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Toshiba OCZ RD400 NVMe M.2 / PCI-E SSD Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Today’s SSD market is a crowded place with plenty of options for everyone but there is a sense of stagnation within it as well. While there’s no better time to be looking for a mid-range drive, the high end has been largely unmoved due to a lack of suitable interfaces. Motherboard manufacturers put their eggs in the SATA Express basket but thus far the actual storage manufacturers themselves have shunned that standard and have moved beyond SATA completely. First it was Intel’s 750 series, then Samsung’s 950 Pro, and now OCZ and by extension Toshiba are planting their feet in the NVMe space with the new RD400 series.

intro.jpg

In many ways the RD400 series represents an evolutionary step forwards for OCZ venerable RevoDrive series. It is meant to combine bleeding-edge speeds for enthusiasts while still maintaining a holistic ecosystem that’s completely bootable. More importantly, this represents the first SSD being launched under the combined Toshiba / OCZ brand.

Previous RevoDrive models were very much Frankenstein affairs with two to four SATA based drives crammed onto a full length PCB, a custom software RAID controller to join them together and usually a PCIe bridge controller for it to properly function over the PCIe interface. The new RD400 does none of that and throws out those old bodged-together workarounds like yesterday’s news. Instead, due to the fact that technology has progressed to a point where the RD400 can function through a single NVMe controller granting it a native PCIe 3.0 x4 interface.

The RD400 (which is available in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB capacities) is all about speed while still delivering higher capacities at lower price points than competing solutions. This means it won’t sit completely at the top of the performance spectrum but it is still a long shot away from a slow drive either. As a matter of fact, the RD400’s maximum sequential bandwidth is among the highest we’ve ever seen. That’s been achieved without sacrificing NAND longevity either since OCZ has somehow managed to top the segment in that respect too.

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The whole move towards NMVe is certainly a huge change for the traditional RevoDrive series but this evolution was born of necessity. Simply put the days of large, unwieldy PCIe-based SSDs is coming to an end and in their place is a generation of sleek and adaptable drives which still manage to up the performance ante.

Adaptability enters into this particular equation due to the 2280 M.2 form fact which OCZ has chosen. Not only will it fit into notebooks and current generation motherboards with an M.2 slot but there’s also an (optional) PCIe riser card for broader compatibility.

cont_sm.jpg

From a physical perspective at least, a lot has changed since the RevoDrive series. Gone is the load of RAM ICs, the jaw dropping amount of NAND and the high power consumption numbers. In their stead is a small little M.2 PCB that has a single DDR3-1600 RAM IC (512MB on 512GB model and 1GB on the 1TB models), a single Toshiba TC58NCP controller, and either two (512GB) or four (1TB) Toshiba-branded MLC NAND ICs. Phrases such as 'night and day' barely begin to cover how massive a change in design philosophy the RD400 signifies.

ang2_sm.jpg

One of the challenges with this particular solution is the bandwidth it requires. Before jumping onto the bandwagon, remember that quite a few motherboards have their M.2 slots wired for x2 PCIe connectivity while the RD400 requires a full four lanes. If your setup falls into that category Toshiba is offering the RD400 those two aforementioned flavors: an M.2 only option and M.2 with that $20 Add in Card. The latter is simply a M.2 to PCIe x4 adapter card that allows the RD400 to plug directly into any free x4 or larger PCIe slot on the motherboard.

ang3_sm.jpg

Make no mistake about it though; this RD400 Add in Card is easily worth the $20 price increase in asking price since it is easily the most robust and impressive adapter board we have seen. Everything from its ability to accommodate short to longer M.2 cards (which does hint at future RD models) to the robust onboard power delivery system screams quality.

ang_sm.jpg

The RD400 also comes with a five year hassle-free "ShieldPlus" warranty and is rated for an impressive 296TB (512GB model) and 592TB (1TB model) Total Bytes Written. To put this in perspective, consumers will have to write more than 162/324 Gigabytes a day, every day for five years before the NAND is pushed beyond its rated durability. This is achievement is due to the fact that OCZ has opted for some of the best NAND Toshiba makes: 15nm Toggle Mode MLC NAND.

ang5_sm.jpg

The only minor negative point in all of this is there is simply no room on this small PCB for true enterprise grade data write protection. Instead the RD400 basically relies upon a modified version of OCZ's firmware-based "Power Failure Management Plus" with help from some small capacitors. In either case, what PFM+ does is insure data written to the NAND is secure but any data that was in the process of being written from the RAM buffer to the NAND will be lost in the event of an unexpected power loss – or what we in the industry likes to call a 'ungraceful shutdown'.

PFM+ is certainly is a good step in the right direction as it greatly reduces the chances of a corrupted OS or the destruction of system-critical software components but it is still a few steps behind what companies like Crucial offer in their SATA SSDs with enhanced Data Loss Protection - let alone what Intel offers on their 750 with full Flush In-Flight abilities. Of course those are much physically larger drives with simply more capacity and this issue is caused by the smaller M.2 form-factor.
 
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AkG

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Test System and 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 Sabretooth TUF X99 LGA 2011-v3 motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using either AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers, or NVMHCI using Intel NVMe 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 a manufactures 'Toolbox' and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i7 5930K
Motherboard: Asus Sabretooth TUF X99
Memory: 32GB Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel P3700 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB: 1.33
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
AMD R7 240GB: 1.0
Crucial MX200: MU01
Intel 750: 8EV10135
Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB: 0C34L5TA
OCZ Trion 480GB & 960GB: SAFM11.1
AData XPG SX930 240GB : 5.9E
AData SP550 240GB: O0730A
PNY CS2211: CS221016
PNY CS1311: CS131122
ZOTAC Premium Edition: [FONT=&quot]SAFM01.6
[FONT=&quot]Apacer AS720: [/FONT][/FONT][FONT=&quot]PLD1130
[/FONT]OCZ RD400: 4102

Toshiba TC58NCI controller:
OCZ Trion 150 480GB & 960GB - Custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode TLC NAND

Toshiba TC58NCP controller:
OCZ RD400 512GB & 1TB - Custom firmware w/ 15nm Toggle Mode MLC NAND

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

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

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

Marvell 9189 controller:
Crucial MX200 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit MLC NAND

Marvell 9293 controller:
Kingston HyperX Predator - Custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
AMD R7 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND w/ custom firmware
OCZ Arc 100 (M10) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

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

Intel NVMe G1 Controller:
Intel 750 - Customer firmware w/ MLC 20nm NAND

Phison PS3110 Controller:
Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
PNY CS2211: 15nm Toggle Mode NAND
PNY CS1311: 19nm TLC NAND
ZOTAC Premium Edition: 19nm MLC
Apacer AS330 - TLC NAND

JMicron JMF670H Controller:
AData XPG SX930 240GB - 128Gbit MLC NAND
[FONT=&quot][FONT=&quot]Apacer AS720 - [/FONT][/FONT]128Gbit MLC NAND

SMI SM2256 Controller:
AData SP550 240GB - TLC NAND

Special Thanks to Crucial for providing the memory for this testbed.
 
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AkG

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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.

write.jpg

Since we know the RD400 is PFM+ enabled we were very interested in seeing what its sequential full drive read and write performance was going to be since this feature is constantly writing the backup data / ECC to the NAND. This can have a considerable (and negative) impact upon performance.

Under normal circumstances this would result in a near stalling of performance, similar to what occurs with certain older OCZ SATA-based drives. This however is not a 'typical' OCZ SSD and the momentary loss of even 600MB/s is actually unnoticeable due to the fact its lowest point is still well in excess of what any SATA or even first gen M.2 drive is capable of. Basically, under worst case scenarios the RD400 will still offer nearly 2GB/s read and 1GB/s write performance. That is insanely fast for home users.

Now with that said the latency does also skyrocket during these brief flat line periods and this actually may be noticed by home users. OCZ really needs to tweak the firmware slightly and provide more processor cycles for I/O requests during 'emergency' PFM+ writes.
 
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AkG

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

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>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. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Both the read and write ATTO performance results are everything a gamer or enthusiast could ask for in a new SSD. With that being said the small file performance is a touch lacking compared to both the older competition and the older RevoDrive 350. This is because it only has one controller not four. Put simply the new Toshiba NVMe based controller may indeed be more powerful than previous iterations but the quantity does make up for quality in this case. As such the RD400 is not able to post those massive numbers we have come to expect from RevoDrives.
 
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AkG

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

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your 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. </i>
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

PCMark 7


<i>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.</i>


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

As you can see the read and write performance of this drive is extremely good, bordering on ludicrous. However, there is one fly in the ointment: queue depth performance. At anything beyond shallow queue depths this new series' – at all capacities – performance will tank. Its still very good, but not even as good as what the End Of Life RevoDrive can accomplish. Basically the RD400 does not have the horsepower to deliver top-shelf performance across the spectrum like previous RevoDrive models.

There are both positives and negatives to this approach. On one hand Toshiba and OCZ have been able to target a very specific market -gamers and enthusiasts- with laser-like precision by offering extremely fast read and write numbers in the areas they use most. However, this will also push a narrow subset of their professional clients to look elsewhere....which may not be all that bad a decision since both companies have (or will have) products that cater to them as well.
 
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AkG

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

AS-SSD


<i>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.</i>
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Once again the large and medium file size performance is extremely good and everything anyone could ask for in a new RevoDrive model. Even the ultra-low queue depth small file performance is very good – albeit not as good as what the aging Intel 750 can offer. Sadly, the deep queue depth small file performance is only mediocre. Even the massive, and expensive, 1TB model starts to struggle once the queue depths start to get deep.
 
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AkG

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Messages
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IOMeter Results

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/RD400/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

IOMeter is the quintessential test for highlighting the RD400's shortcomings and also what it seems like Toshiba / OCZ is doing here. Whereas previous RevoDrives were all about delivering workstation performance, it seems like the new generation (at least the RD400 series) is being retargeted towards a slightly more mainstream user base.

We have to say that this is an odd decision, particularly when you take the results above into account. Whereas OCZ has spent the RevoDrive's lifetime educating consumers about the benefits of workstation-class performance for their high end PCs and professional usage scenarios, they're obviously moving away from that here. How much so? Well that older RevoDrive ends up walking all over this newer model in IOMeter.

 
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AkG

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Windows / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 8.1 Start Up with 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. We have chosen Windows 8.1 64bit Pro as our Operating System with all 'fast boot' options disabled in the BIOS. 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/RD400/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. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

In real world performance scenarios, the RD400 series falls into one of two categories: very good and excellent. When ultra-low queue depth large sequential file performance will play a major role in how 'fast' a system seems the RD400 will be one of the best choices available to home users. That means load times, which does happen to matter to this drive's target audience.


 
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AkG

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Firefox / 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 worst 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/RD400/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot 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/RD400/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

In real world, low queue depth scenarios this model is a veritable beast. One that easily lives up to its RevoDrive heritage; however, the same cannot be said of deep queue depths like within our small file copy tests. Here the drive is good, arguable even very good, but it is not great. This is an area that RevoDrives once dominated but as you can see the RD400 is noticeably slower than the Intel 750.
 
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AkG

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5,270
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


<i>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. </i>

Synthetic Test Results
<i>For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.</i>
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/data_pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Results
<i>For a real world application we have opted for a modified version of our standard Windows 7 Start Up test. Unlike our standard Windows 7 image this image is based on a working system that has been upgraded numerous times of the past few years and represents an even more realistic real world test.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/RD400/data_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

As you can see this new Toshiba controller is fairly consistent across its full capacity and users need not worry about juggling performance and capacity when pushing data to the RD400 series. In this regard the combination of the NVMe standard with a good controller and very good Toshiba NAND is a winning one. So much so that it leaves the previous RevoDrives and other SATA RAID SSDs over PCIe in its rearview mirror.

One interesting metric to look at is performance versus the Intel 750 series. The RD400's smaller M.2 form-factor just does not have enough room on the PCB for Toshiba to dedicate a massive amount to over-provisioning like Intel does. This is a major weakness and one that Toshiba needs to pay more attention to in the future if they really want to claim a model is an 'enthusiast' grade device.

 
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