It's been almost three years since I tested my first solid-state drive, and that first impression has lasted to this day. Anyone who has used an SSD in their computer will tell you that it completely changes the performance. By removing the more than 6ms delay associated with hard drives, almost everything loads faster – often instantly.
This is why we have argued for years that the most important upgrade you can make to an enthusiast-quality computer is adding an SSD to your operating system and applications. The main disadvantage of SSD technology is the cost per gigabyte, which is significantly higher than traditional mechanical hard drives.
When we published our first SSD round-up in 2009, Intel's X25-M 80GB was the best option available, costing a crazy $ 4.87 / GB. Alternatively, the OCZ Vertex 120GB was available for $ 340 at $ 2.83 / GB. Although the Vertex was cheaper, 1TB hard drives fetched less than $ 0.15 / GB around the same time.
Although SSDs are faster and more reliable today, their price has only marginally improved compared to mechanical drives. For example, the Crucial m4 128 GB costs 1.56 USD / GB, the OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB costs 1.75 USD / GB and the Intel SSD 510 Series 120 GB costs 2.33 USD / GB. Now, 2TB hard drives are available for just $ 0.04 / GB.
There have been many attempts to bring SSDs down to mainstream prices, but we're still a long way from that. Smaller 32GB and 64GB drives have become popular as boot drives, and have been available for around $ 100 to $ 150 for some time – cheap enough that you won't feel guilty, but still expensive per gigabyte.
Some manufacturers have taken other approaches to deliver SSD-like speeds to the budget segment. For example, Seagate's Momentus XT combines both HDD and SSD technologies to create a hybrid solution. It has a 4GB SLC NAND flash chip that is used as a read cache while all the data has actually been written to the hard drive.
This enabled the Momentus XT to significantly outperform conventional hard drives, even though the caching function required a new partition to work efficiently. More recently, Intel released its Smart Response Technology (SRT) with the Z68 Cougar Point chipset, which uses a similar hybrid concept, but allows you to couple an SSD to any hard drive.
Hoping to conquer part of the hybrid market, OCZ has launched its RevoDrive Hybrid, which connects a 100 GB SSD to a circuit board in addition to a 1 TB 2.5-inch hard drive and via PCI Express 2.0 x4 bus that is significantly less than any SSD, but more than you would expect for a hard drive.
The RevoDrive Hybrid is not exactly an entry-level product, regardless of the cost per gigabyte. Customers who purchase a $ 500 drive may choose a flash-only product. We're not sure what to expect from OCZ's latest offering, but before we find out, let's take a closer look at what moves the RevoDrive Hybrid …