Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
The Force Series MP510 takes Corsair back to the early days of SSDs when the company was truly a competitive player in this market. I've stated in several articles and editorials that the current market conditions mimic that of 2012 when flash was abundant, several controller companies had strong components, and prices hit never before seen levels. It was one of the greatest times to buy an SSD, and we have the exact same formula playing out in front of us right now.
The Corsair Force Series MP510 reminds us of the Force GT, it's a very fast, but relatively low-cost SSD that rises above many of the "big name" manufacturer's products. The two parts, high-performance and low-cost, both combine to attract shoppers to the Corsair brand. Even though the MP510 is a speedy drive right out of the box, a few companies also shipping Phison E12-based SSDs have already announced upcoming firmware that will push these drives even more. Behind closed doors, the companies say the firmware currently in validation testing will make drives like the MP510 faster than anything else on the market. We don't have that firmware in hand today, but we should in the next two to three weeks.
What we do have in hand is the 1TB MP510 that currently sells for just $235.99, a price that makes it one of the lowest priced premium class NVMe SSDs shipping today. Corsair was very aggressive with pricing for this series and even managed to undercut rival MyDigitalSSD.
For the first time in quite a few years, Corsair has decided to take step back in the SSD leadership role, rather than be a passive player following Samsung, Intel, Adata and many others.
Corsair will release a massive 2TB MP510 drive in the coming weeks. Until then, the series ships in three capacities ranging from 240GB to 960GB.
At the heart of the MP510 series is the impressive Phison PS5012-E12 controller with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and an 8-channel design. Corsair paired the controller with Toshiba's 64-layer TLC memory that operates at Toggle 2.0 speeds.
The claimed 3,480 MB/s sequential read performance is the fastest Corsair has offered. The 1TB drive we're testing today reaches up to 3,000 MB/s sequential write performance, but all three drives carry slightly different ratings.
The series features impressive random performance that also peaks on the 1TB at 610,000 IOPS read and 570,000 IOPS write. As we mentioned in the introduction, Corsair plans to release a firmware update in the coming weeks that will increase performance. The specification performance may or may not see an increase since what companies put on paper is peak performance under specialized synthetic workloads.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
We also mentioned in the introduction that the MP510 is Corsair's most affordable NVMe SSD to date. The 240GB drive starts at just $65.99 and then scales to $124.99 for the 480BG model. The MP510 960GB currently sells for only $235.99. We don't know what the large 2TB class model will sell for, but hopefully we don't have to wait very long to find out.
The unsung aspect of Corsair's pricing is where these land in relation to the MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro. For several years Corsair, Kingston, and other well-known companies would release products that MyDigitalSSD would also release in very similar trim. The main difference was that MyDigitalSSD would undercut the better-known products by as much as fifty percent. That didn't happen this time, at least with Corsair's MP510. Corsair managed to use its brawn to undercut MyDigitalSSD by a few dollars, at least for now. It will be interesting to see if Kingston, Patriot, and others in the Phison camp will follow suit.
Corsair didn't just drop prices slightly under the MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro line. The company also increased some of the warrantied endurance ratings where possible with the MP510. Phison and partners have worked hard to implement a strong LDPC error correction engine that delivers ample write endurance. The E12 drives even deliver more warrantied writes than Samsung's 970 Pro that uses MLC flash.
A Closer Look
Corsair's use of an all-black circuit board gives the MP510 an edgy look that looks nice in every PC color scheme. The drive itself doesn't have any other outstanding features as far as the look of the drive. By now we've all seen M.2 form factor SSDs, so there isn't much excitement on that front either.
We will point out that Corsair didn't use a metal layer in the sticker this time like the company did on the MP500. The new MP510 doesn't need additional cooling. The new E12 controller uses a 28nm manufacturing node and runs much cooler than the previous generation 8-channel E7.
1TB Class Performance Testing
We pulled in a number of popular 1TB NVMe class products to compare to the new Corsair MP510. Four models really standout starting with the low-cost Intel 660p, the first NVMe SSD with 4-bit per cell flash. When released the $199.99 660p broke new ground for NVMe pricing. The new MP510 gets within $36 of the 660p lessening its cost advantage and overall impact on this market.
The Adata SX8200 and HP EX920 are two of the drives to beat and have been very popular throughout 2018. The new MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro quickly challenged the two popular drives from the summer but is nearly identical to the MP510.
It's impossible to leave industry giants Samsung and SanDisk/Western Digital off our list. The Samsung 970 EVO and Samsung 970 Pro both make an appearance. The SanDisk Extreme Pro 3D NVMe also appears on the performance charts. The drive is identical to the Western Digital Black 3D NVMe.
Sequential Read Performance
The Phison PS5012-E12 has an issue with our sequential read test that comes across as a strong dip in the queue depth (QD) 2 and 4 results. This is likely something in the power management programming. The SanDisk Extreme Pro has the same issue but it must more severe.
Later in the review, we will show the MP510, one of the E12 drives, delivering strong sequential read performance that makes us dismiss this result as an oddity in testing.
Sequential Write Performance
The BPX Pro's orange result covers most of the Corsair MP510 line in the sequential write test. The two drives deliver nearly identical write performance that surpasses every other drive in the charts today, including the Samsung 970 Pro in this series using burst data.
Sustained Sequential Write Performance
The SLC cache for the MP510 is very strong. Corsair uses a dynamic cache that shrinks as you add data to the flash. With the drives nearly empty, we write to the entire user area of the flash with 128KB sequential data.
We did spot a slight difference in our results between the BPX Pro and the MP510. You can see where both drives drop out of SLC mode, there is a large dip in write performance. The MP510 dropped much lower than the BPX Pro for a short time before both leveled off around 1,400 MB/s.
Random Read Performance
The one area we would like to see the MP510 perform a little better is in the random read category. This may be one of the areas addressed with the new firmware. We don't have confirmation on that, so at this point, we're just hoping to see this addressed. Corsair, as well as MyDigitalSSD, chose Toshiba's 64L TLC memory using the Toggle 2 interface. The new 96L memory uses Toggle 3 and with the new revision comes a faster bus speed that should increase random read performance at QD1.
Random Write Performance
The 1TB MP510 nearly reaches single manager peak performance at QD2 in the random write test. The result is very close to 100,000 IOPS. The drive delivers nearly 60,000 IOPS at QD1, and along with the BPX Pro, the two drives take the top spot on our line chart.
70% Read Sequential Performance
The synthetic charts show weighted to the lowest queue depth and in the mixed workload chart that's QD2 because you can't read and write at the same time doing just one operation at a time. At QD2, the MP510 trails some of the other drives and appears in the middle of the chart. If you look at the QD4 performance, the middle bar on the second chart, the MP510 leads all of the other drives. That also carries over to QD8.
70% Read Random Performance
The 1TB MP510 is down in the random mixed workload test, and that will show up later on the next page in some of the real-world application tests. Let's get to the applications now that we see where the MP510 stands against the other popular drives in synthetic performance.
1TB Class Real-World Performance Testing
Game Load Time
Most of the popular 1TB class NVMe SSDs today load the Final Fantasy: Stormblood levels between 13.3 and 14.3 seconds. The Corsair MP510 sits in this group and nearly right in the middle loading the levels in 13.772 seconds.
PCMark 8 Total Storage Bandwidth
If you spend less time gaming and more time actually being productive, the PCMark 8 Storage Bandwidth test is a better indicator of general PC performance. This test uses nine widely used applications, like Microsoft Word, Excel, Access and Adobe software to measure storage performance. We combine the results into an easy to read throughput score that is easy to compare across the separate drives. The MP510 is the first SSD with TLC we've tested that jumped above the powerful HP EX920 in the 1TB class.
PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test
Historically, Phison's controller has performed very well under heavy workloads but then fell a bit under more moderate loads that many of us run. SSDs are incredibly powerful, and Phison puts a lot of resources into building strong workstation and server controllers with much of that trickling down to the consumer variants. For instance, the Phison S10 SATA controller was one of the best for workstation workloads, but trailed many of the consumer-focused SSDs in consumer workloads. With the E12 NVMe controller, Phison and partners focused on a better balance with the consumer products.
As much as we liked the Adata SX8200 and HP EX920, neither drive liked a heavy workload. They are brilliant in consumer-focused workloads, but if you buy an NVMe SSD, you want it to perform well when you write a lot of data to the drive at one time. The MP510 virtually doubles the performance of those two drives under heavy workloads.
SYSmark 2014 SE System Responsiveness and Power Tests
We mentioned the incoming firmware update that increases an unknown area of performance. At Flash Memory Summit heard the PCMark 8 results would increase. A lot of that performance comes from random reads, an area where the MP510 could use a boost. Random reads weigh heavily on the user experience. We can tie the two together because the latency or responsiveness of the system is the bridge that binds the two.
In the SYSmark 2014 SE Responsiveness Test - that we run on a Lenovo Y700-17 gaming notebook - uses a vast range of software to measure overall system performance, power consumption, and the user experience.
The 1TB MP510 lacks some of the snappiness under mundane Office-like workloads, web surfing, and other simple tasks that the SX8200 and EX920 are so good at performing. Unless you have two systems side-by-side, or the benchmark results to compare, you wouldn't notice the difference.
Notebook Battery Life
We used the same Lenovo Y700-17 gaming notebook to measure how long the system could perform office tasks, as you might run on a flight across the country, with different SSDs. The Corsair MP510 delivered a strong performance with over five hours of usefulness on a system designed to frag rather than give users a long business-focused session.
Even before the November update, the Corsair Force MP510 is a strong NVMe SSD. For the first time in years, Corsair has a fast drive that is cost competitive with the big fab players. With this new stance, we have to wonder what Corsair will bring to market next.
Let's tackle the current level of performance first. The MP510 isn't the fastest flash-based consumer NVMe SSD across the board. Corsair and partner Phison choose to program the SLC buffer to deliver strong performance across a wide gamut of applications and not focus on winning benchmarks. It's a double edge sword, on one side the MP510 loses some synthetic but often irrelevant tests that sell SSDs, and on the other side, the end-user gets a powerful weapon.
One side cuts the wielder, and the other side cuts the intended target. If you run the firmware available today, your drive will perform well in typical applications that we all use every day and still perform well when you push the drive with heavy write tasks, like converting Blu-Ray files into ISOs or installing a software after you finish a build.
We know a performance-enhancing firmware is on the way and you will have the opportunity to flash your drive. Corsair's SSD Toolbox software makes the process very easy, and it will likely not be a destructive update. We don't know what the new firmware will enhance but chances are Corsair, and Phison look to increase random read performance and possibly fix the really weird QD2 performance results we run into on sequential reads. The latter is an odd one to address because it only happens in a very specialized pattern that no one will see but me in a scripted synthetic test. We would rather see higher random read performance because it will benefit everyone.
For a number of years, Corsair released competitive SSDs but could never get over the performance of powerful Samsung SSDs. Prices were often similar, but then Samsung would lower them to keep an edge and Corsair would instantly have SSDs priced higher than superior products. With the MP510, the tables have turned, and the new series using Phison's competitive E12 controller makes quick work of Samsung's 970 EVO and puts a target on the back of the premium 970 Pro.
The real difference this round is that Corsair has a decent price advantage over both Samsung NVMe SSDs shipping today and likely has some room to stay competitive to combat any market reactions to the new MP510. The new 1TB MP510 is a really nice drive that we can recommend. Dollar for dollar, you won't find a better value at this time. We're excited to see what will happen with the upcoming firmware and to test the other capacities to see if this momentum carries over to the other sizes.
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