HP SSD EX950 NVMe M.2 SSD Review: Geared for Gaming

HP’s SSD EX950 is a wicked fast NVMe M.2 SSD that boasts up to 3.5/2.9GB/s of read/write performance and ranks as one of the best on the market. The impressive performance, coupled with competitive MSRPs that range from $0.20-0.23 per GB, make the HP SSD EX950 a solid value pick. If you are a gamer, PC enthusiast, or just looking for something bigger or faster than what you have now, the HP EX950 is a top contender.

HP is one of the most well-known PC makers, but, while the company is well known, they haven’t been that big on the SSD front. The company's first real attempt at making a consumer-oriented, retail SSD proved to be rather underwhelming with the release of two mediocre SATA drives back in 2017, but their first go at NVMe M.2 SSDs proved otherwise.

HP’s SSD EX920 made a mark last year with Silicon Motion’s SM2262 and Micron’s 64L 3D TLC flash, and it even still sells at a modest price. For typical desktop PC use, you would be hard pressed to beat the value. But times are changing, and HP refreshed its lineup to keep up, but this time the company claims to have tuned the drive specifically for gamers.

The EX950, like the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, tries to push out even more performance and value with a simple controller swap. HP could have waited for the latest 96L flash that manufacturers are just beginning to get their hands on, but it decided Micron’s 64L 3D TLC still has enough gas in the tank for the new drive. But, while the NAND goes unchanged, HP opted for the more refined Silicon Motion SM2262EN NVMe 1.3 SSD controller.

The SM2262EN 's improved hardware design and tweaked firmware unleash more performance, including an increase of 300/1,100 MB/s in sequential read/write throughput, as well as improved random performance. The controller also takes a big step forward in efficiency, but while the ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro with similar components notched the best efficiency results we’ve recorded, the HP SSD EX950 doesn’t seem to reap such drastic improvement due to some slight differences in PCB design and firmware.

Specifications

ProductHP SSD EX950 512GBHP SSD EX950 1TBHP SSD EX950 2TB
Pricing$119.99 $229.99 $399.99
Capacity (User / Raw)512GB / 512GB1024GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB
Form FactorM.2 2280 Double-sidedM.2 2280 Double-sidedM.2 2280 Double-sided
Interface / ProtocolPCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3
ControllerSMI SM2262ENSMI SM2262ENSMI SM2262EN
DRAM512MB DDR31GB Micron DDR32GB NANYA DDR3
MemoryMicron 64L TLCMicron 64L TLCMicron 64L TLC
Sequential Read3,500 MB/s3,500 MB/s3,500 MB/s
Sequential Write2,250 MB/s2,900 MB/s2,900 MB/s
Random Read390,000 IOPS410,000 IOPS 410,000 IOPS
Random Write370,000 IOPS370,000 IOPS 380,000 IOPS
EncryptionN/AN/AN/A
Endurance320 TBW650 TBW1400 TBW
Part Number5MS22AA#ABC5MS23AA#ABC5MS24AA#ABC
Warranty5-Years5-Years5-Years

The HP SSD EX950 comes in three capacities like the older model, but instead of offering a 256GB model on the low end, HP opted for a larger 2TB model on the high end. We’re sure this trend will continue throughout 2019 with multiple vendors as prices continue to fall. Speaking of which, the 512GB model is going for $119.99, the 1TB model for $229.99, and the 2TB model for $399.99. This makes the 2TB model one of the cheapest options available on the market, save for the lower-end Intel SSD 660P.

As mentioned, performance improvements are easily found on the new EX950: It is faster than the Samsung 970 Pro with sequential read/write speeds of 3.5/2.9GB/s, and it delivers up to 410,000/380,000 random read/write IOPS. Warranty coverage comes in at the now-standard five years, and endurance ratings are enough to satisfy almost anyone: The 320TBW of endurance for the 512GB model stretches up to 1.4TBW with the 2TB model.

Unlike some competitors, however, the HP SSD EX950 doesn't support hardware encryption or an SSD toolbox, but it does have secure erase support. Additionally, HP throws in an extra screw to secure your M.2 SSD, just in case you lost your original.

A Closer Look

HP’s SSD EX950 is an M.2 2280 double-sided form factor SSD that takes advantage of the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface and NVMe 1.3 protocol to carry out its storage duties. The double-sided board might be a compatibility concern for the few devices that require single-sided form factors, but this isn't a concern for most notebooks and all desktop PC motherboards.

Both the 1TB and 2TB models come with four Micron 64-Layer 3D TLC NAND emplacements, two on each side of the PCB, but while the NAND is the same, the DRAM differs. The 1TB model features two 512MB Nanya DDR3 DRAM chips while the 2TB model has two Micron 1GB DDR3 DRAM chips.

The SM2262EN controller features a small heat spreader to help cool it more efficiently. Once formatted in Windows, the drives expose 953GB and 1,862GB of capacity, respectively.

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