|OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 01 August 2011|
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Closer Look: OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G
SSDs are quickly gaining popularity because they work equally well in PC, Linux, or Apple Mac computers. Likewise, they install into both desktop and notebook platforms without modification. For this article Benchmark Reviews is testing the 120GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD Solid State Drive, which is specified to reach speeds of 559 MB/s for sequential reads and 527 MB/s sequential writes. The OWCSSDMX6G120T model we've received for testing is built using the SandForce SF-2281 SSD controller and Intel-Micron NAND flash components.
Other World Computing offers two capacities for their Mercury Extreme Pro 6G series of solid state drives: 120GB and 240GB. Performance specifications usually increase with capacity as a result of the larger integrated buffer, but OWC offers the same specifications for both models. All of the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD models share the same part numbers with a capacity designator: OWCSSDMX6G120T stands for 120GB.
The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD is best suited for performance-orientated personal computers, but could also work well for SOHO computer workstation systems. SandForce SF-2200 series SSDs have been designed with a focus on high-performance operational and data transfer speeds, and includes 256-bit encrypted data protection and improved NAND wear-leveling through their proprietary DuraWrite technology.
Other World Computing recognizes that once installed, the SSD will be hidden away from view inside a notebook computer or desktop workstation, so they've remained conservative towards the design of their solid state drive appearance. Each half of the drive enclosure is given a textured blue anodized aluminum finish, which does not show fingerprints or smudges like a gloss surface would. A glossy label is attached to each side of the SSD enclosure, denoting model and capacity.
Standard 2.5" drive bay mounting points are pre-drilled and threaded into the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD chassis, which allows for quick upgrade or addition into any existing notebook and other compact computer system. Unfortunately, OWC does not includes a 3.5" to 2.5" tray adapter with the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G kit. The mounting positions matched up to the drive bracket on my notebook computer, and after only a few minutes I was booting from a restored Windows 7 System Image without a hitch.
Unlike most Hard Disk Drive (HDD) storage products, SSDs are nearly impervious to impact damage and do not require (or benefit from) any kind of special vibration dampening or shock-proof enclosures. OWC utilizes a standard two-piece metal enclosure for their Mercury Extreme Pro 6G-series SSDs, which reveals the internal components after removing four small counter-sunk screws located along the sides of this solid state drive. The seam along the side is covered with a 'Warranty Void' label, which OWC attaches to warn consumers against taking apart their product. By removing the SSD cover it will also remove your consumer protection with it.
If you're familiar with previous-generation OWC solid-state storage products, you'll notice that looks for the Mercury Extreme Pro 6G series haven't changed beyond the descriptive product decal. While its outward appearance is similar to many other solid state drives, the functionality and value packaged inside are considerably unique. Now that you're acquainted with the basic exterior features of this SSD, it's time to peek inside the metal enclosure and inspect the SandForce SF-2281 internal components...
SandForce introduces their new second generation solid state drives to both consumer and enterprise segments, with seven different models to choose from. On the consumer (retail) side you've got models using the older SATA 3Gb/s interface as well as the latest SATA 6Gb/s interface, while all enterprise drives utilize the 3rd-generation SATA 6Gb/s interface. More than any other factor, it's the Flash Channels/Byte Lanes configuration that these separate models. SandForce's SF-2000 series of SSDs continue to feature up to 8 data channels organized into 16 Byte lanes; similar to the previous generation of SF-1222/SF-1565 series SSD controllers, but now some models are scaled down for usage scenarios not requiring massive IO activity.
On second-generation SandForce-driven SSDs, a new SATA 6Gb/s SandForce SF-2281VB1-SDC processor is part of their SF-2200 family of retail SSD controller chips, although and identical SF-2181 processor exists for older SATA 3Gb/s connections. Offering 8 flash channels with 8 Byte lanes configured (one lane per channel), the SF-2281 maintains a BGA-256 package whereas the top-end SF-2282 delivers two lanes per channel on a BGA-400 package. More detail is available in our SandForce SF-2000 Series SSD Processor Overview article.
SandForce SF-2281VB1-SDC Controller
All SandForce SSD controllers offer native TRIM garbage collection in supporting Operating System (such as Microsoft Windows-7), Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with 32 command slots, and basic Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) command set. SandForce built the SF-2200 series to produce 500 MB/s Sequential Read and Write bandwidth with 60K (burst)/20K (sustained) IOPS Random Write (4K transfers).
The SF-2200 SSD processor provides enhanced ECC with BCH data protection, and also includes SandForce's unique RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology. RAISE provides the protection and reliability of RAID on a single SSD drive, thanks to flash architecture, without the significant write overhead of parity. The SandForce DuraClass technology automatically stores data using Trusted Computing Group (TCG) OPAL security with 256-bit AES encryption and automatic, line-rate double encryption with a drive-level password, preventing data extraction directly from the physical flash memory modules.
Toshiba TH58TAG7D2FBAS9 Toggle-NAND Flash
SandForce enables support for advanced 30nm- and 20nm-class NAND flash from all leading flash vendors with Asynch/ONFi1/ONFi2/Toggle interfaces with data transfer rates up to 166 Mega Transfers per second. Their latest generation of controllers also offers advanced ECC engine correcting up to 55 bits per 512-byte sector to assure high data integrity and support for future generations of flash memory. On the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD, sixteen multi-layer cell Toshiba TH58TAG7D2FBAS9 Toggle-NAND flash modules are joined to the SandForce SF-2281 controller. Consumer-level SandForce SSDs generally allocate 7% capacity over-provisioning and 128GB devices will yield 120GB of usable storage space.