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Indilinx Barefoot 3 – What’s New?

The Indilinx Barefoot 3 platform was introduced over a year ago, in late 2012. Despite the age, it is still quite cutting-edge today. Consumer-class SSDs have been progressing at a slower rate recently, so the Barefoot 3's specs (100 thousand IOPS) keep it competitive. As for support for modern interfaces, it was built into the controller originally, meaning that Barefoot 3 based SSDs are compatible with SATA 6 Gbit/s and with different types of flash memory.

The Barefoot 3 design looks innovative even today. The controller incorporates two processor cores. One is an ARM Cortex core and another, called OCZ Aragon, is a specialized SSD-optimized 400MHz 32-bit RISC processor. The Barefoot 3 can do reading on one core and writing on another, achieving high performance at mixed loads.

The Barefoot 3 doesn’t call for any improvements, so the new drives from OCZ use the same version of the chip as their predecessors Vector and Vertex 450. It is the transition to Toshiba’s 19nm MLC NAND flash with Toggle Mode interface that made OCZ introduce some changes into their SSD design. The Barefoot 3 platform was only theoretically compatible with such memory and the new SSDs required revised firmware to support it.

Besides that, OCZ revised the whole set of flash memory technologies, endowing the Vector 150 and Vertex 460 with some completely new features. First of all, they have a longer service life. And secondly, they deliver higher sustained performance. OCZ seems to move its SSDs closer to server-class products which can handle high loads well. Making its products stand out among competing consumer-class SSDs, OCZ may have a chance to attract more customers.

The first thing you notice about the new OCZ drives is their reduced storage capacity. The capacity of the Vector 150 and Vertex 460 is now a multiple of 120 rather than 128 GB. In other words, the amount of user-inaccessible storage has doubled to mitigate write amplification and flash memory wear. Of course, users can hardly be glad to lose 14% of the total capacity, yet in return they get a much higher specified service life and an aggressive garbage collection algorithm which can work not only without TRIM but also in parallel to the SSD’s other activities.

The next table compares the specifications of the first and second generation of products based on the Barefoot 3 controller:

The flagship Vector 150 improves the specs of the Vector series by having much higher endurance. The midrange Vertex 460 is a little faster than the Vertex 450 but has the same specified service life. We guess the latter is just a marketing trick that justifies OCZ’s selling that version of the Barefoot 3 platform cheaper than the senior model.

One more innovation implemented in the Barefoot 3 is the added support for 256-bit AES encryption. The required functionality has always been present in the controller and now it is unlocked and ready to be used. The implementation is primitive, however. It uses an ATA password whereas the TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 standards, which would provide convenient hardware encryption via BitLocker or third-party Windows software, are not supported by the Vector 150 and Vertex 460.

Overall, OCZ’s new drives with Toshiba flash memory seem to be an improvement on their predecessors. Now let’s have a closer look at their 240GB versions we’ve got for our tests.

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