USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 storage space with RGB

The gaming market has experienced significant growth in the last decade. In addition to increasing computer sales, the segment-related peripheral market has expanded. Installed game sizes now come out at hundreds of gigabytes on a regular basis, thanks in large part to support for higher resolutions and more detailed graphics. Data must also be loaded into memory as quickly as possible to enhance the gaming experience.

So it’s no surprise that players want portable SSDs to store their games as quickly as possible. The 20 Gbps transfer speeds promised by the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 are immediately appealing in this market segment. With that in mind, many manufacturers have introduced portable SSDs USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 with a bus drive intended for gaming audiences. Last year we took a look at Western Digital’s WD_BLACK P50. Seagate’s FireCuda Gaming SSD was available on the market at about the same time, but did not arrive at the test site in time for that revision.

We recently entered Seagate’s offer at the latest test site and took the opportunity to refresh the numbers for the WD_BLACK P50 and our latest test package. The review below discusses the performance and value of the Seagate FireCuda Gaming SSD offering.

Introduction and product impressions

Bus-powered external storage devices with 2 GBps + performance have become commonplace in today’s market. Rapid advances in flash technology (including the advent of 3D NAND and NVMe) as well as a faster host interface (like Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.x) were key drivers. While USB4 (the latest avatar of USB) requires a minimum data transfer rate of 10 Gbps, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20 Gbps) has emerged as a parallel standard. Influence was slowly gaining ground, in part due to the lack of widespread host support in desktops and other computer platforms. Although this was slowly changing, suppliers of portable SSDs worked hard to create products in this category. Professional content creators and gamers are key consumers willing to pay a premium for these high-performance devices.

On the front of silicone, ASMedia is the main (if not the only) supplier of solutions on the device side. Similar to the WD_BLACK P50 that was revised last year, the Seagate FireCuda Gaming SSD is also based on the ASMedia ASM2364 chip bridge and has a superior metal construction. The unique selling point of the FireCuda Gaming SSD is the availability of RGB lighting that can be controlled using Seagate’s tool. RGB can be dismissed as a fad, but the fact is that RGB is sold in the gaming market.

The FireCuda Gaming SSD is more compact (104.4 mm x 52.5 mm x 10 mm) compared to the WD_BLACK P50, and weighs 15 g less (100 g). Only one USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C cable is supplied with the SSD, but it is longer (50 cm) than the one supplied with the WD_BLACK P50. Both SSDs have a high quality M.2 2280 NVMe SSD inside and have a superior metal construction.

CrystalDiskInfo provides a quick overview of the internal capabilities of storage devices. This also serves to check SMART access from the host port. Please note that we include the results of our DIY 20Gbps external SSD – Silverstone MS12 equipped with SK hynix Gold P31 1TB NVMe SSD.

SMART Passthrough – CrystalDiskInfo

The table below presents a comparative view of the specifications of the three 1TB USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 options presented in this review.

Comparative configuration of direct data storage devices
Downstream 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 NVMe) 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 NVMe)
Upstream Port USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C
Bridge Chip ASMedia ASM2364 ASMedia ASM2364
Power Bus Powered Bus Powered
Use Case Superior, compact portable SSGB drive in the 2GBps class with infusion of rubber-shaped RGB to target the gaming market Superb, compact and solid 2GBps portable rubber SSD in gaming format targeting the gaming market
Physical dimensions 104.4 mm x 52.5 mm x 10 mm 118 mm x 62 mm x 14 mm
Weight 100 grams (without cable) 115 grams (without cable)
Cable 50 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C to Type-C 30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C to Type-C
30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A
SMART Passthrough Yes Yes
UASP support Yes Yes
TRIM Passthrough Yes Yes
Hardware encryption Not available Not available
Evaluated Storage Seagate FireCuda 510 PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 2280 NVMe SSD
SanDisk / Toshiba BiCS 3 64L 3D TLC
Western Digital SN750E PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 2280 NVMe SSD
SanDisk / Toshiba BiCS 4 96L 3D TLC
Price 210 USD 210 USD
Review link Seagate FireCuda Gaming SSD 1TB Review WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Overview no. 1 (2020)
WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Overview no. 2 (2021)

Test bench setting and evaluation methodology

Directly connected storage devices, such as Seagate FireCuda Gaming SSDs, are rated using Quartz Canyon NUC (basically, Xeon / ECC version of Ghost Canyon NUC) configured with 2x 16GB DDR4-2667 ECC SODIMMs and PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD- IM2P33E8 1TB from ADATA.

The most attractive aspect of the Quartz Canyon NUC is the presence of two PCIe slots (electric, x16 and x4) for additional cards. In the absence of a discrete graphics processor – for which there is no need for a DAS test desk – both slots are available. In fact, we also added a spare SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the CPU directly plugged into the M.2 22110 slot on the motherboard to avoid bottlenecks in the DMI when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 devices. This still allows two additional cards running on x8 (x16 electric) and x4 (x4 electric). Since the Quartz Canyon NUC does not have the original USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, Silverstone’s optional SST-ECU06 card is installed in the x4 slot. All non-Thunderbolt devices were tested using the Type-C port provided by the SST-ECU06.

The specifications of the test table are summarized in the table below:

2021 AnandTech DAS test space configuration
System Intel Quartz Canyon NUC9vXQNX
CPU Intel Xeon E-2286M
Memory ADATA Industrial AD4B3200716G22
32 GB (2x 16 GB)
DDR4-3200 ECC @ 22-22-22-52
OS Drive ADATA Industrial IM2P33E8 NVMe 1TB
Secondary drive SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD 1TB
Additional card SilverStone Tek SST-ECU06 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C host
YOU Windows 10 Enterprise x64 (21H1)
Thanks to ADATA, Intel and SilverStone Tek for the building components

Testing hardware is only one segment of evaluation. In the last few years, typical workloads for storage that are directly related have also developed. High-speed 4K videos at 60 fps have become commonplace, and 8K videos are starting to appear. Game installation sizes have also grown steadily thanks to textures and high-resolution artwork. Backups usually include a large number of files, many of which are small in size. With this in mind, our evaluation scheme for DAS units includes multiple workloads which are described in detail in the relevant sections.

  • Synthetic workload using CrystalDiskMark and ATTO
  • Real-world access tracking using PCMark 10 storage benchmarks
  • Custom workloads for robocopy reflect the typical use of DAS
  • Sequential writing stress test

In the next section, we have an overview of the performance of the Seagate FireCuda Gaming SSD on these scales. Before giving concluding remarks, we have some observations on the number of power consumption of the plant and the thermal solution.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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