Logo   Banner   TopRight
TopUnder
Transparent
OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid PCI Express SSD Review
Transparent
Date: Oct 24, 2011
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Transparent
Introduction and Specifications
Over the last few months, we have taken a look at a couple of OCZ-built products that leverage the company’s SuperScale Storage Accelerator with VCA (Virtualized Controller Architecture) 2.0. The first product to arrive was the RevoDrive 3 X2, which is a high-end, PCI Express SSD targeted at ultra-enthusiasts and workstation customers. Then came the extreme OCZ Z-Drive R4 PCIe SSD, which caters to the enterprise. If you’d like to learn more about the technology behind VCA 2.0 and OCZ’s Superscale Storage Accelerator, we strongly suggest perusing those two articles.

While they’re designed for completely different target markets, the OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 and Z-Drive R4 have a number of things in common. As we’ve mentioned, they both leverage OCZ’s SuperScale Storage Accelerator with VCA 2.0, they both interface with a system through PCI Express, and they both feature SandForce SF-2200 series storage controllers paired to various amounts of MLC NAND flash memory. The latest OCZ product to hit the lab, the RevoDrive Hybrid also shares these traits, but its flash memory is paired to a 1TB traditional hard drive. With the RevoDrive Hybrid, the device’s flash memory is meant to be used as cache for the most frequently accessed data on the hard drive, speeding up access times and transfer speeds dramatically, while the hard drive is there for bulk storage.

Pairing a small to mid-sized SSD to a standard hard drive has been the preferred configuration of enthusiasts for a while now. But the RevoDrive is more akin to other hybrid solutions, like Seagate’s Momentus XT or Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology where the SSD is virtually invisible to end user and is used transparently for caching purposes only. OCZ simply uses a much speedier array of solid state storage than a standard SSD and links it to an HD on a PCI Express expansion card. Take a look at the specs and then we’ll dig in a little deeper before taking the RevoDrive Hybrid for a spin.


The OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid

OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid
Specifications & Features
  • Available in 1TB Capacity
  • 100GB Dedicated Cache
  • PCI-Express Gen. 2 x4 Interface
  • Full height form factor
  • OCZ SuperScale Storage Controller
  • Virtualized Controller Architecture 2.0
  • Included Caching Software Key
  • ECC, Encryption
  • SMART monitoring
  • 167.64 (L) x 98.42 (W) x 22.15mm (H)
  • Weight: 289g
  • Compatible with Windows 7 32 and 64-bit

 

  • Operating Temp: 5°C ~ 50°C
  • Storage Temp: 0°C ~ 60°C
  • Power Consumption: 8.1W idle, 10W active
  • MTBF: 600,000 hours
  • 3-Year Warranty

Max Performance

  • Read: Up to 910 MB/s
  • Write: Up to 810 MB/s
  • Max Random Write 4KB: 120,000 IOPS
  • Average Write: 65,000 IOPS

 



Click To Enlarge...

The first iteration of OCZ’s RevoHybrid pairs 100GB of MLC NAND flash to a 1TB Toshiba 2.5”, 5,400RPM hard drive. The flash memory on the card is actually OCZ branded and consists of 16 chips, with a total capacity of 128GB (the spare 28GB is over-provisioned for wear-leveling and other functions), connected to a pair of SandForce SF-2200 series solid state storage processors. OCZ claims the drive is capable of read speeds of up to 910MB/s and writes of up to 810MB/s, with 120,000 max 4K randon IOPS and average writes of 65,000 IOPS. At those speeds, it would require two desktop SSDs running in RAID 0 to approach that kind of performance.

The RevoDrive Hybrid’s hard drive resides on a daughterboard and is connected to the main PCB via the same method used on the RevoDrive 3 X2—instead of a mezzanine with additional SandForce controllers and NAND flash, there’s a hard drive.

 

 
The RevoDrive Hybrid In Pictures

The card plugs into a PCI Express x4 slot, is just barely two-slots wide, and requires no additional power. There are, however, a couple of additional requirements. The RevoHybrid requires the use of included cache software from DataPlex and needs dedicated cooling. We’ll talk a bit about the software in a second. With regard to the cooling, the RevoDrive Hybrid has a small, aluminum heatsink on its SuperScale Storage Accelerator that gets very hot, especially under load. While we didn’t experience any heat related stability with the RevoDrive Hybrid, we strongly suggest pointing a fan directly at it if possible to ensure adequate airflow over its heatsink.

Installation:
Installing and configuring the RevoDrive Hybrid proved to be extremely quick and painless. For it to work properly, the RevoDrive Hybrid must be configured as your boot device and have the OS installed on its integrated HD. If installing the RevoDrive Hybrid as a secondary storage volume, the included software will cache data from the system’s boot volume which will result in unpredictable behavior (at least at this time, with the current software).


The Dataplex Software Installation Couldn't Be Any Easier

To install the card, simply insert it into a compatible slot and install Windows to it HD. During the Windows installation, users will be required to select the RevoDrive Hybrid’s drivers, but that’s par for the course. Once the drivers are installed, simply select the RevoDrive Hybrid’s HD as the destination volume and let Windows install as normal (32- and 64-bit editions of Windows are currently supported).

When the Windows installation is complete, users are then required to install the bundled Dataplex caching software. Simply download the latest version from OCZ’s website (you’ll be required to enter a product key to access the download), run the installer, and during the installation select the cache (SSD) and target (HD) drives. When the installation is complete, reboot the system, and that’s it. The hybrid drive configuration is complete.

Like other SSD caching solutions, the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid and Dataplex software monitors data access and stores the most commonly accessed bits of data onto the device’s SSD. This process can take a bit of time, but generally speaking the performance benefits are apparent immediately.
 
Transparent
Test System and ATTO Disk Benchmark

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations, with the exception being the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid, which must be the boot volume to function properly. Our testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI mode was enabled. 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 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-2600K

Asus P8Z6-V Pro
(Z68 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid (1TB)
OCZ Vertex 3 MaxIOPs (240GB)
Seagate Momentux XT (500GB)
Intel 311 SSD w/ Rator (SRT)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel 9.2.0.1030, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
ATTO v2.47
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark Vantage

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

ATTO is a quick 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. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

In all of our graphs moving forward, you're going to see three entries for the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid, 1) where only the RevoDrive Hybrid's hard drive was tested, 2) the results from the first run of the benchmark after enabling the SSD cache, and 3) results from the third run of the benchmark with caching enabled. Our intent is to show the worst case performance scenario (HD alone) and best case performance (third run, SSD cache utilized). We compare the RevoDrive Hybrid to a Momentus XT, which is another hybrid solution, as well as a standalone SSD.

The ATTO disk benchmark clearly shows the advantage of RevoDrive Hybrid's SSD cache. The HD tests end up somewhat below the Momentus XT, but once the RevoDrive Hybrid's cache is enabled, transfers go through the roof. The Revo Hybrid managed write speeds in excess of 800MB/s and reads of just over 1GB/s, which crush the standalone SSD.

Transparent
CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests





CrystalDiskMark shows the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid competing well with the Vertex 3 MaxIOPS drive and clearly dominating the Z68-system featuring Intel Smart Response Technology and the Momentus XT. The RevoDrive Hybrid wasn't able to come close to its theoretical peak performance in this benchmark, however.

Performance didn't vary much from run to run in CrystalDiskMark either. It appears the Dataplex caching algorithms are able to react very quickly to certain access patters, like those used in this benchmark.

Transparent
PCMark Vantage Tests

Next we ran the three drives through a battery of tests in PCMark Vantage from Futuremark Corp. We specifically used only the HDD Test module of this benchmark suite to evaluate all of the drives we tested. Feel free to consult Futuremark's white paper on PCMark Vantage for an understanding of what each test component entails and how it calculates its measurements. For specific information on how the HDD Test module arrives at its performance measurements, we'd encourage you to read pages 35 and 36 of the white paper.

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

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

 

The OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid put up mixed numbers in the PCMark Vantage storage benchmarks. In its first run after enabling the SSD cache, the RevoDrive Hybrid showed some marginal improvements in performance over the HD alone. But once we got to the third run, performance increased dramatically in a few of the tests and the RevoDrive hybrid was able to outrun even the Vertex 3 in the WMC benchmark. Overall, however, while performance did go up quite a bit, it was only a in a few of the tests that the RevoDrive hybrid was able to significantly outpace the also-hybrid Momentus XT and the Intel SRT setup was faster in most tests.

Transparent
Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: The OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid's performance is difficult to characterize. On some levels, the RevoDrive Hybrid offers exceptional performance, as we saw in the ATTO benchmark. Although not part of any specific benchmark, the RevoDrive Hybrid also performed well in real-world boot-time tests. Below is a graph that shows the improvement to boot times after initially enabling the SSD cache and restarting the system a number of times.

As you can see, once the RevoDrive Hybrid's SSD cache is utilized, boot times are essentially cut in half (please note, we measured the time it took for our test system to boot from the moment the "Starting Windows" splash screen appeared until a usuable desktop was available). In some other tests, however, the RevoDrive Hybrid produced mixed results. Its transfer speeds were among the best in CrystalDiskMark, easily surpassing all other hybrid solutions. But in the pseudo-real-world workloads of PCMark Vantage, the RevoDrive Hybrid offered mostly middling performance, with two of the tests reporting performance well ahead of other hybrid solutions.

  

The OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid is not for everyone. At about $470, its price is high enough that some enthusiasts will likely wonder why anyone would consider a hybrid solution when a fast standalone SSD and larger, faster hard drive can be purchases separately for a fraction of the price. The answer lies in the type of workload being placed on the storage subsystem.

If you're the type of user who can get by with all of his or her commonly used apps installed on a mid-sized SSD, still have room to spare, along with a modern system with SATA III support, a standalone SSD paired to a hard drive for bulk storage would most likely be the ideal set up for peak performance. But for users who need more capacity and work with large files (video for example) regularly that will benefit from the RevoDrive Hybrid's extremely fast peak transfer speeds, a hybrid solution like this one would also be beneficial. Another example would be users who have large Outlook PST files or Steam gaming directories. My Steam folder as I write this is 122GB and my Outlook PST is approaching 2GB. With the RevoDrive Hybrid, all of that data can be stored on the device and as the most frequently accessed bits were cached to the SSD, it would offer SSD-like performance with plenty of capacity to spare on the HD. With a standalone SSD in the 100-128GB range, that Steam folder simply wouldn't fit on the drive along with an OS, etc, so it would be stuck completely on the HD. Of course you could always spring for a larger SSD, but then we get into the same price range as the RevoDrive Hybrid. And keep in mind, this thing can push upwards of a GB per second under ideal conditions and work in any system with a PCIe x4 slot. It would take two, fast SATA III SSDs running in RAID 0 to even approach those speeds.

Ultimately, the RevoDrive Hyrbid serves a smaller group of users that would benefit from the drive's unique capabilities. There are currently no other consumer-class hybdrid solutions that can offer the kind of peak transfers that the RevoDrive Hybrid can and work in virtually any hardware platform.

 

  • Super Fast Under Ideal Conditions
  • Tiny and no power connectors required
  • Cache algo works very quickly
  • Somewhat pricey
  • Slow HD speeds with uncached data
  • Must be installed as the boot volume (currently)



Content Property of HotHardware.com