PNY released the XLR SC3030 in Europe months before the North American release. The series quickly gained attention for its low price points and high performance. One year after the company first displayed the model (Computex 2018), the XLR8 CS3030 is ready to take on America.
When flash is cheap, high-performance SSDs disrupt the rest of the market. These drives simply encroach on price points held by products designed for mainstream and even entry-level markets. The cost difference is so small that in many cases, just a few dollars separates an acceptable mainstream SSD (often a DRAMless model) and a drive with a significant performance advantage.
This is where we are right now, and there are true bargains to have if you know what to look for. The PNY XLR8 CS3030 is a series you should keep an eye out for when available. Availability is nonexistent at the time of writing, at least in the US from drives built for this market. An Amazon seller shows stock in the US, but these drives shipped over from Europe and carry a premium. PNY will release this series in the US after the official US launch at Computex in just a few days.
The XLR8 CS3030 is a Phison PS5012-E12 drive with DRAM and Toshiba 64L BiCS FLASH. In year's past, we could point to a Phison-based drive and say a Phison is a Phison, is a Phison, but that is no longer the case. The companies working with Phison have more control of the firmware and features, and we're starting to see more customization with the E12 controller.
PNY lists the XLR8 CS3030 series in four capacities ranging from 250GB to 2TB. The sequential read is the same across the series, 3,500 MB/s. The sequential write speeds vary by capacity. The 2TB and 1TB share a 3,000 MB/s rating, but that drops off to 2,000 MB/s for the 500GB and 1,050 MB/s for the 250GB model.
PNY doesn't list random performance. I find this odd for a drive literally called XLR8, but we will leave this alone for now.
Pricing, Warranty, and Endurance
We don't have strong pricing details of these drives in the open market right now in North America. PNY lists the MSRP's on the official product page, and you can order there right now. We usually find lower pricing on Amazon and Newegg after an SSD has been on the market for thirty days. The 1TB XLR8 CS3030 carries an MSRP of $159.99, an already strong price point for a premium NVMe SSD.
The series comes with an equally strong 5-year limited warranty. Endurance figures start at 380 TBW for the 250GB model and quickly grow to 3,115 TBW for the 2TB model. The 2TB and 1TB drive endurance is quite a bit above average with both firmly in the petabyte range. The 500GB model is 800 TBW, very close to the petabyte range.
A Closer Look
Our two sample drives arrived in bulk packaging and not the retail box. We did find an image of the retail package online, and it looks good.
The drives use a standard Phison E12 reference design layout with DDR3 for the 250GB and 500GB models and DDR4 for the 1TB and 2TB models. PNY added a black sticker with subtle graphics on one side and drive detail on the other.
These are double-sided SSDs so there are a handful of ultra-slim notebooks they will not work in (but very few). Instead, PNY chose to use the other side of the circuit board to spread the flash into two additional packages. This spreads the components out to relieve the concentration of heat and has some performance benefits.