The fourth generation of PCI Express standard was introduced in the desktop market with the introduction of AMD’s X570 chipset, and later AMD’s mid-range B550 chipset also got support for the PCIe Gen 4 interface. Basically, PCIe Gen 4 doubles the bandwidth of the interface when compared to PCIe Gen 3, and that can have a big impact on the theoretical speeds of the devices that use the PCIe interface. While graphics cards have still not saturated the older PCIe Gen 3 link to the fullest, there is an application of PCIe Gen 4 that is useful today. Indeed that is the PCIe Gen 4 SSDs that use the new PCIe Gen 4 link to break the limits of what was possible in terms of speed with the older link.
While PCIe Gen 3 NVMe drives were in no way slow, technology always finds a way to improve itself even if the need is not felt at the moment. PCIe Gen 3 SSDs tend to cap out at around 3500 MB/s sequential read speeds, while the newer PCIe Gen 4 drives can deliver sequential read speeds of up to an eye-searing 5000 MB/s with write speeds not far off either. These drives do require active cooling in most scenarios, and many of them ship with included heatsinks as well. You will also need a PCIe Gen 4 M.2 slot in either a B550 or an X570 motherboard from AMD as of the time of writing.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into our top 5 picks for the best PCIe Gen 4 SSDs in 2021.
1. Corsair Force MP600
Affordable yet Brilliant
- Extremely High Speeds
- Cheaper than Many Other Options
- Included Hefty Heatsink
- NAND Layering
- Write Speed Marginally Lower than Others
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 4950 MB/s | Write Speeds: 4250 MB/s | Endurance Rating: 1800 TBW (for 1TB) | Warranty: 5 years
One of the most popular PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSDs on the market, the Corsair Force MP600 takes the top spot in our roundup due to its incredible performance, reliability, overall feature set, and the trust of Corsair. The SSD comes in capacities of 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB which is a nice diverse range of options for various users with different needs. Corsair has made this SSD in the standard M.2 2280 form factor which is supported on most motherboards so there is nothing to worry about there as well.
As far as the internals of the drive go, Corsair has opted for 3D TLC NAND which strikes a perfect balance between speed and capacity of the NAND cells themselves. The controller used in the MP600 is the Phison PS5016-E16, which is the first PCIe 4.0 compliant SSD controller, and it is manufactured on the 28nm process. The overall component choice allows the MP600 1TB and 2TB variants to reach sequential read and write speeds of up to 4950 MB/s and 4250 MB/s respectively. Speeds like this were unheard of with PCIe Gen 3 drives just a generation ago. Even the best of the best, the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, capped out at around 3500 MB/s sequential reads.
Corsair has also included a nice finned aluminum heatsink with the Force MP600 which allows the drive to maintain a stable operating temperature between 0C and 70C, although you can use the motherboard’s built-in heatspreaders as well. Corsair’s heatsink is a bit bulky and the user might run into some clearance issues on certain motherboards.
The MP600 is backwards compatible as well with the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface which is to be expected of most of these Gen 4 drives as well. The MP600 also supports AES 256-bit encryption for security, and is shock resistant with a rating of 1500 G. The SSD is rated for 1800 TBW in terms of Endurance and Corsair has provided a 5-year warranty with the Force MP600 for your ease of mind.
Really, the MP600 does not carry any significant drawback. It is a fantastic, blazing fast, highly reliable drive from a trust-worthy manufacturer and it has our recommendation provided you can afford it.
2. Sabrent Rocket NVMe 4.0
- Read speed up to 5GB/s
- Cheaper than Many Other Options
- Included Heatsink with Heatpipes
- Value for Money
- Brand Loyalists might not trust Sabrent
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | NAND Flash Type: TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 5000 MB/s | Write Speeds: 4400 MB/s | Endurance Rating: 1800 TBW (for 1TB) | Warranty: 5 years
Sabrent might be a lesser-known SSD manufacturer among heavy-hitters like Corsair, Seagate, and Samsung but there is no doubting the quality of their drives. They delivered some excellent PCIe Gen 3 NVMe drives, and their Sabrent Rocket 4.0 PCIe Gen 4 SSD is one of our favorite drives of its class. Not only does the drive feature top-of-the-line components but it also delivers some of the most amazing numbers in terms of performance we have seen from a Gen 4 drive.
The drive is available in 500 GB, 1TB, and 2TB capacities which cover most of the common size demands in the market today. Sabrent has also made the Rocket 4.0 in the 2280 form factor which is the industry standard at this point. The drive uses the same Phison PS5016-E16 controller as the Corsair MP600, but the NAND Flash has been changed to TLC NAND by Toshiba (BiCS4 96L TLC NAND to be precise). This allows the Rocket to deliver read speeds of up to 5000 MB/s for all of its variants. The write speeds come in at a blazing 4400 MB/s for the 1TB and 2TB variants while it is a bit slower for the 500GB variant.
Sabrent has included one of the most impressive SSD heatsinks we have ever seen on an SSD, however, Sabrent includes the option to omit the purchase of the heatsink should the user see fit. This can be a useful option for those users whose motherboards feature a built-in SSD heatsink. The Sabrent heatsink not only features a finned aluminum block, but it also has 3 copper heatpipes running through it which is a very interesting and unique design for an SSD heatsink.
The SSD has an operating temperature range of 0C to 70C just like the MP600, while the endurance rating of the 1TB version of the Rocket 4.0 is 1800 TBW. Sabrent has also rated the drive as 1500G shock-resistant, and it is also backwards compatible with PCIe Gen 3 x4 slots. Backed by a 5-year warranty from Sabrent, the Rocket 4.0 makes an extremely compelling offering especially due to its attractive price.
Overall, the Sabrent Rocket 4.0 is one of the most impressive PCIe Gen 4 SSDs we have seen so far. With its sky-high performance numbers, its impressive heatsink and build quality, to its attractive price, the Rocket 4.0 makes an attractive option for anyone looking for a Gen 4 SSD, and willing to give Sabrent a chance.
3. Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4
Another Great Offering from Gigabyte
- Extremely High Speeds
- Included Copper22 Heatspreader
- Supports NAND Layering
- Price is a bit High
- Aesthetically not Neutral
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 5000 MB/s | Write Speeds: 4400 MB/s | Endurance Rating: 1800 TBW (for 1TB) | Warranty: 5 years
Gigabyte has entered the PCIe Gen 4 SSD market with their AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD which is a premium alternative to the ones already mentioned in our roundup. One of the most striking features of the AORUS Gen4 SSD is that it features a full copper heatsink that works amazingly well due to the high thermal conductivity of copper as compared to aluminum. In fact, potential buyers might want to remove their motherboard’s built-in heatspreader altogether and use this drive with the included copper heatspreader for improved thermals. This is a nice step from Gigabyte.
The drive also comes in the 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB standard capacities, and is made in the 2280 M.2 form factor. The drive uses the same Phison PS5016-E16 PCIe Gen 4 controller that was found on the other drives, an external DRAM cache, and Toshiba BiCS4 TLC NAND Flash memory. This allows the AORUS Gen4 SSD to reach blistering-fast speeds of 5000 MB/s sequential reads and 4400 MB/s sequential writes. The 500GB variant has somewhat slower write speeds though.
The copper heatsink does a great job of keeping the drive between its recommended operating temperatures of 0C and 70C, and while that is great news, the heatsink does take points away from the overall look and aesthetics of the drive. While the heatsink performs admirably, the gold/copper color of the heatsink sticks out like a sore thumb when installed in a motherboard and has the potential to clash with the color scheme of the build. Users might want to remove the heatsink and install it under a motherboard heatspreader if that is the case.
Providing an endurance rating of 1800TBW for the 1TB version and 3600TB for the 2TB variant, as well as a 5-year warranty, Gigabyte is taking the right steps in making the AORUS Gen4 drive a viable alternative to the drives mentioned above. The high price of the Gigabyte, however, might push potential buyers towards either the Sabrent or the Corsair with little to lose in the process.
4. Seagate FireCuda 520
Solid but Priced Wrong
- Neck-and-Neck with other drives in performance
- Good Endurance
- More Expensive than other options
- No Included Heatsink
- Seagate's Reputation in Storage is not the best
Capacity: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB | NAND Flash Type: 3D TLC NAND | Read Speeds: 5000 MB/s | Write Speeds: 4400 MB/s | Endurance Rating: 1800 TBW (for 1TB) | Warranty: 5 years Limited
Another almost identical offering on paper comes from the renowned hard drive manufacturer, Seagate, who has entered the PCIe Gen4 market with their FireCuda 520. While Seagate might not have the most stellar reputation in the storage world in terms of reliability, the FireCuda 520 does seem like a really good drive when you look at the overall specs. It is offered in 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB variants, and is utilizing the M.2 2280 standard form factor as well.
The FireCuda 520 uses a Phison E16 Controller and uses a 96-layer TLC NAND memory from Toshiba. This allows the FireCuda to reach its advertised sequential read and write speeds of 5000 MB/s and 4400 MB/s respectively. It should be noted again that the write speeds of the 500GB variant are limited to 2500 MB/s, which is still pretty fast if you think about it. Unfortunately, Seagate has opted not to include any heatsink with the FireCuda 520 and that seems to be a negative point that most of the other SSDs have managed to avoid easily.
The lack of heatsink might not have been that big of a deal if the SSD was cheaper than its alternatives in the market. That could’ve been chalked off as a cost-saving measure, but the FireCuda is in fact more expensive than all of the SSDs mentioned in the article up to this point. This is a serious point of concern for Seagate since the FireCuda 520 does not offer anything that the other drives do not offer in this department already.
Moreover, Seagate has had reliability issues with their hard drives and their reputation is not the best in the storage space. Although Seagate has provided an 1800 TBW endurance rating and a 5-year warranty with the FireCuda, that still does not make it any better in terms of numbers than the Sabrent, Corsair, or AORUS options. Shame, since the drive performs really well.
5. Samsung 980 PRO
Blazing Fast but Flawed
- Fastest speeds in the industry
- Special MLC NAND
- No 2TB option
- No Included Heatsink
- Low Endurance Rating
- Extremely Expensive
Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB | NAND Flash Type: Samsung V-NAND 3bit MLC | Read Speeds: 6900 MB/s | Write Speeds: 5000 MB/s | Endurance Rating: 300 TBW (for 500GB) | Warranty: 5 years Limited
Our last pick of the roundup is a drive we expected to find at the top of this list. The Samsung 980 PRO is an incredibly fast drive that delivers record-breaking numbers in terms of speed in the entire PC industry. However, it has too many glaring flaws that make it a hard recommendation for most users.
The Samsung 980 PRO is a really fast drive, let’s get that out of the way. While other PCIe Gen 4 drives cap out at 5000 MB/s reads and 4400 MB/s reads, the 980 PRO can deliver read and write speeds of up to an eye-watering 7000 MB/s and 5000 MB/s respectively for the 1TB version. These kinds of speeds are still unheard of in the consumer PC space and are only possible with this one drive out of hundreds of drives in the market. Samsung has achieved these speeds thanks to the Samsung Elpis Controller and V-NAND 3-bit MLC memory chip. Fast sequential speeds, however, only make up one part of the picture.
That is where the positives end for the 980 PRO. Samsung has not included any heatsink with the 980 PRO and has instead used nickel coating to manage the controller’s heat level. The 980 PRO also uses the heatspreader label to deliver effective thermal control of the NAND chip, which can deliver acceptable results. The missing heatsink might not be as big of a problem though, as the missing 2TB capacity. Samsung only offers the 980 PRO in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacities, which is not the kind of market that you’d expect Samsung to target. Nobody should be buying a really expensive 980 PRO in a 250GB size. Moreover, professionals in need of the extra storage and the high speeds are left without a 2TB option which is a really weird decision from Samsung. In addition to that, Samsung is only providing an endurance rating of 300TBW for the 500GB model which is quite a bit lower than other drives in this category.
Adding insult to injury is the price of the 980 PRO. With the 1TB version coming in at a whopping $229 at the time of writing, the Samsung 980 PRO is at least $30-50 more expensive than the other options in this roundup, and it makes it difficult for us to recommend this bleeding-edge blazing fast SSD over the more reasonable offerings mentioned above.