The Bottom Line
Introduction, Drive Specifications, Pricing & Availability
In 2018, Phison is looking to displace SATA even further. How does an M.2 NVMe SSD that offers at least double the performance of SATA for the same price sound to you? The E8 isn't designed to compete for any performance crown, it is designed compete for the value crown. E8 powered SSDs will deliver up to 3x the performance of typical SATA SSDs for around the same cost. Even though the E8 is only a Gen 3 x2-lane 4-channel controller that is very power efficient, it packs a big punch. In fact, the E8 cranks out enough performance to take on Intel's popular 600p series of value SSDs, and Western Digital's Black series, even though they are both Gen 3x 4-lane PCIe SSDs.
We expect to see E8 powered SSDs hitting the market very soon under the usual brand names like MyDigitalDiscount, Corsair, Patriot, Kingston and many others. Additionally, the value proposition put forth by E8 controlled SSDs is sure to catch the eye of OEM's and we expect to see a large volume of E8 powered SSDs making their way into prebuilt systems and laptops.
Phison is close partners with Toshiba and we expect to see most if not all E8 powered SSDs sporting Toshiba BiCS 3 flash arrays. Toshiba BiCS 3 is their third generation 64-layer 3D NAND Flash technology. BiCS will only come in TLC, there are no plans for MLC variants.
Of the features listed above, the feature that interests us most is the faster 1-shot programming called "Full Sequence". With Full Sequence programming, three pages can be programmed at the same time resulting in fewer steps. Full Sequence programming delivers better performance and at the same time reduces power consumption. Toshiba BiCS flash plus Phison's low cost E8 NVMe Controller sounds like a winning combination to us.
Phison was kind enough to send over an E8 powered SSD for a TweakTown preview. We will be putting the E8 reference drive up against three Gen3 x4 NVMe drives and a SATA SSD to give us some insight into what we can expect from Phison's newest.
Phison E8 Gen 3 x2 4-channel NVMe controller:
- Sequential Read: up to 1,600 MB/s
- Sequential Write: up to 1,100 MB/s
- Max 4K Random Read Speed: up to 280K IOPS
- Max 4K Random Write Speed: up to 225K IOPS
- Endurance: per reseller
- MTBF: per reseller
- Warranty: per reseller
- End-to-End Data Path Protection
- Garbage Collection
Pricing: Per reseller. Availability: Early 2018
Phison E8 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
The E8 is a single-sided 2280 M.2 design. All components are located on this side of the PCB. There is a Phison PS5008-E8-10 (E8) 4-channel controller, four 128GB BiCS flash packages and a single 512MB Nanya DDR3 DRAM package.
This side of the PCB is not populated with components.
A close-in view of the drive's Phison E8 controller.
Test System Setup & Drive Properties
Jon's Consumer PCIe SSD Review Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASRock Z270 Taichi - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K @ 5.0GHz - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Cooler: Swiftech H2O-320 Edge - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 16GB 3000MHz - Buy from Amazon
- Video Card: Onboard Video
- Case: IN WIN X-Frame - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Seasonic Platinum 1000 Watt Modular - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Professional 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Drivers: MS Win 10 NVMe driver
Phison E8 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD - OS Disk 75% Full
The majority of our testing is performed with our test drive as our boot volume. Our boot volume is 75% full for all OS Disk "C" drive testing to replicate a typical consumer OS volume implementation. We feel that most of you will be utilizing your SSDs for your boot volume and that presenting you with results from an OS volume is more relevant than presenting you with empty secondary volume results.
System settings: Cstates and Speed stepping are both disabled in our systems BIOS. Windows High-Performance power plan is enabled. Windows write caching is enabled, and Windows buffer flushing is disabled. We are utilizing Windows 10 Pro 64-bit OS (Build 14393) for all of our testing. Empty Windows 10 benchmark screenshots will be shown on our MOP page.
Please note: When comparing our results to those of other review sites, look at page 10 Maxed Out Performance-Windows 10 which is done with the disk empty.
Note: This is a Preview, so we did not bench our entire suite.
Synthetic Benchmarks - ATTO & Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.05
ATTO is a timeless benchmark used to provide manufacturers with data used for marketing storage products. When evaluating ATTO performance we focus on the drive's performance curve.
We are exceeding factory specs by a significant amount when reading sequential data. We are getting 1000 MB/s when writing sequential data, which is 100MB/s slower than factory specs.
Phison sees the E8 as competing directly with Intel's 600p and Western Digital's Black series NVMe SSDs. It is easy to see that the E8 has the upper hand when writing sequential data, even though the E8 is a 2-lane SSD. It is important to keep in mind that the competing NVMe drives in our test pool have the advantage of two extra PCIe lanes.
We would like to see sequential read performance ramp up a bit quicker, but it is still better than we are seeing from the 4-lane WD Black. The E8 overtakes the SX8000 at 32KB transfers and delivers a far superior performance curve from there on up. Here we see the E8 delivering roughly 3x the performance of SATA.
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Anvil's Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark designed to measure the storage performance of SSDs. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test or just the read or write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K QD16. When evaluating performance with Anvils, we focus on total score. When evaluating NVMe SSDs we are typically looking for a minimum total score of over 10K.
The E8 doesn't give us our 10K, but that marker was established with 4-lane NVMe SSDs in mind. Digging a bit deeper we see the E8 outperforming the 600p and the WD Black which is accomplishing Phison's goal.
(Anvil) Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale
With a partition on the drive and 75% full this is what we are getting at QD32.
The E8 is beating the SX8000 and 600p across the board and is also able to surpass the WD Black at queues above 32.
(Anvil) Write IOPS through Queue Scale
200K IOPS at 75% full is pretty impressive.
QD1 is where performance matters most and we find the E8 beating all but the M8SeY at QD1. At mid-range queues, the E8 falls behind, but comes on strong and leads the test pool at QD32 and higher.
Synthetic Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark & AS SSD
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
CrystalDiskMark is disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy. Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at QD4. When evaluating CDM results, we focus on 4K random performance at QD1 and QD4.
The WD Black delivers slightly better QD1 and QD4 performance than the E8. The E8 beats the 600p easily at QD1 and QD4 and the SX8000 at QD4.
The SX8000 manages a rare win due to its MLC flash. Overall, the E8 outperforms the rest of the contenders in our test pool.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.8.5611.39791
AS SSD determines the performance of SSDs. The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. We evaluate AS SSD performance in terms of overall score. We are looking for a minimum score of 2,000 when evaluating NVMe SSDs
AS SSD is a demanding test, and yet the 2-channel E8 crushes it. The M8SeY manages a better score, but other than that the E8 demolishes the rest of the contenders in our test pool.
Benchmarks (OS) - Vantage, PCMark 7, PCMark 8
We categorize these tests as indicative of a moderate workload environment.
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 220.127.116.11
The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops. What we see is the raw performance of the drive. This allows us to see a marked difference between scoring that other trace-based benchmarks do not exhibit. An example of a marked difference in scoring on the same drive would be empty vs. filled vs. steady state.
We run Vantage three ways. The first run is with the OS drive 75% full to simulate a lightly used OS volume filled with data to an amount we feel is common for most users. The second run is with the OS volume written into a "Steady State" utilizing SNIA's consumer guidelines. Steady state testing simulates a drive's performance similar to that of a drive that been subjected to consumer workloads for extensive amounts of time. The third run is a Vantage HDD test with the test drive attached as an empty, lightly used secondary device.
OS Volume 75% Full - Moderately Used
OS Volume 75% Full - Steady State
Secondary Volume Empty - FOB
There's a big difference between an empty drive, one that's 75% full/used, and one that's in a steady state.
The important scores to pay attention to are "OS Volume Steady State" and "OS Volume 75% full." These two categories are most important because they are indicative of typical of consumer user states. When a drive is in a steady state, it means garbage collection is running at the same time it's reading/writing.
Focusing in on steady-state, we find the E8 beating the 600p and getting edged out by the WD Black. We will reserve judgement for PCMark 8 which we consider to be the best indicator of performance in a consumer environment.
PCMark 7 - System Storage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.0
We will look to Raw System Storage scoring for evaluation because it's done without system stops and, therefore, allows us to see significant scoring differences between drives. When evaluating NVMe SSDs we are looking for a minimum score of 11,000.
OS Volume 75% Full & Moderately Used Secondary Disk
Again we find the E8 is edged out by the WD Black and soundly defeating the 600p. The E8 doesn't give us our 11K minimum, but like Anvil's this marker was established with 4-lane NVMe SSDs in mind. This test also clearly shows how much better performance the E8 can deliver than SATA SSDs for around the same price. Now, let's take a look at what the best consumer SSD test can tell us about the Phison E8.
PCMark 8 - Storage Bandwidth
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.4.304
We use PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs, and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.
OS Volume 75% Full & Moderately Used Secondary Disk
PCMark 8 is the most intensive moderate workload simulation we run. With respect to moderate consumer type workloads, this test is what we consider the best indicator of a drive's performance. Now, this is indeed impressive! The Phison E8 delivers better consumer workload performance than any of the contenders in our test pool. This is what matters, not synthetic numbers. We are confident in saying that the E8 is the superior choice to any of the NVMe drives in our test pool, and guess what? It is MUCH cheaper. The E8 even manages to deliver better performance than the MLC equipped SX8000 which is an expensive SSD.
Maxed-Out Performance (MOP)
This testing is just to see what the drive is capable of in an FOB (Fresh Out of Box) state under optimal conditions. We are utilizing empty volumes of Windows 10 for this testing.
Windows 10 MOP
Toshiba XG5 1TB OEM M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD - OCZ NVMe Driver
The Phison E8 represents the first time we've seen NVMe SSDs for the price of SATA. It is the first full-sized 2-lane NVMe SSD that we've tested, and we are pleasantly surprised to see such excellent performance coming from only 2-lanes. The 2-lane Phison E8 clearly displayed that it is in-fact superior to some of today's most popular and significantly more expensive 4-lane NVMe SSDs, and we love the single sided design.
Phison has been busy refining the E8 for public consumption, and we can see that their hard work has paid dividends. It is true that 4-lanes can deliver better performance than 2-lanes, but 2-lanes is not without its own benefits. A 2-lane controller is less expensive than a 4-lane controller to manufacture, and that savings gets passed on to the consumer. Additionally, a 2-lane controller consumes less power than a 4-lane controller which is key for laptop upgrades.
To form an accurate opinion of the Phison E8, it is important to take a step back from our enthusiast views and see the E8 for what really is. The E8 represents a new level of value in the consumer NVMe space. In-fact as it stands right now, we believe the E8 is without a doubt the NVMe value leader. The E8 isn't designed to compete for any performance crown, it is designed compete for the value crown. E8 powered SSDs will deliver 3x the performance of typical SATA SSDs for around the same cost. That is in our opinion a total win. The Phison E8 is everything the popular Intel 600p was supposed to be and it is cheaper.
Update: MyDigitalDiscount is now selling Phison E8 SSDs HERE 512GB of NVMe goodness for only $174 bucks.
- Moderate Workload Performance
- Single-Sided Design
- Random Read at QD2
The Bottom Line: The goodness of NVMe for the price of SATA. You can't go wrong.
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