Review of the Nextorage NEM-PA PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD
Why should you care about the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD? It is a reasonable question at the start of 2022, as it is fair to say that there are now quite a lot of SSDs available in the market that promise upwards and over 7,000MB/s. The hardware architecture and components needed for a brand to piece together a PCIe SSD for the home or business market is now nowhere near as difficult or restrictive as it once was and therefore alongside big names that we in the west have got used to seeing (such as Seagate, WD and Samsung), we have started seeing a myriad of brands arriving in the prosumer SSD market crop up. Now, with this in mind, many users home/domestic US/UK/EU users might see the brand name ‘Nextorage’ and think, who? Well, this Japanese brand was a Sony (yes, as in Sony Playstation) own company first launched in 2019 and made up of SSD specialist teams from the past 20yrs of development in the storage medium. Then 2 weeks ago it was announced that Phison (yes, as in Phison E18, the biggest and most popular PCIe 4 SSD controller in the world right now) acquired shares of its joint-venture company Nextorage Corporation (hereinafter referred to as “Nextorage”) from its joint-venture partner, Sony Storage Media Solutions Corporation (hereinafter referred to as “SSMS”; SSMS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Group Corporation). So what does all that actually mean? Japan is an enormous eSports country and alongside demanding the fastest and more durable gaming components in their setups, the priority of a drive that is so closely linked with the developer of the gaming machine AND invested in by the controller manufacturer themselves means that this SSD Brand is in a fantastically unique position to ensure the slickest performance across the board, as well as access to building resources that ensure taht the price point can be better maintained (see WD and Samsung with their pricing thanks to in-house development/hardware). These are all very lofty words of course and boasts of quality and performance do not always translate to delivering it in reality, so let’s review the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD, take a closer look at that hardware and get some testing done to see how well it fulfil on its promises. Let’s start.
Update 25/01/22 – Nextorage got in touch to highlight that although the NEM-PA 1TB and 2TB is only available in Japan & China at the time of this review, they will be releasing this series at a competitive price in Spring 2022 in the U.S, with the launch in Europe (UK, Germany, France, etc) in the first half of 2022. I (Robbie @nascompares ) will be revisiting this SSD then to see if any firmware updates that have arrived improve/change the results of this review and benchmark and make suitable updates as appropriate.
Nextorage NEM-PA SSD Review – Quick Conclusion
Put simply, this IS an unquestionable good SSD for a PS5 upgrade. That is clearly what the brand has been going for when promoting and presenting the NEM-PA SSD and Nextorage clearly succeeded. There are hurdles to overcome at the time of writing (such as availability outside of Japan right now) that the brand say will be resolved in Spring of 2022, but if you are looking for a long term storage upgrade for your PS5, this is one of the best examples out there. The performance stands up well in both PS5 and PC testing, the architecture holds nothing back (the NAND choice and inclusive heatsink particularly add value) and the presentation (though unimportant really) go the extra mile to assure the buyer of its pedigree. I am less sure of its price point being competitive enough to stand against the WD Black SN850 (a drive with long enough in the market and first-party manufacturer to arrive at incredibly compelling pricing), but if price is not a barrier to you and you are looking for a solid PS5 upgrade for your PS5, this SSD sits comfortably in the top 5 and maybe even top 3 in the market right now. Recommended.
Nextorage NEM-PA SSD Review – Packaging
The retail packaging of this Japanese SSD is surprisingly well thought out. I have checked into previous Sony (or Sony connected) SSD releases and although previous releases have been a little more understated/basic-box for the most part, this is very much targeted to PS5 owners who want to upgrade this storage, first and foremost! The affiliations with Sony are very clear here, from the official Playstation Logo and PS5 system images used on the packaging (something practically no other SSD that I have reviewed in 2021/2022 has ever featured) along with tailored instructions on PS5 installation, the synergy between all this is remarkably clear! Even the colour palette of the box is dripping in PS5 design (placement, colour scheme, layout, etc).
Opening the box reveals only a couple of bits inside, held in a cardboard outer frame. This isn’t hugely surprising, but it DID answer one of my earliest concerns when it comes to any SSD that includes a heatsink – does it come pre-attached (at the factory level) as that normally means it was applied significantly more efficiently and in a dust-free environment, and indeed, that is the case here. The only things inside are the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD + Heatsink combo and the instruction manual.
However, I do want to take the tiniest pause to look at the instructions manual. Although I generally ignore this paper leaflet/pamphlet style documents with an SSD (as they tend to be just related to warranty and regional material disposal regulations – sexy stuff I know), in the case of the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD things have a slight change that we should look at. Once again, much like the packaging being very PS5 focused with official livery, the included document is specifically tailored to installing this SSD in a PS5 console and is surprisingly detailed. Installing an SSD inside the PlayStation 5 is not exactly rocket science, however for technical newbies, m.2 NVMe SSD storage is quite intimidating compared with domestic storage from gaming past such as Memory cards, USB and SD Cards. I definitely liked this tiny little presentational extra and although it bears little importance in the grand scheme of things, I did think it worthy of note.
Removing the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD from it’s antistatic bag, we find quite a chunky looking SSD+heatsink combo. Measuring 23 mm×11.2 mm×80.4 mm, it fits in the PS5 M.2 SSD upgrade slot at the 2280 mark (more detail later) and definitely feels like a sturdy build piece of kit. The logo for the brand is printed in an understated fashion on it’s side and base, but clearly, the heatsink takes up the bulk of its physical architecture.
Flipping the SSD over shows us that this heatsink is a completely surrounding cage design. The 2TB model of the NEM-PA is a double-sided SSD (1TB single-sided) and once again, the understated branding is pretty slick. Indeed, the heatsink at a casual glance looks quite generic, but when you get up close you definitely see a few little tweaks of uniqueness.
For a start, the heatsink does not COMPLETELY cover the SSD, it holds the 2280 M.2 SSD in a tray/bay and allows a little air/heat escape at the tail end. The main body of the heatsink top is a few millimetres further along and allows any airflow through the dips/valleys of the length of it to open out quite neatly.
The top of the heatsink is held in place at 6 individual screw points and although this seems a little overkill, it makes a lot of sense when you see how the thermal pads have been distributed on the SSD to balance pressure against the SSD but not crunch it.
Another lovely bonus of getting a pre-attached heatsink+SSD combo that is applied at the factory level is just how slick the unit is applied. The heatsink is in perfect alignment with the furthermore NAND chip and leaves amply room for the m.2 connectors to connect with the host system. Again, this is a rather minor point BUT you would be staggered how badly this can be done and results in inefficient heat dissipation and airflow.
The heatsink’s 6 screw attachment was held in place remarkably tightly (likely to increase contact and assist heat transference as much as possible) and although I went ahead and removed them (VERY carefully, as they were very soft-headed screws) Netorage is pretty clear that removing this heatsink will largely invalidate their warranty support. Reasons for this became clear as soon as I managed to remove it.
The SSD features a layer of thermal padding on either side of the drive, however, it is much more comparable to paste (think of the silicon gel and paste you use with a CPU) and once removed, flaked and completely lost cohesion (fortunately Nextorage supplied two review samples). I was able to remove the heatsink top and base with little difficulty, but the pressure of those 6 screws around the heatsink assembly meant that removal from the SSD components themselves was much messier!
The surrounding heatsink casing around the SSD is remarkably well spaced and the heatsink itself is aluminium in core material, however (as highlighted in my video review) it is also coated with a highly thermal radioactive black alumite, for assisted heat pass through.
Indeed, throughout our 18 stage test period, with 1 minute cool down time between and sustained Read and/or Write activity, the Nextorage only peaked at 44 degrees celsius – very impressive indeed!
However, PC benchmarking is less of a current subject for the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD, as this drive has PS5 users squarely in its sights. So, how did this SSD perform i nthe PS5?
If you install the Nextorage SSD into a PS5 storage expansion bay, the heatsink sits in perfectly, as well as looking quite in-line with the rest of the hardware inside the PS5 chassis. The next question of course is whether this rather chunky SSD heatsink of the Nextorage NEM-PA will actually allow the metal cover plate of the PS5 M.2 expansion bay to close?
And yes, it closed with zero issue/contact. The jury is still out on whether you should use the aluminium m.2 cover plate on the PS5, but nevertheless, this SSD definitely fits neatly and without issue.
Unlike PC benchmarks that are typically advertised on all SSD product pages that point at CrystalDisk, AJA, ATTO and more (we will cover those later), the PS5 has it’s own very unique internal benchmark system (which has been updated since it was first available last autumn). Although the key points of what an SSD scores on are not provided, we can make some educated guesses based on results from other drives tested. High sequential Read and Write are always going to contribute, however the IOPS performance of an SSD seems to be a big factor and on-drive cache performance/flushing too seems to help. In the case of this SSD, the benchmark (the 1TB version was tested) was 6,539MB/s, which for a 1TB SSD is very impressive! I performed this benchmark 3 more times and scores of 6300, 6100 and 6500MB/s were reached (factoring in repeated benchmarks can oversaturate the cache a bit). All in all, very good numbers.
As you might expect, the SSD storage immediately appears on your PS5 Storage manager (2TB shown below as ref) and is available for games storage immediately. It’s a minor point (raised by the less PS5 storage awareness) but do remember that installing an SSD in your PS5 does NOT replace the internal PS5 SSD, it simply adds it as another area of available storage.
So, lets take a look at how that benchmark compares with over similar architecture and priced drives in the market for PS5.
Nextorage NEM-PA SSD Review – PS5 Benchmark
To put the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD PS5 Performance Benchmark into a little perspective, here is how it compares against the Addlink A95, Adata XPG Gammix S70, Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus and Gigabyte Aorus 7000s – four SSDs that are all PS5 supported and VERY similar architecture very little difference between the others in this tier, it is a solid benchmark.
|Addlink A95 PS5 Benchmark – 6556MB/s||XPG GAMMIX S70 PS5 Benchmark – 6235MB/s|
|Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus – 6557MB/s||Gigabyte Aorus 7000s PS5 Benchmark – 6557MB/s|
Full PS5 Testing of the Nextorage NEM-PA PCIe 4 NVMe SSD will be live on the NASCompares YouTube channel soon. When they are, you will find them below.
So that is the physical design of the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD. But what about the hardware components themselves? Does the Nextorage NEM-PA cut the mustard in terms of current generation hardware and protocols? Let’s find out.
Nextorage NEM-PA SSD Review – Hardware Specifications
As you might expect from an M.2 NVMe SSD that boldly promises performance of over 7,000MB/s sequential read (ie BIG data), the hardware specifications and architecture of the Nextorage NEM-PA are quite modern. Indeed, for all the big talk of the Seagate Firecuda 530 hardware (still currently the ‘score to beat’ PCIE Gen4 m.2 NVMe right now) being top tier, the Nextorage NEM-PA is pretty darn similar on the spec sheet! Below is how it looks:
|PCIe Generation||PCIe Gen 4|
|NVMe Rev||NVMe Rev 1.4|
|NAND||176L 3D TLC NAND|
I know a lot of the above will seem needlessly technical, so below we can bring the most important considerations into sharper focus.
Hardware Focus of the Nextorage NEM-PA SSD Series
Once you remove the heatsink and brush off the thermal gel/paste, you have a regular designed PCIe 4 SSD as you would expect. The controller is located in the middle, alongside the 2666Mhz DDR4 memory (scaled) and the 2TB SSD has NAND on either side of the PCB. Although Nextorage are rather quite about the specifications of the SSD components on their official pages, they really do not need to be, as a brief look up of the part numbers shows that a couple are top-notch indeed.
As you might expect from NeXtorage and its NEM-PA being heavily invested in by Phison themselves, the controller of this SSD is the Phison PS5018-E18. Although the NEM-PA is by no means the first commercially available SSD to use this PCIe4 controller, it is worth highlighting that this component was given additional thermal padding (as visible by the circle on the chip in the image) to further increase conductivity for heat passing to the heatsink. Also, this SSD controller has a high precision error correction algorithm “4th Gen LDPC (Low Density Parity Check)”, which has advanced detection and correction technology for random bit errors that occur during reading and largely protects the data from corruption.
The Netsorage NEM-PA features 1/2GB of DDR4 memory (depending on the capacity of the SSD) and alongside that being pretty much the best-performing memory at PCIe4 SSD level you can get at this time, the drive also features Dynamic SLC, which mean provides cache size up to 1/3 of the total storage area of SSD, which accelerates frequently accessed data and extends the life of TLC NAND. Lovely stuff.
The NAND on the Nextorage NEM-PA (where the data lives!) is an area I am surprised that the brand is not louder about, as even a quick investigation shows that it is 176L 3D TLC NAND (ID -IA7BG94AYA). Currently there are only about 4-5 other SSDs in the market at this tier that uses 176L NAND and given the inclusive heatsink, E18 controller and top tier brand backing, that makes this a very nice bonus as 176L NAND means better performance, IOPS, durability and general usability in numerous ways (with the bulk of other SSDs in the market at 96L).
Overall, the building blocks of the Nextorage NEM-PA NVMe SSD are all pretty darn good and make it clearly stand on ar with similar SSDs such as the Seagate Firecuda 530 in terms of build, but challenge the performance of lower priced alternatives like the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850. Let’s have a look at how they compare on the datasheets!
Overall, you really cannot fault the hardware inside/onboard the Nextorage NEM-PA, as it is still promising higher performing in sequential Read and Write than many other M.2 NVMe PCIe 4 SSDs released in that time. Before we go into the full testing, however, it is worth taking a moment to look closely at the reported performance benchmarks of the Nextorage NEM-PA, as although the performance seems stellar, there are areas such as IOPS and endurance when compared with its main rivals that are worth taking into consideration.
Nextorage NEM-PA SSD Review – Official Stats First
Taking a deep dive into the specifications of the Nextorage NEM-PA and how they compare with the Seagate Firecuda 530 and WD Black SN850, we can see that in terms of architecture, it is extremely close to the Firecuda build. These two SSDs arrived on the market around 5 months apart, unlike the WD Black which arrived almost 1.5yrs before! So, lets take a closer look:
|Seagate Firecuda 530
|WD Black SN850
|PCIe Generation||PCIe Gen 4||PCIe Gen 4||PCIe Gen 4|
|NVMe Rev||NVMe 1.4||NVMe 1.4||NVMe 1.4|
|NAND||176L 3D TLC NAND||3D TLC Micron B47R 176L||BiCS4 96L TLC|
|Max Capacity||2TB – Double Sided||4TB – Double Sided||2TB|
|Controller||Phison E18-PS5018||Phison E18-PS5018||WD_BLACK G2|
|Price in $ and $||N/A||$139 / £119||$119 / £99|
|Price in $ and $||$TBC / £TBC||$239 / £199||$249 / £169|
|Price in $ and $||$TBC / £TBC||$419 / £379||$399 / £339|
|Price in $ and $||N/A||$949 / £789||N/A|
|Total Terabytes Written (TBW)||N/A||640TB||300TB|
|Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours)||N/A||1,800,000||1,750,000|
|Total Terabytes Written (TBW)||700TB||1275TB||600TB|
|Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours)||1,600,000||1,800,000||1,750,000|
|Total Terabytes Written (TBW)||1400TB||2550TB||1200TB|
|Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours)||1,600,000||1,800,000||1,750,000|
|Total Terabytes Written (TBW)||N/A||5100TB||N/A|
|Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours)||N/A||1,800,000||N/A|
The durability in terms of Terabytes written in the 5 year warranty period (also the drive writes per day) put the Nextorage NEM-PA in the middle of the three (despite the slightly outmoded MTBF figure). Pricing at the month is tough to compare, given that the NEM-PA is only available in Japan (with plans for global availability in Spring 2022. For a better understanding of the specifications and terms of these SSDs, here is a video that breaks down the terminology of modern SSDs:
Now, let’s break down the performance of these three SSDs in terms of throughput (i.e Read and Write speeds at the top end sequentially) and IOPS (individual commands of the smallest size that can be delivered to the SSD per second at the 4k level randomly. Here is the result of that comparison:
|Seagate Firecuda 530
|WD Black SN850
|Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||N/A||7000MB||7000MB|
|Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||N/A||3000MB||4100MB|
|Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||7300MB||7300MB||7000MB|
|Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||6000MB||6000MB||5300MB|
|Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||7300MB||7300MB||7000MB|
|Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||6900MB||6900MB||5100MB|
|Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||N/A||7300MB||N/A|
|Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB||N/A||6900MB||N/A|
|Brand/Series||Seagate Firecuda 530||WD Black SN850|
|Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||N/A||400,000||1,000,000|
|Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||N/A||700,000||680,000|
|Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||750000||800000||1,000,000|
|Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||1000000||1000000||720,000|
|Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||1000000||1,000,000||1,000,000|
|Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||1000000||1,000,000||710,000|
|Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||N/A||1,000,000||N/A|
|Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32||N/A||1,000,000||N/A|
The Nextorage NEM-PA is RIGHT BEHIND the Seagate Firecuda in IOPS and on the same level on throughput. The WD Black, released much, much earlier carries similar numbers on IOPS but write performance (less key to PS5 users of course) is noticeably lower. Overall, the NEM-PA definitely stands up well against these two popular PS5 choices and even surpasses them in a few areas. Let’s get this SSD in the test machine and begin the benchmarks!
Testing the Nextorage NEM-PA m.2 PCIE4 NVMe SSD
The Nextorage NEM-PA was selected for this test and it was tested using multiple benchmark tools, from a cold boot, in the 2nd storage slot (i.e not the OS drive). Each test was conducted three times (full details of this are shown in the YouTube Review of the Nextorage NEM-PA over on NASCompares):
- Windows 10 Pro Desktop System
- Intel i5 11400 Rocket Lake – 6-Core 2.6/4.4Ghz
- 16GB DDR4 2666MHz Memory
- Intel B560M mATX Motherboard
- OS Storage, Seagate Firecuda 120 SSD
- Test SSD connected to Secondary PCIe Gen 4 M.2 Slot
Using CrystalDisk, we got a good measure of the drive and verified that this PCIe Gen 4 x4 SSD was indeed using the 4×4 lane. Additionally, the temp averaged out around 41C between each test being conducted.
The first tests were conducted using the ATTO disk benchmark software. The first was a 256MB test file size and below is a breakdown of the transfer rates and IOPS. The 2nd Test was a 1GB test file and finally, the last test was with a 4GB test file. The system was given 1-minute cool downtime between tests, no screen recording software was used (remove overhead) and a heatsink was used throughout (no reboots)
ATTO Disk Benchmark Test #1
256MB File PEAK Read Throughput = 6.61GB/s
256MB File PEAK Write Throughput = 6.33GB/s
ATTO Disk Benchmark Test #2
1GB File PEAK Read Throughput = 6.61GB/s
1GB File PEAK Write Throughput = 6.32GB/s
ATTO Disk Benchmark Test #3
4GB File PEAK Read Throughput = 6.59GB/s
4GB File PEAK Write Throughput = 6.47GB/s
Next, although the ATTO tests were quite good, but not what I would have hoped from this SSD, so I moved on to the Crystal Disk Mark testing to see how well it would handle our last barrage of tests. The first test was the 1GB file testing, which measured both sequential and random, as well as the read and write IOPS. Test were conducted on a 1GB, 4GB and 16GB Test File. I also included a mixed 70/30 read and write task to give a little bit more of a realistic balanced workload. These tests were conducted with a 1-minute cooling break in between
CRYSTALDISK MARK 1GB TEST
CRYSTALDISK MARK 4GB TEST
CRYSTALDISK MARK 16GB TEST
Next, I switched to AS SSD benchmark. A much more thorough test through, I used 1GB, 3GB and 5GB test files. Each test includes throughput benchmarks and IOPS that are respective to the larger file sizes (important, if you are reading this and trying to compare against the reported 4K IOPS from the manufacturer).
AS SSD Benchmark Test #1
AS SSD Benchmark Test #2
AS SSD Benchmark Test #3
Ordinarily, I would introduce tests like BlackMagic and AJA into the mix here, but even a short burst of testing on an NVMe like this would over saturate the cache memory on board. Nevertheless, in the short term we still could ascertain the reported performance on 1GB, 4GB and 16GB file testing was:
1GB AJA File Test Results (Peak) = 5920MB/s Read & 5703MB/s Write
4GB AJA File Test Results (Peak) = 5861MB/s Read & 5678MB/s Write
16GB AJA File Test Results (Peak) = 5829MB/s Read & 5553MB/s Write
Overall, the Nextorage NEM-PA was certainly able to provide some solid performance, as well as potentially exceed the test figures here on a more powerful machine. Given the reported Read and Write statistics that the brand has stated publically, I think there is enough evidence here to back up those claims. IOPs were a little lower than I expected, but again, we were testing very large file types, so this would have to be taken in context.
Nextorage NEM-PA SSD Review – Conclusion
Put simply, this IS an unquestionable good SSD for a PS5 upgrade. That is clearly what the brand has been going for when promoting and presenting the NEM-PA SSD and Nextorage clearly succeeded. There are hurdles to overcome at the time of writing (such as availability outside of Japan right now) that the brand say will be resolved in Spring of 2022, but if you are looking for a long term storage upgrade for your PS5, this is one of the best examples out there. The performance stands up well in both PS5 and PC testing, the architecture holds nothing back (the NAND choice and inclusive heatsink particularly add value) and the presentation (though unimportant really) go the extra mile to assure the buyer of its pedigree. I am less sure of its price point being competitive enough to stand against the WD Black SN850 (a drive with long enough in the market and first-party manufacturer to arrive at incredibly compelling pricing), but if price is not a barrier to you and you are looking for a solid PS5 upgrade for your PS5, this SSD sits comfortably in the top 5 and maybe even top 3 in the market right now. Recommended
|PROs of the Nextorage NEM-PA||CONs of the Nextorage NEM-PA|
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