Silicon Power US70 PCIe Gen 4x4 SSD Review

One of the aspects that makes AMD’s X570 platform great is the implementation of a fourth-generation M.2 storage interface. Today we’re looking at an NVMe drive from Silicon Power which has been specifically designed to harness the power of the PCIe Gen 4×4. Silicon Power recently introduced the US70 to retail markets which boasts sequential read and write up to 5,000 / 4,400 MB/s. We got our hands on this new drive so follow along as we evaluate its performance and see what makes it so special.

Specifications and Features

Founded in 2003 by data storage experts in the industry, Silicon Power is relatively new to the memory world. They’ve made a name for themselves by offering excellent products with a very strong price/performance ratio on DDR4, internal computer storage, and portable storage solutions. The new US70 NVMe drive is a high-end offering from the company that’s pushing hard performance numbers with competitive pricing per gigabyte.

Fast is an understatement. The US70 is nearly 10 times faster than traditional SATA III SSDs. The incredible speed is achieved primarily through the use of the Phison PS5016-E16-32 PCIe 4.0 controller. The PS5016-E16 series controller packs amazing speed capabilities and a host of features including compatibility for up to 8 TB of storage.

NAND flash memory has a finite number of read and write operations that can occur before the drive becomes unusable. This finite number is defined as the TBW value, or total bytes written. Silicon Power specifics an impressive TBW value for the US70. The 1 TB drive has a TBW value of 1,800 TB, with 3,600 TB for the 2 TB drive which is about par for the course.

Quick Features

  • Features wear leveling to equalize the wear of each NAND flash block, ensuring longer reliability and stability of the SSD
  • Built-in bad block management (BBM) mechanism detects and marks bad blocks in the NAND flash to avoid storage in those blocks and eliminate access errors
  • Includes over-provision (OP), which increases the SSD’s reserved space to improve performance and durability as well as to reduce NAND flash wear, therefore extending the lifespan of hard drives
  • Supports SLC Caching and DRAM Cache Buffer to improve sequential read/write and random read/write performance
  • Built-in E2E data protection for enhanced data transfer integrity
  • Engineered with low-density parity-check (LDPC) coding to ensure accuracy of data transmission and reliability of data access
  • Supports TRIM commands, enabling the SSD to efficiently manage reusable space as well as significantly reduce hard drive wear out
  • Features our proprietary S.M.A.R.T. software for operational monitoring at any time

Full specifications are in the table below:

Silicon Power US70 Specifications
Model US70
Capacity / Model Number 1 TB / SP01KGBP44US7005
2 TB / SP02KGBP44US7005
Heat Sink Material / Color  No Heat Sink
Form Factor M.2 2280
Weight 8 grams
Interface PCIe Gen4x4 with NVMe 1.3
Flash 3D NAND
Controller Phison PS5016-E16-32
DRAM Cache Buffer Hynix H5AN4G8NBJR
Dimensions 22.0 x 80.0 x 3.5 (mm)
Security AES 128/256 bit, SHA 160/256/512, RSA 2048
Sequential Read / Write (Max*) UIp to 5,000 / 4,400 MB/s
4KB Random IOPS Read / Write (Max*) Up to 750,000 / 750,000 IOPS
Operating Temperature 0°C ~ +70°C
Certifications CE, FCC, BSMI, Green dot, WEEE, RoHS, KCC
Shock Resistance 1500G / 0.5ms
MTBF 1,700,000 hours
Warranty 5 Years
Pricing 1 TB: $175.99
2 TB: $375.99
Product Download Page Silicon Power Software

Packaging/Product Tour

On the front, we have a high-quality image of the drive and the product branding info. On the backside, we get bombarded with info and details in multiple languages. Realistically the back of the box doesn’t provide much useful information. They could have used this space to tout the impressive performance specifications or highlight some of the Generation 4 features.

 

Inside the box, the drive is safely tucked away in a plastic insert. This appears to be a sturdy and effective way to package the drive. The packaging is fairly straightforward, but it doesn’t come across as cheap or inadequate. There are no product manuals or other accessories inside the box.

 

The US70 Drive

Out of the package, we get our first glimpse of the drive. There are IC’s on both sides with a sticker on top. The sticker is very thin and won’t be a problem should you choose to use the integrated motherboard heat sink or an aftermarket cooler.

There is no anti-tamper mechanism, but the sticker does indicate that the warranty will be voided if removed. With the sticker out of the way, we can get a better look at the hardware. There is one main controller, two DRAM cache ICs, and a total of four 3D NAND flash ICs. We knew what the controller was in theory, but here we get hard proof of its implementation. This is currently the only generation 4 NVMe controller available on the market today.

Software

The SP Toolbox from Silicon Power is designed to be the companion software for their solid-state drives. It provides useful information and tools to keep the drive running healthy and efficient.

In testing, we found that the software didn’t provide real-time temperature sensing. We needed to close the software and re-open it in order for the temperature to change. This proved fairly useless in practice so we would like to see Silicon Power update this software and fix the temperature sensor read. We confirmed that HWMonitor from CPUID provided real-time temperature readings for the drive.

 

Testing Method and Test System

We know what some of the performance specs are on paper, but how does it actually perform in real-world tests? To answer that we’re going to put both drives through the gamut of benchmark programs to evaluate the relative performance. In between each major benchmark phase, the drive will be sanitized from the motherboard bios and formatted to NTFS with default settings under Windows 10.

With a naked drive and no cooling at all, there was no thermal throttling observed, even running the benchmarks back-to-back to simulate a worst-case scenario. All benchmark results and stress testing with done in an open-air test bench with no fans or direct airflow.

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
Test System Components
Motherboard ASRock X570 Taichi
CPU AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
CPU Cooler Corsair H115i RGB PRO XT
Memory T-Force XTREEM ARGB 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) 3600 CL14-15-15
SSD Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD 1 TB (OS)
Power Supply Seasonic Prime SSR-1200PD 1200 W
Video Card EVGA RTX 2080 Ti Kingpin Edition

All tests will be performed with the US70 installed in the top M.2 slot to utilize the direct CPU interface.

Benchmark Results

We’re going to be a little unfair here and compare the Silicon Power US70 to a variety of Gen 3.0 NVMe SSDs. We’re treating the performance results as a ‘first look’ because we haven’t reviewed any other Gen 4.0 drives at this point.

CrystalDiskMark

We knew it was going to be fast, but seeing the ranked performance against some of the best Gen 3 NVMe drives is impressive, to say the least. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus is one of the top-performing Gen 3 drives ever released. The US70 really shines at the sequential write, however, the random write tests are not as outstanding as we might have expected. In the SEQ1M-Q1T1 read test, our US70 result came in just a few MB/s below the 970 EVO Plus.

AS SSD

As expected, the read performance in AS SSD was exceptionally high, and a clear winner when compared to the other drives in our test group. The sequential write performance is just amazing, nothing even comes close. However, in the random write test, a few of the high-tier Gen 3 drives are getting very close to the US70 drive perfomance.

ATTO


Across the board, the US70 Gen 4 drive simply dominated the field. In the read tests, it was nearly twice as fast as the top-tier Samsung 970 EVO Plus. Compared to the midrange ADATA Swordfish drive, it was officially three times faster. While the write tests are not quite as impressive, they still clearly show the raw potential of this drive.

Thermal Testing

In an effort to be as thorough as possible we will use a K-Type thermal probe and a Fluke F51-II digital thermometer for temperature readings. The thermal probe has been taped to the actual drive with Kapton tape and we tried to center the probe as close to the controller as possible.

There is no doubt that this drive produces serious heat. With our stress test of five CrystalDiskMark loops, we didn’t notice any throttling in our open-air test. However, we can envision special circumstances that might lead to throttling. If a hot graphics card was placed above the SSD, the situation would have been notably different.

Just out of curiosity, we wanted to see how the drive performed with the ASRock X570 Taichi M.2 integrated heat sink attached. In that test, we observed a maximum drive temperature of 56 °C. While operating temperatures are within operating range,  we certainly recommend the use of a heat sink with this particular drive.

DiskBench

Performance benchmarks are great, and they give us a good understanding of drive speeds, but they don’t give us much of an insight into daily usage. DiskBench allows us to specify a file and it will transfer from one directory to another while keeping a record of speed and time.

We used a 120 GB file composed of random data and specified that it be moved from drive to drive.

The US70 was about 23% faster in the file transfer test than the Samsung 970 EVO Plus. When compared to the midrange, ADATA Falcon, it was about 40% faster.

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 the benchmark is that it records the time it takes to load each scene. If the game is launched from the SSD drive in question, then it gives us an indication of how game performance can be affected by hard drive speed.

 

We’ve seen the US70 absolutely crush the best of Gen 3 NVMe 1.3 drives in synthetic benchmarks, but what does it mean for the average gamer? Here we can see that it doesn’t really provide any benefit for game loading times, at least in the Final Fantasy benchmark. While it did technically win the total loading time calculation, we can clearly see it’s not going to be the new ‘must-have’ technology for gamers.

Anvil Storage Utility

Anvil’s storage utility can monitor and test read and write speeds on hard drives and also produces an output performance score for comparison. It’s a great utility that also provides further information such as partition and volume information.

The results attained by Anvil’s utility is really quite revealing. We’ve seen the trend developing in other benchmarks, but this one sums it up nicely.

Conclusion

Our first look at PCI-Express 4.0 NVMe SSD technology leaves us feeling excited. By harnessing the raw potential of Phison’s PS5016-E16-32 controller, the US70 boasts truly impressive performance numbers for synthetic benchmarks and easily defeated our top-tier PCI-Express 3.0 drives. To protect your data, and keep it running safely for years to come, the drive includes the latest features such as bad block management, over-provisioning, and SLC caching with DRAM cache buffer. The US70 has an impressive TBW value of 1,800 TB, so you won’t need to worry about long-term endurance. Silicon Power chose to omit a costly heat sink and therefore reduce costs. We feel this is a wise decision because most buyers would likely opt to use the motherboard’s integrated heat sink for a seamless look and installation.

While generation 4 appears to have bridged the gap somewhat between read/write speeds, the read performance is still better than write performance, respectively. Although it’s undeniably fast, our real-world tests showed that it won’t help much for daily tasks. The average gamer or power user might not benefit much from the additional drive speed for daily tasks. The ideal use case for this drive technology are users who handle large data files on a regular basis.

The US70 is priced at just $175.99 for the 1 TB version. All of the current 1 TB Generation 4 drives on the market today are priced between $200 and $250. The Samsung 970 EVO Plus had a read performance of 3577 MB/s, while the US70 topped the chat at 5005 MB/s. Based on current market prices, the 970 EVO Plus is actually expensive. So if you’re looking for Gen 4 performance at Gen 3 prices, then look no further than Silicon Power’s US70 NVMe SSD.

Discussion

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  1. Any feeling for why there is such a gulf between synthetic benchmarks and (arguably a much smaller number of) 'real-world use' cases?
    In synthetic benchmarks is usually sequential bandwidth so you get that 3-5GB/s. Most daily operations are random where you can expect anything between ~50-500MB/s. If you look at benchmarks like CrystalDiskMark then the most important is random read and usually in lower queues (high are more for databases). Write is usually cached and the write itself is fast enough so you can't see any significant difference during work.
    In benchmarks like PCMark 8 or 10, you can see about 200-700MB/s bandwidth but these benchmarks are based on popular applications.
    There are no PCMark results in the review so here are some of my results made on the US70 and ASRock B550 PG Velocita motherboard.

    also CDM as I was able to reach 5.6GB/s on this drive