2020 was the year that PCIe Gen4 NVMe M.2 SSDs truly arrived on the scene, bringing with them blisteringly fast performance. Unsurprisingly they make up the best SSD drives we seen this year. The only rather large fly in the ointment with PCIe Gen 4 drives, is that you need to (at the time of writing) invest in an AMD platform (AMD X570, B550 or TRX40 based motherboards) to use them at full speed, as Intel’s Rocket Lake platform has yet to make an appearance.
#7 – Corsair Force MP600
An earlier adopter of the new technology was Corsair, with the MP600. The MP600 uses a combination of a Phison PS5016-E16 controller and BiCS4 96-layer 3D TLC NAND. As PCIe Gen 4 drives tend to run very warm when being pushed, Corsair have fitted the drive with a large chunky heatsink which is easily detached, handy if you want to use your motherboard’s M.2 cooling system, if it possesses such a thing.
See the full Corsair Force MP600 review HERE.
#6 – Seagate FireCuda 520
Seagate has been building up the FireCuda gaming line for a while, but the FIreCuda 520 gave them an instant seat on the top table of performance drives. Another drive to use the Phison E16 controller and BiCS4 96-layer 3D TLC NAND (don’t worry, it’s a common thread among the first generation of Gen 4 drives). The FireCuda 520 comes in three capacities (500GB, 1TB and 2TB) and is rated up to 5,000MB/s for Sequential reads and 4,400MB/s for writes.
See the full Seagate FireCuda 520 review HERE.
#5 – Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Zero Z440
Another Gen 4 drive came from a company you may not be familiar with – Teamgroup. The Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Zero Z440, might be a mouthful of a name it is a very good drive. Only available in 1TB and 2TB versions, the drive uses a Phison PS5016-E16 controller together with BiCS4 96-layer 3D TLC NAND and is rated up to 5,000MB/s for reads and 4,400MB/s for writes.
See the full Teamgroup T-Force Cardea Zero Z440 review HERE.
#4 – Patriot Viper VP4100
The Viper VP4100 was Patriot’s entry into the PCIe Gen4 SSD market segment. The drive uses, yep you’ve guessed it, a combination of a Phison E16 controller and BiCS4 96-layer 3D TLC NAND. Patriot fitted the drive with a very well designed and compact aluminium heatsink but you’ll have your work cut out trying to remove it so the drive can be used in conjunction with any motherboard M.2 cooling solution.
As you can see the one thing all the above drives have in common is they all use Phison PS5016-E16 controller, hardly surprising as it was the first and for quite some time the only PCIe Gen4 controller available. Towards the year’s end we got our hands on a drive using the next generation of Phison Gen 4 controller, the PS5018-E18, from Sabrent in the shape of the Rocket 4 Plus.
See the full Patriot Viper VP4100 review HERE.
#3 – Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus
The Rocket 4 Plus combines the PS5018-E18 controller with Micron 96-Layer 3D TLC NAND to very good effect. It comes with some very impressive Sequential performance ratings; up to 7,100MB/s for reads and up to 5,300MB/s for writes. Helping to keep this monster cool is a copper heat spreader sitting under the drive label.
So what of the manufactures who are in the very fortunate position of being able to call on in-house products for the essential triad of NAND, controller and cache, such as Samsung and WD, what did they bring to the Gen 4 table? Well, it wasn’t until much later in the year we saw the drives from these two tech giants. First up in Q3 was the drive most people were waiting for, Samsung’s first Gen 4 drive, the Samsung SSD980 PRO followed in Q4 by WD's Black SN850.
#2 – Samsung SSD 980 PRO
The SSD 980 PRO brought with it a new controller named Elpis and the latest 1xx layer V-NAND (Samsung didn’t disclose the layer count but an educated guess puts it around the 128-layer mark) a combination which gave the drive official Sequential read/write performance figures of up to 7,000MB/s and 5,000MB/s respectively for the flagship 1TB drive.
See the full Samsung SSD 980 PRO review HERE.
#1 – WD Black SN850
Coming somewhat out of left field, WD’s first Gen 4 drive, the Black SN850 took many people by surprise and it is certainly a drive that lives up to WD’s high-performance Black label standards and is the fastest Black drive to date. Powered by a WD second-generation G-2 controller, the SN850 uses 96-layer BiCS4 3D TLC NAND giving the drive a Sequential read rating of up to 7,000MB/s with writes up to 5,300MB/s for the 1TB drive.
See the full WD Black SN850 review HERE.
KitGuru says: Let us know what you think of our top PCIe 4.0 SSDs of 2020 – and we can expect many more to come in 2021!