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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  • Exodite - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    I'm looking forward to the day I can read a SSD review and not come away thinking "...or just buy a Samsung".

    Not that I begrudge them top spot, they've clearly put the work into it, but as consumers we'd be better served if at least /someone/ else were competing on, like, any metric.
    Reply
  • Ej24 - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    Crucial used to be in the game back when Sata SSD's were king, then they just never released another MLC drive, nor any consumer nvme drives. So yeah, Samsung is definitely unchallenged now. Though that Toshiba xg5 kept up well in the destroyer benchmark. Reply
  • coolhardware - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    Agreed. Samsung has been at the top for so long it is just boring.

    Kudos to Samsung though for making some fast and reliable SSDs at a reasonable price point.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    I think we got more chances to see GloFo AMD branded SSD better than the 850 than waiting for the known competitors. Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    Crucial is still in the game. They just can't compete with Samsung on performance. Nobody can.

    But in my experience, Crucial/Micron drives are slightly more reliable that Samsung (obviously excusing the flawed 840\840 EVO) especially in regard to power loss scenarios. That's why you continue to see more Micron drives in enterprise and business PC's than any other brand (except perhaps Sandisk, in which case they are often the same Marvell controller so the differentiating factor comes down to firmware and in-flight data protection)

    It's really hard to consider anything else when looking at "new" drives. Samsung and Crucial/Micron are really at the top. Sandisk is decent, but not cost competitive at the high end, and OCZ's has had some good drives for the price lately, but why gamble?

    And if you are looking for cheap MLC drives, older Intel drives are still the best bet. I still have a soft spot for SSD320's and SSD710's if you can live with the 3Gbps interface they are bulletproof and incredibly cheap on fleabay.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    "That's why you continue to see more Micron drives in enterprise and business PC's than any other brand (except perhaps Sandisk, in which case they are often the same Marvell controller so the differentiating factor comes down to firmware and in-flight data protection)"

    Maybe it's the particular vendor, but the Dell and Cisco equipment I deal with in both the server and desktop space use mainly Samsung, with some Toshiba XG series on the client side.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    It's maybe ironic the only one challenging them on SSD speed isn't selling SSDs outside their own systems, i.e the last custom Apple SSD controller. Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    Actually I'd love to see that put through this suite. Reply
  • extide - Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - link

    Well at least I can be satisfied knowing I made a good investment buying my 1TB 960 EVO -- heck I think I paid around $400 - $450 or so for it -- cheaper than the 800GB version of this. It makes reviews boring but at the same time it sucks spending good money on something and then seeing something cheaper and faster released shortly after, although I do agree that we need to see some competition. Reply
  • beginner99 - Thursday, August 17, 2017 - link

    Yeah. Perfromance is one thing but price another and this drive is clearly overpriced. If you want me to use a pcie-card ssd you better deliver something special but this fails.
    What's missing is a strady-state bench. First the large spare area gets praised but then no steady-state data? IMHO that is usually the most important aspect of the review, the actual performance the drive will have not some "marketing" numbers.
    Reply

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