Some think it's a stapler; others think it looks like an AR15 "upper." No matter what you think it looks like, the Apacer PT920 Commando is an NVMe SSD that can shoot IOPS at a high rate of fire. The Commando is the first SSD we've seen that brings an elaborate theme to this otherwise boring looking product group. Like it, love it, or leave it. This is a polarizing product that some will stand in line for and others will protest.
We saw several weapon-themed displays at Computex last June. It's odd to see gun-themed components on display in a country that doesn't allow its citizens to own firearms. Taiwan does have gun enthusiasts, though. A few years ago, a company representative took me to his airsoft store. The store had an elaborate setup full of airsoft rifles, handguns, and grenades. There were pictures on the wall of Asian commandos decked out in jungle camouflage, combat boots, and face paint to match. I would like to think Apacer made the new PT920 Commando NVMe SSD for the global market, including Taiwan, rather than just a few select regions with heavy concentrations of gun enthusiasts.
Without getting too carried away, the Apacer PT920 Commando is a unique SSD that some will enjoy for their build and others will pass on. Unfortunately, the gold color doesn't match most motherboards. We first spotted the concept two years ago with a PCIe 3.0 x2 configuration and a more authentic-looking black that would have matched more system builds. For the final version, Apacer chose to go with a gold color and omitted a heatsink to cool the Phison PS5007-E7 controller.
Apacer offers the PT920 Commando in 240GB and 480GB capacities. Inside, the drives use a similar SSD to the M.2 Z280 we tested back in April. Apacer pairs the Phison PS5007-E7 controller with Nanya DDR3 DRAM and Toshiba 15nm MLC flash. The combination is a favorite for shoppers looking for mainstream NVMe performance at very good price points.
The 480GB PT920 Commando achieves up to 2,500/1,350 MB/s of sequential read/write performance. The 240GB drive we have on hand only achieves up to 860 MB/s of sequential write performance, but that's still more than a SATA 6Gb/s SSD.
Apacer doesn't list random read performance in the Commando's documentation. The company does list random write performance at 160,000 IOPS for the 240GB and 175,000 IOPS for the 480GB. We aren't too concerned with the lack of random read performance data, but we may know why Apacer omitted the specification. The PT920's performance specifications are nearly identical to the Z280 series, but the new gun-themed model is an add-in card that houses an M.2 SSD. In our testing (and testing from others), some of the add-in cards actually reduce performance compared to the same SSD installed in the motherboard's onboard M.2 interface. That may be the case here, but our testing will shed more light on the mystery that is random read performance.
We didn't find any warranty stickers over the screws, so opening the case will not void your warranty. You could use this drive in your desktop and later remove the M.2 SSD and migrate it over to a notebook.
Pricing, Warranty & Endurance
The Apacer PT920 Commando has yet to hit North American shores, but it already sells in Asia and Europe. Apacer tells us the series is coming to America soon. Newegg and Amazon both sell Apacer products and have several of the company's other SSDs in stock.
The PT920 Commando ships with a three-year warranty limited by the write endurance. Apacer armed this series with a generous endurance rating of 349 TBW for the 240GB model and 698 TBW for the 480GB model.
The PT920 Commando lands on store shelves with an attractive retail package. We found a lot of useful information on the box including the warranty and performance data for both capacities.
A Closer Look
Apacer modeled the design after an AR15 upper with a carry handle. The casing is a thin aluminum cover that's sturdy enough for the task. The backplate doesn't have ventilation holes, so air can't pass unrestricted through the carrier. There is a small opening on the back so your system cooling fan can push air over the internal drive.
We're not fans of this design because the aluminum casing doesn't come into contact the Phison PS5007-E7 controller; it only obstructs air flow. Apacer says the PT920 Commando uses "convection cooling." I've never heard the term convection cooling other than in reference to liquid cooling for industrial applications. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the term convection cooking where a heat source is inside of a closed area, and hot air circulates to decrease cooking time.
The PT920 Commando is a PCI 3.0 x4 add-in card that houses an M.2 2280 NVMe SSD.
The PT920 SSD is very similar to the Apacer Z280 SSD we tested last April. The Z280's model number is even on the sticker. There is a slight variation, though. Apacer chose to use the enclosed PS5007-E7 controller rather than the exposed die model we tested. We recently spoke with Phison about the enclosed model and found that it's a standard build that the company has shipped since the controller came to market. We also learned that the full casing adds roughly 1C to the controller's temperature.
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