Memory | SSD Reliability: whom to buy and whom to avoid

As a one time owner of both an OCZ Vertex 2 (34mm NAND) and OWC Mercury Exreme SSD (Other World Computing ripped us off on the return btw, I'd avoid OWC as vigorously as OCZ, it's the same crappy Sandforce 2 technology on the inside and poor excuses on the outside) and a current owner of a Kingston V+ SSD and the buyer of tens of gigabytes of memory every year, I am really interested in real failure rates of this equipment.

While Anand may wax lyrical about OCZ and Sandforce and Jeff Atwood finds SSD performance hot, technology which fails often does not offer performance gains.

Equipment failure rate is a real problem in a company dependent on computers/IT. Not only do you lose money, you lose a lot of time returning/replacing parts and rebuilding systems. A company who makes it hard to return faulty equipment gets banned right away.

  • SMC will never see another purchase from Foliovision.
    Useless obfuscating Indian tech support who seek only to disqualify returns of networking products which were sold  known as broken.
  • OWC will never see another purchase from Foliovision.
    Poor products, false marketing claims, nearly impossible return conditions, wasting hours of customer time by forcing repeat calls to eventually get even partial refund. Thanks Dan for being a particularly time-waster along with your supervisor Janice.
  • Seagate will never see another purchase from Foliovision.
    How many drive failures can one stand?
  • OCZ will never see another purchase from Foliovision.
    Vertex 2 and Agility 2 failure rates. Hours and hours wasted trying to recover from serial failure before giving up and returning. Thank you to our dealer for swapping for Kingston V+.
  • Icy Dock will never see another purchase from Foliovision.
    Thanks for destroying all my backup drives, guys.
  • Fortran will likely never see another purchase from Foliovision (we bought a bunch of their Blue Zen silent power supplies: three have burn out in the last year).

Our IT blacklist is not longer than that. If you value your money and/or peace of mind, I advise avoiding any of the brands above.

Here are some companies whom we have found reliable:

  • HP monitors. Especially the IPS series like the HP LP3065 and LP2465.
  • Dell monitors.
  • IBM Thinkpads.
  • Kingston memory and almost anything Kingston.
  • Asus motherboards and graphic cards.
  • Nvidia graphics technology.
  • Zalman quiet fan technology.
  • Apple Macbooks and MBP and MacMinis.
  • Western Digital hard drives, internal and external.
  • Kensington high end pointing devices (Expert Mouse) with bad experiences on low end.

These items aren't directly IT but are usually around the office so they make the list.

  • NAD Amplifiers: great sound and functional design.
  • Black Diamond backpacks (less satisfied with LowePro which tend to fall apart quickly under wear).
  • Manfrotto tripods.
  • Pentax SMC lenses (the old metal ones).
  • Crumpler computer bags.

What's very funny is when you find out your hunches and personal experiences are borne out by the statistics.

There's a great website in France called Hardware.fr which does a yearly round up of what is working and what is failing. They cover motherboards, power supplies, RAM memory, graphic cards, hard drives and SSD.

Surprise, surprise.

Avoid both OCZ memory and SSD's. I'd avoid OCZ anything after seeing the failure rates for 2010. Here's memory for 2010 (followed by 2010):

  • Kingston 0,4% (contre 0,3%)
  • Crucial 0,7% (contre 0,9%)
  • Corsair 1,6% (contre 1,4%)
  • G.Skill 2,0% (contre 2,7%)
  • OCZ 7,1% (contre 6,8%)

Here's SSD failure rates for 2010:

  • Intel 0,3% (contre 0,6%)
  • Kingston 1,2% (contre 2,4%)
  • Crucial 1,9% (contre 2,2%)
  • Corsair 2,7% (contre 2,2%)
  • OCZ 3,5% (contre 2,9%)

Notice that a good company like Kingston tries to recover quickly from a bad year (and picks better OEM suppliers going forward). Here's the early returns on SSD for 2011. OCZ is bad and getting worse with the Sandforce 2 controller:

  • 6,7% : OCZ Agility 2 120 GB
  • 3,7% : OCZ Agility 2 60 GB
  • 3,6% : OCZ Agility 2 40 GB
  • 3,5% : OCZ Agility 2 90 GB
  • 3,5% : OCZ Vertex 2 240 GB

I think those numbers are still undercounted by those who are actually using the drives (i.e. multiple returns are counted just as a single warranty incident). Asus also rates well at Hardware.fr in the motherboard and graphic card categories.

Read those numbers carefully before going out to make a purchase. You can bring your downtime down to a quarter or less than what it would be if you bought the cheapest/whatever happened to be convenient items. In IT brand is important.

If you don't like downtime and hassle, avoid OWC and OCZ and Seagate at all costs. Storage is an area where failure is particularly taxing of time and energy.

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8 Responses to Memory | SSD Reliability: whom to buy and whom to avoid

  1. Jonathan Fletcher

    For fairness, another viewpoint:

    I’ve bought a lot of OWC stuff over the years and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them. I had an SSD go bad when I tried to format it, and they cross shipped me a new one. Very fast. They even upgraded the shipping at no cost to me. I’ve had warrantee repairs on their enclosures as well, and they are always fast and no-hassle.

    So, your experience is not the rule. Maybe my experience is anecdotal. But then again, maybe yours is.

  2. James Katt

    I’ve bought over 20 hard drives and 2 SSDs from OWC over the past 15 years.
    I have yet to have them fail. OWC has been the easiest company to work with. This is why I have bought from them before buying from others.

    I can attest to the craftsmanship that goes into OWC products. To me, they have been absolutely reliable.

    Note that despite disparaging Sandforce, Kingston’s newest SSDs use Sandforce controllers. Sandforce-based SSDs generally are the most reliable and fast SSDs.

    SSDs are more apt to fail than hard drives. THAT is true. Yet they also have absolute performance benefits AND shock-and-drop-immunity that cannot be duplicated by even RAID hard drives. This is why I chose SSDs, for example, for my Macbook Pro.

    Both SSDs and hard drives will eventually fail. Thus, one always has to have backups. Even computers fail. This is why I have backup SSDs and hard drives (9 total) and two backup computers in case my work computer fails.

    From my experience, I can highly recommend OWC products – particularly their SSDs.

    I looked at Kingston, but their performance was not adequate.

  3. Bryan

    I heartily concur about OWC. Those people sold me some memory, one of which was faulty, their return policy was customer pays, and gave me only a 10 day window over the Christmas period to get it back to them. They did replace it but the courier cost from New Zealand made the price really expensive. I will not be buying from them again.

  4. Paul Johnson

    Thank you for showing the courage to name names. High hard drive failure rates are particularly frustrating when we rely so heavily upon them for backups. I would add LaCie external hard drives to the list of equipment to avoid. They have had a bad habit of losing their ability to be mounted after 6 months to a year of intermittent use.

  5. Hi James,

    If you’ve never had a product from OWC fail, you’ve never had a chance to deal with their double-dealing duplicitous chiseling and time-wasting returns department. Jonathan, I imagine you are in the US. Apparently they have one standard of behaviour for their US customers and another for the rest of the world.

    Like Bryan, I am not in the US (I was in Canada for this purchase, which was for $1500 worth of equipment). The SSD they sold me was not compatible with the model of computer which I installed it: Macbook 13″ 2010. OWC knew about this issue but it never appeared on either their website nor in the accompanying documents. Screwing around with that drive cost me over four hours of my life. Trying to return the drive cost me another four hours and OWC still did not give a proper refund.

    Basically buying equipment from OWC cost me an entire day of my life due to 1. their negligence 2. their deliberately obstructive return policies.

    Basing their Mercury Extreme SSD products on Sandforce technology means there are lots of returns ahead. (Check NewEgg’s customer reviews on the Vertex 2 and Agility 2 lines: enthusiasm for the first six months and anger after six months as drive after drive goes south with very poor support from OCZ.)

    Get ready for a rough ride, OWC customers. There aren’t even forums at OWC where you can share your experience/frustrations.


    James again:

    The Kingston SSDnow V+ 100 (based on Toshiba technology) which replaced the OCZ Vertex 2 in my main computer has paper specs 4K read/writes below the Vertex 2 but on a desktop you would never notice the difference. For reliability the Intel SSD’s outrank both but as Apple has not deigned to include Trim in a useable form in their OS, one must choose a self-healing drive (either Sandforce or Toshiba controller).

  6. Kain

    I just wish to share a poor experience I got from OWC. I planed to purchase a OWC SSD mercury pro IDE drive to upgrade my aging iBook G4. Unfortunately I mistakenly bought their SATA based SSD drive because their list on the websites is confusing. I discovered to my horror that there are actually two versions of the OWC SSD Mercury legacy drive 1) an SATA SSD version with an adaptor for IDE desktop Macs and 2) The real IDE SSD drive for Mac portables.

    Since I’m an International customers it took at least a month for my SSD to get to me in the Pacific Rim. When I found out I opened up a chat season with their representative and they would not exchange the product to the one I really need. So I’m left with a SATA SSD that I could not use because it was the wrong version. Its true it was my fault that I ordered the wrong version but I don’t think it is unreasonable to request an exchange.

  7. PHunter

    Ill vouch for the newer Lenovo Thinkpads. I accidentally dumped half a can of Pepsi on my E220s keyboard, instantly shut it off, sopped up the mess, used a can of air to try and blast the stuff out from under the keys. About an hour later i started it back up with a few sticky keys. That night i pulled the keyboard out of the laptop, ran it under hot water (Yes, water.. sugar dissolves in water), and air dried it for about 4 hours. Since then, good as new! I love my Thinkpad!

  8. Joe

    About the IBM thinkpads… those were rock solid and reliable. However, now we have instead, “Lenovo” thinkpads, and they are flimsy. Profiting from selling junk at a premium using momentum of past reviews. They have protection against spilling drinks on the keyboard but the chassis weakens over time until you’re using the tahoma narrows bridge and the motherboard has problems.

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