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Seagate FireCuda 520 SSD Review: Big Performance in an Expensive Package

Seagate's latest drive is fast, but expensive.

Seagate FireCuda 520 SSD
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

Seagate’s FireCuda is the company’s fastest consumer SSD yet, but it doesn't offer as much value as other PCIe 4.0 SSDs.

For

  • Solid performance
  • Large write cache
  • Power efficient
  • Class-leading endurance
  • Aesthetics

Against

  • Costly
  • No heatsink

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.

Specifications

Seagate FireCuda 520 500GBSeagate FireCuda 520 1TBSeagate FireCuda 520 2TB
Pricing$124.99$249.99$429.99
Capacity (User / Raw)500G / 512GB1000GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface / ProtocolPCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.3
ControllerPhison PS5016-E16Phison PS5016-E16Phison PS5016-E16
DRAMDDR4DDR4DDR4
MemoryToshiba 96L TLCToshiba 96L TLCToshiba 96L TLC
Sequential Read5,000 MBps5,000 MBps5,000 MBps
Sequential Write2,500 MBps4,400 MBps4,400 MBps
Random Read2,500 MBps760,000 IOPS750,000 IOPS
Random Write630,000 IOPS700,000 IOPS700,000 IOPS
EncryptionN/AN/AN/A
Endurance (TBW)850 TB1,800 TB3,600 TB
Part NumberZP500GM3A002ZP1000GM3A002ZP2000GM3A002
Warranty5-Years5-Years5-Years

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

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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

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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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  • maestro0428
    Wow! Intel Optane still kicks some ass. Too bad is still overpriced too.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    "Phison’s stock 11.2 firmware"

    I own the Corsair MP600 drive and just updated to firmware 11.3 since this drive uses the same controller that firmware update maybe available aswell.

    I saw a slight boost in performance going from 11.1 to 11.3
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Why is this drive being positioned as a "gaming" drive? Gaming systems don't typically need anywhere near that level of write endurance, and as far as game load times are concerned, this drive appears to perform more or less identical to the Intel 660p, a drive that costs half much for a given capacity.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    cryoburner said:
    Why is this drive being positioned as a "gaming" drive? Gaming systems don't typically need anywhere near that level of write endurance, and as far as game load times are concerned, this drive appears to perform more or less identical to the Intel 660p, a drive that costs half much for a given capacity.

    Its just marketing and those people tend not to be technical in nature. Slap gaming and RGB on anythings these days and the kids go nuts. However going SSD to NVME to PCIe 4 NVME will do next to nothing for game loading times because majority of games are not limited by I/O.

    As for the Intel 660p I would only choose that drive if you are on a limited budget. Its constantly at the bottom of the charts in this review and doesn't perform identical.

    Also the 660p uses QLC memory and this drive is using 3D TLC memory.


    Intel 660p 1TB PCIe 3.0 x4

    Memory

    QLC
    MTBF

    1,600,000 hours
    Max Sequential Read

    1,800MB/s
    Max Sequential Write

    1,800MB/s
    4K Random Read

    150K
    4K Random Write

    220K
    vs
    Seagate FireCuda 520 1TB PCIe 4.0 x4

    Memory

    3D TLC
    MTBF

    1,800,000 hours
    Max Sequential Read

    5,000 MB/s
    Max Sequential Write

    4,400 MB/s
    4K Random Read

    760K
    4K Random Write

    700 K
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    Where is Samsung ? nothing yet?
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    I'm surprised there isn't a bigger gap between PCIe 3 and 4. Seeing that 970 Pro keep up with this Firecuda 520 and MP600 makes me think that the new gen 4 drives are not yet ready.
    Reply