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OCZ RevoDrive X2 Review: Killer SSD Performance
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Date: Nov 08, 2010
Section:IT/Datacenter
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Introduction and Specifications


What's this, yet another SSD product tap-dancing its way through the HotHardware lab?  It's hard to believe that a product category has so much R&D being poured into it, spurring new releases at such a fevered pitch. The investment in the relatively fledgling storage technology makes perfect sense to us, but the average mainstream consumer probably raises their head to notice only the bigger, more prominent buzz-worthy products hitting the market as of late. There is almost too much in the product category to absorb actually. That being the case, we'd offer folks should tune their storage radar sharply on the product we have on the test bench today. The OCZ RevoDrive X2 is the second coming of OCZ's first gen RevoDrive.  This time around the product appears to have bragging rights in terms of performance levels, but at a price point decidedly more aligned with traditional SATA-based SSD solutions, versus other PCI Express SSD cards on the market.

When we looked at the first gen RevoDrive back in August, the thin slab of Flash NAND memory and dual SandForce SSD controllers impressed us and served up performance well ahead of traditional SATA SSDs with a price premium in the 30% range (about $3.07 per GB) versus SATA SSDs.  With the RevoDrive X2 OCZ is double-stacking their product now with four total SandForce 1200 series SSD controllers and double the number of NAND Flash for, you guessed it, up to twice the performance and capacity.  The good news is pricing is actually still going the way of the consumer too...



OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB  4X SandForce 1200
Specifications & Features
Max Read: up to 740MB/s
Max Write: up to 720MB/s
Sustained Write: up to 600MB/s
Random Write 4KB (Aligned): 120,000 IOPS
Seek Time: 0.1ms
Interface:  PCIe x4
Power Consumption:  Idle 3W, Active 8W
Operating Temp: 0°C ~ 70°C
Storage Temp: -45°C ~ +85°C
Shock Resistant up to 1500G
RAID Support via Silicon Image 3124
Included 3.5" Desktop adapter bracket
Available in 100GB - 960GB (1TB) Capacities
Compatible with XP, Vista, 7, and Linux (32 and 64-bit)
MTBF: 2 million hours
3-Year Warranty

OCZ's RevoDrive X2 will be available at the following capacities and price points:
RevoDrive X2 100G @ $419.99
ReveDrive X2 160G @ $519.99
RevoDrive X2 240G @ $619.99
RevoDrive X2 360G @ $1099.99
RevoDrive X2 480G @ $1379.99
RevoDrive X2 720G @ $2399.99
RevoDrive X2 960G @ $3139.99


We'll be looking at the 240GB variant of the RevoDrive X2 on the forthcoming pages here, which weighs in at the $2.58 per GB mark with its $619 MSRP.  At that price, the RevoDrive X2 is actually at parity with competitive standard 256GB SATA SSDs on the market.  In the 160GB weight class, the RevoDrive X2 requests roughly a $100 premium over the average SandForce or Intel-based SATA SSD on the market.  However, as you'll see on the pages ahead, the RevoDrive X2 by OCZ is anything but average. Those max read and write of up to 740 and 720MB/sec above probably tipped you off though, so let's get down to what makes the RevoDrive X2 tick and then we'll, well, make it tick real good.
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The RevoDrive X2 Up Close


The RevoDrive X2 utilizes a somewhat uncommon melding of current generation and legacy technologies to achieve its 740MB/sec max read and 720MB/sec max write performance specifications.  The base SSD array of the design starts with a match that was apparently made in heaven (and who knows, maybe they'll be wed some day?); Intel NAND Flash and SandForce's 1200 series SSD controllers.



As we work our way down toward the edge connector of the card, however, there is a Pericom PCI-X to PCI Express bridge chip and the chip controller under the OCZ "R" sticker is a Silicon Image 3124 PCI-X RAID controller. 

 

This chip may be dated, as is frankly the PCI-X interface, but this is a hardware-based RAID controller, and as is the case with OCZ's new IBIS drive, the inherent latencies of bridging from PCI-X to PCI Express are virtually hidden. The net-net here is that OCZ not only benefits from the lower cost SI RAID controller, as well as lower density/lower cost Intel NAND Flash, but combined they offer a price/performance curve that, as we came to find out is down-right impressive.

 
 

There are still a few small caveats with the OCZ RevoDrive X2 as there is with the first gen RevoDrive. The drives DO support idle garbage collection, but do not support AHCI nor the Windows TRIM command. As such, you'll be relying on the four SandForce SF-1200 chips on the RevoDrive X2, to keep the card running at its specified performance levels after repeated reads and writes.  Perhaps this sounds like a gamble and we haven't had enough time with product to give you a solid understanding of it under long-term, real-life test conditions, but we'd venture prospective customers of the RevoDrive X2 will be in good hands with SandForce's robust garbage collection algorithms keeping things neat and tidy on the drive.
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Test System SANDRA Physical Disk Tests

Our Test MethodologiesUnder each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations.  The SSDs were left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, Vantage, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-970


Gigabyte GA-EX58 Extreme
(X58 Chipset)


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

6144MB Kingston DDR3-1333

Integrated on board

WD Caviar Black 1TB (OS Drive)
OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB PCIe
OCZ RevoDrive 120GB PCIe
OCZ IBIS 240GB HSDL
Fusion-io ioXtreme 80GB PCIe
OCZ Vertex LE 100GB Sandforce-base SATA SSD

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Intel 9.1.1.1025
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 260.99

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 2008
ATTO v2.46
CrystalDiskMark v3
PCMark Vantage
SiSoftware Sandra 2010 SP3
HH Custom File Transfer Tests

SiSoft SANDRA 2010
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

For our first set of tests, we used SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below. We have also included SANDRA's detailed graph so you are able to see how the drive performs over time along with the average rated result.

 

 
SANDRA Read/Write Performance - OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB


SANDRA offers our first sign of dominance here for the OCZ RevoDrive X2.  The RD X2 puts up slightly better performance than its close relative, the OCZ IBIS drive.  Essentially, the RevoDrive X2 and IBIS drive are very similar in their design (both incorporate the same Silicon Image RAID controller), with the exception of IBIS' extra layer of HSDL logic to interface to its X8 adapter card.  Further, the RevoDrive X2 also keeps pace with the Fusion-io ioXtreme PCIe card, in terms of its read performance but absolutely smokes it according to SANDRA's write test, more than doubling the expensive ioXtreme's write throughput.
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IOMeter 2008 Test Results

As we noted in a previous SSD round-up article, though IOMeter is clearly thought of as a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a gauge for relative available bandwidth with a given storage solution.

 IOMeter
 I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool


In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and our Database access pattern of 4K transfers, 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.


The first thing you'll note here is how flat the standard SATA SSD's performance was across test patterns and IO queue depth. The IO queue depth set in IOMeter essentially represents higher levels of workload requests of the same access patterns simultaneously.  The Vertex LE SSD was saturated here as we turned up queue depth.  However, the Fusion--io ioXtreme, OCZ IBIS and OCZ RevoDrives scaled up significantly at higher request levels.  The RevoDrive X2 actually started to trail off above a queue depth of 144 in the database test, but scaled slightly higher still in the workstation test, as you'll note below.  The ioXtreme SSD topped out at nearly 84,000 IOPS in the database test, while the IBIS drive peaked at nearly 50,000 IOPS.  What was most impressive was how well the RevoDrive X2 performed.  It offer significantly more throughput than the IBIS drive at every queue depth and even started to approach the ioXtreme's level of response time. Impressive to say the least.

In the workstation test the field was grouped tighter with the ioXtreme hitting a wall at 65K or so, while the OCZ RevoDrive X2 cleared 52K IOPS. 

We would offer that the 12 - 144 queue depth ranges are probably more indicative of standard desktop and workstation performance.  Also, note that the Fusion-io ioXtreme's cost per GB ratio is about $10 or so, while the RevoDrive X2 drive drops in at $2.57 per GB, which is on par or better than most standard SATA SSDs at similar capacities.  At this point in our testing, we were really starting to get excited about RevoDrive X2.

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO is a more straight-forward type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length.  It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart.  We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB.  This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64. 

ATTO Disk Benchmark
http://www.attotech.com/products/product.php?sku=Disk_Benchmark


OCZ Vertex LE 100GB SSD


Fusion-io ioXtreme 80GB PCI Express SSD


OCZ RevoDrive 120GB


OCZ IBIS 240GB HSDL SSD


OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB
 

In ATTO testing, the RevoDrive X2 drive showed some of the highest overall read and write bandwidth of the five SSD solutions we compared.  Like the IBIS drive, small file transfers are not the RD X2's strong suit, but when you get up to 16 - 32K and higher, the product really begins to stretch its legs, besting even the Fusion-io drive by a significant margin from 32K to 8MB transfers.  The ioXtreme does offer significantly more responsive small file transfer results however.
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CrystalDiskMark Performance

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential as well as random small and large file transfers.  It does a nice job of providing a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being large sequential transfers and worse case being small, random 4K transfers. 

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests


OCZ Vertex LE - 100GB MLC SSD


Fusion-io - 80GB MLC PCI Express SSD


OCZ IBIS 240GB HSDL SSD

OCZ RevoDrive 120GB

 
OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB

The RD X2 can't quite catch the ioXtreme in read performance until we begin to saturate it with IO request at a queue depth of 32 with 4K transfers.  In short the RevoDrive X2 looks a lot like the IBIS in this test, as it did in our previous test runs.  With respect to write throughput, both the RD X2 and the IBIS show strong performance, occasionally besting the Fusion-io ioXtreme in sequential and larger transfers but falling short of the ioXtreme in small file write performance.
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File Transfer Tests - General Performance

Our next series of tests are what you might call more "crude measurements" in that we simply fired up our trusty stop-watch and measured the time it took to complete a copy and paste command of a single large file or a bunch of large files from one storage volume in our test system to another.

** Please note that we utilized a Fusion-io ioDrive card as our source drive in the following tests, to read files from or copy files to, for our read and write measurements.  This affords us the luxury of much higher available bandwidth from the source drive or to a target drive, such that either direction would not be the limiting factor in a given test condition. 

Bulk File Transfer Tests - Read/Write Performance
Custom File Transfers Measured

 

Here the OCZ RevoDrive X2 offers a sizable performance gain over a standard SSD and actually bests the ioXtreme drive in write performance, but it can't quite catch it in this test case.  Interestingly, the OCZ IBIS drive shows measurable faster transfers in this test, versus the RD X2.  Let's look at a single large file transfer of 2.5GB of data.


With this test, the RevoDrive X2 drive shows that it's actually slightly faster than the ioXtreme in the write transfer test but slightly slower by a hair in reads.  This time the RD X2 also kept pace nicely with the OCZ IBIS drive.  We should also
note that, for the large sequential reads seen in this test and the test charted above, a single SSD offers similar performance.
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PCMark Vantage HDD

We really like PCMark Vantage's HDD Performance for its real-world application measurement approach to testing.  From simple Windows start-up performance to data streaming from a disk drive in a game engine and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user/consumer PC usage model.

This series of Vantage tests will stress read performance in real-world usage models, with a broad mix of sequential and random read transactions of both small and large file sizes. 

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

Here, the OCZ RevoDrive X2 dishes out the second fastest set of numbers in the bunch, second only, by relatively small margins, to the ioXtreme 80GB card.  The beauty of the RevoDrive X2 however, especially with tests like the Vista Startup test, is that you can actually boot off of it as a primary OS volume, which is something we still simply cannot say for Fusion-io's product, though they've promised this capability eventually (at this point, we'll believe that when we see it).  Regardless, the rest of the data speaks for itself.  The RevoDrive X2 is over twice as fast as a standard SandForce-based SATA SSD in many of these tests and 20 - 35% faster in these tests versus even the proprietary OCZ IBIS drive.

Incidentally, we setup the RevoDrive X2 with a clean Windows 7 Ultimate X64 install and set it to boot, just to have a little fun.  The RevoDrive X2 booted windows in 13.5 seconds; good times, good times.

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PCMark Vantage (Continued)

The following PCMark Vantage HDD tests are more write intensive and in some cases stress the Achilles' Heel of the average storage subsystem, that being random write performance

Futuremark's PCMark Vantage
http://www.futuremark.com

 

In this series of more write-intensive test scenarios (with the exception of application loading), the RevoDrive X2 really begins to smoke, beating out even the ioXtreme SSD, that retails for over three times its cost per GB.  The Windows Media Center score is most impressive perhaps, but the RD X2 takes top honors in all four of these scripted test runs.  With the read-intensive Application Loading test, we're looking at over a 100% performance gain over the average SSD and about a 10% edge over the ioXtreme's score.  To say we were impressed with these results would be an understatement.  With some of these Vantage numbers backing up our synthetic test results, the OCZ RevoDrive X2 just became our new favorite SSD product.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary:
To be honest, we really didn't expect to see the RevoDrive X2 go toe to toe with the Fusion-io ioXtreme PCI Express-based SSD, but that's exactly what it did and it did so in a smash-mouth sort of fashion, especially when you consider the cost of Fusion-io's competing solution.  In many of our tests (ATTO, IOMeter, PCMark Vantage), the RevoDrive X2 punched out better throughput versus even OCZ's own semi-proprietary IBIS SSD product.  If there was a single test that we felt characterizes the RevoDrive X2's performance best, we'd say our PCMark Vantage scores are most indicative of the sort of desktop or workstation usage model performance you'll get from this new SSD product.  This is simply one of the fastest PCI Express based SSD solutions we've tested to date and its price/performance ratio literally shatters anything we've seen thus far as well. 

 

It's not often we're completely and thoroughly impressed with a product, as we are with OCZ's new RevoDrive X2.  And honestly, we didn't expect the product to do as well as it did in our battery of benchmark runs.  Couple the RD X2's performance profile along with its cost model at the 240GB capacity we tested and we came away with an opinion we don't often come away with in all of our product testing and evaluations over the years.  At this point in time, the RevoDrive X2 looks to be a complete, no compromise product offering.  You get absolute killer, best of market performance, a hardware RAID controller for low CPU overhead, and at the 240GB mark, a price point that is as-low or lower than any single SSD solution on the market today.  Though SSDs are still a pricey storage solution and not quite mainstream yet, we have to tip our collective hat to the folks at OCZ for delivering some of the fastest SSD performance money can buy, at a price point that is right in line with the competition. 

$620 or so is still a lot of coin for a 240GB storage subsystem but if you were thinking of going the way of the SSD and you have a spare X4-connected PCIe slot, dropping one of these bad boys into your rig and utilizing it as your boot OS and primary application install volume, will net you a performance kick and system responsiveness quite literally like no other major system upgrade can currently, at least if your running a fairly current midrange or higher-end system.


So where does this leave OCZ's IBIS drive in their line-up?  We'd offer that, unless you're looking to setup the IBIS drive in a multi-drive installation, or want the opportunity for expansion down the road, that actually the RevoDrive X2 makes a whole lot more sense for the average end user or single drive workstation solution.  Plug in the RevoDrive X2 as your boot drive, then drop in a large, cheap hard drive for bulk storage and you'll be sitting pretty with a storage hot rod under the hood.  The IBIS drive, though impressive in its own right, definitely lends itself to higher-end, multi-drive configurations where you would park two or more of them hanging off one of OCZ's multiport HSDL adapter cards.

About the only thing we'd ask for from OCZ is that, at some point, they setup the RevoDrive X2 and their original RevoDriv line, with the ability to purchase a single card initially and then plug on another SSD daughter card (as was the case with the configuration of the product we tested), so that users can upgrade to RevoDrive X2 performance and capacity down the road.  Apparently, the production version of the first gen RevoDrive we tested, doesn't come with the mezzanine card connector we had on our engineering sample.  It's a business model that makes sense to us.  Giving customers more choice for expansion down the road is always a good thing.

Regardless, we'll offer up a big, proverbial pat-on-the-back to OCZ for delivering the RevoDrive X2 240GB to market and have no reservations whatsoever giving it our Editor's Choice award for product innovation and excellence.

  

  

  • Best price/performance ratio for any SSD we've seen yet
  • Killer all around performance
  • Great sustained performance with Sandforce maintenance algos
  • Boots a clean Win 7 install in about 13 seconds
  • Best of class write performance
  • Claimed 2 million hrs MTBF
  • Somewhat complex design with more possible points of failure
  • No TRIM support

 



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