OCZ RevoDrive 50GB PCI Express SSD Review

ajmatson - 2010-10-21 11:27:22 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: October 31, 2010
Price: $219.99

Introduction:

Storage devices have come quite far in the last few years. We have seen terabyte drives which expand our storage capabilities beyond imagination, solid state drives that break the speed barrier faster than a jet engine and new device interfaces that make transferring data quicker than toasting a piece of bread. With all that being said, nothing has really given us the head spinning wow factor, until now that is. When you think of a hard drive, you picture a square 2.5 or 3.5 inch box to which you hook up your power and data cables which need to be routed and kept neat. Then, you have to find space in your drive bay which might be full or not the right size. Well, how about a drive that doesn't use any of those elements yet is simple to install and get running?

Today I present to you the "drive of drives", the OCZ RevoDrive 50GB PCIe Solid State Drive. This drive throws out what we picture as a hard drive and turns it into essentially an expansion card. The RevoDrive is a fully bootable solid state drive that uses a PCI Express x4 slot for power and to transfer data. This eliminates the bottlenecks caused by some SATA controllers and drives, allowing for much higher read and write speeds. The RevoDrive comes in several capacities ranging from 50GB for the budget conscious user all the way up to 480GB for the extreme speed and storage junkie. OCZ is no stranger to the PCIe solid state drives arena but the RevoDrive marks the first time a PCIe drive has had the ability to have the OS installed and be bootable. The RevoDrive really revolutionizes the way that digital storage may be contained in a system in the future. If you are as excited about this review as I am, how about we dive right in and take a look at the drive in all of its glory?

 

Closer Look:

The OCZ RevoDrive comes packaged in a sleek box with the “R” logo on the front as well as notes on a couple of the key features. On the rear of the box is a description of the RevoDrive with a picture and the specs dependant on the model that you have chosen. This particular drive is a 50GB version. However, it does go up to 480GB in size. Inside the packaging is another thicker box that slides out to reveal the items. The RevoDrive is very well packaged and secure so that there is little chance of any damage being done to it when being moved around the country, city, etc. while en route to you. The drive itself is wrapped in an anti-static bag with a warning to be careful when handling the drive due to static electricity (aka ESD).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Included with the drive is the instruction guide and a sticker that says “My SSD is faster than your HDD.” There is no driver CD included but the drivers for installing the drive are available from the OCZ website. The RevoDrive will work with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors. I also tested installing Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop Edition and had no issues or trouble getting it installed and booted from the RevoDrive.

 

 

Now that we have the drive out of the package, let's get a bit closer and look at what makes it so special.

Closer Look:

At first glance, the RevoDrive looks nothing like a hard drive. It looks more like a sound card to me but don’t let that deceive you because this card packs a lot into it. OCZ chose to use a black colored PC board which makes this card look sleek and unique. It measures a little over seven inches long and just less than five inches tall. So, it is a fairly small design which will not take up much room in your system. To transfer data, the RevoDrive uses your PCI Express bus and not the SATA interface which allows it to use the faster bus for quicker read and writes and higher IOPS. Unlike some of the older first generation PCIe drives, the RevoDrive is bootable. Which means you can now install your operating system to the drive with no problems. I was able to install both Windows 7 Professional for the review tests as well as Ubuntu 10.10 Linux and had no issues booting either one of the operating systems. The RevoDrive comes in 50GB to 480GB versions depending on your requirements (and budget) and offers read speeds of up to 540MB/s for all versions. The write speeds do vary by model however. For the 50 - 80GB versions they top out at 450MB/s for the maximum write and 350MB/s sustained. For the 120 - 480GB versions you will get a bit more with a maximum write of 480MB/s and sequential writes at 400MB/s. The particular model we are going to be taking a look at today is the RevoDrive 50GB version which is part number OCZSSDPX-1RVD0050. One thing to note is on the PC Board there are a series of LEDs soldered onto the board near the bracket. While the idea for these are great because they indicate activity and faults, when the card is installed they are upside down and not visible, which negates their purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now on to what makes the RevoDrive work. As you may have noticed, there are rows of chips near the back of the card. These are the MLC NAND flash chips which make up the storage capacity for the device. In this particular version, only half of the space is populated with the flash chips since it is only a 50GB version. However, the larger capacity models have all of the flash space populated. This drive uses the Intel 29F32G08AAMDB NAND Flash chip which we have seen in other SSDs on the market. This chip is a 4GB chip which makes for a total of 64GB NAND on the board. That leaves 50GB for the storage and 14GB for wear leveling and DureWrite technology through the controller. Speaking of the controller, the RevoDrive uses the SandForce SF-1222 controller that has become popular in many of the high performance SSDs currently on the market. The difference with the RevoDrive is that it uses two SandForce SF-1222 controllers. That is right, two controllers means two SSDs. OCZ has outfitted the RevoDrive with two physical solid state drives on one device. The two drives run in a RAID-0 configuration which is what contributes to its high performance. Each drive is 25GB making up the 50GB total space. If you look at the board, the top two rows of NAND (both front and back) make up one drive and the bottom two rows make up the other.

 

 

To tie in the two drives and make them operate as one, OCZ uses a Silicon Image SiL3124 Silicon Image RAID Controller. The SiL 3124 controller allows up to four SATA channels to communicate to a PCI-X bus in a RAID configuration. This means that two more channels can be used when paired with a daughter card and that shows a possibility with the build design of the PC board. Since the Silicon Image RAID controller is built to operate on a PCI-X bus, a bridge chip is installed to facilitate the communication. The Pericom PI7C9X130 chip comes in to handle just that. This chip bridges the communication from the PCI-X bus of the SiL 3124 RAID controller and turns it into data for the PCIe bus to communication with the PCIe x4 slot on your motherboard. Of note, there are several mounting points and a location on the board just to the right of the RAID controller which shows the ability to add daughter cards for increased capacity. There has been talk of the RevoDrive 2 at this year’s IDF, so we may see some more things coming from OCZ regarding the RevoDrive.

 

 

 

Now that we have seen the specs and parts of the RevoDrive, how about we get it in for some high speed testing?

Closer Look:

Like other controller or RAID cards, when you boot your system you are presented with the card's BIOS output. When the RevoDrive starts, it will display the BIOS output shown below. The information displayed shows you the BIOS version for the firmware on the drive for the SiL 3124 RAID controller. It also lists the individual drives that are present on the card. This being the two 23GB devices as well as the RAID set and the drives assigned to it.  Which, in this configuration, displays the RAID-0 set we have configured with the two RevoDrives assigned. To enter the configuration utility, just press F4 or Ctrl+S at the BIOS prompt and you will be able to configure the settings for the controller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you enter the RAID Configuration Utility, you are presented with a series of options. You can create a RAID set, Delete a current RAID set, Rebuild a RAID1 set (which is really pointless since the drives are soldered to the PC Board), Resolve Conflicts, perform a Low Level Format or view the Logical Drive Information. In the Low Level Format section you can format the first part of the drive, perform a secure format for each drive or perform a quick format to erase any old information before making a new RAID array. In the Logical Drive Information menu you can view the current RAID setup details such as the stripe size for the RAID array.

 

 

When you click on the Create RAID set menu, there are several options for you. The only feasible selection for the RevoDrive is RAID-0 unless you have critical data that you want mirrored to each section. This however defeats the purpose of the RevoDrive and its speed. You cannot create a RAID 5 or 10 array because of the lack of available disks to do so. Since this is a generic RAID BIOS, the options are there but not workable. To create a RAID array for the RevoDrive, select the RAID-0 selection and you can manually configure the array or have it created automatically for you. If you choose manual you can set the stripe size from 8K, 16K, 32K, 64K or 128K sizes. Next, key in the amount of space you want set for the RAID array (in this case 46GB total), 23 gigabytes from each disk and that is it.

 

 

 

Now that we have the array created we can install Windows 7 Professional and get on to the testing.

Specifications:

 
RevoDrive 50-80GB
RevoDrive 120 – 480GB
PERFORMANCE
Max Read:
Up to 540 MB/s
Up to 540 MB/s
Max Write:
Up to 450 MB/s
Up to 480 MB/s
Sustained Write:
Up to 350 MB/s
Up to 400 MB/s
4KB Random Write:
70,000 IOPS
75,000 IOPS
Seek Time:
0.1 ms
0.1 ms
PHYSICAL
Usable Capacities (IDEMA):
50GB, 80GB,120GB, 180GB,240GB, 360GB, 480GB
NAND Components:
Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
Interface:
PCI-Express Gen. 1
Form Factor:
PCI-Express x4 slot
Controllers:
2 x SandForce1222
Dimensions (L x W x H)
181.07 x 21.59x 125.08mm
Weight
106g (may vary slightly depending on capacity)
ENVIRONMENTAL
Power Consumption:
Idle 3 Watts     Active: 8 Watts
Operating Temperature:
0°C ~ +70°C
Storage Temperature:
-45°C ~ +85°C
Shock Resistance:
1500G
Certifications:
RoHS, CE, FCC
RELIABILITY
MTBF:
2 million hours
ECC Recovery:
Up to 24 bytes correctable per 512-byte sector
COMPATIBILITY
PCI-Express:
Fully compliant with the PCIe ElectromechanicalSpecification Rev. 1.1, and with thePCI-Express Base Specification Rev. 1.1
Operating System:
Windows XP 32/64 Bit; Windows Vista 32/64Bit; Windows 7 32/64 Bit
Power Requirements:
Powered by the PCI-Express x4 Bus
ADDITIONAL FEATURES
Performance Optimization:
Onboard RAID 0
System Integration:
Bootable
Service & Support:
3-Year Warranty, Toll-Free Tech Support, 24 Hour Forum Support

 

Features:

 

All information courtsey of OCZ @ http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/solid-state-drives/pci-express/revodrive/ocz-revodrive-pci-express-ssd-.html

Testing:

Now we can get to the part everyone has been waiting for (including myself!). To test the RevoDrive 50GB, I installed it into the PCI Express x4 slot on the M4A89GTD PRO/USB motherboard running version 1606 for the BIOS. I used a clean install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit and updated the OS before performing any of the benchmarks. All of the tests for the RevoDrive and the comparison drives were performed with the same updated fresh install of Windows 7 so you can get a real world look at the performance while using it as a boot drive. For the comparison drives, I included several SandForce SF-1200 based drives as well as a few Indilix based drives to show the differences. I also included a comparison RAID array made up of two SandForce SF-1222 based solid state drives running RAID-0 using the onboard controller running through the SB850 chipset of the motherboard. Throughout the testing, all of the hardware remained at the same speeds, timings, voltages and latencies to keep any variables from interfering with the scores.

 

Linux:

One thing I wanted to show you before we get into the benchmarks is that even though the drivers only specify Windows operating systems, I was successfully able to install and boot into Ubuntu Linux 10.10 with no issues. The install recognized the SiL 3124 controller and installed the necessary drivers for its operation. If you look at the screenshots below you will see the drive running on the same hardware used for the review. There are two 25GB OCZ RevoDrive's showing up under the RAID controller making up the 50GB space for the install.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Modules:

 

Benchmarks:

  1. HD Tune 3.50 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2009
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. I/O Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown

Testing:

HD Tune 3.50 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 3.50 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but more precise file benchmarks and a random access benchmark as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benchmark:

 

 

 

File Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

Random Access Benchmark:

 

 

 

The RevoDrive blew past any of the single SSD drives and went back and forth with the SSD RAID-0 setup in HD Tune.

Testing:

HD Tach v3.0.4.0: HD Tach is another hard drive benchmark utility, much like HD Tune. This benchmark will measure the average read speed, the random access time and the amount of the CPU used during operation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SiSoft Sandra 2009 SP3: SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.

 

Physical Disks

 

 

In both HD Tach and Sandra, the RevoDrive came out on top even taking over the SSD Raid-0 setup.

Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 2.2: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds for the drives in 4k blocks, 512k blocks and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 100MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Crystal Disk Mark, the RevoDrive started slow with the 4k read test but pulled through to the top for the rest of the runs.

Testing:

Atto Disk Benchmark v2.34: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good, hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Atto, the RevoDrive started the strongest in the 4k read tests but fell behind in the rest of the read benchmarks. When it came to the write portion of the benchmark, it was opposite, scoring lower in the 4k but the best in the rest of the runs.

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark designed for the speeds of solid state drives. However, it will also work for traditional hard drives. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds and access times for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write and overall performance of the drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the exception of the 4k read, the RevoDrive scored the highest in the AS SSD benchmark tests.

Testing:

IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998. Since then, its use has become very wide spread within the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read:

 

 

 

Write:

 

 

 

For IO Meter, the RevoDrive was average with other single disks and surprisingly faster than the RAID setup. This changed in the write tests though where the RevoDrive was the best performing among all the drives.

Testing:

PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the hard drive test suite. The measurement for the hard drive suite will be the total score, then the scoring for each test will be broken down. There are a total of eight hard drive tests within PCMark Vantage and all eight will be run to gauge the performance of each drive tested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The RevoDrive surpassed all of the comparisons including the SSD RAID-0 setup with the exception of the video editing run in which it was still very competitive.

Testing:

In the world of computing, everyone likes a computer that can start up and shut down quickly. The ability to boot into your system as fast as possible allows you to start the tasks you set out to do that much quicker, not to mention the older you get the greater the chance is that you'll forget what you wanted to use the computer for in the first place! The sweet spot is about 30 seconds or less. With conventional hard drives it is possible, but very hard to attain this 'golden' 30 second time. With the speed of SSDs, it should be easier, but there is only one way to tell and that is to test it out. To run these tests, I used a stopwatch to calculate the number of seconds it took from pressing the power button on the case, to having a fully functioning desktop. For the shut down test, I timed from the click of the shut down button in the start menu, until power was off to the system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Windows startup and shutdown tests, the RevoDrive was the fastest among all of the test drives. It was almost a full second faster in starting up the system and shutting it down, making it near instant.

Conclusion:

The OCZ RevoDrive PCI Express 50GB drive was a complete pleasure to test. I had no issues whatsoever installing, booting into and running both Windows 7 Professional and Ubuntu Linux 10.10. The installation could not be simpler, just plug into the correct PCIe slot, set the BIOS to ACHI and boot away. The speeds were amazing and I was blown away. When compared to other drives that are in the same price bracket, there is no comparison. The RevoDrive demolished them all. Sure you trade off a bit of storage space for the speed, but when data transfer counts, the RevoDrive steps up to the plate and hits a home run. In almost every instance, the RevoDrive took out not only the single drives but also a dual RAID-0 setup using drives with the same controllers and the same striping size. Not only is the PCIe based design great for speed, but it also allows for further expansion above the number of available SATA ports or drive bays. This allows you to install a drive in a tight SFF case with little issues or to just keep adding blistering storage to your system. This drive is definitely the best bang for the buck when it comes to performance compared to cost. With it being bootable, this could allow you to have the RevoDrive for your OS and programs, leaving a larger mechanical drive for mass storage giving you the perfect balance of speed and space.

There are only a few drawbacks that I see with the RevoDrive (and in reality, they are pretty minor). First, the RevoDrive uses the heavy over-provisioning that we saw with first generation SandForce based drives when they emerged. While there is a total of 64GB of actual NAND flash for the drives, only 50GB is allocated for space of which only 46GB is actually useable when formatted. This is almost 25 percent of the drive set aside for DuraWrite and wear leveling. I would like to see future firmware free up some of that space for actual use. Finally, there is no TRIM support for the drive since TRIM currently doesn't function with RAID arrays. OCZ stated that they are working on a fix for it and hopefully will work out a way to enable it in the future.

Overall, the OCZ RevoDrive is an excellent implementation of solid state drive use and outperforms even the best of the competition. If you are in the market for an SSD and want better performance than a single drive, then I would look into the RevoDrive. You get what you pay for and this is evident in the outstanding performance that the OCZ RevoDrive offers.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: