A few years ago we tested the Fusion-io io-Drive, one of the first available PCI Express based solid state drives to hit the market. The io-Drive was a bit like a fairy tale when released, a product from a faraway place with performance unmatched in might, right out of a child's book. The Fusion-io wasn't for children, or for that matter, just about anyone without an enterprise budget or enterprise needs. Still, the io-Drive sat on a pedestal for all to admire and some to try and emulate.
Mimicry is the highest form of flattery and when done to reduce cost and make a product similar more available to the masses, there isn't anything wrong with it. To call the OCZ Technology RevoDrive a true PCIe drive like the io-Drive is a bit of a stretch. The RevoDrive takes the PCIe signal and routes it through a Silicon Image RAID controller. From the RAID controller the data is passed through to two onboard PCB SSDs. This should reduce latency from the RAID controller to the drives since it eliminates the SATA cables. In reality there really isn't much difference between buying two 60GB Vertex 2 60GB drives with a RAID controller and the RevoDrive when it comes to performance, but OCZ didn't really design the RevoDrive to flatter the Fusion-io or accomplish performance outside of the realm of the above scenario.
OCZ's main goal of the RevoDrive was targeted at another set of numbers that are just as important to end users, cost numbers. By using just one PCB for the Silicon Image RAID controller and dual SandForce SSDs, OCZ was able to keep the cost lower than if each of these components was purchased separately. Add in the elimination of additional documentation, packaging, cables and such, OCZ was able to really get the cost down on this one making it not only accessible to the consumer market, but in some cases the best option for desktop users looking to get the absolute most out of their Dollar, Euro or Peso.
Let's take a look at OCZ's RevoDrive and see if the hype lives up to the real world performance.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
OCZ Technology launched the RevoDrive in seven different capacity sizes. These range from 50GB and go all the way to 480GB. For connectivity the RevoDrive uses a PCIe 4x connector that will plug into nearly all PCIe slots other than a physical 1x slot. Unlike the io-Drive, the RevoDrive is bootable which means you will actually be able to load your operating system on the RevoDrive and use all of the benefits of SSDs the way they were meant to be used.
When it comes to performance we see that OCZ has stated two separate envelopes that are divided by capacity. The 50 and 80GB drives are limited to around 540MB/s read and 450MB/s write. The larger drives retain the same 540MB/s read speed, but the write speed goes all the way up to 480MB/s. That is a lot of performance for the price. Speaking of which :-
The above price list was taken from internet e-tailer Sparko.com. Today we will be focusing on the 120GB model, the product we are reviewing today and also the model we think most enthusiasts will be looking at.
For comparison data we will look at the Vertex 2 prices at MyDigitalDiscount.com. MDD has the 60GB Vertex 2 at 174.99 right now; you need two to get to 120GB in RAID 0 like the RevoDrive. That comes out to roughly 350 USD for just the drives and no RAID controller. MDD also lists the 120GB single drive Vertex 2 at 344.99 USD. Keep in mind that the single drive is limited to 285MB/s read and 275MB/s write speeds.
On the other hand, we have the OCZ RevoDrive in 120GB capacity that Sparco is listing at 392.20 and it has a built in RAID controller and a nice simple package that is setup in RAID, ready to go right out of the box. So you are paying a bit of a price premium right from the start, but at the same time you are gaining convenience with a dash of coolness at the same time.
OCZ is shipping the RevoDrive with a premium package that keeps the drive secured in a dual box package. On the front we see some information about the drive, but those with an eagle eye will notice a specification mismatch.
On the front of the box it lists the RevoDrive as using a PCI-Express Gen 2, or PCIe 2.0 as we call it around here. But on this document it lists the RevoDrive as using a PCIe Gen 1 interface.
Information mismatches aside, the package is pretty sharp.
On the back of the package OCZ lists some general information about the RevoDrive and on the bottom right hand corner gives quite a bit of specific information.
When it comes to the inner package we found that OCZ has done a very good job of protecting the card. Also included was a quick start guide that covers the basics of installing a RevoDrive in your system.
The OCZ Technology RevoDrive
Here we get our first look at the OCZ RevoDrive. There is a lot going on with this side of the card and we can follow the traces to see how the card operates.
On the back there is very little to see other than the sixteen Intel flash chips.
Our sample was a retail drive, but a revision one model. Here we see that OCZ has made some changes. Most likely a second revision will come along that removes this wire and replaces it with a trace on the PCB.
Let's play connect the dots. The hip bone is connected to the...
From the PCIe connector signals are routed through a Pericom PCI-X bridge chip. From there the signal goes to a Silicon Image Sil3124 RAID controller.
The Sil3124 allows for up to 1064MB/s of bandwidth to a PCI-X host. From there the signal is routed to two SandForce SF-1200 controller chips that can pretty much be considered Vertex 2 drives.
Since the Silicon Image RAID controller is a fully functional and fully configurable RAID device, you are able to fine tune your RAID configuration.
Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI and Noctua.
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.
As we mentioned previously, the Silicon Image RAID controller has a couple of options. The RevoDrive comes configured from the factory, but some users may want to dip in and configure the drive for high IOPS performance or higher sequential reads and writes. There are a few other configurations that you can try as well. Let's take a look and see the options.
From the factory the RevoDrive is configured in RAID 0 with a 16K chunk size. That is all fine and dandy, but I know you expect more from us than just a single benchmark run.
Right from the start we found a couple of options that can really change the entire configuration of the RevoDrive. As you know, the whole premise is RAID 0, but the option is there to run JBOD or two separate drives. This can be a very good option for those looking to install their OS on one drive and your programs on another.
After you choose the RAID 0 option you are then given the opportunity to configure the chunk size. This will allow you to configure the array for higher IOPS performance or higher sequential read and writes.
For testing today we chose to run the OCZ RevoDrive as it was configured from the factory, RAID 0 with a 16K chunk size. We also ran the RevoDrive in RAID 0 with a 128K chunk size and as dual 60GB single drives.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
Here we see the ATTO performance of the OCZ RevoDrive as it was configured from the factory. Never before has a drive that cost less than 400 USD been able to break the 500MB/s mark.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
- Benchmark: measures the performance
- Info: shows detailed information
- Health: checks the health status by using SMART
- Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
- Temperature display
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of the Silicon Image 3124. When it comes to performance there are better options available. But when it comes to price, well, that is another story as these controllers have to be very cheap at this time.
Here we get a chance to see one of the largest issues with the 3124, its ability to wreck what should be a nice flat performance graph. Here we see that the minimum, average and maximum speeds are all over the place, even with the JBOD configuration. Most boot drives spend little time reading data in a STR fashion, but when loading programs like games many of the files are large and read in this manner.
We see the same issue come up with the write STR. On the bright side, both the average and maximum performance of the RevoDrive is better than a single Vertex 2.
Benchmarks - Everest Random Access Time
Everest Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Everest Ultimate and Corporate Edition offer several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in write the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron.
With all of the bridge chips and RAID controllers in the data path, you might expect the latency to increase by a large amount, but that wasn't the case. Here we see that latency did rise, but not by a large amount.
The same is true for the write latency. We see a little bump in access time, but not as much as we expected to see.
Benchmarks - Crystal Disk Mark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 is not available to the public yet, but the Technical Preview does allow us to test 4K performance at queue depths of 4 and 32 in addition to 1. The current release Crystal Disk Mark only shows us QD 1.
Normally we use CDM for looking at 4K performance, but this time the test will be used to point out some other details. Here we get a chance to look at the "tunable performance" from changing the chunk size on the Silicon Image RAID controller.
At the top of the chart is how our card was delivered and just under it was a configuration that I put in that changed the chunk size to 128 instead of 16. As you can see, we were able to raise the 4K read numbers by 60MB/s by modifying the configuration.
Our modified configuration also performed much better than the stock configuration in the write tests.
That concludes our synthetic benchmarks. Let's take a look at the real world tests and see if what we learned from the synthetics carries over to the real world.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
HDD1 - Windows Defender
HDD2 - Gaming
HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery
HDD4 - Vista Startup
HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker
HDD6 - Windows Media Center
HDD7 - Windows Media Player
HDD8 - Application Loading
With the synthetics out of the way we can get down to real world performance. Here we see why OCZ Technology ships the RevoDrive with the configuration they did. The factory stock configuration performs much better than our modified version in most real world tests.
Being able to configure your RevoDrive to the applications and programs is impressive, though, and something many tweakers will want to explore.
Looking at the RevoDrive and comparing it to the Vertex 2 drives, we see many areas where RAID increases the data transfer rate.
Benchmarks - AS SSD
AS SSD Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358
Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9
AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.
In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).
Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.
- Copy Benchmark
When it comes to transferring large files, we see that the controller configuration plays a large role in the results. The stock configuration is actually slower than a single Vertex 2, but once you tune the RevoDrive for this task it's like someone just hit the launch button on a rocket.
Benchmarks - Passmark
Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.
The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.
The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.
OCZ isn't pushing the RevoDrive to the enterprise market, but with the product being based on SandForce technology it wouldn't be too difficult to make some minor modifications to come up with a real enterprise version.
In many of these tests we see massive gains from the RevoDrive as it outperforms both the Vertex 2 and Crucial RealSSD C300.
The OCZ RevoDrive is a unique product that is simple and complex at the same time. Right out of the box the RevoDrive is setup and ready to go without any configuration. You just plug the drive into an available PCIe slot and install Windows with the Silicon Image "F6" driver. Once Windows is installed users looking for RAID performance with minimal fuss are all set, it is really that easy. On the other side are the enthusiasts that like to play with their hardware to get the most out of it. For those of you who are looking to tweak and tune for specific applications, the RevoDrive is your golden ticket without spending big money on a high dollar RAID controller.
When it comes to pricing and availability, the RevoDrive has already been spotted at a few places and OCZ lists those on their official product page. Our 120GB RevoDrive is listed at all of them as being in stock, but the prices range from over 500 USD to under 400USD. The best prices we found so far were used in the specifications page and they were from an e-tailer called Sparco.com. Hopefully MyDigitalDiscount.com gets the RevoDrive in stock so we can see what the absolute best price will be on these. As it sits right now, looking at the MDD prices on the Vertex 2 to the Sparco prices on the RevoDrive, there is a price premium paid for the RevoDrive and some users may still just opt for dual 60GB Vertex 2 drives and run them on the onboard Intel ICH RAID. Pricing is going to play a big role in which direction enthusiasts look to for ultimate performance, but those looking for a simple plug and play RAID solution should look to the RevoDrive for its ability to just work and work well right out of the box.
Even though performance is very good and the price is right, there are still some underlying issues with the RevoDrive that should be addressed. The first is TRIM support; you are most likely never going to have TRIM support with the Silicon Image 3124. I really hate to say that considering everything OCZ engineers have been able to accomplish in the past, but I think writing drivers for the Silicon Image 3124 with TRIM support is just too steep of a hill for them to climb. To be fair, Intel does not support TRIM in RAID 0 either. The only company to even claim TRIM support under RAID 0 is HighPoint and even that is questioned since it appears that the drives we tested with the HighPoint 600 Series used their onboard garbage collection more efficiently than what TRIM offered.
OCZ couldn't have picked a better SSD controller to use in RAID since the SandForce SF-1200 has the lowest performance degradation of all the SSDs we have ever tested. This comes from the propriety Durawrite system and the drives onboard garbage collection that is by far the best we have seen. Even after we hammered the RevoDrive on all three configurations, the performance remained within a couple of percent of the original numbers. This is something that wasn't possible with our RAID tests on the Crucial C300 or any Indilinx BareFoot RAID tests.
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