OCZ RD400 NVMe SSD Review

OCZ has teased us with its NVMe M.2 prototype for a full year now; it first appeared at Computex in June of 2015 as the RevoDrive 400. In the interim, OCZ has displayed the drive at every turn, but Toshiba's influence has kept the product in development to ensure a successful launch, and hopefully strong sales.

We, and other sites, notice the proliferation of negativity about OCZ in the comments section of every OCZ news post or product review. Undoubtedly, even before reading beyond this point, some are already reaching for their keyboards to pen a chilling tale of a poor product, support or warranty issue.

In the past, OCZ would flaunt a prototype fresh off the production line at a trade show and we would see retail products within a few months. Times have changed and OCZ is now part of Toshiba, which is renowned for its extensive testing, longer development cycles and true tier 1 status, which should have numerous positive impacts. It means the days of OCZ playing fast and loose with its products are over.

Now the underlying technology, testing and general business of manufacturing SSDs belongs to Toshiba, while OCZ, a shell of its former self, does what it has always done best: marketing.

The days of OCZ being first to market with new technology are likely over. Toshiba has a strong focus on enterprise and OEM products, so the company knows how to develop and debug SSDs to ensure a positive user experience from start to finish, but it is rarely first to market with new technology.

The new workflow appears to begin with a Toshiba SSD that is tested and validated for OEM customers. OCZ then tunes the OEM product for higher performance, and after additional testing the retail product comes out the other end. The process will slow OCZ's aggressive style, but at the same time it will remove the negative aspects of OCZ's previous business model.

Historically, the RevoDrive products have been OCZ's workstation product for professional users with a need for very high performance in sequential workloads. OCZ paired commodity SATA technology with entry-level RAID controllers and TRIM support to achieve high performance. Many of the advantages of the RevoDrive were lost when Intel brought TRIM to RAID arrays by incorporating it into the PCH chipset. The magic sauce was in nearly every enthusiast and mainstream motherboard. 

I am not sure how I feel about OCZ branding a single M.2 SSD as a RevoDrive product. The new RD400 is faster than any previous RevoDrive SSD, but it limits and even downplays the product line. Several companies, including a company named Liqid, are working on M.2 NVMe-based RAID products. Seagate announced a similar product that delivers up to 10 GB/s of performance, and Dell, HP, and Kingston also have NVMe RAID products either in development or shipping to customers. The RD400 we are looking at today is the first consumer-focused RevoDrive SSD, but don't get me wrong, the performance is prosumer grade.

Specifications

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The new OCZ RD400 ships in four capacity sizes that range from 128 to 1024GB (1TB). The SSD ships with or without an add-in card (AIC) adapter and the largest capacity model is special in a few ways. It is the first 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD for the retail consumer market, and it is also the first affordable 1TB-class NVMe SSD. Affordability has a different meaning for everyone, but the RD400 is $400 less than Intel's 1.2TB SSD 750, which is a good place to start.

The OCZ RD400 competes well against the Samsung 950 Pro and Intel SSD 750 products. On paper, all three products dice the specifications with each outshining the other in one of the four-corner workloads for separate capacity sizes.

NVMe changes the way companies test products, but the new methods do not mimic common consumer storage workloads. On-paper performance is not worth much until the industry develops operating systems and software applications that take advantage of the advanced queuing features enabled by the NVMe protocol. Because of that, we will not comment on spec-sheet performance, and instead will show how the drives perform later in the review.

The RD400 architecture is identical to the Toshiba XG3 OEM-focused SSD we purchased earlier in the year. At the heart of the RD400 is a Toshiba TC58NCP 8-channel controller paired with Toshiba 15nm multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash. We have seen both Samsung and Elpida LPDDR3 DRAM on these drives, but both memory packages run at 1600 MHz.

The RD400 is faster than the XG3 products we have tested, and some of the performance and throttling characteristics lead us to believe that the RD400 features a higher controller clock speed. We asked OCZ about the clock speed, and it replied that the RD400 uses the same clock and thermal throttle settings as the XG3.

OCZ tuned the firmware for higher performance and included an in-house NVMe driver that boosts performance over the Microsoft Windows default driver. Toshiba does not provide a driver with the XG3, but it allows OEMs to build a custom NVMe driver or utilize the Microsoft driver. 

Pricing, Warranty And Accessories

MSRP List
RD400 128GB
RD400 256GBRD400 512GBRD400 1TB
M.2
$109.99
$169.99
$309.99
$739.99
Add-In Card
$129.99
$189.99
$329.99
$759.99

OCZ is not as aggressive with pricing as we expected, but the 256GB and 512GB drives list for less than Samsung's 950 Pro NVMe SSDs with comparable capacity (SSD-only configuration). The RD400 models that include an OCZ-branded M.2 to PCIe 3.0 x4 adapter increase the cost of each drive by $20. You can find M.2 to PCIe adapters at online retailers close to this price point, but to increase compatibility with other systems we recommend purchasing the drive with the adapter card.

The RD400 has 5 years of warranty coverage, but OCZ included a clause that limits the warranty based upon the amount of data written to the SSD (74TB for the 128GB model and 592TB for the 1TB model).

The RD400 can write a tremendous amount of data in a very short time; we bled through 10% of the available write endurance on the 480GB model during our testing. Users should consider endurance before running demanding benchmarks on the SSD. Benchmarks like the Futuremark PCMark 8 Advanced test and StorScore reach steady state before taking measurements, but within a few days, a user can write a lot of data and burn through the warranty.

The main accessory for the RD400 is the M.2 to PCIe adapter. OCZ has already built support for the RD400 into the SSD Utility software. The software works very well in Windows and has features that others claim to have (but gray out) in Windows 8 and 10, like secure erase.