From the time the first SSD with a SandForce controller was unveiled, a wide range of manufacturers have launched their own models with the SandForce SF-1222 controller.  However, there is a massive performance variation depending on the loaded firmware and no user-upgradable firmware is available for any SandForce controller at this time of writing.  A few manufacturers even use Release Candidate firmware versions.

While it is bad enough to have SandForce based drives with firmware variations that cannot be changed (at least not at present), Legit Reviews’ attempt of asking SandForce for a history and change log did not go too well either, with SandForce giving very vague information about their firmware history and that they should contact the SSD manufacturers directly.  To make it even more confusing, according to Legit Reviews, there can be a variation between one firmware and another with the same version number, such as firmware version 3.0.5 and that some manufactures do their own modifications either without adjusting the version number or worse still, coming up with their own totally different version numbering.

When Legit Reviews tried contacting various SSD manufacturers to find more information about the firmware versions, most of them came back saying that they cannot give any more information due to a non-disclosure agreement on the firmware.  What they did find out with the help of anonymous phone calls is that there are two main sets of firmware, one set based on 28% over-provisioning and a more recent set based on 13% over-provisioning.  The 13% OP gives additional user capacity at a cost of less reserved space for wear-levelling.

For the first set with 28% OP, the firmware releases include 3.0.1 RC1, 3.0.2 RC1 and 3.0.5 MP1.  3.0.1 RC1 is used by Corsair with a power issue fix and is rumoured to give the fastest random 4k write performance of up to 50,000 IOPS.  A-DATA uses 3.0.2 RC1, but little info is available.  The Mass Production version 3.0.5 is used by OWC Mercury, Patriot Inferno and OCZ Vertex 2, with OCZ receiving it modified to unlock the max random 4k write IOPS.

For the second set with 13% OP, the firmware releases include 3.0.9, 3.0.C and a unknown version due for mass production at beginning of June.  The Mushkin Callisto series use 3.0.9 and the OCZ Vertex 2 Extended series will use 3.0.C.

This Legit Reviews article takes a detailed look at the SandForce SSD firmware version confusion and also gives quotes of replies they received from SandForce when just simply trying to find out something as basic as a changelog.

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