While we don't expect solid-state drives to go mainstream just yet, they are definitely rapidly moving in that direction. Current generation SSDs offer more value than ever before, with the speed advantage, features, and sufficient capacity to become viable alternatives to standard drives for most users.
One of the driving forces behind SSD technology was Intel, whose drives have always been one step ahead of the competition. Unsurprisingly, the second generation Intel X25-M is arguably the best MLC-based solid-state drive money can buy.
That's not to say that there is no longer a choice out there, but on the contrary, you've seen how we reviewed a variety of drives from different manufacturers, and perhaps most importantly, used different controllers under the hood. The Crucial M225, the A-DATA S592 and of course the original OCZ Vertex are excellent examples of high quality Indilinx barefoot-based SSDs. In fact, the OCZ Vertex is probably the most famous and highly acclaimed Indilinx SSD series, and for good reason.
SSD technology is still young, and often it needs updated firmware that can fix compatibility issues, add new features, and in some cases even improve performance. Without a doubt, OCZ was the busiest manufacturer of firmware releases and kept its products like the Vertex constantly updated.
OCZ has also been very aggressive with the SSD product line, offering a variety of products based on a number of different controllers. Over time, most drives have adopted the Indilinx Barefoot controller as it has proven to be the best alternative to Intel. Then, late last year, we got an interesting announcement that the majority of OCZ's next generation SSD products would be ditching Indilinx in favor of a new controller from an unknown company called SandForce.
SandForce is not an SSD manufacturer and only creates the controller. They are currently developing two controllers, the SF-1200 and the SF-1500, both of which are used by OCZ. The SF-1200 is the consumer-facing model that only supports MLC flash memory, while the SF-1500 is designed for the enterprise market and supports SLC flash.
OCZ's first SandForce-based SSD will be the Vertex 2 Pro, which is slated for release in March of this year. The Vertex 2 Pro uses the SF-1500 controller with MLC memory and is designed to provide enterprise-grade reliability and performance. Hence, the Vertex 2 Pro won't be an affordable SSD as its main focus is on performance.
The most popular choice is likely to be the Vertex 2, which uses the SF-1200 controller. This version should provide similar performance to Vertex 2 Pro, with the exception of random writes, which are said to be lower. Still, we are curious to see how the SandForce SF-1500 controller will behave when we test the upcoming flagship SSD from OCZ.