XPG Gammix S50 Lite PCIe Gen4x4 Review

Since the launch of generation 4 NVMe solid-state drives, the market has been limited with only one controller option, the Phison E16. While the numbers were impressive, having only one controller meant that the buying options were quite limited. More than a year after the initial generation 4 launch, we’ve finally put our hands on something other than an E16 based Gen 4 drive. ADATA Technology kindly sent out their new XPG Gammix S50 Lite, which uses a new controller from Silicon Motion. Join us as we check out this drive and look at its performance in comparison to other PCIe 3.0 and 4.0 SSDs.

Specifications and Features

ADATA’s XPG Gammix S50 Lite is the first offering we have seen in what can be considered the midrange generation 4 x 4 classification using the Silicon Motion SM2267 controller. In terms of speed, it’s rated for 3900 / 3200 (MB/sec) which ranks it as slightly faster than the best PCIe 3.0 drives. As PCIe 4.0 drives go, we’re used to seeing 5000 / 4400 (MB/sec), so the S50 Lite clearly is not competing against the flagship drives. A nice controller alone won’t get the job done, so they paired 3D NAND flash memory and DRAM cache buffer to round out the hardware selection.

While we tend to focus on the hard numbers, there are other features that deserve consideration. The S50 Lite comes with a geometrically stylized brushed aluminum heat sink. We know that heat is a bigger concern with traditional Gen 4 drives, so we are happy to see that ADATA took this into consideration. ADATA’s marketing states that the heat sink can reduce heat by up to 20%, which is substantial. However, the downside is that in order to hide this drive under integrated motherboard heat sinks, you’d need to risk killing it and potentially voiding the warranty in order to remove the SSD heat sink. The other option is to remove the heat sinks on the motherboard and run with ADATA’s solution keeping your warranty intact.

The XPG Gammix S50 Lite comes with an impressive 5-year warranty and a terabyte written (TBW) value of 740 TB for the 1 TB model. While it’s not the highest TBW value we’ve seen, it is consistent with the 5-year warranty. With a $149.99 price tag for the 1 TB model, the price point falls well below PCIe 4.0 counterparts and is closely matched to high-end PCIe 3.0 drives.

Features at a Glance

  • Read / Write speed up to 3900 / 3200 (MB/sec) Capacity Model Number EAC Code
  • Ultra-fast PCIe Gen 4 x 4 interface
  • Capacity up to 2 TB
  • SLC Caching and DRAM cache buffer
  • 3D NAND Flash for higher capacity and durability
  • Advanced LDPC ECC Technology
  • AES 256-bit encryption support
  • Compact M.2 2280 form factor – ideal for gaming
    and high-end desktops

Full specifications are in the table below:

XPG Gammix X50 Lite Specifications
Model XPG Gammix S50 Lite
Capacity / Model Number 1TB / AGAMMIXS50L-1T-C
2TB / AGAMMIXS50L-2T-C
Heat Sink Material / Color Aluminum / Grey
Form Factor M.2 2280
Weight 10 g / 3.5 oz
Interface PCIe Gen 4×4
Flash 3D NAND
Controller Silicon Motion SM2267 Datasheet Download
DRAM Cache Buffer SK Hynix DDR4 SDRAM H5AN8G6NDJ
Dimensions 80 x 22 x 4.3 mm
Security AES 256-bit Encryption
Sequential Read / Write (Max* CDM) 3900 / 3200 (MB/sec)
4K Random Read / Write (Max* CDM) 380K / 540K (IOPS)
Operating Temperature 0°C~70°C
Certifications CE, FCC, BSMI, KC, RCM, Morocco, EAC
Shock Resistance 1500G / 0.5ms
MTBF 2,000,000 hours
Warranty 5-year limited
Pricing 1 TB: $149.99 MSRP
2 TB: $299.99 MSRP
Terabytes Written (TBW) 1 TB: 740 TB
2 TB: 1480 TB
Product Download Page SSD ToolBox
Datasheet
Firmware Update

Packaging/Product Tour

The XPG Gammix S50 Lite ships in a full-color box, with a premium-looking reflective finish to it. On the front, there’s a high-quality image of the actual drive as well as product branding info. On the backside, we see drive details in multiple languages. Although the printing is very tiny and difficult to read, most of the pertinent information is displayed there.

Inside the box, you’ll find just the drive by itself. There’s no printed manual or documentation, however, all of the relevant information can be found on ADATA’s website.

The Gammix S50 Lite Drive

The overall heat sink theme is geometric with a sharp angular design. It’s a solid piece of 0.85 mm thick aluminum, but it goes a long way in the style department compared to a naked NVMe drive.  The white looking lines are actually 1/64″ deep grooves cut into the aluminum and left raw for contrast. The heat sink design is a complementary match for the ADATA Spectrix D50 DDR4, which we reviewed back in July of this year.

 

The backside of the drive contains a product info label. We’d also like to mention that there are two NAND memory IC’s on the bottom. Some motherboards include integrated heat sink’s for the underside of NVMe drives. If you happen to have a motherboard with this feature, you’d definitely want to use it for this drive.

Underneath the heat sink is the SM2267 controller, a single DDR4 DRAM cache IC, and two NAND memory IC’s. All of which are connected to the heat sink with a ridiculously strong thermal adhesive. Removing the heat sink is not recommended because the PCB is extremely fragile and can be catastrophically stressed in the process. We needed excessive heat to remove it so we caution users to leave it on.

Software

The XPG Gammix S50 Lite purchase qualifies for free downloads of ADATA SSD Toolbox and Migration Utility. SSD Toolbox allows users to monitor and manage the drive status, wear level, and lifespan information. The Migration Utility is especially helpful for users making the move from HDD to SSD, as it’s designed for simple and quick backup and migration of the contents of entire drives, including the operating system.

We found the software quite easy to use and surprisingly feature-rich compared to competitors.

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 v1909.

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 G.Skill 16GB (2 x 8GB) Trident Z Royal Series 4000MHz CL17-17-17
SSD Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD 1 TB (OS)
Power Supply Enermax MaxTytan 1250W
Video Card EVGA RTX 2080 Ti Kingpin Edition

All tests will be performed with the Gammix S50 Lite installed in the top M.2 slot to utilize the direct CPU interface.

Benchmark Results

We’ve lined up an excellent group of NVMe drives to compare the S50 Lite against. The Silicon Power US70 is a prototypical Phison E16 Gen 4 drive. It boasts incredible read/write numbers and is the epitome of the first-wave Gen 4. The next drive we’re going to use for comparison is the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, which is considered to be the very best of Gen 3. To round things out we’ll throw in a few other Gen 3 drives of varying speeds.

CrystalDiskMark

As we expected, the S50 Lite performs exceptionally well. It edged out the top Gen 3 drives for sequential read and was about tied with them for the sequential write. Looking at the speed compared to the US70, we get a good idea that this drive is intended to be a mid-range offering and not equipped to compete with the first-wave Gen 4 drives.

Although it’s clearly a step down from the US70, our results show that the S50 lite took the overall win for the CDM SEQ1M-Q1T1 read test.

AS SSD

Our AS SSD sequential read and write results pair nicely with Crystal Disk Mark. We see that the S50 Lite is a good margin ahead of top Gen 3 read performance, but closer inline to the others for write performance. Looking at the performance as a whole, it fits in nicely with other top-tier Gen 3, but it’s still a good margin behind older Gen 4.

ATTO

Our ATTO tests confirm what we’ve been suspecting up to this point. The SM2267 controller is showing performance numbers very similar to top-tier generation 3 drives, such as the 970 EVO Plus or Cardea Zero Z340. Similar to what we saw with the CDM read numbers, the read performance is slightly ahead of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus but a far cry from the Silicon Power US70.

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.

With no airflow whatsoever, the S50 Lite performed the best out of all our test drives with an impressively cool 66°C. With one of the warmest idle temperatures and the coolest load temperature, this drive also had the smallest delta change in temperature.

The K-Type thermal results above paint a nice picture, but there’s more to this story. We noticed after the first run that the drive’s performance started to drop, and by the 5th run, it scored dramatically less in CDM. Below you can see the result on the right is the very first run and the result on the left is the 5th consecutive run. The highest temperature we observed on the heatsink was 66°C, but the drive started to throttle at about 60°C. Therefore the low temperatures are clearly a factor of the drive throttling at such a low temperature compared to the competition.

With a fan blowing directly on the drive, it does not throttle and scores relatively the same even after 10 consecutive runs, so the effect we see here is without a doubt temperature throttling.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

We pay close attention to the Anvil’s Storage Utility results because it runs a multitude of tests and produces one final score, which can be considered the drive’s bottom-line performance. Here we can see that the Gammix S50 Lite scores right about where we expected it to.

Conclusion

Overall we are very pleased with ADATA’s XPG Gammix S50 Lite. It’s the first budget-oriented option we have seen for PCIe 4.0 and the promising results give us high hopes for this new category. The integration of a stylish and functional heat sink is definitely an advantage for this drive. While it may not be an extravagant cooler like we see on the high-end models, it did perform exceptionally well. Temperature throttling was a mild concern, but we can only imagine the situation would be much worse without any heat sink. However, throttling is nothing new and NVMe drives are notorious for running warm with some overheating.

In terms of performance, the S50 Lite delivered exactly what was promised. The drive is rated at 3900 / 3200 (MB/sec) in Crystal Disk Mark and we realized 3890 / 3276, which is well within the margin of error. In terms of the overall performance, we were a bit disappointed that it didn’t bridge the gap better between the two generations. Looking at Anvil’s total score, we see it’s about 1.4% faster than the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, but about 9.0% slower than the Silicon Power US70. We’re excited to see new offerings in the Gen 4 product lineup, but the reality is that the SM2267 is really just a very high-end Gen 3 in disguise performance-wise.

Whether we call it a mid-range Gen 4, or a top-tier Gen 3, what we really want to know is its relative value and price point. The XPG Gammix S50 Lite launches with an MSRP of $149.99. If we consider the fact that it beat the Samsung 970 EVO Plus in almost every test, which is $169.99, then the inherent value becomes apparent. We’re pretty excited about this new XPG offering and we’d definitely recommend the S50 Lite for your next AMD X570 build.


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Discussion

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  1. Thanks David. You reminded me of something I read this week regarding controllers. Rather than break out the particulars I'll share the Silicon Motion press release .
    Nice review. I expect you'll see a few more NVMe drives coming out soon and you'll be a busy camper.
    Great review as always.
    I have two questions for you, if you don't mind:
    1. What do you mean when you say "...the drive will be sanitized from the motherboard bios..." during testing?
    and
    2. When doing your thermal testing, are you taping the temp probe on top of the controller under the heatsink or outside of the heatsink above the controller? The temp recorded in you chart are the from the probe or from software?
    OK maybe that was three questions. LOL ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    Thanks
    @Blaylock
  2. EarthDog has it! I was using the secure erase feature from the MB bios in between each testing phase.
  3. I tape the thermal probe on the heat sink, directly above the controller with Kapton tape. The temps I report are all measured with a Fluke 52 I and a K-Type probe. I have found the software temperature reporting to be very inconsistent or not even functional with some drives.