Solid state drives (SSDs) have come a long way since their introduction to the consumer market, and OCZ have been a major advocate in pushing them ever larger, faster and utilising the latest controller technologies. Increased volume and price drops have allowed enthusiasts and even mainstream customers a taste of the game-changing speeds SSDs bring to what was historically one of the slowest part of any new computer system. Today we have the opportunity to benchmark a pair of mainstream SSDs from OCZ's Vertex 2 and RevoDrive ranges. These are separate products and quite different implementations of the SSD concept, but we're going to examine them both in this article. So, let's see what each variant has to offer!
Inside their respective boxes we find both SSDs packed well and protected for any bumps and shocks during transport and general handling. Both products include a simple user manual and stickers, and the Vertex 2 also has a 2.5 inch to 3.5-inch mounting bracket. Unfortunately no software was included for the RevoDrive, making the user have to download the latest driver from the OCZ website. The Vertex 2 does not require any extra software/drivers as it is a standard 3Gb/s SATA device.
Here are the Vertex 2 and RevoDrive 120GB specifications, alongside a SandForce SF-1200 controller block diagram. Please note different sizes can provide varied read and write speeds.
These two products differ significantly in the way they connect to your computer for power and data. The Vertex 2 follows the standard of a SATA 3Gb/s data and SATA power connection as found in any new mechanical hard drive and most SSDs. However the RevoDrive is a little more exotic, and utilises an x4 PCI-Express connection for even more bandwidth. If you don't happen to have a spare PCI-E x4 slot available, it can be used in larger slots, as with all PCI-Express devices like TV tuners and RAID cards. Unlike earlier SSDs that utilised a PCI-Express interface, the RevoDrive is bootable, meaning that it can be used as primary system drive and not just for storing programs, games, scratch disks and caching.
Due to the RevoDrive now being bootable and including its own SATA controller (more on that later) it does require its own set of drivers. These are not included in the box and require you to download them from the OCZ website before being detected by your operating system installer (in the case of Windows). The Vertex 2 does not have such an issue, and boots like any normal mechanical hard drive.
Both SSDs feature SandForce SF-1200 series controllers. While the Vertex 2 is sealed preventing photographing the specific controller and memory modules, both SSDs do contain the same SF-1222TA3-SBH controller, with the RevoDrive featuring two of these chips. The NAND memory is most likely the same Intel branded memory found on the RevoDrive, the only variance would be module density due to the limited space available on the Vertex 2 compared to the PCB space on the RevoDrive.
Because there's two SandForce controllers on the RevoDrive, OCZ have included a Silicon Image SiI3124 SATA RAID controller hidden under the 'R' sticker. Below that and above the PCI-Express x4 connection is a Pericom PI7C9X130DNDE PCI-X to PCI-E bridge. This is implemented due to the Sil3124 controller being based off a PCI-X controller, originally suited for server applications.
With the use of a RAID controller, and setup in RAID, the ability for trash collection, more commonly known as TRIM, is not available on the RevoDrive. The Vertex 2 by comparison features TRIM support by default and is able to maintain its performance over a longer period of time and use. However, the RevoDrive doesn't need to rely on this traditional method utilised in single controller SSDs, instead using SandForce's own DuraClass technology. That includes its own garbage collection implementation, thus negating any concern about TRIM not being present.
At the bracket end of the RevoDrive lays a set of blue and red LEDs. Red LEDs are only illuminated if there are any faults with the drive, while the blue LEDs are a more common sight with any data and controller activity. As for the Vertex 2, due to the enclosed nature of the drive it doesn't require any externally visible LEDs like the RevoDrive, however it does have some internal LED's for diagnostic purposes that are visible when carefully looking through any small gaps.