The HP EX920 has been the "it" NVMe SSD for most of the summer. The series was first on display at CES in January 2018 and by early May in warehouses with attractive pricing compared to Samsung's 970 offerings. Prices have dropped across the board for all SSDs since then. Today we see if the HP EX920 is still the best NVMe value and we do it in all three capacities.
HP is a brand you know, but these drives don't come from the same Hewlett-Packard your notebook comes from. A company called Biwin licenses the brand to sell SSDs under the HP name. Biwin is a large SSD manufacturer that manufactures several popular SSDs that sell under different names across the world. The HP-branded drives must meet a robust series of tests dictated by HP. Each drive goes through a certification process by the big HP Company to work with its servers, desktops, and notebooks. When you buy an HP-branded SSD, it's going to work in your HP system. The EX920 is an NVMe product, so your system has to support the protocol, but other than that little detail, it's going to work.
The drives will also work in other PCs outside of the HP ecosystem. Most of you reading this build your own PCs and the EX920 is an inclusive product rather than an exclusive product.
Using the HP name, Biwin has released a number of exciting products. We recently tested the Portable SSD P800, one of the early Thunderbolt 3 drives armed with a high-speed NVMe SSD inside. The company also have mainstream offerings like the EX900 DRAMless NVMe SSD, and the S700 Pro and S700 for SATA shoppers.
At this point, we've seen enough of these drives to be comfortable recommending them. HP is also comfortable enough with the EX920 series that it increased the warranty and endurance ratings to give users more peace of mind, and a bit more value.
The EX920 series ships in three sizes from 1TB to 256GB with a stop in the middle at 512GB. HP gives users the full binary capacity so a 1TB drive has the full 1024GB without any additional overprovisioning often used to increase performance under heavy workloads.
The paper performance ratings come to 3,200 MB/s sequential read and between 1,800 and 1,200 MB/s sequential write speeds. Random read performance scale between the three sizes as well. The 1TB model can read at 350,000 IOPS, and the 512GB can achieve 340,000 IOPS. The smallest drive in the series drops that performance down to 180,000, but all of these numbers come from high queue depth tests that mean nothing to your real-world performance. We will show you that today with the EX920 outperforming SSDs rated for 500,000 IOPS random read performance.
The high performance comes from two critical parts that crossed paths at the right time. Silicon Motion, Inc. (SMI) built a very strong 8-channel controller with the SM2262. At the same time, Micron improved on its 3D technology when it stacked 64 layers together. The combination is nothing less than remarkable considering the previous generations of both technologies had us worried about both companies long-term survival. This new generation corrected ever performance issue and produces an excellent user experience.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
With a few months of availability, the HP EX920 prices have decreased slightly but not as much as other products with the SMI SM2262 controller. The EX920 1TB currently sells for $284.99 while the EX920 512GB sells for $167.97, both prices from Amazon. The smallest drive in the series sells for $108.98.
The EX920's closest rival comes from Adata in the SX8200. Adata has been more aggressive with the price cuts since the series came to market. The SX8200 960GB sells for $264.99, and the 480GB sells for $137.99. The SX8200 240GB is all the way down to $77.99, but as you can see, all of these drives give you less user capacity due to overprovisioning.
As we mentioned in the introduction, HP increased the warranty period and endurance rating on this series. The EX920 now carries a full 5-year warranty with endurance ratings of 650, 320, and 160 terabytes written (TBW).
A Closer Look
All three of our drives still have the older label showing a 3-year warranty, but the new drive shows a 5-year warranty. The SMI SM2262 controller features a nickel-plated copper strip to increase thermal dissipation. The metal spreads the heat out from the center; the physical controller is actually located under the plastic-like material.
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- Page 1 [Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing]
- Page 2 [1TB Class Performance Testing]
- Page 3 [1TB Class Real-World Performance Testing]
- Page 4 [512GB Class Performance Testing]
- Page 5 [512GB Class Real-World Performance Testing]
- Page 6 [256GB Class Performance Testing]
- Page 7 [256GB Class Real-World Performance Testing]
- Page 8 [Final Thoughts]