joi, 18 august 2016

Toshiba OCZ RD400

Manufacturer:: Toshiba OCZ
UK price (as reviewed):
RD400 512GB: £259.99 (inc VAT); RD400A 512GB: £314.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): RD400 512GB: $309.99 (ex Tax); RD400A 512GB: $329.99 (ex Tax)

OCZ has historically been synonymous with high-speed PC storage. Arguably one of the pioneers of the solid-state drive (SSD) revolution, OCZ, in recent times, has undergone a number of branding and ownership changes.Keen to shake off a chequered past, OCZ is now simply a brand within Toshiba's catalogue. Continuing the theme of putting out drives with impressive specifications, often at the vanguard of consumer storage development, Toshiba OCZ, as it is now known, recently launched the RD400 line of NVMe PCI-E SSDs. Ostensibly the OCZ RevoDrive 400 renamed, it's available in four sizes - more than any other consumer PCI-E SSD currently available.


Toshiba OCZ RD400                    128GB              256GB              512GB              1TB
Max Sequential Read                    2,200MB/sec    2,600MB/sec    2,600MB/sec    2,600MB/sec
Max Sequential Write                   620MB/sec        1,150MB/sec    1,600MB/sec    1,550MB/sec
Max Random Read (4K QD32)    170,000 IOPS    210,000 IOPS   190,000 IOPS   210,000 IOPS
Max Random Write (4K QD32)   110,000 IOPS    140,000 IOPS   120,000 IOPS   130,000 IOPS

Being a premium drive, the RD400 uses multi-level cell (MLC) NAND technology. The usual SATA-imposed speed barrier is broken because it uses a PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface offering up near-4GB/s bandwidth. Read speeds are impressive across the capacities, though enthusiasts after excellent write speeds need to look at 256GB-plus models that routinely exceed 1GB/s on sequential write transfers. Putting the RD400 into context, the speeds are similar to what Samsung achieves with the popular SSD 950 Pro and SM951 drives.
The RD400 is presented in the now-familiar M.2 2280 form factor, though OCZ increases compatibility beyond what Samsung offers by adding an optional PCI-E adaptor add-in card (AIC). In this form factor, the drive becomes known as the RD400A, and carries a slight premium over the standard M.2 RD400. These aren't value offerings, of course, with pricing starting at £120 and rising to a colossal £600. One other thing to note is that while the PCI-E AIC is black, and the M.2 drive has a black sticker on, the actual M.2 PCB is not black - perhaps less appealing to anyone looking for colour co-ordination in their build.
A closer look at the 512GB review model shows a couple of Toshiba 15nm NAND chips next to a controller referred to as TC58. We know that it has also been used in previous OCZ drives such as Trion 100 and 150, though the company has added NVMe support this time around. We're a little surprised that a newer, faster controller hasn't been used. The benchmarks will show whether the drive is being hamstrung by using extant technology. A Samsung chip, on the right, is used for the usual array of buffering duties.

Toshiba OCZ RD400
Specs         128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Interface    PCI-E Gen 3.0 x4
Formatted capacity 111.79GiB / 223.57GiB / 447.13GiB / 894.25GiB
Controller    Toshiba TC58
NAND dies    256Gbit Toshiba A15nm MLC
DRAM    Samsung DDR3L-1600
Endurance    74 TBW (~40GB/day) / 148 TBW (~81GB/day) / 296 TBW (~162GB/day) / 592 TBW (~324GB/day)
Warranty    Five years

The endurance doubles along with the capacity, and it's good to see Toshiba OCZ offer a five-year warranty that has its Advanced Warranty Program baked in. In a nutshell, should the drive fail and a replacement be deemed necessary by tech support, a pre-paid label will be issued and a brand-new replacement sent the next business day. The defective drive is then returned, minimising the potential downtime. This was previously known as the ShieldPlus warranty, and gives Toshiba OCZ a slight advantage over rivals Intel and Samsung where the five-year warranties carry more standard terms and conditions.Thermals have been an issue on some high-performance M.2 2280 SSDs. The Toshiba OCZ RD400 is claimed to run at a peak 6W for this 512GB model. Sensibly, the add-in card features a thermal pad that connects to the mated drive. We didn't notice any obvious performance slowdowns during testing, with or without the card.There isn't much information on the security aspects of the drive; OCZ provides scarce little details. In this regard, the RD400 isn't as strong as the competition, notably from Samsung, although the promised firmware update for the SSD 950 Pro enabling TGC Opal encryption still appears to be absent, so perhaps the difference isn't so great.

Test Setup

The motherboard in our SSD test system is the mighty Asus Rampage V Extreme. As well as a slew of full speed SATA 6Gbps ports, this motherboard also supports both SATA Express and M.2 drives, as well as, of course, drives that connect directly to PCI-E expansion slots. Furthermore, the motherboard is fitted with an Intel Core i7-5960X, giving us the full set of 40 PCI-E 3.0 lanes that the X99 platform affords. This means we can test all manner of PCI-E storage devices without bandwidth restrictions. The CPU is overclocked to 4.2GHz (42 x 100MHz) with a vcore of 1.25V and it's paired with 16GB (4 x 4GB) of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 clocked at 2,666MHz. All CPU power saving features are disabled and the system is ran in the high performance power mode, ensuring that storage devices are always operating at peak performance.

Test System

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-5960X at 4.2GHz (42 x 100MHz)
  • Motherboard: Asus Rampage V Extreme
  • Memory: 4 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 2,800MHz DDR4 at 2,666MHz
  • PSU: Corsair AX1500i
  • SSD: OCZ Vector 180 960GB
  • Case: Corsair Graphite Series 760T
  • CPU cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H75
  • Operating system: Windows 10 64-bit
All SSDs are reset to factory performance prior to testing by issuing a secure erase command, either from the appropriate software where available or from our motherboard's BIOS.

CrystalDiskMark

The first test we run is the latest version of CrystalDiskMark. We run the full set of tests with 1GB of incompressible data on a secure erased and freshly formatted drive. We look at the read and write speeds for both sequential data and random 4KB data (at queue depths of 1 and 32). These results give us a snapshot of the peak performance you can expect from your drive when it's new and an overview of the hardware's capabilities.
CrystalDiskMark - Sequential Read / Incompressible Data, 1GB
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 1832
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

CrystalDiskMark - Sequential Write / Incompressible Data, 1GB
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 1566
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Write Speed )

CrystalDiskMark - 4KB Random Read / Incompressible Data, 1GB
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 47.78
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

CrystalDiskMark - 4KB Random Write / Incompressible Data, 1GB
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 195.7
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Write Speed )

CrystalDiskMark - 4KB Random Read QD32 / Incompressible Data, 1GB
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 1104
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

CrystalDiskMark - 4KB Random Write QD32 / Incompressible Data, 1GB
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 796
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

Iometer (Steady State and Consistency Performance)

Following our fresh out of the box testing, we then fill the drive with multiple game installs to within 1GB of its maximum capacity. Then, using Iometer, we begin a full one hour test of random 4KB writes at a queue depth of 32. This quickly fills up the rest of the drive's spare area, and then forces it into a simulated steady state, where the controller is having to process the incoming writes while also managing the resultant NAND fragmentation and performing garbage collection to make free blocks available to write to, all without any idle time. This test puts the controller under far more stress than any client workload would, and is most relevant to those looking to use drives in intensive workstation or server environments, for example. In such situations it's important for a drive to maintain high performance and stay responsive, so we report here the average IOPS and average response time from the last five minutes of the one hour test.
Iometer - Steady State 4KB Random Write QD32 / Average IOPS from last five minutes
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 10850
( IOPS, Higher Is Better / Average IOPS )

Iometer - Steady State 4KB Random Write QD32 / Average response time from last five minutes
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 3.07
( Miliseconds, Lower Is Better / Average Response Time )

Average performance is only one side of the coin, however. It's also important to consider consistency i.e. how varied performance is under sustained load. A drive with more consistent performance has more robust algorithms for NAND defragmentation, page mapping, garbage collection and so on. To measure consistency, we calculate the standard deviation of the IOPS readings, again from the last five minutes where the drive is in its most steady state. Again, these figures are typically more relevant for enterprise users, but power users at home who do lots of multitasking, especially with write-intensive workloads, will benefit from having performance that is both fast and consistent – it reduces the prevalence of hiccups and stutters, especially as the drive becomes more full and worn over time.The last graph shows IOPS divided by the standard deviation. This will help highlight the best drives i.e. those that can maintain high performance in a consistent fashion.

Iometer - Steady State 4KB Random Write QD32 / Standard deviation of IOPS from last five minutes
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 1939
( Standard Deviation, Lower Is Better / Standard Deviation )

Iometer - Steady State 4KB Random Write QD32 / Average IOPS divided by standard deviation from last five minutes
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 5.60
( Higher Is Better / IOPS over Standard Deviation )

Iometer (Sequential Performance)

Our one hour consistency test acts as something of a preconditioning for the drives, although before doing any further testing we trigger the TRIM command by performing a quick format in Windows and leaving the system idle for five minutes. This gives the drive a fair chance to recover some performance. We then perform sequential read and write tests with Iometer using 128KB throughput. We test first at QD1 and then at QD4 to simulate light and heavy desktop workloads (even power users rarely exceed QD4 at home). Each test is run for a full minute to eliminate initial burst phases, and in each case it's the average speed we're reporting.
Iometer - 128KB Sequential Read QD1 / Average of 1 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 1364.3
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

Iometer - 128KB Sequential Read QD4 / Average of 1 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 2738.3
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

Iometer - 128KB Sequential Write QD1 / Average of 1 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 1415.9
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Write Speed )

Iometer - 128KB Sequential Write QD4 / Average of 1 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 1574.2
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Write Speed )

Iometer (Random Performance)

Next, we look at random performance using 4KB data. Again, we look at performance at QD1 and then QD4. This time, each test is run for two minutes with the average reported.
Iometer - 4KB Random Read QD1 / Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 65.23
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

Iometer - 4KB Random Read QD4 / Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 264.91
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Read Speed )

Iometer - 4KB Random Write QD1 / Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 177.32
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Write Speed )

Iometer - 4KB Random Write QD4 / Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 483.56
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Write Speed )

Iometer (Mixed Workload Performance)

Our last bout of Iometer testing looks at mixed workloads. After all, a drive is rarely just reading or writing; in most instances it's doing a bit of both. As such, we look at some basic mixed patterns, first with sequential 128KB data at QD1 and then with random 4KB data at QD4. This is of course still a synthetic test, but should tell us a bit more about a controller's strengths and weaknesses. Each test is run for two minutes with the average reported.

Iometer - 128KB Sequential Mixed QD1 / 25% write, 75% read; Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 526.00
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Transfer Rate )

Iometer - 128KB Sequential Mixed QD1 / 50% write, 50% read; Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 568.35
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Transfer Rate )

Iometer - 128KB Sequential Mixed QD1 / 75% write, 25% read; Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 697.50
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Transfer Rate )

Iometer - 4KB Random Mixed QD4 / 25% write, 75% read; Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 230.75
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Transfer Rate )

Iometer - 4KB Random Mixed QD4 / 50% write, 50% read; Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 235.66
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Transfer Rate )

Iometer - 4KB Random Mixed QD4 / 75% write, 25% read; Average of 2 minute run
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 259.57
( MB/sec, Higher Is Better / Average Transfer Rate )

PCMark 8

PCMark 8 includes a storage workload which includes traces (recordings of drive activity) of popular, modern programs. The test times how long it takes to run a trace on a particular drive. Importantly, the traces are run in real time, meaning idle times are included in the final results, which are thus reflective of what you'd experience yourself.There are numerous traces included within the test, but we've selected four which cover a variety of typical use scenarios and read/write patterns. For gaming, we have Battlefield 3, a read intensive trace. Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Word cover design and office use and have a healthy mix of reads and writes, while for photo editors we have the Adobe Photoshop Heavy trace which is write intensive.
PCMark 8 Storage Test / Adobe InDesign trace
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 55.6
( Seconds, Lower Is Better / Time )

PCMark 8 Storage Test / Adobe Photoshop Heavy trace
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 351.2
( Seconds, Lower Is Better / Time )

PCMark 8 Storage Test / Battlefield 3 trace
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 132.6
( Seconds, Lower Is Better / Time )

PCMark 8 Storage Test / Microsoft Word trace
Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB / 27.9
Seconds, Lower Is Better / Time

Performance Analysis

The Toshiba OCZ RD400 offers excellent out-of-the-box performance. Sequential read speed with a low queue depth isn't quite as fast as the comparison Samsung drive's but raising it to four concurrent users, intimating reasonable load, produces a heady 2,738MB/s, which is as good as it gets, handily thrashing the Intel SSD 750 Series 1.2TB and gaining a significant lead over the Samsung SSD 950 Pro of an equivalent capacity. Write speed is also good, matching what we see from Samsung.Random read performance isn't so sharp, mind, but it picks up the pace in the write tests. And it seems as if the OCZ RD400 needs to have a medium queue depth to get the best out of the TC58 controller.
PCMark 8 is typical of the workloads used by most people on a single PC. Here, as expected, the OCZ RD400 scores well, though there isn't much to separate a great drive from a mediocre one. Of more importance for a drive of this calibre, we feel, is how well the SSD is able to cope with benchmarks once in a steady-state environment. Here, the performance is in line with the SSD 950 Pro in the first two Iometer tests but is compromised somewhat by significantly higher standard deviation than we expected to see, i.e. its consistency is not as strong.Adding a mixture of reads and writes leads to, well, mixed performance, as the OCZ RD400 trails the SSD 950 Pro by a healthy degree in all but one of the tests. Of course, performance is very much scenario-specific, meaning running a particular test may play to the OCZ RD400's strengths more than other drives'.

Conclusion

Toshiba OCZ has shown that it has the wherewithal to create a premium PCI-E NVMe drive for the well-heeled enthusiast. Exceedingly fast in a straight line and producing solid numbers when in a used, consistent state, its introduction means that Samsung, and to a lesser extent Intel, doesn't have it all its way in this niche, high-end part of the SSD market.Throwing off the long-imposed shackles of SATA allows PC storage to be a first-class citizen for a cutting-edge PC. Baseline SSD performance has come on so far that the jump from SATA AHCI to full-blown NVMe PCI-E isn't going to feel like the quantum leap that transitioning from HDD to SDD was, but it is clear that drives such as the Toshiba OCZ RD400 will become the de facto performance standard for the discerning builder. For those of you who automatically gravitated to Samsung due a lack of choice, the OCZ RD400, backed by a comprehensive warranty, is a welcome breath of fresh air.
While the OCZ RD400 carries some advantages over Samsung - the only real competitor at the moment for M.2 NVMe drives - such as the better warranty conditions, the bigger range of capacities and the availability of the drive with and without a PCI-E AIC adaptor, none of these are true killer features. 256GB tends to be the minimum SSD size we recommend, though it's true that if you do need the speed of an M.2 NVMe drive and aren't overly fussed about capacity or are on a budget, the 128GB OCZ RD400 is probably your best bet since competing Samsung products are OEM only and lack the five-year warranty of the consumer SSD 950 Pro. As to the 1TB version, Samsung does have the OEM SM961 now, but the OCZ RD400 is again the only consumer-grade option for now - it's more expensive as a result, but not dreadfully so, starting at around £580 compared to £530 for Samsung's. The PCI-E adaptor is nice in that it allows for greater compatibility out-of-the-box, but it's easy to source and buy M.2 AIC adaptors yourself. Granted, these often come without any cooling, but equally the single thermal pad on the OCZ adaptor is hardly the most advanced cooling solution. For the 512GB, even if you really shop around the AIC version seems to be pretty much impossible to find in stock in the UK and, if you do find it, not well priced relative to the non-AIC version. This is likely just a temporary stocking issue, but it's a shame given that that's the exact SKU we have for review.The SSD 950 Pro has a lead in performance terms in most instances, but real-world differences will be hard to feel. In the UK market the two 512GB M.2 drives are currently matched on pricing too. Ultimately, there's really not a great deal between them, but it's a relief to see someone finally bringing a respectable fight to Samsung, and each of the OCZ RD400 models is certainly worth a closer look depending on your specific needs.

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