OCZ Technology is on a roll. While most consumer SSD manufacturers are content to just slap the latest controller and some NAND into a 2.5-inch enclosure and call it a day, OCZ has been pumping out innovative products, from top-of-the-heap SATA SSDs to the blistering-fast (and stylish) USB 3.0 Enyo drive. Now it has introduced the RevoDrive, a PCI-E SSD in capacities from 50GB to 480GB. Though it’s not the first PCI Express SSD (Fusion-io’s been making enterprise-level PCI-E SLC devices for years), it is the first bootable consumer PCI-E SSD. OCZ claims the RevoDrive can hit up to 540MB/s reads and 450MB/s writes, which sounds like nonsense. But is it?
It's the first bootable consumer PCI-E SSD, but lack of Trim hurts performance over time.
The RevoDrive is a x4 PCI Express card containing a Pericom PI7C9X130 PCI-E-to-PCI-X bridge, a SiliconImage SiI3124 PCI/PCI-X-to-SATA controller, two SandForce SF-1200 controllers, and 120GB of NAND flash—it’s effectively two 60GB Vertex 2 drives in RAID 0 on a single PCB. Installation is easy, though as of press time, the drivers lack an executable file and need to be installed via Device Manager, unless you’re installing Windows on the drive, in which case they can easily be F6’d at install. The SiliconImage BIOS is accessible during POST, so you can wipe and restore the RAID manually should you so choose. The default stripe size is 64KB as all our tests were run at that size.
Because the Trim command doesn’t pass through RAID controllers, you’ll have to rely on the SandForce controllers’ built-in garbage collection utilities. In our tests, repeated abuse did slow the RevoDrive in some tests. After several days of heavy (and unrealistic) use, average sustained reads in HDTune dropped from 300MB/s to 240MB/s, while average sustained writes dropped from 267MB/s to just 175MB/s—worse than a single Vertex 2 drive. However, as OCZ points out, HDTune is a queue-depth 1, low-level hardware benchmark for unformatted drives that doesn’t deal well with RAID. Our Premiere Pro encoding times slowed from 337 seconds to 358 seconds. PCMark Vantage HDD subscores remained above 44,000, and our IOMeter 4KB random write test, at queue-depth 32, hit above 80,900 IOPS—that’s 316MB/s, or 65 percent faster than the 48,900 IOPS we saw from a single Vertex 2.
Where are the advertised 540MB/s reads and 450MB/s writes? We didn’t see them in the low-level benchmarks we typically use. Instead, we had to look to ATTO Disk Benchmark, which tests drive performance over a variety of read and write sizes from 500 bytes to 8,192KB. Lo and behold: For larger file sizes (512KB and above), ATTO recorded read speeds above 540MB/s and writes above 460MB/s. Our 100GB Vertex 2, by comparison, got around 285MB/s read and 274MB/s write on the same test.
Is the RevoDrive a practical solution for home users? High queue-depth IOPS are more useful for servers than for day-to-day use, and the absence of Trim is palpable, though OCZ claims to be to working on adding Trim support. Depending on the benchmark, the RevoDrive’s performance ranges from nearly twice as fast as a single Vertex 2 to slightly worse. But its performance at queue depths greater than 1 never falters, and in those scenarios it crushes all comers.
The RevoDrive comes in capacities from 50–480GB. The 120GB version we tested currently retails for $370; a 120GB Vertex 2 is $310. Given the lack of Trim and the fact that most home use doesn’t require high queue-depth performance, most people should go for a single SATA SandForce drive. A price drop and Trim support, though, could turn this from a decent and intriguing product to a must-have.
RevoDrive 120GB PCI Express SSD
Great queue-depth performance and random read/write; bootable; trumps single SandForce.
No Trim; drive slows down after heavy use.
OCZ 120GB RevoDrive (PCI-e x4)
OCZ 100GB Vertex 2 (3Gb/s)
Avg Read (MB/s)
Random-Access Read (ms)
Burst Read (MB/s)
Avg Write (MB/s)
Random-Access Write (ms)
Burst Write (MB/s)
4KB Read (IOPS)
4KB Write (IOPS)
IOmeter Random-Write IOPS (4KB, Queue Depth 32)
Premiere Pro (sec)
PCMark Vantage HDD
Best scores are bolded. All drives tested on our hard drive test bench: a stock-clocked Intel i7-930 CPU on an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB DDR3, running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. All 3Gb/s tests performed using latest Intel ACHI drivers.