The Apricorn Velocity Solo X2 is designed to do one thing and one thing only: let you upgrade your boot drive to a SATA 6Gb/s SSD on a system that doesn’t have any of them newfangled ports. Living in a world filled with PCs that could be used in the space program, it’s not a problem we encounter very often, but we can certainly understand its utility where an older motherboard is involved.
The Velocity Solo gives you SATA 6Gb/s care of the PCI-Express slots on your mobo; SSD not included.
You will need an empty x2 (or larger) PCIe slot to use it, however, but if you have one available and you’re not ready to upgrade your motherboard, the Velocity X2 is a great solution that offers impressive performance and an easy setup.
To use the Velocity Solo X2, simply attach the SSD to the card itself using the provided screws. There’s a second SATA 6Gb/s port on the card that can also be plumbed to another drive—and no, you can’t run the device in RAID. With the card in your PCIe slot, you can boot the system and the drive appears; it’s as simple as that. The board uses Marvell’s newer 88SE9182 controller, an improvement over the Marvell 88SE9128 controller found in many older motherboards.
Once we had the drive connected we decided to see how much performance—if any—we’d lose by ditching our native Intel SATA 6Gb/s ports for the Velocity Solo X2. As a x2 PCIe 2.0-compliant device, you’re looking at a maximum theoretical bandwidth of about 1,000MB/s. For our testing, we reached for the fastest SSD we had on hand—the Samsung 840 Pro. Not surprisingly, the drive was able to completely saturate the SATA 6Gb/s interface’s limit.
In CrystalDiskMark’s sequential read and write tests we saw speeds of 488MB/s and 474MB, respectively, which are only about 20MB/s slower than what we achieved with the native Intel ports, which is excellent. In our compressible data test in ATTO, with a 64KB write and a four-request queue, the drive ran right up to the maximum throughput, pegging the needle with 500MB/s write speeds and 484MB/s read speeds. In our “real-world” PCMark Vantage test, we saw almost zero change from what we’d experience with the Samsung drive running naked on a SATA 6Gb/s port: On the Velocity board the Samsung scored 55,272 while it racked up a score of 56,608 on an Intel port.
The one area where we saw a small loss of performance was in heavily queued workloads. In our Iometer test, which hits the drive with a queue of 32 4K write requests at once until the drive cries uncle, we saw performance drop by about 20,000 IOPS. This is a test we run for people considering a certain drive for use in a web or file server, as home users will rarely develop a 32-request queue on their desktop, but the performance drop is notable.
The final piece of the puzzle is the included EZ Gig IV drive-cloning software, which lets us easily clone our boot drive to the Samsung SSD in just a few minutes and boot from it. It didn’t like our USB key for some reason, but worked splendidly from a CD-R.
All in all, we give the Velocity two thumbs up for being easy to use and offering impressive speed. We also like the second SATA port and drive-cloning software, but we’re taking off a few points because $100 is a bit pricey.