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Seagate FireCuda 520 M.2 SSD Review
Review By @ 04:23pm 18/05/20


Product: Seagate FireCuda 520 M.2 SSD
Type: Hard Drive (NVMe M.2 SSD)
Price: ~ $489.00 (for the 1TB model tested)
Availability: Out Now
Link: seagate.com/au/en/internal-hard-drives/ssd/firecuda-ssd/

Outside of the weirdness that has been The Year 2020, we’re also in the midst of some serious tech advances. From the impending arrival of next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft to new high-end PC graphics from AMD and NVIDIA. And between all the polygons and fancy real-time ray-tracing one could sum it all up using a single word - performance. One of the big talking points for both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X comes down to the dramatic improvements being made in the “now loading” department. Those several seconds spent watching a spinning logo now taking the briefest of moments.

In the PC space, storage has seen gradual and steady improvements for years. From the arrival of fast SSD storage that can look like a credit card wearing some Kevlar to the stick-it-on-your-motherboard shot of nitros that is NVMe M.2. Fast forward to 2020 and the adoption of PCI Express 4.0 is ushering in a new type of storage. Next-generation NVMe speeds that comes from increased bandwidth and Autobahn-like data express lanes.

The Seagate FireCuda 520 SSD is a PCIe Gen4 M.2 drive that presents the company’s fastest SSD storage solution to date. And the results are exactly that – fast. A generational leap forward that offers a 30% improvement over the Seagate FireCuda 510.

Plug-and-Play




With PCI Express 4.0 being relatively new, to get the most out the FireCude 520 you’ll need a motherboard that will be able to support the increase in speeds. The 520 drive is backwards compatible and will work on PCIe Gen3, but that’s more of a moot point as the increase in cost is in line with the increase in PCIe Gen4 speeds. Thankfully, we didn’t have any issues on that front as our brand-new MSI MEG X570 UNIFY motherboard (equipped with the excellent AMD Ryzen 7 3800X processor) comes equipped with 3 x PCI Gen4 M2 slots. And each has its own heatsink.


“A generational leap forward that offers a 30% improvement over the Seagate FireCuda 510."



Of course, getting three separate PCIe Gen4 drives installed would be one expensive trip to the computer store, but the benefits of backwards compatibility means we were able to connect both the FireCuda 520 and the FireCuda 510 and see the difference first-hand.

As branding the FireCuda range of Seagate drives are designed or positioned as the storage of choice for gaming, something seen across the entire range and the bold black and orange colour-scheme. In the end we're still talking about storage devices, with the form-factor and underlying technology of the FireCuda 520 being comparable to most PCIe Gen4 drives. Alongside the FireCuda 520 being the company’s fastest storage to date another big update comes outside of the box - with the 5-year warranty. An area where Seagate has fallen behind in the past, it’s good to see that any potential investment in the 520 comes alongside a console life-span length of support.

Reading and Writing 101




Specs
  • Form Factor: M.2 2280 double-sided
  • NAND: 3D TLC
  • Interface: PCIe Gen 4.0 x4, NVMe 1.3
  • Sequential Read: Up to 5,000 MB/s
  • Sequential Write: Up to 4,400 MB/s
  • Average Power (In-Use): 5.6 W
  • Sizes: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB

So, lets get right down to it – the FireCuda 520 in our own testing (via CrystalDiskMark across several tests) presents sequential read and write speed of 4,992 MB/s and 4,279 MB/s. In addition to being on par with the specs outlined by Seagate - it points to near instantaneous loading for apps, games, and more. Getting to see the notoriously slow Sea of Thieves on Xbox One fire up in seconds on PC is like witnessing a minor miracle. Throw in the large install sizes of titles like Gears Tactics, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and Red Dead Redemption 2 – being able to jump into the action in moments is a glimpse at what we can expect to find on consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.


“Near instantaneous loading for apps, games, and more. Getting to see the notoriously slow Sea of Thieves on Xbox One fire up in seconds on PC is like witnessing a minor miracle."



For content creators and those that deal in large files or project sizes (say in Adobe Premiere or music production software like Ableton Live 10) keeping the data flowing without interruption is pure storage bliss. Compared to the FireCuda 510 read and write speeds of 3,434 MB/s and 3,230 MB/s the benefit of PCIe Gen4 is roughly a 30% increase - a true generational leap. And paired with a motherboard like MSI’s MEG X570 the included heatsinks sees temperatures stay well within the green. It’s worth noting that without a heatsink an M2 SSD like the FireCuda 520 will run a little hot.

Which brings us to the one downside when it comes to the FireCuda 520 – and that is its price-point. Compared to most M2 SSD solutions out there (of which many will be slower) the FireCuda range is pricier overall. That said the results are impressive, and with all the big new tech we’re going to see this year super-fast storage is one we’re happy to tick off the list.
What we liked
Fast next-gen PCI Express 4.0 speeds
Easy to install with no need for additional drivers or tools
Paired with the right motherboard and the FireCuda runs very cool
30% increase in speed over the FireCuda 510
5-year warranty
What we didn't like
Seagate's tools and software outside of checking temp and basic lifetime stats is a little lacking
Expensive
We gave it:
9.0
OUT OF 10