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Mushkin Pilot-E M.2 NVMe SSD Review: Taking Flight

Our Verdict

With high-end components, Mushkin's latest high-end SSD can dish out and receive your data at impressive speeds, while keeping things secure with 256-bit AES encryption as well.

For

  • Solid performance
  • Efficient
  • Available in capacities up to 2TB
  • Large SLC write cache
  • Competitive endurance

Against

  • 3-year warranty
  • No software package

Mushkin’s Pilot-E takes flight

Mushkin’s top-tier M.2 NVMe SSD is finally available. Like the lower-end Pilot, we reviewed a few months back, Mushkin’s new Pilot-E brings some heat with it, not only because of its competitive pricing. This variant features an updated NVMe controller for even better performance and efficiency.

Mushkin Pilot-E M.2 NVME SSD (
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware))

Unlike the company’s Helix-L, an entry-level DRAMless SSD, the Pilot-E was built for speed. At the heart of Mushkin’s Pilot-E is one of the fastest NVMe controllers available, Silicon Motion’s SM2262EN. The SM2262EN features a DRAM-based architecture with eight NAND channels that link up to some of Micron’s 64-layer 3D TLC. Together, this combination is rated to hit some impressive speeds -- up to 3.5GBps read and 3.1GBps write.

It is actually very similar in design to both the Adata XPG SX8200 Pro and HP’s SSD EX950 overall. Our sample even features a black PCB, which improves the looks of the device dramatically over the base Pilot before it. But what helps to differentiate the Pilot-E from these two high-performance competitors as well as many other alternatives is the inclusion of hardware-based AES 256-bit encryption support. If you have sensitive data or just want to keep your files secure in case you lose your device, this feature will help keep it away from prying eyes.

Specifications

ProductMushkin Pilot-E 500GBMushkin Pilot-E 1TBMushkin Pilot-E 2TB
MSRP (U.S.)$71.99$138.99$299.99
Capacity (User / Raw)500GB / 512GB1000GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB
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 SM2262ENSMI SM2262ENSMI SM2262EN
DRAMDDR3DDR3DDR3
MemoryMicron 64-Layer TLCMicron 64-Layer TLCMicron 64-Layer TLC
Sequential Read3,500 MB/s3,500 MB/s3,500 MB/s
Sequential Write2,300 MB/s3,000 MB/s3,100 MB/s
Random Read344,000 IOPS331,000 IOPS339,000 IOPS
Random Write180,000 IOPS353,000 IOPS358,000 IOPS
EncryptionAES 256-bit SED / TCG Opal 2.0AES 256-bit SED / TCG Opal 2.0AES 256-bit SED / TCG Opal 2.0
Endurance350 TBW650 TBW1300 TBW
Part NumberMKNSSDPE500GB-D8MKNSSDPE1TB-D8MKNSSDPE2TB-D8
Warranty3-Years3-Years3-Years

The Pilot-E is available in capacities of 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB. Priced at $138.99, the 1TB is the sweet spot when looking to get the best price per GB. In terms of random performance, the Pilot-E is rated to deliver up to 344,000 read IOPS and 358,000 write IOPS, depending on the capacity.

Along with high performance, this SSD also offers competitive endurance figures. At 500GB, it's rated for up to 350TB written and up to 650TB at the 1TB capacity. But the 2TB capacity takes the cake as the most enduring device in the line-up with a rating of up to 1,300TB. Unfortunately, while endurance is high, Mushkin outfits the Pilot-E with a shorter than average 3-year warranty

Additionally, the Pilot-E is covered by M.E.D.S., Mushkin’s Enhanced Data-protection Suite. This is just marketing speech for some of the controller’s various management features, like end-to-end data path protection, LDPC error correction code, and an endurance-improving data-shaping algorithm. Additionally, the controller supports StaticDataRefresh to ensure data performance and integrity over time, as well as wear-leveling algorithms to help improve the NAND’s lifespan.

And there’s also S.M.A.R.T. data reporting, and NVMe Deallocate function support (NVMe equivalent of TRIM command), and support for the Format NVM / secure erase command to wipe the drive clean of any data.  

Software and Accessories

The Pilot-E lacks software support and any accessories, save for a Mushkin Enhanced sticker.

A Closer Look

Aesthetically, the Pilot-E is a step up from the Pilot it succeeds. Our 1TB sample comes in an M.2 2280 form factor with components on both sides of the black PCB, accented with a black and blue sticker over top. This SSD will blend in with more gaming systems than the Pilot ever could.

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The overall design is different from previous SN2262EN-based SSDs we reviewed. Rather than set close to the M.2 connector, the NVMe controller sits more centered on the PCB, with the DRAM lying between the two. As well, the NAND is arranged in a different layout on the PCB: Two NAND packages lay horizontal and two vertical.

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