Corsair's recent SSDs have all been based on Phison's turnkey SSD solutions, where Corsair specifies how the drive will look, but the internals of the drive are essentially identical to those of a dozen other brands. Using turnkey solutions like this is by far the easiest and least risky way for a brand to ship SSDs, but it leaves very little room for product differentiation. Corsair's Neutron XTi and Force LE SATA drives and their Force MP500 M.2 NVMe SSD don't offer anything unique under Corsair's sticker. The new Corsair Neutron NX500 uses the same Phison E7 controller as the MP500, but it aims to stand out from the crowd.

The Corsair Neutron NX500 is not the first retail Phison E7 SSD to use the PCIe add-in card form factor with a heatsink, but it is the first to reserve a very large spare area, leaving just 400GB usable space on our sample compared to the typical 480GB. This kind of high overprovisioning ratio is usually only found on enterprise SSDs intended for write-heavy workloads. We saw these oddball capacities with the Intel SSD 750, but there it was due in part to Intel's 18-channel controller compared to 4 or 8 channels on most consumer drives. The Corsair NX500 actually has substantially more overprovisioning than the Intel SSD 750.

The custom heatsink makes the Corsiar Neutron NX500 visually quite distinct as it carries typical Corsair styling cues. The PCIe bracket is perforated with triangular vents that match the Corsair ONE's side panels, while the rest of the drive is decked in variations on black. We know from our past testing of Phison E7 drives that the heatsink's role is more aesthetic than functional, but as the heaviest SSD heatsink I've yet encountered it should guarantee that the controller stays cool. The NX500 does not include any thermal pads between the heatsink and the flash memory, and there are no thermal pads between the drive and the backplate. The faux carbon fiber plastic shroud over part of the NX500's heatsink could theoretically detract from its cooling capacity, but the wattage of the Phison E7 chip is far too low to for that to matter.

The PCB under the NX500's heatsink is barely modified from the Phison reference design. It does actually bear Corsair's name, but the overall layout is identical to all the other Phison E7 PCIe cards we've seen, right down to the unpopulated solder pads for power loss protection capacitors—both cylindrical through-hole capacitors and surface-mount solid capacitors are provided for. A custom PCB half the size could have worked without making the board crowded. The flash is the usual Toshiba 15nm MLC. The NX500 is equipped with twice as much DRAM as is typical for a SSD with this much NAND flash.

Corsair Neutron NX500 Specifications Comparison
Capacity 400GB 800GB
Controller Phison PS5007-E7
NAND Flash Toshiba 15nm MLC
DRAM Cache 1 GB DDR3 2 GB DDR3
Sequential Read 2800 MB/s 2800 MB/s
Sequential Write 1600 MB/s 1600 MB/s
Random Read IOPS 300k 300k
Random Write IOPS 270k 270k
Form Factor PCIe x4 HHHL PCIe x4 HHHL
Write Endurance 698 TB (1 DWPD) 1396 TB (1 DWPD)
Warranty 5 years 5 years
Launch MSRP $319.99 $659.99

Quite unsurprisingly given the overprovisioning situation, the Corsair Neutron NX500 comes with a firmware version we have not previously encountered on other Phison E7 products. The NX500 ships with firmware version E7FM04.5, which I'll abbreviate as version 4.5. We've previously dealt with versions 1.0, 2.0 and 2.1, and an upcoming review will feature a 240GB drive using version 3.6.

An NVMe SSD in the PCIe add-in card form factor with a big heatsink and using MLC NAND is obviously a niche product for the high end of the market. It makes sense that Corsair's starting the NX500 line with 400GB and 800GB capacities while the more mainstream MP500 M.2 SSD ranges from 120GB to 480GB. Corsair rates the NX500 with a total write endurance of 698TB for the 400GB model (the same as their 480GB MP500) and 1396TB for the 800GB model, but the NX500 comes with a five-year warranty compared to the MP500's three years.

This review has two goals: to compare the NX500's overprovisioning and other firmware changes against earlier Phison E7 drives, and to compare the NX500 against the broader field of current NVMe SSDs with similar capacities. The other drives considered in this review includes:

AnandTech 2017 SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1703
Linux kernel version 4.12, fio version 2.21
AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
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  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, August 17, 2017 - link

    The ATSB Heavy and Light tests include data from runs on a full drive, and The Destroyer writes more than enough data to put this drive into steady-state. Synthetic benchmarks of steady-state performance would not be more representative of real-world usage. Client drives do not get hammered with constant writes. I will eventually add some steady-state tests back into the test suite, but they will not be and never have been the most important aspect of a client drive review. They're useful to study how the drive handles garbage collection under pressure, but the impact that has on real-world performance is minimal. Reply
  • qlum - Friday, August 18, 2017 - link

    The only place I wouldn't go for samsung is when you want to use a cheap 120gb ssd. At that point the cheapest samsung drives are just too expensive. Reply
  • Vorl - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    did I miss something big, besides the card? This while a good review, is a very uninteresting product that just wastes space compared to a 4x m.2 slot. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    You can put a card form factor drive in an older board without m.2 slots. Unfortunately the underlying Phision controller isn't much faster than older SATA models; making it another underwhelming product. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    Even then you can buy a cheap PCI-E x4 to m.2 adapter for like $15. There's no reason for this card to exist at these capacities. If it was 2 or 4TB, maybe, but not 400/800GB Reply
  • mapesdhs - Thursday, August 17, 2017 - link

    Yup, I have a 960 Pro 512GB on an Akasa card on an X79 board, does about 3.5GB/sec in CDM.

    Pity the review didn't mention the cheaper SM951/SM961, and they really need to get a 960 Pro to round out the data, the one I bought wasn't that much more than the EVO and it's a far better product. I don't like the 960 EVO, it's slower than the 950 Pro most of the time.
    Reply
  • r3loaded - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    > Skip to the graphs.
    > Another SSD that gets pwned by a 960 Evo, nevermind the Pro.
    > Write this comment, ignore the rest of the review and close the tab.
    Reply
  • creed3020 - Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - link

    +1

    Unfortunately so, wish it wasn't......very disappointing Corsair.
    Reply
  • timchen - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    If I am not mistaken, 960 EVO 1 TB can perform quite differently to 500GB... so using the 1TB performance per dollar does not seem very fair to the 400 GB... Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    I do wish I had a sample of the 500GB 960 EVO, because performance does generally scale with capacity. But it's pretty safe to assume that at low queue depths and while the SLC cache isn't full, the 500GB 960 EVO will perform similarly enough to the 1TB that it still beats the Phison E7 drives. Reply

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