The Marvell 88SS9174 was the first SATA 600 controller chip to be released. It is also a textbook case of how improved software can accellerate existing hardware. The first SSDs with this Marvell chip, the Crucial C300 and the Intel 510 series, weren't actually that fast and were no match for the SandForce SF-2281 SSDs.
That has changed in the meantime, as the latest generation Marvell 88SS9174 SSDs are much faster. This chip is fairly popular as well, we see it in the Crucial m4, the Corsair Performance Pro and the Plextor M2P, M3 and M3 Pro. Marvell does not use compression algorithms which means it's equally fast with all types of data, uncompressed and compressed. The chips do utilise a DRAM buffer, and manufacturers typically use a 128, 256 or 512 MB memory chip. It makes sense then that SSDs with the 215 MB are the fastest.
There are three more controllers we haven't discussed yet. Samsung uses its own controller for its 830 series, called the S4LJ204X01. It utilises a triple-core ARM processor, according to Samsung. This SSD also does not use data compression tricks, and Samsung is especially proud of the foreground garbage collection. The SSD doesn't need to wait for an idle moment to rearrange the data more efficiently, so there's no slow-down if it's continually in use, according to Samsung. Because after each write operation some data needs to be read and relocated, this method of cleaning up old data is generally somewhat slower than Marvell-based SSDs for example. Samsung claims that reliability was the priority when developing their controller, and that the failure rate is less than 1 percent. Unfortunately there is no way for us to test that.
The last two controllers we encounter are the Indilinx Everest and its successor, the Everest 2. You might recognise Indilinx from the Barefoot controller, which forms the basis for the first OCZ Vertex SSDs. Before SandForce existed it was Indilinx that made the fastest controllers, but then they were out of the limelight for some time until OCZ announced last year that it acquired Indilinx. In January the first SSDs were launched with their new SATA 600 Everest controller, but the performance of that OCZ Octane was not that great. The Petrol SSDs were better, and we tested one for this review as well. In that SSD the Everest controller is combined with relatively affordable Hynix flash chips. It doesn't break any records but it's affordable.
The second version of Everest is the foundation for the new OCZ Vertex 4 series, which OCZ would like to compete with in the high-end segment. And they did pull it off really well. Particularly with the write speeds does the Vertex 4 break a few records. The Everest has what OCZ calls Ndurance technology, which almost resembles the tricks that SandForce has. By applying ECC error correction on all data, possible malfunctioning data cells won't cause any problems and can be disabled without corrupting your data. Even without compression, the Everest controller tries to limit the amount of write operations to lengthen the lifespan of the SSDs. The Indilinx controller uses DRAM cache just like Marvell and Samsung. Not long after the introduction of the Vertex 4 it was revealed that the Indilinx Everest 2 is the next-generation Marvell chip, but with firmware designed by Indilinx.