Benchmarking the OCZ RevoDrive 350

Solid-state hard drives have arrived for average consumers. Although they have been around for years, their prices have now decreased to the point where they are affordable for anyone looking to build a PC or upgrade their existing machine.

With higher speeds and capacities, these solid-state drives are increasingly replacing their mechanical counterparts as standard boot devices. As such, they will soon become the standard for running operating systems and programs, with mechanical drives being relegated to storing data.

While many SSDs today are selling for closer to one dollar per gigabyte, this is not true for PCI Express solid-state drives like the OCZ RevoDrive 350, which demand a price point of up to two dollars per gigabyte. Despite having higher prices than serial ATA drives (the current standard interface for drives), PCIe drives benefit greatly from more bandwidth than the current SATA III standard, resulting in significantly faster operating speeds.

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The Basics

The RevoDrive 350 is the latest PCI Express solid-state drive from OCZ. Available in 240GB, 480GB, or 960GB sizes, the RevoDrive 350 drives are priced at $529.99, $828.99, and $1,299.99 respectively.

Sleek and slender, the RevoDrive 350 pairs well with a double slot graphics card in a mid-tower chassis. The drive fit snugly into our test bed with enough finger space to be easily accessed. Sporting a brushed aluminum exterior with an engraved reflective logo, the RevoDrive 350 has an integrated  heat sink on top of the RAID controllers that helps with passive cooling.

OCZ used the same NAND flash on the RevoDrive350 as they did on their Vertex 460, namely Toshiba's 19nm Toggle Mode multi-layer-cell memory. Surprisingly OCZ opted to use multiple SandForce memory controllers, instead of using controllers from their new parent company Toshiba— a decision probably influenced by the PCIe revision 2.0 (the current interface standard) support offered by SandForce.

OCZ decided to ship the RevoDrive 350 with an interesting software-assisted RAID 0 set up. This redundant array splits the total usable capacity into smaller independent partitions, turning one drive into multiple drives.

The 480GB capacity, for example, fits 32 memory cells with 16GB for a total capacity of 512GB. Because 12.6% of the drive is set aside for the express use in memory management, the total usable capacity for the drive is 447GB. That capacity is divided into four 111GB partitions out of the box supported by four memory controllers, each acting as a single drive.

Advertised as having sequential read and write speeds of 1,800 MB/s and 1,700 MB/s as well as input-output operations per second ratings reaching into the 100k range, the RevoDrive 350 is a monster of high performance.

Designed for the most demanding applications such as video editing and photo processing, OCZ has set their sights on media professionals with the RevoDrive 350. Rated for 50 gigabytes per day of host writes with a three-year warranty, the drive also features 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard.

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Testing Methods

For this article we benchmarked the used the 480 GB version of the RevoDrive 350.

Our software tests consisted of the following:

  • AS SSD Benchmark (benchmark and compression test)
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark (queue depths of 4 and 10)
  • CrystalDiskMark (incompressible data test at 1000 Mb)
  • Black Magic Disk Speed Test

Additionally we ran the drive through a live test with Civilization V, Total War: Rome II, and Divinity: Original Sin, gauging load times and times between turns for late-game saves.

Tested with an AMD FX6100 at 4.0Ghz plugged into an Asus M5A97, the benchmarks are a bit closer to home for PC consumers. Though engineered for media professionals, we wanted to see how well the RevoDrive 350 performs as a boot drive and as a gaming hard drive.

Results

In synthetic tests, the RevoDrive 350 excelled with its faster interface. The PCIe  drive doubled the performance of the fastest SATA SSDs we've benchmarked. The RevoDrive 350 reached peak speeds during our ATTO maximum transfer rate test, running 2.5 times faster than our fastest SATA drive.

At queue depths of 4 and 10 the RevoDrive 350 consistently clocked a max read speed of 1440 MB/s while the max write speed averaged at 910 MB/s. Though not quite as fast as the figures from OCZ, the RevoDrive 350 ran far faster than anything else we've tested.

RevoDrive

Outfitted with the same NAND flash as the OCZ Vertex 460 that we benchmarked in June, the RevoDrive 350 doubled the performance of the Vertex in every speed test—a testament to the higher bandwidth that PCI Express offers.

Over the course of our benchmarking it became clear that this top-shelf piece of hardware performs best when combined with other high-end components. To get the most out of a PCIe SSD you need a processor that can handle high IOPS ratings for peak performance.

As a result of a bottleneck in our modest test bed, the RevoDrive 350 fell short of its advertised specifications during the 4k random transfer test with an average read rating of 70983 IOPS and an average write rating of 49103 IOPS. Though the read rating only came up 20,000 short, the write rating clocked well below the advertised 140,000 IOPS specification.

Unsurprisingly, the best display of performance came during the BlackMagic test, which simulates the laborious process of video editing, an application the OCZ RevoDrive 350 is tailored for. With an average read speed of 995.5 MB/s, the RevoDrive 350 flexed its high performance writing capabilities with an average 1009.2 MB/s speed that peaked at 1017 MB/s. Despite the drive’s poor IOPS performance, the write performance during the BlackMagic test neglected much of the bottleneck that hindered our random transfer test in CrystalDiskMark.

Despite high expectations for our live environment tests, the results were limiting. The RevoDrive 350 averaged 19 seconds between turns for Civ V with  15 second peaks, achieving similar results as the SanDisk Extreme Pro 480GB we benchmarked.

The drive trimmed a second off the average load time for Rome II with 29 seconds, however the time between turns clocked in at 1 minute 40 seconds on average, fairing slightly better than previously benchmarked drives.

The load times for Divinity resembled those of the Extreme Pro: loading our saved game took 50 seconds while booting to the character creation screen took 70 seconds.

RevoDrive350

Final Thoughts

Proving that PCI Express is the superior interface for peak solid-state drive performance, the RevoDrive 350 exhibited exceptional speed during our synthetic benchmarks. Up to  2.5 times faster than the SATA SSDs we've benchmarked, OCZ's latest PCIe drive distinguished itself with figures twice as fast when compared to SATA drives across the board.

Although powerful, the RevoDrive 350 is an expensive solid-state solution in a market replete with affordable drives. If money is not a factor in your PC build, this is a great drive when paired with a top-shelf Intel processor; though make sure to scale back on multiple graphics cards as the RevoDrive 350 requires a PCIe slot. Engineered as a workstation solution for the most demanding programs, the RevoDrive 350 can't perform as designed if other pieces of hardware bottleneck its high-caliber capabilities.