As a reviewer, I'm not satisfied with testing a product and reporting on that single item. I've always found the practice to be shortsighted, and it detracts from why readers come to reviews sites in the first place.
I get frustrated when I shop for other products outside of the computer industry. For instance, I'm a big home theater fan. Now that my office sounds like an airport due to servers, switches and other components used to bring you our reviews, I spend a lot of time writing in the only noise-isolated room in the house. So far, it's been nearly impossible to find direct comparisons between home theater receivers. The lack of reviews with direct comparisons isn't isolated to just one market, but the reason why we rarely see these types of head-to-head reviews is the same--most companies don't like to have their products under such heavy magnification.
As a storage industry insider, I often hear and learn about many of the products that are coming to market before their release. When the ground started to vibrate with rumblings of a new entry-level NVMe class, I reached out to several companies for details of proposed and eventual retail product information. Intel was the first to break ground in this new category, but by the time we had products in for testing, we knew others were coming. We also knew nearly every detail surrounding the pending products.
Samsung's 960 series, which features both a prosumer Pro and a mainstream-focused EVO model, was the worst kept secret in the industry. The 960 EVO acts as a clamp on the mainstream due to Samsung's superior TLC V-NAND technology, but it limits the scope of entry-level pricing. Other aspects such as warranty, endurance and expected performance help to determine what the true value-focused products can get away with.
The Intel 600p set a very low bar for pricing, endurance, and performance. After we had published our review, Intel increased the endurance specification for all 600p capacities larger than the 128GB model. The 600p offers slightly more performance than premium SATA-based products, but it is well off the pace of other NVMe products.
The Patriot Hellfire M.2 suffers from the same problem that SSD manufacturers have had to contend with for several products generations; Samsung. Even though Samsung has not released it yet, the 960 EVO is the mainstream product that users will flock to. The 960 EVO pricing starts out at $129 for the 250GB model, then moves to $249 for the 500GB. The Hellfire M.2 currently retails for more than the EVO in both capacities at Amazon ($159.99 for the 240GB and $279.99 for the 480GB). We can write off the Hellfire M.2 after examining this price comparison.
While writing the Patriot Hellfire M.2, we received concrete information on the MyDigitalSSD BPX. MyDigitalSSD chose a combination of components designed to maximize performance-per-dollar. The company had planned this product before Intel released the 600p, and the company hoped to deliver the first entry-level NVMe SSD. The 600p took some of the thunder away, and we suspect it even lowered the price a little. The 600p didn’t affect MyDigitalSSD's decision to attack a new market segment, and the 600p may have actually made it a better product.
At this time, I don't have any more details on emerging products. We're waiting to see what Adata and Kingston bring to market, though. Adata announced the SX8000 NVMe SSD with the SMI SM2260 controller, which is the same controller Intel used in the 600p (and Micron planned to use with the canceled Ballistix by Micron TX3). We suspect the SX8000 will come to market with a mainstream to premium price. It will be one of, if not the first consumer SSD to ship with IMFT 3D MLC flash. Kingston has been quiet about consumer NVMe outside of trade shows where the company shows off both exciting consumer and enterprise SSDs using Phison PS5007-E7 controllers.
The MyDigitalSSD BPX SSD is the current entry-level NVMe SSD market leader. It matches the Intel 600p's pricing while delivering nearly the same performance as the higher-priced Patriot Hellfire M.2. The gap between the two Phison E7 products closes in the smaller 256GB-class capacity, but the real story is how close all of the MLC-based 256GB class drives are regardless of price. We found more performance variation in the larger 512GB-class products, but the MyDigitalSSD, with its aggressive pricing, still delivered more performance-per-dollar than any other product in our test pool.
MyDigitalSSD could have easily released this series with a two- or three-year warranty without remorse. Instead, the company chose to show confidence in the product and went with a premium 5-year warranty that rivals the best products on the market. The drive is not limited by a restrictive endurance rating, either; the 480GB model we tested sports a massive 1.4 PB (1,400 TB) endurance rating. That is 200 terabytes more than the premium Samsung 960 Pro 2TB NVMe SSD we just tested!
The BPX series is a good product, and it may be the NVMe SSD many people have waited for. Despite all of its positive traits, we're not sure if supply can meet demand. MyDigitalSSD is stocking up for a rush of orders, but during a NAND shortage companies without guaranteed NAND supply often see orders reduced or cut altogether. The shortage may become an issue, but I don't think we will see wait times move out to the six-month queue that we currently see with the Samsung SM961.
On the performance side, the MyDigitalSSD BPX is not the drive of choice for a notebook replacement. The drive runs cool and doesn't have any real-world thermal throttling issues, but the Phison E7 controller delivers less than desirable results on battery power in our Lenovo Y700-17. Phison doesn't see the same results while testing with Acer notebooks, and the company plans to debug on an identical Lenovo system to investigate the issue. If Phison and MyDigitalSSD can fix the notebook power issues we've seen, and keep a steady supply for shoppers, this drive may be the best overall NVMe SSD for consumers. It may even cut deep into Samsung's 960 EVO sales.