Final Words

The Toshiba OCZ RD400 is aimed at the very top segment of the consumer SSD market where the primary goal is to get the highest possible performance. The suggested retail prices aren't quite top of the line, which signals that performance expectations should be a bit lower than "the fastest that money can buy" but it needs to be in the ballpark. With the current state of the market, being a "mid-range" PCIe SSD can still mean being the second fastest drive available.

The RD400 only sets a few performance records but elsewhere it at stays close to the PCIe SSD competition and is much faster than any SATA drive. The once formidable Intel SSD 750 can now only top the charts on one benchmark and is simply too expensive for today's market, but it does retain the distinction of being the sole 2.5" U.2 SSD for the consumer market. Against the Samsung 950 Pro, the RD400 of the same capacity is usually slower, but the difference would be hard to feel during interactive use.

Looking outside the direct Samsung comparisons, the 1TB RD400 provides a capacity that Samsung doesn't yet offer, but it comes at a premium and the increased capacity doesn't provide much of a performance increase over the 512GB model. The 128GB RD400 on the other hand is smaller than any 950 Pro and thus competes mainly against grey market OEM Samsung SM951s that don't come with the nice 5-year warranty that Toshiba offers.

On the other hand, comparing the RD400 against SATA SSDs is tricky. At first glance, it may seem straightforward that a drive with two to three times the performance on most benchmarks is a good deal for a mere 30-50% price increase. But increased SSD performance brings diminishing returns for real-world use. PCIe SSDs are not yet mainstream products and are not a good value for consumers who aren't very sure that they will benefit noticeably from faster storage. Upgrading from a mechanical hard drive to a SSD alleviates a major performance bottleneck but the experience of moving from SATA SSDs to PCIe SSDs is not as revolutionary. I suspect most consumers would be better served with a larger SSD of moderate performance than a cramped but blazing fast PCIe drive, but for those who have the means and a need, the RD400 is a flagship halo product that unquestionably satisfies its purpose.

High-End SSD Price Comparison
Drive 960GB-
1.2TB
400GB-
512GB
240GB-
256GB
120GB-
128GB
OCZ RD400A (AIC) $759.99 $329.99 $189.99 $129.99
OCZ RD400 (M.2 only) $739.99 $309.99 $169.99 $109.99
Samsung 950 Pro   $316.99 $178.00  
Samsung 850 Pro $416.87 $219.21 $126.99 $90.60
Intel SSD 750 $1199.99 $349.99    
SanDisk Extreme Pro $340.60 $183.00 $104.99  
Samsung 850 EVO $319.99 $149.99 $88.39 $66.80

The RD400 does have some downsides other than not being the absolute fastest drive on the market. Our testing showed it to be significantly more power-hungry than the Samsung 950 Pro, which suggests it may be less suitable for laptop use. The higher power consumption is likely due to a combination of a less efficient controller and NAND that needs more power, but we don't have enough information to pin down the primary cause.

Overall the high power consumption in the small M.2 package also makes heat a somewhat greater concern. Like the Samsung 950 Pro, the RD400 strikes a precarious balance of performance against temperature. During our most intensive tests the OCZ SSD utility put up several alerts that thermal throttling had been engaged due to the drive's temperature. The temperature never got close to the critical level where damage to the drive is possible, but performance was negatively affected. Another round of testing is underway with the RD400s in our usual PCIe to M.2 adapter to investigate how the drive is affected by less effective cooling and how its power consumption differs when fed a direct 3.3V supply instead of using OCZ's adapter to convert 12V down to 3.3V. I suspect these tests will probably show that the RD400 is still inferior to the Samsung 950 Pro for laptop use.

Overall the Toshiba OCZ RD400 earns its place as a high-end SSD. It delivers great performance all around with no major weaknesses and is a solid competitor to the Samsung 950 Pro. It is roughly the second-fastest client SSD on the market and with pricing that promises to undercut the 950 Pro it should be a great value and a very welcome source of competitive pressure.

ATTO, AS-SSD & Idle Power Consumption
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  • Meteor2 - Thursday, May 26, 2016 - link

    So are we saying NVMe is only really useful for enterprise applications? There just aren't consumer use cases where drive speed is now the limiting performance factor? Reply
  • stux - Thursday, May 26, 2016 - link

    This might be the case in Windows, but I've found with OSX, one of the biggest upgrades has been sata3 to PCIe ssd gen 1 to 2 and then 3

    Ien 0.5 to 1 to 2GB/s

    This was evident with all the recent MacBook Pro 15" upgrades and also with PCIe ssds in some Mac Pro towers.
    Reply
  • npz - Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - link

    "Toshiba has also added a new software tool: CLOUT, the Command Line Online Update Tool. Based on an internal testing tool, it offers all the management capabilities of the graphical SSD Utility but from a scriptable command line interface. The ability to perform a secure erase from a script and without having to reboot to Linux is a killer feature for me as a drive reviewer, and the fully automated testing it enabled .."

    Nice! The OCZ utilities supporting linux and not being hobbled by chipset like Samsung Magician (which only works on new Intel and a few AMD chipsets for firmware updates and only in Windows) is what led me to buy OCZ Vector. I will consider these M.2 for anything non-OPAL or non-Windows.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, May 26, 2016 - link

    Samsung publishes firmware updates as ISOs too, so upgrades can be done regardless of the OS. Reply
  • npz - Sunday, May 29, 2016 - link

    I've tried the DOS based ISO and it has the same chipset limitations as the Magician software for firmware updates. Reply
  • SunnyNW - Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - link

    Is the flash controller made on the same memory process or is it made on a separate logic process? I think its made on a separate (logic) process and if so would that be 28nm for most controllers? And is the manufacturing out sourced to TSMC or in-house for most? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - link

    Controllers are made on a separate logic process. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, May 26, 2016 - link

    The PCIe NVMe controllers are mostly 28nm from what I've heard. SATA controllers can be anything from 40nm to +55nm. Like nearly all logic manufacturing, it's outsourced to TSMC and the like. Reply
  • BangkokTech - Friday, May 27, 2016 - link

    Recently got the SM950 pro 512. Large writes slow down after 30 seconds. It starts out ETA 3 minutes, 10 minutes later it's only 70% complete. I read into it; evidently these M.2 cards heat up and slow down. There is absolutely no heatsink on the card. Running them on a PCI expansion card would allow headspace for small heatsinks. Reply
  • BangkokTech - Friday, May 27, 2016 - link

    Are any of you aware of a ribbon cable/riser cable I could use to get this M.2 card off my motherboard and move it to a cooler part of my case? I'm out of PCI slots for these expansion cards. Reply

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