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Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Review – The Score To Beat?

9 août 2021 à 17:40

Review of the Seagate Firecuda 530 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD

Few brands in the world of storage media have been smashing the first’ milestones as much as Seagate has in the last few years. Off the back of a hot run of hard drive news promising 20TB drives shortly and 50TB drives inside 4 years, we now have their new PCIe 4 M.2 NVMe SSD to look at. Now, the Firecuda 530 is NOT the first PCIe4 NVMe SSD to arrive on the market, not even close. Seagate has brought their 7,000MB/s contender out 2/3 of a year after rivals at WD and Samsung brought their respective SN850 and 980 Pro AND at a higher price point. At this point, is their new drive a little late to the party or were they just having a good long run-up? Well, the specifications do set it apart from the majority of other drives in a number of very distinct areas and with Seagate placing a heavy focus on sustained write, durability and longevity of their media, this a definitely much more considered approach from the brand and a far leap from the brand that only a few years ago was learning more into competitive pricing and getting there ‘first’. So, let’s take a close look at the Seagate Firecuda 530 in today’s review, see if it’s advantages are clear from day one or are you paying more for eventual gains? Let’s find out.

Note – This review features the 500GB Firecuda 530 ZP500GM30013. This should be taken into consideration during the drive testing portion of the review, as the performance of this series scales in line with the available capacities

Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Review – Quick Conclusion

For the most part, I DO think Seagate has succeeded in fulfilling the promises they have made on the Firecuda 530 and have arguably released the best example of m.2 PCIe4 NVMe SSD architecture you can buy in 2021. There is no avoiding the fact that the Seagate Firecuda 530 series of SSDs have arrived on the market noticeably later than their biggest rivals AND with a higher price tag, so they were going to need to make a pretty good early impression to make up the ground amply covered by their competitors. The decision to focus heavily on endurance and durability is a remarkably mature one (and potentially controversial one against their competitors) in an age when consumers are demanding prices come down, forcing brands to either cut covers where they think they will be felt the least or going the budget router of QC NAND. Therefore you have to respect Seagate’s decision to draw a line in the sand here about what they consider a high-end SSD.

PROs of the Seagate Firecuda 530 CONs of the Seagate Firecuda 530
Highest PCIe 4×4 M.2 Performance Right Now

176 Layer 3D TLC NAND is Unparalleled right now

Best Example of Phison E18 Performance

Highest Endurance PCIe Gen 4×4 M.2 SSD Right Now

Inclusive Data Recovery Services

PS5 Compatibility Fully Confirmed

Available in up to 4TB

Costs more than most

Heatsink is an Additional Purchase

Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Review – Packaging

The Firecuda 530 arrives in a remarkably similar box to the Firecuda 520 and despite the obvious change in animal logo, it’s still going to be pretty easy to overlook what massively different drives these are in their architecture if seen on a shelf! 

Though clearly, this new drive commands a higher price tag and even a quick scan of the promised performance mentioned on the retail box is sets it up to have to live up to a high standard later in testing

Inside we find the Firecuda 530 SSD in a two-piece plastic shell, thermal pad, warranty information (5 Years + 3yrs Rescue Data Recovery Services) and the Firecuda 530 M.2 NVMe SSD itself in antistatic packaging. All fairly standard stuff and although there is a first party Firecuda heatsink available, this is an optional extra.

Much like previous generations, the Firecuda arrives with a paper label either side of the PCB (so not the metal plate featured on more affordable SSDs like the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus), but if Seagate’s defence, this drive will be working noticeably hot regardless (due to the significantly higher performance maximum over other drives) and it is highly recommended for use with a proper heatsink regardless – so a metal label would be like putting a plaster on a shotgun wound!

The drive is fairly standard in height to other m.2 NVMes, however, it is easy to forget that the micron NAND featured in the Firecuda 530 is significantly higher quality than many at 176L (something we will touch on later).

The larger capacity Firecuda 530s drives at 2TB and 4TB feature double-sided NAND placement, resulting in both better capacity handling, performance and durability. However, this needs to be balanced against a larger heatsink/thermal pad application. In PC use, this is of little-to-no concern, but now the Firecuda 530 NVMe SSD is pretty much the ‘score-to-beat’ on PS5 SSD upgrades, this is an important consideration.

In terms of physical design, you cannot really fault this drive and it is not really going to be apparent until we properly dig deep into the specifications and their stand out qualities where we will see where the extra $ on this drive’s price tag are going.

Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Review – Hardware Specifications

Below is a breakdown of the hardware specifications of the Firecuda 530. There are a number of key factors here that really need your attention!

Drive Firecuda 530 500GB

Firecuda 530 1000GB

Firecuda 530 2000GB

Firecuda 530 4000GB

Price 500GB – $149.99 1TB – $239.99 2TB – $489.99 4TB – $949.99
Warranty, Limited (years) 5+3yr Rescue 5+3yr Rescue 5+3yr Rescue 5+3yr Rescue
PCIe Gen M.2 PCIe Gen 4×4 PCIe Gen 4×4 PCIe Gen 4×4 PCIe Gen 4×4
NVMe Rev NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4
NAND Type 176L 3D NAND 176L 3D NAND 176L 3D NAND 176L 3D NAND
Controller E18-PS018 E18-PS018 E18-PS018 E18-PS018
Performance ZP500GM3A013 ZP1000GM3A013 ZP2000GM3A013 ZP4000GM3A013
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7000MB 7300MB 7300MB 7300MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 3000MB 6000MB 6900MB 6900MB
IOPS ZP500GM3A013 ZP1000GM3A013 ZP2000GM3A013 ZP4000GM3A013
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 400,000 800,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 700,000 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
DWPD 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7
MTBF, hours 1,800,000 1,800,000 1,800,000 1,800,000

Now, the above is clearly a little more technical than many gamers would like. Obviously, the general performance of the Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD is going to be high (as detailed in the performance tests later in the review), however, its sequential Read performance is actually not too far ahead of the likes of the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850 released some 5-6 months ago, so why should gamers spend more on this drive? Well, a lot of the more technical aspects that focus on SUSTAINED performance and DURABILITY make up a lot of this. Likewise, this architecture and its impact on Sequential WRITE is also something to consider. Write activity in console/pc gaming of a noticeably smaller fraction of activity over Read, approx 85% Read and 15% Write over time. However this is changing all the time, as games are being regularly streamed or shared, as well as world creation games and create-your-own-adventure sandbox titles growing quite significantly, smaller but sustained write activity running parallel with read is an important consideration. Let’s take a closer look at those key specifications and translate them into normal speak!

Hardware Focus of the Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Series

The first big thing to focus on with the Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD is the controller. This is the brains of the SSD and in the case of this SSD, it’s a good one! The Phison E18 has already featured on a few other SSD releases in early 2021 to wide praise and given Seagate’s history of using their controllers right up to the E16 in the previous drive in this series, it was always going to be their SSD controller of choice here. This controller has some remarkably high bandwidth capabilities that the rest of the SSD can stretch it’s muscles a bit in order to try and saturate! Supporting up to a maximum 7,400MB/s and 7,100MB/s sequential Read/Write and up to 1Million 4K Read/Write IOPS, the Phison Controller is pushed quite far to it’s limits at the 4TB Firecuda 530 model. It’s a shame that Seagate does not have it’s own in house teams as WD/Samsung do, but the Phison E18 is still an industry leader right now and an inevitable choice by the brand.

Alongside this controller, the NAND featured on the Seagate Firecuda 530 is quite a top-end choice too. As mentioned, the Phison E18 controller has been featured on a number of other solutions in the last 6+ months, however, the Firecuda 530 arrives with an extra advantage with Micron 176 layered 3D TLC NAND. This is very important, as this massive jump over the bulk of other SSDs that arrive with 96L NAND allows better-sustained performance through the drives lifetime and (more importantly) a MUCH higher endurance rating. With most other M.2 PCIe4 NVMe SSDs arriving with 0.3 or 0.38 drive writes per day, this one is rated at 0.7 DWPD. Even if you are not planning on hammered this drive daily, that only means this SSD NAND will last even longer and will in all likelihood massively outline whatever system it is installed within.

Alongside the controller and NAND, the Firecuda 530 features DD4 DRAM/memory. This scales in capacity alongside each storage tier of the series. Another interesting thing of note on the Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD drive physically is that regardless of whether you chooses the 500GB, 1TB, 2TB or 4TB, they ALL arrive at 2280 length. This is to be expected on the smaller capacities, but the 4TB in particular managing to hit that cap without resorting to a 22110 (without compromising the NAND storage to QLC etc) is impressive indeed. This does mean that the 2TB and 4TB model then need to be double-sided drives (something to factor in at the heatsink level on more compact PC and console systems like PS5) but never the less, only 2-3 brands including Seagate include a 4TB drive at this architecture and performance threshold.

As mentioned (about a million times, I know) the Firecuda 530 features M.2 PCIe4 architecture, arriving in NVMe 1.4 revision. This is an important detail as, although there are currently a large number of PCIe4 M.2 SSDs on the market, some are using older revisions. This can be updated in some cases, but it is by no means consumer-friendly/universal.

Overall, you really cannot fault the hardware inside/onboard the Seagate Firecuda 530, as it is still by far one of the highest performing sequential Read and Write drives in the market over many other M.2 NVMe PCIe 4 SSDs released in the last 6-8 months. Before we go into the full testing, however, it is worth taking a moment to look closely at the reported performance benchmarks of the Seagate Firecuda 530, as although the performance is good, there are areas such as IOPS and endurance when compared with its main rivals that make quite a stark contrast.

Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Review – Official Stats First

Before we conduct our own testing on this SSD, Let’s take a closer look at the reported specifications and benchmarks first. The Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD arrives in four capacities at 500GB,1TB, 2TB and 4TB. The Prices currently are a little inconsistent (with each higher capacity tier actually having a higher price per GB – quite unusual) likely due to the hardware shortages, the Pandemic, Chia has affected SSD availability in the last 12 months and most recently the announcement that PS5 supports this SSD and it has increased the current price of most models around 20%! Below is a breakdown of how each Firecuda 530 SSD compares:

Drive Firecuda 530 500GB

Firecuda 530 1000GB

Firecuda 530 2000GB

Firecuda 530 4000GB

Price 500GB – $149.99 1TB – $239.99 2TB – $489.99 4TB – $949.99
Warranty, Limited (years) 5+3yr Rescue 5+3yr Rescue 5+3yr Rescue 5+3yr Rescue
PCIe Gen M.2 PCIe Gen 4×4 PCIe Gen 4×4 PCIe Gen 4×4 PCIe Gen 4×4
NVMe Rev NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4
NAND Type 176L 3D NAND 176L 3D NAND 176L 3D NAND 176L 3D NAND
Controller E18-PS018 E18-PS018 E18-PS018 E18-PS018
Performance ZP500GM3A013 ZP1000GM3A013 ZP2000GM3A013 ZP4000GM3A013
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7000MB 7300MB 7300MB 7300MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 3000MB 6000MB 6900MB 6900MB
IOPS ZP500GM3A013 ZP1000GM3A013 ZP2000GM3A013 ZP4000GM3A013
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 400,000 800,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 700,000 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
DWPD 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.7
MTBF, hours 1,800,000 1,800,000 1,800,000 1,800,000

The first very clear thing is that the performance clearly scales quite hugely as you go through each capacity tier. The 500GB model features a rather underwhelming 3000GB sequential write compared with the more than double 6,000MB/s and 6,900MB/s reported on the rest of the series, but the sequential read performance of all capacities is still reported at 7,000MB/s (with a peak of 7,300MB/s at the highest end). Likewise, the 4K IOPS scales noticeably through the tiers, with the 500GB being the only version that does not break the 1,000,000 IOPS rating. Understandably this is an architecture/physical NAND scale limitation, but it definitely worth highlighting, as many buyers who are looking at the Seagate Firecuda 530 series and are somewhat intimidated by the higher price tag over other M.2 PCIe4 NVMe SSDs (but still want the endurance and durability of use) might scale to the 500GB model and then be unaware they are getting a very different ‘write’ experience. That said, modern PC and console gamers who are going to use the Seagate Firecuda 530 are going to largely need to focus on Read activity. For a better understanding of the most commonly used terms in the word of SSDs, take a moment to watch my video below that breaks down all of the most complex and repeated terms and anacronyms into plain, chewable English!

So, now you know the hardware specifications, the performance benchmarks and exactly what makes the Seagate Firecuda 530 a particularly advantageous drive. However, there are quite a few drives n the shelves right now that are shoving for gamer’s attention and for both PS5 and PC Gamers alike, there are 2 main alternative drives, the WD Black SN850 and Samsung 980 Pro. These two alternative drives have been available to consumers for well over 8 months and in that time have dominated this tier of the storage market significantly. The WD and Samsung gamer SSD arrived on the market last year at a lower price point than the Seagate Firecuda 530, as well as had plenty of time to get more flexible with that price in the meantime. So, with the Seagate SSD arriving at a higher price point, they can only really win on the subject of VALUE, not the price tag. Ultimately, what you GET for your money in terms of performance, responsiveness, service and (Seagate hope) durability. Below is how these three SSDs compare at each available capacity tier:

Brand/Series

 

Seagate Firecuda 530

WD Black SN850

Samsung 980 Pro

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 WDS500G1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P500BW
Price in $ and $ $139 / £119 $119 / £99 $119 / £109
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P1T0BW
Price in $ and $ $239 / £199 $249 / £169 $209 / £179
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P2T0BW
Price in $ and $ $419 / £379 $399 / £339 $390 / £369
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013   N/A
Price in $ and $ $949 / £769 N/A N/A
Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530 WD Black SN850 Samsung 980 Pro
PCIe Generation PCIe Gen 4 PCIe Gen 4 PCIe Gen 4
NVMe Rev NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.3c
NAND 3D TLC Micron B47R 176L BiCS4 96L TLC 3D TLC
Max Capacity 4TB – Double Sided 2TB 2TB
Controller Phison E18-PS5018 WD_BLACK G2 Custom Elpis
Warranty 5yr + Data Recovery 3yrs 5yr 5yr
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 1,750,000 1,500,000
DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.3DWPD 0.3DWPD
500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 WDS500G1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P500BW
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7000MB 7000MB 6900MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 3000MB 4100MB 5000MB
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P1T0BW
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB 7000MB 7000MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6000MB 5300MB 5000MB
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P2T0BW
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB 7000MB 7000MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6900MB 5100MB 5100MB
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013   N/A
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB N/A N/A
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6900MB N/A N/A
Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530 WD Black SN850 Samsung 980 Pro
500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 WDS500G1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P500BW
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 400,000 1,000,000 800,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 700,000 680,000 1,000,000
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P1T0BW
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 800000 1,000,000 1000000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1000000 720,000 1000000
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0 MZ-V8P2T0BW
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 710,000 1,000,000
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013   N/A
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 N/A N/A
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 N/A N/A

So, when looking at these drives, we have to look at the advantages and disadvantages of the Seagate Firecuda 530 vs the WD Black SN850 and Samsung 980 Pro. They break down as follows:

+ Highest Peak Performance at 1TB and 2TB

+ 4 Terabyte Option

+ More Than Double The Reported Endurance & Durability than WD/Samsung

+ Inclusive Rescue Data Recovery Service

– More Expensive at ALL Capacities

– 500GB Model Has Noticeably Lower Seq Write than 500GB WD/Samsung

– Not 100% Developed In-house

Overall, I do genuinely think that Seagate and the Firecuda 530 win overall on points versus the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850. It definitely costs more, but you seemingly get quite a lot for your money. That does mean that you need to price these SSDs in terms of their lifetime utility and value (which many might not want or need to), but Seagate does make a compelling argument here. Additionally, the available 4TB drive will please a lot of professional gamers, as that is quite a lot of space to play with – albeit at quite an intimidating price tag! Let’s get the Seagate Firecuda 530 in the test machine:

Testing the Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB m.2 PCIE4 NVMe SSD

When testing the Seagate Firecuda 530, I wanted to perform a good balance of consumer-accessible tests. So the results below come from testing this 500GB SSD on a PC system and loading game tests from a PS5 system (for those considering this SSD for a console gaming system).

PC Test Machine:

  • Windows 10 Pro Desktop System
  • Intel i5 11400 Rocket Lake – 6-Core 2.6/4.4Ghz
  • 16GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory
  • Intel B560M mATX Motherboard
  • OS Storage, Seagate Firecuda 120 SSD
  • Test SSD connected to Secondary PCIe Gen 4 M.2 Slot

Note – It is VERY IMPORTANT to read these performance benchmarks in the context that they were made with the 500GB model of the Firecuda 530 series. Like most M.2 NVMe SSDs, the Firecuda 530 series scales in performance as you go into larger capacities, as there is a larger arrangement of NAND available on the board and improved distribution of data. Later in August/September, we hope to be bench-testing larger capacities and updating this review, alongside added new ones that reflect the increased performance these larger drives can provide. Otherwise, you can read the great review over on Tweaktown that features the 1TB Model. Let’s get back to the testing!

The Drive was first checked on Crystal Disk to check that it was clearly accessible, utilizing the PCIe Gen 4 bandwidth interface fully and was in good, healthy working order.

The PC Tests of the Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB SSD included ATTO Diskbench Mark, CrystalDisk, AS SSD and spikes of AJA Disk Speed Test (over time).

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – 1GB Test

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – 4GB

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – 16GB

 

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – ATTO 256MB Test

 

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – ATTO 1GB Test

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – ATTO 4GB Test

 

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – AS SSD Tests

We performed three different file type tests in AS SSD, 1GB, 3GB and 5GB. They were as follows:

AS SSD 1GB TEST FILE

AS SSD 3GB TEST FILE

AS SSD 5GB TEST FILE

Ordinarily, I would introduce tests like BlackMagic and AJA into the mix here, but even a short burst of testing on an NVMe like this would over saturate the cache memory on board. Nevertheless, in the short term we still could ascertain the reported performance on 1GB, 4GB and 16GB file testing was:

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB 1GB AJA File Test Results (Max)

5,612MB/s Read & 4,529MB/s Write

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB 4GB AJA File Test Results (Max)

5,600MB/s Read & 4,732MB/s Write

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB 16GB AJA File Test Results (Max)

5,455MB/s Read & 4,903MB/s Write

Seagate Firecuda 530 500GB – Playstation 5 Load Times

Below I tested 4 different games on the Playstation 5, with each game being stored on the m.2 SSD expansion slot populated with the Seagate Firecuda 530. In three out of four cases, the game loaded 1 Sec + faster on the Seagate:

Overall, the Seagate Firecuda 530 was certainly able to provide some solid read performance, though clearly the fact this review features the 500GB drive has undermined the write activity. I am fully confident that larger capacity testing (coming soon) will live up to their respective reported benchmarks, as well as potentially exceed the test figures here on a more powerful machine.

Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Review – Conclusion

For the most part, I DO think Seagate has succeeded in fulfilling the promises they have made on the Firecuda 530 and have arguably released the best example of m.2 PCIe4 NVMe SSD architecture you can buy in 2021. There is no avoiding the fact that the Seagate Firecuda 530 series of SSDs have arrived on the market noticeably later than their biggest rivals AND with a higher price tag, so they were going to need to make a pretty good early impression to make up the ground amply covered by their competitors. The decision to focus heavily on endurance and durability is a remarkably mature one (and potentially controversial one against their competitors) in an age when consumers are demanding prices come down, forcing brands to either cut covers where they think they will be felt the least or going the budget router of QC NAND. Therefore you have to respect Seagate’s decision to draw a line in the sand here about what they consider a high-end SSD. Though some buyers might not be as thrilled to pay for these extras that they feel they won’t need, the Firecuda 530 is still pretty much the score to beat in 1TB above, though the 500GB whilst maintaining the price structure of larger drives, might leave you a little less impressed. Overall, I can definitely recommend the Firecuda 530 series, but maybe pay the extra and go for the 1TB at the very least.

Drive Firecuda 530 500GB

Firecuda 530 1000GB

Firecuda 530 2000GB

Firecuda 530 4000GB

Price 500GB – $149.99 1TB – $239.99 2TB – $489.99 4TB – $949.99
PROs of the Seagate Firecuda 530 CONs of the Seagate Firecuda 530
Highest PCIe 4×4 M.2 Performance Right Now

176 Layer 3D TLC NAND is Unparalleled right now

Best Example of Phison E18 Performance

Highest Endurance PCIe Gen 4×4 M.2 SSD Right Now

Inclusive Data Recovery Services

PS5 Compatibility Fully Confirmed

Available in up to 4TB

Costs more than most

The heatsink is an Additional Purchase


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