Installation

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.

SSD and Storage Review Test Bench Closeup of SSD Installed in M.2 Slot

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.    

Standardizing Cooling

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.

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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3 Comments

  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.

    https://www.thefpsreview.com/2020/07/08/teamgroup-t-force-vulcan-500gb-2-5-sata-ssd-review/6/

    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. 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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