MSI SPATIUM M480 and M470 M.2 NVMe Gen 4x4 SSD Review


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MSI Spatium M480 M.2 NVMe Gen4x4 SSD
MSI Spatium M480 M.2 NVMe Gen4x4 SSD

MSI first announced intentions to enter the SSD market way back in January at the CES 2021 event. After a lengthy global microchip shortage, that intention has finally become a reality. MSI was kind enough to send two models to Overclockers.com for review, the Spatium M480 and M470. The M480, MSI’s flagship SSD, is a 2 TB model sporting an included aluminum finned heatsink, while the M470 is a 1 TB model without a heatsink. It should also be mentioned that there is a third model that is not represented in this review and that is the M370. The M370 is MSI’s budget-conscious, entry-level SSD. With that out of the way, we’ll take a look at the two faster-performing drives and see how they stack up compared to the other drives tested.

MSI SPATIUM M480 and M470
MSI SPATIUM M480 and M470

Specifications and Features

All Spatium SSD models use the M.2 2280 form factor and are fitted with the “M” key. Dimensionally, they measure 22 mm wide x 80 mm long x 2.15 mm tall (not counting the heatsink). The M480 features an optional aluminum “stacked fin” heatsink while the M470 is a bare drive.

Both drives utilize PCIe Gen4 x4 bandwidth, however, the M480 uses NVMe 1.4 while the M470 uses NVMe 1.3.

The M480 employs the latest Phison E18 controller rated up to 7000 MB/s for sequential reads and sequential write speeds of up to 6800 MB/s. The M470 is fitted with Phison’s E16 controller and features respectable sequential read and write speeds of up to 5000 MB/s and 4400 MB/s.

For storage capacity, MSI opted for the increasingly popular 3D NAND stacked flash memory. This allows for maximum storage capacity in the smallest physical space. Both drives have available capacities of up to 2 TB.

Longevity in SSD’s is measured in Terabytes written (TBW) and mean time between failure (MTBF). The M480 has a maximum TBW of up to 1400 with an MTBF of up to 1.6 million hours. If that’s not impressive enough the M470 has a TBW of up to 3300 and an MTBF of 1.7 million hours.

 

Here’s a list of the specifications provided by MSI.

MSI SPATIUM M480 & M470 Specifications
Model M480 M470
Capacity / Model Number 500 GB, 1 TB, & 2 TB 1 TB & 2 TB
Heat Sink Material / Color Aluminum / Black & Gold
Form Factor M.2 2280
Interface PCIe Gen4x4 with NVMe 1.4 PCIe Gen4x4 with NVMe 1.3
Compatibility PCIe Gen4 / Gen3 / Gen2 / Gen1
Flash 3D NAND
Controller Phison E18 Phison E16
DRAM Cache Buffer DDR4 512 MB, 1 GB, & 2 GB DDR4 1 GB & 2 GB
Dimensions (L x W x H) 80.0 x 22.0 x 2.15 (mm)
Sequential Read (Max MB/s) 6500, 7000, & 7000 5000
Sequential Write (Max MB/s) 2850, 5500, 6800 4400
Random Read 4KB (Max IOPS) 170,000, 350,000, & 650,000 600,000
Random Write 4KB (Max IOPS) 600,000, 700,000, & 700,000 600,000
Idle Power PS3 (MW) 10, 14, & 22 20 & 25
Low Power L1.2 (MW) 3 2
Operating Temperature 0°C ~ +70°C
Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) 1,600,000 hours 1,700,000 hours
Endurance (TBW) 350, 700, & 1400 1600 & 3300
Warranty 5 Year Limited
Pricing 2TB with Heatsink $$449.99
2 TB without Heatsink $439.99
1 TB with Heatsink $$229.99
1 TB without Heatsink $219.99
500 GB (Not available in the US)
2 TB $319.99
1 TB $179.99
Product Download Page MSI Spatium M480 MSI Spatium M470

Advanced Features

Below is a list of advanced features with the Spatium M480 and M470.

MSI SPATIUM M480 and M470 Features
TRIM

TRIM

Keeps your SSD performing its best.

SMART

S.M.A.R.T.

(Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology)

A monitoring system for storage drives that gathers data on the health of the drive and reports it to the user.

LDPC ECC

LDPC ECC

(Low-Density Parity Check) ECC Algorithm

Significantly improves the reliability of SSDs.

End 2 End Data Protection

End To End Data Path Protection

A method that ensures the data integrity on every single step from the moment the data enters the SSD from the host until it leaves.

AES256 Encryption

AES256 Data Encryption

One of the most secure symmetric data encryption algorithms available.

Packaging

MSI packages its Spatium series drives in attractive black and gold boxes. At the front of each, the model number is boldly displayed along with an image of the drive, its capacity, and rated sequential read speed. The back of the package lists additional information such as warranty time, drive type, and a multilingual table of contents. The faster M480 receives a heavy-duty cardboard cigar-style box lined with foam padding to completely secure its cargo in transit while the M470 receives a more traditional packaging with a plastic clamshell. Both of these packaging styles are more than adequate to protect the contents from all but the worst shipping calamities.

MSI SPATIUM M480 and M470
MSI SPATIUM M480 and M470

Package Rear
Package Rear

M480 Packaging
M480 Packaging

M470 Packaging
M470 Packaging

The MSI Spatium M480 and M470 Drives

With the drives removed from the containers, we find the familiar M.2 2280 format. The key slot on the connector designates these drives with the M key and will work with any modern motherboard that features an M or M+B M.2 slot. The paper stickers covering the controller, DRAM, and TLC 3D NAND chips do not need to be removed when installing into a motherboard and are designed to allow the transfer of heat. In fact, removing the stickers voids MSI’s generous 5-year warranty.

M480 Front
M480 Front

M480 Rear
M480 Rear

M470 Front
M470 Front

M470 Rear
M470 Rear

Internal Components

Since these are review samples we removed the front and rear stickers to reveal the internal components. Starting with the M480 we see the Phison E18 controller paired with two SKHynix DDR4 DRAM modules, one mounted to the front, the other at the rear. Finally, there are a total of eight 256 GB TLC 3D NAND chips, four per side, for a total of two Terabytes.

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Moving to the M470, we spy the Phison E16 controller, Phison’s flagship controller prior to the E18, and is highly capable at PCIe Gen4x4 speeds. Located near the controller are the two SKHynix DDR4 Dram modules, one mounted on either side.  For NAND, the M470 is fitted with four 256 GB TLC 3D NAND chips, two per side, for a total of one Terabyte.

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M480 Heatsink

The Phison E18 controller generates a lot of heat so MSI was wise to offer an optional hefty aluminum heatsink with the M480. There are two halves to this heatsink to aid in cooling the entire SSD, something motherboard heatsinks generally fail to do. The top portion features seven fins along with an MSI Dragon and Shield emblem. The bottom portion is stamped aluminum sheet metal. Both halves are equipped with heat-sensitive thermal tape to ensure both sides of the M480 are cooled. Once assembled, the total height is 21 mm at its highest point. Worth noting, with the heatsink attached to the drive, you will not be able to fit most video cards above it. You would be forced to use your motherboards’ M.2 cooling solution.

M480 Heatsink
M480 Heatsink

M480 with Heatsink
M480 with Heatsink

Testing Method and Test System

MSI lists the performance specs on the datasheets, but this is generally an approximation of what a typical user can expect, not real-life results. To compare the actual speeds against the rated speeds, we will use a series of benchmark programs to evaluate the relative performance. As usual, between each major benchmark phase, the drive will be sanitized using the motherboard’s bios and formatted to NTFS with default settings under Windows 10. This is the standard procedure we follow at Overclockers.com and these results can be compared with any other drives we have reviewed, so long as they were tested on a similar testing rig. All tests are performed with the MSI M480 or M470 installed in the top M.2 slot to utilize the direct CPU interface for the best results. Also, in order to achieve these results be sure to verify your motherboard is PCIe Gen 4 compliant. While all NVMe drives are backward compatible, when used with older PCIe generations their speed will be compromised.

Below are the tests we run with a brief description.

  • Crystal Disk Mark v 7.0.0 x64 – Run at Default Settings (5 Passes)
  • AS SSD v 2.0.7316 – Run at Default Settings
  • ATTO v 3.05 – Run at Default Settings except for the QD Set to 10
  • Thermal Testing – 5 passes back-to-back of Crystal Disk Mark.
  • DiskBench v2.7.0.1 – Use predefined 120 GB transfer file
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Benchmark – Run at Default Settings
  • Anvil Storage Utility Benchmark v 1.1.0 – Default Settings
Testing System
Motherboard ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming X
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
CPU Cooler be quiet! Dark Rock 4
Memory G.SKILL Trident Z RGB 16 GB (2×8) 3200MHz CL16-18-18-38
OS SSD Crucial P1 NVMe PCIe 2280 M.2 SSD 1 TB
Power Supply be quiet! Pure Power 11 500 W
Graphics Card Gigabyte RTX 2070 Gaming OC 8 GB

Benchmark Results

CrystalDiskMark

Crystal Disk Mark-Read
Crystal Disk Mark-Read
Crystal Disk Mark-Write
Crystal Disk Mark-Write

First, we need to confirm that this drive performs according to the specs reported by the manufacturer. We start with Crystal Disk Mark as this is one of the more popular benchmarks for determining a drive’s read and write speeds over a variety of scenarios. The Spatium M480 and M470 drives both exceed MSI’s rated speeds of 7000/6800 and 5000/4400 sequential read and write.

AS SSD

AS SSD-READ
AS SSD-READ
AS SSD-WRITE
AS SSD-WRITE

The AS SSD benchmark works in a very similar fashion as Crytal Disk Mark and is used to verify our previous results. As you can see the results are very similar with the M480 leading the pack overall, followed by the Adata XPG Gammix S70, and the M470 coming in at third.

ATTO

ATTO-READ
ATTO-READ
ATTO-WRITE
ATTO-WRITE

The ATTO benchmark utilizes a file size spectrum to gauge a drive’s ability based on the file’s relative size. These results show the M480 dominating the write spectrum from 64K and up but getting edged out by the XPG Gammix S70 in the read portion. The M470 is able to keep up with the Silicon Power US70 in the write benchmark and is marginally slower during the read portion.

Thermal Testing

Occasionally, while using software, discrepancies have been noticed. Using a digital probe taped to the heatsink as close to the controller as possible provides the most accurate results. For this portion, we used an AMPROBE TMD-52 digital thermometer with a K-Type thermal probe. Due to the M480’s included heatsink taping the probe to the top wasn’t a viable option, however, we were able to place the probe on the side of the controller making direct contact with it. While this was a sketchy setup being that the probe’s exposed tip is bare metal located “inside” the SSD assembly. Great care was taken not to move anything during testing to prevent any catastrophic failures. With a sigh of relief, we were successful. Since MSI sells the M480 without the heatsink as well, we also tested it without the heatsink.

Thermal Results
Thermal Results

M480 Thermal
M480 Thermal

M470 Thermal
M470 Thermal

Both drives performed flawlessly during all the testing without thermal throttling and are well within the designed thermal parameters. The heatsink seems to reduce the temperatures at both idle and load by about 4-5°C. We were a bit surprised at the lower temperatures of the M480 without the heatsink but attribute it to the relatively short duration of these benchmarks. Under extremely long file transfer durations one should expect slightly higher temperatures. These results are impressive nonetheless.

DiskBench

Up to this point, all the benchmarks used provided a synthetic look at how these drives perform. Now to test them in real-world applications. DiskBench is a great tool for determining actual file transfer time. We used a 120 GB file composed of random data and specified that it be moved from the primary (OS) drive to the test drive with the total transfer time recorded.

DiskBench
DiskBench

The total transfer time for the M480 and M470 are nearly identical putting up phenomenal times of 57.43 and 57.76 seconds.

Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Game Load Test

Square Enix added scene loading metrics to the Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers benchmark. The program renders simulated 3D game scenes and evaluates the overall system performance. One of the aspects of this benchmark is that it records the time it takes to load each scene if the game is launched from the SSD drive in question. This gives us an indication of how game performance (load time) can be affected by the drive’s speed.

Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV

Much like the DiskBench results, we’re seeing the MSI drives perform like the premiere drives that they are. This test needs to be taken with a grain of salt though. While these drives do beat out all the competitors in every load scene, the difference is really unnoticeable in real-time. A two-second overall speed reduction looks impressive, but when split across all five scenes, the difference is only around a half-second for each scene. Even the venerable Samsung 970 EVO, a PCIe Gen3 drive, puts up comparable results.

Anvil Storage Utility

Anvil’s storage utility is closely related to Crystal Disk Mark or AS SSD with the exception that it produces a performance score for comparison rather than an actual speed. It’s also a great utility for providing partition and volume information.

Anvil Results
Anvil Results

The Anvil Utility results are quite telling giving the Spatium M480 a large lead over all the other drives followed by the XPG Gammix S70. The Spatium M470 and Silicon Power US70 come in third with nearly identical numbers.

Conclusion

MSI decided to make an appearance in the SSD market and they came to the ballpark swinging for the fences. The Spatium series NVMe drives provide a full range of performance levels from entry-level, high performance, and extreme performance. The build quality is top-notch as you would expect from a manufacturer like MSI. The components they chose are hands down the best available, and the benchmark results reflect this. If you’re looking for an M.2 NVMe that doesn’t compromise then there is a Spatium drive that will fit your needs and budget. Generally, this is where we list the pros and cons, but there really aren’t any cons for this series. Just know that if you use the included heatsink, you won’t be able to install a GPU directly above it. It would be nice if MSI offered the heatsink sold separately. This would allow someone to mount it to an M470 if they chose, but the M470 performed just fine without it so the extra cooling would simply be for peace of mind.

The MSI Spatium M480 2 TB model that we reviewed retails on Amazon for $444.99 with the heatsink or $439.99 without.  The 1 TB version has an MSRP of $229.99 and $219.99 depending on if you want the heatsink. While it is difficult to justify pricing as high as the M480, we believe this is a reasonable price point. As with any bleeding-edge technology you have to expect to pay top dollar for the top-performing component. We believe the Spatium M480 currently represents that bleeding edge and the data we’ve charted above supports that statement. Worth noting is there are less expensive and performant drives available such as the Samsung 980 Pro ($369.99) and the Sabrent Rocket for $359.98. Now, these drives have been in the market longer and the price has dropped/on sale, but they are available right now for this price. If you are considering the M470, the 2 TB model has a listed MSRP of $319.99 and the 1 TB is listed for $179.99 at Amazon. At this price point, the M470 will be more appealing to the average consumer. In fact, the M470 has a matching MSPR to its closest competitor, the Silicon Power US70, placing its pricing right on target.

Whether you are a gamer, content creator, or other power user, MSI has put together a competitive line-up of fast NVMe SSDs at a reasonable price point. Therefore, the MSI Spatium M480 and M470 easily receive the Overclockers.com stamp of approval.

Overclockers Approved
Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

 

-John Nester (Blaylock)

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