Gigabyte’s line-up is expanding. It started last year with their first memory kits and SATA SSDs. This year we saw their first gaming monitor. Today we’re looking at their latest release with the AORUS RGB M.2 NVMe. You read that right, it’s an RGB NVMe SSD. Coming to market at $79.99 for the 256GB version and $119.99 for the 512GB, let’s explore whether its performance matches up with its looks.
- Current Price: $79.99 (256GB), $119.99 (512GB)
- Interface: PCI-Express 3.0 x4, NVMe 1.3
- Form Factor: M.2 2280
- Warranty: Limited 5-years or 800TBW
- NAND: 3D TLC ToshiBa BiCS3
- External DDR Cache: 512MB
- Sequential Read MB/s: Up to 3480 MB/s
- Sequential Write MB/s: Up to 2000 MB/s
- Random Read IOPS: up to 360K
- Random Write IOPS: up to 440K
- Mean time between failure (MTBF): 1.8 million hours
- Power Consumption (Active): Average : R : 5485mW ; W : 4085mW
- Power Consumption (Idle): 272mW
- Temperature (Operating): 0°C to 70°C
- Temperature (Storage): -40°C to 85°C.
The AORUS RGB M.2 SSDs are the first PCI-e solid state drives from Gigabyte targeted at gamers. Like many components, what this really means compared to normal NVMe SSDs, is that the AORUS RGB has a much more striking aesthetic and improved thermal solution to keep itself from throttling. We can also see the gaming focus come into play with the exceptionally fast read speeds of 3480 MB/s while writes come in at 2000 MB/s. Since gamers will notice the impact of rapid reads more often than writes, putting the emphasis there makes a lot of sense from a design perspective.
One thing that’s clear, however, is that this is intended to be a premium product. The packaging and presentation remind me very much of the G.Skill Trident Z Royals with it’s almost jewelry box-like unboxing.
The design of the heatsink is also very attractive. It’s brushed aluminum with a mirrored design in the corners. As you can see in the picture above, it also reflects other light very well (the pink is from the Nanoleaf Canvas lights a couple of feet away), which is great if you have other illumination in your case. And let’s be honest, if you’re looking at an RGB M.2, you have other illumination in your case. The falcon logo also lights up and can be customized to flash or flow through different colors or to remain static.
Looks aside, introducing RGB to an M.2 drive is a tricky proposition. It’s already likely to be positioned near a hot graphics card, so adding extra heat to the mix seems like a bad idea. Gigabyte considered this, however, and included one of the thickest heatsinks I’ve encountered on an NVME drive, rivaled only by the heavy duty heatsinks included on many enthusiast ASUS motherboards.
The extra flair comes at a steep price. The 512GB version we’re testing today comes in at $119.99. Compared to the Silicon Power drive we reviewed earlier this week, it’s a solid $40 more expensive while offering 1 GB/s slower writes and only 200 MB/s faster reads. Likewise, only $5 more will get you the Samsung 970 EVO Plus, which offers both faster reads and writes. Suffice it to say, this is something you’d choose precisely because of the RGB and heatsink, though props are certainly deserved for the impressive 800 TBW endurance rating.
Test System: Intel Core i7-8700K at 4.7GHz, ASUS Z370 Maximum X Core motherboard, 32GB DDR4 3200MHz ADATA XPG D41, WD Gold 10TB Mass Storage, NVidia GTX 2080 Ti (SLI), Corsair HX1050 - 1050 Watt PSU, Noctua DH-14 Dual-spire/Dual-fan CPU cooler, Fractal Define R6 Case.
When testing SSDs, we first begin by looking at synthetic benchmarks to cross check the manufacturers claims on speed. We then move into real world file copy tests using a large, heavily modified Skyrim directory. Finally, we look at game loading times in a variety of popular MMORPGs. Since MMOs, particularly in capital cities where our tests are conducted, require large first-time, no-cache loads, this makes for a particularly good test of real world performance implications.
The first test we conduct is ATTO Disk Benchmark. It assesses sequential read and write performance to provide a theoretical best case scenario. Since many manufacturers use ATTO to determine their promised speeds, it makes for a useful benchmark to crosscheck manufacturers claims.
The AORUS RGB M.2 does well here, meeting Gigabyte’s speed claims and surpassing them.
Next, we turn to CrystalDiskMark. Unlike ATTO, CDM assesses both sequential and random performance at multiple levels. CDM tends to be a bit harder on drives in its sequential testing, so we typically see speeds drop across the board.
If ATTO provides the “best case” scenario, CDM provides us with the worst in its 4KQ1T1 tests. These benchmarks assess random access with a Queue depth of one, meaning the drive in unable to prepare for future bits of data to increase its speed. This is a valuable assessment to explore both ends of the spectrum. As the Queue depth increases to 8 and 32 bits, speeds increase to provide us a more realistic approximation of the kind of performance we’ll see on a day to day basis.
The Gigabyte did well overall on this test and certainly far exceeds a SATA SSD but falls expectedly in the middle of the pack overall. I was happy to see it deliver such competitive read speeds but the lower overall writes are squarely middle of the pack.
Next we have the file transfer test. We use a large, heavily modified Skyrim directory for this test and monitor its minimum, maximum, and average overall speeds. This was an especially interesting test since it’s here that we would most likely encounter thermal throttling on a normal NVME SSD but especially so on one with a heat-shedding RGB LED feature.
The heavy duty heatsink and dual thermal pads for transfer did their job and kept the drive functional through repeat testing. The impressive read speed is also clearly evident in their initial speed burst (maximum) as well as the better-than-average transfer speed consistency in the copy process.
Discussion and Final Thoughts
The testing makes it clear: the AORUS RGB M.2 NVMe drive is impressive but remains an expensive ask. It offers great read speeds and consistency in large file transfers (thanks to an effective heatsink), but for the cost, I would have liked to have seen more competitive read speeds. In games, the 3400 MB/s makes for fast loading times but, as we’ve seen in other NVMe drives, at this level of performance we’re talking single digit seconds of difference.
The conclusion I’m left with is pretty much what I expected to find going in: the AORUS RGB M.2 is a specialized product that will find a specialized audience. This drive would pair amazingly well with the Trident Z Royals and looks great in a full RGB system but is that the average gamer? Probably not. If you want a showpiece build and don’t mind sacrificing some write speed, go for this drive. If you want to push as much performance per dollar from your build as possible, there are other options to consider.
- Excellent read speeds
- Big, effective heatsink
- Looks great in an RGB system
- Reflects light nicely
- Expensive for the rated speeds
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.