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.
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.
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.
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: