The MSI SPATIUM M480 2TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 HS SSD is MSI’s top-of-the-line, top-tier, most feature-rich, hardware complete, highest performance gaming enthusiast SSD, and we are going to review it.
MSI’s SPATIUM line of SSDs is new, so new that it was only just launched in early August 2021. We just recently reviewed our first MSI SPATIUM SSD in our MSI SPATIUM M470 1TB PCIe 4.0 Gen4 NVMe SSD review. It was a top-performer Gen4x4 NVMe 1.3 SSD based on its specifications.
Today, we have an even faster SSD, the MSI SPATIUM M480 uses the newer NVMe 1.4 protocol, a newer and faster controller, newer and faster 3D NAND flash, and provides much-improved read and write throughput performance compared to NVMe 1.3.
MSI SPATIUM M480 Models
MSI offers two capacity sizes in the US market of its SPATIUM M480 SSD, a 1TB model, and a 2TB model. They both have the same sequential read speed up to 7000MB/s (7GB/s) and the same random write 4KB performance up to 700,000 IOPS. However, they differ on the sequential write and random read performance. The 1TB model has a rated sequential write throughput of 5500MB/s (5.5GB/s) and a rated random read 4KB performance of up to 350,000 IOPS. The 2TB model has a rated sequential write throughput of 6800MB/s (6.8GB/s) and a rated random read 4KB performance up to 650,000 IOPS.
The 1TB model has 1GB of DDR4 while the 2TB model has 2GB of DDR4. The 1TB model has a Terabytes Written (TBW) of 700 while the 2TB model has a Terabytes Written (TBW) of 1400. They also differ in power usage, the 1TB model has an idle power PS3 state of 14mW and a maximum operating power of 6.6W, while the 2TB model has an idle power PS3 state of 22mW and a maximum operating power of 8.2W.
Both capacities have an optional “HS” packaging. The “HS” version of either contains a custom MSI SSD heatsink in the box. This heatsink is a full wrap-around design, cooling both sides of the SSD with a custom design, and MSI dragon badging. You can also buy the SSDs without the heatsink in the package. The cost is different between them. Here is the link to the M480 without the heatsink, and here is the link to the M480 with the included heatsink. The “HS” is what denotes the difference.
In regards to pricing, the SPATIUM M480 1TB without heatsink will retail for $219.99. The SPATIUM M480 2TB without heatsink will retail for $434.99. The SPATIUM M480 1TB HS will retail for $229.99. The SPATIUM M480 2TB HS will retail for $449.99. We have the SPATIUM M480 2TB HS to review.
MSI SPATIUM M480 PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 2TB HS
The MSI SPATIUM M480 PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 HS SSD is a PCIe Gen4x4 M.2 2280 TLC SSD. It runs on the PCI-Express 4.0 x4 bus in the M.2 2280 form factor size. What makes this SSD unique, is that it runs the newer NVM Express (NVMe) 1.4 protocol. With a faster controller and NAND flash, it can reach those 7000MB/s (7GB/s) read speeds and 6800MB/s (6.8GB/s) write speeds on the 2TB model. This far exceeds the 5000MB/s (5GB/s) read and 4400MB/s (4.4GB/s) write speeds of the SPATIUM M470 with NVMe 1.3.
The MSI SPATIUM M480 2TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD measures 80mm long without the heatsink and 80.4mm long with the heatsink. It measures 22mm in width without the heatsink and 23mm in width with the heatsink. It measures 2.15mm in height without the heatsink and 20.4mm in height with the heatsink. The heatsink definitely adds a lot of height to the SSD, so keep that in mind in your build.
The MSI SPATIUM M480 2TB SSD supports these advanced features: TRIM for Performance Optimization, SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology), LDPC (Low-Density Parity Check) ECC Algorithm, End to End Data Path Protection, APST (Autonomous Power State Transition), AES256/TCG OPAL2.0/Pyrite (Encryption, Data Security). The mean time between failure (MTBF) is 1,600,000 hours. MSI offers a 5-year warranty for the coverage for the maximum TBW as stated, whichever comes first.
SSD Pictures and Components
MSI packages the SSD in a very firm and solid box, it’s the right size, and protects the SSD very well. The box aesthetics are not overdone, it’s a nice color scheme, and shows a big picture of the SSD and heatsink on the front of the box with the capacity, interface, and rated read speed. The box does not open up traditionally, there is a flap that opens, and then inside sitting in foam is the SSD and heatsink separated, not pre-installed. MSI intends for you to install the heatsink yourself.
Thankfully they have given you almost everything you need. They include the screws, the heatsink, the SSD, and a visual instruction booklet. However, they don’t include a small screwdriver, and these screws are very small. You will need a tiny Philips head screwdriver of your own to construct this heatsink, something you may or may not have handy. We would have liked to have seen a cheap Philips screwdriver in the package, or even just have the heatsink pre-installed. They did put protective material over the thermal interface pads to protect them.
The heatsink is very heavy, and solid. It is a bronze-colored aluminum heatsink with a stacked fin structure. It has sweeping lines that allow air to pass through it positioned in the right direction so air can flow through it from front to back. On the left, or rear-end side of the SSD, the fins swoop up and provide even more surface area for the heat to dissipate. The bronze-colored part goes on the top side of the SSD, while the other part goes on the bottom of the SSD. Both parts sandwich the SSD together, and you put six total screws in to hold it tight.
MSI SPATIUM M480 PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 HS SSD is a double-sided SSD, with the controller, DRAM, and four 3D NAND flash chips on one side. The bottom has four 3D NAND flash chips and a DRAM chip.
MSI is using the popular Phison E18 controller on this SSD, it reads PS5018-E18-41. The Phison E18 controller is manufactured on the TSMC 12nm manufacturing process. It supports a maximum capacity of 8TB and a max of 8 channels and supports the NVMe 1.4 protocol and Gen4x4L M.2 interface. It can run 1600MT/s per channel and supports DDR4. The maximum theoretical potential is 7400/7000 SR/SW (MBps) and 1000K/1000K RR/RW (IOPS). It runs a 32-bit ARM Cortex R5 (three CPUs) CoXProcessor Technology CPU. It supports dynamic SLC cache, 4th gen LDPC, end-to-end data path protection, SMartECC, internal SRAM ECC/parity, AES 128/256 bit, SHA 160/256/512, RSA 4096, TCG & Opal 2.0, Pyrite, Sanitize, and Crypto Erase.
For the 3D NAND Flash memory, MSI is using Micron 96-Layer 3D TLC NAND IA7BG64AIA chips. Each one is 256GB in size, with four on one side, and four on the other making 2TB total. MSI is using two 1GB (2GB total) of SK Hynix H5AN8G6NCJ DDR4 RAM for the lookup tables. This is DDR4-2666MHz speed DRAM.
MSI SPATIUM M480 Heatsink Installation
When you install the SSD on the heatsink, you do not need to remove the stickers on the front or back of it. You can leave those on, they do act as some kind of heat transfer between the SSD and thermal pads, they do not interfere with the cooling. However, if you wish to, you could remove them for direct chip contact with the thermal pads, but beware, this does void your warranty! For our testing, we did remove the stickers and the heatsink is installed with direct contact of the thermal pads and chips, no stickers.
Be careful also when you install the SSD in the bottom sled of the heatsink that you have orientated it the correct way. There is a slide-stop at the rear-end of the bottom sled that doesn’t allow the SSD to go past a certain point. This helps you line up the SSD on the sled perfectly. However, if you accidentally turn the SSD backwards, to where the “fingers” are at this stop, it will not work in your M.2 slot.
Make sure the connector “fingers” are toward the open-end of the bottom sled, and then put the SSD so it is all the way up against the stop on the other end. Then when you place the top heatsink down upon it, line up the holes and it will all just fit nice and easily. Don’t push or pull the SSD across the thermal pads, just place it on in position, and then place the top heatsink down upon it, and then screw it in.
We found that the heatsink doesn’t fully extend over the controller. You can see an edge of the controller itself peeking out from the heatsink. Most of the controller is covered by the thermal pads, but there is this portion here that is not fully covered and cooled. Once again, it is the controller that gets hot, and this heatsink doesn’t appear to be fully covering it because on these SSDs the controller is on the far-end of the SSD, instead of the middle.
The same is also true on the other end of the SSD, where part of the 3D NAND flash is also not covered. It isn’t as important with the NAND, but it is more important with the controller. In other SSD designs, the controller is in the middle of the SSD, and here that would have been fine, but in this design, it’s on the far-end, and this heatsink design does not fully extend out enough to cover it fully.
Another oddity with the heatsink design is the way it is made has the swooping “extra surface area” fins on the end of the SSD where the 3D NAND flash chips are, rather than directly over the controller chip on the right-side. This is odd because it is the controller that gets the hottest on an SSD, not the NAND chips. Having this extra surface area directly over the controller, to provide better cooling to it, might have been optimal.