SATA SSDs are now so yesterday. Now NVMe SSDs are the new king of blazing fast storage devices. These SSDs utilizes PCIe buses for data transfer and are much faster in terms of speed and responsiveness compared to SATA3 SSD. And today, thanks to our friends over at XPG, we will be reviewing the XPG SX8000 NVMe Gen3x4 M.2 SSD.

M.2 is the new connectivity interface for these NVMe SSDs. The SX8000 is an M.2 2280 NVMe SSD. The numbers after the M.2 denotes the size of the device, which means the SX8000 is 22mm wide and 80mm long. These M.2 SSDs are connected to your motherboard directly via the M.2 ports, that is if your motherboard have any. Most of the latest motherboards have at least 2 M.2 slots. And if you’re still using an older motherboard but have PCIe 3.0 ports, then you can utilize these M.2 SSDs with the help of a PCIe extension card. The main benefits of moving over from SATA to PCIe lanes were in term of speed and form factor. Whereas SATA ports has a 600MB/s throughput cap, a single PCIe 3.0 can deliver speed up to 1GB/s per lane. The second benefit that these M.2 form factor SSDs have over the SATA connection is the absence of any wire for connectivity. Since they connect directly to your motherboard, the latency between data transfer is also low. One more thing about the SX8000 is that it’s a Gen3x4 M.2 SSD which means it utilizes 4x PCIe 3.0 lanes.

As far as the brand is concerned, XPG, short for Xtreme Performance Gear is a sub-brand by ADATA that pioneers in products geared towards gaming communities and eSports. Their catalog includes RAMs, SSD, Hard Drive Enclosure and Audio gears. ADATA has been in Pakistan for a long while now with a plethora of USB and external Hard Drive options available. It is just recently we saw XPG make a big move in the Pakistan market with their RAMs and SSDs and their sponsorship of a local eSports team by the name of Eximious eSports.

Specification:

Capacity 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB
Form Factor M.2 2280
NAND Flash 3D MLC
Controller SMI
Dimensions (L x W x H)  22 x 80 x 3.5mm
Weight 8g / 0.28oz
Interface PCIe Gen3x4
Performance(Max)read 2500MB/s, write 1100MB/s
Maximum 4K random read/write IOPS: up to 160K/140K
*Performance may vary based on SSD capacity, host hardware and software, operating system, and other system variables
Operating temperature 0°C – 70°C
Storage temperature -40°C – 85°C
Shock resistance 1500G/0.5ms
MTBF  2,000,000 hours
Warranty 5 years


Unboxing:

Here’s an unboxing video of the ADATA XPG SX8000 NVMe M.2 SSD, along with the XPG Storm M.2 RGB Heatsink. XPG sent us their SX8000 without a heatsink, because they also sent us their Storm M.2 RGB heatsink to use it with. You can check the review of XPG Storm M.2 RGB Heatsink by clicking here. In the international market, you’d find that the SX8000 SSD isn’t sold without a heatsink, rather it has a simple heatsink with XPG logo on it.

One the next page, you can find some close-up pictures of the SX8000.

Closer Look:

Here’s a close-up shot of the XPG SX8000 from the front. We have the information sticker on the right, then Nanya DRAM Cache buffer in middle and the Silicon motion 2260G controller in the left. Also, this is the side that will be visible in your system, just inverted.

Here’s a view of the back side of the SSD. Here you can see the 3D MLC NAND Flash memory that was hidden behind the sticker on the front. Then we have another NANYA DRAM Cache buffer here while the SM2260G space in somewhat empty.


On the Sticker, we have the XPG by ADATA mentioned. Then there’s the interface, model name, model number capacity and Serial number listed. Also, there are a few certifications, QR and a bar code here. And it also mentions that it’s made in China and warranty is void if removed. And at the end, you can see a curved cutout on the stick, that’s to hold it down with the motherboard via a screw.


Here’s a close up shot of the SM2260G controller. Also, at this end of the stick, we have some golden pins. This is the end that goes into your M.2 port on the motherboard.


Here’s a close up of the NANYA DRAM Cache buffer. Even though the SLC Caching and DRAM cache buffer are boasted about in the XPG’s advertising, I couldn’t find much details on the chip either on their website or on the web.


And here are the 3D MLC NAND Flash that are being used in the SX8000. There’s an ADATA logo on it. And there are about 4 NANDs on this 256GB stick so that means each NAND here has a storage capacity of 64GB.


Test Rig:
So we will be using the following test rig in our review:

CPU:Intel Core i5 8600K
Motherboard:Aorus Z370 Gaming 5
GPUNone. iGPU.
RAM:ADATA XPG Spectrix D40 3200MHz 16GB CL16
SSD:PNY Optima 120GB for primary OS
SSD1Apacer AS720 240GB
SSD2ADATA XPG SX8000 250GB
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM
PSU:Chieftec Nitro 1200W Bronze
Chassis:Antec P8
Cooling solution:Thermaltake Water 3.0 Ultimate 360mm AIO
Monitor:Gechic 1503H Portable Monitor
OS:Windows 10 Build 16299.248

 

Methodology:
Our methodology for the SX8000 is pretty simple. First of all, we have to initialize the SSD that can be easily done from the Disk Management or DiskPart tool. If you want to know how to initialize the SSD, read on to the next page, else you can skip it.

Once the SSD was initialized, we installed a copy of Windows 10 onto it so as to get some data onto the SSD and have a real-world performance number from our test. We then booted through our PNY SSD and ran our benchmarking tools onto the SX8000 SSD. There was another reason for installing windows 10 onto the SSD. And it was to get the Bootracer performance score.

Other then the synthetic benchmarks, we also ran a real world test on the XPG SX8000. This test includes a Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM HDD, Apacer AS720 240GB SSD and two sets of files. One set consisted of a mixture of small files with maximum size no more than 375MB. The total capacity of this set was 10.1GB with about 5109 files. The other set consisted of 6 files with size no less than 1.5GB. This set had a size of 10.5GB.

The test process included copying these files from the SX8000 to the Apacer AS720 SSD and Seagate Barracuda 1TB HDD, and then from the SSD and HDD to the M.2 SSD. The speed was monitored by eye while the time was monitor via a physical stop watch. The average speed was taken by dividing the folder size by time taken to copy the folder.

We monitored the thermal readings with the help of HWinfo64 S.M.A.R.T sensor. The software was set as a startup program so we could grab the minimum reading as soon as possible. Then the system was left ideal for the temperature to get normalized. The average and max reading at idle loads were taken 15 minutes after the system boot. While the Max temperature at load was taken by by running the ATTO Disk benchmark twice.

Our benchmarking suite includes CrystalDiskMark 6, AS SSD, and BootRacer.


Initializing the SSD:
If you don’t see the SSD in your My Computer window, then don’t be scared. Because there are a few things you need to do before you can use the SSD. To make it appear, you’ll need to first initialize the SSD.

And to do so, write Disk Management in your start menu and open it.

You will be asked to initialize the disk first. Select GPT and press OK. If you do not receive this popup, then make sure you’ve installed the SSD properly.

The Disk should appear at the bottom window as unallocated. In my case, it’s Disk 3, but that can differ from system to system.


Next, you’re going to right click on the disk and select New Simple Volume.


A pop-up window should open. From here, you can decide the size of the partition that you’re creating. With an SSD, I like to create a single partition with all the capacity available. So, click next once you’ve decided on the capacity.


From here, you can assign a letter to the drive. Press next when you’re done.


In the next screen, you can decide the file system type of the SSD. We generally use the NTFS file system for larger files. Also, you can label the partition from here. Click next once you’re done.


Once you click next on the previous screen, everything you needed to do prior to using the SSD is done. Here you’ll see all the information about the partition that you require.


Benchmarks:

The XPG SX8000 is rated at a max speed 2500MB/s read and 1100MB/s write. However, the type of benchmark isn’t mentioned for the aforementioned speed. So let’s see if we got any results near those numbers from our benchmarks.

And here is the first set of results from the CrystalDiskMark 6 benchmark. The SX8000 came out victorious, as expected, compared to the SATA SSD. The SATA SSD in our test is nearing it’s limit of max speed of 600MB/s cap, whereas the SX8000 is laughing at the SATA SSD while sitting at 4x the speed in terms of read and 2x the speed in write. The margin in the Sequential Q32T1 read test is too huge that is has pushed our other test results to the corner. The SX8000 didn’t take the lead by huge margin only in the sequential Q32T1 test, but there’s a good lead in the other tests as well. The closest our SATA SSD got in terms of speed to the SX8000 was in the 4KiB Q32T1 write test and 4KiB Q1T1 read/write test. In all other tests, the SX8000 wins by a huge margin.

In AS SSD, we once again see the SX8000 sitting at about 3x+ the SATA SSD speed in sequential test. And not only in sequential test, but the SX8000 also has a great lead over the AS720 in terms of score and 4K64Thread test. It’s only at 4K test that we see the SATA SSD keeping up with the SX8000. If you’re after over all score of these SSDs, then the AS720 scored 878 points whereas the M.2 SSD scores 1786 points. That’s double the SATA SSD score. As for the AS SSD Copy benchmark goes, we see a similar scenario, with SX8000 winning in all categories with very good results.

When it comes to the real world test of copying folders with small files from the M.2 SSD to  SSD and HDD and then back to the M.2 SSD, the drive has taken some huge dips, dropping as low as 0.017MB/s. The smaller files are where the drives takes a toll. And here we have about 200MB/s in transfer speed when it comes to SX8000 to AS720 and the other way around. And it’s maintaining a good speed when a Hard Drive is added to the mix. It only took about ~45 seconds to transfer the file among the SSDs and about ~100 seconds to do it with the hard drive.

And it’s at larger files where the drives shine as they’re easier to move. We are sitting at around 400MB/s in copy speed when we talk about the SSD to SSD transfer. While the hard drive transfer has also improved a little. There were no massive dips in the transfer, however, the max speed were just the initial spike in the transfer which normalized right after a few seconds into a smooth line. In terms of total time, we moved about 10 gigabyte of data in just ~25 seconds between the SSDs and ~76.5 seconds between the M.2 SSD and the hard drive. This result also shows that our M.2 SSD’s full potential is being capped by the other drives in the use.

Thanks to BootRacer, we have some numbers on the windows boot and desktop ready system time. And it seems like the SX8000 came out victorious once again, however the difference isn’t going to be very noticeable. But it still gives you that one second bragging rights among your friends.


Temperature:

Performance is all good, but what about operating condition? Well, without a heatsink, I simply cannot recommend the SX8000, or any M.2 SSD for the local environment. Our tests were done when the ambient temperature was 39C. And that’s not even the highest we have gone so far in the summer heat that’s yet to come. As mentioned in the unboxing section, XPG sent us their SX8000 M.2 SSD without a heatsink since they sent us their Storm M.2 RGB heatsink as well to use it with. The SX8000 is actually sold with a heatsink in the market, this is a special case in our situation. The results with and without the heatsink can be seen bellow and also, the following result can be taken as a general example for M.2 drives without the heatsink, which just isn’t really a good idea.

Once the system booted freshly, the SX8000 had a minimum temperature reading of 45C without the heatsink, however with Storm, we saw a drop of 10-degree Celsius in the minimum temperature. In a couple of minutes, the SX8000 was sitting at an average temperature of 59C on idle load without the heatsink. But with the Storm heatsink, we saw about 9-degree Celsius drop in the average temperature without load. The max it reached without the heatsink at no load was 62C. Whereas with the heatsink, there’s about 10C difference once again. And when we put some load onto the SSD with ATTO SSD Benchmark, the SSD reached a max temperature of 69C Without the heatsink. After the SSD reaches 70C, it will start to throttle the performance to prevent the SSD from getting burned or damaged. So even in such harsh condition, the SX8000 itself was able to perform at full speed without crossing that throttling barrier. And the XPG Storm dropped a few more degrees Celsius from the chart to make sure you don’t cross that barrier.

These are the results that we got from our test rig. Bear in mind that our test rig included a chassis with limited positive air suction, and the ambient temperature wasn’t really ideal for this testing. The readings may differ from system to system and, of course, from environment to environment. We wish that we could have tested the SX8000 with the heatsink that it’s sold with on the market right now as it would be interesting to see how much difference throwing a 20mm fan in the mix have. But we are glad that we had the XPG Storm to keep the temperatures under control.


Conclusion:

In our benchmarking results, it was clear that the XPG SX8000 outperforms the SATA3 SSD in many categories. And specially in the sequential data transfer where the M.2 drive reaches about 3 to 4 times the speed of SATA3 SSD. The performance gain is too much that including a hard disk drive in our synthetic benchmark would have been unfair.

We all can’t argue that the performance is there, but, is it worth upgrading to an M.2 SSD over SATA3 SSD? Let’s break it down this way. If you have a frequent need of transferring data off of your other drives and want it done as fast as possible, or if you’re running programs with massive source files, like for example video editing on 4K content, then an M.2 drive sure makes sense. Hell, there’s no SATA3 SSD that we’ll see coming close to the sequential read/write speed of the SX8000. And if you just want the fastest drive in the consumer market available currently, then a M.2 drive is what you want. But if you don’t really care about those 1-2 second delay in program/games load time or windows boot time and can wait a few more minutes for data transfer over the M.2, then you should stick with a SATA3 drive. As in simple terms, when in comes to Program/Games/Windows loading times, it’s only going to save you about 1-2 seconds. But if you want your data transfer to be done as fast as possible, or want your massive source files in other programs to load and manipulate as fast as possible, then an M.2 drive is what you’re looking for.

Coming back to the subject of today’s review, the SX8000, as visible in our benchmarking results, it has some outstanding performance in about all the benchmarks we’ve thrown at it. The temperature at max might be a little concerning, but the SSD was able to keep itself under 70C after which we would have started to see some performance drop. And knowing that the worst of the summer is yet to come, having a heatsink on the SSD would be a good decision. And if you want to take the heatsink up a notch, don’t forget to check out the XPG Storm as it doesn’t not only comes with a cooling fan, but also RGB LEDs. You can check the XPG Storm RGB Heatsink review here.

The XPG SX8000 with a basic heatsink is going for about $112.99 in the international market. That’s about one-third more of what a 250GB 2.5″ SSD would cost you, but that’s also about 3x the performance you’ll get over the SATA SSD. There’s a few cheaper options available in the M.2 market, but I cannot vouch for them since we haven’t tested them. Also, the difference between them and SX8000 is no more than 20$. So the price could have been more competitive.

So, in the end, I would like to conclude my review by saying, that those people, who are using a good quality SATA SSD, don’t really need to move on to M.2 SSD as of yet. But those people, who usually have to play around with large files, let’s say 4K video content or massive size images and vice versa and want the best performing drive currently available in the market, then the XPG SX8000 SSD comes recommended from us.

The XPG SX8000 M.2 SSD and Storm m.2 RGB heatsink are currently not available in Pakistan’s market. But XPG is in talks with their distributors and we should soon see the SX8000 and Storm m.2 heatsink available as a bundle within an expected price range of 19000-21000PKR. And with a dedicated cooling fan and RGB cover, the price point seems fair as 256GB M.2 SSD from other brands is locally available in the same price bracket but without those perks. Hence why XPG sent us their SX8000 with the Storm M.2 RGB heatsink.