Recently OCZ has been focusing on its high-end Vector SSDs and before that the Vertex 4 models. Despite of that, not too long ago a new version of the Vertex 3 SSDs was also introduced, called the Vertex 3.20. The suffix .20 refers to the flash memory, which is Intel 20nm MLC NAND. We tested the 240 GB model of the Vertex 3 and compared it to the original version and other current SSDs.
The Vertex 3.20 is the third iteration of the Vertex 3 series. The original Vertex 3 SSDs, which appeared at the start of 2011, was one of the first SSDs to use the SandForce SF-2281 controller. At the time, the Vertex 3 took the lead in important benchmarks like PCMark Vantage. Aside from the new controller, the Vertex 3 was also one of the first SSDs to use 25nm Intel/Micron flash memory. A bit later a more expensive version, the Vertex 3 Max IOPS edition, appeared. It was equipped with the same controller, but had 24nm Toshiba ToggleNAND, which enabled slightly higher speeds. The latest version, the Vertex 3.20, has even smaller Intel/Micron 20nm flash memory.
The chips will have 8 GB per with 8 kB pages, and not the newer 16 GB variant used in the recent Crucial M500 SSDs. There isn't supposed to be any difference between the 25nm and 20nm chips from Intel/Micron in terms of performance and reliability, so the Vertex 3.20 should be identical to the previous version in that regard.
That predecessor has somewhat of a turbulent history. A number of consumers experienced problems with OCZ Vertex 2 and Vertex 3 SSDs using SandForce controllers. The latest version of the firmwares should have remedied that according to OCZ, and that does indeed seem to be the case. While the Vertex 3 SSDs still have an image problem, you don't see many complaints on forums anymore after the firmware update. The Vertex 3.20 comes with the latest version out of the box, version 2.30 in our case.
The 240 GB model we tested is available for an average price of $288. While that is a little cheaper than average, OCZ isn't positioning the Vertex 3.20 as budget model. The question is whether an SSD with a more than two-year-old controller can justify such a pricetag, however, especially when companies like Kingston are selling SandForce-based SSDs for much less. The Kingston V300 240GB has 19nm Toshiba ToggleFlash memory and is available for an average of € 177 already, providing really good value for money.
We're not going to spend much time on the aging SandForce SF-2281 controller in this review and instead focus on the benchmarks to get an impression of how the Vertex 3.20 compares to the competition.