DREVO Brings Unicorn Power To SSDs
DREVO is a new company for us to work with here on Legit Reviews, but it was formed by a group of gamers in Beijing, China back in 2015 and has released some pretty good hardware and solid prices. DREVO has been targeting the PC gaming market with their products and have released a number of Solid-State Drives (SSDs), keyboards, and accessories like PBT Keycaps. We've seen many companies come and go over the 15+ years that Legit Reviews has been around, but it seems like DREVO has the momentum going in the right direction. We got a chance to review their flagship SSD, the DREVO ARES 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD, and couldn't pass it up the chance to take it for a test drive.
The DREVO ARES is only available in 256GB and is a Half-Height, Half-Length (HHHL) PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD featuring NVMe 1.2. The Drevo ARES features sequential read speeds of up to 1400 MB/s and sequential write speeds of up to 600 MB/s. It also has 4K Random Read IOPS of 100,000 and 4K Random Write IOPS of 150,000. These are not bad performance numbers for a drive using an SMI SM2260 controller and Micron 256Gbit 3D MLC NAND Flash. DREVO must feel pretty good about the combination as they placed a healthy 350 TBW endurance rating on this drive and back it with a 3-year warranty. DREVO even provides a data migration utility
that allows Windows users to migrate data at no extra cost if needed. When this drive first came out in the summer of 2017 it was priced at $189, but recently it has been available to purchase on Amazon in the $99 to $119 price range
The packaging for the DREVO ARES was excellent and we love the unicorn logo that represents the brand. Nothing like a prancing war unicorn horse thingy on your hardware to store all your valuable data! Inside the box you get a sticker and half-height backplate if you need it. No instructions are included and DREVO does not have any utility software. DREVO has not released any firmware updates for this model, but it is supposedly user upgradeable if one is ever needed. You just use the native NVMe drivers in Windows and that is it.
The DREVO ARES is 182mm x 121.04mm x 22.39mm in dimension and weighs in at 9.4 ounces. It's been a long time that we've reviewed an SSD that tips the scales at over half a pound!
The three position switch on the end of the card allows you to select what mode you'd like to run the drive on. DREVO fails to include documentation with the drive on what the three modes are. The switch is the most eye catching feature of the Ares drive and they don't even cover it. We scoured the DREVO website and finally found the answer in the general FAQ section and not on the product page.
Drevo notes that the ARES has three working modes (S, D, P) and listed what they were. Unfortunately, we discovered in our own testing that they were wrong, so this is what we found out. You want to leave it on S for the best performance (speed). The D (standard) and P (power saving) modes are useless and we aren't sure why any desktop user would want to run this drive in power saving mode. The difference between settings is drastic to say the least.
In P switch mode we were getting 575 MB/s sequential read and 501 MB/s sequential write at QD4 in ATTO Disk Benchmark and 633 MB/s sequential read and 498 MB/s sequential write at QD32 in CrystalDiskMark. This is no where near the drives rated speeds of 1400 MB/s read and 600 MB/s write.
With the switch set to the 'S' position we found performance improved up to 2080 MB/s sequential read and 712 MB/s sequential write at QD4 in ATTO Disk Benchmark and 2134 MB/s sequential read and 695 MB/s sequential write at QD32 in CrystalDiskMark. This blows away the drives rated speeds of 1400 MB/s read and 600 MB/s write! We did the testing for this review with the speed switch on the ARES drive set to the 'S' position and don't know why anyone would run it in any other setting.
The metal backplate on the drive is a finger print magnet that is hard to keep clean, but other than that it holds the product label. This label contains the model name, serial number, UPC code and other information. The fine print says that the drives three year warranty is void if the label is removed or the case opened.
The DREVO ARES looks great in a desktop PC and has nice blue LED lights across the top. DREVO set the LED lights to have a breathing effect and you can't change it or turn it off. It's rather unfortunate that you can't control the LED lighting. We feel that DREVO missed a huge opportunity here to go with an RGB lighting design as that is all the rage in the PC enthusiast space these days. At a bare minimum they could have ditched the silly speed setting switch that 99.9% of users are going to leave on high-performance and allowed users to switch between three different colors or lighting modes. The good news is that the Drevo Ares looks better than most HHHL PCIe SSDs in our opinion.
Let's take a look at some benchmarks of this drive!
The SSD Benchmark Test System & TRIM Support
Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (version 1709 build 16299) and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. This means windows defender, windows update, disk fragmentation and everything else that would interfere with testing was disabled. Windows 10 also had the power option set to high performance and we also disabled c-states and Turbo mode on the Intel Core i5-8400 to ensure our numbers are spot on and repeatable.
The Intel Z370 platform that we used to test the storage drives was based around the ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-F Gaming motherboard with BIOS 0607 that came out on February 2nd, 2018. We used Intel Chipset Driver v10.1.1.45, Intel Management Engine Interface v18.104.22.1685 and Intel RST v22.214.171.1245 drivers. This is important to point out as they include some of the fixes for Meltdown and Spectre design flaws that have recently rocked the PC Market. The Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 16GB 3200MHz memory kit was run with CL15 memory timings and a Samsung SSD 850 PRO 512GB SATA SSD was used as the primary drive.
Intel Z370 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1151 Test Platform
|Intel Core i5-8400
|ASUS STRIX Z370-F Gaming
|Corsair Vengeange LPX 3200MHz 16GB
|Samsung 850 PRO 512GB
|Windows 10 64-Bit
CrystalDiskInfo 7.5.2 Readout:
The readout on CrystalDiskInfo 7.5.2 shows that the DREVO ARES supports S.M.A.R.T. and nothing else. The drive we received had firmware version C2.1.6S installed and that is the version that we used for general testing and benchmarking.
The overall capacity shows up as 238 GB on the DREVO ARES 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD in Windows 10 version 1709. Please remember that 1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes. A certain portion of capacity may be used for system file and maintenance use, thus the actual available capacity may differ from the labeled total capacity.
Does The DREVO ARES PCIe NVMe SSD Series Support Trim?
Most SSDs today support the TRIM command, but we still run a quick test to ensure that the command is being properly passed through to the SSD and being done. A great free utility called TRIMCheck
can be run to ensure that TRIM is functioning properly.
According to TRIMCheck v0.7, the ARES does properly execute the TRIM command correctly despite the feature not being shown on CrystalDiskInfo.
Let's have a look at the performance!
Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.1.0
Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 1, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.
Anvil SSD Benchmark with 100% Compression (incompressible data):
Benchmark Results: The Anvil SSD Benchmark showed that with 100% compression (incompressible data) the DREVO ARES 256GB drive was able to achieve a score of 7,957.60 points with 1,638 MB/s read and 697 MB/s write speeds when it comes to the measured sequential performance with 4MB file sizes.
Anvil SSD Applications Benchmark at 46% Compression:
Benchmark Results: With the compression at 46% to help mimic real world applications better we found the overall score dropped just slightly down to 7,927.32 points.
Benchmark Results: We used Anvil to check the 4K Random Read performance and found we topped out at 100,000 IOPS using the 46% compression preset that best matches typical applications. DREVO specifications show this drive as having a maximum 4K Random Read IOPS of up to 100K, so this is spot on. The Samsung SSD 960 EVO 250GB costs the same as the DREVO ARES 256GB and you can see it has higher IOPS across the board with double the IOPS performance at QD32.
It should be noted that the high-queue depth performance (beyond QD8) on the ARES was found to be very inconsistent.
For example here is one of the 10 runs we ran on the DREVO ARES for Random Read at QD32. We got 101,300 IOPS on this run and that is right where we expected performance to be since the drive is rated at 100,000 IOPS for 4K RR.
Then the very next test we could end up with something like this where the IOPS dropped down to just 14,500 IOPS for no apparent reason. Note that the maximum access time went from 1.6 ms all the way up to 83.5 ms! This is a slow down of over 50x and is likely due to some management tasks taking place on the drive that just happen to kill performance. We ended up taking ten runs on the drive and averaging the best three for our Anvil charts. The performance might drop this low only once or twice over ten runs, so an average of all ten without mentioning this didn't seem like the right thing to do.
Benchmark Results: When it came to 4K Random Write performance, the DREVO ARES broke the rated 150,000 IOPS mark at QD8 and remained that that level up to QD32.
ATTO & CrystalDiskMark
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 64MB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.
ATTO - DREVO ARES 256GB:
Benchmark Results: ATTO showed the DREVO ARES 256GB PCIe NVMe drive reaching speeds of up to 2080MB/s read and 712 MB/s write in the standard overlapped I/O benchmark. This drive is rated at up to 1400 MB/s max sequential read and 600 MB/s max sequential write, so we exceeded both of those scores on our Intel Z370 based test platform.
Benchmark Results: Compared to some other SATA III and PCIe NVMe SSDs we can quickly see three PCIe NVMe drives that we tested offer higher performance levels than the SATA drives at most file sizes.
Benchmark Results: The DREVO ARES 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD has solid sequential write performance, but other drives like the Samsung 960 EVO are able to best it at the same capacity and price point.
CrystalDiskMark 6.0.0 x64
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) and shows the highest score of five runs.
CystalDiskmark - DREVO ARES 256GB:
Benchmark Results: The DREVO ARES reached 2134 MB/s read and 695 MB/s write in the standard sequential write test. Random 4K QD1 performance was 41 MB/s read and 150 MB/s write. Those 4K random performance numbers improved up to 374 MB/s read and 310 MB/s write at a queue depth of 32.
Manually running the Sequential performance test at Q1T1 showed performance of 401 MB/s read and 700 MB/s write. The QD1 performance on this model is underwhelming for read speeds, but we were impressed that the sequential write speed improved at QD1!
Let's look at some other benchmarks!
AS SSD Benchmark
AS-SSD (2.0.6485.19676) Benchmark:
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from all three of them.
AS SSD - DREVO ARES 256GB:
Benchmark Results: On AS SSD, the DREVO ARES 256GB drive had an overall score of 1,645 points with sequential read speeds of 1743 MB/s and 692MB/s write. The 4K random results were at 37 MB/s read and 130 MB/s write.
AS SSD Copy - DREVO ARES 256GB:
Benchmark Results: The copy benchmark test results were ranging from 535 MB/s in the Program to 754 MB/s in the ISO benchmark.
AS SSD Compression - DREVO ARES 256GB:
Benchmark Results: For this benchmark chart you would ideally want to see a straight line as you don’t want any compression performance loss as the test goes from 0% compressible to 100% compressible data during the benchmark test period. The DREVO ARES 256GB had a bit of a bumpy road result, but the dips were all very minor.
Linear Write and Real World File Transfer Testing
AIDA64 Disk Benchmark
We've had some people ask for AIDA64 linear write tests to be done, so we fired that utility up to see what would happen.
When you take a look at extended sustained write performance you'll see that the performance was never smooth from the start, recovered for a brief period and then dropped off after about 64GB of data was written to the drive. The peak write speed seen was 708.5 MB/s with the low being 233 MB/s. We quit writing after 50% of the drive was full as not many people fill their drives half full with no breaks.
Real World File Transfer
Before we wrap things up we wanted to see how real-world was when writing a movie folder containing seven 1080P movies over to the SSD. For this test, we are going to simply stress write performance by transferring over a 30.6GB folder of movies off of a PCIe NVMe SSD to the drive being tested to see how performance looks.
When it comes to writing large amounts of data to the DREVO ARES 256GB drive topped out chart with a speed of 702.5 MB/s. Keep in mind that no high-end PCIe NVMe drives have been recently tested, but it did good with this ~31GB file transfer test and was able to best other budget PCIe NVMe drives like Intel 600P 512GB and the Samsung SSD 960 EVO 250GB.
We'll talk more about that in the conclusion on the next page.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The SSD market has been around for decades and any company that releases a product is going against giant billion dollar corporations. We have to applaud those that try though as sometimes you can catch the giants sleeping. DREVO knocked it out of the ball park for appearance. The DREVO ARES looks great and if they did user controllable RGB lighting on this drive it would be a massive hit for any lighting fan that has a windowed computer case. DREVO should come out with a standalone M.2 to PCIe 3.0 x4 adapter card based on this lighted design. We think it would be a big hitting in the modding and enthusiast community if they could offer it for under $40.
Where the DREVO ARES comes up short is in the performance and capacity categories. The speed switch is an epic fail in our books. It's useless for a high-performance PCIe NVMe drive that can only be used in desktop PCs. The SMI SM2260 dual-core, eight-channel controller with Micron's first-generation 3D MLC NAND Flash has respectable performance numbers, but the firmware is far from being what we would call fully optimized. Only being available in a 256GB capacity also really narrows the market down for who would be interested in purchasing this drive.
When it comes to pricing we've seen this drive on Amazon in the $99 to $119 price range
over the past 30 days. Right now it is priced at $119.99 shipped. It's main competitor will be the Intel 600p Series 256GB drive ($99.66 shipped
) that has the same controller with Intel 384Gb 32-layer 3D TLC NAND. You also have the Samsung SSD 960 EVO 250GB PCIe NVMe SSD ($119.99 shipped
) that is widely considered the best value M.2 PCIe NVMe drive for the same price. We benchmarked and compared these two drives against the DREVO ARES and it would be tough to recommend the DREVO ARES over the Samsung SSD 960 EVO 250GB at the same price.
That said, we hope that DREVO sticks with it and introduces another model with updated components. Drop the speed switch, add on some RGB lighting and introduce an SSD toolbox for drive management. If they do that with solid performing parts we could see them becoming a market disruptor down the road.
Legit Bottom Line:
The DREVO ARES looks great, but at the end of the day you can find better-performing drives at the same exact price.