Retail Optima SSDs were found to be using different controllers than the ones sent to reviewers
PNY put itself in a somewhat sticky spot when it decided to equip its Optima solid state drives bound for retail with a different brand controller than the ones that were sent to reviewers. Once it was discovered by the public, there were cries of wrongdoing over what buyers considered a bait-and-switch tactic. We reached out to PNY for an official explanation on the matter and here's what the company told us.
"The PNY Optima SSD line is an entry-level and value driven product. As our website states, the Optima SSDs utilize multiple qualified controllers to offer the best available solution to our customers. We do not and have not specified any one particular brand of controller, however we do feature performance specifications which include using synchronous flash and random read/write speeds of up to 60k," PNY told Maximum PC.
In other words, it's all about the performance claims. Pricing and availability may dictate which controller PNY uses at any particular time, and while two SSDs from the same product family might sport different parts, performance should be comparable.
This is similar to the statement PNY provided when the controller swap first came to light. What people found sketchy, however, was that every Optima SSD sent out to reviewers used SMI controllers, while those in the retail sector were found to be using LSI (SandForce) controllers. PNY offered up an explanation for that as well.
"All the reviews units were shipped simultaneously and those Optima SSDs were built with SMI controllers – one of the newer controllers currently available on the market. However the current set of Optima SSDs are being built with LSI controllers, a very reputable line which meet all advertised performance specifications," PNY added. "Either way, consumers should have peace of mind that they are receiving a solid product built with tier 1 synchronous flash. PNY has been completely transparent about the use of multiple qualified controllers which grants us the ability to offer consumers the best possible value and performance."
We checked PNY's website and sure enough, the description for its Optima SSDs clearly states that it uses "multiple qualified controllers," which gives the company the flexibility it needs to "stay very competitive in the entry-level SSD market." This is different from, say, the PNY's XLR8 SSD line, in which the company lists the controller (SandForce 2281).
None of this means you need to like or agree with the practice of swapping parts, especially in situations like this where reviewers and consumers received SSDs with completely different controllers. If nothing else, PNY (and other companies that might be doing the same thing) could avoid these situations by pointing out to reviewers the possibility of using different parts, which could then be included in the review.