Silicon Power's SSD product line has always offered plenty of entry-level options, but they have only recently entered the NVMe market. Silicon Power is unusual among SSD brands for using controllers and reference designs from both Silicon Motion and Phison; most brands that use turnkey drive solutions are exclusive partners with just one of those two controller vendors. For their NVMe drives, Silicon Power is so far using Phison's second-generation NVMe controllers, starting last year with the P32A80 based on the Phison E8T DRAMless controller, and now followed up by the P34A80 high-end drive based on the Phison E12.

We previewed the Phison E12 controller solution with a review of an engineering sample before retail products were available, and later tested the Corsair Force Series MP510. Based on that, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the P34A80, but there are two potentially significant changes. First, the Silicon Power drive is configured with a larger usable capacity and thus smaller spare area than the Corsair drive: 1024GB instead of 960GB, while both drives have the same raw amount of flash memory onboard. Reserving more spare area is usually done to improve sustained performance on write-heavy workloads and to reduce worst-case write amplification and thus increase a drive's write endurance. The Silicon Power P34A80 may thus be at a disadvantage for the tests in our suite that measure performance of a completely full drive.

Second, the Silicon Power drive ships with newer firmware than we have previously tested: the Corsair MP510 was running version ECFM11.0 while the P34A80 is running ECFM12.1. We typically see many firmware versions for each Phison SSD controller. For the S10 SATA controller, quite a few of these revisions were necessary to support new NAND flash memory that was introduced over the course of the controller's long lifespan. For the E7—Phison's first NVMe controller—we saw at least four different firmware versions in shipping retail products, but ultimately none of them were able to extract enough performance to make the controller competitive against other high-end NVMe drives of the time. The Phison E12 launched as a serious contender, so there is much less need for tweaked firmware, but at the same time we have seen other controller hardware provide better performance when paired with the same Toshiba/SanDisk 64L TLC—most notably from Western Digital's in-house controller used in the WD Black product line.

Not all vendors of Phison SSDs are good about providing firmware updates. Silicon Power's current firmware updater is a year old, but they haven't yet needed to provide a firmware update for their NVMe drives. Corsair was much quicker to market with their Phison E12 drive, but they have not yet packaged the 12.1 firmware for their customers. MyDigitalSSD was another early adopter of the E12 controller with their BPX Pro, which was the first retail product to get the 12.1 firmware update.

Silicon Power P34A80 SSD Specifications
Capacity 256 GB 512 GB 1 TB
Model Number SP256GBP34A80M28 SP512GBP34A80M28 SP001TBP34A80M28
Form Factor M.2 2280 double-sided
Interface PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.3
Controller Phison PS5012-E12
NAND Flash Toshiba 256Gb 64L 3D TLC
Sequential Read 3200 MB/s
Sequential Write 3000 MB/s
Warranty 5 years

Silicon Power provides only the most basic specifications for the P34A80, lacking any numbers for random IO performance, power consumption, and write endurance. The sequential IO performance numbers aren't broken down by capacity, but are a bit conservative compared to what other brands advertise for their 1TB Phison E12 drives.

Top: Phison E12 Engineering Sample
Bottom: Silicon Power P34A80

Turning to the drive itself, we find no surprises under the sticker. The Toshiba 64L 3D TLC is by now very familiar, and the PCB layout is only slightly revised from the first Phison E12 reference design we tested. The drive is double-sided even at lower capacities due to the presence of some passive components on the back of the card in addition to DRAM and NAND.

The Competition

The closest point of comparison for the Silicon Power P34A80 is the Corsair Force Series MP510, with identical hardware but older firmware and configured for a lower usable. Other drives in this review that use the same Toshiba/SanDisk 3D TLC but different controllers include:

  • Kingston A1000, based on the Phison E8 entry-level NVMe controller
  • WD Black SN750, based on Western Digital's own in-house controller
  • Plextor M9Pe, based on the Marvell 88SS1093 controller

The Patriot Hellfire shows what the obsolete Phison E7 first-generation NVMe controller platform offered, with 15nm planar MLC NAND; its performance can only compete against the entry-level NVMe drives in today's market.

AnandTech 2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.6
Spectre/Meltdown microcode and OS patches current as of May 2018
SLC Cache Sizes & SYSmark 2018
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  • stanleyipkiss - Thursday, February 28, 2019 - link

    5 year warranty is pretty good for the price.
  • XabanakFanatik - Friday, March 1, 2019 - link

    Where did these mysterious benchmark results in the charts for the 970 PRO 1TB come from? There still hasn't been a review posted for it.
  • IndianaKrom - Sunday, March 3, 2019 - link

    I noticed that as well, and I actually have a 970 Pro / 1 TB. I got it a couple months before the 970 EVO Plus was announced and was kind of kicking myself for spending more on it figuring the EVO Plus was probably the same or better performance for less, but turns out the Pro still reigns supreme in everything but burst writes.
  • Luckz - Wednesday, December 4, 2019 - link

    Note that those are now likely made with E12S instead of E12, half the DRAM, and 96L instead of 64L flash, so performance will vary and be worse in some use cases than what is reviewed here.
  • schevux - Monday, January 6, 2020 - link

    Hey what do you mean by that ? How much the performance would change ? I am considering this over 970 evo by these benchmarks but if the performance would be worse i would go with 970 evo. Thanks.
  • msroadkill612 - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Ta for the heads up. am now leery of SP. that stuff is not cricket (kosher).
  • quakerj - Saturday, January 11, 2020 - link

    I would get the 970 Evo. I ordered a 1TB P34A80 and received it today. It is nothing like what has been reviewed here. Flash chips have the marking "Unic2 UNN1TTE1B1JEA1." I think that's Chinese flash, Google isn't very helpful other than providing a link to Unic2 flash manufacturer, a Chinese website. Additionally my card contains Nanya DDR3 DRAM modules, not DDR4 like the reviewed model. Seems like a classic bait and switch. It's getting sent back to Amazon in a fast second, I would avoid like the plague.
  • msroadkill612 - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    I misposted this -
    Ta for the heads up. am now leery of SP. that stuff is not cricket (kosher).

    i cant see why a noname cant do a decent e12 product, but not this thanks.
  • quakerj - Saturday, January 11, 2020 - link

    For what it's worth, a major redesign warrants a new model number or revision suffix. If you go and buy this, it's not going to perform like the reviewed model, there are simply too many changes. It'll be a fast SSD no doubt, but I think SP pulled a fast one here and should be more transparent about the changes. They still advertise all these [original card] reviews on their website as though you're going to receive the same product. Just my humble opinion...
  • Mueller - Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - link

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