PCIe 4.Zero vs. PCIe 3.Zero SSDs Benchmarked

High performance storage is in transition as industry begins to adopt the PCIe 4.0 standard. The biggest change consumers will see right now is even faster NVMe SSDs. This is due to the fact that PCIe 4.0 offers twice the data rate of the PCIe 3.0 standard. Previous generation SSDs had maximum speeds of up to 3500 MB / s, while the new generation claimed speeds of up to 5000 MB / s.

Today we're going to test several new drives and compare them to two of the fastest PCIe 3.0 drives you can buy. If you look at the datasheet, you will quickly see higher throughputs, but what does that mean for the average power user? Let's find out.

It should be noted that the first mainstream platform to introduce PCIe 4.0 is AMD's new flagship X570, which was launched a few months ago with third-generation Ryzen processors. The X570 platform is aimed at the high-performance premium segment, as it enables a range of future-oriented technologies that not only support PCIe 4.0, but also M.2 Gen 4 storage, the latest USB 3.2 Gen 2 standard and in In some cases Wi-Fi is limited to 6 and 10 GbE connectivity.

In this summary, we'll look at the new Corsair MP600, Sabrent Rocket and Gigabyte Aorus SSDs, all new PCIe NVMe 4.0 drives. We compared them with the excellent Samsung 970 Pro SSD and Intel's premium Optane SSD 905P. Also check out our summary from last year, which includes several other PCIe 3.0 drives.

As you can see in the table below, the new drives are actually slightly cheaper than the one-year Gen 3 SSD 970 Pro (this is the prosumer version of the cheaper SSD 970 Evo). The Optane drive is an outlier as technology continues to evolve and is more of a corporate drive. In addition to the 970 Pro, you can currently purchase a Gen 3 1TB NVMe SSD for around $ 150 to $ 200 depending on the model. This means that the price premium between Gen 3 and Gen 4 is around 30%.

product price Cost / GB ($) interface Capacity* Max Read (MB / s) Max Write (MB / s)
Corsair MP600 $ 200 0.20 PCIe 4.0 1 TB 4950 4250
Sabrent Rocket $ 200 0.20 PCIe 4.0 1 TB 5000 4400
Gigabyte aorus $ 160 0.32 PCIe 4.0 500 GB 5000 2500
Intel Optane SSD 905P $ 2,100 1.40 PCIe 3.0 1.5 TB 2600 2200
Samsung 970 Pro $ 300 0.30 PCIe 3.0 1 TB 3500 2700

As with previous generations, the 4.0 standard simply doubles the speed at which the PCIe slot is executed. It now offers approximately 2 GB / s per track compared to 1 GB / s per track of PCIe 3.0. The PCIe 4.0 standard was delayed by about two years, which means that the PCIe 5.0 standard is expected to be released in about a year. For today's review, we used Asrock's X570 Steel Legend motherboard, which is powered by a Ryzen 7 3700X CPU.

The three PCIe 4.0 drives we received for review are very similar internally. All are based on the Phison PS5016 controller, all use Toshiba BiCS4 TLC NAND Flash and all have an integrated SK Hynix DDR4 cache. In addition, there is not much to distinguish apart from the firmware, which is still an essential part of the equation. Note that larger capacity drives have higher rated speeds than other SSD series. All Corsair, Sabrent and Gigabyte models are available in 500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB versions, but only the 1 TB and 2 TB versions achieve full speed. The write speed on a 500 GB drive drops to 2500 MB / s compared to the 1 TB or 2 TB version of the same product family.

The most noticeable difference between these drives and those of the previous generation are the huge heat sinks. The new controllers and NAND chips are running hot. To avoid damage, the manufacturers have created some very powerful heat sinks.

The Sabrent unit even has 6 internal heat pipes. This is the first time that we see integrated heat pipes on an SSD. The Gigabyte device is surrounded by a strong piece of copper, which makes it feel really solid and well built. The Corsair drive has several vertical slats made of aluminum. Although it is larger than the gigabyte drive, it actually weighs a lot less.

As with CPUs and GPUs, thermal management is very important with high-performance SSDs. Prolonged contact with high temperatures and insufficient cooling can damage the drives. If you try to remove the heat sinks, the drives will thermally throttle very quickly. Even if the heat sinks are switched on, the drives can still throttle if they are under continuous load for more than about 15 minutes.

Before we start performance, we need to discuss the sharing issues with these drives. Because they are so big, the Corsair and Sabrent drives won't fit in most NVMe slots if you have another PCIe card on top. Most modern motherboards have two NVMe slots between their PCIe slots. This can be a problem depending on your facility

If you have a single GPU and no other expansion cards, you should be able to use the lower NVMe slot. If you need to use these PCIe slots, the gigabyte drive is your only option as it is thin enough to fit under a GPU.

For motherboards with an integrated chipset and NVMe heatsinks, you may need to remove them to make the drive fit. This was a problem for us with the X570 Steel Legend. We believe that the better option if you can rely on your motherboard's cooling performance is to remove the heat sink from the SSD and use the motherboard's built-in heat sink.

The Optane 905P is a different kind of animal. At over $ 2,000, it's almost an order of magnitude more expensive than the other drives in this summary. The previous generation, SSD 900P, was the fastest drive overall that we tested last year. The 905P is an incremental upgrade with some minor performance improvements. Optane technology was developed to close the gap between fast RAM and large conventional mass storage devices. It doesn't deliver the fastest reads and writes, but instead aims to improve overall system performance and reactivity. It is particularly suitable for small, random file accesses, such as those found in data analysis and high-performance computing.

Surprisingly, Samsung doesn't currently have a 4th generation SSD on the market (they announced a drive for business last week). As with previous product launches, corporate hardware is expected to be released first, and then consumers will find similar technology in the months that follow.


We will now continue with performance tests, starting with plastics. The first test relates to raw sequential performance. This shows the absolutely fastest drive drive in a perfect scenario. By testing with different transfer sizes, we can see how the drives behave with different file types.

The results are a bit everywhere, so let's break them down. Starting with the reading performance, all three PCIe 4.0 drives in the table above are equivalent. Since they have the same controller and NAND, this is what we would expect. The 970 Pro is the next, although we see a sharp drop as the file size increases. The Optane drive is the slowest here because raw sequential performance is not its priority.

Write speeds are a bit messier. The Sabrent and Corsair drives both reached the highest speed of just under 4 Gbps, but the Corsair drive took longer to get there and had a drop in the middle.

The Sabrent Rocket 4 drive was much faster up and stable once it reached the maximum. Since we have the 500 GB version of the Gigabyte Aorus drive, it is limited to 2400 MB / s. The 1TB and 2TB versions of the Aorus range are not limited and should perform less well than the competition on the Sabrent and Corsair 500GB drives and vice versa. The drives from Samsung and Intel are run in the same order as in the reading test.

Next, let's go to IOmeter, a great all-round storage benchmarking utility that allows for very customized testing. In most use cases, disk reads are much more common than disk writes. Data access is also a mix of random and sequential. To cover the most common scenarios, we used a transfer size of 16 KB, 70% read / 30% write and 50% random. The tests were run twice: with a single request and a queue of 64 requests. This measurement is called queue depth. With sporadic use, e.g. B. when surfing the Internet or light desktop applications, the queue depth is probably small. On the other hand, heavy usage such as content creation or other data-intensive tasks has a higher queue depth because more drive accesses are waiting to be processed.

Starting with the overall transfer speed, the Intel Optane runs away in the lower queue depth. This is expected because the drive is designed to do just that. As it rises to 64, the Optane drive's slow sequential performance will gradually deteriorate. The Sabrento drive is the clear winner here and around 500 MB / s faster than the competition. Surprisingly, the PCIe 3.0 Samsung 970 Pro drive is just right for the PCIe 4.0 drives. The additional bandwidth from Gen 3 to Gen 4 makes no difference here.

In addition to speed, latency is extremely important when measuring drive performance. The Optane drive stands out here because one of its main features is fast access times. The second place goes again to Sabrent Drive. In addition, the remaining drives are very close to one another and see no benefit from the new standard.

Next we go to real benchmarks. The first test is the PCMark 8 storage benchmark, which consists of multiple storage access tracks from common applications. Although it looks like a synthetic test from the drive perspective, read and write requests appear identically, as if the user had used the real programs. These include Microsoft Office, some video games, and Adobe Photoshop. The Intel Optane drive wins easily because it is designed for productivity and quick access. The rest of the drives are very close to each other, although we'll give the Samsung 970 Pro the slight edge. Raw sequential read and write speeds are not so important here, as typical file usage occurs in short series of small files.

Next, we'll explicitly look at the loading times for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The results were all within 2 seconds, so you will probably never notice a difference. The Samsung drive can easily stand out from the competition thanks to Samsung's excellent firmware and drive management. The second place goes to Sabrent Drive.

The last tests we'll look at are file copies and Windows startup times. In addition to gaming and productivity, this is probably the other way a drive is used and commonly measured. Both file copies had a size of approx. 20 GB. The large test consisted of approximately 20 separate 1 GB files and the small test had approximately 20,000 files.

Although both tests transferred approximately the same amount of data, the smaller test took much longer due to the increased overhead in processing each file. The Sabrent drive is the winner here, with the Gigabyte and Intel drives in second place.

The drives from Samsung and Corsair were left with the small file copies. This may be because the internal caches are filling up, but it's hard to say for sure. Windows 10 startup time is the closest of all. All drives were within 1 second of each other so you will never notice the difference.

Wrap up

With regard to the cream of the bearing fruit, the results met our expectations. The Optane drive is the king of productivity, but you pay for it and it's not really for consumers. It will cost you more than two RTX 2080 Super GPUs if you know what I mean.

However, it should be emphasized how relatively close these drives are when it comes to running mainstream applications. The throughput of premium NVMe SSDs, which cost around $ 200 for 1 TB of storage, is impressive and far from the arms and legs we paid for them a few years ago.

The three PCIe 4.0 drives were close to each other in most tests, with the Sabrent Rocket 4 winning by a close margin. The Samsung 970 Pro is still doing very well and even won in our game launch tests. This makes it clear that purchasing a Gen 4 SSD doesn't have much of an advantage if you already have a fast Gen 3 SSD. Compared to the standard Gen 3 drives, the Gen 4 drives offer an increase in performance for very select workloads.

If you're building a new high-end PC and on budget, we definitely recommend a fast NVMe PCIe drive. The Evo line from Samsung used to get our top recommendation, but the Rocket Gen 4 SSD from Sabrent is definitely worth considering. If you are not creating content or doing other data-intensive work, this is of little use, although there may be some scenarios later that can take advantage of the full 5 GB / s speed. Much of the launch of the Gen 4 SSD is marketing hype, but it's true that the drives are objectively faster. So it's always great to see technological progress.

Purchasing links:
  • Sabrent Rocket PCIe 4.0 SSD at Amazon
  • Corsair MP600 PCIe 4.0 SSD at Amazon
  • Gigabyte Aorus PCIe 4.0 SSD at Amazon
  • Intel Optane SSD 905P at Amazon
  • Samsung 970 Pro on Amazon
  • Samsung 970 Evo Plus on Amazon

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