The new OCZ RD400 M.2 SSD is a double edge sword. On one side, we have the largest capacity NVMe-based M.2 SSD available today. On the other side, we have three capacity sizes that equal Samsung's SM951-NVMe and 950 Pro. The RD400's performance is equal to the competing drives that offer similar capacity, and even though these are premium products, pricing still plays a large role in the buying decision process.
OCZ has the first 1TB M.2 SSD using the NVMe protocol, but others will soon follow. Samsung briefed us on its new 48-layer 256 Gbit density flash in late 2015, and we were told to expect a 1 TB 950 Pro SSD in January. Samsung has obviously pushed the release back. Samsung has only delivered two products with 48-layer flash, the 850 EVO and T3 Portable SSD, and both utilize three-bit per cell (TLC) NAND.
This puts the RD400 in a unique position. The RD400 1TB costs roughly $400 less than the Intel SSD 750 1.2TB and can fit in new notebooks that work with the NVMe protocol and M.2 form factor. Under most workloads, the two products compare very well. Users would need to run write-intensive applications to spot a difference in performance. The Intel 750 is a better choice under very heavy conditions, but your workload would need to be borderline enterprise in nature to justify the difference in price.
The smaller OCZ RD400 SSDs deliver similar performance to the Samsung 950 Pro and SM951-NVMe SSDs. OCZ tagged the pricing very close to the Samsung SSDs, but we feel it may be a little too close. The 950 Pro SSDs give a little more value with the included software features, such as Magician, Rapid Mode, and the Data Migration Tool. The 950 Pro also gives users a little more performance in some corner cases in tandem with higher notebook battery life. We would like to see the RD400 priced a little lower to entice us to choose the OCZ option over Samsung's 950 Pro.
Pricing has played an increasingly important role for SSD shoppers over the last two years because manufacturers have pushed the entry-level market down to very low levels. 1TB value-focused TLC-based SSDs now cost as low as $209, and MLC-based products are close behind. Some products are dipping down to $270. We have reported that MLC flash prices are on the rise as production shifts to TLC and new 3D technologies.
Now is a good time to buy a high-performance SSD, but there is a price premium for NVMe and MLC flash. The two technologies together nearly double the price of premium SATA / MLC combination products like the SanDisk Extreme Pro 960 GB. Because of that, the OCZ RD400 1TB is a niche product, but it delivers a better value than other 1TB NVMe solutions shipping today.
|Product / Capacity||RD400||950 Pro||SM951-NVMe|
|128 GB||74 TBW||NA||75 TWB|
|256 GB||148 TBW||200 TBW||75 TBW|
|512 GB||296 TBW||400 TBW||150 TBW|
|1 TB||592 TBW||NA||NA|
I noticed how fast the OCZ endurance meter was ticked down during our testing. Normally I do not give endurance much thought because extensive tests have proven that warrantied endurance has little to do with the actual life of an SSD. On the personal side, I do not write a lot of data in day-to-day use, and can pull a new drive off a shelf at any point. My cost is walking fifteen feet and 30 minutes of disk clone time.
Our testing writes a tremendous amount of data to the SSD sample in a short amount of time. The OCZ SSD Utility software does a very good job of real-time wear reporting, and it indicated that we burned through 20 percent of the warrantied flash writes on the RD400 256 GB in three days. The large 1TB model dropped 10 percent in the same amount of time. Users should not have a problem over the five-year warranty period under normal use.
If a user runs heavy performance tests, or expects to write a lot of data from a workstation-level application, they may exceed the endurance specifications before the warranty expires. If flash endurance is a factor due to a heavy write workload, the chart above will add some clarity to an often-overlooked performance metric.
Overall, we like the OCZ RD400 SSDs but think the Samsung 950 Pro is a superior product when the price is this close. OCZ did an exceptional job with the tools available at this time. But OCZ and parent company Toshiba made the same mistake Intel and Micron made with 3D flash. Samsung made a leap that is paying off while the other NAND flash manufacturers continued to walk to 3D flash. Toshiba missed the mark with the first version of 3D flash called BiCS. The company is working hard on its successor BiCS 2, but from this point forward, every product cycle without 3D just falls farther behind what Samsung has already delivered.
The products can match Samsung in corner cases but fail to match it in others. The only avenue to make up the difference is aggressive pricing, and OCZ did not accomplish that with the RD400. OCZ has a long history of aggressive pricing; the company even pushed prices down when it had a superior product. The question now is whether Toshiba will allow that to happen again. I'm not so sure that will happen because Toshiba is trying to make a profit, and OCZ had different motives for aggressive pricing in the past.