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OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB PCI-E SSD Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
OCZ’s PCI-E SSDs may not have grabbed many headlines over the years but the new RevoDrive 350 aims to change that in a big way. Under the watchful eye of Toshiba, OCZ has effectively narrowed their focus by targeting key segments rather than taking the “let’s have something for everyone” approach of yesteryear. This plan has moved the company towards a healthier business plan while Toshiba’s tutelage is rebuild consumer confidence in the OCZ brand as a whole. The RevoDrive 350 is a cornerstone of their strategy.

The RevoDrive line has a long and rather illustrious history in the PCI-E storage marketplace. When other companies were mainly concerned with wooing the enterprise consumers with high cost drives, OCZ was busy pitching the merits of PCI-E based SSDs to the workstation market and enthusiasts who simply wanted a ton of speed. To that end, the RevoDrive tended to play up features like TRIM, ease of use, lower CPU overhead and its use as a bootable drive, all things which many higher priced competitors lacked. This led to the RevoDrive making inroads within general consumer psyche without alienating their devices’ core market.

With SATA revision 3.2 and its associated SATA Express sub-spec on the horizon, there is mounting pressure on the 'classic' PCI-E SSD manufactures to beef up their product stacks. While innovation has been the driving force of the PCI-E SSD marketplace for quite some time, most of these innovations have been targeted towards boot-ability, generalized housekeeping, and improving short / long term performance. What has been missing is value. This is especially true when companies like OCZ look at what Plextor’s M6e has accomplished on the price for performance front. This certainly makes the release of the OCZ’s RevoDrive 350 rather serendipitous since it aims to bring a true high performance, high value option to consumers who don’t have a $2000 - or even $1000 - burning a hole in their pockets.

1.PNG

Billed as “everything you love about the RevoDrive X3…but better!”, the 350 model uses a design that’s loosely based on the one found in OCZ’s enterprise-class Z-Drive 4500 but uses more affordable components like top-shelf Toshiba NAND to hit a lower price point. Indeed, with the RevoDrive 350, you’re getting enterprise-class SSD RAID performance in a relatively compact and accessible solution. This doesn’t make it perfect for everyone since the switch to an x8 PCI-E interface could mean the loss of potential GPU expansion on some motherboards, but from a capabilities standpoint there are very few points contention here.

chart.jpg

To hit as many price points as possible, the RevoDrive 350 will be offered in numerous capacities and configurations. Everything from 240GB to mega sized 960GB models will be available but only the 480GB and larger models will get the "Revo x2" treatment and double the number of onboard controllers from two to four. With that said, all models will use the same PCI-E 2.0 x8 interface, PCB, and SandForce SF2282 controllers. The only differences will come down to number of controllers and NAND used, which naturally affects read / write throughput when moving from the 240GB to higher level models.

At this point the $830 480GB model looks like a sweet spot by not stepping over the magical $1000 threshold while still utilizing the adrenaline-injecting four controller setup from the larger 960GB version. The $530 RevoDrive 350 240GB is certainly more affordable but offers a lower performance threshold while the 960GB gets a significant boost in IOPS performance. Truth be told, the best overall “value” in the lineup may actually be the 960GB version simple because it doubles up on the 480GB’s capacity while retailing for “just” $470 more at $1300. This may sound high at first when compared to Plextor's M6e line or even what a comparably sized SATA drive commands, but for a high performance bootable PCI-E drive it is actually quite reasonable.

2.PNG

Much like the enterprise orientated Z-Drive 4500, the heart and soul of the RevoDrive 350 is an OCZ branded 'VCA 2.0' controller. This custom designed processor - in conjunction with a bridge switch - grants compatibility with standard SATA controllers over a PCI-E bus, and allows OCZ's custom software and drivers to control the 350 just as if it was the much more expensive Z-Drive 4500.

Amongst its many benefits VCA 2.0 control means TRIM support. It does however require custom drivers to work. Thankfully, OCZ has spent a lot of time improving and refining the software side of this equation through custom drivers for the RevoDrive series. As such the 350 promises to be the most minimally invasive, lowest overhead RevoDrive released to date.

Taken as a whole these improvements should allow the RevoDrive 350 480GB to do exactly what OCZ wants it to do: create a paradigm shift in the PCI-E storage medium, and help the aging RevoDrive series to retake some lost market share that ASUS, Plextor, Intel and countless others have taken for themselves over the past few years.

revo_sm.jpg
 
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AkG

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5,270
Closer Look at the OCZ RevoDrive 350

Closer Look at the OCZ RevoDrive 350


r1_sm.jpg

On closer inspection of the PCB we can see that the 350’s functional architectural blocks mirror the classic RevoDrive design. It makes use of a single full height, half-length form factor with a large metal covering / heatsink. Also like past iterations all power requirements are provided via the PCI-E bus with no additional power connections required. As previously mentioned, there is only one PCB hidden underneath this custom heatsink. Covering both sides of the PCB is a total of 32 NAND ICs, the VCA controller, a PCI-E 2.0 x8 bridge controller, and four LSI made Sandforce SF2282 controllers.

r5_sm.jpg

Just as with all previous RevoDrive series, the RevoDrive 350 uses a software based RAID configuration on its PCB. For all intents and purposes this means there are four 'drives' covering both sides of the single PCB, and all are running in a RAID 0 configuration via the VCA 2.0 controller. Each of these 'drivers' has its own controller and access to eight NAND ICs which does tend to reduce overall interleaving compared to normal SATA drives (which usually have 16 NAND ICs). However, with four controllers for load balancing this lower interleaving should have only a minor impact on overall performance outside of ultra-deep queue depth scenarios the RevoDrive 350 is never meant to encounter.

r3_sm.jpg

On the NAND side of the equation, we can see that since being acquired by Toshiba OCZ's engineers have not been idle. They have taken full advantage of what having nearly unlimited access to highly binned 19nm Toggle Mode NAND has to offer. Last time they were using these highly potent NAND chips to supercharge their Vertex 4 series and this time those self-same Toshiba branded ICs are powering the latest and greatest RevoDrive.

While eMMC may have been a more optimal choice from a durability perspective, this drive is meant for more workstation scenarios. With this in mind, OCZ has opted for controller with very low write amplification so the added cost of eMMC would have done nothing but hurt the price versus performance ratio for minimal real-world benefits.

r4_sm.jpg

By using Toshiba's NAND, OCZ's firmware team can also further refine the RevoDrive's firmware to take full advantage of the modules’ specific algorithms without worrying about hurting potential performance of future drives coming off the line since they all will use the same NAND. Few manufactures’ firmware teams have such a luxury, so we fully expect this to help boost the Revo 350s performance over time.

r6_sm.jpg

On the surface opting for a third party controller for a flagship SSD may seem odd and it is doubly so considering the SandForce SF2200 series is considered one of the industry’s elderly statesmen. OCZ could have easily opted for highly screened versions of their own in-house 'Indilinx powered' Barefoot 3. This would have conceivably given the RevoDrive 350 better performance while also granting OCZ even more control over firmware. However, by opting for a known quantity, OCZ have signaled that while the RevoDrive 350 is a more value orientated version of the RevoDrive series, it still takes quality control seriously as the 2282 is still a very good controller that has a stellar reputation in the marketplace. We fully expect OCZ to transition to their own controller in the future (as indicated by the PCB’s traces pointing towards possible RAM ICs next to each controller) but taking fewer risks is an excellent decision in this case.

r2_sm.jpg
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodolgy

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being an Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel 910 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
OCZ Vector 150 240GB: 1.2
Angelbird Adler 640GB: AA3.15
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
ADATA SP920 512GB: MU01
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB:DXM06B0Q
Plextor M6e 256GB: 1.02
OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB: 2.50


SandForce SF2282 controller:
RevoDrive 350 480GB - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND


Marvell 9183 controller:
Plextor M6e 256GB- custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Samsung MDX controller:
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB - custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 controller:
Intel 520 - custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND

LAMD controller:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9187 controller:
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Marvell 9189 controller:
ADATA SP920 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector 150 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
OCZ Vertex 460 (M10) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Novachips NVS3600A controller:
Angelbird Adler - ONFi 2 NAND

Intel X25 G3 controller:
Intel 730 - custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
 
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AkG

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Messages
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OCZ RevoDrive 350 and CPU Utilization

OCZ RevoDrive 350 and CPU Utilization


<i>Since the RevoDrive 350's VCA 2.0 processor is at heart a software rather than hardware-based solution, higher CPU utilization is to be expected but exactly how much is the question.

To obtain an accurate picture of exactly how much CPU horsepower this device truly requires we have configured the RevoDrive 350 device as a secondary “D” data drive and let the system idle for a few minutes. Once we are satisfied an idle state has truly been reached, we used Windows’ built in Performance Monitor to see exactly how much processing power is being dedicated towards the storage solution. For comparison’s sake we have also included the results from the original RevoDrive 120GB, the RevoDrive3 x2, Intel 910 800GB, and finally with the system running a standard SATA 6GB/s Solid State drive as the “D” drive. Lastly we run Crystal DiskMark while monitoring CPU utilization.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/cpu.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Obviously OCZ have worked on their VCA 2.0 drivers a lot since the last generation, and while the RevoDrive 350 does require more processing overhead than Intel, or any SATA based device for that matter, the increase is not as outlandishly large as it was with the RevoDrive 3 x2 480GB. More importantly our test bed was actually able to enter a lower power state - something that the RevoDrive 3 x2 never allowed. This certainly is good news and hopefully a sign of things to come, especially considering we are using a truly worst case scenario with an older i5-2500 processor.
 
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AkG

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Read / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.</i>


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Write Performance


<i>For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Once again, the OCZ RevoDrive 350's drivers are much improved over past iterations and while these results are lower than we had hoped to see - especially minimum write speed - they are still very, very impressive. Outside of some very niche scenarios we cannot foresee this level of performance being a problem for workstations and high end gaming systems.
 
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AkG

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

On first blush the ATTO performance curves of the RevoDrive 350 are simply stupendous; however if you look closely at the small file size performance the results are merely mediocre when compared against SATA devices. This is due to the overhead from the VCA controller and while OCZ have minimized its impact, when dealing with low queue depth, small file performance it appears the equivalent of only one controller is being utilized.

Once the file size does grow, then this software RAID's abilities truly start to shine and the results quickly get into nosebleed territory. This slow start however is something we will be paying close attention to.
 
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AkG

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Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


PCMark 7


<i>While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

As expected the single queue depth, 4K read and write performance of the RevoDrive 350 is rather mediocre. Unlike the Z-Drive 4500 it is loosely based off of, the RevoDrive 350 is not meant for the enterprise marketplace. Thus low queue depths scenarios are going to be a lot more common than moderately deep 32 queue depth situations. Hopefully, this issue will be more than made up for by larger file performance in real world scenarios.
 
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AkG

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AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities

AS-SSD


<i>AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.</i>
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Anvil Storage Utilities Pro



<i>Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.</i>


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Once again the large, medium, and even deep queue depth small file performance is exceptional. Unfortunately the single queue depth performance is best described as adequate. This could have been alleviated if OCZ had either opted for their own Barefoot 3 controller, or further tweaked the firmware to be more low queue depth friendly. By the same token the overall picture that these results are painting is very positive. To be blunt the RevoDrive 350 is easily justifying its $830 price tag.
 

AkG

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IOMeter

IOMETER


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/IOM.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Terms like 'bat of hell' tend to spring to mind when looking at these results. Even the shallow queue depths are impressively high, and while the single queue depth results are decent, we doubt many will be disappointed with these level of performance from their workstation's latest storage upgrade. We just doubt many home users will ever fully take advantage of it.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Windows 7 / Adobe CS5

Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


<i>When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


ADOBE CS5 LOAD TIME


<i>Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/Revo350/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Now that we have moved away from synthetic and are into more real world type testing the RevoDrive 350 does thoroughly impress. We are honestly amazed to see this level of performance coming from a sub thousand dollar device.
 
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