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AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD Review
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Date: Aug 19, 2014
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

AMD is launching a new family of products today, but unless you follow the rumor mill pretty closely, it’s probably not something you’d expect. It’s not a new CPU or APU. And it’s not a new GPU or memory kit either. Well then, “what could it be” you ask? Today, AMD is launching its first line of solid state drives (SSDs), targeted squarely at AMD enthusiasts. Whodathunkit?

AMD is calling the new family of drives, the Radeon R7 Series SSD, similar to its popular mid-range line of graphics cards. The new Radeon R7 Series SSDs feature OCZ and Toshiba technology, but with a proprietary firmware geared towards write performance and high endurance. We’ll give you the full scoop on the pages ahead, but first let’s take a look at the Radeon R7 Series’ specifications. If you’re familiar with some of OCZ’s higher-end drives (namely the Vector 150), some of these specs will probably ring a bell...

AMD Radeon R7 Series SSD
Specifications & Features

  120GB 240GB 480GB
Max Read 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s
Max Write 470 MB/s 530 MB/s 530 MB/s
Max Random Read IOPS (4K QD32) 85,000 95,000 100,000
Max Random Write IOPS (4K QD32) 90,000 90,000 90,000
Steady-State Random Write IOPS (4K QD32) 12,000 20,000 23,000
Physical Specifications
Controller Barefoot 3 M00
NAND Components A19nm Toshiba Multi-Level Cell (MLC) Flash
Interface SATA 3.0 6GB/s
Form Factor 2.5"; Ultra-Slim 7mm
Reliability Specifications
Data Path Protection BCH ECC Corrects up to 44 random bits/1KB
Encryption 256-bit AES-compliant
Product Health Monitoring Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART)
Endurance Rated for 30GB/day host writes for 4 years under typical client workloads
Environmental Specifications
Power Consumption Idle: 0.6W Active: 2.70W
Operating Temperature 0°C ~ 70°C
Shock Resistance 1500G/0.5ms
Vibration (Operational) 2.17Grms (7-800Hz)
Vibration (Non-Operational)
Price:
16.3Grms (20-2000Hz)
$99 (120GB), $163 (240GB), $298 (480GB) MSRP 


Before we take a look at closer look at AMD’s new OCZ-built Radeon R7 series solid state drives, we want to quickly draw some attention to their accessory bundle. These drives are part of a small and shrinking group of products that include not only 2.5” to 3.5” adapters, but a license for Acronis True Image HD as well. The adapters are growing less important as newer cases that include 2.5” mounting locations are released, but the inclusion of Acronis is an excellent value-add in our opinion, that also makes it easy to migrate data from an existing drive.

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AMD Radeon R7 240GB SSD

AMD’s new line of Radeon R7 series SSDs are outfitted with sturdy, anodized black housings that are significantly heavier than many competing products. As far as first impressions go, the look and solid feel of the drives definitely convey a sense of quality right out of the box.

All of the drives in AMD’s initial line-up conform to the 2.5” form factor common of today’s SSDs, and they all have slim 7mm Z-Heights. The enclosures used on the drives are all metal (top and bottom) and, as we’ve mentioned, they are clearly sturdier than most other consumer-class SSDs we’ve tested. There are really no external features to speak off other than a few decals and the standard SATA power and data connectors, but that’s par for the course.

Open up one of AMD’s new SSDs and you’ll see OCZ’s Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00 controller on board—the same controller used in the Vector 150, though it is clocked higher in these drives. That controller is paired to A19nm Toshiba MLC (Multi-Level Cell) NAND flash memory and a DDR3-1333MHz DRAM cache. The 120GB and 240GB drives sport 512MB of cache memory, while the 480GB model will be outfitted with 1GB.

Note that these new AMD Radeon R7 drives have about 6.25 – 6.66% of their NAND capacity over provisioned. The 120GB drive features 128GB of NAND, the 240GB drive 256GB of NAND, and the 480GB drive 512GB of NAND. That additional spare area is reserved for wear leveling and other proprietary features and aids the drives in achieving their higher endurance ratings.

AMD’s Radeon R7 series drives are all rated for max read speeds of 550MB/s, but write performance varies between the models. The 120GB drive’s writes peak at 470MB/s; the 240GB and 480GB drives top out at 530MB/s. All of the drives support TRIM, 256-bit AES compliant encryption and they’re rated for 30GB/day host writes for 4 years, under typical client workloads. Idle power is listed at .6w. Active power at 2.7W.

AMD / OCZ also offers a 4 year warranty on the drives, which is 25% longer than most other consumer-class SSDs.
 

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a separate drive used for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased prior to testing, and left blank without partitions for some tests, while others required them to be partitioned and formatted, as is the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Storage -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-4770K

Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH
(Z87 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

Intel HD 4600

8GB G.SKILL DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

Corsair Force GT (OS Drive)
AMD Radeon R7 SSD (240GB)
Crucial M550 (512GB)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO (250GB)
Intel SSD 730 (480GB)
OCZ Vertex 460 (240GB)
OCZ ARC 100 (240GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 8.1 Pro x64
Intel 9.4.0.1027, iRST 12.8.0.1016
DirectX 11

Intel HD 10.18.10.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v5.50
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.0.3 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2014

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you can't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and a 4K access pattern with a 4K transfer size, comprised of 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.



The AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD we tested performed extremely well in our IOMeter tests. AMD's new drive led the pack across the board with both access patterns..

In terms of total bandwidth, the AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD obviously led the pack as well. The delta's separating it from the test of the pack aren't terribly big, but AMD's drive was the highest performer nonetheless.
 

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SANDRA and ATTO Disk Benchmark

Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA 2014, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provide the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run on unformatted drives and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2014
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

The AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD finished just behind the leader in SANDRA's Physical Disk benchmark, just missing the pole position but a couple of megabytes per second.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc.

We saw some weirdness with the AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD. At a couple of block sizes, in both the Read and Write tests, the drive's performance dipped slightly. We say similar anomalies with the recently released OCZ ARC 100 as well, which leads us to believe is something funky with OCZ's more recent firmwares.

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v5.50
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com

The AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD led the pack with regard to write performance in the HD Tune benchmark, though reads were about average. The AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD's access times were also quite good here.

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests

The AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD faltered a bit on a couple of the CrystalDiskMark tests. Here, the drive offered middling performance in the sequential tests, but came roaring back in the QD32 test, where it was once again able to outpace all comers in the write portion of the benchmark.

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

We probably should have snapped a screenshot, but were pressed for time.  In any case, the AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD offered the smoothest, most consistent performance we have seen from an SSD to date in the AS-SSD compression test. Excluding SandForce-based drives, normally its typical for an SSD's performance to fluctuate slightly as the compressibility of the data being transferred changes. The graphs for the AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD, however, were as flat and consistent as they come.

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

The AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD performed extremely well up to this point, but the trace-based tests in the PCMark 7 storage benchmark didn't paint the drive in such a good light. Here, the AMD Radeon R7 Series 240GB SSD trailed all of the other drives, save for the ARC 100.  We should point out, however, that it's only the "Starting Application" tests that drags the score down. The others were much more competitive.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The AMD Radeon R7 Series SSD is one of the all-around, highest-performing solid state drives we have tested to date. The 240GB drive we tested offered competitive, and occasionally class-leading, performance across our entire battery of tests. IOPS performance was among the best we've seen in a consumer-class SSD, write throughput and access times were highly-competitive across the board, and the drive offered consistent performance regardless of the data type being transferred. Read performance was also strong, though not quite as stand-out as write performance.


The AMD Radeon R7 Series SSD -- Find It At Amazon

AMD and OCZ expect the Radeon R7 Series SSDs to be available starting tomorrow. Suggested e-tail pricing starts at $99.99 USD for the 120GB model ($0.82 per GB), $163.99 USD for the 240GB model ($0.63 per GB) and $298.99 USD for the 480GB model ($0.62 per GB). At those prices, the Radeon R7 Series SSDs aren’t the most affordable around, but considering their good overall performance, the price points are justifiable.

Ultimately, we really like these drives and can recommend them without hesitation. With that said, we’re sure some of you are wondering why AMD is getting into the SSD business in the first place. According to AMD, the company is adding SSDs to its portfolio of AMD Radeon-branded products in an effort to offer a “one-stop shop” to PC enthusiasts. To quote AMD directly, “With AMD-branded memory, processors, chipsets, graphics cards and solid state disks, AMD is simplifying the buying process with a suite of products that help ensure interoperability. Additionally, augmenting the AMD Radeon branded product portfolio with a unique range of SSDs opens new opportunities for bundling and promotions with other AMD products.”

Customers may also be wondering who to turn to for support—AMD or OCZ. We’re told that end-users should contact OCZ’s tech support and customer service channels if necessary. OCZ maintains a call center in the US and offers 24/7 support via their dedicated forum. Radeon–branded products will have their own dedicated section in the forum as well.

All told, we think the Radeon R7 branding may be somewhat confusing to some consumers, but that’s a relatively minor quibble. The Radeon R7 Series SSDs offer strong performance, a 4-year warranty (which is better than most other consumer-class solid state drives), and they are priced competitively. If you’re an AMD fan looking for a new SSD, the Radeon R7 Series is absolutely worth considering.

  • Very Good Performance
  • Competitive Pricing
  • High Endurance
  • Long Warranty
  • Real Accessory Bundle
  • Faltered In PCMark 7
  • Trailed Some Drives In A Few Read Tests



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