Installation of the SSD is straightforward. We put the SSD into the motherboard’s M.2_1 slot, the M.2_1 slot has direct PCI-Express 4.0 lane communication with the CPU. This is the primary M.2 slot. If the SSD does not come with a heatsink, we use a custom ThermalRight M.2 2280 Pro heatsink on the SSD to make sure all benchmarking and temperature testing is done with the same heatsink on the SSD.
The reason why we use this slot is for a few reasons. The primary reason is that the M.2_2 slot on this motherboard has an SSD heatsink spreader we can utilize. The M.2_1 slot does not. We want to be able to use the motherboard SSD heatsink. This slot also provides us quick and easy access for installing and removing SSDs. Finally, it’s in a perfect position for us to be able to actively cool the SSD with a fan if need be.
If a manufacturer has included a heatsink with the SSD, or it is already pre-installed on the SSD, we use that manufacturer heatsink. We leave the SSD as is, with the manufacturer’s heatsink and test as it is out-of-the-box. We make sure to note in the review if the heatsink came in the box, or was pre-installed. If it wasn’t pre-installed, we install the heatsink on the SSD before testing as it was intended to be run that way if it was included.
If, however, an SSD does not come with a heatsink, and it is just a bare drive then we install it into our motherboard and use a ThermalRight M.2 2280 Pro SSD heatsink. This ensures that the SSD is cooled well for benchmarking and doesn’t throttle. It also ensures that temperature testing is done on equal ground unless it comes with its own heatsink.
Therefore, standardization is present. If the SSD comes with a heatsink, they are standardized to the heatsink it came with. If they don’t, then all SSDs are standardized to the same heatsink spreader with a fresh thermal pad. They are, therefore, all benchmarked and tested with the same cooling configuration and therefore can be compared. We can test temperature since it is standardized.
Setting It Up
After installing the SSD we boot into Windows off of our primary SSD. The reviewed or tested SSD is always the secondary SSD in the system. The next thing we do is if a manufacturer has a specific NVMe driver available for their SSDs (which Samsung always does for example), we will install the manufacturer’s NVMe driver. If not, we rely on the default Windows NVMe driver.
The next bit of business is to install the SSD software that is available from the manufacturer and check their webpage for firmware updates. We always perform a firmware check and update before we begin any testing.