Quick Look: SilverStone MS12 NVMe Enclosure 5

Quick Look: SilverStone MS12 NVMe Enclosure

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I would like to thank SilverStone for supplying the sample.

With the market being flooded with NVMe enclosures at low price points of $20, the SilverStone MS12 goes beyond the limit of those 10 Gbps units most drives these days easily saturate, thus making you loose on half or even more of the performance. Instead, the MS12 provides a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 interface resulting in a 20 Gbps limit. That market segment is far smaller and demands a general price premium, and the SilverStone MS12 clearly aims to differentiate itself by also focusing on the best-possible cooling.

Package and a Closer Look

The SilverStone MS12 ships in a compact, full-color package with the unit on the front and a lot of detail about the enclosure's benefits on the rear. You may open the front up like a book for a direct look at the MS12, but with our sample, the tray holding it was inserted the wrong way around, so we only got to see its assembly tool.

You will receive a 30 cm USB-C cable and two thermal pads of varying thickness alongside the tool and some extra screws. A basic pamphlet is also part of the package.

The SilverStone MS12 is made out of aluminium all around and was designed to act as a proper heatsink to the installed NVMe drive. The paperwork even states to be careful when grabbing the MS12 after prolonged use as it may be hot to the touch. The top holds the branding and model number, alongside a QR code that takes you to a digital version of the manual. The underside looks the same but lacks any branding. Four tiny screws hold each panel in place. On one end, you will find the USB-C plug alongside a tiny LED, which will light up blue when powered up.

The SilverStone MS12 clocks in at 72 grams, which is quite hefty for an enclosure. This is a positive as all that metal means better heat dissipation.

SilverStone opted for a tiny hexagonal shape for its screws and has provided a tool to remove them. While this is fine, it also means that if you misplace that tool, accessing the interior of the MS12 will be tricky. Once apart, you will find thermal pads attached to both panels.

The central green PCB is pretty bare on the topside, with the USB-C connector and a few small components only. A golden spacer is pre-installed at the 2280 form factor, which you will have to remove when installing the drive. Instead, SilverStone could just skipped this step and shipped that part in the accessories bag. On the backside, you will find a large SilverStone branding along with the main IC, an ASMedia ASM2364 which translates the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface of the SSD to USB3.2 Gen2x2 for the 20 Gbps maximum transfer rate.

Assembly and Performance

For this sample, Kioxia was kind enough to provide us with their XG6 1 TB NVMe SSD to put the SilverStone MS12 through its paces. This NVMe SSD features 96-layer, 3D TLC NAND and sequential read and write speeds of up to 3180 MB/s and 2960 MB/s respectively, which makes the drive a great choice for squeezing out every single bit of possible performance from the MS12 20 Gbps USB-C interface. As the drive's components are all placed on one side, we will be using the thick thermal pad to bridge the gap between the two PCBs, creating a multi-level sandwich between the two exterior heatsinks of the MS12.

Installing a drive within the SilverStone MS12 is rather complicated compared to other options out there. On one hand, you have to use their tool to take the drive apart on both sides, but then have to dig up a classic screw driver for the underside of the PCB to remove the spacer for drive installation. SilverStone could have at least opted for a hexagonal screw on top of the PCB instead, mimicking the setup of these types of slots on motherboards. Before final assembly, we also added that thicker, gray thermal pad between the drive and PCB to ensure heat transfer all around. Those with dual-sided SSDs should use the thinner blue thermal pad.

With the assembly completed, a thermal sensor was attached to the exterior of the housing to see how well the heat transfer from the drive works. We also used both a USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface which maxes out at 10 Gbps and SilverStone's own ECU06 expansion card that offers a single port at USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, thus 20 Gbps.

A quick check in regards to performance paints a clear picture. With the 10 Gbps interface and a theoretical maximum of 1.25 GB/s transfer speeds, the MS12 saturates the interface with speeds above 1 GB/s. Switching over to the ECU06 and 20 Gbps interface with a 2.5 GB/s theoretical maximum, performance nearly doubled instantly. With NVMe SSDs clocking beyond the 2 GB/s read and write barrier, it really pays off to have the right interface available, and these numbers are right in line with what we would expect from the combination of the Kioxia XG6 and SilverStone MS12.

We also pushed the drive for a prolonged time, writing 10 GB of data to it repetitively over 100 times to heat it up and figure out how well the enclosure manages to keep temperatures in check. NVMe drives are well known to heat up and then slow down to stay under a certain threshold. However, with the MS12, thermal throttling was never achieved as the drive clocked in at a maximum of 58°C. Interestingly enough, the surface temperature of the MS12 was nearly identical, with 57.8°C at worst. This means heat transfer from the drive to the enclosure is excellent and working as well as possible. It also means that you should really be careful when grabbing the drive after prolonged use—it does get hot to the touch.

Value and Conclusion

The SilverStone MS12 is a solid enclosure, proving excellent performance by maxing out the 20 Gbps interface and excellent cooling performance by keeping the drive as cool as possible. With its solid, all-aluminium build, the drive is well protected at the same time. Considering how well these important core functions and features are implemented, one may look past the complicated assembly process.

In terms of pricing, the SilverStone MS12 commands a slightly higher price than some lesser-known brands out there, at $70 in the retail space. While other alternatives from minor brands tend to sell for $55–$60 and offer both USB-C and USB-A cables, those lack the relentless focus on cooling, usually only offering simple, one-sided thermal dissipation. On top of that, with those alternatives, which usually only sell over marketplaces like Amazon, any potential warranty issues could be harder to deal with. Lastly, you cannot be sure which IC is being used and, thus, which protocols and specifications are provided. SilverStone, on the other hand, provides all that information so that you may make an informed decision. All that transparency and peace of mind alongside this level of thermal engineering is certainly worth the extra $10–$15.
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May 21st, 2022 15:38 EDT change timezone

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