Just a few weeks ago, we were bemoaning the dearth of affordable NVMe drives. For a long time, NVMe products have commanded around double the per-gigabyte cost of more pedestrian AHCI drives. That premium had a lot to do with how few players there were in the market.
Since then, the NVMe ecosystem has matured substantially, and far more vendors are offering SSDs that utilize the next-gen protocol. With new drives often targeting less exorbitant price points and old drives feeling pressure from the added competition, our wallets can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
One of the new wave of manufacturers hawking NVMe goodness is Patriot Memory with its Hellfire M.2 SSD. The drive's been around for some months now, but it's only recently made its way over to our storage labs. Patriot sent over a 480GB sample for our testing pleasure. Take a look at the drive and its basic specs.
|Capacity||Max sequential (MB/s)||Max random (IOps)|
Not only is the Hellfire Patriot's first NVMe drive, it's actually the first Patriot SSD to hit the TR storage labs. Patriot has a long history of slinging SSDs, though, dating back to times when SATA 3Gbps connections ruled the roost. Back then, the Patriot SSD product lines were called things like "Zephyr" and "Inferno," and not much has changed since in the company's florid naming schemes. The current Patriot lineup includes the "Spark," "Blast," "Pyro," "Blaze, "Flare," and "Ignite" drives. Admirable thematic consistency, but figuring out what each name implies about the relative strength of the respective drive is left as an exercise for the reader.
What's obvious is that the Hellfire's got 'em all beat. Even if the name didn't tip us off, the fact is that the Hellfire is the only PCIe drive in Patriot's stable. Good thing it packs the right combination of technologies to go with that zesty name: a PCIe x4 interface, the NVMe protocol, and an M.2 2280 form factor.
As is the case with most M.2 drives, the Hellfire's chassis is a modest affair: just a sliver of PCB with a basic sticker covering up the operative bits. No frills, but that's how we like it.
With the sticker peeled back, the components fueling the Hellfire are laid bare. Toshiba's pervasive 15-nm MLC is back in TR labs yet again. This same flash was the backbone of Toshiba's own OCZ RD400 NVMe gumstick, so the results from our RD400 512GB review will be a pertinent comparison point to consider when we get into our performance testing. The NAND on this drive is distributed among four packages: two on either side of the PCB. The two on the top side share space with the drive's DRAM cache and controller, Phison's PS5007-E7.
Phison, not unlike Patriot, is another name that's been in the game for ages, but the company's controllers haven't made an appearance in the TR labs in quite some time. In fact, none of the drives benched on the current storage rig are powered by the company's controllers, so this presents a good opportunity to see whether Phison's still keeping up with its contemporaries. The E7, at least, checks all the right boxes. It's an eight-channel controller designed for PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe applications and supports 256-bit AES encryption (with TCG Opal 2.0 compliance to boot).
Alas, the Hellfire doesn't take advantage of the E7's encryption capabilities. It does, however, offer a three-year warranty and an endurance rating of 230 terabytes written. At the moment, the drive is out of stock at Newegg, but Amazon's letting it go for only $230. That's a pretty palatable price for a speedy NVMe drive.
Well, only if it's actually speedy. So let's find out how fast the Hellfire is.