My guess is that you have not heard of “MYDIGITALSSD” and this is about to change. They were established in late 2007 to provide quality based flash products to the market. Thier entire goal is to bring bigger name brands without the big name price. If any of you understand generic branding in grocery stores, this is the same concept. This company wants to bring you the latest tech at an affordable price. Thier Bullet Proof line is backed by their 100% guarantee satisfaction or your money back.
Today, We will be looking at the latest NVMe drives they have to offer. I am going to be going over their 480GB m.2 NVMe SSD and putting two of them in RAID 0. Let’s see if the best bang for your buck approach can yield you the same performance as the big name brands do.
The specifications are as follows:
Why should I care about NVMe?
As with everything in the computer world It’s constantly changing and the technology that comes with it. The storage industry has become affordable in the SSD market but is trending towards NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) as a replacement. NVMe SSDs are the enthusiast topic of interest right now. What NVMe does is it allows you to bypass the SATA standard altogether.
Traditional SATA has been limited to MB/s and NVMe allows you to reach in the range of GB/s! NVMe takes advantage of your PCIe lanes instead of the SATA interface which can be a bottleneck compared to PCIe and the advantages NVMe brings to the table. Modern motherboards and Intel CPUs take advantage of having the PCIe lanes tied directly to the CPU. This can be great for taking advantage of those m.2 drives that are available on most z97 boards and above.
The typical style of NVME drives you will see are in the m.2 variant or a PCIe card similar to a GPU. NVMe doesn’t require a full x16 slot or the bandwidth from it and is closer to the bandwidth of an x4 slot. Please keep in mind on some older motherboards to make sure you check your manual because certain slots can disable other ones due to bandwidth limitations.
Intel’s latest z270 platform offers full NVMe support over m.2 and has more than enough bandwidth through either Skylake or Kaby lake CPUs. X99 as an enthusiasts platform is also another great choice for NVMe drive support. Be on the look out for Intel’s latest technology called Intel Optane technology. This is similar to NVMe with additional performance improvements. AMD with its new Ryzen CPUs and new enthusiasts motherboards also has additional support for NVMe drives.
Why Use RAID?
RAID ( redundant array of independent disks) is a storage technology that can combine multiple physical disks for either performance, redundancy, or both. RAID 0 also known as disk striping, is a technology that breaks up a file and spreads the data across all the disks in the RAID group. This is not the best RAID for anyone who cares about their data but it is for pure performance. Mostly gamers and enthusiasts will appreciate the improvements you can get using RAID 0 especially on something like NVMe which is already fast. RAID 0 on a pair of NVMe drives will offer you the fastest and best performance you can see to date.
The drives come in a standard packaging. I do like that they cut right to the chase and show expected performance numbers on the front. On the back fo the packaging they go over the benefits of NVMe and list the sku and drive size of your product.
The accessories include:
- BPX 480 GB NVMe m.2 SSD
- Screw set for m.2 mounting
MyDigitalSSD gives you the including mounting screws and a screwdriver, which is a nice touch. This is the first I’ve seen an m.2 product include the tools required for mounting. Most will have the screws but the screwdriver is a nice touch.
MyDigital m.2 SSD drives are using the industry leading NVMe interface. Thier slogan is “Say Hello to GB/s”. They are using their Bullet Proof eXpress branding and it empowers gamers, enthusiasts, and overclockers with the ability push their high-end systems even further. With lower latency than SATA and AHCI, NVMe delivers a more responsive environment and has become the industries leading storage solution for enthusiasts.
As described earlier this drives uses PCIe Gen 3 x4. The four lanes of PCIe 3.0 maximize your speeds and ability for the throughput and low latency required for this drive. It’s important to note that some z97 motherboards do NOT have gen 3 slots and while the drive will work fine, it will not have the fastest advertised speeds as expected. Also be cautious and check your motherboard manual because using your m.2 slots may disable certain motherboard slots, especially the x4 slots that are required for the drives bandwidth.
“MyDigitalSSD BPX drives can be used as a boot device in a variety of systems with a free PCIe 2.0/3.0 M.2 socket, including Z97 / X99 / Z170 based motherboards, modern notebooks, and small form factor PC’s like the Intel® NUC.”
- Phison E7 (PS5007-E7) Controller
- 2D MLC with 4-plane High-performance NAND
- NVM Express® 1.2 Interface
- PCI Express® Gen 3 x4
- Small and Easy-to-install M.2 Form Factor
- End-to-End Data Path Protection
- AES-256 Encryption
- Power Loss Protection using Intelligent Cache Management
- Low Power Mode Supports L1.2
- Built-in Voltage Detector for Power Failure Protection
- Built-in Voltage Regulators GPIO pins and Built-in UART
- Hardware ECC (BCH) up to 120bit/2KB
- Built-in Static and Dynamic Wear Leveling
- SMART, TRIM, and RAID Support
- Smart ECC™ – RAID ECC Protection
- Windows & OSX Support
- 5 Year Limited Warranty
- Unmatched price for performance – up to 2.6/1.3GB/s sequential read/write
- Outperforms SATA SSDs transfer speeds by over 4X
- MyDigitalSSD’s fastest gaming SSD that noticeably reduces load times
- Provides a more immersive user experience for increased productivity
- Optimized register interface and command set lowers latency
- Fast application launch and file loading
- Exceptional workload efficiency
- Ideal for intensive workloads such as Ultra HD (4K) video creation, CAD, data analysis, and engineering simulations
This 480GB NVMe drive features the powerful PHISON E7 controller. This controller is marketed for NAND manufacturers who want maximum data flow. This controller has excellent thermal conditions and boasts to be the first NVMe controller designed for performance applications using 8-cahnnels and a 64 CE NAND flash interface. You can expect 300,000 IOPS random read and 200,000 IOPS random write. The PS5007-E7 offers direct communication to the host, DRAM, and NAND.
This Phison controller is paired with Toshiba Flash Forward 15nm 2d MLC flash. MLC is what I call the middle ground of Flash storage as it’s not as bad as TLC and it’s not the best which is SLC. MLC holds higher bits per cell vs TLC and can sustain a higher read and writes. This drive is paired with 4 128GB NAND packages; two on the front and two on the back. The front of the drive is where the E7 controller lives and has direct access to the 512 MB of NANYA DDR3 1600 DRAM cache.
MLC NAND is capable of storing more than a single bit of information, You can read more about it here. SSDs consist of SLC, MLC, and TLC. SLC is considered the best due to the state of being in a single cell on or off. This reduces the possibility of errors and has the longest life span. If you’re interested more in the different types check this out. TLC is (Tripple Level Cell) and does triple the number of bits. This is where SSDs became more affordable because TLC offers more storage for less but has a much higher error rate and last a lot less read/write cycles. This is ideal for consumers and not industrial.
RAID 0 Setup
Installing an m.2 Drive couldn’t be easier. It’s actually harder to screw in than it is to insert the drive. On my motherboard, I have two m.2 slots dedicated for these type of drives. Please do refer to your motherboard manual because it’s important to note bios differences, settings, and bandwidth allocation for NVMe drives. I have seen some slots disable other PCIe slots you may be using, especially the x4 slots required for these drives. These drives over gen 3 will use the full available bandwidth of an x4 PCIe slot.
After installing your NVMe drives you need to make sure the BIOS recognizes each drive. This is crucial for setting up RAID and to make sure you don’t have any faulty hardware.
You should consult your motherboard manual on how to enter your BIOS, for my particular board hitting delete enters the BIOS screen and this is typically the default key for most motherboards. You can see above each BPX drive is recognized under “Storage Configuration”.
Your next step of configuring your RAID volume is to make sure you switch from AHCI to RAID and in my motherboards case, it’s called Intel RST. Quick side note, most people will want to be lazy here and just enable RAID. If you already have established over the years all your software and games, switching to RAID will NOT work automatically. If you were running an SSD or using AHCI before you installed your new NVMe drives it won’t work.
There are ways by editing the registry you can enable RAID but it’s not worth it. Just do a clean install of your operating system so everything gets configured correctly and you won’t run into any errors or performance issues. If you try booting Windows once you enabled RAID from a previously configured AHCI drive it simply will crash and won’t work.
Once you have RAID enabled, a new section showed up in my BIOS under “Advanced” and its labeled “Intel(R) rapid Storage Technology”. In here you will be able to create your style fo RAID and combine your drives. For this tutorial, we will be making a RAID 0 (Stripe) volume for pure performance. Combining my drives leaves me 894.3GB as one volume.
In order to install your operating system, you will need a special driver so during installation it can be visible. I will be installing Windows 10 x64 Anniversary Edition. I could either download the RAID drivers or use the “Easy RAID Installer”. I will be using the “Easy RAID Installer” for this tutorial. Check your motherboard manufacturer site if you need RAID drivers. Windows 10 has native support for NVME and will work out of the box when not using a RAID volume.
For the easy mode to work on my motherboard I did need a DVD drive to make this option work because it copies the drivers from the included disk with my motherboard and puts them on a USB device. Once I had the correct drivers I inserted my USB Windows 10 setup drive to begin the installation. I just used a USB flash drive I had around which worked perfectly for the RAID drivers.
During Windows setup, you will be asked to insert any necessary drivers for Windows setup and this is where you are going to need to use those RAID drivers from the USB disk you created earlier. You can tell your Windows setup to look for the drivers on that disk and they will show up as the RAID Controller drivers. Once selected you can sideload the drivers into your Windows setup so the RAID Volume can be visible. If you don’t load the RAID drivers properly Windows setup won’t see your RAID volume.
Once the RAID driver gets loaded with the setup, you can now install windows to your RAID volume. Just hit next and wait fro the setup to finish.
Once Windows is finished setting up, I now had successfully installed Windows 10×64 on my RAID volume. We can expect some very serious extreme performance numbers.
Testing can differ slightly from system to system. I am going to test the BPX RAID 0 volume using ATTO Disk Benchmark , and the AS SSD benchmark. I will be testing this NVMe drive vs the Toshiba RD400 NVMe , the Samsung 950 PRO, ZOTAC Sonix, and an SSD drive. By doing this, we can see any difference by controller choices, or by driver level variances. The SSD will be able to show how much of an advantage NVMe is over tradition SATA.
Another treat I have is my FLIR ONE. By using this thermal imagery I can show you how hot these m.2 NVMe drives get and why there have been some issues with overheating like here. This tool is fantastic because it will allow tech enthusiasts and reviewers to show visual results for thermal testing. It is a next generation thermal camera that works with iOS and Android devices. If you want to buy one look here.
My test bench is as follows:
- ViewSonic XG2703-GS Monitor
- Case- Corsair 88r mATX Case and Test Bench
- Motherboard- ASRock z270m Extreme 4
- CPU: Intel Core I7 6700K
- Network Card- Netgear AC 1200 USB
- Cooler- Cooler Master Master Liquid 240
- Memory- Avexir DDR4 3000 MHz
- Video Card: Nvidia GTX 1060
- Storage- Toshiba OCZ VX500GB SSD / Toshiba OCZ RD 400 256 GB NVMe/ Samsung 950 Pro 512 GB NVMe / ZOTAC Sonix 480 GB NVMe / MyDigital SSD BPX 480 GB NVMe RAID 0 Drives (Boot)
- Power Supply- Thermaltake PRO RGB 850W
- OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
- Headphones- Creative H7
I also want to point out I did not have all these drives plugged in at the same time and these were all tested independently. This was necessary due to bandwidth limitations currently with NVMe and I did not want any bottlenecks.
You can see the white spots and orange are where most of the heat is gathering. Looking above the memory controller portion closest to the m.2 slot is where the majority of heat is generated. I can see though from thermal testing that NVMe drives can produce enough heat and if not properly cared for can throttle and loose performance.
Some manufacturers include heatsinks but not as many as you would think. You can actually buy thermal covers for your driver similar to this one here. At 42.5 (°C) I’m not too concerned with an open air test bench but it is something to watch out for. This could be a problem depending on m.2placementt for added heat to your system.
Booting Windows on this the RAID 0 volume is just insane. It only took about 8 seconds to get into Windows 10×64 fully loaded. This is a bit faster than regular SSDs and is the fastest I have seen a Windows machine boot to date!
I went ahead and converted the scores to MB/s so you could see a clearer picture of performance across the different drives. I also took the highest recorded Read / Write speed and that is what is displayed by each drive. You can see the BPX drives in RAID 0 definitely, have an advantage as expected and are the clear winner. The ZOTAC Sonix does come close though which also uses a Phison controller. The SSD is where as expected as well which should be around 500 – 550 MB/s.
AS SSD shows some real RAID improvements being almost doubled in performance. AS SSD is my favorite benchmark because it offers quick accurate results. You can see controller level variances here and a how much RAID 0 can add to your performance levels.
I wanted to test loading times for games, and also test the AS SSD copy benchmark for a performance overview of the BPX drives. This should be a clear indication of what you can expect for game load times and copying, extracting, or doing drive intensive tasks.
I loaded DOOM onto the RAID volume and the loading times were dramatic compared to a standard SSD. It only took about 6 seconds to load DOOM compared to 35 seconds on an AHCI SSD.
These BPX drives definitely did not disappoint, especially being value oriented compared to other NVMe solutions. Value is of course, up for interpretation. NVMe drives are still very expensive being enthusiasts-oriented and a new technology. Price is going to be a major factor when considering NVMe.
I found very little wrong with these drives and they behave as any other NVMe drive would. With NVMe you will get outrageous speeds but it comes with a major price tag. However, most people will look for affordability. SSDs are cheaper, and still, deliver outstanding performance per dollar. Currently, there has been a shortage of NAND across all drives and has increased all prices a bit. I highly recommend these drives and definitely recommend RAID if you can afford it. You will need at least two drives but the performance is acceptable to the cost of another drive. If you don’t mind the premium price tag you can buy the BPX drive right now from Amazon for $209.99 each. (MyDigitalSSD BPX 80mm (2280) M.2 PCI Express 3.0 x4 (PCIe Gen3 x4) NVMe MLC SSD (480GB))