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Hands-on review: PNY XLR8 Gaming NVMe Gen4x4 SSD and PS5 SSD Cover with integrated heatsink
Wed, 12th Jan 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

PNY has released its XLR8 Gaming CS3140 M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen4x4 solid-state drive and PS5 SSD cover with an integrated heatsink. For PC users with compatible PCIe 4.0 equipment, the NVMe drive promises an ultra-fast storage solution. For PlayStation 5 owners, the SSD, with the special cover/heatsink, provides a console storage upgrade with more than adequate cooling.

We tested the 2TB version of the PNY XLR8 Gaming CS3140 M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen4x4 SSD in an Asus TUF Z690-Plus WiFi motherboard with an Intel Core i9-12900K. The TUF motherboard has the capacity for four M.2 SSDs (2x2280 and 2x 221100), each supporting up to NVMe PCIe 4.0 x4 drives. Three of the motherboard's M.2 sockets have heatsink covers, and one is without.

Checking the drive using CrystalDiskMark 8.0.4 yielded a maximum read speed of 6927.8 MB/s and a max write speed of 7031.60 write. The SSD packaging states a maximum read speed of 7500MB/s and a max write speed of 6850MB/s, so I think those results are pretty fair. It's also well above the read speed requirement for use as a PlayStation 5 SSD expansion.

Comparing the NVMe speed with the sub-200MB/s write speed result from a regular mechanical SATA hard drive, or even 1614.51MB/s from a budget NVMe drive, and the data transfer speed increase is very apparent. The PNY PCIe Gen4x4 is twice as fast as the 3445.32 MB/s result from a PCIe Gen3 x4 Seagate Firecuda 510 SSD.

These near-instantaneous loading speeds come at a price, quite a hefty price. Don't expect much in the way of change out of AU/NZ$700 for the 2TB version that we tested. Throw in another fifty bucks or so for the heatsink and you are not far shy of the cost of a new console.

The price of the SSD likely shows us just how much of a loss Sony is making on the sale of its consoles rather than how overpriced the storage upgrade is. This is state-of-the-art storage technology running at speeds that would be considered impossible only a few years ago.

No matter how you look at it, the PlayStation 5 does not have the storage space for a decent games collection. The base PlayStation 5 comes equipped with a measly 825GB solid-state drive. To make matters worse, only 667.2GB is available for storing games and applications, the rest of the space being used for system files.

With games occupying upwards of 100GB of storage space each (Call of Duty Morden Warfare took up 175GB at launch), many players have found themselves short on space. This has led to difficult choices on what PS5 games to uninstall, a decision exacerbated if the titles were digital downloads.

Up until recently, the only workaround was to connect an external storage device to the console. This allows players to archive native PS5 games and make some space. Only PS4 games can be run directly from an external drive.

In September 2020, Sony finally unlocked the console's M.2 SSD expansion socket, which can be found by removing one of the side panels. Only PCIe Gen4x4 M.2 NVMe drives are supported by the PlayStation 5. They should have a sequential read speed of 5500MB/s or faster (which should be the case for all Gen4x4 NVMe devices). The drive also needs to have a heatsink attached to it, something that not all NVMe drives are shipped with.

The XLR8 Gaming CS3140 M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen4x4 solid-state drive meets the speed specification for a PlayStation 5. With the addition of the XLR8 PS5 SSD Cover with an integrated heatsink, the SSD is compliant with Sony's specification for PS5 storage upgrades.

The official PlayStation 5 site has a video showing the installation of a suitably heatsinked NVMe SSD. Found under the white cover (be careful pulling the cover off) on the same side as the disc drive, the SSD socket is accessed via a removable metal cover.

A single screw holds the cover in place. Under the cover, there's a screw and spacer that need to be removed and positioned according to the length of the M.2 drive being installed. For most, this will be a 2280 M.2 drive like the XLR8 CS3140 drive (being 22mm wide and 80mm long).

At the end of the instructional video on the PS5 site, after installing the SSD, the demonstrator dutifully replaces the PS5 SSD cover, locking the new drive in its tiny chamber. I thought that this was a bit weird at the time, covering the hot component and the heatsink in an enclosed area with no airflow.

It's evident that the machine has not been designed for the SSD cover to be just left off. There's a fan right next to the SSD socket that could probably do without the baffling effect as air passes the open SSD chamber, you might get an extra bit of fan noise and perhaps even a whistle if you are unfortunate. Whatever, though, Sony's instructions say to encase your new SSD in its socket with the cover.

PNY's XLR8 Gaming PS5 SSD Cover with integrated heatsink works with any M.2 drive suitable for a PS5 that's not already got a heatsink. Instead of dissipating heat in an enclosed space, the heatsink replaces the stock PS5 SSD cover, having holes that allow air to be blown by the fan to flow across and through the exposed surface. I would say that the heatsink looks good as well, but it does get covered by the side panels.

Installation is easy. Once the M.2 drive is in place, you just remove the tape covering the thermal pad and place the heatsink on top hooking the one side into the slot on the PS5 chassis. The pack comes with a special screw (which is a little hidden in the sponge packaging and easy to overlook) that replaces the PS5 screw fixing the heatsink in place. The side panel is then replaced.

Before using the SDD it will need to be formatted, which the PS5 will notify players of when started the console back up. Once formatted, the new storage space is ready for use. The 2TB drive almost triples the available storage space for PS5 native games.

The PNY XLR8 Gaming CS3140 M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen4x4 SSD is a premium storage solution, but one that heralds a new era in SSD upgrades for both PCs and games consoles. It does exactly what it is supposed to do. 40 times faster than traditional hard drives, the XLR8 CS3140 offers speeds for today's gamers wanting to get the most out of their system. Currently essential for upgrading PlayStation 5 storage, SSD's such as the XLR8 CS3140 will be essential for PC gamers once Microsoft's DirectStorage API becomes commonplace over the next couple of years.

XLR8 CS3140, when coupled with the PNY XLR8 Gaming PS5 SSD Cover with integrated heatsink, makes for an essential upgrade for the PlayStation 5. The price tag puts the 2TB drive almost in line with the retail cost of the console, but it's the price you have to pay to have all your games on tap and no more expensive than its competitors. The heatsink replacing the PS5 SSD cover, regardless of what SSD you go for, makes for a cooler storage installation than the solution on the PlayStation website.

Both XLR8 Gaming CS3140 M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen4x4 solid-state drive and PS5 SSD cover with an integrated heatsink allow PC and PlayStation 5 gamers access to one of the fastest M.2 SSDs available to gamers. It does come with a hefty price tag, but you get a premium product and, in the case of the PS5 heatsink, an innovative solution.