Not a lot of folks can justify paying a premium for a Blu-ray burner and then the media to go along with it. At the other end of the pricing spectrum, DVD burners and media are dirt cheap, and so are mechanical hard drives, for that matter. But if you are going to spend a portion of your fun money on Blu-ray backups, it certainly helps if you can write to discs more than once, something you'll be able to do with Panasonic's upcoming 100GB rewritable Blu-ray disc.
SandForce-based drives have quickly emerged as the frontrunners in the solid-state wars, thanks to impressive read and write speeds, both sequential and random (which finally gives them an edge over the previous random-write leader, the aging Intel X-25M G2). All SandForce drives use the same controller, so differences between models come down to the commodity NAND used and—most importantly—firmware.
SandForce played a tricky game with its firmware, letting some manufacturers ship drives with release-candidate firmware, giving other vendors special “max IOPS” firmware, and so forth. Even its SF-1500 and SF-1200 controllers (enterprise and consumer, respectively) are only differentiated by firmware—but this firmware can vary quite a bit. We’ve never tested a bad SandForce drive, but the question remains: Is the Patriot Inferno a great SandForce drive, or merely a good one?
Sharp today introduced two new Aquos Blu-Ray disc recorders -- BD-HDW700 and BD-HDW70 -- into the Japanese market, both of which support the new BDXL format.
The BDXL format allows for far greater storage than with regular Blu-ray discs, up to 100GB on triple-layer discs (compared to 50GB), and up to 128GB on quadruple-layer discs.
Sharp's drives are the first in the world to support both recording and playback of BDXL media, and also come with 1TB (HDW70) and 2TB (HDW700) of hard drive capacity. Both drives will be available in Japan on July 30, 2010, with no word on when the company plans to ship these stateside.
In June, we tested OCZ’s Vertex Limited Edition, one of two drives we had that used the SandForce SF-1200 controller. At the time, we wondered why OCZ would artificially limit supplies of an SSD with such great performance. And now we know: It was a trial run to help SandForce, a recent startup, gain capital to scale up production. It’s since done that, and in gratitude to OCZ has granted the company exclusive random-write-IOPS-boosting firmware for its Vertex 2 drives. The new firmware will be available to other SF-1200 drives (probably by the time this issue hits stands)—but as of press time, it’s an OCZ Vertex 2 exclusive deal. Ethics of “exclusive firmware” aside, is the Vertex 2 any better than its Limited Edition stable mate?
The SSD market is a meritocracy. Controller companies live and die on the strength of their products. Who had heard of Barefoot before its Indilinx controller pushed SSD speeds to new heights? SandForce is another promising young company whose controllers have started appearing in drives, including this month’s OCZ Vertex LE and the OWC Mercury Extreme Enterprise.
OWC markets mainly to Mac users, but don’t hold that against its SSD. It’s a modern, SandForce SF-1500-powered drive that supports TRIM. And given that OS X doesn’t support TRIM, well, we don’t even think that platform deserves performance this good.