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OCZ’s RevoDrive X2: When A Fast PCIe SSD Isn’t Fast Enough

If you’re a typical desktop user, OCZ’s RevoDrive X2 is like an AR-15 rifle in California. It’s cool to own, but it’s expensive and you can’t really use it the way it was designed to be used.

For those of you who do know what the PCI Express-based drive was built to do, it’s a damn beast. It’s possible to push this thing in excess of 600 MB/s, and we saw 4 KB random write performance greater than 100 000 IOPS. Of course, that’s in a best-case scenario where the SandForce controllers are working with highly compressible data. In more randomized situations, the RevoDrive X2 slows down significantly—but it still wipes the floor with products you’d more typically expect to find on the desktop.

In most cases, the RevoDrive X2 is able to outpace OCZ’s HSDL-attached IBIS. This is likely a result of the Revo’s direct PCI Express interface. Although there’s a bridge chip and PCI-X controller involved, the resulting conversion seems to be less severe than going from PCIe to HSDL. OCZ is probably fine with that, though. Its first-gen IBIS offering seems proof-of-concept-ish. Subsequent refreshes to the technology will be what show SAS’ insufficiency by upping throughput per HSDL channel. And dual-channel cards based on PCIe 2.0 will pave the way for up to 4000 MB/s of throughput to devices connected to a backplane. That’s not the market the RevoDrive was designed to address. IBIS has a far more enterprise-oriented vibe to it. Surely the company isn’t expecting these products to cannibalize each other.

And how about the comparison to the high-end 2.5” SATA-based SSDs that most of us in the real world can barely afford? Naturally, a Vertex 2 with one SandForce controller and 120 GB of NAND flash is going to get smoked by a RevoDrive with two SF-1200 controllers and 120 GB of flash. But if you save your pennies and stripe a pair of 60 GB Vertex 2s, you can expect similar performance for the same price.

The same can’t be said for the RevoDrive X2. Putting four 60 GB Vertex 2s in an array costs about $100 less than the convenience of the same 240 GB mounted on a PCI Express-based card. Thus, if you’re looking for value, the RevoDrive X2 is not the way to get there. If you’re looking for an easy performance-oriented solution without the hassle of manually striping SSDs, this could be the way to go.

At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that OCZ recently announced support for SandForce’s next-generation controllers with native 6 Gb/s interface support and stated 500 MB/s transfer rates. We’re also expecting Intel’s third-generation SSDs based on 25 nm flash in the first quarter of this year. Surely the giant has taken notice of SandForce’s rise to prominence and has its own retaliatory strike in the works. Two thousand eleven looks to be an exciting one in the SSD world—now seems like a tough time to buy a flagship storage device that could be eclipsed in a very big way a couple of months from now.

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  • 0 Hide
    joelmartinez , January 12, 2011 3:19 AM
    Too much money :(  will get the vertex 3 though :)  or intel
  • 5 Hide
    alikum , January 12, 2011 3:38 AM
    If only they could make SSDs cheaper ... Mechanical drives are still the way to go
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 12, 2011 3:50 AM
    although i think sandforce's new controller won't be as fast as they claim, i really think it's gonna change the face of the ssd race by the end of the year

    and probably a new iteration of the revodrive as well... can't wait!! =D =D i need me a 160gb for less than $1/gb... that's how much i bought my raptor for like 4 years ago!!
  • 2 Hide
    dauthus , January 12, 2011 4:00 AM
    In related news, OCZ stock is up to $6.80 a share, rising 19%+ today.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 12, 2011 4:10 AM
    How does this compare to the new Z-drive R3?
  • 0 Hide
    cmi86 , January 12, 2011 4:32 AM
    Yeah its really cool and i wish i had 1...or 2 lol but it just costs waay too much money, isnt really practical for enthusiast use until the prices drop
  • 2 Hide
    dirtmountain , January 12, 2011 5:12 AM
    You routinely use $500 graphic cards (GTX580) and $1,200 displays (2560x1600)in reviews. The price for this upgrade ($650)isn't any harder to stomach then those.
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , January 12, 2011 5:26 AM
    dirtmountainYou routinely use $500 graphic cards (GTX580) and $1,200 displays (2560x1600)in reviews. The price for this upgrade ($650)isn't any harder to stomach then those.

    Aye, but it's a little less tangible than exotic graphics configurations, too.
  • 4 Hide
    razor512 , January 12, 2011 5:38 AM
    a pci-e ssd seems good, I want one, MS word will run sooo much better
  • 4 Hide
    alidan , January 12, 2011 6:14 AM
    i realy wish they would put a 7200 10000 and 15000 drive in there, all top of their respective class, just so we can get some prospective of how much an improvement these are over traditional hdds.
  • 1 Hide
    palladin9479 , January 12, 2011 7:04 AM
    Something like that is beyond anything any mechanical drive can hope to compete with, its even faster then a multi-channel directly connected SAN array. It looks to be one step away from a RAM Drive, if anyone can remember what those were.
  • 0 Hide
    utengineer , January 12, 2011 11:03 AM
    I am waiting to see if Intel's LightPeak tech will be used in the the storage arena(i.e. boot drives, etc). Seems like the SSD tech is evolving so quickly.
  • 1 Hide
    christop , January 12, 2011 11:14 AM
    I want one but will have to wait for the price to come way down.
  • 0 Hide
    moogleslam , January 12, 2011 12:18 PM
    Do SSD's or the RevoDrive improve gaming performance at all?
  • 0 Hide
    krisboro , January 12, 2011 12:36 PM
    Just load times...
  • -1 Hide
    syrob , January 12, 2011 1:27 PM

    There is no way to use REVO, Modern Video card AND INTEL RAID ICH10R RAID 10 AT THE SAME TIME, the option rom spoace is used all up.

    DO not buy unless you do not ever want RAID through Intel ICHR10 !!!

    See link below

    REVO is not worth it!
  • 0 Hide
    studioman22 , January 12, 2011 2:16 PM
    Hmm, a little off topic, but what is that Cooler Master UCP-1000W used for the test rig? It's in a strange spot on the CM website, and not in their regular lineup. I guess it's either brand new and not for sale yet? Or is that a legacy product?
  • 0 Hide
    K2N hater , January 12, 2011 2:16 PM
    SYROBThere is no way to use REVO, Modern Video card AND INTEL RAID ICH10R RAID 10 AT THE SAME TIME, the option rom spoace is used all up.DO not buy unless you do not ever want RAID through Intel ICHR10 !!!See link below [...] controllerREVO is not worth it!

    I've read the thread. If you boot from the Revo it's 100% safe to disable ICH RAID. The RAID support present on ICH can be replaced to Windows RAID. As discussed in that thread disabling PXE can also help.
  • 0 Hide
    68vistacruiser , January 12, 2011 2:19 PM
    Why would anyone spend hundreds of dollars just to boot up 30 seconds faster, when they spend hours a day on the same computer?
  • 0 Hide
    willy_ , January 12, 2011 2:20 PM
    What I miss in the review: Is the RAID on the card "invisible" to the OS, as in, the OS sees it as a single drive. Or does the OS need to load a driver for the controller? If that's the case many Linux distri's will not be able to use it as a single drive.
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