PCIe 5.0 solid-state drives (SSDs) entered the market amid the biggest drop in flash memory prices we’ve ever seen. While being ahead of the curve sounds exciting, you might want to skip PCIe 5.0 SSDs and stick with PCIe 4.0 and PCIe 3.0 SSDs for now. This is why.
Early PCIe 5.0 SSDs are too expensive
If you’re in the market for a new PCIe SSD or even a new RAM kit, you’re in luck because we’re in the midst of the biggest price drop the flash memory market has ever seen. Right now, you can get quality 1TB capacity PCIe 4.0 SSDs for under $100, and 2TB models sell for under $200.
And then you have the latest and greatest in solid-state storage technology in the form of PCIe 5.0 SSDs that are ridiculously expensive for what they offer. For example, a quick search on Newegg shows that Western Digital’s flagship PCIe 4.0 SSD and one of the best SSDs for PS5, the SN850X, is $90 for the 1TB model and $160 for the 2TB drive.
Moving on to our favorite gaming SSD, the Samsung 980 Pro, we can find it on Amazon for $80 and $139 for the 1TB and 2TB versions, respectively. Another drive listed, the Crucial P5 Plus, can be yours for $80 or $127, depending on whether you want it in 1TB or 2TB capacity.
On the other hand, the Corsair MP700, Corsair’s flagship PCIe 5.0 SSD, will set you back at least $170, which is the cost of the 1TB version. The MSI M570 HS, MSI’s flagship PCIe 5.0 SSD, is even more ridiculously priced, with MSI asking $350 for the 2TB version.
Now, if PCIe 5.0 SSDs offered twice the performance of your typical PCIe 4.0 drive, we’d be okay with these prices. But really, while PCIe 5.0 SSDs offer a solid improvement when it comes to sequential read and write speeds, their built-in real-world performance improvements in random read and write capability are at best , marginal.
Forget sequential performance, random IOPS is what matters
Today’s fastest PCIe 5.0 SSD, the Crucial T700, can achieve over 12 GBps sequential writes. That’s impressive at first glance considering that the fastest PCIe 4.0 SSDs top out at 7GBps-7.5GBps. But the truth is, you most likely won’t see this level of performance if you decide to snag the T700 or any other PCIe 5.0 drive.
It’s because when you copy or move a file between two storage devices, the maximum transfer speed is always limited by the slower drive. In other words, if you take a huge file and copy or move it between two storage drives, you’ll need two T700s to see that 12 GBps transfer rate.
And most of us don’t have a motherboard that supports even a single PCIe 5.0 SSD, let alone multiple PCIe 5.0 drives. The only chipsets that support PCIe 5.0 SSDs are Intel’s Z790 and B760 and AMD’s B650/B650E and X670/X670E. In other words, don’t expect a PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot on your board unless you have a newer Intel or AMD CPU: a 13th Gen Intel CPU or an AMD Ryzen 7000 CPU.
Having a single PCIe 5.0 SSD as a boot drive might be the answer. I mean, nobody needs 10 GBps and higher sequential speeds unless your job is to copy large files from one storage drive to another. On the other hand, a single PCIe 5.0 drive should be all you need; While you won’t be able to experience those blazing-fast sequential transfer speeds, you’ll at least benefit from faster boot times, better performance in applications that use scratch disks like Adobe Photoshop, faster load times in games installed on a PCIe 5.0 drive. , faster installation times, etc., right? Well not really.
You see, while the sequential performance of PCIe 5.0 drives is much higher than what you can get from a PCIe 4.0 SSD, the random increase in read and write performance is so low that you won’t see any improvement in real life. And random read and write performance or random input/output operations per second (Random IOPS) is all you need to care about when looking for a new SSD on the market.
Random IOPS performance represents real-life SSD performance because your operating system, games and apps installed on your drive, and the files you manipulate when editing photos and videos aren’t stored in one place on the SSD. In fact, they are scattered all over the memory chips that are on the SSD and finding them is a speed of action that is not based on sequential but random performance, on random IOPS.
The random IOPS numbers you may see on some SSD reviews represent the number of times per second an SSD can read and write a certain block of data under certain conditions represented by the queue depth or QD number, which shows how many data requests are waiting to be written. The larger the test file and the higher the QD number, the better the random read and write performance, since SSDs perform better with larger queue depths.
These are the test results you should be seeing
Random IOPS performance can get very tricky very quickly because different tests use different size files and combine those files with different queue depths. Then we also have random read and random write IOPS results. However, as a regular user, you should only focus on the results of the random read 4KB QD1 test (also known as random read 4K QD1 tests) because those results are the best representation of a real-life usage scenario when using an SSD as the boot drive.
So when reading SSD reviews, focus on the random read 4K QD1 test results. Tom’s Hardware, for example, includes random read 4K QD1 tests in its SSD reviews. TechPowerUp is another outing that includes 4K QD1 random read tests. They also test SSDs in many real life scenarios such as load times in various games, Adobe Photoshop CC and Premiere Pro editing and media import benchmarks, Windows 11 boot time, etc.
If you just want to quickly check the 4KB QD1 random read results, check out Tom’s Hardware reviews; for more results, check out TechPowerUp. Our recommendation is to read the SSD reviews from both outlets to get the best picture of the performance of an SSD you’re interested in.
Now, if we check Tom’s Hardware’s review of the Crucial T700, we can see that in the 4K QD1 random read test (seventh image in the “Synthetic Tests: ATTO / CrystalDiskMark” section), the T700 is behind a PCIe 4.0 SSD , the Samsung 990 Pro. So yes, surprisingly, the fastest SSD when it comes to real-world performance is a PCIe 4.0 model.
Moving on to TechPowerUp’s review of another PCIe 5.0 SSD, the Corsair MP700, we can see that when it comes to random read performance, the test results use data for different QD sizes, but QD1 is by far the test. Most important, as it accounts for 80% of the final score: the first three spots are taken by PCIe 4.0 drives: Kingston NV2, XPG Gammix S70 Blade, and MSI Spatium M450.
When it comes to the Windows 11 boot time test, a PCIe 5.0 SSD—Solidigm P44 Pro—is first, but the next eight spots are reserved for PCIe 4.0 drives, with a boot time difference between first and second. tenth place of just 0.4 seconds. No one will notice that kind of difference. Finally, in gaming load tests, we again have PCIe 4.0 SSDs that match or exceed the performance of PCIe 5.0 drives.
A quality PCIe 4.0 SSD is all you need
As you just saw, there is no noticeable difference between the best PCIe 4.0 and PCIe 5.0 SSDs when it comes to 4K QD1 random read tests and real-life performance tests like Windows 11 boot time or timings. game load.
In other words, if you’re looking for a new SSD on the market, skip the PCIe 5.0 models altogether. They are overpriced and offer not one iota of improvement when it comes to real life performance metrics. Our recommendation is to buy a quality PCIe 4.0 SSD, or even a PCIe 3.0 solid drive if you’re looking for a storage drive and not a boot drive. If you own a PS5, you should also skip PCIe 5.0 SSDs, as the PS5 only supports PCIe 4.0 storage options.
A high-end PCIe 4.0 SSD offers excellent sequential read and write speeds, is more than fast enough to meet Microsoft’s DirectStorage requirements, and its random read and write performance is in line with what PCIe SSDs can achieve. 5.0. Best of all, SSD prices are so low today that high-end PCIe 4.0 drives with 1TB capacity cost less than $100, a price that not long ago was reserved for PCIe 4.0 SSDs and PCIe 3.0 lower level.
You should start considering PCIe 5.0 SSDs only after they drop in price enough to be about 10% more expensive on average than high-end PCIe 4.0 SSDs. Until that happens, it’s not worth getting a PCIe 5.0 SSD, unless you want to get one just because you always like to have the best and fastest hardware inside your PC. If that’s the case, go ahead. But everyone else should stick to PCIe 4.0 and PCIe 3.0 drives, at least for now.