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OWC Mercury Electra MAX 3G 960GB SSD Review – Imagine a 1TB SSD in Your Notebook!

Since Day One in the SSD arena, there has been a constant struggle where a seemingly three way tug of war is seen between performance, capacity and value.

Enter TLC memory and we just may hit both value and capacity at some point, however, manufacturers still believe the feasibility of marketing a 1TB SSD just isn’t there yet. This a mainstream vision, and one held strictly on predicted sales figures alone, so what is available for those that require that 1TB SSD for their needs today?

OWC just may have answered that question with their marketing of the OWC Mercury Electra MAX 3G 960GB SSD and we think that the specific composition of this SSD just might interest you. Take a look at the picture below and observe, not one but, two PCBs within.  Is this really the first time anyone has considered this idea for additional capacity in an SSD?

Well, as we might like to believe adding additional memory to an SSD is nothing more than throwing on an additional PCB, it is actually much more than that and accompanied by a great deal of fine tuning and validation testing.  This is why we have been so fond of the work ethic of Larry O’Connor and OWC for so long and, once again, we are seeing an innovation bump from a smaller ‘mostly Mac stuff’ company that we would have expected from Intel, Samsung or even the likes of Crucial first.  Nope…once again OWC forged ahead with an idea and here it is!

SPECIFICATIONS

The OWC Mercury Electra Max 960GB SSD is (as far as we know) the first consumer SSD to be publicly available in it’s capacity and it is accompanied by a premium price of $1117.99.  Let’s not fool ourselves.  It is the only of its kind, it is a niche product and it does answer the call of a specific SSD shortfall; high capacity. It is a SATA 2 SSD with performance specifications of 254MB/s read and 250MB/s write and this SSD has a standard three year OWC warranty, as well as a 30 day return policy.

As much as we would have liked to see the Electra MAX available in a SATA 3 format, there are two distinct barriers that prevent this.  The first would be that pricing would be elevated considerably along with a most probable later date of release with respect to validation.  The second is the physical composition of this SSDs components where the changing of any would most likely mandate the need for a larger form factor casing.

COMPONENTS

The OWC Mercury Electra MAX 960GB SSD is typical of the OWC Mercury SSD line and is of a heavy metal exterior, painted blue and with rounded and smoothed edging.  The case is secured with four screws on its face and security tape covers one to prevent disassembly of the unit.

The inside of this SSD is what makes it so special.  It is comprised of two identical PCBs, each with a LSI SandForce SF-2181 SATA 2 controller and each containing 16 pieces of  Micron 25nm MLC asynchronous 32GB NAND flash memory. Click on the picture for a higher resolution.

If we remove the top PCB, we find that there are two ‘daughterboards’ that hold the two main PCBs in place by very small connectors.  The one side contains the SATA 2 interface and a Silicon Image SteelVine Sil5923 3Gbps SATA-To-Dual eSATA host controller which allows for both 512GB PCBs to be set up in a RAID 0 configuration. Considering that this is a 3Gbps chip, performance listed in the specifications is ‘as expected’.

Last but not least, the branding of the memory is also very unique and is that of OWC and not Micron, although the modules are 100% Micron born and bred.  Considering OWC’s significant upgrades in the last bit to include new facilities in Las Vegas and Texas, this just might become commonplace along with a few more SSD firsts along the way.

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