It’s hard to believe, but we’re officially entering an era where even normal solid-state drives look slow. As prices come down, super-fast PCIe NVMe are entering the mainstreaming offering speeds well into the multiple gigabytes a second. Today, we’re looking at a new drive made to power through all of your gaming exploits and beyond with the Seagate FireCuda 510 NVMe SSD. Offering capacities up to 2TB, is this the game drive you’ve been waiting for?
- Current Price: $399.99(2TB), $229.99 (1TB)
- Interface: PCIe G3 x4, NVMe 1.3
- Form Factor: M.2 2280-D2
- Sequential Read: 3450 MB/s
- Sequential Write: 3200 MB/s (2TB), 3050 (1TB)
- Random Read (IOPS): 485000 (2TB), 620000 (1TB)
- Random Write (IOPS): 600000 (2TB), 590000 (1TB)
- Endurance: 2600 TBW (2TB), 1300 TBW (1TB)
- TRIM: Yes
- S.M.A.R.T.: Yes
- Warranty: 5-year Limited Warranty
The Seagate FireCuda 510 is the first Seagate M.2 drive we’ve tested here at MMORPG, so we were particularly curious to see how it performed. On paper, the drive offers stats with sequential read speeds topping 3.4GB/s. Write speeds come in just over 3GB/s for the 1TB model and 3.2GB/s. It also features 28GB of dynamic SLC cache to keep those speeds consistent over large transfers. Cache is often the achilles heel of SSDs (and NVMe’s in particular), where too little leads to great speeds on paper but much lower real world performance. The FireCuda’s SLC is generous and makes me excited to see how it hold up in our file transfer tests.
Even without the healthy cache allotments, the quoted speeds are impressive. 3.4GB/s and 3GB/s for sequential reads and writes places it firmly in competition with the Samsung 970 series and the WD Black SN750 while costing roughly the same to substantially less depending on the drive you’re looking at. Compared to a standard SATA SSD, it’s no competition; even the best of that type top out around 560/530 MB/s, which makes the documented speeds around six times faster.
If you’re like me, you held off from the SSD revolution for too long because you were worried about their reliability. You can safely set those to the side. While it’s true that SSDs do have a finite amount of reads and writes in them, the amounts are so high and usage so easy to track that it’s now a non-issue. With the FireCuda, Seagate promises a whopping 1300 TBW for the 1TB model and twice that for the 2TB. To put that into perspective, if you were to completely fill the drive every single day, it would still take you three and a half years to reach that endurance. A more reasonable (but still high) 200GB a day would take 6500 days or 17 years to burn out.
What Seagate promises is impressive but it comes at a cost. Like the Samsung 970 series and the new WD Black NVMe drives, the FireCuda finds itself priced at the top of an ever expanding mass of affordable M.2 SSDs. We expect the extra cost to pay dividends in sustained write speeds but is it enough to win a purchase over some of the more affordable competition?
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 FireCuda 510 lives up to Seagate’s promises, actually over-delivering a touch in this benchmark.
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 FireCuda did very well here, going neck and neck with the Samsung 970 Pro in sequential reads and beating it in write speed. Though the real-world differences in speed at these levels are very small the 510s sequential performance is impressive indeed.
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 is what I consider to be one of our most important tests since it’s one you’re likely to “feel” on a more regular basis. The FireCuda 510’s plentiful cache allowed it to sustain its speed throughout the transfer. It’s not uncommon to see SSDs deplete their cache mid-transfer with large files like this, leading to speeds that plummet halfway through completion. The burst speed wasn’t the highest we’ve seen but the average transfer rate is second to the 970 Pro by a hair. Considering the price differential, that’s impressive.
Discussion and Final Thoughts
As you can tell from our results, the FireCuda 510 holds its own even against industry beacons like the Samsung 970 Pro. In both sequential and random access benchmarks, the drive delivered impressive results for the cost of entry. In a toss-up between the Samsung 970 Pro and the FireCuda 510, the FireCuda wins in sheer value.
If you’re looking at an NVMe for pure gaming, however, some of that value dissipates. As we’ve seen time and again, load times amongst NVMe drives tend to be within seconds of each other. I wouldn’t suggest buying any of these drives for pure load times, however, as you can often save substantial amounts of money with a SATA SSD while only being a few seconds behind your M.2 comrades.
The real benefit to a drive like the FireCuda comes into play when you look at how you use your whole system. If you’re copying large files, like game captures, an importing them into a video editor, this drive will speed up your entire workflow. If you’re doing any other read/write intensive tasks, you’ll see gains almost immediately. Loading times and eliminating pop-in in games is a cherry to add on top of the cake.
For the money, the FireCuda offers the kind of performance we would expect in this category. If you’re looking into an M.2 for the first time or really don’t do read/write intensive tasks, it might be too expensive. If you’re looking for a premium drive that will survive through years and years of heavy use, the FireCuda 510 is one of the best priced of the pack.
- Great performance
- Plentiful cache makes for consistently high transfer speeds
- Price competitive with other high-performance SSDs from major competitors
- Thermal throttling can be an issue in some environments
- Expensive compared to only slightly slower competition
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.