Screaming SSD punishes benchmarks—and wallets the world of solid-state drives has reached a state of Umbo. We’re pretty much at the limit of current SATA technology, and SATA Express will be more of an evolution than a revolution. If you really need some extra horsepower, where do you turn? The new M.2 slot promises up to 40 percent faster speeds than SATA, but we haven’t seen anywhere near that yet. They’re on the right track though, since the PCI Express bus they use has a lot of spare bandwidth, if it’s not fully occupied with a video card. OCZ has known this for some time, as its new RevoDrive 350 is the latest entry to a long-running line of PCIe-based SSDs. OCZ’s new drive offers speeds of up to 1,800MB/s, which is three to four times faster than a SATA-based SSD.
How is that possible? OCZ is running four devices in RAID 0 to achieve the 480GB capacity and the blistering speed. There are also 240GB and 960GB versions of this drive, but interestingly, the 240GB version’s speed is cut in half since it uses two controllers rather than the four Sandforce SF-2282 drives that the 480GB version uses. For NAND fetishists (and you know who you are), its 19nm MLC flash is rated to let you write 50GB a day for three years.
All this hardware doesn’t come cheap— the RevoDrive 350 sports a whopping $830 price tag. Since a standard 480GB SATA-based SSD is about a quarter of that, we have to figure out what kind of user might
benefit the most from this drive.
Like conventional SSDs, it’s not 1.8GB/s across the board. That’s just for sequential reads and writes of large files; real-world usage is a mix of files from the gigabytes to the kilobytes. When it comes to files up to 32KB in size, the RevoDrive won’t outstrip SATA speeds. It’s not until you hit 64KB that performance bests a SATA-based SSD. But since it hits 1.8GB/s at the 4GB file size, it’s an indisputably superior choice for things such as HD video production or even batch processing of high-resolution photography. Someone who just wants a nice SSD to boot Windows and load some games quickly will see negligible benefits.
The installation experience is much cleaner than a SATA drive, though. The RevoDrive does not need cables for power and data—all that goes through the PCIe slot on the motherboard. So you just put it in, screw down the bracket, and turn on the computer. You will need to install drivers included on a CD, though, whereas a SATA drive is recognized right away. The RevoDrive’s lack of immediate recognition creates a hurdle if this is the primary drive of a freshly built PC, but Windows lets you add drivers during the OS installation process. You may also have to do some fiddling in the BIOS to get the Windows installer to see the drive properly, so the RevoDrive isn’t positioned well for someone who’s new to building PCs (in case the price tag didn’t already tip you off). Also, the secondary PCI Express slots on non-enthusiast motherboards usually max out at x4 PCIe 2.0, while this unit needs x8 to reach its advertised numbers.
We got some interesting benchmark results when we compared the numbers from our Z77-based Gigabyte motherboard to that of a system with an X79-based Asus Rampage IV Extreme. The RevoDrive generally performed much better with the X79 chipset, though the gap closed for our HD video encoding test. This kind of variance is not unusual for PCIe-based SSDs. The Plextor M6e that we reviewed in our June 2014 issue also performed better on X79. To us, it seems like another reason to limit a PCIe storage device to specific roles. Hopefully, the upcoming NVM Express-based drives will be more consistent across different scenarios.