This article is intended to detail review format and methodology for reviewing SSDs and other similar storage devices.  Our goal is to maintain consistency, repeatability, accuracy and allow data to be compared in each review. 

Ultimately our plan is to build a database of benchmarks so that you can compare the results between SSDs and storage devices.  In order to accomplish this, our format and methodologies must be standardized.  This standardization must be adhered to from the handling of the hardware installation, down to the software and settings.

Before we dive into the format, know that we accept any type of SSD for review.  From PCIe to SATA, to M.2 to 2.5” and any other interface and protocol introduced. You can check out our catalog of storage reviews here.    

The Test Bench – The Heart of the Operation

It all starts at the hardware, and since we are very hardware-oriented enthusiasts here at this is where we will start.  The test bench will remain standardized, and consistent.  Every SSD and storage device will be tested on this exact same test system.  We are aware that any major changes to the test system could affect results.

ASUS TUF GAMING X570-Plus Wi-Fi motherboard top view

Our test bench consists of an ASUS TUF GAMING X570-PLUS (WI-FI) motherboard.  This is an AMD X570 chipset motherboard that supports PCI-Express 4.0 x4 on both of its M.2 slots, M.2_1 and M.2_2.  The M.2_2 slot pulls its lanes from the X570 chipset, but it can fully run at Gen 4×4 speeds as it supports PCIe 4.0 x4 mode.  It can also support RAID.  It has 8 SATA 6Gb/s ports for testing SATA drives. 

For our CPU we are using an AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Zen 2 CPU.  This CPU fully supports PCI-Express 4.0.  Being very multi-threaded will also reduce any chance for any background processes affecting results.   Cooling the CPU is handled by an NZXT Kraken X63 AIO.  RAM is handled by 16GB DDR4 G.SKILL Trident Z Neo running at DOCP 3600MHz. 

The Power Supply is a Seasonic PRIME 850 Titanium SSR-850TR 850W 80+ Titanium.  It is very efficient and reliable.  We have an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition video card used for the display.

We run a SAMSUNG 860 EVO 2TB SATA SSD as the primary boot drive containing Windows and all the benchmarks. 

All of this hardware sits atop a Primochill Praxis WetBenchSX Pro Flat Edition review station in an open-air environment.  We also have a 120mm case fan attached to the optional fan mount bracket arm that allows us to position a case fan directly over the SSD as needed.  In this way, we can directly cool the SSD with a fan if needed.  It can be swiveled out of the way to remove airflow from the SSD. We can control how the SSD is cooled.

Software Configuration

Software configuration is just as important as hardware.  We run Windows 10 Pro with the latest updates and releases.  All drivers are kept up to date, which the AMD Chipset driver version is of the utmost importance to maintain the best I/O performance.  We also keep our benchmarking software up to date.

We have configured Windows so that background apps are disabled and we have custom configured privacy and other settings to remove as much garbage from running in the background. 

We have enabled the “High Performance” power profile in Windows.

We use Active KillDisk to allow us to use Secure Erase and Secure Wipe on SSDs.  We also run the TRIMM command after every benchmark.

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Brent Justice

Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components for 20+ years, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer oriented...

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  1. I appreciate the effort, it looks well thought out and thorough. I especially applaud the testing standardization and the building up of a database. That is the best thing for all reviews imo, as it gives you the ability to objectively go back and make comparisons.

    I have to admit – personally, I don’t really look at storage benchmarks. I care about SSD vs HDD, but if one SSD is a bit faster than the next – not a consideration for me or my typical uses.

    I recognize I’m not everyone – and some people here do have cases where the difference in performance can make a big impact. I’m just not one of them.

    For me, the three biggest factors in my storage purchases:

    1) Is it reliable? Your temperature testing does get to that fact, but only tangentially. Here, I rely largely on Backblaze reporting, SSD overprovisioning and brand name reputation (which is not a great indicator of anything really). It’s hard to get this kind of data without some long term use cases, and particularly in SSDs, a lot of times they just haven’t been around long enough to be able to get that kind of data. If there are other resources that help get at this, I’d be very interested. I don’t know that this is something that FPS could invest in, it takes a good deal of time and resources. For SSDs – for home use I’m typical consumer use, so write endurance isn’t a huge factor, and even at work – it’s light duty database, and even that doesn’t see a huge amount of writes.

    2) Price per byte. I will look at interface when I look at price – I’d value nVME over SATA on SSDs, for instance, but only to a point. But for one nVME over another, I probably wouldn’t look at speed benches.

    3) Warranty coverage. I have shucked drives before, when the price per byte was just so low that it was hard to pass up. But more often than not I try to get drives with 5 year warranties. I’ve found most drives will outlive that, but on drive failures that I’ve seen, it tends to lump into three distinct bands – within the first 90 days, or around year 3-4, or well after year 7. I never touch rebuilt or used drives.

  2. Choosing to intentionally test drives via the second, chipset-connected slot is a very strange decision, given the compatibility issues that have popped up with drives like the (now resolved) WD SN850 and those which use certain SMI controllers (SM2262/EN, etc). There is also additional command latency for having to traverse the chipset interlink which can impact IOPS, to say nothing of any incidental secondary bandwidth from accessory devices which are switched to the chipset.

    Being able to more easily point a fan at the drive seems like a very weird justification given the potential for more important issues which could, quite literally, invalidate each and every drive test result on this site going forward.

    Many users have also experienced poor SATA performance on X570 boards, with lower than expected random 4K (Q32T16, etc) results as compared to B450/B550 or Intel platforms, so that could throw off reviews of any future hypothetical refreshed SATA SSDs. In fact, the same problem is clearly visible in your review of the TeamGroup T-Force Vulcan SSD. Q32T16 performance sits at about 230MB/s, below what is expected.

    To be clear, I’ve been reading your content since you started at [H] and this isn’t some gotcha dig at your credibility, it simply strikes me as a very weird choice and a bit of an unforced error. If anything, I’d expect testing on the main slot by default, with an additional quick sanity check on the chipset slot as well, to check for any glaring compatibility issues.

    Storage reviews haven’t really been a focus here, but if you intend to jump in with both feet it might be worth considering these things. 🙂

  3. [QUOTE=”AKBrian, post: 38486, member: 120″]
    To be clear, I’ve been reading your content since you started at [H] and this isn’t some gotcha dig at your credibility, it simply strikes me as a very weird choice and a bit of an unforced error. If anything, I’d expect testing on the main slot by default, with an additional quick sanity check on the chipset slot as well, to check for any glaring compatibility issues.

    It was considered, and the above check has actually been done. The motherboard we are using has the exact same performance between the M.2 slots. Plus, all drives are being benchmarked on equal turf, and thus comparable as they are all being benchmarked in the same way, on the same M.2 slot, and with the same cooling. Therefore, the testing is standardized and can be compared directly.

    IF, read IF, any latency issues exist due to this particular M.2 slot, it would be replicated on every test, for every SSD, and thus would still be comparable as the same configuration is being used. However, we did checks to verify that the performance is the same between the two slots prior to making this decision. I would not have chosen to do so otherwise. The M.2_2 slot provides the full potential of performance. The full PCI-Express 4.0 lanes are open to it and the slot can maximize PCI-Express 4.0 performance.

    Our system runs lean, and we do not have excessive data running through the chipset that would cause latency or bandwidth degradation. We also run the tests multiple times and verify the results.

    The M.2_1 slot on this motherboard does not have a heatsink. Only the M.2_2 slot, therefore this is another reason for using the slot, so we can apply the motherboard’s default heatsink as it is intended.

    In addition, the use of the M.2_2 slot is a real-world test configuration that would be used in a computer build. Testing on that slot is a configuration that would exist in real-world usage. It is therefore a real-world setup.

    The use of an X570 based motherboard for the test bench is obvious.

    All system specs, and configuration, are clearly stated.

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