OCZ RevoDrive 50GB PCIe SSD Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, November 25th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/ocz_revodrive_50gb/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Over the last decade the performance of computers has increased at a fast and furious pace. This lead to current technology almost exceeding the demands of the mainstream market, as processors, memory and graphics cards offer a nearly unmatched level of performance. One component that has not quite kept pace though is the standard mechanical hard drive. There have been improvements to the design of HDD’s throughout the years, and hard drives can now be found with large amounts of cache, huge capacities and spin at high RPM. Still, even with these improvements the standard HDD has become one of the largest bottlenecks in current PCs.

Memory manufactures have been at the forefront of addressing this issue, and over the last few years SSD’s have really started to find their place in the market. First generation SSD’s had a rocky start out of the gate, as they had performance and reliability issues, and commanded a very high premium. As the technology matured, the design of SSD’s has greatly improved and current generation devices have a very high performance level, are extremely reliable and aren't as costly to boot. They are, however, still very expensive compared to HDD’s when comparing the price-to-storage ratios of the drive.

The continuing growth of the SSD market has led to more advanced technologies and innovation with each drive, and perhaps none showcase this more readily than OCZ's RevoDrive series. The RevoDrive is a SandForce-based SSD that circumvents the limitations of the SATA interface by placing the drive on a PCIe bus. This increases the available bandwidth and gives the RevoDrive maximum read and write performance that is quite exceptional for the consumer market. Additionally, the RevoDrive utilizes dual SF-1222 controllers and an on-board RAID chip to create a two-in-one SSD solution. This increases the overall performance, giving the RevoDrive an impressive maximum 540MB/s read and 450MB/s write performance level. Equally impressive is that this model is capable of supporting 4KB random writes of up to 70,000 IOPS.

 

Specifications
Availability
50GB to 480GB Capacities
PCI-Express Interface
PCIe x4
Use
can be used as primary boot drive or data storage
Raid
Internal Raid 0
Size
181.07 (L) x 21.59 (W) x 125.08mm (H)
Durability
Shock Resistance: 1500g
Seek Time
0.1 ms
Operating Temp
0°C ~ 70°C
Storage Temp
-45°C ~ 85°C
Power Consumption
3W idle, 8W active
Warranty
3 Year
Compatability
Windows XP 32/64, Vista 32/64 Windows 7 32/64
Part Number
50GB - OCZSSDPX-1RVD0050
50-80GB Max Performance
  • Read: Up to 540 MB/s
  • Write: Up to 450 MB/s
  • Sustained Write: Up to 350 MB/s
  • Random Write 4KB (Aligned): 70,000 IOPS

The RevoDrive comes packaged in a black rectangular box that has the RevoDrive's "R" on the front along with a small list of key features. The back of the box is more informative, as it lists the specifications and even details the benefits of eliminating the SATA interface.

The packaging actually consists of three separate layers that slide out to reveal the drive. The SSD comes packaged in the inner layer and is encased in a thick foam padding. For additional protection, the drive comes in a anti-static bag.

Outside of the drive, OCZ only includes the installation guide and a product sticker that proclaims "My SSD is faster than your HDD". This may seems a little light on the accessories front, but really there is nothing else needed other than the drive itself for it to function properly.

Since this drive doesn't use the standard SATA bus, it more closely resembles a sound card than the standard encased SSD. This characteristic is actually quite appealing as SSD's are very plain, and more often than not look alike. There are a few things about this model that are evident from the start. Firstly, since this is the lowest capacity model it has half of the available MLC NAND flash chips removed, and secondly that there are two on-board SandForce controllers. There are a total of 16 flash chips throughout the PCB, with each having a 29F32G08AAMDB label printed on them. Each chip has a  capacity of 4GB, thus giving this drive a total of 64GB of on-board memory. The whole 64GB unfortunately is not accessible though, as the SandForce controller sets aside a portion of this for over-provisioning and functions specific to the controller, thus limiting the actual available capacity to 50GB. It would have been nice if the over-provisioning was reduced on this model to a more consumer friendly level, as 22% of the total storage capacity is unusable right out of the gate.

The PCB is 7.15 inches long, so there will not be any issues fitting this SSD into a smaller sized chassis. To use the drive, one PCIe x4 or PCIe x16 slot must be available. The RevoDrive consumes 3W when idle and 8W during periods of activity.

The reverse side of the RevoDrive is not quite as populated as the front, and for the most part consists of the remaining half of the flash memory.

The RevoDrive occupies a single expansion slot, and has a closed cover at the end. Securing the drive to the case is done in the same manner as any PCI add-on card.

The RevoDrive is essentially two functioning SSD's on one PCB, with each utilizing 25GB of memory and having a dedicated SF-1222 controller. The memory is linked together via a RAID 0 array by an on-board Silicon Image RAID controller. This effectively increases the drive's performance, and is the reason it can support max reads of up to 540MB/s and writes of 450MB/s, with a sustained write speed of 350MB/s. Also, since OCZ has opted to use the SandForce controller, this drive includes advanced wear-leveling via SandForce's DuraWrite technologies. Unlike most SF-1222 SSD's however, the RevoDrive lacks native TRIM support.

The SiI3124 chip is a PCI-Express to SATA-3G controller that is capable of supporting up to four sources. This model of the RevoDrive only uses two controllers, but OCZ has recently released an x2 model which has four independent SandForce controllers, and much larger storage capacities.

To the left of the SiI3124 RAID controller near the rear bracket is a row of LEDs that indicate the status of the drive.

The SiI3124 chip requires drivers be installed before the drive can be used. Installing the drive in Windows is essentially the first step of installation as the RevoDrive already comes setup in a RAID 0 configuration. However, there is an option to manually setup the RAID configuration. To do this first, hit the F4 key after the OCZ RevoDrive BIOS screen appears.

After you enter the OCZ RAID menu you can delete, create or check the status of a RAID setup. When creating a RAID array, you can chose from RAID 0,1,5 and 10 options.

Once the type of RAID array is selected you are prompted to select the chunk size, and then available drives. After the drives and capacity size are set, the configuration is complete and you can proceed to install Windows on the RevoDrive.

The Windows installer does not initially recognize the drive, so the user will need to manually install the SiI3124 drivers. These drivers are found at OCZ's website and can be downloaded in both 32-bit and 64-bit variants. After you have the drivers downloaded they will need to be transferred to a disc or USB flash drive and loaded during the Windows installation.

Installing the drivers is easy and once complete the RevoDrive will become visible in the Windows setup menu. After the drive is accessible, you can install Windows in the same manner as any other hard drive. The RevoDrive can also be used as a storage drive, but this also requires drivers be installed. The only difference is that they are installed from within the operating system.

Test Setups

OCZ RevoDrive & OCZ Agility 2 60GB

Patriot Torqx 128GB, Corsair Force 120GB

Patriot Zephyr 128GB

 

Benchmarks Used

Since the drives were tested on two different platforms, we made sure that our benchmarks were not processor-bound. Hence why they are not exactly the same as in the OCZ Agility review.

File Copy

This test consists of copying our standard 100MB, 500MB and 1GB folder also used in our WinRAR test from one partition to the other, thus requiring reads and writes. The chronometer is started as soon as the "paste" button is clicked and is stopped whenever the window indicating the copy status disappears.

The RevoDrive doesn't set any new records when it comes to our file transfer tests, but it did tie with the OCZ Agility 2 which was previously the fastest drive in this benchmark.

Windows 7 Boot & Shutdown

The title of this test says it all. The countdown starts as soon as we hit "Enter" in the boot manager, until the desktop has appeared and the LAN is connected.

The RevoDrive performed equally to the other models, with only a few seconds separating each drive in both the start up and shutdown benchmarks.

Call of Juarez

This time, the score used is not the benchmark score, but rather the time it takes to load.

Far Cry 2

It's the same principle here for Far Cry 2's built-in benchmark.

The RevoDrive performed very well in the game load time benchmarks, and was able to fly ahead of all the other models. It is quite impressive to see an additional 8 seconds shaved off the load time, especially considering all other drives are also SSD's.

HD Tune

HD Tune is an application for benchmarking hard drives. This time, both the read and write tests will be run.

The HDTune benchmark saw the RevoDrive way ahead of the other models.This is due to the driver's RAID 0 configurations, which enhances the RevoDrive's overall performance.

Write Amplification

What is measured here is the write performance loss due to the write amplification. As said on the first page, SandForce's DuraClass technology achieves a write amplification factor below one, so the write speeds should not suffer compared to some other drives which need a utility to be run on them to get the same performance. Since HDTune writes tests write speeds everywhere on the drive, running it twice in a row will force the drive to write on used sectors. The numbers reported in the following graph are the performance loss from the first run to the second, in percentage.

Like the other drives using the SandForce controller the OCZ RevoDrive did not suffer performance loss without time between benchmarks. This means there will be no slow down of applications during normal computer use.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage

PCMark is a benchmarking suite from FutureMark, who also make the renown 3DMark. It includes many tests to calculate overall system performance including hard drive performance. The hard drive suite performs tasks such as scanning for viruses, streaming, recording and more. It is a fairly good indicative of general real-world performance.

The RevoDrive nearly doubles the performance of all the other models.

AS SSD

While most other storage benchmarks are designed with mechanical hard drives in mind, AS SSD, developed by Alex Schepeljanski, is built specifically for solid state drives. The application measure sequential and random read and write performance as well as access time. The first screen shot is of the RevoDrive, then the Agility 2, followed by the Force 120GB, Torqx, and Zephyr.

The read scores in the AS SSD benchmark were very good, but I was hoping to see better write performance.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

The ATTO disk Benchmark, developed by a company of the same name, measures the storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Once again, the first graph in order shows results from the RevoDrive, OCZ Agility 2, Corsair Force, Torqx, and Zephyr.

The RevoDrive had equal performance to the other SandForce based SSD's in the small read and write tests, but the performance started to increase as the transfer sizes got larger.

SiSoftware Sandra 2009

Sandra, by SiSoftware, is a tool capable of benchmarking about every component found inside a computer. In this case, we are using the physical disk tool, which measures read and write performance of a given drive.

In Sandra the RevoDrive had impressive performance, but the totals were well under the drive's maxium read and write levels.

During the testing process the OCZ RevoDrive proved to be everything I was expecting and more. The drive is fast, very fast and even while our internal benchmarks had it coming up short of its advertised max read and write ratings, the real-world performance was still amazing. During the load timing testing for games such as Call of Juarez and Far Cry 2, the RevoDrive easily outperformed the other models and even managed to load into Far Cry 2 almost 50% faster than the comparison SSD’s.

The exceptional performance is due to the RevoDrive combining two SSD’s into one via an on-board RAID chip and dual SandForce controllers. This improves the speed of the drive beyond that of a standard SSD and is also the reason behind its exceptionally high maximum read and write ratings. The amazing performance was not limited to loading games though, as the RevoDrive performed just as well in all of our benchmarks.

In addition to the performance, OCZ has made setting up the RevoDrive as easy as possible. There were only a few steps to navigate between setting up a RAID array and installing Windows on the drive. It would have been helpful if OCZ had included a drivers disc, though. This would eliminate the need of having to manually download the proper driver from their site, and would most likely make installation process even easier for many mainstream users.

Another problem with the drive is the heavy over-provisioning, which actually reduces the final capacity of the drive by a whopping 22%. Since this model is the lowest capacity drive available, it would be safe to say that is a consumer model and as such should not require such a high level of over-provisioning. OCZ could have easily reduced the amount of flash memory set aside to under 10% and made the storage capacity closer to the 60GB level. This would further increase the value of the drive; paying $200 for 50GB worth of storage might not be an ideal solution for many, especially considering the fact that there will be even less storage once an OS is installed! However, if you are looking for more storage the RevoDrive does come in versions with capacities of up to 480GB, and the X2 series has models up to 960GB.

When looking at the RevoDrive as a whole, there are some issues, but they are heavily outweighed by the overall performance of the drive. So, if you are looking for one the fastest SSD's available and have an open PCIe slot, the RevoDrive would be the perfect solution.

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