We divided the SSDs by capacity sizes for each chart. In the first chart, we look at 2TB and 1TB SSDs but also included products with 3D XPoint technology (Optane), and large capacity hard disk drives. The second section shows 512GB SSDs and a single Seagate SSHD (hybrid drive) with a cold and warm data test. The final chart groups 256GB and 128GB products.
In each chart, we further divide products by color. The dark blue bars show NVMe SSDs while the light blue bar shows SATA SSDs. The orange bars show hard disk drives.
By separating the drives by sizes, we loosely separated them by price. Some of the drives we tested are no longer available. We wanted to incorporate some products that you may currently own, or used in the past. Products like the Crucial C300, the first SATA III SSD, and the Intel X25-M were iconic in there day, so they have some value as historic record, but also give some users a scale to base new products against.
We paired all Optane Memory (cache) drives with a Seagate BarraCuda Pro 12TB HDD.
2TB, 1TB, Optane, and HDD Testing
3D XPoint-based products, especially Optane Memory (cache drive + HDD or SSD), have many skeptics but the technology is sound. The large chart includes these products due to the high cost per gigabyte of any SSD with 3D XPoint memory. Even pairing an Optane Memory module with a high capacity hard disk drive like our Seagate BarraCuda Pro 12TB is expensive, but you can also use the Optane Memory modules on your existing hard drive, or a smaller capacity drive. You still need to upgrade to a 200- or 300-Series chipset and 7- or 8-Series processor.
Optane products dominate the performance charts and deliver the only 12 second results. The flagship Intel Optane SSD 905P was the only product to break into the 11-second range. It is truly an amazing SSD but the 960GB model carries a $1,300 price tag. We don't have a 480GB 905P to test but expect it delivers the same performance for half the cost.
SSDs utilizing the Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2262 controller also performed very well. The HP EX920, Adata XPG SX8200m and Intel SSD 760p are the most popular shipping today with this controller. Mushkin just started shipping another low-cost SM2262 drive, the Pilot, in recent weeks. We have Pilot drives on the way but they were not available for this test.
The Plextor M9Pe also performed very well in test with large capacity drives. The early firmware that originally shipped on the M9Pe SSDs wasn't very good but the new 1.04 firmware brings this series to life with improved performance.
This chart also includes two highly anticipated next generation NVMe controllers currently in development. The two drives from Phison (E12) and Silicon Motion, Inc. (SM2262EN) are not using final firmware. We do get a glimpse into the current state of development.
The fastest SATA SSD falls to the middle of the chart in the 23rd position. NVMe SSDs can load games faster without the hard limits of SATA, around 550 MB/s for large block size sequential data. Not all NVMe SSDs outperform all SATA SSDs. The Toshiba VX500 and Crucial MX500 SATA SSDs perform very well and load the game faster than the Samsung 970 EVO, Kingston A1000 and MyDigitalSSD SBX.
Hard disk drive performance is about what we expected. Even though we only tested six HDDs in this section, we can divide them into different classes. The IronWolf Pro and BarraCuda Pro are the newest drives in the chart. Both use Helium to reduce the friction in the platter. The Enterprise NAS HDD, Red Pro and NAS HDD are all older models. The Western Digital Blue Slim HDD is from a Lenovo Y700-17isk notebook purchased recently. It represents a typical HDD currently shipping in notebooks today from large OEMs.
512GB and SSHD Testing
Plextor released the M9Pe series in three versions. The M9Pe(Y) is an add-on card with RGB lighting and a massive heat sink. The M9PeG is a M.2 2280 SSD with a thin aluminum heat sink and the M9PeGN is a bare drive without the heat sink (the lowest priced model). The M9PeGN with the new 1.04 firmware leads the 512GB game load time chart. The same drive with the original firmware, 1.00, fell to eighth place.
The three 512GB class drives we have with the Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2262 controller came in just behind the Plextor. The SM2263 4-channel controller on the HP EX900 was strong enough to place 5th in our chart. The drive, along with the SM2262 models, use new Micron/Intel 64-layer flash with a high-speed interface to the controller.
The same memory also put the Crucial MX500 above the other SATA SSDs. Again, we see some of the SATA drives outperforming a handful of entry-level performance NVMe products.
This chart only features a single hard disk drive. Unlike the previous chart, this one has a special drive that is part spinning disk and part SSD. The Seagate Laptop Thin SSHD is an older model and the technology has to run the application once before it can store a portion of that data in a SSD-like cache. The more you run an application, the more data it will put from it in the cache area. We ran the SSHD twice in our test and saw a nine-second reduction in the load time. It still took nearly twice as long as the slowest SSD making SSHD technology less desirable for gamers than Optane Memory (cache) or pure SSD products.
256GB and 128GB Testing
Low capacity SSDs are the most interesting from a technology standpoint. As flash technology progresses, the capacity of the die size increases. SSDs are fast because they feature an internal RAID where data flows from more than one point at the same time. As the die capacity increases, the number of die being read or written to decreases. Companies try to use faster flash to make up for less parallelization with mixed results.
The fastest SATA SSD in the 256GB/128GB result is actually one of the oldest. The Intel SSD 520 240GB with a SandForce SF-2281 controller loads the Final Fantasy levels faster than the Crucial MX500 250GB using the latest 64-layer memory technology.
The Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2262 controller found the HP EX920, Adata SX8200, and Intel 760p takes three of the top four positions on this chart with the Toshiba RD400 in the third position.
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