NVMe based M.2 drives have been in the consumer landscape for a couple of years now. Typically these blazing fast mass storage devices come with a much higher price per gigabyte than its 2.5″/7mm SATA based cousins. As time has gone on, more players entered the market and budget oriented NVMe M.2 drives started to appear lowering the price per gigabyte while still being faster than SATA based drives. In this case, Toshiba OCZ has sent us the RC100 480GB M.2 NVMe SSD to review.
This drive is their first low-end entry and is promising sequential read/write speeds of up to 1600/1100 respectively. While these numbers are not what some may be used to in an NVMe based drive, it is still much faster than its SATA counterparts. The RC100 stacks the SSD controller and flash memory in a single Ball Grid Array (BGA) package which yields a smaller footprint. We will take a look at the drive size, performance, and pricing in this review seeing how it compares to other NVMe based drives.
Specifications and Features
One of the features of this drive outside of the lower price point would be its small size. All three capacity RC100 drives are single-sided 42mm long drives. Many M.2 drives, be they SATA or NVMe, measure in at 80mm using the 2280 form factor. The small size makes it ideal for small form factor builds, laptops, and wherever space is limited.
The merging of components which allows for its small size integrates the 64-layer 3D BiCS Flash memory and the controller into a single package on the PCB. Unlike many other drives, the RC100 saves on costs by not including a DRAM buffer but instead uses Host Memory Buffer (HMB) technology to retain performance. The HMB feature utilizes PCI Express lanes and the DMA to allow the SSD to use DRAM attached to the CPU instead of its own internal DRAM. Accessing this memory is slower than integrated DRAM, but still notably faster than reading from flash.
The single package design is a 2-lane PCIe module and is power efficient. Toshiba has said the OCZ RC100 uses around half the power of typical enthusiast level NVMe SSDs (4-lane) Samsung 970 Pro of the same capacity uses 5.2W). This lower power use can be a plus for mobile devices where battery life is a consideration. While a 2-lane configuration will limit the potential of the drive, sequential performance isn’t a great barometer to go by, but random performance at lower queue depths is where the rubber meets the road.
|Toshiba OCZ RC100 480GB M.2 NVMe SSD Specifications|
|Capacity||120 GB, 240 GB, 480 GB|
|Interface||NVMe 1.2.1 PCIe Gen 3.1 x2|
|Flash||Toshiba 64L BiCS3 3D TLC|
|Form Factor||Single-sided M.2 2242 B + M Key|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||42 x 22 x 2.3 mm|
|DRAM||None (HMB supported)|
|Sequential Read/Write Speeds||480 GB – Read 1600 MB/s, Write 1100 MB/s
240 GB – Read 1600 MB/s, Write 1050 MB/s
120 GB – Read 1350 MB/s, Write 700 MB/s
|4KB Random Read / Write (QD32)||480 GB – 150k / 110k IOPS
240 GB – 130k / 110k IOPS
120 GB – 80k / 95k IOPS
|Active / Idle Power||3.2 W / 5 mW|
|Service & Support||3 Years|
|Endurance / MTBF||480 GB – 240 TBW
240 GB – 120 TBW
120 GB – 60 TBW
|Pricing||480 GB – $154.99
240 GB – $74.66
120 GB – $58.00
The drive comes in a small cardboard box with a picture of the drive along with a honeycomb red background. The drive capacity is listed on the top-right corner with the OCZ RC100 name at the bottom right. We also see the M.2 size listed as well as the advertising of the BiCS flash used. Flipping the box around it shows users a bit more information such as the PCIe Gen 3 x2 and NVMe 1.2.1 specification. It also lists the 3-year limited warranty.
After opening the package up, we are greeted by the drive sitting snug sandwiched between two pieces of plastic. Typically the OCZ drives include a key for Acronis backup software, however, as likely part of a cost savings effort, users will not find a key with this drive. This should not be a big deal however as there are plenty of free options available to clone drives if needed.
On the drive itself, there really isn’t terribly much to see on the tiny device. We are able to see the blue PCB and a few bits on it as well as the Toshiba sticker covering the package. If we flip over the module, we are greeted by a sticker on the PCB with some drive details. The last image is a close up of IC. We can’t tell much, just that we can see Toshiba lasered on it along with some identifying numbers.
On the software side of things, OCZ includes its SSD Utility for keeping tabs on the drive(s). The software is able to display SMART information about the drive including health status, temperatures, firmware version, capacity, and more. The Tuning section allows users to run a quick benchmark displaying the speeds and latency as well as total and used capacity. Users are able to update the firmware and set up the OS to for best results.
Overall, the SSD Utility provided by OCZ is an informative tool with plenty of functionality to monitor the drive and keep it in good shape.
Test System and Test Methods
We install the drive as a secondary device on the test system and run the listed benchmarks against it. While typically, many will use these drives as system drives, the test machines can be different as will people’s OS implementation in the first place, so we try to isolate as many variables as possible in an effort to have the results as repeatable as possible with any reviewer who may test drives.
Below are the tests we run with a brief description.
- Crystal Disk Mark – Run at Default Settings (5 Passes)
- AS SSD – Run at Default Settings
- ATTO – Run at Default Settings except for the QD Set to 10
- Anvil Storage Utility Benchmark – Default Settings
|Test System Components|
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex|
|CPU||Intel i7 8700K|
|CPU Cooler||EVGA CLC 240|
|Memory||2×8 GB G.Skill Trident Z 3200 MHz CL15-15-15-35|
|SSD||Toshiba OCZ TR200 480 GB (OS), Toshiba OCZ RC100 480GB|
|Power Supply||EVGA 750W G3|
|Video Card||AMD R7 250|
A special thanks goes out to EVGA for providing the CLC 240 CPU Cooler and 750W G3 Power Supply to cool and power the system, G.Skill for the Trident Z DRAM, and Toshiba OCZ for the 480GB TR200 SSDs storage running the OS, benchmarks, and games. With our partners helping out, we are able to build matching test systems to mitigate any differences found between using different hardware. This allows for multiple reviewers in different locations to use the same test system and compare results between reviewers minimizing system variance.
Looking at the read side of our CrystalDiskMark results, we are able to see the drive pulling 1615 MB/s reaching its label rating with ease. That result is quite a ways behind when comparing x4 PCIe NVMe cards which are notably more expensive enthusiast level drives. Moving on to the 4K results, the RC100 makes a good showing here running just behind the ADATA drive taking second place in this test at nearly 52 MB/s. Moving into higher queue depths, the drive is still in the ballpark of the much faster models.
The writes side of the CrystalDiskMark tests again shows the RC100 is able to reach its specified speeds on sequential writes with a high queue depth. A lower queue depth drops that value significantly but still manages to compete with the older enthusiast class Intel drive. 4K writes results are, for the most part, fairly close together here, though the budget drive does find itself a bit behind with higher queue depths again showing improvement.
Overall, the RC100 held its own against some of the much more expensive enthusiast class drives in this benchmark.
Our AS SSD read results show the drive coming close to its specifications in the sequential reads, but shining in 4K reads managing to lead the pack. The AS SSD write results show a similar story with it nearly hitting the nameplate specifications in Sequential and leading the pack in 4k writes.
Overall performance has the drive scoring just about as fast as the older Samsung 950 Pro which is a solid result considering the price on this drive (when both were new).
Moving on to ATTO, the results here peak at the specified speeds the drive was rated at so we are good there. The curious part of this result is that instead of maintaining that speed in the higher file sizes, it actually slowed down. This was curious and in looking around the web, is a result unique to this system. I tried multiple boards and OS installs, made sure write-caching buffer was disabled etc but it still ended up like this.
Anvil Storage Utility
In our last test, Anvil Storage Utility, the drive scores an overall 8.7K points. This result is spot on for the drive with the write-cache buffer disabled. Nothing out of line here for what is expected of this drive.
Below are images of the benchmark results used in the graphs.
The Toshiba/OCZ RC100 fills a large gap of performance between the ‘standard’ 2.5″ SATA based SSDs and the PCIe/NVMe based drives in terms of performance as well as price. On the performance side, users are paying around 44 cents per GB for the Samsung 970 Pro (512GB at $230) and seeing double the sequential performance as well as being faster on the smaller file sizes like 4K. The RC100 480GB has an MSRP of $155 and with the 480GB drive that equates to 32 cents per GB or around 25% less per GB. That said, there is competition out there in the PCIe x2 landscape. Once such model is the 512GB ADATA XPG SX6000 a PCIe 3.0 x2 device is sitting on the market for $160. The drive is notably slower on paper coming it at 1000/800 sequential R/W with IOPS reaching 100K/110K respectively.
What sets the drive apart from the rest is its size and power consumption. Typically we do not see 480GB+ drives in the 2242 form factor due to how the drives are made (controller, cache DRAM, and storage ICs all taking up space). The combined controller/storage package allows this to happen as well as cost savings generally involved when using fewer parts. While SSDs and power use are not typically a concern, a couple of watts (literally a 40% difference here on average) can be helpful when using the small device in portable electronics.
The RC100 bridges the gap between performance NVMe based SSDs and SATA based SSDs and at an affordable price. The vast majority of users are unable to tell outside of benchmarks the difference between this high-performance, high-cost drives compared to something a bit more middle of the road. The RC100 is a solid choice to build a system with as either an OS drive or a storage drive while saving a few dollars in the process.
Joe Shields – Earthdog