Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: Due to the similarities between the SandForce based drives, i.e. the OCZ Vertex 2, Agility 2, Corsair Force F100, and the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE, they all performed at essentially identical levels, in the vast majority of the tests we ran. Despite the firmware limitations imposed on the Agility 2 and OWC Mercury Extreme drives, they performed similarly to the other SandForce based drives in every test, except for CrystalDiskMark, where their random 4K writes (QD32) were about 2.4x lower. Comparing the SandForce and JMicron based drives showed the SandForce drives with measurable performance advantages across the board, save for some sequential read tests where the JMicron based Patriot Zephyr drive put up the best scores.
Now that we know all of the SandForce based drives perform similarly in most workloads, despite their firmware differences, and that the JMicron based drives don't offer the same kind of performance, it's time to discuss pricing.
All of the SandForce based drives we looked at offered the exact same usable capacity--93.16GB. The Patriot Zephyr, however, offered 119 usable gigabytes. These are important numbers to keep in mind, as we explain the chart below:
At the current time, the OCZ Vertex 2 and OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE are available for the same $399, which equates to a cost of $4.28 per gigabyte. The Corsair Force Series F100 drive is harder to find at the moment, but they can be found for $359, or $3.85 per gigabyte. The OCZ Agility 2 comes in with the lowest cost of the SandForce based drives at $349, or $3.74 per gigabyte. Which brings us to the Patriot Zephyr, which can be had for a relatively low $3.06 per gigabyte.
Update 6/25/2010: Since this article was originally published, the cost of the 100GB SandForce-based drives has dropped considerably, if there are available at all. The newer Corsair Force F120 and OCZ Vertex 2 120GB drives have replaced the 100GB models at all of the on-line retailers we've checked, and at somewhat lower price points. The Corsair Force F120 is available for $349, or $2.93 per GB, while the OCZ Vertex 2 120GB can be had for about $354, or $2.97 per GB. At these lower price points, considering their performance, these drives are both excellent choices for enthusiasts looking to make the move to an SSD.
Taking all things into consideration, the Corsair Force Series and OCZ Agility 2 drives would be our preferred all-around choices, for obvious reasons. The Corsair F100 offers better overall performance than the Agility 2 thanks to its firmware, but the latter is the most affordable SandForce based drive of the bunch and its performance is also excellent. With that said, we have absolutely no problem recommending any of the drives we've tested here. All of the drives performed extremely well and will be a significant step up from any standard hard drive. Although its performance wasn't on-par with the others, the Patriot Zephyr offers roughly 28% more capacity with by far the lowest cost per gigabyte of the bunch. What we're getting it is that each of the drives represented here has its merits and all are solid products.
OCZ Vertex 2
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE
Patrior Memory Zephyr