Are you a prosumer on the hunt for the fastest SSD you can throw into your shiny new X570 system? With capacities up to 2TB, performance figures of up to 5.0/4.4 GBps of read/write throughput, and class-leading endurance ratings, Seagate’s new FireCuda 520 SSD should be near the top of your list, but it doesn’t come cheap.
New PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 NVMe SSDs have hit the market, but the Seagate FireCuda 520 is unique. While most SSDs feature some sort of additional heatsink to keep them cool, Seagate opted to not include one in the FireCuda 520’s design. Instead, the company banks on the fact that those looking to purchase the 520 will have a motherboard with a built-in M.2 heatsink.
While this SSD lacks an additional component, this doesn’t save you any money. Actually, the FireCuda 520 is more expensive than the nearly-identical Corsair Force MP600, which has one of the beefiest heatsinks on the market and offers essentially the same performance. The FireCuda 520 hits the market in capacities of 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB and its premium MSRP ranges from $0.21 to $0.25 per GB.
Seagate also modified the firmware slightly, too, but the modifications have more to do with improving security behind the scenes rather than improving performance. The base firmware seems to perform similarly to the other Phison E16-based NVMe SSDs we have tested with Phison’s stock 11.2 firmware.
|Seagate FireCuda 520 500GB||Seagate FireCuda 520 1TB||Seagate FireCuda 520 2TB|
|Capacity (User / Raw)||500G / 512GB||1000GB / 1024GB||2000GB / 2048GB|
|Form Factor||M.2 2280||M.2 2280||M.2 2280|
|Interface / Protocol||PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3||PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3||PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3|
|Controller||Phison PS5016-E16||Phison PS5016-E16||Phison PS5016-E16|
|Memory||Toshiba 96L TLC||Toshiba 96L TLC||Toshiba 96L TLC|
|Sequential Read||5,000 MBps||5,000 MBps||5,000 MBps|
|Sequential Write||2,500 MBps||4,400 MBps||4,400 MBps|
|Random Read||2,500 MBps||760,000 IOPS||750,000 IOPS|
|Random Write||630,000 IOPS||700,000 IOPS||700,000 IOPS|
|Endurance (TBW)||850 TB||1,800 TB||3,600 TB|
Seagate rated the FireCuda 520 to deliver sequential performance results of up to 5.0/4.4 GBps of read/write throughput and up to 760,000/700,000 random read/write IOPS. Like most consumer drives, the FireCuda 520 features a pseudo-SLC write cache to absorb inbound writes, so these ratings are peak values. As with most drives, write performance degrades as you fill the drive.
The company also rates the FireCuda 520 for some of the highest endurance on the market thanks to Phison’s fourth-gen Low-Density Parity-Check (LDPC) error correction code. The 500GB model can withstand up to 850TB of writes within its five-year warranty, the 1TB model up to 1,800TB, and the 2TB model absorbs up to 3,600TB.
Unlike the Corsair Force MP600, Seagate’s 520 doesn’t support AES 256-bit hardware encryption, but it does come with S.M.A.R.T. data reporting, support for Trim, and supports secure erase via the Format NVM command.
Software and Accessories
Seagate include a free SeaTools SSD software download with the drive. The software lets you monitor your drive’s health, update its firmware, and diagnose issues. There are even multiple color themes for those who like to customize their GUI.
You can also download and use the company’s DiscWizard cloning software, which is basically the company’s licensed version of Acronis True Image HD. With it, you can migrate your existing data to your new drive, including your OS, but advanced options are locked.
Furthermore, Seagate offers Rescue Data Recovery Services plans for purchase when you register your FireCuda drive. It costs $30 for two years of coverage, or $40 for three years.
A Closer Look
Seagate’s FireCuda 520 looks great. The drive comes in an M.2 2280 double-sided form factor, meaning that it has components on both sides of the PCB. The drive also has a black PCB so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. The black and orange design on the top is much better looking than a white sticker with black text. Instead, the company hid that sticker on the bottom of the drive.
The FireCuda 520 is powered by Phison’s high-performance E16 NVMe 1.3 controller, which is basically an E12 controller with some refinements and the PCIe 4.0 interface. This controller features a DRAM-based architecture, so it comes paired with DDR4 memory for FTL caching. It also utilizes Kioxia’s BiCS4 96-Layer TLC NAND flash in four packages (a total of 1TB sample on our sample). The FireCuda 520 comes in capacities of 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB, so it features a little more over-provisioning than SSDs with 512GB, 1024GB, and 2048GB capacities.
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