A serious alternative to Samsung?
IS THE MARKET FOR M.2 SSDs with Support for the NVMe control protocol already a bit stagnant? You certainly get the sense that it’s dominated by the usual suspects. More specifically, Samsung seems to have things sewn up with its 960 Pro drives.
So we extend a warm welcome to PNY with this, its entry-level enthusiast M.2 drive. It’s powered by the Phison PS5007 NVMe controller, which has been shaking things up versus some arguably more established control chips, and hooks up via a quad-channel PCI Express 3.0 interface.
It’s a quad-core controller, with some fairly lofty claims when it comes to internal house cleaning and in turn minimizing the performance delta between a full and empty drive. It also sports eight memory channels for maximum peak performance.
As for the PNY CS2030 itself, it uses relatively old-school 15nm Toshiba MLC planar or 2D NAND memory, instead of the more fashionable 3D TLC. That means lower data density, and it explains why PNY is only offering 260GB and 680GB models. To go beyond those capacities, PNY would have to opt for something larger than the M.2 2280 form factor seen here, which is 22mm by 80mm, to ensure compatibility with a broad range of systems.
The upshot in terms of the CS2030’s on-paper capabilities at 260GB include claimed read and write speeds of 2,750MB/s and 1,500MB/s respectively, while IOPS come in at 201,000 and 215,000. For the record, its larger 680GB sibling rocks significantly superior numbers for random access performance, with IOPS at 300,000 and 270,000 for reads and writes.
If that’s how this drive stacks up on paper, what’s it like when you throw some actual data at it? Pull some peak numbers with a test of throughput like ATTO Disk Benchmark, and you’ll be impressed. With reads of 3.1GB/s and writes around 2.3GB/s, it not only exceeds PNY’s own claims, it hands the Intel 750 and Samsung 950 Pro their derrières on a plate. It even trades blows with Samsung’s 960 Pro 2TB.
Of course, ATTO is about as theoretical as it comes. Shift the focus toward more taxing synthetic and real-world metrics, and the picture is more mixed. The CS2030 is a whisker behind the older Samsung 950 Pro in CrystalMark, for instance, whether that’s sequential or 6K random access performance, though the comparison drive in this case is a 512GB model. That said, the newer Samsung 960 blows this PNY drive away in CrystalMark sequential testing.
The CS2030 is also off the pace with our 30GB internal file copy benchmark. It’s still seriously quick by broader SSD standards, but the comparison with the very best isn’t flattering. Arguably more of a concern was our experience during pre-benchmarking preparations, which involve filling the drive with data, before deleting and allowing a little time for garbage collection to do its work. During the fill process, which mainly involves dumping large quantities of multi-GB video files from another drive on to the testee, the best SSDs maintain consistent performance. But not the CS2030. It kicks off at high speed, but can only sustain that for short periods, which indicates a significant role in buffering technology to achieve the impressive peak numbers.
All of which means the CS2030 is pretty solid, but it isn’t quite a world-beater, and it needs to be cheaper to make a compelling case against the already entrenched SSD establishment, -jeremy laird
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER DAT Solid spec includes NVMe, PCIe x4 connectivity; good overall performance.
BAD-BOY BROTHER LORE Can’t quite compete with the best NVMe drives; fairly pricey; occasional performance flaws.