Solid state drives (aka SSD) are known among technical geeks to be very fast storage solutions that can increase the overall performance of the computer system up to 4 times more than a traditional hard drive. But how can we use an SSD for PS4? And what suggestions can we make for PS4 fanboys in this regard?
Why SSD is faster than HDD
Over the last three years, Samsung has become one of the most dominant players in the SSD industry. There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the Samsung SSD 850 Pro. Don’t get us wrong: We love super-fast SSDs like the Intel SSD 750 or Samsung 950 Pro. When it comes to PS4, SSD is still faster than any other traditional hard drive, but not as fast as it is in computer systems. Targeted towards read-intensive workloads, boot, and logging applications in both servers and mobile computing, the X400 is SanDisk’s top-tier client SATA SSD available in both M.2 and 2.5″ form factors. SanDisk has the exclusive on Silicon Motion’s SM2246XP controller.
SSDs usually are built with single-level cell (SLC) or multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash memory. SLC drives store 1 bit of data per cell of flash media. MLC-based SSDs double the drive capacity by writing data in two segments. Newer SSDs, known as triple-level cell NAND flash (TLC), are being marketed that store 3 bits of data per flash cell. TLC is less expensive than SLC or MLC, which makes it an attractive option for manufacturers of consumer-based flash devices.
The X400 SSD release establishes SanDisk as one of the only companies currently offering 1TB of storage in a single-sided M.2 card. Adding a PS4 SSD to your game console can noticeably increase the overall performance, which is a fact that everyone knows. But is this increment in speed worth the price? Samsung’s strategy has been tight vertical integration ever since the beginning, which gives Samsung the ability to be in the forefront of new technologies. It’s the first SSD on the market that uses the innovative 3D vertical NAND (V-NAND) flash memory for top performance and ultra-high endurance. But while the performance can be impressive, there’s something to be said for carrying around a metric ton (that’s 2,000GB in the Imperial system) of storage. Based upon the marketing material it seems that SanDisk has put a lot of value into this drive, not only with its feature set, but performance and efficiency.
The best SSD option for PS4
What’s more, we got our 128GB Z400s for just $.25/GB. Although the X400 also comes in a 2.5″ 7mm-height form factor (which is the focus of our review), the M.2 configuration is the main selling point of this line of SSDs. That is a massive advantage because ultimately all the parts need to be designed and optimized to work properly together. If we are to select among the many SSD brands in the market and pick the best one of them for PS4, we would certainly make the price our prime factor. It comes with a rarely seen 10-year warranty and, among other features, has a Rapid mode that further boosts its performance. Perhaps equally perplexing is that both the 950 Pro and the 850 Pro appear to use the same V-NAND, which means you can get roughly four times the capacity (2TB) as the 512GB 950 Pro for only twice the price.
The X400 is the successor to the X300 and X300s models and utilizes their latest sixth generation TLC NAND flash as well as a 4-channel Marvell controller with their nCache 2.0 architecture to deliver some impressive performance numbers. If that’s the case, then we can say that the best PS4 SSD is what offer the lowest price in the market, but must also bear a prominent SSD brand. But is this is a true low-cost contender, or just a cheap SSD? Installing a 1TB M.2 X400 card will allow users to get the most out of their ultra-thin notebooks in terms of storage, without sacrificing performance or battery life. The first fruit of Samsung’s vertical integration was the SSD 840, which was the first mass produced SSD to utilize TLC NAND and gave Samsung a substantial cost advantage. What’s more, it’s one of the first drives available in the all-new 2TB capacity, along with its sibling the SSD 850 Evo.
The increase in performance with SSD
Yes, the old SATA interface is a bottleneck at times, but for the typical home user it’s frequently not much of a problem, and the ubiquity of the SATA 6Gb/s interface means most systems can handle multiple drives if you’re so inclined. With DataGuard Client and LDPC error correction code, its endurance is far beyond their previous models. SSD will surely give a remarkable boost to the performance of PS4, which you’ll observe it in the faster launch of games, and the tangible cut-down on the time of system boot-up. Just a few weeks ago, we saw SanDisk’s Z400s on sale in an almost unbelievable bundle. The X400 makes use of SanDisk’s nCache 2.0 technology, which leverages multi-tiered architecture and provides improved performance during taxing operations like sustained-sequential writing. Even today, the SSD 840 and its successor, the 840 EVO, are still the only TLC NAND based SSDs shipping in high volume.
Naturally, though, all of that comes at a price. Samsung is currently the leader in the consumer market for SSD capacities, as no one else even makes 2TB-class SATA drives. You can go though for a hard drive PS4 which’s cheaper and not too slower. There are even SED SSD sku’s offering AES 256-bit encryption with TCG Opal 2.0 support, and moreover, it is backed by a 5-year warranty to boot! For $128, you could get four 128GB drives, dividing out to 25 cents per gigabyte of flash. SanDisk’s 2nd generation TLC flash node works to maximize reliability and energy efficiency so that the X400 uses minimal power, making it ideal for use in a mobile setting.
|PS4 SSD Comparison|
|Drive||750 EVO 120GB||750 EVO 250GB||850 EVO 120GB||850 EVO 250GB|
|NAND||Samsung 128Gb 16nm TLC||Samsung 32-layer 128Gbit TLC V-NAND|
|4KB Random Read||94K IOPS||97K IOPS||94K IOPS||97K IOPS|
|4KB Random Write||88K IOPS||88K IOPS||88K IOPS||88K IOPS|
|4KB Random Read QD1||10K IOPS||10K IOPS||10K IOPS||10K IOPS|
|4KB Random Write QD1||35K IOPS||35K IOPS||40K IOPS||40K IOPS|
|Active Power (Read/Write)||2.1W / 2.4W (Average)||2.4W / 2.8W (Average)||Max 3.7W / 4.4W|
|Encryption||AES-256, TCG Opal 2.0, IEEE-1667 (eDrive)||AES-256, TCG Opal 2.0, IEEE-1667 (eDrive)|
|Warranty||Three years||Five years|
Choosing the right SSD for PS4
Now, two years later, Samsung is doing it again with the introduction of the SSD 850 Pro, the world’s first consumer SSD with 3D NAND. Depending on the capacities, the new Samsung drive is one of the most expensive among standard SSDs, currently costing $98, $152, $255, $489 and $1,000 for 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB respectively. If you’re confused about which SSD is right for your PS4 that features a good compromise between performance and price, try to check our SSD PS4 guide. (That’s about £63 to £640 and AU$128 to AU$1,310 converted.) Note that the pricing for the newly released 2TB version is the suggested retail price, and its street price will likely be lower. In the enterprise market, you can find all sorts of crazy capacities, but pricing tends to be prohibitively expensive, and the drives are frankly overkill for the consumer market—unless you happen to be doing 10 full drive writes per day of activity? In a time when data security is more important than ever and price being king, will all this be enough to be a Top Value contender in the marketplace? A friend of ours took the bait and purchased a pack.
As you know, pressing and holding the PS button on your DualShock 4 brings up the Quick Menu. We’ve overhauled this menu to make it faster and easier to use. One big change is that the menu now only covers a portion of the screen, meaning you don’t need to leave gameplay entirely.
The SSD high price
In terms of security, the X400 comes with TCG Opal 2.0 support, which allows the X400 to be compatible with 3rd-party security ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) if enhanced security is desired. For years it has been known that the scalability of traditional NAND is coming to an end. If you don’t mind paying the premium, the Samsung delivers the best performance, highest capacity and longest warranty time currently available on the market. Make no mistake, however; 2TB of NAND, even with a SATA interface, will set you back a pretty penny. Read on to find out! Yes, unlike HDD, SSD is NOT cheap. You’ll need to pay almost 3x the price of HDD for SSD. That’s because an HDD PS4 with 1TB of capacity comes at around $60, whereas the same capacity of SSD costs more than $250.
Getting a better SSD deal
If the drives turn out to be duds, he at least has a good story and some nice-looking coasters. The X400 also has SED (Self-Encrypted Drive) capabilities, giving users access to hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption. Every die shrink has been more difficult than the previous as the endurance and performance have decreased with every node, making it less and less efficient to scale the size down. So if you’re longing for a solid state drive for PS4 and want to give it a try, you should wait for SSD deals that come with big price discounts. It’s especially great for those who regularly need to write a huge amount of data to the internal drive every day. The 850 Pro 2TB we’re looking at today currently costs $873, though it’s worth noting the drive is already $127 below the original $1,000 MSRP.
- Type: Solid State Drive
- Type: 2.5″ 7 mm (Ultraslim) Form Factor
- Type: 750 EVO Series
- Storage Capacity: 500 GB
- Sequential Read Speed: Up to 540 MB/s
- Sequential Write Speed: Up to 520 MB/s
- Random Read Speed Up to 98K IOPS
- Random Write Speed Up to 88K IOPS
- Warranty: 3 Years
Storing Games on PS4 SSD
The SanDisk X400 is a SATA 6Gb/s SSD that comes in 2.5″ 7mm and single sided M.2 2280 form factors. Prior to 2008, if you were a power user, your PC had a Raptor inside. Additional features like DataGuard Client and LDPC error correction improve drive endurance, pushing its lifespan up to a reported 320TBW (TB written). You can also store your favorite games on the SSD with which you replaced the PS4 stock hard drive. SanDisk built the X400 with a specialized hardware core that performs error corrections on the fly, sparing users from experiencing an appreciable drop in latency in the event of a minor writing error. Scaling below 20nm was seemed as a major obstacle but the industry was able to cross that with some clever innovations in the NAND design. But if you’re on stricter budget, the 850 Evo is cheaper, with comparable performance in many tests.
The question we’re here to answer today is how much performance you give up by going for a higher capacity SATA drive compared to a lower capacity PCIe drive. You can go also for a solid state external hard drive to use it for storing movies that you want to play on PlayStation 4. It is currently available in capacities of 128GB ($48.25), 256GB ($79.99), 512GB ($124.99), and 1TB ($239.95). This makes the M.2 variant the world’s thinnest 1TB M.2 product at just 1.5mm thick! Serious enthusiasts owned several in RAID 0 or 5. The SanDisk X400 SSD comes in capacities of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB. However, the magic hat is now running out of tricks and a more signficant change to the NAND design is required to keep scaling the cost.
Game launch will be faster
For more options on great internal drives, check out this list of top SSDs on the market. And that’s not the only thing we need to discuss today, as we’re doing a double-header of 2TB drive reviews—see the Samsung 850 Evo 2TB review here. The launch of PS4 games while using an SSD instead of an HDD will be undoubtedly faster, but not as fast as expected from a PC. Sequential speeds are rated for up to 545 MB/s read and 520 MB/s write. Western Digital helped make storage cool for the first time. Pricing for the 2.5″ form factor is around $50.49, $78.99, $122.50, and $249.99, respectively.
The present solution to the scalability problem is 3D NAND, or V-NAND as Samsung calls it. The Samsung SSD 850 Pro is a standard internal drive that supports the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard and will work in any instance where a regular SATA hard drive is used. The other offering also comes from Samsung, but it’s their value-friendly 850 Evo 2TB. Random read and write performance is listed for up to 95K/75K IOPS. The company even had one model with a clear section on top so you could see the mechanical parts moving.
There is a slight bump in price for the M.2 models, which cost $59.99, $94.99, $142.99, and $259.99, respectively. Traditionally NAND and other semiconductors are scaled horizontally along the X and Y axes but due to the laws of physics, there is a limit of how small the transistors can be made. Moreover, with an SSD put in the place of PS4 stock hard drive, there’ a big chance that this new drive will last magnitudes longer than the traditional hard drive PS4 incorporates. Similar to most SSDs, it’s 7mm thick. That drive uses a slightly different controller with TLC V-NAND, but the price is also 70 dollars less—currently $645, though with the holiday sales it’s difficult to tell if that’s representative of pricing we’ll see going forward, or merely a short-term sale. The endurance figures on the X400 SSDs are as follows: 72 TBW (128GB), 80 TBW (256GB), 160 TBW (512GB), 320 TBW, (1TB). In addition, the MTTF rating is 1.75 million hours.
The PlayStation 4 features two graphics APIs, a low level API named GNM and a high level API named GNMX. Most people start with the GNMX API which wraps around GNM and manages the more esoteric GPU details in a way that’s a lot more familiar if users are used to platforms like Direct3D 11. The developers of The Crew put a lot of work into the move to the lower-level GNM, and in the process the tech team found out just how much work DirectX does in the background in terms of memory allocation and resource management.
SSD Reliability in PS4 Systems
The Raptor was the first and only consumer 10,000 RPM hard drive. Each model comes with a 5-year warranty. SSDs are known to be very reliable storage devices that surpass traditional hard disk drives in this aspects by many degrees. To solve the problem, 3D NAND introduces a Z-axis i.e. a vertical dimension. Like most standard drives, it’s a square device that’s 2.5 inches diagonally, with the standard SATA port on one of its sides. If you’re willing to give up the performance of PCIe SSDs to save some money and go for raw capacity, it makes sense to look at saving even more money, right?
In terms of features, the X400 has DataGuard Client technology and LDPC error correction. It represented a radical shift from other storage devices of the day (most computers shipped with 5400 RPM spindles). I/Os were naturally slow and something had to be done to feed the dual-core CPUs that started shipped a few years before. SSD PS4 is so reliable, and it can handle heavy workloads much better than mechanical hard drives. The X400 features a simple design, with black casing and red branding. Instead of cramming transistors horizontally closer and closer to each other, 3D NAND stacks layers of transistors on top of each other. The new drive looks exactly the same as the previous 840 Pro model.
- PRECONDITIONING – The entire SSD is filled twice sequentially with random data of a 128 KB file size. The second run accounts for overprovisioning that would have escaped the first.
- DEGRADATION PHASE – The SSD is hit with random writes of between 4 KB and 1 MB for 10 minutes and then a single pass performance test is done of each application. The cycle is repeated 8 times, and with each time, the duration of random writes increases by 5 minutes.
- STEADY STATE PHASE – The drive is hit with random writes of between 4 KB and 1 MB for 45 minutes before each application is put through a performance test. This process is repeated 5 times.
- RECOVERY PHASE – The SSD is allowed to idle for 5 minutes before and between performance tests of all applications. This is repeated 5 times which accounts for garbage collection.
- CLEANUP – The entire SSD is written with zero data at a write size of 128 KB.
Getting back to that SATA bottleneck for a moment, the current standard allows for the transfer of up to 6Gb/s of information. This allows the X400 to deliver high reliability and endurance. The Raptor helped teach us that high IOPS, and not clock rates, made PCs more responsive. The face has some product information written in white text below the SATA connectors. The best SSD for PS4 is assumed to have high consistence in terms of performance and speed. I will be going through the structure and characteristics of 3D NAND in detail over the next few pages.
Handling data storage errors
On the inside, however, the new drive is the first that brings 3D vertical NAND flash memory to SSDs, called Samsung second-gen 86-gigabit 40nm MLC V-NAND. With the 8b/10b encoding, that equates to 4.8Gb/s of actual data, which gives us the maximum throughput of 600MB/s. A dedicated hardware core performs progressive error correction to minimize latency and keep power usage low. In 2008, JMicron released its JMF602 controller. PS4 systems are not so improved to handle data storage errors occurred within solid state drives. The back of the X400 just has a white sticker with product information (e.g., serial number). With its casing, the X400 can serve as a drop-in replacement for 2.5″ drives.
TLC or MLC?
By stacking transistors (i.e. cells when speaking about NAND) vertically, Samsung is able to relax the process node back to a much more convenient 40nm. Traditionally, NAND flash memory cells — the storage units on an SSD — are placed flat on the surface of the silicon wafer, limiting the number of cells you can cram into a square inch. Should you go then for a TLC SSD or MLC SSD for your next PS4 storage upgrade? If our opinion means anything to you, we would strongly recommend a TLC SSD. There’s some overhead involved with any transmission of data, so you won’t actually see 600MB/s, but a good SATA SSD will hit around 550MB/s under load. The X400 also utilizes nCache 2.0, which is a multi-tiered caching architecture that allows some of the TLC to operate as SLC and thus provide for fast burst and high sustained sequential write speeds. Suddenly, companies specializing in DRAM were able to take on established hard drive makers.
Deciding through benchmark results
Removing the card from its casing, the circuit board consists of SanDisk’s TLC flash nodes and controller. It’s well-known among IT professionals that benchmarks are the metrics that determine the performance level of an SSD. But unfortunately, when SSD is incorporated inside a PS4, it will be limited to the SATA III interface. When there are 32 cells on top of each other, it is obvious that there is no need for a 10nm-class node because the stacking increases the density, allowing production costs to scale lower. In the case of the Samsung drive, cells are also stacked up to 32 layers. And there’s the crux of the issue: “under load.” What exactly constitutes a storage load that’s worthy of 600MB/s, let alone moving to the even higher throughput offered by the PCIe interface? It also supports TRIM, DevSleep, SMART monitoring, and TCG Opal 2.0 and AES 256-bit encryption.
Storage reviewers, marketing materials and consumers mainly measured disk performance by throughput. The back of the card is completely blank since the X400 uses a single-sided design for both the 2.5″ and its M.2 form factorsThe SanDisk X400 also performed well in average write latency, trailing the Samsung EVO SSDs but outpacing all of the other drives (0.0367ms). A 4TB hard drive can be the best storage addition to PS4 among all other options. The X400 fell behind slightly in terms of max write latency, with 37.8ms. As we have seen with the history of NAND die shrinks, a higher process node provides more endurance and higher performance, which is what the 850 Pro and V-NAND is all about. This allows for packing significantly more memory cells in the same amount of wafer bits, which greatly increases the density. One thing that doesn’t qualify as such a load, generally speaking, is the normal daily tasks of most users.
PS4 SSD encryption crises
TCG Opal 2.0 and AES 256-bit encryption support is a big plus since it allows customers to have peace of mind knowing their business data is protected, secured and encrypted when used with compatible software. The large numbers were easily understandable on retail boxes. For comparison, the Samsung 850 EVO 1TB posted a max write latency of 1.91ms. PC SSD performs in high levels when it comes to handling I/O data and tolerating the heavy workloads. Fundamentally the only change in the 850 Pro is the switch to V-NAND. That plus Samsung’s customized firmware and the improved MEX controller, allow the drive to also offer great performance and ultra-high endurance.
Booting your OS is arguably the most intensive task of the day for a lot of people, and even that will rarely push the limits of SATA as there’s plenty of data processing happening in the background (we’ll look at this in more detail in a future article). Even when using a gaming SSD in PS4 systems, you’ll not supposed to get the hoped results. In fact, for the typical home and office user, the only time you’re really going to push storage performance is if you’re doing a lot of file copying—installing programs is another example of a task that does a lot of file copying.
- On top of this there is also Crypto-Erase support, which has the ability to remove all user data in less than a second by deleting all security keys.
- The top-tier VelociRaptor 300GB kicked out 115 MB/s along the outer edge of its platters, but dropped to half that on the slowest part.
- The Crucial BX200 drives were the slowest, with latencies of over 180ms.
- The interface is still SATA 6Gbps and the controller is the same triple-core MEX from the 840 EVO, although I am still waiting to hear back from Samsung whether the clock speed is the same 400MHz.
DATA security on PS4
Endurance is the number of program-erase (P/E) cycles an SSD has before you can’t write onto it any more. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other viable reasons to have faster storage—there are plenty of other tasks that will benefit, including database accesses, servers in general, and heavy A/V editing—but most of those tasks are outside of the normal purview of PC consumers. You really don’t need to care much about the data security on PS4 systems, because it’s really very hard to think of a valid reason for that obsession. All this combined leads to the X400’s solid 5-year warranty. In comparison, JMicron’s JMF602 DRAM-less controller could read at 135 MB/s and didn’t rely on moving parts subject to mechanical limitations. In our next 4K test, we move to a workload with 100% write activity, which scales from 1QD to 64QD.
The firmware, on the other hand, has gone through a massive overhaul to adopt the characteristics of V-NAND. Samsung says you can write at least 150TB (on the 128GB and 256GB capacities) or 300TB (on the 512GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities) of data to the 850 Pro before it runs out of P/E cycles, almost twice that of the SanDisk Extreme Pro, which has an endurance of 80TB. If you don’t like an SSD for PS4 due to its high price and limited capacity, yet you want an option faster than the traditional hard drive, try then an SSHD PS4 which is the future successor to mechanical hard drives in the coming years. Even if the benefit is mostly unused, it’s still nice to have up to four times the performance on the few occasions where you do happen to pound the storage subsystem. SanDisk even has an SSD toolkit software called SanDisk SSD Dashboard, which includes tools for analysis of the SSD (including drive model, capacity, firmware version, and SMART attributes), performance monitoring, over-provisioning, secure and crypto-erase, diagnostics, cloning, and firmware updating capabilities. The problem with early DRAM-less SSDs was that they were optimized for high sequential performance.
In the aligned write setting, the SanDisk X400 performed slightly below average compared to the other drives, outperforming only the Crucial BX200 drives. SSDs are very good, yes, but they are also very expensive compared to their mechanical siblings, and a PS4 will not benefit from most of the speed improvements an SSD offer to computer systems. With shorter read, program and erase latencies and higher endurance, the firmware needs to be properly optimized or otherwise the full benefits of V-NAND cannot be utilized. This means most of us won’t use up the drive’s endurance in our lifetime. But if you’re trying to balance performance and capacity against price, SATA SSDs still have plenty to offer, and you can always use a RAID 0 configuration to improve throughput in a pinch. Our review sample came void of any packaging, therefore we are unable to comment upon it.