We've been saying it for years: if you're building a new computer or upgrading an old one, an SSD should be high on your list. For budget builds or older systems, this means something like Crucial's MX300, a SATA drive that offers extreme speed at a reasonable price.
Those who build more extreme desktop systems will undoubtedly aim for an NVMe SSD. The PCI Express bus offers much more bandwidth to release these high-speed storage devices. However, not all NVMe drives are the same, and we saw that last year when we checked out the hopeless SSD 600p from Intel. This drive was plagued by poor sustained write performance that would even fall below hard drive-like performance.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Samsung SSD 960, which has set standards in terms of price and performance. To date, nothing can keep up with the 960 Pro series, and the 2 TB version has been my favorite weapon for months. The cheaper 960 Evo series is also really good, although I think that if you spend so much money on a high-speed SSD, you might as well make sure that they have MLC NAND and not the somewhat less reliable TLC material used.
One of the few companies that have tried (and are approaching) to dethrone Samsung at the height of their game is Corsair. We already looked at the Force Series MP500 480GB in January. In short, the MP500 was a great all-rounder with decent performance and high endurance. The downside was pricing. At $ 325, it corresponded to the 512 GB 960 Pro, but was slower and therefore a tough sale.
Six months later, pricing has improved and the MP500 is far more competitive. The top 480 GB model costs $ 0.53 per gigabyte ($ 255), while the 960 Pro 512 GB costs just over $ 0.58 and is available for $ 300.
The Corsair MP500 used the PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD controller from Phison with the designation PS5007-E7 as well as the 15 nm MLC-NAND from Toshiba. Other brands have released their own drives with this controller, including the Patriot Hellfire M2 and the PNY CS2030.
More recently, in mid-March, Zotac released the Sonix, which also includes the Phison controller and Toshiba MLC memory. However, they chose the half-high PCI Express 3.0 x4 form factor and not the more compact M.2.
Other brands such as Corsair, Patriot, Mushkin, PNY and Kingston were expected to offer similar products soon. No wonder Corsair has just released a HHHL (half-length, half length), PCI Express 3.0 x4 SSD, which again uses the Phison PS5007-E7 controller and 15 nm Toshiba MLC memory.
Which raises the question. Is this just the MP500 on a PCIe adapter card? Well, it's a little bit more than that. This is not an M.2 drive that is mounted on an adapter card, but the components are mounted directly on the board, and this has several advantages that I will discuss in a moment .
First, let's talk about the technical data. The Neutron NX500 series has capacities of 400 GB or 800 GB, both with the HHHL form factor. The MP500 series offers capacities of 120 GB, 240 GB and 480 GB with the form factor M.2-2280.
Both use the same PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, the same Phison controller and the same 15 nm MLC NAND flash memory. DRAM cache capacity has been updated. Previously, the 480 GB MP500 had a 512 MB cache, the NX500 400 GB had a 1 GB cache and the 800 GB model had a 2 GB cache. Both use DDR3 memory here.
As expected, the sequential read and write speeds are the same, 3 GB / s read time and 2.4 GB / s write speed. Random read and write IOPS performance has been improved by 20-30%. The NX500 series offers up to 300,000 IOPS for reading and 270,000 for writing. Power consumption and endurance are the same, with the exception of the larger 800 GB model with an impressive lifespan of 1396 TBW. Finally, the warranty period was extended from 3 years to a more competitive 5 years. So that's great to see.
You may be wondering what's new here?
Frankly, in terms of specs, not much besides the form factor, but that's a big deal. Although the M.2 form factor is currently on trend and support is stronger than ever, these new X299 boards use multiple drives and the upcoming X399 boards will do the same.
This small, compact form factor is very impressive, but it has a brutal effect on the components. Heat is the main problem here and the problem is getting rid of it. Keeping the controllers cool is a real challenge as there is insufficient cooling. This is not the case with most M.2 drives, making them unsuitable for permanent throughput.
The Samsung SSD 960 Evo that I have on hand for this example goes from an idle temperature of ~ 30 degrees to over 60 degrees within a minute of continued data transfer, and at that point the write performance is severely throttled. That said, throttling doesn't help keep temperatures at bay, and our 100 GB transfer tests peaked at 90 degrees.
While it is possible to write about 20 GB of data at over 1.5 GB / s, the throughput has been reduced to about a third of the original performance.
When we switched to the Neutron NX500, we started the 100 GB transfer test with a drive temperature of 34 degrees, pretty much what we saw from the Evo.
However, at the end of the test, both writing and reading, the drive temperature never exceeded 49 degrees and we saw no throttling. With sustained write operations over 20 GB, the NX500 was actually more than twice as fast as the 960 Evo, and that also applies to the SSD 960 Pro.
Granted, most of you are unlikely to move data with a hit greater than 20 GB, but doing so will make the NX500 perform better.
The simple explanation for this is passive cooling. The Neutron NX500 has a huge piece of aluminum on the front of the circuit board and is connected to the surface of the Phison controller via a thermal pad. So while you have to sacrifice a PCI Express expansion slot, you do so for maximum performance in all conditions.
Let's jump into the benchmarks for a few more quick tests …
First, I checked the sequential read and write performance in AS SSD Benchmark, and here, as expected, the NX500 delivered very similar results to the MP500. Corsair claims the same sequential performance for 400 GB MX500 and 480 GB MP500.
The performance of the 4K-64 thread was also very similar. The NX400 was slightly worse than the MP500 here, although these results are pretty close to the error rate.
The performance of the access time is slightly different. The write results are similar for both the NX400 and the MP500, while the newer NX400 is somewhat lacking read access time, although the results are not bad.
If we move on to our test results for hard disk copies, the NX500 again shows MP500-like performance.
He was able to assert himself in the test of the game copies, but only by a lead of 5%. I should note that none of these tests move data worth more than 3 GB, so throttling is not a problem here. This is not about moving large amounts of data, but rather hitting the drives with a mixture of small and large, compressed and uncompressed files.
Finally, we have the 7-Zip file extraction test that works with a large 38 GB archive. As you can see where the Samsung 960 Evo was previously good for well over 1 GB / s, it is now dropping to 660 MB / s for the average transfer speed. However, the NX500 was still a bit slower and, despite avoiding throttling problems, can't take a step forward over the MP500, an SSD that clearly doesn't suffer from throttling problems.
Windows 10 boot
Windows Corsair NX500 took 5.4 seconds to load, which is longer than the MP500's 4.4 seconds, but better than the 6.3 seconds the 960 Evo takes.
Call of Duty Level loading time
The Call of Duty Infinite Warfare level took just 8.1 seconds to load. The 960 Evo took 8.4 seconds and the MP500 11 seconds, a good improvement over the MP500.
Pack the Corsair Neutron NX500
I have feelings similar to my MP500 test and I think that makes sense because they are very similar products. The Corsair drives have no real weaknesses, they blow quickly, but given the near-right price, Samsung drives are still a bit faster.
Even power users won't notice the difference between the MP500 and 960 Pro on most workloads. The same applies to the NX500, another solid all-rounder that does not buckle under prolonged torture, although the MP500 does not buckle either.
This is also about the price asked. The just tested NX500 400 GB is selling for $ 320. Although this is better than the Zotac Sonix, it is significantly higher than the current price of the MP500 480 GB and the Samsung 960 Evo 500 GB. In fact, it's more expensive than the 960 Pro 512GB too.
Advantages: The Corsair NX500 is a great SSD that offers solid performance, runs cool, has an excellent lifespan, and offers a competitive 5-year warranty.
Disadvantage: It must be at least 20% cheaper to recommend over Corsair's MP500 or Samsung drives.