It seems everyone and their cat is making SSDs now, and ASUS has joined the ranks with their ROG Strix SQ7 drive. It is a 1TB PCIE Gen4 drive, using a Phison controller and Microns TLC flash, but is it even worth considering in this current market? Let's check it out!
Let's first start with components on this drive. It seems to feature four 256 GB Micron TLC flash modules, these are 176 layer chips. It also features a Phison E18 based controller as well as DDR4 cache. While this drive does not come with any fancy heatsink, it does still have a copper heat spreader under the label. To be fair - motherboards come with pretty good heat sinks so you are already covered there, and, hey, ASUS makes them too.
When it comes to performance - ASUS is advertising this drive capable of 7000 MB/s read speed and 6000 MB/s write speed. At the same time they do straight away add an asterisk to say that actual speed may vary due to device and testing configurations, which is true but also indicating the advertised speed is best case scenario. Spoiler alert, our testing didn’t hit the numbers but we were pretty damn close. More on that a bit later on.
Personally (besides raw transfer speed) you should also be looking at high input/output per second (IOPS) performance. This represents how quickly a device can read and write commands every second. Surprisingly ASUS does not publish this info on their webpage but they were kind enough to share a full specifications sheet that mentions it.
Here we see up to 750 thousand read and 1 million write IOPS. This is very similar to the drives in the same class such as Seagate FireCuda and WD Black SN850.
The other thing that should be considered is drive endurance. All SSDs over time wear out and depending on your workload this may or may not be important to you. For example if you are a standard user who installs games from time to time and just uses a PC normally - I wouldn’t really worry about it. I have a drive from 2017 that was used in 3 separate PC upgrades and is now working in our server with over 90 TB written and it is still running no problem.
On the other hand, if you are using a drive in a video editing PC with it being used for caching, then the amount of data written may be considerably more. For example in our editing workstation this NVME drive collected over 100 TB written in just over two years and we only recently started working with larger project files.
With this in mind, the ASUS drive is rated to handle 1400 TB of writes, which even in heavy use will likely outlast the drive technology. Probably in 3-5 years time users will likely upgrade to a more modern drive with more storage and likely much faster. For peace of mind this drive comes with a 5 year warranty too.
Before we get into testing, I’d like to mention a few extra features on this drive. For the security focused users this drive includes AES 256 bit Full Disk Hardware Encryption and is compliant with TCG Opal V2 and IEEE1667 standards. And lastly it comes with ROG SSD Dashboard to get all the stats for the drive, there is also NTI Backup Now software for those who currently don’t have any tool for that, which is a nice value add.
Now let's jump into the benchmarks and poke around ASUS marketing, starting with CrysalDiskMark. Here, while running our test bench with Intel 11900K, we have just shy of 7 thousand MB read speed and just shy of 6 thousand MB write speed. It is really close to spec, which was actually rather surprising. IOPS results on the other hand are slightly harder to match to the spec as we don’t know exactly the test they did.
For more detailed analysis we also ran ATTO benchmark in both 256 MB and 32 GB file sizes. Here when it comes to speed we have very similar results across both.
When it comes to IOPS, the performance on 256 MB files is slightly higher but not by a significant amount.
This is because in both scenarios this drive stays at essentially full speed of its up to 110 GB of SLC Cache. It is not a true SLC cache as such as it does not actually have any SLC flash onboard. Rather it utilises SLC buffer where it uses spare capacity on the drive in the faster SLC mode as cache during burst operations and then offloads it to the rest of the drive as and when possible. This benefits majority users while keeping SSD’s much cheaper than actual SLC drives. One thing to consider - as the drive is filling up, the potential cache amount will reduce, as will the speed.
For this we ran H2Test which essentially does a non-stop write to the drive until it is full and then does non-stop reading. This is the absolute worst case scenario and even with this in mind we get over 900 MB per second average write speed and 1.1 GB per second read speed which in my opinion is plenty.
Which leads us to the conclusion. We set-out to get all the information about this drive and I hope we covered enough for you to be informed. While we were not able to make direct comparison, I do find this drive performance to be good enough for the average user.
Considering it is compatible with the PS5, I can see some people buying it for that exact reason. My main concern is the price. In Singapore it has a MSRP of 299 SGP, with the current promotion when bought together with Z690 motherboard - the price drops to 249, but at the same time there are drives like the one from WD or Seagate which are closer to 200 so you need to see what kind of metrics are more important to you.