On January 29th, OCZ released an important firmware update for their Arc 100 and OCZ-built AMD Radeon R7 SSDs. Kristian Vatto over at AnandTech was good enough to post a detailed recap of what this firmware update is all about. OCZ is listing this update as “mandatory for system stability.” Many firmware updates address more than one concern, and may also include improvements of existing features. This update is no exception, as it fixes the primary concern, as well as improved error handling and bad block management.
The primary observed issue that this firmware update addresses is related to possible DRAM corruption. Under the existing firmware, the DRAM would go through a “training period” for DRAM timing calibration when the controller powered on. A DRAM refresh could occur during the duration of this power-on cycle, creating the potential for DRAM corruption that could compromise the SSD’s stability and reliability. The new firmware ensures that the DRAM refresh occurs outside of the controller power-on cycle. Thus far, only the 480GB versions of the ARC 100 and Radeon R7 have displayed this issue, but all ARC 100s and Radeon R7s should be updated as a precaution.
The next item also addressed with this firmware update improves the robustness of handling of uncorrectable errors. Under Toshiba’s tutelage, OCZ has made a strong commitment to testing and continuous improvement, and this is a direct result of that commitment.
Finally, the new firmware update improves the “read retry on bad block list” function, enhancing the bad block list’s security. Just like any other data that is stored in NAND, the bad block list is vulnerable if a standard NAND failure occurs. This firmware update adds improvements to address the possibility of a NAND block(s) containing the bad block list failing and requiring the read-retry routine to trigger. As Kristian points out, this is more a theoretical “what if” situation, but it is always nice for users to see improvements to any aspect of their drives.
Kristian also notes that the bad block list and error handling improvements were actually engineered for the not-yet-released Vector 180, and OCZ is updating existing drives using the Barefoot 3 controller with these enhancements. Neither of these secondary improvements are the result of addressing a problem, but again are a result of OCZ’s commitment to continuous improvement. OCZ will also be updating the Vertex 460A with the error handling improvement in the near future. As shown in the screenshot above, the firmware update is version 1.01, and you can download it from the OCZ website here.