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MSI Spatium M480 M.2 NVMe SSD Review: Classy Looks and Speed

With high performance, lots of cooling, and a high price, MSI’s Spatium M480 is a premium SSD through and through.

MSI Spatium M480
(Image: © MSI)

Our Verdict

MSI’s Spatium M480 is a high-end PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD that, while very fast, isn’t quite the best value, even when compared to other top-end drives. It's best suited for builds where speed and unique looks are both important.

For

  • + Competitive performance
  • + Appealing aesthetics
  • + Effective cooling
  • + 5-year warranty

Against

  • - Costly
  • - Below-average power efficiency
  • - SLC cache is slow to recover
  • - No 500GB model in the USA

Although MSI is known more for its motherboards and graphics cards, the company now also offers up one of the fastest NVMe SSDs available. MSI’s Spatium M480 is a high-end PCIe 4.0 x4 drive that dishes out speeds of up to 7 GBps, while not only looking cool but keeping its cool, too. It’s a pricey SSD, but well worth your consideration if you are on the hunt for a high-end gaming SSD to complement your build’s unique aesthetics.

MSI’s Spatium M480 is the company’s fastest SSD, yet and it's based on Phison’s fastest NVMe controller to date, the PS5018-E18. Like many other high-end gaming drives, the M480 comes in two variants: a model with a heatsink and one without. Today, we take a look at the one with the heatsink, in all of its beautiful splendor.

Our initial impressions are that the MSI Spatium M480 is an attractive drive, for sure. The large bronze-colored heatsink and emblem on top of the device look fantastic, and the heatsink works more than well enough to prevent the Spatium M480 from ever thermal throttling under load. Best of all, it’s only $10 more than the drive without the heatsink. However, it will take more than just good looks for the Spatium M480 to stand out from a growing number of E18-based competitors.

Specifications

Product500GB1TB2TB
Pricing w/heatsink N/A $229.99$444.99
Pricing w/out heatsink N/A $219.99$434.99
Capacity (User / Raw)500GB / 512GB1000GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface / ProtocolPCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
ControllerPhison PS5018-E18Phison PS5018-E18Phison PS5018-E18
DRAMDDR4DDR4DDR4
MemoryMicron 96L TLCMicron 96L TLCMicron 96L TLC
Sequential Read6,500 MBps7,000 MBps7,000 MBps
Sequential Write2,850 MBps5,500 MBps6,800 MBps
Random Read170,000 IOPS350,000 IOPS650,000 IOPS
Random Write600,000 IOPS700,000 IOPS700,000 IOPS
SecurityAES 256-bit encryption AES 256-bit encryption AES 256-bit encryption 
Endurance (TBW)350 TB700 TB1,400 TB
Part NumberN/AHS: S78-440L430-P83; non-HS S78-440L490-P83HS: S78-440Q100-P83; non-HS: S78-440Q150-P83
Warranty5-Years5-Years5-Years

The Spatium M480 is available in capacities of 1TB and 2TB in the US market, with the company pricing them at roughly $0.22-$0.23 per GB, depending on the capacity and if you get the one with the heatsink or not. The company also offers a 500GB model, but it will only be available outside of America.

The 2TB is the fastest capacity, and as such, is the model we are analyzing today. It is rated to deliver sequential performance figures of up to 7/6.8 GBps and upwards of 650,000/700,000 random read/write IOPS. The smaller capacities perform a bit slower, as per usual. The 1TB model can deliver similar read performance, but takes a hit on writes, rated for 7/5.5 GBps read/write and the 500GB model, without as many NAND flash dies for interleaving, manages to only muster up to 6.5/2.85 GBps read/write, which is still very respectable.

In terms of endurance and warranty, MSI backs the Spatium M480 fairly well, due to its inclusion of Phison’s fourth-generation LDPC ECC, RAID parity, and end-to-end data path protection. MSI backs the Spatium M480 with a five-year warranty and/or the ability to sustain up to 1,400 TB of writes on our 2TB sample. As for the smaller capacities, their endurance halves with capacity.  

Like most SSDs that we’ve reviewed, the Spatium M480 supports secure erase /Format NVM command to completely wipe to a fresh, empty state. It also has support for TRIM, and S.M.A.R.T. data reporting. But unlike most, it also supports AES 256-bit hardware encryption, making the Spatium M480 perfect, not only fast performance but secure data storage too.

Software & Accessories

MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

MSI doesn’t currently provide SSD software to support the Spatium M480, but the company is working on an upcoming update to MSI Center that will enable users to monitor drive health and performance. The company also states that it will also offer backup & restore functionality via an Actiphy software solution.

As mentioned, we are analyzing the heatsink variant. It comes with a heatsink in the packaging as a separately added piece, rather than pre-applied like on most SSDs that include heatsinks. It's a classy bronze-colored aluminum heatsink that for most use cases isn’t even needed, but is still an added benefit in terms of aesthetic appeal. So, if you end up needing the slim form factor without the heatsink installed, you can still use your motherboard’s included heatsink or throw it in your laptop as well.

A Closer Look

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MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Our Spatium M480 sample features a black PCB and comes in a 2280 double-sided form factor, meaning there are components on both sides of the PCB. This may limit installation ability in some mobile systems. For desktops however, you shouldn’t run into any issues with or without the heatsink installed in the primary M.2 slot. But you may not be able to install an add-in-card if you use a middle or secondary M.2 slot, depending on the motherboard. The heatsink’s height measures 20.40mm vs just 2.15mm of the plain M.2 PCB.

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MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

As mentioned earlier, the Spatium M480 is based on Phison’s PS5018-E18, and it comes paired with fast TLC flash to achieve its high-performance specs. The controller is an 8-channel design that features five total cores for data processing. It was also built on a 12nm process to keep down power consumption, although the drive is still fairly power-hungry.

The Phison E18 supports ASPM and ASPT to keep operating temperatures under control, and it even supports L1.2 for low power consumption when idle in mobile devices. It also places the LBA mapping table onto some DDR4 DRAM; our 2TB sample leverages two 8Gb SK hynix DRAM chips, one on each side of the PCB for the task.

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MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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MSI Spatium M480

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

As for the fast flash powering the Spatium M480, 32 dies of Micron’s 512Gb 96L TLC spread across eight NAND packages make up the memory array. Each package interfaces with the controller at speeds of 1,200 MTps, which is a bit lower than the controller’s full potential, but still fast enough to keep up with most competitors and other Phison E18-based competition. 

  • Sleepy_Hollowed
    It's an OK SSD if found for that price, but this may be me talking from the scalping going on.

    It would do OK for gaming and home user loads, but definitively not a caching solution if you do lots of big transfers.

    For those enterprise SSDs are probably a lot better, especially for photographers that do lots of random sustained IO.

    I'm a big amused at the size of heatsinks these days though, although I appreciate them, especially in cramped cases.
    Reply