PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD Review

Review of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD

Solid-state drives (SSD) have been a boom for home and business users alike. The obvious reason is that end users have been able to enjoy increasingly faster data access speeds with each passing year, but an often overlooked consequence of SSD innovation has been the growing pool of companies that are involved in one/some/all elements of SSD development. Unlike the Hard Drive revolution which was largely dominated by just 4-5 massive brands, prominent brands involved in SSD media can be numbered in the hundreds! Of all these brands, PNY was always going to be an obvious player in the field, given their long history in memory and flash storage – two key elements in the world of SSD and especially important in the newest generation of M.2 NVMe SSD supporting PCIe 4.0. Today I want to take a close look at the PNY XLR8 CS3040 Gamer focused SSD. Arriving in an impressive array of capacities, prices and boasting impressive durability, does this SSD have what it takes to stand up against other new generation SSDs released in the current PCIe 4 SSD deluge from Seagate Firecuda, MSI M480 and more. Let’s take a closer look and find out.

PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD Review – Quick Conclusion

PNY has done a great job of fleshing out their range of NVMe SSDs over the years but the release of a slew of revisions of PCIe 4.0 SSDs, although built to a different end-user, run the risk of causing confusion for buyers. Equally, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is a good drive that is now looking comparatively poor versus an even better PNY SSD release in the CS3140 (significantly higher throughput and the Phison E18 controller). On its own merit, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is a solid drive with great durability, better than average performance (when compared against many other Phison E16 SSDs, a solid gamer friend brand and a price point that is very much in the ballpark of most PC/Console gamers admiring these SSDs. If you are running a PC/Console system that won’t be challenging the full saturation of PCIe 4×4 any time soon, then the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is a great drive choice for maximizing your budget and mid-range system resources. But if you are looking for a higher glass ceiling and high-end performance, perhaps you should dig a little deeper into the piggy bank and consider the XLR8 CS3140 instead in 2021/2022.

PROs of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 CONs of the PNY XLR8 CS3040
Excellent Endurance and Durability Ratings

One of the Highest Performing Phison E16 SSD in the market

Available in up to 4TB

Currently Supported on the PS5 SSD Storage Expansion Slot (Tested on Beta Software)

Very Good Price per TB (Especially for a PCIe 4.0 SSD)

Overshadowed by its bigger brother, the XLR8 CS3140

Released a noticeably large time after competitor’s similar 1st Gen PCIe 4 SSDs (Seagate 520, Sabrent Rocket PCIe4, etc)

PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD Review – Packaging

The retail packaging of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is clearly quite gamer/prosumer focused, making clear efforts to draw attention to reported read and write throughput. It should be highlighted that today’s review centers around the 500GB model, which will be reflected in the benchmarks later.

The rear of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 retail box continues with the reported benchmarks and is pretty text heavy!

Opening up the retail box provides fairly secure, if understated contents. Indeed, there wasn’t even an instructions manual or warranty information. I know this is touched on on the great packaging, but still seems rather bare internally with only the plastic shell pinching the SSD in place.

Removing the SSD from the retail packaging shows us the PNY XLR8 CS3040 PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD itself. Although a Heatsink-attached version is available to buy for a pinch more, you can still get away with the PNY XLR8 CS3040 on it’s own and a 3rd arty heatsink.

The branded labels are fairly basic, on either side and are not metal or printed thermal pads as found by some more expensive SSDs. This single-sided SSD (as it is just 500GB) keep things neat and tidy, if a little underwhelming.

I am also pleased to confirm that the PNY XLR8 CS3040 was able to work with the PS5 SSD Expansion slot (currently in beta version), despite its reported sequential read speed cutting it very close to the reported 5,500MB/s minimum of the Playstation 5 upgrade slot (just 100MB/s above it in fact, on all capacities). Though the 1st party official PNY Heatsink is too tall for the M.2 PS5 SSD Expansion slot, so a 3rd party model is recommended.

In my brief testing on the PS5 compatibility of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 (full video available HERE detailing game loading time) the system reported a Read benchmark of 5,636MB/s. Of course, this will compare very different to that of our test PC performance later on.

So that is the physical design of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD. But what about the hardware components themselves? Does the PNY XLR8 CS3040 cut the mustard in terms of current generation hardware and protocols? Let’s find out.

PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD Review – Hardware Specifications

As you might expect from an M.2 NVMe SSD that boldly promises performance of over 5,600MB/s sequential read (ie BIG data), the hardware specifications and architecture of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 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 PNY XLR8 CS3040 is pretty darn similar on the spec sheet to the firecuda 520 that came before it! There is, of course, the higher tier premium model, which arrives around 15-20& more expensive, but what this gives in performance, it loses in endurance and cost per TB. The PNY XLR8 CS3040 utilizes a previous generation Phison E18 controller and NVMe 1.3, rather than 1.4, though the 96L 3D TLC NAND is still fairly standard amount most PCIe 4.0 x4 SSDs right now. Below is how the PNY XLR8 CS3040 looks:

PNY XLR8 CS3040

500GB – $99.99, 1TB – $139.99, 2TB – $269.99, 4TB – $750.99

PCIe Generation PCIe Gen 4
NVMe Rev NVMe 1.3
NAND TLC Micron 96L
Max Capacity 4TB – Double Sided
Controller Phison E16-PS5016
Warranty 5yr

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 PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD Series

The first thing to focus on is the controller, that Phison E16. An SSD is much like a microcosm version of a whole computer. The Controller is equivalent to the CPU, and Phison are one of the bigger 3rd party SSD controller manufacturers in the world! I say 3rd party, because some long-running storage brands like Samsung and WD have most of their development and hardware engineering ‘in-house’ and use their own branded controllers. Whereas some brands source some/all components for their SSDs from 3rd parties – which is not necessarily a bad thing for both them and the industry (there are pros and cons on either side). Phison has been at the cutting edge of this subject for years now and the E16 was first introduced into the hardware market back in summer 2019 and is featured prominently on a number of PCIe4 SSDs that are now a pinch more affordable than the latest revision, the E18. This has created a two-tier system in the M.2 PCIe 4 market that some brands have used to produce two kinds of PCIe4 in their portfolio. A more affordable E16 SSD and a premium E18 SSD. Regardless of how the Phison E16 has slipped into the lower pricing/performance tier, this controller is still one of the biggest reasons that the PNY XLR8 CS3040 can actually back up its promises about the 5,600MB/s+ Sequential Read (sequential data = big chunks of data)

The NAND on the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is where the data lives! SSDs (as you no doubt know) do not use moving parts as found in traditional hard drives and instead uses cells that are charged and data is read/written to them in this process. The quality of the NAND and the layers used will make a big difference to the durability and performance of an SSD and although the PNY XLR8 CS3040 does not provide the best SSD in the industry at this tier right now (that, once again, goes to the Seagate Firecuda 530 at 176 layer 3D TLC NAND), it is bigger than most, arriving at 96 Layers of 3D TLC NAND. Although the majority of modern PCIe M.2 SSD use 3D TLC NAND (avoid QLC NAND like the PLAGUE btw!), most are still at 64 layers or so, so this is a big jump up for the PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD.

Much like the Controller on the PNY XLR8 CS3040 being the ‘CPU’, it also has an area of memory. The PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD uses 1GB DDR4 memory on board and this in conjunction with the SSD provides a massive body of data handling resources for getting your data moving through the SSD and out of the m.2 NVMe PCIe 4 interface. The amount of memory scales in conjunction with the 1TB or 2TB SSD you use, with 2GB of DDR4 at the on the 2TB tier, 1GB DDR4 on the 1TB, etc.

As mentioned, all available capacities of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 arrive at 2280 in length. This is quite normal for the 1TB and 2TB versions, but the fact that the 2TB can arrive on single-sided SSD boards is very impressive. Physical storage NAND is distributed evenly in order to space out the storage and allow even cooling, NAND wear and performance.

Finally, there is the M.2 NVMe connection. Not all m.2 SSDs are created equal and although M.2 SATA and M.2 NVMe look similar, they provide massively different performance and connectivity. However, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 takes it one step further, by using a newer generation of PCIe Connectivity. In short, M.2 NVMe SSDs are connected to the host PC/Console system via PCIe protocol (think of those slots that you almost always use for your graphics cards, but a much, MUCH smaller connector). These allow much larger bandwidth (ie maximum speed) for the connected storage media, Much like regular PCIe slots, they have different versions (i.E PCIe Gen 1, 2, 3, 4, etc) and also a multiplying factor (x1, x2, x4, etc). Up until around 18 months ago, the best M.2 NVMes were M.2 PCIe Gen 3×4 (so a maximum 4,000MB/s possible). However, never generation SSD like the PNY XLR8 CS3040 use PCIe Gen 4×4 (a potential 8,000MB/s possible) and it is only now that SSD controllers and NAND production has reached a point where it can catch up and fully saturate (i.e fill) this connection.

Overall, you really cannot fault the hardware inside/onboard the PNY XLR8 CS3040, as it is still higher performing in sequential Read and Write than many other M.2 NVMe PCIe 4 SSDs released featuring the E16 controller (most arriving at 5,000-5,500MB/s). Before we go into the full testing, however, it is worth taking a moment to look closely at the reported performance benchmarks of the PNY XLR8 CS3040, 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.

PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD Review – Official Stats First

Before we conduct our own testing on this SSD, Let’s take a closer look at the reported specifications and benchmarks first. The PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD arrives in multiple capacities (below). The Prices currently are a little inconsistent (with each higher capacity tier actually having a higher price per GB – quite unusual) likely due to the hardware shortages, the Pandemic, Chia has affected SSD availability in the last 12 months and most recently the announcement that PS5 supports this SSD and it has increased the current price of both models around 10%! Below is a breakdown of how each PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD compares:

Brand/Series PNY XLR8 CS3040

500GB – $99.99, 1TB – $139.99, 2TB – $269.99, 4TB – $750.99

Seagate Firecuda 530

500GB – $149.99, 1TB – $239.99, 2TB – $489.99, 4TB – $949.99

WD Black SN850

500GB – $169.99, 1TB – $249.99, 2TB – $549.99

PCIe Generation PCIe Gen 4 PCIe Gen 4 PCIe Gen 4
NVMe Rev NVMe 1.3 NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4
NAND TLC Micron 96L TLC Micron B47R 176L BiCS4 96L TLC
Max Capacity 4TB – Double Sided 4TB – Double Sided 2TB
Controller Phison E16-PS5016 Phison E18-PS5018 WD_BLACK G2
Warranty 5yr 5yr 5yr
500GB Model M280CS3040-500-RB ZP500GM3A013 WDS500G1X0E-00AFY0
Price in $ and $ $100 / £85 $139 / £119 $119 / £99
1TB Model M280CS3040-1TB-RB ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0
Price in $ and $ $139 / £109 $239 / £199 $249 / £169
2TB Model M280CS3040-2TB-RB ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0
Price in $ and $ $269 / £215 $419 / £379 $399 / £339
4TB Model M280CS3040-4TB-RB ZP4000GM3A013 N/A
Price in $ and $ $750 / £685 $949 / £789 N/A
500GB Model M280CS3040-500-RB ZP500GM3A013 WDS500G1X0E-00AFY0
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 850TB 640TB 300TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 2,000,000 1,800,000 1,750,000
DWPD 0.93DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.3DWPD
1TB Model M280CS3040-1TB-RB ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 1800TB 1275TB 600TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 2,000,000 1,800,000 1,750,000
DWPD 0.93DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.3DWPD
2TB Model M280CS3040-2TB-RB ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 3600TB 2550TB 1200TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 2,000,000 1,800,000 1,750,000
DWPD 0.93DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.3DWPD
4TB Model M280CS3040-4TB-RB ZP4000GM3A013 N/A
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 6800TB 5100TB N/A
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 2,000,000 1,800,000 N/A
DWPD 0.93DWPD 0.7DWPD N/A

There are clear throughput improvements as you rise through the capacity tiers (not unusual), as does the rated 4K IOPS. Though one area worth focusing on a little is that TBW (terabytes Written) and DWPD (Drive writes per day), as this drive is THREE TIMES HIGHER than the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850 in terms of NAND lifespan on daily writes, likely down to that Micron 96 Layer 3D TLC NAND used (as well as the lower performance vs time of course). This is an important point because the brand has significantly less pedigree in-home/business SSD media than the likes of Samsung, WD and Seagate and people will want to know they are going to get a product that lasts! It even outlasts the Seagate Firecuda 530 in the TBW/DWPD rating by a noticeable degree.

However, despite the use of the Phison E16 controller and 96 layer NAND, the reported IOPS on each capacity is actually a noticeable degree lower than those reported by their competitors. Indeed, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is one of the few E18 SSDs that does not cross into the reported 1 Million IOPS mark, maxing out at 700k. This is still very impressive anyway, but it does make me wonder where the disparity stems from. Indeed, when you look at the bulk of PCIe 4×4 M.2 NVMe 1.4 SSD, that feature the E16 controller and 96L (or higher) on board, it really only leaves about 4 other SSDs in the market today that this can be compared against. The Sabrent Rocket 4.0, the Silicon Power US70, the ADATA Gammix S50 and (current leader) the Seagate Firecuda 520. Of those, the only one that seemingly ‘out specs’ the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is the Seagate Firecuda 520. However, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD has been available in the market for considerably shorter and certainly runs the risk of appearing out of date vs modern releases quite quickly. Below is how the PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD compares against the even newer generation Seagate Firecuda 530 & WD Black SN850:

Brand/Series PNY XLR8 CS3040

500GB – $99.99, 1TB – $139.99, 2TB – $269.99, 4TB – $750.99

Seagate Firecuda 530

500GB – $149.99, 1TB – $239.99, 2TB – $489.99, 4TB – $949.99

WD Black SN850

500GB – $169.99, 1TB – $249.99, 2TB – $549.99

500GB Model M280CS3040-500-RB ZP500GM3A013 WDS500G1X0E-00AFY0
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 5600MB 7000MB 7000MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 2600MB 3000MB 4100MB
1TB Model M280CS3040-1TB-RB ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 5600MB 7300MB 7000MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 4300MB 6000MB 5300MB
2TB Model M280CS3040-2TB-RB ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 5600MB 7300MB 7000MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 4300MB 6900MB 5100MB
4TB Model M280CS3040-4TB-RB ZP4000GM3A013  
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 5600MB 7300MB N/A
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 3900MB 6900MB N/A
Brand/Series PNY XLR8 CS3040 Seagate Firecuda 530 WD Black SN850
500GB Model M280CS3040-500-RB ZP500GM3A013 WDS500G1X0E-00AFY0
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 170000 400,000 1,000,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 350000 700,000 680,000
1TB Model M280CS3040-1TB-RB ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 650,000 800000 1,000,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 500,000 1000000 720,000
2TB Model M280CS3040-2TB-RB ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 650000 1,000,000 1,000,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 700000 1,000,000 710,000
4TB Model M280CS3040-4TB-RB ZP4000GM3A013  
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 660000 1,000,000 N/A
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 800000 1,000,000 N/A

Yes, that is a LONG table, but you can immediately see that the Seagate Firecuda 530 raises the stakes on all of the key specifications. Although there are a number of micro reasons for this, the 176L NAND is the biggest factor here. Yes, that is why the Firecuda 530 commands the higher price tag. Additionally, the WD Black arriving at a better price point, higher IOPS in most tiers and the fact it does this whilst still hitting that 7,000MB/s certainly gives pause for thought. However, for many, the additional cost for higher durability they may never need, peak performance their core system will not reach and IOPS rating that their larger file handling will never utilize will mean that holding out for the Firecuda or WD Black SN850 is not in their interest. Both SSDs (on paper at this stage!) are fantastic examples of where consumer and prosumer SSDs are evolving towards. Let’s get the PNY XLR8 CS3040 on the test machine!

Testing the PNY XLR8 CS3040 m.2 PCIE4 NVMe SSD

The PNY XLR8 CS3040 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 PNY XLR8 CS3040 over on NASCompares):

Test Machine:

  • 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 41 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  = 5.14GB/s

256MB File PEAK Write Throughput = 2.38GB/s

 


 

ATTO Disk Benchmark Test #2

1GB File PEAK Read Throughput  = 5.23GB/s

1GB File PEAK Write Throughput = 2.37GB/s

 


 

ATTO Disk Benchmark Test #3

4GB File PEAK Read Throughput  = 5.24GB/s

4GB File PEAK Write Throughput = 2.37GB/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 lasts 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 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) = 4168MB/s Read & 2597MB/s Write

4GB AJA File Test Results (Peak) = 4168MB/s Read & 2194MB/s Write

16GB AJA File Test Results (Peak) = 4151MB/s Read & 2534MB/s Write

Overall, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 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.

PNY XLR8 CS3040 SSD Review – Conclusion

PNY has done a great job of fleshing out their range of NVMe SSDs over the years but the release of a slew of revisions of PCIe 4.0 SSDs, although built to a different end-user, run the risk of causing confusion for buyers. Equally, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is a good drive that is now looking comparatively poor versus an even better PNY SSD release in the CS3140 (significantly higher throughput and the Phison E18 controller). On its own merit, the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is a solid drive with great durability, better than average performance (when compared against many other Phison E16 SSDs, a solid gamer friend brand and a price point that is very much in the ballpark of most PC/Console gamers admiring these SSDs. If you are running a PC/Console system that won’t be challenging the full saturation of PCIe 4×4 any time soon, then the PNY XLR8 CS3040 is a great drive choice for maximizing your budget and mid-range system resources. But if you are looking for a higher glass ceiling and high end performance, perhaps you should dig a little deeper into the piggy bank and consider the XLR8 CS3140 instead in 2021/2022.

PROs of the PNY XLR8 CS3040 CONs of the PNY XLR8 CS3040
Excellent Endurance and Durability Ratings

One of the Highest Performing Phison E16 SSD in the market

Available in up to 4TB

Currently Supported on the PS5 SSD Storage Expansion Slot (Tested on Beta Software)

Very Good Price per TB (Especially for a PCIe 4.0 SSD)

Overshadowed by its bigger brother, the XLR8 CS3140

Released a noticeably large time after competitor’s similar 1st Gen PCIe 4 SSDs (Seagate 520, Sabrent Rocket PCIe4, etc)


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