Velocity Solo X2 review: Teach an old PC new SATA 6-gbps tricks
At a Glance
Apricorn Velocity Solo X2 SATA 6Gbps SSD Upgrade Kit
If your PC doesn't have a SATA 6-gbps interface, this device adds it, caddies one drive, and let's you attach another via a cable.
If your PC lacks a SATA 6-gigabits-per-second interface, you can't get top performance out of any of the latest consumer-grade solid-state drives. Such drives bump up against the 6-gbps limit of that bus, while the older second-generation SATA interface maxes out at just 3 gbps. Apricorn's Velocity x2 should remove that roadblock for you.
My main system sports a circa-2009 Intel DX58SO motherboard. It has a great feature set, but it predates third-generation, 6-gbps SATA. The only way to upgrade such a beast is via a PCIe adapter card with a SATA 6-gbps interface, of which the market has plenty to choose from. I tried installing one of those a couple of years ago, but it gave me blue screens. SSDs at that time weren’t nearly as fast as they are today, so I saw no real reason to upgrade. But with SSD performance now topping 600 MBps, it’s time.
Lo and behold, Apricorn contacted me about its Velocity Solo PCIe cards. These will not only add SATA 6-gbps capability to any system with an available PCIe slot, but they’ll also serve as a caddy for a single SSD. Apricorn sent two cards for me to evaluate: the $50 Velocity x1 and the $99 Velocity x2. I tried both and you get nice boost from each, with the x2 adding about another 100MBps of throughput.
A 6 gbps Kingston HyperX 3K drive attached to my motherboard’s 3gbps second-generation SATA interface read data at 227 MBps and wrote data at 236 MBps while running the synthetic benchmark CrystalDiskMark 3. When I paired the drive with Apricorn’s Velocity Solo x2 card, however, the SSD's numbers jumped to 481 MBps reading and 241 MBps writing—a substantial improvement beyond what I saw, and is possible with the second-generation SATA interface. The Velocity X1 wrote at around 350 MBps.
The reason for the two cards’ performance disparity is that the x1 uses only a single PCIe 2.0 lane, while the x2 employs two lanes (and must be installed in at least a PCIe 2.0 x2 slot as a result). Since each PCIe 2.0 lane is capable of transferring data at 500 megabytes per second (or 3.9 gigabits per second) in each direction, two PCIe lanes are necessary to satisfy the requirements of the SATA 6-gbps interface. The cards will work in PCIe 1.0 slots, but they won’t perform as well. Both Velocity Solo cards are outfitted with a standard female SATA connector for attaching a second drive, and both cards are bundled with Apricorn’s EZ Gig software for cloning your existing hard drive to your new SSD.
Depending on your need for speed, and the size of your budget, either the Velocity Solo x1 or Solo x2 will do the job. My only caveat is that there are $50 cards like the Syba HyperDuo with more ports, though I have yet to see another card with the extremely handy caddy. The lowest street price we could find for the Velocity x2 as of December 18, 2012, was $95.
Don't miss our SSD roundup, where you'll find a detailed explanation of how SSDs work, plus links to reviews of seven new models as of December 18, 2012.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 01/15/2013 to reflect the results of new testing. The original tests were mistakenly performed on a x4 PCIe 1.0 slot which was referred to in the manual as a x4 PCIe 2.0 slot.