An easy way to add solid-state speed to the desktop
- By Greg Crowe
- Feb 07, 2013
Upgrading older desktop computers, an occasional necessity in cash-strapped public-sector agencies, is never fun for a network administrator. Adding memory is difficult, as the computer in question most likely has all of its memory slots full from the last time it was upgraded. Adding another disk drive to the system is even less likely, since it requires space on the motherboard to control it and an available bay to put the actual drive in. After a certain point in a computer’s lifespan, there is little room for upgrading; in fact, it seems the only option left are expansion slots for peripheral cards.
Apricorn has taken advantage of this dilemma with the Velocity Solo x1, a desktop upgrade solution that comes in the form of a PCIe 2.0 x1 expansion card that works with solid-state drives. It can fit in any PCIe 2.0 slot, whether it is an x1, x4, x8, or x16. It removes the two factors that are usually a hindrance to performing a hard drive upgrade – where to control it from and where to physically put it. That’s because there is space to mount an SSD right on the card. The drive is connected through a SATA III interface, one of the fastest connections currently available for a single drive.
Setting up the Velocity Solo x1 was very simple. First, we attached an SSD (not included) to the card. Then we opened the desktop’s case, found an empty PCIe 2.0 slot and seated the Velocity Solo into it. After the computer booted back up, we installed the drivers, and the drive was ready to be partitioned and formatted.
Apricorn advertises data transfer rates of up to 400 megabytes/sec. Although we never achieved that ideal in our tests, the SSD mounted on the Velocity Solo x1 did perform significantly better than other types of drives. In our test system, we could transfer files to and from the SSD more than four times as fast as when we copied the same set of files to and from a SATA II hard drive. And it was even faster compared with an external drive connected via a USB port.
Admins who want to add two drives to the computer are also in luck. The Velocity Solo x1 has a SATA III port on the end that can control a second drive. Just need an empty bay and power from the power supply. This feature greatly increases upgrade options.
Since the existing drives on a computer being upgraded with the Velocity Solo x1 are likely much slower, to get the most out of the drive, Apricorn offers suggestions: Use the SSD on the card as a boot drive and/or program file drive, letting the slower older drives function as storage. Another way to use it would be as a scratch disk for high-end graphics and design applications.
Apricorn is selling the Velocity Solo x1, which works with PCs and Mac Pro, for only $49, which of course does not include the cost of any drive you attach to it. Nevertheless, this is a good, inexpensive option to get a little more life out of an older system that otherwise might have been headed for deep storage.
Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.