VisionTek Data Fusion 480GB PCI-E SSD Review

There is no arguing that SSDs have taken PCs to a new performance level over the past few years. Even better, pricing has dropped significantly since the technology was introduced making it a viable option for new system builds or upgrading an existing one. VisionTek offers many SSD options in their Racer and GoDrive series, but what if you want even more performance than the average SSD offers? Enter the VisionTek Data Fusion 2-Way PCI-E SSD. With dual SandForce SF2281 controllers operating in a RAID0 configuration, this thing has to be fast, right? We’re about to find out!

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Specifications & Features

The VisionTek website isn’t big on flashy marketing propaganda, but we were able to piece together the information below. The specifications and features can be wrapped up in the two tables below. First, the specifications.

VisionTek Data Fusion 480 GB PCI-E SSD Specifications
FEATURES PERFORMANCE REALIABILITY
• For use as boot drive or as data storage • Sequential Read: Up to 815MB/s • MTBF: 1,500,000 hours
• 2x SATA • Sequential Write: Up to 810Mb/s • 3 Year Limited Warranty
• Internal RAID 0,1 • Random Write IOPS at 4k blocks: Up to 100,000 • ECC: Up to 27 bytes correctable per 512-byte sector (BCH) up to 12 9-bit symbols correctable
• Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 32/64

Did you catch that 800+ MB/s sequential read/write claim? I don’t think I’ve ever tested a SSD that actually reached the claimed speeds; but if this drive comes close, it’ll be wicked fast. You might also notice the mention of internal RAID 0 & 1 capability. From an enthusiast’s point of view, I can’t imagine anyone using this drive set to RAID 1 functionality. It would kind of defeat the purpose in my opinion. In an enterprise situation though, it might be worth exploring.

Speaking of enterprise applications, SandForce controllers offer a higher level ECC, which help to protect against the correctable error side of things. Uncorrectable error protection is provided via RAISE technology found on the SandForce SF2281 controllers. It’s nice to see enterprise type features incorporated into a consumer based SSD.

The features listed below are common to most SSDs, but a couple stand out as not being mentioned by other manufacturers. Failure mode predictability/manageability and IOPS per watt improvements stand out here.

VisionTek Data Fusion 480 GB PCI-E SSD Features
REDUCED POWER REQUIREMENTS RELIABLE FAST PERFORMANCE IMPROVED OPERATION
• No Moving Parts • No volatile memory elements • Virtually zero spin or seek times • Noise and vibration free
• Super-low operating and standby power needs • Improved resistance to shock & vibration • Zero rotational latency • Extreme IOPS per Watt improvement
• Power Requirements • Predictable and manageable failure modes reduce cost • High sustained high-speed data transfers • Lighter than conventional storage

Let’s give VisionTek a chance to give their marketing spiel on the Data Fusion 480 GB SSD.

PCI-Express Solid State Drive
The VisionTek PCI-Express SSD offers  performance and reliability in a consumer grade storage solution. With up to 810MB/s of write speeds, the VisionTek PCI-Express offers best in class transfer rates which are much higher than standard SATA III 6Gb/s drives. This high performance allows users to enjoy a much faster experience whether they are working on spreadsheets or video editing. 

The VisionTek PCI-Express SSD is bootable in both Windows and Mac systems so everyone can enjoy the benefits of increased speed and reliability. A robust ECC algorithm and RAISE™ technology protect the data. Efficient bad block management and reduced write amplification further bolster endurance. Drive health is monitored using an SSD-specific set of S.M.A.R.T. attributes. The combination of these techniques provides data protection unrivaled in the storage industry.

Now that you have a basic feel for what the Data Fusion SSD offers, let’s have a look.

Packaging and First Look

The box is comprised of a nice clean black look with a picture of the drive on the front. Around back, we have a list of features, performance numbers, and the box contents. All the sides are decked out with Data Fusion branding.

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A brown box resides inside that holds the Data Fusion SSD and a low profile bracket. The drive itself is wrapped in an anti-static bag, which is further protected by anti-static bubble wrap. Sitting on top of it all is the quick installation guide. Once unwrapped, we get our first look at the Data Fusion drive and the low profile bracket, which is the lone accessory.

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Photo Op

Before we dive in for an up-close look at the drive, here are a few glamor shots to enjoy.

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The VisionTek Data Fusion Up Close

Removing the outer shield is very easy to do and only requires removing three screws. Once the outer shield is removed, we see two daughter boards with their own SandForce SF2281 controller and 240 GB worth of storage per board. Marvell is the vendor of choice for the RAID controller built into the Data Fusion. One of the Nand flash ICs is pictured below, but I was unable to locate any concrete information on them. There is also a sticker on the back of the PCB explaining capacity, voltage, amps, and that it’s PCI-E 2.0 compliant.

Naked Data Fusion

Naked Data Fusion

Daughter Boards With SF2281 Controllers

Daughter Boards With SF2281 Controllers

Nand Flash IC

Nand Flash IC

Information Sticker

Information Sticker

Installation

It’s recommended to install the Data Fusion in a PCI-E x4 slot, but if you do not have one available a x8 or x16 slot will work just fine too. Once the drive is installed, you will see an option to enter the Marvell RAID utility during boot (CTRL M). Once in there, you can double check RAID0 is enabled, but it should be by default. The instructions included with the drive say that in order to see the option to enter the Marvell utility, the motherboard’s BIOS must be set to RAID mode. This made no sense to me considering the Data Fusion has a RAID controller of its own. Sure enough, I was able to see and enter the Marvell utility (CTRL M) with the motherboard set to either AHCI or RAID mode… it made no difference. Some motherboards might require being set to RAID mode in order to access the Data Fusion’s Marvell utility, but not in this case.

In a Windows 7 x64 environment, the OS sets everything up except for the needed Marvell driver. In the instructions, you’ll find a web link to download the correct drivers. Once the Marvell drivers are installed, just reboot the system, and you should be golden. It’s a good idea to check that the drive’s capacity is the full allotment, which tells you that the RAID0 is functioning correctly.

The installation description above is for using the Data Fusion as a storage drive. If you want to use the drive to install an operating system on, about all you have to do is feed Windows the drivers during setup. The rest should be the same as any other OS install scenario.

Data Fusion 480 GB Installed

Data Fusion 480 GB Installed

Data Fusion Splash Screen During Boot

Data Fusion Splash Screen During Boot

Benchmarks

Test System

Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Formula
CPU Intel i7 4770K Haswell
Memory G.SKill TridentX DD3-2666 MHz 2x4GB
SSD Kingston HyperX 3KSSD 240 GB
Power Supply Corsair HX1050 Professional Series
Video Card HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo
Cooling Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 3X120 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump
Storage VisionTek Data Fusion 480 GB (Set to RAID 0 for Testing)

We don’t really have anything recent to compare this drive against, and obviously, a stand alone SATA SSD isn’t in the same class. Instead, we’ll run a series of benchmarks that show the raw numbers the Data Fusion can produce.

The ATTO benchmark is widely used by SSD manufacturers to show the maximum read/write performance obtainable. We didn’t quite reach the 815/810 MB/s VisionTek claims, but we did come pretty close.

ATTO Results

ATTO Results

It’s important to note that SandForce controllers have always produced lower benchmark scores when incompressible data is measured. SandForce readily admits incompressible sequential data reveals their worst case scenario. AS SSD, CrystalDiskMark, and Anvil’s storage utility test exactly this, so keep that in mind when comparing to the ATTO results.

Anvil’s storage utility was designed for testing SSDs and test it does. A wide swath of performance numbers are provided, along with a scoring system. Just for a bit of comparison, I have seen the 240 GB version of the Data Fusion achieve a total score of around 2700, whereas this 480 GB version scored over 4500. Not too shabby!

Anvil's Storage Utility Results

Anvil’s Storage Utility Results

CrystalDiskMark shows a very similar result to the above Anvil numbers. No surprise here.

CDM Results

CDM Results

AS SSD produced an overall score of 1006, which is actually pretty darn impressive.

AS SSD Results

AS SSD Results

We use I/O meter to test sequential read/write (2 MB) and random read/write (4K). Maximum IOPS are found during the 4K random write test and come very close to the advertised 100,000 claim. The rest of the I/O Meter testing provided performance numbers similar to the above tests, if not a little better in some cases.

I/O Meter 2BM Seq Read

I/O Meter 2BM Seq Read

I/O Meter 2MB Seq Write

I/O Meter 2MB Seq Write

I/O Meter 4K Random Read

I/O Meter 4K Random Read

I/O Meter 4K Random Write

I/O Meter 4K Random Write

Without a doubt, the Data Fusion exhibits some impressive numbers in our testing and would make a terrific bootable OS drive option for all you speed demons out there.

Conclusion

The advantages of owning a SSD over a traditional platter HDD are obvious, and those advantages are even more profound when something like the Data Fusion is thrown in the mix. Simply put, the Data Fusion is amazingly fast. On the performance side of things, I think the test results speak for themselves. It’s hard to argue with upwards of 800 MB/s read/write performance.

The Data Fusion is a painless install and can be up and running quickly. Even installed as a boot drive to house your OS, it’s still a pretty quick endeavor. Nothing to complain about on the usability front.

Ok, so how much is purchasing the VisionTek Data Fusion 480 GB SSD going to impact your marital status? It’s currently selling for $544.49 at TigerDirect, which is a fair asking price in my opinion. There is no doubt this would fall into the “luxury item” classification for the average computer enthusiast and gamer. The Data Fusion incorporates enterprise and workstation type data protection and an onboard RAID controller, which undoubtedly add to the cost of the drive. The OCZ Revo3 X2 480 GB drive boasts read/write/IOPS performance levels twice what the Data Fusion does, but it comes in at darn near three times the cost of the Data Fusion. Just consider that as another reason I feel the Data Fusion is priced about right.

While the cost and performance levels might be overkill for the bulk of enthusiasts and gamers, the drive is definitely worthy of the Overclockers approved stamp.

Overclockers_clear_approved

Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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Discussion
  1. Pci-e ssd's are the bees knees if you're running older hardware that has sata2. I had a revo drive (r.i.p.) that smacked the heck out anything else I had plugged in.
    Thank you for the nice laid out review guys,and thank you Overclockers for the nice email, yes i've been out of forums lately but i'm still checking out the reviews almost daily,:salute: you LVCOYOTE

    wish we could overclock ssds

    peace
    It is an impressive benchmark and easy install unit.

    Catch is, 2X 240GB say Samsung 840 EVO or Crucial M500, at about 2x $170 = $340 just seems better than $540.

    Though I am not certain these allow TRIM in RAID0.

    Yes, PCIE is not 2.5 form factor.