Introduction & Drive Details
There is a new mantra in the world of solid-state storage, "Capacity is King." We are entering a new era where consumers want more and more fast NVMe storage. Whether it be gamers that need more capacity because new games require up to 250GB for a single title, video editing, or whatever the case may be, there is a data explosion taking place.
These days, most consumers/prosumers will not settle for cheap capacious mechanical storage. Consumers want fast storage for everything because, well, why wouldn't they? Until recently, high capacity fast NVMe storage has been cost-prohibitive for most. But now things are changing due in large part to 4-bit flash (QLC) becoming mainstream.
QLC brings with it advantages and disadvantages compared with older 3-bit (TLC) technology. The big advantage QLC brings to the table can be summed up in one word, "density." With more bits per cell, QLC flash does two things. First, it enables higher capacities than ever before. Secondly, and going hand-in-hand with the first is lower cost per bit of storage.
Density is the advantage, but there are two main disadvantages inherent to 4-bit (QLC) flash. Speed is, as we see it, the biggest disadvantage inherent to QLC flash. QLC is slower because it takes longer to program (higher latency) than lower bit count flash. It typically takes more power to program as well. Then there is endurance. Endurance is measured as how many times a NAND cell can be programmed/erased (P/E) before it wears out and can no longer hold a charge.
As it stands today, the best TLC flash can do about 5,000 P/E cycles, the best QLC flash, about 1,000 P/E cycles, meaning that the endurance of current QLC (4-bit) flash is about 5x lower than TLC or 3-bit flash. However, there is a silver lining that can offset both inherent problems to a large degree. The solution? SLC, or 1-bit per cell, caching.
SLC caching is the art of using a portion of an SSD's flash array as a caching tier for the drives larger flash array. Using this technique, flash with two or more bits per cell can be programmed as 1-bit per cell (SLC), which is dramatically faster than programming more than one bit per cell. This technique also reduces write amplification and, therefore, also increases endurance.
There are limitations to SLC caching that can also be summarized in a single word called capacity. In the case of 4-bit flash, only 25% of the drive's current free space can be used as an SLC caching tier. This means that as the drive fills up, there is less SLC caching capacity available, which can cause programming speeds to fall off dramatically.
What we can take away from these facts about QLC flash is that to make it acceptable for typical consumer use case scenarios takes a fine balance of hardware and firmware to pull it off, and this is what the drive we have on our test bench today is all about.
Corsair's newest SSD, the MP400, is a well-refined drive based on QLC flash technology. Corsair has found the right balance of hardware and firmware to deliver a blazing fast (for the most part) high-density M.2 NVMe SSD that is more cost-effective than ever before. The MP400 is available in capacities that range from 1TB up to a massive 8TB.
Capacity is King, and 2TB is the sweet spot, for now, so let's dig in and see what Corsair's newest 2TB SSD can do for you.
The MP400 series offers sequential performance that is getting close to maxing out its PCIe Gen3 interface. That looks good, and its stated endurance is plenty for most consumers over a 5-year warranty period. Take note: Read performance increases as capacity increases.
The MP400 is black-themed, as are all Corsair NVMe SSDs. The 2TB model we have is almost a single-sided design save for a single DRAM package.
Jon's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair Hero VIII Wi-Fi (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: ARCTIC Liquid Freezer II 280 (buy from Amazon)
- Memory: ADATA XPG Z1 DDR4 3800MHz 16GB (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: Sapphire Radeon RX Vega 64 (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair AX1000 (buy from Amazon)
- Case: InWin X-Frame
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (buy from Amazon)
Corsair SSD Toolbox
Corsair offers a free SSD Toolbox to manage the SSDs they sell. With Corsair's full-featured SSD Toolbox, you can monitor SSD health, clone your system, update firmware, and perform a secure erase.
You can download it here.
Synthetic Benchmarks: CDM & Anvils
Our sequential speeds effectively match factory ratings despite our more demanding user state. Random performance at QD1 is well above average, which is nice to see.
Anvil's Storage Utilities
We look for two things most of all when testing with Anvil's Storage Utilities. We want to see a total read score of 6K or higher. The MP400 gets close, but no cigar. The other thing we are looking for is a minimum of 15K random read IOPS at QD1. Here we get our wish granted.
Additionally, we note the MP400's total score as it is the best we've seen from a Gen3/QLC SSD. Impressive.
Max random IOPS results are exactly what we expect to see from this hardware configuration. Lower than factory specs for read, and higher than factory specs for write.
Synthetic Benchmarks: AS SSD & ATTO
Our focus is read scoring, and Corsair's MP400 delivers robust performance that is better than many TLC powered SSDs.
We are looking for full speed at 128K transfers. It's a lot to ask for, and we rarely see it in the consumer space. The MP400 delivers when writing sequential data and falls just short when serving data to the host.
Additionally, we have begun to look for a consistent pattern when testing QLC SSDs, and here the MP400 gives us exactly what we want to see. Excellent.
Real-World Testing: Transfer Rates & Gaming
Massive transfer and not easy to handle. However, Corsair's 2TB MP400 cranks out an impressive performance. Nice.
As we've seen so far, the MP400 can deliver the goods quite well when serving data to the host.
Game Level Loading
Game level loading is well within what we consider an acceptable range, however, we would like to see some improvement from Phison-powered SSDs here.
Real-World Testing: PCMark 10 Storage Tests
PCMark 10 Storage Test is the most advanced and most accurate real-world consumer storage test ever made. There are four different tests you can choose from; we run two of them.
The Full System Drive Benchmark and the Quick System Drive Benchmark. The Full System Drive Benchmark writes 204GB of data over the duration of the test. The Quick System Drive Benchmark writes 23GB of data over the duration of the test. These tests directly correlate with user experience. Of the two tests, we feel that the Quick System Drive Test most accurately replicates a typical user experience.
PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark
As has been the case for almost all QLC based SSDs we've tested to date, heavy workloads can be tough to handle. We are okay with that if our test subject can do well with more typical consumer workloads as represented by our next test.
PCMark 10 Quick System Drive Benchmark
Here the MP400 delivers good news for consumers. When running typical consumer workloads, Corsair's QLC NVMe SSD delivers performance that is among the best we've seen from any SSD, regardless of bit per cell count. Nice.
Capacity is King, and Corsair has gotten the memo with their MP400 Series. They don't even offer a capacity lower than 1TB, which is great to see, as today's data explosion practically renders lesser capacities useless for most consumers/enthusiasts need for fast, affordable NVMe storage.
Corsair's MP400 Series is an example of QLC done right. For the most part, the consumer will not experience the drag of direct to QLC write performance because it is well refined and can keep things moving along quite nicely. Even the drive's endurance falls into an acceptable range for the vast majority of users.
Our findings summarize that Corsair's MP400 in capacities of 2TB or higher are among the fastest Gen3 powered SSDs ever made (with the rare exception of extended write-intensive workloads that exceed SLC caching capacity). Capacity is King, and that's what Corsair's MP400 Series affordably brings to the table, which is why the 2TB MP400 is worthy of our recommendation and one of our highest awards.
- 5-Year Warranty
- Not Single Sided
- Heavy Workloads
The Bottom Line
Affordable, fast, and high capacity NVMe storage is what Corsair's MP400 is all about.