      The hibernation thing’s not really a big deal for me now that I have hibernation disabled.

      That said, just out of curiosity- since it’s firmware update will that mean it’s just a bit of software for current users of SSD’s from OWC to download and fix the issue? (sorry not really a computer guy- just need one for music production / engineering).

      Thanks again,

      O-Dub Scott

    44. KJ says:

      Where does OWC acquire their chips from? Micron? Intel? Samsung? etc.

      and Vertex 2… 240GB… off spec chips? That’s almost unbelievable. Must explain why my father’s lab’s Vertex 2 fell apart within a year.

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hey KJ…no problem answering that…we share all the details…we build with Micron, Toshiba, intel, Samsung, and Hynix depending on model and such.

        A good majority is Micron.

        It may be unbelievable…but the screen shot, image, and video tell the truth. Three different drives. Three different spec’d memory. With one memory type, according to an expert, not suitable to ever be used in SSDs.

    45. Brian says:

      I love my OWC SSDs (have 3 now), but I think you need to come clean on the bug that has caused me to lose data. If I forget to sleep my laptop, and it’s not connected to power, then it won’t wake up from deep sleep and that has caused me to lose data. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen and OWC knew about this issue and didn’t provide that info at time of purchase (I would have still bought). This caused me to waste close to 10 hours of time trying to debug the issue, not including the trip to the Apple store, and that is just wrong because you know the SSDs have this issue and it wasn’t disclosed.

      • OWC Grant says:

        Hi Brian:

        For the record, the moment we realized (back in January I believe) that a very small number of Mac owners (about 10% of all of our SSDs sold) could experience a hibernation issue, we put the following on every SSD model specification page directly below the specs table:

        IMPORTANT LAPTOP USER NOTE: There have been reports of system hangs in relation to hibernation mode. We recommend not using ANY program that puts your laptop into hibernation mode when using an SSD.

        Normal, automatic sleep mode functions perfectly with no issues.

        We also highly recommend you avoid draining your battery completely (5% or less remaining charge) to avoid being automatically switched into hibernation mode by your machine’s power saving settings. If your notebook does go into hibernation mode, the machine can hang once it is plugged into an outlet or when using a charged battery as the machine comes out of hibernation mode. If you should experience this, you will need to restart your machine and any unsaved work from that session will be lost. SandForce is working on this issue and it will be addressed in a future firmware update. We will post the update on our firmware update page as soon as it becomes available.
        ——-
        So, as that info is on the Buy Now page, not sure we could have provided any more clearer info at the time of purchase. We have been testing the next firmware revision while we’ll have a formal announcement about that next week, check this page: http://eshop.macsales.com/owcpages/sf_firmware.html

    46. Noel Lucas says:

      Glad to see this come to light. I’ve been running 50+ OWC RE Pro’s in RAID10 in Oracle & HyperV applications for going on 6 months now, with nary an issue, but with blistering performance.

    47. O-Dub Scott says:

      WOW! That is soooo shady!

      I’ve seen those things all over the place…newegg, amazon, etc….

      I must admit….I may have been tempted once or twice simply because of the price and I guess I had the impression that OCZ was a good SSD manufactuer…but fortunately I never bought anything.

      To any consumers reading this: I have no affiliation w/ the company…I just own a ton of the stuff they make including 4 X OWC SSD’ RE models. They all run anywhere from 263MB/s to 272MB/s READ and the exact same for write. That’s the day they were the day I got them and all four are exactly the same 4 months later, today.

      So, yeah. SSD’s are an expensive investement- f you’re going to spend the money you might as well spend it wisely.

      O-Dub Scott

    48. jl says:

      yep… could you guys explain the different grades of memory?

      on a separate topic… when will you guys come out with a 6gbs sandforce 2 driven ssd?!? cant wait to get one of those from you guys!

    49. kb says:

      Can you guys explain the differences in the different Grades and Tiers of flash memory?

      • OWC Grant says:

        Tier 1/Grade A will have the logo of the manufacturer…such as Micron, Intel, Hynix, Samsung clearly printed/indentified on the chip.
        All flash memory is created from one large silicon wafer. The best chips, Tier 1, come from the middle of the wafer while those cut closer to the edges of this wafer tend to be of lower quality.

        OEM level chips don’t have that logo….but are considered very suitable for all full spec applications.

        non-spec memory is rejected or “fall out” memory from the full spec….it failed some testing or quality control and thus should not be utilized in full spec applications.

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