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Silicon Power US70 PCIe 4.0 SSD Review

by Lyle Smith

With NVMe SSDs taking a firm hold on the market as the drive of choice among consumers and professionals alike, the newest iteration of the speedy interface, PCIe 4.0, is now here. This is a pretty big leap over the previous generation, offering a potentially huge increase in both random and sequential performance, though it’s currently only supported by AMD processors. Silicon Power has decided to leverage this technology with the release of the US70 PCIe Gen4x4 SSD. Ideal for high-end users like gamers, design professionals, and business users that work with large data files, the Silicon Power US70 features NVMe 1.3 support, 3D NAND flash, low latency, and low power consumption. It also is available in 1,800TB and 3,600TB Total Bytes Written (TBW) for the 1TB and 2TB model, respectively.

With NVMe SSDs taking a firm hold on the market as the drive of choice among consumers and professionals alike, the newest iteration of the speedy interface, PCIe 4.0, is now here. This is a pretty big leap over the previous generation, offering a potentially huge increase in both random and sequential performance, though it’s currently only supported by AMD processors. Silicon Power has decided to leverage this technology with the release of the US70 PCIe Gen4x4 SSD. Ideal for high-end users like gamers, design professionals, and business users that work with large data files, the Silicon Power US70 features NVMe 1.3 support, 3D NAND flash, low latency, and low power consumption. It also is available in 1,800TB and 3,600TB Total Bytes Written (TBW) for the 1TB and 2TB model, respectively.

 

The advantages of the PCIe 4.0 interface is quite clear with looking at potential performance, as Silicon Power quotes upwards of PCIe Gen 5,000MB/s read and 4,400MB/s write. This is a huge increase over the previous gen. The US70’s support for SLC Caching and DRAM Cache Buffer helps the drive reach this level of performance. Moreover, it features low-density parity check (LDPC) coding and an ECC algorithm to ensure accuracy of transmission and reliability of data access.

Silicon Power US70 no sticker

Longevity is also a focus for Silicon Power, as it comes equipped with E2E data protection and support for TRIM commands, which allows the US70 to effectively manage reusable space while reducing the wear on the drive.

Silicon Power US70 with sticker

 

Backed by a 5-year warranty, the Silicon Power US70 goes for roughly $176 and $376 for the 1TB and 2TB model, respectively. We will be looking at the 1TB unit for this review.

Silicon Power US70 Specifications

Capacity 1TB, 2TB
Dimensions 22.0mm x 80.0mm x 3.5mm
Weight 8g
Performance Read(max.) up to 5,000 MB/s
Performance Write(max.) up to 4,400 MB/s
MTBF (est) 1,700,000 hours
Operating Temperature 0°C – 70°C
Shock Resistance Test 1500G/0.5ms
Certification CE, FCC, BSMI, Green dot, WEEE, RoHS, KCC
System Requirement Computer with M.2 slots supporting PCIe interface and one of the following operating systems: Windows 8.1 or Windows 10
Warranty 5 years, note the SSD warranty is based on the TBW or Warranty period

Silicon Power US70 Performance

Testbed

As we migrate into testing newer NVME Gen4 SSDs, its required a platform shift in our lab to support the newer interface. Lenovo has been out in the front of the pack with PCIe Gen4 support, including up to the front-mount U.2 bays, while others still only offer edge-card support. In our Gen4 reviews we leverage the Lenovo ThinkSystem SR635 server, equipped with an AMD 7742 CPU and 512GB of 3200Mhz DDR4 memory. NVMe is tested natively through an M.2 to PCIe adapter card in the edge-card slow, while U.2 drives are loaded in the front. The methodology used better reflects end-user workflow with the consistency, scalability and flexibility testing within virtualized server offers. A large focus is put on drive latency across the entire load range of the drive, not just at the smallest QD1 (Queue-Depth 1) levels. We do this because many of the common consumer benchmarks don’t adequately capture end-user workload profiles.

SQL Server Performance

Each SQL Server VM is configured with two vDisks: 100GB volume for boot and a 500GB volume for the database and log files. From a system-resource perspective, we configured each VM with 16 vCPUs, 64GB of DRAM and leveraged the LSI Logic SAS SCSI controller. While our Sysbench workloads tested previously saturated the platform in both storage I/O and capacity, the SQL test is looking for latency performance.

This test uses SQL Server 2014 running on Windows Server 2012 R2 guest VMs, and is stressed by Quest’s Benchmark Factory for Databases. StorageReview’s Microsoft SQL Server OLTP testing protocol employs the current draft of the Transaction Processing Performance Council’s Benchmark C (TPC-C), an online transaction-processing benchmark that simulates the activities found in complex application environments. The TPC-C benchmark comes closer than synthetic performance benchmarks to gauging the performance strengths and bottlenecks of storage infrastructure in database environments. Each instance of our SQL Server VM for this review uses a 333GB (1,500 scale) SQL Server database and measures the transactional performance and latency under a load of 15,000 virtual users.

SQL Server Testing Configuration (per VM)

  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Storage Footprint: 600GB allocated, 500GB used
  • SQL Server 2014
  • Database Size: 1,500 scale
    • Virtual Client Load: 15,000
    • RAM Buffer: 48GB
  • Test Length: 3 hours
    • 2.5 hours preconditioning
    • 30 minutes sample period

For our SQL Server transactional benchmark, the Silicon Power US70 posted a mid-range 3,159.9 TPS.

Moving on to latency, the Silicon Power US70 drive performed near the top of the leaderboard with 4.0ms, tied with the Intel 900P.

VDBench Workload Analysis

When it comes to benchmarking storage devices, application testing is best, and synthetic testing comes in second place. While not a perfect representation of actual workloads, synthetic tests do help to baseline storage devices with a repeatability factor that makes it easy to do apples-to-apples comparison between competing solutions. These workloads offer a range of different testing profiles ranging from “four corners” tests, common database transfer size tests, to trace captures from different VDI environments. All of these tests leverage the common vdBench workload generator, with a scripting engine to automate and capture results over a large compute testing cluster. This allows us to repeat the same workloads across a wide range of storage devices, including flash arrays and individual storage devices. Our testing process for these benchmarks fills the entire drive surface with data, then partitions a drive section equal to 5% of the drive capacity to simulate how the drive might respond to application workloads. This is different from full entropy tests which use 100% of the drive and take them into steady state. As a result, these figures will reflect higher-sustained write speeds.

Profiles:

  • 4K Random Read: 100% Read, 128 threads, 0-120% iorate
  • 4K Random Write: 100% Write, 64 threads, 0-120% iorate
  • 64K Sequential Read: 100% Read, 16 threads, 0-120% iorate
  • 64K Sequential Write: 100% Write, 8 threads, 0-120% iorate

Comparable for this review:

  • Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0 2TB

In 4K random read, the Silicon Power US70 had a peak performance of 416,197 IOPS at a latency of 305.6ms.

In 4K write activity, the Silicon Power US70 started to taper off in performance around 128K IOPS, ending up with a peak of 141,274 IOPS at 474ms.

With 64K read sequential performance, the Silicon Power US70 went on to peak at 60,398 IOPS (or 3.8GB/s) with 524.5µs, just before a slight spike in performance at the very end.

In 64K sequential writes, we saw latency take a huge dip in performance with the Silicon Power US70 around the 12K IOPS mark, ending up with 12,720 IOPS (795MB/s) at 1,248ms.

Next, we looked at our VDI benchmarks, which are designed to tax the drives even further. In Boot, the Silicon Power US70 started spiking in performance around the 87K mark before peaking at 106,541 IOPS with a latency of 316µs.

Looking at our VDI Initial Login, the US70 showed uneven performance in the middle of the test, though it flattened out at the end with a peak of 37,268 IOPS and a latency of 800.7µs.

In our last test, VDI Monday Login, performance results told a similar story (i.e., performance spikes in the middle), with the US70 showing a peak IOPS at 26,734 IOPS and 595.4ms in latency.

Conclusion

The Silicon Power US70 is the latest consumer-grade PCIe Gen 4×4 drive to hit the market. Featuring 3D NAND flash memory, backward-compatibility with PCIe 3.0, and NVMe 1.3 support, the US70 is targeted to gamers, professional designers/editors, and prosumers looking for a new high-speed storage solution. Silicon Power’s new SSD also features a range of reliability and data integrity features, including wear leveling to equalize the wear of each NAND flash block; built-in E2E data protection to help ensure data transfer integrity; and low-density parity-check coding to promote the accuracy of data transmission and reliability of data access.

Silicon Power US70 bottom

Peak performance highlights include: 416,197 IOPS in 4K read, 141,274 IOPS in 4K write, 3.8GB/s in 64K read, and 795MB/s in 64K write. In our VDI Clone, we saw 106,541 IOPS in boot, 37,268 IOPS in initial login, and 26,734 IOPS in Monday login.

Overall, these results were disappointing, as we were hoping to see a massive gain in performance over the previous generation (it performed pretty much on par with Gen3 SSDs we’ve reviewed). In the consumer Gen4 category, we still only have one other SSD, which uses the identical controller. Fresh out of the box read speeds after a secure erase operation were in excess of 5GB/s, which were at spec sheet values in the Gen4 realm. Our test process though first performs a full sequential write across the disk surface, creates a partition that is 5% of the disk surface, and then tests the performance of the drive. During that latter operation speeds recorded in sequential read were unable to exceed 4GB/s in both vdBench and FIO. As more consumer Gen4 devices come into our lab we will probably see this trend change. Thankfully, the Silicon Power US70 is currently listed at just $176 for the 1TB model–a few dollars less than the impressive PCIe Gen3 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus–so it’s still certainly a viable option for those who have a compatible motherboard.

It’s only a matter of time before we see all motherboard brands (as well as Intel chips) embrace the technology, so expect more PCIe 4.0 SSDs to hit the market as we reach the end of the year and into the new one.

Silicon Power US70 on Amazon

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