Patriot Hellfire M.2 NVMe SSD Review

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Phison continues to work on the PS5007-E7, but I think everyone is tired of SSDs released in stages. "Here is this product, in a few months we will do something better," is becoming a tired refrain.

Unfortunately, firmware updates have been the norm since flash came to the mainstream. Some firmware improvements are subtle and improve performance, while others have fixed stability issues. In some cases, our SSDs were time bombs that would explode, taking data with it, and we needed a firmware fix to stop the clock (thanks, Crucial M4 SSD). Phison's approach is a little different, but just as annoying.

The Patriot Hellfire M.2 is a good NVMe SSD, and I have no doubt will it sell at an attractive price. But right now the Hellfire M.2 is a lot like the Zotac Sonix. There is no way anyone would have willingly signed off on the notebook battery life performance. The issue apparently slipped through a crack somewhere and early buyers will either stumble upon it or not even realize there is an issue. In a few years, the drive may come out of a desktop and move into a new notebook, where it will provide sub-par battery life.

Patriot may be able to fix the issue with a firmware update, but that doesn't mean we will see the firmware soon. Zotac hasn't released a firmware update for the Sonix even though we now know a faster firmware, that delivers a better user experience, is already available.

Low-QD random performance plays a significant role in the way our computers manipulate data. The Hellfire M.2 delivers just over 11,000 random read IOPS at QD1, which is only slightly faster than a Samsung 850 EVO. The performance represents a big leap over the Phison S10 products, but we expected the E7 to compete with the Samsung 950 Pro around the 14,000 IOPS mark.

At the time of writing, the Samsung 950 Pro retails for $317.99 at Newegg, which is a few dollars less than the MSRP of the Hellfire M.2 480GB. The 950 Pro is superior in every way, and it even comes with an industry-leading software package that includes a disk cloning utility. The Patriot Hellfire M.2 comes without any accessories, management or cloning software, so the drive has both a performance disadvantage and a software disadvantage. Patriot will need to undercut 950 Pro pricing, and perhaps even the new Intel 600p NVMe SSD (review coming soon), by a decent amount to be taken seriously.

The Hellfire M.2 480GB may end up being a great value if its pricing falls in line with the performance and accessory package. We hope to see a $270 price point after the "new" tax subsides. At that price, we would consider the Hellfire M.2 for desktop use.

Notebook users should avoid the Hellfire M.2 at this time; it consumes more power than a hard disk drive in our Lenovo Y700-17. We reached out to Phison, and the company is investigating the issue. Phison runs the same MobileMark 2014.5 test and indicates that it does not have the same issue. I would still steer clear of using the Hellfire in a notebook until a solution becomes available.

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Chris Ramseyer
Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.
  • Ergosum
    Prices are so stubbornly high for PCIe storage! Is it an issue of not wanting to kill the SATA3 golden goose? Given the enclosure requirements of a SATA drive, you'd think that production costs would be significantly lower.

    Changing the subject a little, I've been very surprised at the dearth of reviews on the Intel 600p (at the time of this posting there is only one, from pcper). I hope we can get this review, and maybe an update to the best for your money article for storage. Thanks!
  • joex444
    > The Hellfire M.2 480GB matches the Samsung 950 Pro 512GB at queue depth 2 and then runs away from all but the Intel SSD 750 400GB in sequential mixed workloads with 80-percent reads.

    Intel -> OCZ, since it's the green line not the black one. Or the chart is incorrect.
  • Brian_R170
    "The Hellfire M.2 joins the Intel 600p as a new wave of low-cost NVMe SSDs make their way to market."

    The "low-cost" 512GB Hellfire M.2 MSRP is $319.99 compared to the "expensivie" 512GB Samsung 950 Pro MSRP of $349. Is an 8.6% difference in MSRP really considered some other low-cost tier or is this comment purely based on wishful thinking that the device will have a $270 price some time in the future?

    The Intel 600p doesn't seem like any type of performance king, but at least there's a significant cost savings compared to a $318 street price of the 950 Pro. I bought the 512GB for $190 the day it came out and I saw it today on Newegg marketplace for $174.
  • razor512
    It is pretty much price gouging, as the production cost for these NVMe devices is lower than that of SATA.
  • CRamseyer
    Let me give you guys a few updates. First let's cover Hellfire. Patriot gets a new firmware around the 16th. The firmware takes this series up to 2.1. We tested with 2.0. I've seen the numbers from 2.1 and it looks really good. We are going to save the Hellfire 240GB for the update and retest the 480GB drive in this review. YOu may ask why we didn't do that to start with. The answer is we didn't know when we started the review or scheduled it.

    The Intel 600p is in our lab. We have both the 256GB and 512GB. I'm finished with testing and the review will be on the site before the end of the month.

    Prior to the Intel going live we will publish the Samsung PM961 as a preview of the 960 EVO. Samsung brings so much to the table that we really need to see what the 960 EVO will lay down before judging any of the other low-cost NVMe products.

    Back to the Hellfire and pricing. MSRPs are made to be broken! There is no way the Hellfire can sustain it's current pricing with the Intel 600p and 960 EVO that may come next month.

    Look for a 512GB class NVMe showdown early next week with all of the drives you want to see compared.
  • josejones
    SATA is obsolete now - get it off my new Z270 motherboard as I don't want to keep paying for old obsolete crap I don't want and will never use. SATA is now like VGA and that took like 10 years to get rid of.

    Also, NVMe 1.2 is bottom of the barrel - we want nothing less than NVMe 1.4.
  • PaulAlcorn
    18566622 said:
    Prices are so stubbornly high for PCIe storage! Is it an issue of not wanting to kill the SATA3 golden goose? Given the enclosure requirements of a SATA drive, you'd think that production costs would be significantly lower.

    Good point. SATA is the moneymaker, volume is higher. The latest Trendfocus report pegs SATA at 78 percent of the client SSD market.
  • CRamseyer
    It is also a declining 78%. We all know SATA will not go away anytime soon, though.
  • ozonefree
    I hate and loath the name "Hellfire." That's an air-to-ground missile used to blow things up. Better they should have named it the Titantic or Charge of the Light Brigade...
  • CRamseyer
    That was a perfect setup comment to rub Paul.

    The Army just announced a change to the Hellfire name. It is now called a Note 7.