Today AMD are formally entering the highly competitive SSD market, but they're not doing it alone. By partnering with OCZ Storage Solutions - now a subsidiary of Toshiba - they're hitting the ground running with what they're calling Radeon R7 Series Solid State Drives.
The move expands the Radeon brand to cover most aspects of gaming hardware, joining Graphics, CPU/APU, memory and motherboard chipset. The value of this largely depends on how you view the Radeon brand as a whole; additional visibility is rarely a bad thing though.
As as Radeon product AMD are naturally keen to add a certain special something to the mix, differentiating the new drives from their competitors (of which there is many). SSDs typically go head to head on speed and reliability, in in this arena the R7 Series SSDs have a few tricks up their sleeve.
The first is a Barefoot 3 M00 NAND controller which is the backbone of the enterprise-class OCZ Vector 150, yet further optimised for read/write durability and reliability. However this controller is tweaked to operate at slightly higher clock-speeds, resulting in the drive reaching 550MB/s Read / 530MB/s Write rates (depending on capacity). Random Read and write rates as well as sequential write rates are 100k, 90k and 23k respectively, matching or surpassing competitors such as the Samsung 840 EVO (although that ignores the latter's RAM caching technology).
Secondly, Radeon R7 Series SSDs are the first gaming-class SSD to utilise Toshiba's A19 MLC NAND, previously used in desktop enterprise-class drives including the HG6 series. The aim of using this NAND was to provide high reliability and maintain SATA III performance levels, whilst a tweaked OCZ firmware further increases reliability.
This choice of components and confidence in design leads to four year warranty (served by OCZ) with an endurance rating of 30GB/day of writes. That's almost unheard of for a consumer or gaming-grade SSD, and bridges the gap to the enterprise-class Vector 150.
The range encompasses 120GB to 480GB capacities, satisfying most gamer and enthusiast requirements (whilst avoiding the now obsolete 60GB size).
AMD are quite aware that excellent synthetic benchmarks aren't always enough to tempt users, if for no other reason than it being a hassle to switch drives in your current setup. Luckily they're sweetening the deal, bundling in Acronis True Image disk cloning software and a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter bracket. It's also worth noting that the drive itself is only 7mm thick, making it compatible with a whole raft of consumer laptops unable to accommodate the more common thicknesses.
Choosing to enter the SSD market, if only in a tangential fashion by lending their name to a well established design, holds few risks for AMD. Few risks however are not zero, and immense damage could be done to the Radeon brand if these SSDs turn out to be unreliable. By pushing the warranty period out to 4 years they're backing the product as much as they can.
It's be proven time and again with SSDs that only with time can the quality of a drive be measured. Radeon R7 Series SSDs have the the raw specs to be successful but need to prove their mettle over an extended period.
The question is, where will this end. Just the SSD market holds many opportunities both immediately and on the horizon, and the chance of fast PCIe or M.2 SSD storage with the 'Radeon R9' moniker can't be discounted. AMD must be careful not to dilute the brand too far however, and this probably means we won't be seeing Radeon branded peripherals just yet.