OCZ Summit Series 250GB SSD Preview - New Samsung MLC
Intel gets some competition
UPDATE: We have just posted a performance preview of the OCZ Vertex series as well! It uses a completely new controller technology from Indilinx rather than Intel, Samsung or JMicron. Be sure to give it a read!
It would be trivial to say that our coverage of solid state drives has increased dramatically over the past 12 months. It was really the release of the Intel X25-M series of drives that really made the market perk up and pay attention to this growing segment of devices; it brought reliable, glitch free speed at "decent" prices to SSDs for really the first time. Since then companies like Samsung, OCZ Technology, Kingston and even Corsair have seen the light and are making a solid push into the market.
Last month we looked the first strong competitor from OCZ, the Apex series, that used a unique "RAID in a drive" design combining a pair of SSD controllers. While the drives were faster than previous JMicron-based designs, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The OCZ Summit series of solid state drives is definitely that.
The OCZ Summit Series of SSDs
The OCZ Summit series of solid state drives is based on a brand new controller from Samsung - so new in fact that our testing drives were actually "glued" together and the name of the controller was sanded off before they arrived to us here. Because these are very early engineering samples they aren't pretty looking - hand applied stickers, etc. But what is important of course is performance, not looks.
If we could flip over the PCB we'd not only find the controller but a dedicated 64MB of on-board cache as well that is used to speed up performance on the drive.
The cache on the OCZ Summit drive is really what will help it stand out from previous solid state offerings. While having cache on board with standard hard drives has been the norm for many years, it was long thought that the speed of flash memory negated the need to have dedicate memory on drives for performance reasons. After all of our experience with JMicron controller and the very slow writes they were famous for, we have learned that cache is still a technology SSDs can take advantage of.
What exactly does the Summit (and other upcoming SSDs with cache on-board) use the cache for? Essentially, the drive can use the 64MB of local memory to sort, organize and save writes sent to the drive from the operating system so that the controller can more efficiently execute the flash writes and hopefully negate slow down. As is the case with flash memory writes, if data needs to be read from the memory, reshuffled and saved again, the 64MB of on-board cache can also be a performance enhancing element.