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

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 signalling, 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 centred 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
~£290
£487
~£400
£449 (Estimate from OCZ)


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 centre 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
£449 (Estimate from OCZ)£1.87
480 GB
£1,347 (Estimate from OCZ)
£2.80
960 GB
£2695 (Estimate from OCZ)
£2.80
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  • doive1231
    Interesting that Crucial's m4 products show up well in benchmarks but are often overlooked in favour of Corsair and OCZ SSDs.