Over the past week or so, we noticed other news outlets reporting on the AMD R3 series of SSDs, as if there had been a recent press release circulating under the radar. This wasn't the case: despite the fact that the R3 SSDs have been out for a number of weeks, one news outlet decided to run a story and the rest followed the echo without investigating further. We put it direct to AMD about how the R3 SSD release was under the hood, and how the R7 drives had also been removed from listings. We had an interesting response, which we would like to summarize and discuss here.

R7 Out, R3 In

AMD’s Radeon R7 SSDs were developed by OCZ and featured 64 Gb NAND flash chips from Toshiba made using the company’s second-generation 19 nm (A19) fabrication process. In many ways, the drives resembled OCZ’s ARC 100 and Vector 150 drives, but since Toshiba is phasing out its NAND flash made using 19 nm manufacturing technology, the Radeon R7 SSDs are also discontinued and right now online stores are selling the remaining inventory.

For the newer Radeon R3 family of SSDs, AMD chose a different partner. The drives are manufactured by a contract maker and then distributed by Galt, the company that distributes AMD’s Radeon-branded memory modules. Working closely with companies like SK Hynix, or OCZ, allows AMD to tailor certain aspects of SSD performance and offer a different (well, to a certain degree) differentiation point that is not available from anyone else. Moreover, since SK Hynix is a relatively small player on the SSD market, it is interested in increasing its share and may be flexible about pricing. AMD admits that the new R3 drives are indeed slower than the older R7 ones released earlier due to the movement from MLC to TLC, but it notes that they are considerably cheaper too, which was one of the primary reasons why the company decided to sell them. Furthermore, since Galt now handles logistics for AMD's DRAM and SSD products, it can do everything a little more efficiently in terms of costs.

The newer AMD Radeon R3 solid-state drives come in 2.5"/7 mm form-factor and are based on the quad-channel Silicon Motion SM2256KX controller as well as TLC NAND memory made by SK Hynix. The new SSDs are available in 120, 240, 480 and 960 GB configurations, which are rated for up to 520 MB/s maximum sequential read speed as well as up to 470 MB/s maximum sequential write speed. Like other TLC NAND-based drives, the Radeon R3 SSDs use a part of its flash memory in pseudo-SLC mode for caching and performance-acceleration purposes.

AMD Radeon R3 and R7 Series SSD Specifications
  R3
120 GB

R3L120G
R3
240 GB

R3SL240G
R3
480 GB

R3SL480G
R3
960 GB

R3SL960G
  R7
120 GB
R7
240 GB
R7
480 GB
Controller Silicon Motion
SM2256KX
  OCZ
Barefoot 3 M00
NAND SK Hynix
TLC NAND
  Toshiba
64 Gb A19nm MLC
Seq. Read 520 MB/s 510
MB/s
  550
MB/s
550
MB/s
550
MB/s
Seq. Write 360
MB/s
470
MB/s
460
MB/s
  470
MB/s
530
MB/s
4KB Random Read / IOPS 57K 77K 83K 80K   85K 95K 100K
Steady-State 4KB Random Write / IOPS 18K 25K 28K 37K   12K 20K 23K
Pricing at Amazon $40.99 $69.99 $136.99 -   $60.51 $92.97 $191.42

However, the release of the Radeon R3 SSDs does not mean that AMD simply leaves the market of more advanced SSDs and focuses on low-cost models.

New R7/R9 On The Horizon

AMD intends to introduce new higher-end Radeon SSDs towards the end of the year, the company said this week. Quite naturally, AMD remains tight-lipped about exact plans, but it confirmed that the new family will include faster SATA drivers as well as M.2/NVMe drives for future platforms. Keeping in mind that AMD does not seem to stick to one supplier of memory or drives, the new Radeon R7 SSDs (or will they be called Radeon R9?) may come from a new supplier. Nonetheless, if AMD intends to continue working with manufacturers with their own NAND (or, at least, a very tight relationship with actual makers of flash), then the list of its potential partners will be relatively short.

When AMD introduced Radeon-branded memory modules several years ago, the company said that those products were optimized for its platforms, which was important as AMD needed faster DDR3 DRAM to improve the higher supported memory and performance of its APUs in graphics applications. As an added bonus, Radeon-branded memory modules was a way to give something back to its loyal customers as well as modders. With the Radeon R7 SSDs, the company pursued the same strategy but never attempted to expand the family of its storage devices. By now, Radeon-branded non-graphics hardware seems to have become a noteworthy part of AMD’s business, which is why it is gradually expanding the lineup of such products (e.g., the company introduced its DDR4 memory modules months ago, well ahead of any AMD APUs/CPUs with DDR4 support). Since TLC NAND is here to stay, it is pretty obvious that by the end of the year the company will offer SSDs for a variety of market segments: R3 for the entry-level and R7 (or R9?) for the higher-end.

Some Thoughts: AMD in SSDs (and DRAM) Feels a Bit Odd, Right?

The art of selling rebadged components, or using an ODM/OEM relationship and then adding a name on to it, might not seem like a true integration into these markets. While there are DRAM modules and SSDs with AMDs name on them, they are not actually investing much research money into driving the industry forward - these are turn-key solutions, similar to the way that local brands have smartphones that are identical apart from the sticker and the software. The reason for AMD reaching out with SSDs and DRAM (which likely offer little-to-no margin compared to the rest of the products) comes down to support, validation and system integrators.

By offering an AMD brand SSD or DRAM module, it means that if a customer wants guaranteed compatibility and a single source for their parts, they can ring up an AMD distributor. This simplifies support for any component that needs to be replaced and means that inside and out everything comes up AMD (or as much as possible). It allows system integrators to offer their customers validated AMD hardware packages as well. 

 

Source: AMD

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  • BurntMyBacon - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    @Intel999

    I'm pretty sure you nailed it. If it were about this product line turning a profit, I'm pretty sure they'd do more than just buy a third party SSD(or RAM for that matter), validate it, and slap a label on it.
    Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    Great! Now you can get a shitty AMD-branded SSD to go with your shitty motherboard, shitty CPU, shitty memory and hopefully less-shitty graphics card. Reply
  • atlantico - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    Why would you want an AMD branded SSD with your shitty Intel/nvidia system? Reply
  • CalaverasGrande - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    remember when Opterons were cleaning the floor with Intels chips. And all the best motherboards happened to be AMD motherboards. Remember when ATI made video cards that kicked ass and had solid drivers? It's been at least a decade now since I've wanted anything AMD in my systems.
    I'll happily fork offer a tiny bit more for a Samsung, Crucial or Intel SSD. Why bother subjecting my data to a cheap SSD?
    Reply
  • xthetenth - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    I do actually remember when AMD made excellent video cards like it was yesterday. Oh wait, that's because AMD's been making fantastic GPUs with very solid drivers and I used one of their cards yesterday. Trading out my 970 for a 290 was the best thing I could've done for stability in games. To think that the 780 was once considered competition for the 290. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    I guess a 290 is cheaper than a space heater. Reply
  • atlantico - Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - link

    AMD drivers are amazingly stable and reliable, great performers. The AMD GPUs put the competition to shame. At one time the 680 was considered competition for the HD7970 lol. Reply
  • akamateau - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    ANAND Tech is generally pretty astute regarding tech trends and news. But you guys haven't yet connected AMD's SSD dots have you?

    SK Hynix is providing AMD's SSD products. SK Hynix also provides AMD with HBM stacked memory products whether it's HBM or HBM2.

    Samsung is already using stacked memory for SSD products so what do you think? SK Hynix is providing HBM stacked memory for AMD's SSDs'?

    Now if you do a Patent Search for Gabriel H Loh you will find many stacked memory patents including a memory controller among others.

    Also Marvel has just released an SSD Memory controller for SSD.

    "Marvell released its 88NV1140 SSD controller at CES 2016 in a move that will likely lead to a sweeping change in the way manufacturers design SSDs."

    AMD's new SSD offerings are quite likely HBM1. The next higher tier SSD offerings could quite likely be HBM2.

    SSD's are ideal for HBM also it increases volums and keeps prices low.
    Reply
  • akamateau - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    Oh yeah one other thing.

    Gabriel H Loh is AMD's memory guru and probably the reason why AMD is out in front with HBM. It's largely GHL's baby.
    Reply
  • dueckadam - Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - link

    You mean using HBM instead of a more traditional DRAM cache in SSDs? I'm not seeing why that would be a particularly good fit for SSDs. IIRC, HBM requires an interposer, which would mean adding cost and complexity to the SSD, and I don't know how well that would go over in the competitive SSD market. Especially given how cache performance is only aspect of SSD performance.

    I'm certainly no expert here, but you seem to be reaching.
    Reply

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