Addlink S95 2 TB Review 18

Addlink S95 2 TB Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • According to Addlink, the 2 TB version of the S95 will retail for $470.
  • Amazing real-life performance
  • PCI-Express 4.0 support
  • Impressive synthetic benchmark results
  • Excellent sustained write performance (for a TLC drive)
  • DRAM cache
  • Large pSLC cache
  • Five-year warranty
  • Compact form factor
  • Expensive
  • No heatsink included
  • Thermal throttling when highly loaded
  • Largest capacity available is 2 TB
  • Thermal reporting inaccurate
The S95 is Addlink's new flagship solid-state drive. It's based on the highly popular Phison E18 controller, which is among the fastest available and has the S95 beat out solid-state drives with controllers from WD and Samsung. Phison's PS5018-E18 controller is a high-end eight-channel model based on a multi-core ARM design that is fabricated at TSMC using 12 nanometer technology. Other important components of the drive are 96-layer 3D TLC flash from Micron and 2 GB of fast DDR4-2666 DRAM cache, which helps achieve the best performance during random write activity. The unique selling point of the drive is support for the PCI-Express 4.0 interface, which has become mainstream thanks to AMD's Ryzen processors. Intel has added support for PCIe 4.0 with Rocket Lake CPUs, which should help the push for PCIe 4.0 SSDs. Physically, the Addlink S95 seems identical to the Phison E18 reference design, which also makes it identical to the Corsair MP600 Pro, though the latter comes with a heatsink preinstalled.

Synthetic numbers of the Addlink S95 are extremely impressive. Random IO, mixed, read, and write are higher than any other drive we've ever tested, with the exception of the Corsair MP600 Pro, of course, which is essentially the same drive. Sequential numbers are among the best we've ever seen, too.

Our real-life testing suite goes beyond synthetics and runs the actual applications at 80% disk full, which is a more realistic scenario than a completely empty drive running a synthetic test. Real-life benchmarks are much harder to optimize for, too. Here, the S95 can excel as well. It is always near the top of our charts and reaches performance that's pretty much identical to the fastest drives out there. The Samsung 980 Pro is only 1% faster, and WD Black SN850 is 2% faster—nothing you'd ever notice subjectively. Compared to the best PCIe Gen 3 SSDs, the performance increase is 3 to 5%, and value-oriented Gen 3 SSDs are up to 15% slower on average. Some individual application scenarios will show bigger differences.

While the differences are certainly impressive, they are not "double," which is what the transition from PCIe Gen 3 to Gen 4 could suggest to the uneducated reader. The underlying reason is that almost no application is only limited by sequential transfer rates. Most workloads are a mixture of low queue depth random and sequential IO, with working sets as as big as a few gigabytes.

Sequential write performance of the Addlink S95 is very good; filling the whole drive completes at around 1.7 GB/s on average, with peaks starting out at over 5 GB/s. This is a really good result and faster than any other SSD but the Samsung 980 Pro and MLC-based 970 Pro. At 200 GB, the SLC cache is also sufficiently large to soak up nearly all bursts of write activity. Even when the SLC cache is exhausted will you get serious write rates: 1.8 GB/s and 1 GB/s. Of course, momentarily stopping the write activity will have the SLC cache free up capacity immediately, so full write rates are available as soon as you give the drive a moment to settle down.

Unlike the Corsair MP600 Pro, the Addlink S95 does not come with a heatsink preinstalled, which means it will thermally throttle at some point when heavily loaded with little or no airflow. In our worst-case thermal test we ran into this after 100 seconds of full-speed writes at 5 GB per second. That's 500 GB in an extremely short time frame, not very likely to happen very often. Still, if you feel thermals could become an issue, you might want to invest in an aftermarket heatsink or direct some airflow at the S95. The drive's own thermal reporting is extremely optimistic; when 80°C were reported to software, the actual surface temperature was 110°C.

Priced at $470 for the tested 2 TB version, the Addlink S95 is expensive. For that amount of money, you can almost get a 4 TB SSD, but it of course won't be as fast. Good 2 TB M.2 NVMe SSDs start at around $250, which makes the difference to $470 just to eke the last bits of performance out of your storage subsystem huge. Strong competition also comes from the Samsung 980 Pro 2 TB ($430), which is slightly faster than the Addlink S95 and profits from the "Samsung" brand fame and trust. The Corsair MP600 Pro ($460) is basically the same as the Addlink S95, but comes with a heatsink preinstalled, and the WD Black SN850 at $530 is the fastest drive we ever tested. Addlink mentioned Chia cryptomining as a reason for high pricing now, but I still feel the drive should at least match the lowest-priced model from those competitors, maybe even undercut it by a few bucks to justify the lack of a heatsink, which most people don't need anyway.
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May 19th, 2022 17:25 EDT change timezone

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