The RevoDrive Matures
Although the latest SSDs are out with SATA 6Gbps interfaces and putting out some impressive performance, it's not enough for some who have taken to build RAID 0 arrays to eke out as much performance as possible. The downside to that is not only the cost of the extra drive and RAID card but you miss out on TRIM which can really hinder performance over time. Not to mention the double risk of data loss should a drive fail. OCZ made RAID 0 SSD configurations easy and less risky with their first two iterations of the PCI-E based RevoDrive, but still lacked the ability to pass the TRIM command from the OS. That changes with the all new RevoDrive 3 X2 drive as the line matures and offers staggeringly fast performance.
With just sick read and writes speeds of 1500MB/s and 1250MB/s respectively, the PCI-E (Gen2 x4) based bootable drive also busts out some serious IOPS - up to 200k. All this and yes, it supports TRIM. Of course, it comes at a price as all things do. OCZ informed us that the MSRP on the three available capacities is $699.99, $1699.99 and $3199.99 for 240GB, 480 GB and 960 GB respectively. Obviously, these are aimed squarely at the high-end enthusiast, prosumer and enterprise crowd. Like the former X2 drive, driving the performance is a quartet of SandForce controllers although these are of the SF-2281 variety.
OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 480GB SSD Features and Specifications:
- Max Read: 1500 MB/s
- Max Write: 1250 MB/s
- 4KB Random Write (QD64, 4K Aligned, 8GB LBA): 200,000 IOPS
- PCI-Express SSD (PCIe Gen2 x4) designed to deliver both ultra-high performance and affordability for high-power users, multimedia designers, and workstation applications.
- Bootable drive (unique from competing solutions) so users can enjoy enhanced OS performance
- OCZ SuperScale™ storage accelerator enables scalable SSD performance and reduces the host CPU burden inherent to competing PCIe solutions. This controller, combined with VCA 2.0, provides unique benefits to the user by allowing certain DMA and data management functions including OCZ’s unique command queuing and queue balancing algorithms to be handled by the onboard processing core, resulting in higher drive performance and minimized burden on the host CPU.
- Utilizes OCZ proprietary VCA 2.0 (Virtualized Controller Architecture) which provides features including TRIM and SMART data monitoring. This follow up to VCA presents as a complete storage subsystem, but with an improved and expanded feature-set allowing users unprecedented flexibility and industry-leading performance and reliability.
- VCA 2.0 also provides a highly intelligent Complex Command Queuing Structure (CCQS) that utilizes both Native and Tagged Command Queuing. This is a unique technology that enables command switching and balancing based on OCZ’s proprietary Queue Balancing Algorithm (QBA), which balances drive loading, while maximizing internal bandwidth for nearly linear performance aggregation.
- Implements multiple SandForce 2200 controllers for greater performance and endurance.
- Cost-effective 25nm MLC flash with enhanced reliability
What makes all of this possible (get ready for the technical jargon) is OCZ's VCA 2.0 (Virtualized Controller Architecture) and their SuperScale storage controller. The VCA 2.0 technology aggregates performance across a pool of Virtual Logical Drives (LUNs) through virtualization. It allows some DMA or data management functions, including OCZ's command queuing and Queue Balance Algorithms (QBA), to be handled on the drive which abates the load placed on the host CPU keeping overhead on the system low. What all this means is that they forgo a traditional RAID controller and rely on NAND Array virtualization, accessing the NAND in parallel. Since there is no actual RAID controller, they are able to pass the TRIM command which is not found in other drives of similar design.
A version of this technology has been present on OCZ's Z-Drive R3, so it's not exactly brand new but it puts OCZ in a unique position offering a product that's in reach of consumers financially (as compared to other PCI-E drives), as well as offering a combination of performance and features not found elsewhere. Compared to the very capable Vertex 3 drive, you can see the performance is leaps and bounds better while the price per GB is relatively close - at least on the smaller 240 GB drive (source: OCZ).
Let's a have a closer look at this beast.
OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 - A Closer Look
No case to open up here, just a bare drive in all its glory. It's nice not to have to void the warranty to see the naked bits.
Installation is snap, just pop it in an available PCI-E 4x or better slot. Be mindful that slot speeds change as more are populated so refer to your motherboard manual for how to configure the installation properly or you could see degraded performance. The drive is comprised of a main PCB board with a daughter board mounted on top. Each sharing half of the NAND and controllers.
For the NAND, OCZ chose to use Micron 25nm MLC flash, which is asynchronous and similar to what we saw with the Agility 3 drive although these have 64Gb die packages rather than 128Gb. These are each 8 GB in density with 64 on board for a total of 512 GB capacity.
As usual, OCZ does their own fabrication and their logo brand is found in multiple places on the PCB as we see here - to the left but centered between two of the four SF-2281 controllers.
With four of the latest generation SandForce SF-2281 controllers on board, there's no shortage of computing horsepower to handle all of the fun things like TRIM, wear-leveling, real-time encryption, error correction, and data compression along with the other features of SandForce's patented DuraClass technology.
Comparison Drives & Test System
Legit Reviews Test System
All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 7 Pro x64 with no other applications running while using AHCI mode set through the BIOS. Synthetic Benchmarks were run with the OS loaded on a 40GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the drive was secure erased using the OCZ toolbox. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below and we'd like to thank ASUS for their generosity and support in providing the motherboard for our test bench.
P67 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k
|ASUS P8P67 Deluxe
|Crucial 2 x 2GB PC3-10600|
|Gigabyte GeForce GT 430|
|Corsair Force 40GB|
|Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit|
Comparison Drives & Other Models We Have Tested
Since there are so many SSDs out there now with different controllers, we started a reference table of which controllers are used by each drive to help you compare results. Different controllers definitely perform differently and each has various strengths and weaknesses. Like CPU's, even identical drives will have variations in performance and part of that variance may be attributable to the NAND flash used. Since the tests of the drives listed have spanned different test benches and represent three different interfaces, we have listed them for easy reference.
| SSD MODEL
|OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G 240GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
|OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
|OCZ Agility 3 240GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
|OCZ Vertex 3 120GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)
|PQI S535 256GB
|OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 120GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|Crucial m4/Micron C400 256GB
||Marvell 88SS9174||Yes||SATA III|
|Intel 320 Series 128GB
||Intel PC29AS21BA0 (G3 FW)
|Corsair Performance 3 Series 128GB
|Intel 510 Series 250GB
|Plextor M2 Series 128GB
|Kingston V100 Series 128GB
||JMicron JMF618 (Toshiba branded)
|OCZ Vertex 3 Pro 200GB (beta)||SandForce SF-2500 (SF-2582)||Yes||SATA III|
|RunCore Pro V 120GB
||SandForce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Samsung 470 Series 256GB
||Samsung S3C29MAX01-Y340||Yes||SATA II|
|Zalman N Series 128GB||SandForce SF-1200 (SF-1222)
|Kingston V+100 128GB||Toshiba T6UG1XBG||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Force 40GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Intel X25-V 40GB||Intel PC29AS21BA0 (G2 FW)||Yes||SATA II|
|G.Skill Phoenix Pro||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Patriot Inferno 100GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB
||4X Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||No*||PCI-E
|OCZ RevoDrive 120GB
||2X Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||No*||PCI-E|
|ADATA S596 128GB||JMicron JMF612||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Force Series 120GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Patriot Zephyr 128GB||JMICRON JMF612||Yes||SATA II|
|Patriot Torqx 128GB||Indilinx Barefoot||Yes||SATA II|
|Kingston 30GB V Series SNV125-S2||Toshiba T6UG1XBG||Yes||SATA II|
|Kingston 128GB V Series SNV425-S2||JMICRON JMF618||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Force Series 100GB||Sandforce SF-1200 (SF-1222)||Yes||SATA II|
|Corsair Nova Series 128GB||Indilinx Barefoot||Yes||SATA II|
|Intel X25-M 160GB G2
||Intel PC29AS21BA0 (G2 FW)
|Micron RealSSD C300 256GB||Marvell 88SS9174||Yes||SATA III|
|* TRIM is not supported due to the RAID controller.|
Being a PCI-E based drive, we can't show our normal screenie of CrystalDiskMark Info as it does not recognize it as a valid drive. So we default to the OCZ Toolbox which shows us the drive information and firmware version of 2.06.
On to the benchmarks!
ATTO & Iometer Synthetic Benchmarks
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes with the total length being 256mb.
ATTO - Intel P67 Platform
Benchmark Results: Not only the are max numbers here impressive and just plain ridiculous, but the RevoDrive 3 X2 serves them up for most of the file sizes in the benchmark. 510MB/s read/writes on 8KB is virtually double of what we have seen from just about any other drive and a fair margin above the last generation RevoDrive X2.
This test employs compressible data showing the best case scenario in terms of data throughput for the SandForce drives. Let's have a look at a few others that use incompressible data to see how that impacts the scores.
Iometer 2010 (1.1.0)
Iometer is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation who has since discontinued work on Iometer and it was ultimately turned over to the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL). We chose the file sizes that best reflect many of the Windows transactions. 4KB random read/writes is very common on every day user machines. Large sequential writes represent large file copies. The drive block size is 512kb so it should give a very good indication of peak performance. We set the queue depth to 4 for the tests as generally Windows operations tend to happen at queue depths of 5 or less.
Benchmark Results: For 4KB random writes at QD64, 4K Aligned, and 8GB LBA we saw exactly what OCZ told us to expect - 200,000 IOPS which is getting it done. A quick glance of the performance on the larger file sizes also shows performance that no other single drive we have tested can touch.
CrystalDiskMark and PCMark Vantage
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 - Intel P67 Platform
Benchmark Results: Even with incompressible data on the benchmark, the RevoDrive 3 X2 kills on the sequential reads and writes. The 4K scores comes back to Earth but not at the higher 32 queue depth where it again doubles up on most other drives.
PCMark Vantage 7 Professional - Intel P67 Platform
This is our first use of the new PCMark software since they have updated it to version 7 which is specifcially designed for Windows 7. It measures the performance of the latest PC hardware across a variety of common scenarios. PCMark Vantage 7 supports both system level and component level benchmarking and comprises several different test suites but for the purposes of this review, we employed the secondary storage suite. The nice thing about it is that you can submit your scores online and compare against others.
Benchmark Results: The new PCMark Vantage really doesn't show a lot of variation between drives but clearly the third generation RevoDrive is the overall victor.
AS-SSD Synthetic Benchmarks
We continue on with our battery of benchmarks with the AS-SSD suite.
AS-SSD (1.6.4013.39530) Benchmark - Intel P67 Platform
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from all of them.
Benchmark Results: The scores for the RevoDrive 3 X2 are very much like we saw on the CrystalDiskMark benchmark with the incompressible data keeping scores lower than maximum specs but still ahead of the others in most cases.
Benchmark Results: The usual pattern here for SandForce drives, ramping up as compressibility increases. The difference here is that reads and write speeds start way above where most drives end.
OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 Real world Tests
One of the most common operations performed on a PC is moving/copying files. Using a free application called Teracopy, we copied large numbers of two file types from one folder to another on the same drive. Teracopy allows us to objectively measure the time of transfer and using the same drive prevents other devices from tainting the outcome. The operation requires the drive to perform both sustained read and writes simultaneously. The first set of files is a 5GB collection of JPG's of variable size and compression levels with a few movie (.MOV) files thrown in for good measure since most cameras now take video as well as stills.
The second is a collection of MP3 files of various sizes which totals 5GB collectively. These file types were chosen due to their wide use and mixture of file sizes and compression levels.
Install Results: Moving 5 GB of data in just over 30 seconds is simply getting it done. For both data sets, the RevoDrive 3 X2's times were about 10 seconds or more better than the rest of the field.
We also timed the installation of a few rather lengthy applications/suites as app installs is something everyone does and waiting for completion can be a drag. We used Adobe Dreamweaver CS5, Microsoft Office 2010 Professional and Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage (v1.102.1901) as our test subjects with all install settings at default. Both were installed from an installer located on the target drive itself as installing from another drive, especially an optical drive, would cause a bottle-neck that would corrupt the results. The timing for these had to be done via stopwatch so there should be about a half second +/- error margin. Again, with the source and target drives being the same, concurrent read/write activity is required.
Install Results: The install times for all the applications were tops for the RevoDrive 3 X2 though the margins are closer than you would expect showing that the times are partially hindered by the CPU speed.
We'll wrap this with a look at the total drive capacity and our final thoughts.
Capacity, Final Thoughts & Conclusions
Windows shows capacity on the RevoDrive 3 X2 to be 447 GiB (1,073,741,824 bytes per GiB) with the full drive capacity based on the 64 NAND modules of 8 GB each is 512 GB (1,000,000,000 bytes per GB). A portion of this is set aside for drive maintenance while the rest is tied up in the conversion of GB to GiB.
I'll just start off here by saying this is one very impressive drive. Not that we expected anything else. Reads of 1500MB/s and writes of 1250MB/s are numbers inconceivable for a single drive just a few years ago. However, the real highlights here are that OCZ has managed to boost performance to nearly double that of its predecessor and in the process, add support for TRIM - which is a welcome improvement. Changing the configuration by shedding the RAID controller and employing the SuperScale storage controller and VCA 2.0 (Virtualized Controller Architecture) technology is a substantial refinement to the drive design. Not only does it allow for TRIM support but appears to be very scalable so as drive capacities increase the technology can keep pace. The PCI-E interface ensures adequate bandwidth exists to handle the copious data throughputs which are handled adeptly by the four SF-2281 controllers.
Having a PCI-E based drive does have its shortcomings. First, drivers must be installed for Windows to properly recognize the device which are available from OCZ. If you're imaging from a backup from another drive, it can be tricky because you'll lack the driver. On a side note, the driver we used in testing is still undergoing WHQL certification but OCZ expects this to be complete by the release of the drive in 2-3 weeks. If you have PCI-E slots occupied by other devices, most notably video and sound cards, finding an open slot supporting PCI-E 4x or greater may be a challenge depending on your motherboard. None of these are deal breakers by any stretch but important considerations to make before making a purchase. Another one of the welcomed improvements that used to be a bit of a pain is the ability to secure erase the drive using the OCZ Toolbox. Previously, the user had to break the RAID array using the utility pre-Windows load and then secure each of the four logical drives independently. The array would have to be rebuilt and then it was ready to go. Now, it's just a matter of deleting the existing partition(s), secure erasing with the tool and re-initializing the disk in Device Manager.
While being tremendously fast, for most consumer users it'll simply be overkill. The RevoDrive 3 X2 really earns its keep with multi-threaded, intensive random data workloads which is not what you'll find gaming, reading email or checking Facebook which is the predominant activities for many users. Maybe it's for the best as dropping $699.99 on a 240GB SSD isn't going to happen for the vast majority of consumers much less $1699.99 and $3199.99 for the 480 GB and 960 GB versions although we've established that the price per GB is not all that far off of the Vertex 3 line. Even so, the high-end enthusiast/prosumer and business-class customers are really the demographics that will be the largest purchasers although comparable PCI-E competitor drives are substantially more in price and don't necessarily offer anything more than maybe longer expected lifespans due to SLC NAND, etc. While on that topic, we weren't told directly by OCZ, we're going out on a limb to say that the warranty will likely by 3-years like the previous iterations of the RevoDrives and their other SSDs. The full specifications should be available from OCZ as the embargo lifts today.
We think that the changes OCZ has made and the uniqueness of their product in the consumer marketplace earns them our Innovation Award!
Legit Bottom Line: Redesigned for the better, the RevoDrive 3 X2 is an amazing piece of hardware that not only nearly doubles up on the previous generation in max speed but now offers the all important TRIM to keep that performance going strong long term.