OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 480GB PCI-E SSD Review
OCZ’s solid state drives release schedule is progressing at a breakneck pace and even we’ve had a hard time keeping up with them. Be it consumer or enterprise, value or performance - or even some blend of all the above – they will in all likelihood have a model tailor made for your needs. The all new RevoDrive 3 x2 480GB is no exception to this axiom. Unlike most SandForce based drives we have looked at, the RevoDrive 3 x2 is built around a PCI-E interface and is tailor made for price conscious workstation consumers who need performance and features only this class of storage device can offer. But before we go on, remember one thing: its focus upon the workstation market’s pricing structure still puts it well beyond the means of most home users.
The RevoDrive 3 x2 accomplishes its goals by offering unprecedented levels of performance while including features never before seen on OCZ PCI-E SSD like TRIM and a non-RAID 0 setup. Like the original RevoDrive x2 models, the “x2” in the name denotes a secondary daughter card attached to the PCB which doubles both the capacity and number of controllers (this particular example boasts four controllers). The RevoDrive 3 x2 comes in three sizes: large (240GB), massive (480GB) and enormous (960GB) which range from just over $700 to an astonishing $3,200 for the 960GB version. The 480GB drive we are reviewing today goes for around $1,600. Hey, no one ever said cutting edge performance would be cheap!
On paper, the RevoDrive 3 x2 480GB houses a custom ARM based Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) RAID controller coupled with four SF2281 SATA controllers and a veritable fortune in NAND ICs. This is all wrapped up on a PCI-E X4 gen 2 form factor board along with an attached daughter card.
So where are the cost saving measures here? Well, OCZ decided to go with ONFi 1.0 NAND and a non native PCI-E solution rather than ultra expensive ONFI 2.0 modules and a high-end controller interface.
In the past, ONFi 1.0 NAND based SF2281 drives have vacillated from being absolutely great performers to less than optimal solely based on usage patterns. Considering this 480GB drive has a sky high asking price, the temperamental aspects of past drives do raise some concerns but as we will see on the upcoming pages this isn’t to say OCZ has sitting back and doing nothing about the perceived limitations of their high end solution.
Even though it uses a PCI-E x4 form factor and has NAND and controllers are laid bare for the world to see, the Revodrive’s architecture is actually quite similar to standard SATA-based drives. Both the primary PCB and its daughter card contain a pair of SF2281 controllers per board, with each controller populated with and responsible for 16 ONFi 1.0 Asynchronous NAND ICs. In grand total there is one SuperScale processor, one SAS to PCIE x4 gen 2 bridge, 64 NAND ICs and four SF2281 controllers. In essence this drive is setup with the equivalent of four 120GB Agility 3 drives all being funneled into a custom SAS controller and PCI-E bridge.
Along with several solid state drives worth of hardware, the main board itself also houses the small heatsink covering its ARM controller. While OCZ is coy about who makes this chip recent rumors have it pegged as a Marvell controller with custom firmware and happens to be the true difference between the original RevoDrive and this new RevoDrive 3 lineup.
The RevoDrive original used a 4 port SiL RAID controller and an additional secondary PCI-E / SATA bridge chip. The RevoDrive 3 x2 also uses a two chip solution but the specifications are very, very different this time around. The first part of this equation is the 4-port 6Gbps SAS to generation 2 PCIe x4 bridge while the second integral part is what OCZ dubs a VCA 2.0 enabled, “SuperScale processor”. It may sound like complicated stuff but we’ll get into these items a bit later in the review. For the time being, let’s just say that OCZ has designed a very, very unique PCI-E SSD here.
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