When Fast is not Fast Enough
Sometimes in life you just do something that may not make sense just to try it and end up glad you did. This is exactly what happened when I grabbed 2 Vertex 120G SSD drives which are fast in there own right, and hooked them together to create a 240G stripe. I had always wanted to try to RAID 2 SSDs together just for the fun of it but it always seemed nuts to me. After all, how fast is fast? The fact that I even asked this question was enough to finally cave in to the temptation. Anyway, as it turns out I had picked up an extra Vertex 2 during a sale which was just sitting here waiting for something to do so when I saw them on sale again I decided to give a shot. I figured if it did not work out I could return the second one or repurpose it to a laptop later, but curiosity got the better of me and I just needed to try it.
I used the OCZ Vertex 2 120G version to match up with the RAID enabled controller that is built in to the Asus Sabertooth. The first challenge was how I was going to mount two of these SSD’s into my Lian-Li case. Mounting two SSD drives is not normally an issue except that this case uses a drive cage with 4 drive caddy’s which accommodate either one 3.5 or a 2.5 inch drive and since I already have 3 drives in there, putting 2 more drives in would require some sort of adapter. The other issue is that adapters are typically designed for a screw in application and installing this in an existing adapter would also be a bit of a challenge. To solve the problem I selected the Thermaltake 2 x 2.5 inch adapter and installed the SSD drives in this adapter.
After installing the 2 drives in the adaptor, I mounted the adaptor onto the Lian-Li drive tray which then allowed me to have the 2 drives on one tray using a basic tywrap which held everything in place very securely..
Things are not always as easy as they should and this is not exception. What should have been a brain dead task turn out to bit a bit more complicated. After installing the drives and attaching the power and sata cables, I went to the BIOS and enabled the RAID, once I rebooted, I was greeted with the RAID configuration screen and quickly created the stripe hit save and to my surprise I could not get the system to boot. Turns out this is a common problem if you enable RAID after you windows installation (lessons learned). Fortunately, once I created the stripe, reset the controller to AHCI, I was able to boot into windows, load the Intel Raid Storage driver and the stripe showed up in the disk management as a single volume set and ready to go. Once I got that far, it was downhill from there and all went very smooth. Once the stripe was completed, I did a quick restore to put all my data and programs back and in less than 15 minutes, I had a 240 gig drive program drive ready to go.
OS Drive – Vertex 2 120 Gig
Data Drive – 2 x Vertex 2 120 Gig in a RAID 0
Misc Drive – 1 x 1 T Caviar Black (
Local Backup Drive – 1 x 1 2 T Caviar green used for Acronis Backup
I think it goes without saying that SSD’s are fast but let me tell you that when put two of them in a stripe, the speed is breath taking. I included some single SSD benchmarks for comparison and keep in mind that benchmarks on the new sandy bridge systems are a bit under stated. As you can see the benchmark performance is outstanding and more importantly it translates to user experience as well. Everything written and read from the new volume was noticeably faster as was the games I ran. Game start time was quicker, playback was smoother, and writing especially large files was significantly faster.
Single Vertex 2
Vertex 2 in RAID 0
One of the deterrents in the past was that Trim was not enabled in a RAID configurations. Intel now has enabled trim on their latest storage driver so we can benefit from not only the speed of the stripe but not loose Trim support in the process.
So if you ask me was it worth it, I would have to say, absolutely! If you ask me would I do it again, the answer would be, probably. It is always nice to have the simplicity of single drive, and not have to worry about drivers, or controller configurations, but the reality is that no single drive can match the performance of two of same drives striped together. The speed of this 240Gig drive is faster than the standalone 240G Vertex 2 for almost the exact cost. The argument use to be that you would loose trim but now that is no longer an issue. If you can put up with a few extra steps and few more variables, you will definitely love the outcome, cause I sure do…
***Update 3/26/11d*** It appears that there may be an error in Intel’s help file and the Trim support for a RAID O does not function. More research is required.