The rumors of AMD's entrance to the SSD market have swirled for a year or so now. Two weeks ago an official press deck was leaked by media, the first real confirmation that this project was close to bearing fruit. Today, we have hardware in hand, and can officially say that AMD has an SSD and talk about the offerings.
Before we get focused on the new Radeon R7 SSD, let's first look at why AMD would make an SSD to begin with. AMD makes a number of products from processors to chipsets to video cards. A few years ago, AMD brought in third-party manufacturers to make Radeon branded memory that was optimized for AMD platforms. This allowed system builders, as well as you and me, to buy DRAM that works flawlessly with other AMD hardware. At the same time, AMD can bundle packages for system builders, a processor, motherboard, GPU and DRAM, all at a reduced price, and all from one location. Adding a primary storage device is just the natural progression to the bundle packages.
Since AMD doesn't have NAND flash expertise, or a controller, it made sense for the company to reach out to a company with the total package. AMD's focus in recent years has been to gamers, an old stomping ground for OCZ. The AMD Radeon R7 isn't the only SSD that OCZ produces for another company. Panasonic offers an OCZ based SSD in Japan that is a reworked OCZ product.
Even though OCZ has the controller, the flash and the manufacturing, AMD still build the requirements for the Radeon R7. You can think of it like ordering a cake. As a customer, I want vanilla cake, with chocolate icing and some writing on top. That's where the Radeon R7 gets interesting.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
The Radeon R7 uses the Barefoot 3 M00 controller, the same found on OCZ's own flagship Vector 150 SSD. When the rumor mill was turning, some speculated that the Radeon R7 used the same components as the recently introduced OCZ ARC 100 Series, which is not the case. The Barefoot M00 has a higher clock speed than the M10 found on the Vertex 460 and ARC 100. The Radeon R7 does share the same flash as the new ARC 100, though. Both drives use Toshiba's new A19 19nm 2-plane flash.
The AMD Radeon R7 SSD ships in three capacity sizes - 120GB, 240GB and 480GB. The performance increases as the density increases. The 480GB model reaches 100,000 random read IOPS and 90,000 random write IOPS. Today, we're testing the Radeon R7 240GB with slightly lower random read performance, 95,000.
AMD covers the Radeon R7 SSD with a 4-year warranty that includes 30GB of writes per day. The MTBF is 2.5 million hours, a half million more than Vertex 460. AMD also included a nice accessory kit with the Radeon R7. Inside the package, we found a key for Acronis so users can easily clone data to the SSD from an existing drive, a desktop adapter bracket and mounting screws.
We tried the Radeon R7 with the OCZ SSD Toolbox on OCZ's website, but it doesn't see the drive. After speaking with OCZ, we learned a special Radeon Edition of the software would be available for download when the drives go on sale. This adds to the overall value of the Radeon R7, since it gives uses an easy way to TRIM, secure erase and even update the firmware on the drive should it need an update.
We received the MSRP list for the new Radeon R7 and the prices are a bit higher on the lower capacity models than what we expected. To be fair, MSRPs are always higher than what we expect and the prices already shrink within a few weeks of a new product hitting the market. The 480GB model has an MSRP of $289.99, and at that price, it's a smoking deal.
At this time, the Vector 150 480GB comes in at $334.91 (all pricing from Newegg), so the Radeon R7 is good value. The Radeon R7 240GB that we're testing today has an MSRP of $163.99. Again this drive comes in at a low price than Vector 150 240GB ($189.99), but this capacity size market is filled with several really good SSDs. The Extreme II 240GB ($141.70) is one of the best and on currently heavily discounted since the Extreme PRO launched. The Radeon R7 120GB has an MSRP of just $99.99. On its own, it's good value, but we hope to see the final price $10 less to compete with the budget priced SSDs since most users buying a small capacity drive are looking for a super deal.
That doesn't mean at $99.99 the Radeon R7 isn't great value, it's actually a smoking deal compared to budget drives like the MX100 and the large number of Silicon Motion drive currently flooding the market.