OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB PCI-E SSD Review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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