Mirroring the arguments over Xbox versus PlayStation, Mac versus PC, and Coke versus Pepsi, PC gamers have their own perpetual debate: AMD or Intel? (And, by extension, Radeon versus GeForce.) If you come down on the AMD side of things, you'll soon be able to kit your gaming PC out with a new branded component: AMD is getting into the SSD game.
Robert Hallock, one of AMD's technical experts, said the R7 SSDs come as a response to questions from potential customers: "People come to us on Twitter and other social media, to ask 'will you be making other components?' And the answer is yes. We're taking the successes that we found [with graphics and CPUs], and applying it to the SSD market." AMD already has its own CPUs, graphics cards through its 2006 takeover of ATI, a new line of AMD Memory and now, Radeon SSDs.
Hallock again: "This will help gamers build the all-AMD system that they're looking for. If they're not, that's fine too." It's true -- apart from a case and power supply, every component in your PC can be supplied by AMD. If you don't have a setup like that (and most people won't, since Intel has been pretty dominant in processors in the last few years, that's fine -- the Radeon SSD isn't tied in any way to using an AMD CPU or a Radeon graphics card; it'll be perfectly at home in an Intel system running Nvidia graphics.
The drives themselves are manufactured under contract by OCZ, using parent company Toshiba's advanced 19nm flash memory manufacturing processes. The R7 is the first mid-range SSD to use the new flash, which boasts both reliability improvements and a slight performance bump: "It's the first gaming drive to use Toshiba's A19 NAND memory. There are cost and performance advantages [over Toshiba's older 19nm NAND]. This could be considered the second-generation NAND -- we are using the latest and greatest from Toshiba, [and] these are the first gaming drives to use it. We've worked with OCZ to make custom firmware."
550MBps reads and 500MBps writes are claimed, although the smallest-capacity 120GB model can only handle 440MBps writes. The new Radeon SSDs will also ship with Acronis TrueImage, which lets users clone their existing drive onto the new SSD -- pretty standard for a new premium drive. The new R7 SSDs are apparently much more reliable and disaster-resilient than anything else in their mid-market price range, with a mean time before failure (MTBF) figure of 2.3 million hours versus something like OCZ's own Vertex 460's 2 million hours and the Samsung 840 EVO's 1.5 million.
Hallock says the new drives are aimed at gamers, but not necessarily the absolute top of the market: "We've designed the R7 series to be a good balance between price and performance. It's not the most powerful drive, [but] we want something that's a sensible combination -- and that's why we chose the R7 name, we just think it fits." R7 is, of course, a reference to AMD's mid-range Radeon R7 graphics card line-up, currently spanning the cheap R7 240 to the mainstream R7 265.
AMD is giving its SSDs a four-year warranty, versus the competition's three years or less, which it hopes will be another selling point. 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB capacities will be available; there's no 1TB option, reflecting the R7's mainstream appeal -- although potentially annoying anyone keen on using the R7 as an all-in-one system drive. AMD hasn't released prices for the R7 series in Australia just yet, but going on the $190 cheapest street price of the 240GB OCZ Vertex 460 and the $210 cheapest street price of the 240GB OCZ Vector 150, the 240GB R7 should be right around the $200 mark -- well under $1 per GB. [AMD]