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The OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 Preview: Second-Gen SandForce Goes PCIe

The OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 Preview: Second-Gen SandForce Goes PCIe
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Solid-state tech marches on, and we're already approaching SATA's 6 Gb/s ceiling. OCZ is once again stepping in with a PCIe-based solution with speed in reserve. The company's RevoDrive 3 X2 promises sequential transfers in excess of 1 GB/s.

SSDs are still one of those line-in-the-sand inflection points that change everything. But if you're accustomed to the throughput and responsiveness of a mechanical hard drive, there's very little reason to look beyond familiar SATA-based SSDs for a significantly better computing experience. The latest offerings from Crucial and OCZ deliver speeds often exceeding the limits of 3 Gb/s signaling, and if you have to have the best, it's hard for us not to recommend OCZ's Vertex 3.

The latest SandForce SF-2200-based drives are starting to roll out in greater volume, and they promise to serve as the performance benchmark by which other SSDs are measured (after the bugs are worked out, of course). Crucial's m4 is arguably a cheaper alternative for those that want higher performance, but either way, it's clear that nobody is going to be handicapped by SATA 6Gb/s on the desktop any time soon.

That's not to say there aren't enthusiasts interested in pushing the boundaries of storage performance. But if today's 2.5" SSDs aren't fast enough for your workload, you need to look beyond SATA's 600 MB/s limit. If you're an enthusiast and have the cash to spare, you may have your eye on a PCI Express-based SSD. Or, you're considering slinging several SATA-based drives together in a RAID configuration; either way, you sacrifice TRIM support in Windows. OCZ's RevoDrive and RevoDrive X2 are two of the most well-known workstation-oriented offerings, since they're bootable.

But those two products are centered on the controller at the heart of OCZ's last-gen Vertex 2 family. Today we have Vertex 3, which employs SandForce's second-generation controller and is capable of surpassing the performance of even those PCI Express-based boards when you harness a couple of them in RAID. It's only natural, then, that the company would follow up with an SF-2200-equipped RevoDrive 3 X2 to redefine enthusiast-class workstation storage performance.


Vertex 2 E
RevoDrive X2
Vertex 3
RevoDrive 3 X2
Model
240 GB
240 GB
240 GB
240 GB
Max Sequential Read
285 MB/s
740 MB/s
550 MB/s
1500 MB/s
Max Sequential Write
275 MB/s
720 MB/s
500 MB/s
1250 MB/s
4 KB Random Write
50 000 IOPs
120 000 IOPs
60 000 IOPs
200 000 IOPs
Market Price
$390
$560
$540
$699 (MSRP)


OCZ's newest PCI Express-based SSD claims impressive performance thanks to a PCIe-to-SAS controller (remember, the RevoDrive X2 employed PCI-X-to-SATA) and four second-gen SandForce controllers.

No doubt, the RevoDrive 3 X2 is to Vertex 3 as the RevoDrive X2 was to the Vertex 2. The names make more sense when you consider that the original Vertex was Indilinx-based. So, the Vertex 2/RevoDrive center on first-gen SandForce logic, and the Vertex 3/RevoDrive 3 simply put both devices on the same generational level.

If you're a storage nut, it's hard not to get excited. If you've seen the video by our friends at Engadget, the RevoDrive X3 is the first enthusiast drive (don't count the LSI or Fusion-io products destined for enterprise installs) claiming speeds beyond 1 GB/s.

But if you're a price-conscious storage nut, you're also probably painfully aware that the fastest devices are the most expensive. And if a Vertex 3 SSD is pricey, the equivalent of multiple Vertex 3s on a PCI Express card are naturally even more so. The name of the game here is performance, and you're going to pay dearly for access to it.

With that understanding, the only questions that remain are: How does this drive achieve those bold claims? What are the real-world performance numbers look like? And does the RevoDrive 3 solve the compatibility issues Chris Angelini discussed at the beginning of OCZ’s RevoDrive X2: When A Fast PCIe SSD Isn’t Fast Enough?

OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2
Capacity
Price
Price Per GB
240 GB
$699.99
$2.92
480 GB
$1699.99
$3.54
960 GB
$3199.99
$3.33
Display 37 Comments.
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  • 3 Hide
    reyshan , June 28, 2011 10:26 AM
    YoT!damn fast ssd and damn expensive ssd. might buy one 5 years from now(pci-e kind).
  • 2 Hide
    KingArcher , June 28, 2011 4:15 PM
    Wish I had won a lottery :) 
    So that I could afford me some drives like these.
  • 6 Hide
    Why_Me , June 28, 2011 4:29 PM
    omg this drive is fast! But way out of my budget :( 
  • 4 Hide
    warmon6 , June 28, 2011 4:30 PM
    Quote:
    It's not a business-class product. It's for the power user who is able to tax it using the right workload. If you're not one of those folks, the RevoDrive 3 X2 is seriously overkill.


    OVERKILL?!?!

    Nothing is overkill in the computer arena in terms of performance. :p 

    Just the price can be over kill. o.0
  • 7 Hide
    julius 85 , June 28, 2011 4:34 PM
    Just the price can be over kill. o.0

    For me the price is a bottleneck :) 
  • 7 Hide
    ElectroGoofy , June 28, 2011 4:39 PM
    Dear Santa...
  • 2 Hide
    acku , June 28, 2011 4:42 PM
    Santa is going to need a bigger expense account... :) 

    Personally, I'm hoping that OCZ adds TRIM prior to September.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • -1 Hide
    chefboyeb , June 28, 2011 5:21 PM
    Jesus!
  • -2 Hide
    greenrider02 , June 28, 2011 5:43 PM
    I saw defense of the Vertex 3's occasional low numbers, but no mention of the solid (and sometimes better) performance that the cheaper and more miserly Crucial m4 showed throughout your tests.

    Perhaps you have some bias towards the Vertex 3 that needs reconsideration?

    Other than that, $700 seems like a fair price when considering the performace difference, especially if utilized properly, for instance as a high traffic web/corporate server
  • 0 Hide
    acku , June 28, 2011 5:51 PM
    greenrider02I saw defense of the Vertex 3's occasional low numbers, but no mention of the solid (and sometimes better) performance that the cheaper and more miserly Crucial m4 showed throughout your tests.Perhaps you have some bias towards the Vertex 3 that needs reconsideration?Other than that, $700 seems like a fair price when considering the performace difference, especially if utilized properly, for instance as a high traffic web/corporate server


    If you read the first page then you know that I give a nod to Vertex 3s as the fastest MLC based 2.5" SSD. I consider that plenty of love. :) .

    We'll discuss the lower capacity m4s in another article. FYI, I suggest that you read page 5 and page 6. We are not testing FOB. We are testing steady state. That's part of the reason the SF-based drives are behaving differently with incompressible data.

    On your second point, this is in no way targeted toward an enterprise environment (that's what Z-drives are for). There is no redundancy in the array if a single SF controller fails. The whole card is a dud afterward. You can add higher level redundancy, but enterprise customers have so far been nervous on SandForce products. Plus, there's a general preference for hardware vs. software redundancy. (That's them talking not me). Overall, this makes it unacceptable for any enterprise class workload.




  • 0 Hide
    Supertrek32 , June 28, 2011 5:54 PM
    You know, almost any application that would actually benefit from these speeds won't be very effective on these drives. Why? Not enough storage space.

    It's like having a car that can do 300 miles an hour, but can only carry enough fuel to go 20 miles. Does it have a niche? Yeah. Is it practical? Not really.
  • 0 Hide
    cronos177 , June 28, 2011 6:13 PM
    In a couple of years I see them for like 1/2 the price. ONLY worth it for people who earn their paychecks based on the ability to finish task faster. that's the sole purpose at the moment.
  • 1 Hide
    guzami77 , June 28, 2011 6:16 PM
    I have the X2 100GB... im not that impressed. The speed isnt meeting specs, and other hardware/software doesnt always like a PCIe(non-standard) hard drive. Also dont forget you cant overclock your PCIe voltage with one of these...
  • 0 Hide
    acku , June 28, 2011 6:18 PM
    guzami77I have the X2 100GB... im not that impressed. The speed isnt meeting specs, and other hardware/software doesnt always like a PCIe(non-standard) hard drive. Also dont forget you cant overclock your PCIe voltage with one of these...


    I really recommend that you update the firmware. I do notice a speed difference. If you've seen our compressible benchmarks, then you know that over time the RevoDrive X2 can perform poorly. The lack of TRIM doesn't help. :( 
  • 1 Hide
    chefboyeb , June 28, 2011 6:20 PM
    The prices are too steep tho...
  • 0 Hide
    compton , June 28, 2011 6:36 PM
    This is an excellent exploration of SSD performance in general. Without the benefit of storage benches I myself have been wondering why one of my SSDs seems so much faster that the other, when it seems at face value that the answer should be clear.

    As far as OCZ goes, people who can benefit from this drive are a small group, but I'm not exactly sure who that is. Sure, its fantastically fast, and faster is better, but most people would tragically under-utilize a product like this. Since it's clearly not for enterprise use, I just have to guess what a typical user looks like for this device. Is it the high end media creation freelancer? Someone who makes their bones with Photoshop? Who knows? I want one, even though I'd clearly be better served by a more pedestrian drive. It's clearly destined for the "Cool Wall".
  • 2 Hide
    acku , June 28, 2011 6:43 PM
    Ok. I feel like I need to clear up some confusion. Some sites are reporting TRIM support and we're saying there is no TRIM support.

    The RevoDrive 3 X2 has hardware support for TRIM through VCA 2.0. This much is true, but you can't use TRIM because of a software problem. As for why?

    OCZ has a problem getting the TRIM command to the RevoDrive 3 X2, because it uses SCSI commands over PCIe, hence StorPort SCSI drivers. The TRIM command is out of the question because it's technically part of SATA. The only alternative is Unmap, which is to SCSI what TRIM is to SATA. Unfortunately, Windows does not support Unmap as part of its native driver stack. Furthermore, TRIM commands are only issued by Windows 7 when you empty the Recycle Bin, but you must have your SSD set to AHCI (part of SATA). Obviously this different from SCSI. So effectively no TRIM. :( 

    We have been in contact with the Windows driver team and OCZ, so we know that a fix is being explored. If it materializes, that's another matter....

    (RevoDrive and RevoDrive X2 don't don't support TRIM at the hardware level, so the issue is moot for them.)

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 2 Hide
    Niva , June 28, 2011 6:47 PM
    Ideal user would run massive databases that need tons of accesses all the time. Are there drivers for linux for this? Small business server with the right usage will make this worth it. Also the 'trim' issue should be a non-issue under linux whereas win 7 apparently doesn't include the unmap command.
  • 2 Hide
    christop , June 28, 2011 9:05 PM
    Crazy fast!!!
  • 0 Hide
    warmon6 , June 28, 2011 9:45 PM
    __-_-_-__$700?! wow that's a nice price. Though performance @1.25gbps is kind of low for a pci-e solution. there's already on the market +2gbps. anyway those cost +$7000!I'm going to wait and see if there's any defect with this ssd's...


    Where you get Gbps (= Gigabits) from? ;)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_rate_units#Suffix:_b_vs_B

    Were talking about GBps (Gigabytes). :p 
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