AMD is getting into the SSD game. Its Radeon SSDs join Radeon graphics cards, RAM and AMD's own performance and mainstream CPUs and APUs, making it possible to build an all-AMD scratch-built PC. The new mid-range Radeon R7 SSDs are aimed at the mainstream gamer -- one without a huge amount of cash to throw away, but just enough to upgrade to new components on a semi-regular basis.
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What Is It?
The Radeon R7 SSD from AMD is a mid-range solid-state drive (SSD). Drawing on some of AMD's gaming heritage and the Radeon brand, it's designed for the mainstream PC enthusiast market -- the kind of person that might build their own gaming PC (although not a top-of-the-line one), or for someone looking for a high-speed drive to upgrade their existing system without a commensurately high price tag.
Just like the Crucial MX100 and the Samsung 850 Pro and any other garden-variety SSD you care to think of, the R7 is a standard 7mm thickness and so will fit into any slim-line laptop that still uses a 2.5-inch drive slot. Thankfully, the drive itself is also bundled with a 3.5-inch drive bay adapter, so you can easily slot the R7 SSD into a desktop system. There's no SATA to USB adapter included, though.
And, like Crucial's, Samsung's and OCZ's drives, you get a copy of Acronis True Image HD to migrate data from your old SSD or hard drive onto your new one -- presuming you can trim down your migrated data to the R7's 120GB or 240GB or 480GB maximum drive sizes. This is great to see bundled; since direct competitors have it included by default, AMD failing to bundle it would be a significant point against the R7 in value.
Beyond those two inclusions and eight small screws -- four to mount the drive in its adapter, four to mount that adapter in a desktop PC -- you don't get anything else with the R7 SSD. It would have been nice to have a couple of small AMD case badges or Radeon stickers, especially if you bought the R7 to complete an otherwise all-AMD system, but it's not exactly a crippling omission.
What Is It Good At?
There's not much of a sequential write performance gap between the 120GB and the other two drives, or too much of an IOPS gap between the two smaller-capacity disks and the 480GB version. This is good news especially for low-end buyers, who will almost certainly find a bargain in the 120GB version. Of course, as usual, the mid-tier 240GB drive looks like it will offer the best compromise between price and performance and capacity.
AMD's four year warranty is superior to the three years of other value competitors like the MX100, as is AMD's rated 30GB/day endurance rating for that warranty period. Presumably the mid-range gamers and PC enthusiasts buying the R7 won't be doing a huge amount of constant data transfer, so unless you're installing and uninstalling half a dozen games per day you won't reach the limits of the rated transfer capacity.
The Radeon R7 is, as solid state drives go, pretty damn good looking, too. It's not the largest point in the drive's favour but if you're building a PC with a side window or the hard drives out on display, the R7 is a step up from the OCZs and Crucials of the SSD world and on par with Samsung's best in terms of its sleek, simple, satin black finish.
- Capacities: 120GB, 240GB, 480GB
- Max Read: 540MBps (120GB) or 550MBps
- Max Write: 440MBps (120GB) or 500Mbps
- Interface: SATA III 6Gbps; compatible with SATA II 3Gbps
- Warranty: 4-Years
- Form Factor: 2.5-inch Ultra-slim (7mm) with 3.5-inch adapter
And, of course, performance is up to par with the company's expectations.
There has been a slight downgrading in outright transfer rates from the announcement to the drives' retail release -- from 550MBps/530MBps read/write to 550MBps/500MBps read/write on the 240GB and 480GB versions, and from 550MBps/470MBps to 550MBps/430MBps on the 120GB variant -- but in terms of the numbers on the box to the numbers in CrystalDiskMark, everything roughly lines up -- I clocked 542MBps read and 492MBps write, which minus the usual overhead is completely consistent with AMD and OCZ's stated numbers.
AMD Radeon R7 (240GB): Performance
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 542MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 492Mbps
While these numbers aren't the fastest on the market -- that honor still goes to Samsung's top 850 Pro -- they're a pointer to the fact that even cheap SSDs these days are pretty damn fast. If you bought a mid-range or high end SSD even a few years ago, it's well worth upgrading to a newer and faster and more reliable disk without having to empty your wallet.
What Is It Not Good At?
It's interesting that AMD and OCZ decided not to create a 960GB drive, because the large capacity value SSD market doesn't have a great variety of competitors. Presumably AMD would have drawn away some of these potential buyers, but the comparatively high initial price tag may have meant not a great number of drives would be sold. In any case, it's a slight disappointment not to have that extra-large option available for the few that want it.
The problem with value segment solid state drives more generally is that they're often eclipsed in terms by the slightly more expensive, slightly more powerful mid-range and high-end SSDs on the market. We've seen prices drop massively in the last couple of years and if you want a great SSD you're not paying too much more than just a good one. The R7 is going to draw in the mass market of mid-range gamers who want faster League Of Legends and Dota 2 load times, but it's not going to draw away the Sandisk Extreme Pro and Samsung 850 Pro buyers.
It has to be understood that AMD is trying to offer a product for every angle of the PC builder market, not just relying on its heritage in processing and graphics. It is a little confusing that there's already an R7 240 product on the market in the form of AMD's budget R7 240 graphics card, which might make Googling for prices and drivers and info a little more complicated than with other SSD-only brands' devices. Of course, if you're buying a 120GB or 480GB variant, you're sweet.
AMD is going to be facing some stiff competition from its own manufacturing partner, with OCZ just announcing the apparently-physically-identical ARC 100. It offers broadly similar performance characteristics and has the same capacities on offer, but with slightly lower daily endurance ratings and a three-year warranty rather than AMD's four it will likely be slightly cheaper, which will make AMD's not-immediately-noticeable specification differences a slightly more difficult sell for anyone picking between the two.
Should You Buy It?
AMD's Radeon R7 SSDs are, all told, a pretty appealing piece of technology. They're not especially expensive, but they offer performance that should be more than good enough for the vast majority of system builders and PC enthusiasts -- and, of course, they're worlds faster than even the best spinning disk hard drives. As with every other SSD I've seen, I'm inclined to recommend the mid-weight 240GB version purely because of its compromise between price and spec, although the 480GB would be tempting if you don't have additional storage elsewhere in your system.
The drives' designs are nice, the in-box inclusions are good, and performance is up to expectations. AMD's warranty advantage is a great differentiator in the competitive space in which the R7 SSD competes -- it's not something that most people would think to look at, but when you're picking an SSD its reliability should be at the forefront of your mind; that's why AMD's four-year warranty is appreciated. Whether you're an AMD fan or an Intel junkie, you won't find too much to dislike about the R7.