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AMD R7 240GB SSD Review

AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
When it was launched a few months ago (yes, we’re a bit late with this review) the AMD R7 series SSDs were well placed within a highly competitive market segment and even now that hasn’t changed. Originally conceived to be part of a much broader push towards and all-inclusive AMD system offering alongside processors, graphics cards and memory modules, even now the R7 series is a unique product that focuses on delivering an affordable, high endurance and performance-oriented SSD from a company that has plenty of brand recognition. However, there’s more going on here than what first meets the eye.

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While the R7-series SSDs carry the AMD namesake, their internal architecture has been developed and manufactured by the relatively new Toshiba / OCZ conglomerate. Even the warranty coverage is done through OCZ which should come as a relief since they’ve always had one of the best customer support teams in the industry and that hasn’t changed under Toshiba’s stewardship. However, to say the R7-series are merely rebranded OCZ drive is doing them a serious disservice since their combination of parts and technology isn’t available on any drive in the current OCZ lineup.

Despite have its roots firmly placed in OCZ’s camp, the R7-series isn’t supposed to compete with their current stable of SSDs. While the Vector 150 targets the higher end segments and the Vertex 460 aims to give entry-level users a taste of SSD goodness, the R7 drives are supposed to deliver performance that matches the Vector at a lower price point while offering a generous 4 year warranty.

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To achieve their goals without overlapping too much into other segments, AMD and OCZ have turned to the venerable Barefoot 3 M00 controller and Toshiba’s own new A19nm MLC NAND. In relative terms within the current competitive landscape the R7 240GB SSD is exceedingly well positioned. It provides significantly more consistent performance across the read / write spectrum than its closest rivals while also costing less than higher end drives like the aforementioned Vector 150. The only area where it brings up the rear is NAND endurance but it is still rated for an incredible 30GB per day and there’s also 16GB of over-provisioning going on behind the scenes to ensure consistent output delivery.

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By opting for what could easily be argued to be best combination of components available today, AMD are making a powerful statement to the industry; they are serious about SSDs and intend to be a force to be reckoned with. This is an interesting position since the SSD market as a whole has seen a fair amount of consolidation as of late with several “rebrand any Sandforce product” companies either cutting back on SSD offerings or eliminating them altogether. Obviously AMD sees an opening here and that’s good news for everyone.

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With all that said, the 'AMD' R7 is not an exact copy of the Vector 150 series despite the specification similarities. While the internal architecture is classic Vector 150 - right down to the 16 NAND ICs, two RAM ICs, and M00 Barefoot 3 controller – there are some major points of differentiation. First and foremost while these NAND ICs are high grade A19 chips, they are not the cream of the crop. Toshiba reserves the best of the best, highly binned modules for exclusive use in their Vector series. That doesn’t mean that AMD’s R7-series gets the cast offs though since the A19 chips being used are still some of the best around; they just aren’t rated for workstation-centric environments.

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The firmware is also similar to that of OCZ branded drives, but it is not an exact duplicate. Much like what Intel and SandForce have done with their respective partnership, firmware refinements in one will eventually trickle down to the other but for the foreseeable future they should not be considered clones of each other. Whether or not any firmware differences will be noticeable remains to be seen.

All in all AMD didn’t risk much with this launch since they’ve partnered with an excellent set of vendors who know the SSD industry’s ropes. Meanwhile, OCZ and Toshiba are able to provide OEM services to a potential long-term partner. Whether or not this plan actuall works remains to be seen throughout the course of this review.
 
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AkG

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Test System & Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being an Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus Z97 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i7 4770K
Motherboard: Asus Z97 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel 910 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
OCZ Vector 150 240GB: 1.2
Angelbird Adler 640GB: AA3.15
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
ADATA SP920 512GB: MU01
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB:DXM06B0Q
Crucial MX100 512GB: MU01
Crucial M550 512GB: MU01
Plextor M6e 256GB: 1.03
Plextor M6s 256GB: 1.03
Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB: 5.60
AMD R7 240GB: 1.0

Samsung MDX controller:
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 controller:
Intel 520 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

LAMD controller:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - Custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9183 controller:
Plextor M6e 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9188 controller:
Plextor M6s - Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9187 controller:
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Marvell 9189 controller:
ADATA SP920 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial M550 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial MX100 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector 150 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
AMD R7 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Novachips NVS3600A controller:
Angelbird Adler - ONFi 2 NAND

Intel X25 G3 controller:
Intel 730 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.

read.jpg


Write Performance


For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.

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So far the R7 240GB SSD really is acting more like an enthusiast grade drive than the mainstream/value cross-over drive it really is. By the same token we were expecting nothing less than excellent performance. With that being said these numbers are slightly lower than what a OCZ Vector 150 posts and we do wonder if such differences are solely firmware related.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

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Once again this Toshiba/OCZ built SSD posts very impressive performance numbers. With that being said we can see the minor 'tweaking' OCZ has done to it to ensure that their own Vector 150 is still the faster drive.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.

cdm_w.jpg

cdm_r.jpg


PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.

pcm7.jpg

The more we test this AMD R7 the more we are impressed with it. By going with Toshiba they have side-stepped a lot of the learning curve and growing pains that first generation devices usually suffer. This allows the R7 to be one of the best 'first try' models we have seen in a long time.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.

asd_w.jpg

asd_r.jpg


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.

anvil_w.jpg

anvil_r.jpg

The R7 240GB may not in fact be an AMD-branded Vector 150 but the performance it does offer is awfully close.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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IOMeter

IOMETER


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/AMD_R7/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Once again the AMD R7 belies its sub-$300 asking price. It may not be able to out perform the similarly equipped OCZ Vector 150, but the R7 still could easily do double duty as a workstation drive. That makes the it one of the few consumer grade drives which can indeed successfully cross-over into the more demanding entry level Enterprise market.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Windows 7 / Adobe CS5 Load time

Windows 7 Start Up + Boot Time A/V Scan Performance



<i>When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/AMD_R7/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Adobe CS5 Load Time


<i>Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/AMD_R7/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


In the real world testing, it's nearly impossible to find fault with what AMD has brought to the table. We're looking at a drive that costs less than $175 and yet can outperform competitors that go for quite a bit more.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


<i>Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/AMD_R7/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/AMD_R7/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/AMD_R7/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Once again this drive is redefining exactly what it means to be a good value in the mainstream / performance marketplace. However, it is only when you consider that all this performance comes wrapped up in a package which is both <i>cheaper</i> and better <i>warrantied</i> than either a OCZ Vertex 460 or a Crucial M550 that you realize just how good a drive the AMD R7 really is.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity.

Synthetic Test Results

For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.

data_pcm7.jpg


Real World Results

For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.

data_boot.jpg

To be blunt, anything less than these stellar results would have been disappointing. After all, the Barefoot 3 M00 controller has quickly gained the enviable reputation of being one of the best consumer controllers on the marketplace, and the Toggle Mode NAND AMD uses is also some of the best you can find this side of the Enterprise marketplace. Hence, the results are absolutely excellent.
 
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