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Toshiba's OCZ VX500 512GB SSD reviewed

A19 flash bids adieu

Toshiba's OCZ arm has been on a bit of a winning streak with its solid-state storage products in the last few years. In fact, pretty much every SSD—other than the Trion 100—that the company has put out since the acquisition has been a winner in our book. However, the company's current lineup of drives consists of just three models: the RD400 for the luxury PCIe market, the TR150 for the bang-for-buck segment, and the VT180 that hangs out somewhere in between.

The beloved Arc 100 has been discontinued, and the venerable Vertex line hasn't seen a new entry since the Vertex 460, which was released during the haze of bankruptcy fears and warranty uncertainties that arose while Toshiba was acquiring OCZ. The RD400 and TR150 are both fairly recent products, and each has earned our nod of approval for its respective market segment.

The VT180, on the other hand, is in a strange place. Known as the Vector 180 back when we reviewed it, the drive still features Toshiba's A19 MLC flash and a Barefoot 3 controller. The 19-nm A19 NAND is old hat now, as the rest of the crew has moved on to 15-nm flash. And Barefoot is a name that has disappeared into the aether of Toshiba's IP armory. Perhaps some Barefoot technology is still alive in Toshiba's cryptically named "TC" controllers, but the company no longer discloses details about such things.

It comes as no surprise then, that the VT180 is being put out to pasture. To fill the void in the lineup that it leaves behind, Toshiba is introducing a new SATA drive—the OCZ VX500. Behold its shiny chassis.

Since we know how letters and numbers work, this "VX500" is clearly not meant to be direct substitute for the VT180. Instead, we should probably expect performance more in line with the Vertex series. The Vector line was created and marketed as a high-performance option, and Toshiba is perhaps hoarding the VT name for use on something more worthy. What sort of drive that will be remains to be seen, but our money's on something powered by BiCS, Toshiba's 3D competitor to Samsung's V-NAND.

But that's a story for another day. For now, let's take a look at the VX500's specifications and pricing.

Toshiba OCZ VX500
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps) Price
Read Write Read Write
128GB 550 485 62k 49k $63.99
256GB 550 510 90k 58k $92.79
512GB 550 515 92k 64k $152.52
1024GB 520 515 92k 65k $337.06

Note that the dollar amounts listed above are only "target launch pricing," but we can't imagine the actual launch price tags will deviate too much from what Toshiba has already made public. We've got one of the 512GB units to test, but before we talk about benchmarks, let's rip it apart and see what we can glean from its innards.

Thermal pads. The VX500 is ostensibly powered by a host of thermal pads. Peel back a few of the pink squares and it becomes obvious that the NAND inside the VX500 is the same 15-nm planar Toshiba MLC used by the RD400. The controller appears to be named "TC358790XBG." As we've come to expect, not much information can be found online about this controller, but we do know that this chip powered one of Toshiba's non-OCZ drives, the Q Series Pro. In fact, if you take a look at that (now discontinued) drive, you might be struck by its resemblance to the VX500 here. The chassis and controller appear to be identical—the only apparent difference is that the Q was still running with A19 flash.

The simple conclusion is that after retiring the Q Series Pro, Toshiba decided to re-position its successor under the OCZ brand while transitioning the product to 15-nm. This explains how the company can introduce a "new" MLC drive at such relatively low prices right out of the gate—it already has a host of mature components, and it can economically assemble them into a cohesive product.

All versions of the VX500 come with a free copy of Acronis True Image and a 5-year advance-replacement warranty. Toshiba has been trumpeting its advanced warranty program for quite some time now, promising prompt and free cross-shipping if a drive fails. The company is clearly still trying hard to banish the specter of OCZ's former reputation for poor reliability. The 512GB drive is rated to endure 296 terabytes written.

That's it for our initial impressions and analysis. It's time to break out IOMeter and see how the VX500 performs.