OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB SSD £549
14th Jan 2011 | 10:09
You want serious storage performance? You want the 240GB OCZ IBIS HSDL then…
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB review: Overview
It's fashionable among the technologistas to grumble about the quality and performance of solid-state drive controller chipsets. But controllers aren't the only problem with SSD performance; increasingly, storage interfaces are creating a bottleneck.
Enter the OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB, an ultra-high performance SSD designed to sidestep performance issues related to the SATA I/O interface.
The OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB does this courtesy of its own unique storage connection. Out goes SATA, in comes OCZ's proprietary High-Speed Data Link or HSDL for short. In simple terms, HSDL is a four-lane PCI Express link. PCI Express 2.0, of course, supports 500MB/s per lane.
Potentially, therefore, HSDL can manage a massive 2GB/s of raw storage bandwidth. This first incantation of HSDL is PCIE 1.1 and thus half that speed, but on paper it's still a fair bit quicker than SATA.
As for the SSD part of the package, the IBIS packs 240GB of flash memory and no less than four SandForce SF-1200 controllers. There's also a Silicon Image RAID controller. The whole ensemble acts like four high end SSDs in a fast RAID 0 array. It's a bit like a quartet of OCZ's SandForce-powered Vertex 2 drives squeezed into a single 3.5-inch box.
Unsurprisingly, the headline performance claims are utterly spectacular. OCZ claims maximum read and write performance of 740MB/s and 720MB/s respectively. Then again, at over £500 for a 240GB drive, serious fireworks are expected
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB review: Specifications
The OCZ IBIS is quite unlike other SSDs, so it's worth examining what comes with the package in detail. First up, there's an add-in, four-lane, PCI Express card. The OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB model is bundled with a single-port HSDL card enabling the connection of just one drive.
However, there's also an optional four-port card enabling four-way IBIS action and quite ludicrous theoretical storage performance.
The HSDL card is essentially a dumb connector allowing the drive to interface with the PCI Express bus via a mini-SAS cable – the same cable type used by high performance SAS RAID cards. However, while the physical connectors are the same, HSDL is not electrically compatible with SAS RAID.
The drive itself conforms to the standard 3.5-inch hard disk form factor via a nicely screwed-together brushed alloy case. Along with the mini-SAS data socket, the case has a standard SATA power port. With the PCIE card, the mini-SAS cable, the drive itself and some drivers for the 'have disk' Windows installation procedure, you've got everything required for some serious storage speed.
In terms of detailed specifications, the single-port HDSL card only supports PCI Express 1.1 and is therefore rated at 10Gbps or 1.25GB/s. To put that into context, the SATA 3Gbps is currently the most common storage interface in PCs, while SATA 6Gbps is a relatively recent addition to the latest motherboards and PCs. Only a small handful of 2.5-inch SSDs support SATA 6Gbps.
Crack open the 3.5-inch IBIS enclosure (not something we'd recommend), and you'll find a pair of circuit boards, each with two SandForce SF-1200 controllers and 120GB of flash memory.
Our review drive is the 240GB model, but OCZ offers configurations ranging from 100GB all the way to 960GB. Despite hefty pricing in excess of £500, the 240GB model arguably offers the best combination of value and capacity in the IBIS range.
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB review: Benchmarks
Testing SSDs is tricky at the best of times, what with the delta between box-fresh and well-used performance. But the OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB presents some unique problems.
It's an unknown and unproven storage interface, but like any drive, the best way to test it is to simulate real-world usage as closely as possible. We therefore install a full operating system and fill the drive to the brim with data and delete it a few times before testing.
We also gave the IBIS a second run through our suite following two hours of idle operation to allow the drive to self-heal. However, the results on the second run were little changed.
Formatted capacity – Bytes, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 223GB
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 238GB
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 238GB
Synthetic drive performance
ATTO Sequential read – MBs/second, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 834MB/s
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 267MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 207MB/s
ATTO Sequential write – MBs/second, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 700MB/s
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 261MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 189MB/s
HDTach Burst rate – MBs/second, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 184MB/s
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 216MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 193MB/s
AS SSD 4k random reads – MBs/second, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 24.75MB/s
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 11.89MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 12.76MB/s
AS SSD 4k random writes – MBs/second, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 53.05MB/s
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 34.14MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 34.82MB/s
AS SSD 4k 64-thread random reads – MBs/second, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 417.94MB/s
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 117.56MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 16.30MB/s
AS SSD 4k 64-thread random writes – MBs/second, bigger is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 289.38MB/s
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 42.35MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 35.39MB/s
File decompression – Time taken, lower is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 29 seconds
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 32 seconds
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 32 seconds
File transfer performance
Copy 4.5GB file – Time taken, lower is better
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB: 25 seconds
Samsung SSD 470 Series 256GB: 43 seconds
Kingston SSDNow V+100 256GB: 1 minute 2 seconds
OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB review: Verdict
Forgive us a Rumsfeldism, but with any new technology there are both known unknowns and unknown unknowns. The OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB is no different. Broadly speaking, there are three angles you can attack it from. Firstly, you can analyse the official specifications. Then you can peruse our benchmark results. Finally, there's the matter of long-term performance.
The first two are easy to deal with. OCZ claims maximum sequential read and write performance of 740MB/s and 720MB/s along with up to 125,000 IOPS. Incredibly, in testing we found those figures to be at least in part conservative.
Atto Disk Benchmark returns read and write maximums of 834MB/s and 700MB/s. Admittedly, the more demanding AS SSD test suggests marginally more modest sustained throughput of 681MB/s and 342MB/s.
But either way, the raw speed of this drive is borderline bonkers.
Elsewhere, the synthetic results are a little less impressive. 4K random reads and writes measure 24.75MB/s and 53.05MB/s respectively. That's not as good as we've seen from some single SandForce-powered SSDs running on the SATA interface.
That said, the 4K 64-thread random performance is frankly immense, clocking in at 417.94MB/s and 289.38MB/s.
Put the synthetics together and you have a picture of a drive that looks world beating when it comes to shifting big files around, but might not always have a huge advantage with smaller, bittier work loads. That's more or less in line with the results from our application benchmarks.
The IBIS is incredibly quick at shunting big files. That includes pulling files off another SSD located on a SATA connection, a task we found it to be over twice as quick at compared to two SSDs sharing the same SATA controller.
The same goes for copying large files around the IBIS itself. It's much quicker than a standard SSD. Less impressive is its performance in our 1GB zip file extraction.
Our test file contains scores of little files and the IBIS struggles to put significant distance between itself and conventional SSDs in this kind of real world test. It completes the extract in 29 seconds compared with 32 seconds for Samsung's latest SSD, the 470 Series.
That just leaves the matter of long-term performance. Currently, the all-important TRIM storage command in Windows 7 is not supported by drives hidden by a RAID array. Unfortunately, that applies to the IBIS as much as it does home-made RAID configurations.
However, the IBIS does benefit from the SandForce SF-1200's garbage cleaning routine that's designed to do much the same job. However, in our testing, we could not detect any evidence of the cleaning algorithms in action.
If you're the sort of video editing junky who routinely shunts huge files around his rig, you'll love the OCZ IBIS HSDL 240GB. It's an absolute screamer and comes close to hitting the magical 1GB/s mark in some circumstances.
Given the unique technology, it's also reasonable value compared to conventional high-capacity, high-speed SSDs.
For day-to-day computing this SSD-RAID-array-in-a-box solution is almost definitely overkill. While it delivers spectacular performance by most metrics, there's evidence in the 4K random results to suggest OCZ's IBIS isn't significantly quicker than cheaper SATA SSDs for routine storage work.