Seagate Firecuda 530 Vs MSI SPATIUM M480 PCIe4 M.2 SSD Comparison

PCIe 4 NVMe SSD Comparison – MSI Spatium M480 vs Seagate Firecuda 530

The PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD market continues to grow into the accepted standard in 2021/2022 for performance – and the usual brands are rising to the challenge. If there is only one thing that you take from these comparisons on NVMe SSDs of late, it is that even in this relatively recent tier of Prosumer/Business storage, there is still plenty of choice. In fact, when Seagate revealed their industry beating Firecuda 530 last month, it was largely unchallenged for just a week, before MSI stepped up and formally revealed their new Spatium M480 series. What makes these two SSDs particularly interesting is that they are both based on an incredibly similar architecture and provide arguable comparable throughput too. Alongside this, professional and casual gaming consumers are having to make a choice here between Seagate (a big, BIG name in data storage) and MSI (a big, BIG name in gamer circles) – not as straightforward as you might think. So today I want to talk about these two brands, discuss what they offer in terms of performance, responsiveness, durability and endurance, and hopefully help you decide whether the Firecuda or Spatium M480 deserves your data.

 

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

MSI SPATIUM M480

PCIe Generation PCIe Gen 4 PCIe Gen 4
NVMe Rev NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4
NAND 3D TLC Micron B47R 176L B27 3D NAND 96L
Max Capacity 4TB – Double Sided 2TB
Controller Phison E18-PS5018 Phison E18-PS5018
Warranty 5yr 5yr
 

A quick look at the architecture of each SSDs does NOT show a huge amount of disparity between them at first. Both arrive with PCIe 4.0 M.2 bandwidth (a potential maximum 8,000MB/s), the latest NVMe 1.4 revision and utilizing the cutting edge E18 Phison controller, resulting in over 7,000MB/s performance. However, one key difference we CAN see is in the choice of NAND being used by either NVMe SSD. Though both the Seagate and MSI SSD both use 3D TLC NAND, the M480 USES 96 layer NAND, whereas the Firecuda 530 arrives with an impressive 176 layer NAND – a significant advantage in a number of areas like IOPS and Throughput in the usage of the drive (even affecting endurance). This may seem like a minor point, but the impact of this choice will bear fruit later on. Let’s compare how each drive is priced.

MSI Spatium M480 vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Price & Capacity

The price tag of the Firecuda 530 and Spatium M480 respectively are both based on the most recently available pricing at the time of writing, though the MSI NVMes might change. Nonetheless, the pricing on each PCIe 4×4 SSD is actually quite comparable and the differences that appear between each capacity model and even in the currency conversion is not too bad. It should also be noted that the prices below are based o nthe M480 and FC530 without a heatsink, though both brands supply a high-quality heatsink kit version at a smaller increased cost. Overall, I would say that the MSI M480 has a lower Price per GB/TB than the Seagate drive, but that is not quite the end of the story, as both brands have providing slightly different series capacity options:

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

MSI SPATIUM M480

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 M480-500GB
Price in $ and $ $139 / £119 $119 / £105 (TBC)
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 M480-1000GB
Price in $ and $ $239 / £199 $239 / £189 (TBC)
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 M480-2000GB
Price in $ and $ $419 / £379 $399 / £369 (TBC)
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 N/A
Price in $ and $ $949 / £769

Both brands have supplied the 500GB tier (i.e smaller scale gamers, caching, 2+ 4K projects for editing), 1TB (i.e professional gamers, rackmount caching/tiering, 4K/8K editing) and 2TB (i.e Pro Gamers and Streamers, Professional 4K/8K Post Production and enterprise) available in their ranges, but the Seagate Firecuda 530 is one of only around 2-3 brands that supply a 4TB PCIe Gen 4×4 m.2 4TB drive at 2280 length. This is particularly ambitious of the brand, especially when you look a the potential 4 figure price tag. However professional buyers who only want to make a purchase like this once every 5 years at least are going to be attracted to this option. Additionally, because the highest tiers of storage in NVMe are where you find the best performance (with the MASSIVE exception of when a brand uses QLC NAND of course), Seagate has clearly decided to put ALOT of backing on these drives in 2021/2022 to facilitate the biggest budget buyers. The MSI M480 is the winner here in terms of price per GB/TB, but Seagate win on Capacity and potentially on value – but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves yet.

 

MSI Spatium M480 vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Reported Read & Write Speed

The throughout that the MSI M480 and Firecuda 530 can provide in sequential read and write are close, but on paper, Seagate win. Obviously, these are slightly more idealised benchmarks from the brands themselves and are maximums reported by their tech teams respectively, but even then you can see that the FC 530 provides a heck of a lot! Even in the Seagate Firecuda 530’s weakest tier (the 500GB model) it still outpaces the M480 noticeably. Once again, though both drives feature similar memory/SD, it is that higher-quality NAND that the Seagate features that gives it that edge. Below is a breakdown of the performance of each capacity tier on each NVMe:

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

MSI SPATIUM M480

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 M480-500GB
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7000MB 6500MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 3000MB 2850MB
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 M480-1000GB
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB 7000MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6000MB 5500MB
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 M480-2000GB
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB 7000MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6900MB 6850MB
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 N/A
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB  
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6900MB

Fair play to the MSI for still providing some genuinely impressive performance, eclipsing a number of other 96 layer 3D NAND drives previously compared here. Although neither brand is using an in-house built controller, choosing to use the Phison E18-PS5018 chip, so the fact that they can both hit 7,000MB/s is not too surprising, the fact the FC530 can hit higher in 3 of its 4 available capacities at 7,3000MB/s is the clincher here. Remember, the PCIe 4.0 x4 bandwidth that this drive utilises max’s out at 8,000MB/s, which is getting increasingly close to saturation here! The Seagate Firecuda 530 clearly wins here. Next, we can look at the reported IOPS of these two drives, as this is one of the Achilles heels of the MSI M480 sadly.

 

MSI Spatium M480 vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Reported IOPS

The IOPs ratings of each of these drives, despite their relatively similar architecture, is significantly different. IOPs, along with the endurance and durability which we will touch on later, is one of the key areas that Seagate say they focused on with the Firecuda 530 and compared with the MSI M480, it shows. Performing twice the random read IOPS at the 500GB and 1TB tiers, they soon break the 1,000,000 IOPS barrier in both random read and write in the higher tiers. Although IOPS are generally a much more business/enterprise metric, they still hold court with professional gamers and in data centre-class AI operations. The 170K random read IOPS on the Spatium M480 is especially low (given the rest of the hardware on that m.2 PCB!) and it eventually maxes out at 650/700K random read/write at the highest tiers. Here is a breakdown:

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

MSI SPATIUM M480

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 M480-500GB
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 400,000 170,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 700,000 600,000
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 M480-1000GB
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 800000 350,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1000000 700,000
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 M480-2000GB
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 650,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 700,000
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 N/A
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000  
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000

Overall, it is hard to claim this as anything else but a definitive win for the Seagate Firecuda 530 over the MSI M480 in terms of IOPS. Later in 2021, we will be running extended performance testing on these drives to see how well these stats hold up over extended periods, but in all likelihood, these stats will still be comparatively distance between each drive.

 

MSI Spatium M480 vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Endurance & Durability

Next up, we need to discuss how well these two drives can endure consistent write/rewrites in their predicted 5 year lifespan (i.e in their 5 year warranty period and based on the drives being in constant use). The Endurance and Durability of an SSD is an area that is overlooked often enough that I wanted to take a moment to focus a little more on this – you can thank you years from now! The importance of SSD durability and endurance in 2021/2022 is actually pretty massive. Now that the devices we use all feature incredibly powerful processors, often cloud/network hybrid AI processes and graphical handling that will be instantly bottlenecked by traditional hard drives, SSDs are no longer just the ‘boot’ drive for our OS and are now the day to day working drive. This combined with SSD being used as caching and larger SSD capacities allowing suitable substitution for HDDs entirely means that the CONSTANT concern about SSDs lifespan and the durability of those NAND cells is now quite paramount. SSDs wear out – it’s as simple as that. The more you write, the more wear those individual NAND cells suffer – degrading performance over the years and inevitably leading to drive failure. Likewise, the smaller the drive, the greater likelihood that you will be writing, then rewriting, then rewriting, time and time again. The Seagate Firecuda 530 and MSI Spatium M480 are no exception and alongside massive research and development in better controllers and interfaces to improve performance, the way NAND is improved has led to SSDs lasting lover than ever before. However, SSDs and NAND are not built equally and there is actually quite a large difference in durability between the MSI Spatium M480 and the Seagate Firecuda 530. The Storage industry typically measures the predicted durability and endurance of an SSD as TBW, DWPD and MTBF. They are:

TBW = Terabytes Written, rated as the total number of terabytes that this SSD can have written to it in its warranty covered lifespan. So if the TBW was 300TB and the warranty is 5 years of coverage, that would mean that the drive can receive on average (with deleting/overwriting data each repeatedly) 60 Terabytes per year (or 5TB a month). After this point, the manufacturer highlights that durability, endurance and performance will decline. Often highlighted as an alternative to warranty length when gauging the predicted lifespan of a SSD.

DWPD = Drive Writes Per Day / Data Writes Per Day, this is a decimalized figure that represents what proportion of the capacity of an SSD (where 1.0 = 100% capacity) can be filled, erased and/or rewritten on a daily basis. This is provided using the warranty period and TBW figure. So, for example, if a 500GB drive has a 0.3DWPD rating, that is approx 150GB of data per day

MTBF = Mean Time Between Failure, which is the interval between one failure of an SSD and the next. MTBF is expressed in hours and most industrial SSDs are rated in the Millions of Hours. MTBF and MTTF (Mean Time to Failure) have largely become overlooked in recent years in favour of TBW and DWPD in SSDs, but are still stated on most Data Sheets.

So, now you know what those large Terbyte stats, hours and decimal point details are on the average SSD datasheet. So where do the Seagate Firecuda 530 and MSI Spatium M480 stand on this:

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

MSI SPATIUM M480

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 M480-500GB
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 640TB 350TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 1,600,000
DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.38DWPD
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 M480-1000GB
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 1275TB 700TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 1,600,000
DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.38DWPD
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 M480-2000GB
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 2550TB 1400TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 1,600,000
DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.38DWPD
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 N/A
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 5100TB  
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000  
DWPD 0.7DWPD

Although many users might well dismiss the TBW/DWPD of an SSD, as they do not feel they are going to refresh the data on the drive at that extreme frequency per day, it should be noted that this should also be used as a suitable benchmark for the lifespan of the NAND itself. In other words, jsut because a drive has a 5-year warranty, doesn’t mean you necessarily want to replace it in 5 years! More enduring NAND means both that the SSD will have a longer lifespan AND that it should be able to maintain it’s advertised performance for longer! High DPWD ratings are something that Seagate have been hugely supporting in their ranges for a number of years (they introduced several 1.0 and higher ratings into their Ironwolf and Nytro SSDs of late too). Again, another big win for the Seagate Firecuda 530 over the MSI Spatium M480 –  particularly when you factor in that the FC530 ALSO arrives with 3 years of data recovery services (forensic level) alongside the 5yr warranty too, in their Rescue Recovery services.

 

MSI Spatium M480 vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Conclusion

It will not come as a huge shock that in comparing the Firecuda 530 and Spatium M480, that the Seagate drive is still largely dominating this comparison and potentially the entire PCIe Gen 4 m.2 market so far. The M480 from MSI is a very good drive that has clearly been geared towards providing gamers and PC professionals some high tier throughput, and it is coming from a brand they already know and trust. However, it is impossible the ignore the comparatively mature decision by Seagate to focus a great deal on endurance and sustained performance and this plays out substantially throughout how these two drives compare and how they will support you later in their lifespan. Yes, the Firecuda 530 arrives at a higher price point, but you get more for your money and the money you save on day 1 with the M480 might end up costing you more in terms of an extra few minutes here or there, every day, week, month and year. If you are on a tighter budget and your NVMe SSD storage requirements are not considered Pro, Business or Enterprise, the M480 will serve you well – but for everyone else, the FC 530 has you covered in spades.

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

MSI SPATIUM M480

Best Performance  
Best Endurance/Durability  
Best Price for TB  
Best Extras  
Best Value  
Where To Buy

 

 


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