Introduction & Drive Details
As of late, MSI has been making a splash in the world of solid state storage. MSI, like so many others, partnered with Phison Electronics to bring forth premium SSD offerings. The first collaboration to catch our eye was MSI's flagship performer, the Phison E18-based Spatium M480 we reviewed in August. This drive is capable of more than 7,000 MB/s throughput and is aimed squarely at the enthusiast segment.
Today, we have a new MSI "Spatium" SSD, another collaborative effort with Phison Electronics, the M390. MSI's Spatium M390 is aimed at consumers looking for great value in fast NVMe storage. The M390 represents our first look at Phison's newest SSD controller, the PS5015-E15T or E15T. The E15T is, as the "T" designates, a DRAMless controller that employs HMB (Host Memory Buffer) technology to speed things along. HMB is a feature built into the Windows NVMe driver that allocates a bit of system DRAM to the SSD instead of expensive on SSD DRAM, enabling lower production cost.
Phison's newest, the E15T, is its replacement for the E13T controller. The E13T controller has enjoyed broad success in the value segment, even finding its way into OEM offerings. Like the E13T, the E15T is a low-power NVMe Gen3x4 four-channel controller, specifically engineered to deliver excellent performance for a low cost. MSI's Spatium M390 gives us our first look at the E15T controller. This drive is a preferred single-sided SSD that pairs the aforementioned controller with Micron TLC flash capable of delivering up to 3,300 MB/s throughput.
3,300 MB/s throughput will not light up our charts, but it is certainly plenty of throughput to deliver a nice NVMe experience for most consumer use case scenarios. We can tell you, because we test as OS disk, that the drive is surprisingly responsive and capable of delivering a user experience that belies its cost of ownership.
Jon's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus XIII HERO - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: Intel Core i9-11900KF - Buy from Amazon
- Cooler: Alphacool Eissturm Hurricane Copper 45 - Buy from Amazon
- RAM: XPG DDR4 D50 Xtreme 5000MHz 16GB (8GB x 2) - Buy from Amazon
- Video Card: Zotac 2080Ti AMP Edition - Buy from Amazon
- Case: PrimoChill's Praxis Wetbench - Buy from Amazon
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower GF1 1000W 80+ Gold Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 11 Pro 64-bit Buy from Amazon
Synthetic Benchmarks: CDM, Anvil, ATTO
CDM testing confirms the Spatium M390 1TB can deliver 3,300 MB/s throughput as advertised. Excellent. More importantly, though, the drive delivers quite respectable Q1T1 random performance.
Anvil's Storage Utilities
The bottom of our chart is where we expect an HMB-based drive like the M390 to land, so no surprises here. Even so, a score of nearly 5,900 is respectable and plenty good for most consumer use case scenarios.
This looks good. Full speed at 128KB transfers is excellent, as is the drive's 512B performance and the nice even pattern it generates as transfer sizes increase.
Real-World Testing: Transfers, Gaming, PCM10
We would like to see better performance here. However, we would point out that consumers rarely write a 100GB chunk of data, so waiting a few minutes longer the few times it occurs is not the end of the world.
2,100 MB/s is the bottom of the chart, and again we would like to see more here.
Game Level Loading
We are looking for sub-8 second performance and or ultra-high capacity here to consider a drive a good gaming device. As expected, the M390 doesn't check the box as a drive well suited for gaming duties. The drive is not designed for such use, and we don't foresee many consumers employing it as such.
PCM10 Storage Tests
PCMark 10 Storage Test is the most advanced and most accurate real-world consumer storage test ever made. There are four different tests you can choose from; we run two of them.
The Full System Drive Benchmark and the Quick System Drive Benchmark. The Full System Drive Benchmark writes 204 GB of data over the duration of the test. The Quick System Drive Benchmark writes 23 GB of data over the duration of the test. These tests directly correlate with mainstream user experience.
PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark
Better than expected here. The Spatium M390 1TB demonstrated that it can indeed handle heavy consumer workloads competently. Nice.
PCMark 10 Quick System Drive Benchmark
2,000 points here is the bare minimum, and the M390 makes the cut, just barely. It does better than the only SSD on our chart that has no pseudo-SLC layer, demonstrating the importance of SLC caching in relation to user experience.
Overall, we feel the M390 is a drive worth considering if you are going to employ it for typical consumer tasks. The price is right, and the fact that it has a TLC flash array makes it a great alternative to QLC-based NVMe SSDs. Phison's E15T controller is looking pretty decent as well, and we like the drive's inherently cool temperatures as well as its power-sipping tendencies.
We rank SSDs in terms of overall user experience (performance where it matters most) as expressed by PCMark 10 storage tests. We like to see a minimum score of 4,000 here. The M390 gets close enough here to call it good enough.
MSI's newest SSD didn't provide any shining moments in terms of performance, but that's expected, considering the drive is meant as a value proposition. It is certainly a significant upgrade if you are coming from SATA to NVMe. Performance is good enough, and at 10.9 cents per gigabyte of 3-bit NVMe-based storage, it is certainly a great value.
- Low Power
- Relatively Low TBW rating
The Bottom Line
TLC, single sided, cool running, and affordable.