by Robert Tanner on March 5, 2012 in Storage
SSDs are expensive and often don’t offer enough capacity to meet user needs. The recent SSD caching craze attempts to alleviate both these issues, but OCZ has done one better. Combining a RevoDrive 3 with a 1TB HDD the RevoDrive Hybrid offers a self-contained SSD caching solution that is guaranteed to work.
These tests are perhaps the most important in our battery of benchmarks as they give us a wide range of real-world results. They range from very light to downright grueling, and will showcase which drives can shine under the most demanding scenarios they might encounter in your personal system. Few computer users run their tasks in a vacuum; often several programs are in use concurrently while others are running in the background.
To excel in these tasks the SSD controller and firmware will need to be well-balanced. It will need to have excellent random read, small random write capability, and still have enough sequential writes to get the job done quickly. It is admittedly hard for an SSD controller to be optimized for all three things at once, and typically some SSDs are only optimized for sequential writes at the expense of everything else. Still, fast access times will give any SSD an inherent advantage over a mechanical hard drive.
First up is our light batch test. This test is a simple batch file placed into the startup folder, which Windows 7 will automatically execute at startup. This is perhaps the most directly relevant test to our readers, as almost everyone has to endure boot times and then the additional time it takes for their usual or favorite programs to load before they can start using their system.
The batch file will open four websites in Firefox, load five 5MB or greater images in Photoshop CS5, and open a document in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint each, which adds an additional 15MB. As a final measure, a few small system monitoring applications are started, a 3MB PDF file and zip archive are both opened for viewing, and while everything proceeds to load, an old, favorite FLAC music file (56MB) is loaded into Winamp for playback. If it sounds like the light batch file needs to go on a diet, then the results should surprise!
Our Medium batch test is similar although timers are built in to space out the user commands. Time begins counting from the launch of the batch file and ends when all tasks have completed. The medium test consists of the following:
- Playback of a 56MB FLAC music file in Winamp.
- 50 ~8MB JPEGs queued to open in Photoshop CS5 64-bit.
- Opening of three Excel, three Word, and one PowerPoint files (various large sizes, for example one Excel file consists of a 72MB database).
- Browsing to four different websites in Firefox.
- Extraction of a 1GB RAR containing numerous “program file” folders (2.1GB uncompressed).
- Extraction of an 4.5GB ZIP containing 500 RAW images.
- Copy of a 4.5GB file to a separate location on the same drive.
- Viewing of two PDF documents.
- Viewing of two small RAR utility archives
- Execution of four small system utilities
- Launching of Adobe Lightroom
To keep things simple, the heavy batch test is identical to the medium test in all respects save for one key difference. Computer users should be familiar with the slowdown or even molasses-like feel that occurs from an anti-virus scan running in the background. The heavy test will capitalize on this by running an anti-virus scan from Microsoft Security Essentials on a static, unchanging 5.1GB test folder that contains 19,748 files and 2,414 sub-folders copied from the Program Files directory. Because it is otherwise identical, results from the medium & heavy batch tests are directly comparable.
Granted, even with a Core i7 processor, no computer user using a hard drive would be performing all of these tasks concurrently unless they wish to see their computer go unresponsive for up to 30 minutes at a time, but with an SSD this is almost child’s play. For a good quality SSD, the above isn’t even enough to make the system crawl or go unresponsive. Playing a game with an anti-virus scan in the background without losing FPS is very possible. So if this sort of system abuse, or “multitasking” sounds vaguely like your daily routine when you sit down at the PC, then an SSD may be of interest to you.
In our light batch test the Hybrid doesn’t fare that well, but let’s look at why. In our cold boot test results averaged to out to 67 seconds, yet the same cold boot with multiple programs and files being loaded turns in an almost identical time of 65 seconds. Even with the margin of error to explain this, basically it means the Hybrid is loading all the programs and files nearly instantly after loading into Windows.
What is actually going on here (and not shown in the graphs) is that the Hybrid is spending a smidge over 20 seconds in its pre-boot state before the system POSTs. Only once the system fully POSTs then things happen at breakneck speeds. However, we test boot times as from the moment the power button is depressed to the point where the OS has finished loading all applications and files, so this long pre-post state hurts the Hybrid’s results here. We aren’t sure why the Hybrid needs such a long initialization process given the first model RevoDrive only took around five seconds, but we can expect the additional synchronization and failsafe protections in place to ensure data integrity between the cache SSD and the HDD will require some additional time as compared to a standard RevoDrive 3 card.
In our medium and heavy batch tests where boot times are not a factor, results are more in line with other high performance solid-state drives, and in fact once again slot into place behind the m4 SSD. Overall the results are a favorable showing for a cache drive given the tens of GBs of data being generated, read, and/or transferred during each single batch test. The stressing, demanding loads even with a concurrent anti-virus scan don’t pose an issue for the RevoDrive Hybrid. If one wants to appreciate just how much of an advantage the Hybrid offers over a recent model yet basic, mechanical disk drive, just keep in mind that the Hybrid finished the medium batch test in almost a third of the time, or finished the heavy test in close to a fourth the overall time!
The batch tests were interesting to watch. At first the results were atrocious, but immediately performance improved by the second run, and continued to improve by the third. In our batch tests where a myriad of programs, files, and tasks are randomly loaded and executed, the Dataplex software has its programming truly put to the test and it certainly held up well. Users can actually expect better performance than that seen here once the Dataplex software learns your typical system usage and builds its data cache accordingly.