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Mushkin Helix-L M.2 NVMe SSD Review: NVMe on a Budget

Low Price, Decent Perf

(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

Mushkin’s Helix-L is an entry-level NVMe drive that offers high-speed performance at a low price. While it doesn’t excel in prosumer workloads , it's a great bang-for-the-buck buy for budget gamers.

For

  • Competitive performance and pricing
  • Large write cache
  • Power-efficient
  • Black PCB

Against

  • Low prosumer/sustained performance
  • No Software package

Mushkin’s Helix-L is an entry-level SSD through and through. It’s pretty cheap, comes with a 3-year warranty, and it features a DRAMless controller architecture. Even so, it can still deliver a more-than-acceptable level of performance for gamers and mainstream users alike.

Mushkin’s Helix-L is marketed toward budget-conscious gamers with its DNA theme and pricing -- the 1TB model sells for just $107.  It's powered by Silicon Motion’s SM2263XT PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD controller, and our sample features Micron’s 64L TLC NAND flash. This combo lacks DRAM, but resourcefully utilizes Host Memory Buffer, a feature of the NVMe protocol to aid performance instead.

This feature uses a tiny 64MB portion of the host’s DRAM to cache the SSD’s FTL mapping table for better performance than without it. It’s a big improvement over non-HMB designs and can help deliver surprisingly good performance in various tasks.

Specifications

ProductHelix-L 250GBHelix-L 500GBHelix-L 1TB
Pricing$37.99$58.99$106.99
Capacity (User / Raw)250GB / 256GB500GB / 512GB1000GB / 1024GB
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface / ProtocolPCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 3.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3
ControllerSMI SM2263XTSMI SM2263XTSMI SM2263XT
DRAMHMBHMBHMB
MemoryMicron 64L TLCMicron 64L TLCMicron 64L TLC
Sequential Read2,010 MBps2,105 MBps2,110 MBps
Sequential Write1,250 MBps1,670 MBps1,700 MBps
Random Read200,000 IOPS240,000 IOPS240,000 IOPS
Random Write260,000 IOPS260,000 IOPS260,000 IOPS
EncryptionN/AN/AN/A
Endurance150 TBW300 TBW600 TBW
Part NumberMKNSSDHL250GB-D8MKNSSDHL500GB-D8MKNSSDHL1TB-D8
Warranty3-Years3-Years3-Years

Mushkin’s Helix-L is rated for speeds of up to 2.1 GBps read and 1.7 GBps write at the highest (1TB) capacity. The performance takes a slight hit when looking at the 250GB model though. That model is only rated to 2 GBps read and 1.25 GBps write. Still, that’s much higher than any SATA SSD. Random 4K performance is rated for up to 240,000 / 260,000 read / write IOPS. The 250GB model again is rated just slightly lower, at up to 200,000 IOPS read.

The warranty length is a rather standard at just 3-years, but the drive has endurance figures that match both the Samsung 970 EVO and WD Black SN750. As well, it comes with the standard support for TRIM (via NVM Deallocate), S.M.A.R.T. data reporting, secure erase via the Format NVM command.

Mushkin doesn’t provide the end-user an SSD Toolbox for support. But as nice as that feature is to have, it's not really a necessity. There is plenty of freeware that can cover mainstream cloning and monitoring needs. You do get a Mushkin Enhanced case sticker in the box, however.

A Closer Look

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The Mushkin Helix-L is an M.2 2280 form factor SSD that comes either a single- or double-sided, depending on your luck of the draw. Our sample was single-sided and utilizes Micron’s 64L TLC to deliver responsive performance.

Aesthetically, the Helix-L features a black PCB. The DNA sticker on top of the drive is more attractive than most we've seen on M.2 SSDs, but drives with heatsinks usually look better.

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