OCZ smashes solid state disk price barrier

Solid-state drives have taken another major step to becoming mainstream options with the announcement from memory manufacturer OCZ that its new drives will comes in at less than half the price per GB compared to competitors.

Three new drives are going to come to market, a 32GB a 64GB and a 128GB drive, at $169 (84), $259 (129) and $479 (240) respectively.

"SSDs offer higher performance, reliability, and energy efficiency than conventional HDDs but the cost variance has limited adoption of vastly superior SSD technology, until now," said Ryan Petersen, chief executive of OCZ Technology. "It is our mission to deliver the highest performance products to consumers at reasonable prices, and with the release of the Core Series SSDs we have done exactly that."

Each of these drives is already available in the UK for preorder at popular etailer Play.com, though in true UK style the actual retail prices are higher than the straight dollar conversions, coming in at 117.99 for the 32GB version, 179.99 for the 64GB and 319.99 for the 128GB version.

Though prices have been squeezed down, OCZ claims that performance hasn't with 100MBps and 80MBps transfer speeds for the 32GB and 64GB models and 143MBps and 93MBps for the 128GB drive.

This doesn't scale the performance heights of the 200MBps claimed by the 256MB Samsung drive expected for release in fourth quarter 2008, but pricing for that unit has yet to be announced.

However, some analysts struck a note of caution at the announcement. Joseph Unsworth, research director for Gartner, said that to reach its prices OCZ would have to be employing multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash technology, which stores 2-bits per cell, rather than the single level cell (SLC), which stores 1-bit per cell. This makes it cheaper to manufacture but makes the drives more susceptible to error.

"Samsung, Toshiba, San Disk, Intel and Micron will all be releasing MLC based drives later this year but they want to make sure they get it right before they do. They will be able to compete with these prices, but not until the end of the year."

"It's also not clear if the OCZ performance figures are sustained or burst rates, Unsworth added. "SSDs are an area that many manufacturers are pouring into but it can be very confusing for the customer. We need better education on SSDs, so consumers know what the key metrics are that they need to look for."

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.