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Mushkin Gamma M.2 NVMe SSD Review: Fast, Cool and Affordable

A high-end value

Mushkin Gamma M.2 NVMe SSD
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

Mushkin’s Gamma is a fast PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD NVMe that undercuts the best in price, while providing solid performance and hardware encryption support for those who need the added data defense.

For

  • + Competitive performance
  • + AES 256-bit encryption
  • + 5-year warranty and high endurance ratings
  • + Doesn’t thermal throttle under most workloads

Against

  • - Lacks supporting software

Mushkin has launched a few new Greek-inspired SSDs as of late, including the Alpha, Delta, and Gamma. Today, we are looking at the best of these, which somewhat counterintuitively is the Mushkin Gamma. Powered by Phison’s E18 NVMe SSD controller, Mushkin’s Gamma can deliver speeds of over 7GBps and is priced a bit less than that of similar SSDs, making it a fairly good value for those on the hunt for fast storage. 

We’ve known Mushkin to be a fan of Silicon Motion controllers over the years, releasing affordable SATA SSDs to bleeding-edge NVMe drives, capable of multi-gigabyte speeds. However, since our last review of a Mushkin SSD, the company has jumped ship from Silicon Motion and is now working with Phison to develop its latest SSDs. Why switch to another SSD controller manufacturer when Silicon Motion’s controllers treated Mushkin so well? The answer is simple: performance capability and availability. 

Unlike Silicon Motion, Phison is in a much better position in the eyes of most SSD vendors these days, offering not only PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD controllers, but also a high availability of much faster PCIe 4.0 x4 ones. On the other hand, Silicon Motion is facing tougher times due to issues getting its next-gen SM2264 PCIe 4.0 SSD controller into production. While the design work is done, the controller is still not available for companies to integrate into their next-gen SSDs.  

Thus, when Mushkin went on the look for a vendor to power its next-generation PCIe 4.0 SSD, Phison was the obvious choice. After seeing Phison’s PS5018-E18 offer up blisteringly fast performance, Mushkin was sold, and seemingly just like that, the Gamma was born. Mushkin’s Gamma isn’t a very fancy SSD, nor does it come with a heatsink or value-add software, but what it does have is solid PCIe Gen4 performance at a low cost within its market segment.

Specifications

Product1TB2TB4TB
Pricing $188.99 $378.99 N/A
Capacity (User / Raw)1000GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB4000GB / 4096GB
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 Read7,150 MBps7,175 MBps7,200 MBps
Sequential Write5,600 MBps6,800 MBps6,890 MBps
Random Read360,000 IOPS640,000 IOPS660,000 IOPS
Random Write645,000 IOPS630,000 IOPS1,250,000 IOPS
SecurityAES 256-bit encryption AES 256-bit encryption AES 256-bit encryption 
Endurance (TBW)700 TB1,400 TB3,000 TB
Part NumberGAMMA 1TB - MKNSSDGA1TB-D8MKNSSDGA2TB-D8MKNSSDGA4TB-D8
Warranty5-Years5-Years5-Years

Currently, the Mushkin Gamma comes in just two capacities: 1TB and 2TB, but a 4TB model is planned. Priced a few dollars below most of its competition at $188.99 for the 1TB capacity and $378.99 for the 2TB capacity, the Gamma is a value in its market segment, but it still carries a premium price tag compared to slower PCIe Gen3 devices. Muskin rates the Gamma to deliver sequential performance figures of up to 7,200/6,890 MBps read/write and deliver up to 660,000 / 1,250,000 random read/write IOPS.  

Due in part to Phison’s fourth-generation LDPC ECC, Mushkin backs the Gamma with respectable endurance ratings of up to 700 TBW at 1TB, 1,400 TBW at 2TB, and 3,000 TBW at 4TB, all within a five-year warranty. The Gamma supports AES 256-bit hardware encryption, enabling this SSD to deliver not only responsive performance but also data security in case of theft when activated.

A Closer Look

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Mushkin Gamma M.2 NVMe SSD

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Mushkin Gamma M.2 NVMe SSD

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Mushkin Gamma M.2 NVMe SSD

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Mushkin’s Gamma is one of the few Phison PS5018-E18-powered SSDs to come without a heatsink preinstalled, but based on most of our testing, it’s not needed. And, even without one, the Gamma looks fairly cool with its red-and-black design and black PCB. Our 2TB Mushkin Gamma comes in an M.2 2280 double-sided form factor, packed with components.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Phison’s PS5018-E18 is a popular controller that we have covered extensively in recent months. With an 8-channel, penta-core architecture built on a 12nm process, it is a flash-managing powerhouse. It eats up workloads and spits them out, especially when paired with the fastest flash in the industry.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Unfortunately, the Mushkin Gamma doesn’t come with the fastest flash we’ve tested yet. Instead, it comes with Micron’s B27B 96L TLC. Still, this flash is fast enough to keep up with some of the best depending on the workload, with eight NAND flash packages onboard. Each of the Mushkin Gamma’s NAND flash packages contains four 512Gb dies, interfacing with the controller at speeds of 1,200 MTps. Also, there are two DRAM ICs on our 2TB sample, both manufactured by SK hynix, operating at 1,600MHz, and measuring 8Gb in density. 

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