Question Confused about my NVME upgrade choices. Sabrent Rocket 4 vs Samsung 980 vs Samsung 970? Regular vs Pro? PCIe 3 vs 4?

Cyber_Akuma

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I have a system I built back in 2012 that I tried to push as far as I could. Being 2012 it had no M.2 ports and only two of it's SATA ports supported 6Gbps, I connected two 512GB SSDs to it in RAID0 for speed (They were only for storing my OS and games, I had backed-up RAID5 drives for anything important). Eventually, these became too small so I replaced them a few years later with two 1TB ones for a total of 2TB.

Messing with SSDs in RAID0 over the years became a pain, plus they were again almost full and so I had been planning to upgrade them to a single 4TB SSD when I could afford it.

Anyway, said system has recently died on me, so I am rebuilding it with a modern mobo/CPU and trying to re-use all the other parts I can, including the drives. I still can't afford a 4TB drive right now (especially with the other parts I had to buy recently) but the board does have multiple M.2 ports so I wanted to see if I could leverage that in a way and use NVMEs.

The board is a Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Pro AX.

The board has three M.2 ports, but only two of them work right now, both of them are PCIe 3.0. The third one will apparently be enabled, and work in PCIe 4.0 mode, in the future with a firmware update if you install an 11th gen Intel CPU in it. I do want to eventually upgrade to an 11th gen in a year or two, so I also want to keep that in consideration when buying NVMEs. I don't know if when that is enabled if any of the other M.2 ports will be upgraded to 4.0 as the motherboard manufacturer seems to make no mention of this (I'll try e-mailing them about it, apparently some of the standard PCIe slots will).

Since a good 2TB NVME would be too much for me right now, and that would be a bit of a waste as I would still need to upgrade that to a 4TB, rather than go that route I figured I would get a 1TB NVME and move my OS, Apps, pretty much everything except my games to it. Almost the entirety of the space taken up on the RAID0 was my Steam games, so a 1TB should be more than enough, and still clear up some space for me. And then I can continue to use the SSDs in RAID0 purely for game storage and nothing else until I can eventually replace that with a 4TB NVME and be done with RAID0 and standard 2.5 SATA SSDs as well. Would make backups a lot easier too since then I only need to image the 1TB SSD, anything on the games drive can just simply be re-downloaded.

And THAT is where I am a little confused on how to go about it and wanted some advice:

First of all, is there any down-side to getting a PCIe 4.0 NVME and putting it in a PCIe 3.0 M.2 port? I was planning on just going with the Samsung 970 EVO NVMEs, but then I saw a lot of talk about how these Sabrent Rocket 4 drives are comparable and/or better for the price. Those are PCIe 4.0 as well, so those would compare more to a Samsung 980 than a 970. I know they won't operate at full speed, but would there be any problems or issues if I got a 4.0 drive and put it in a 3.0 port? I figured that would make things a lot easier if I don't have to worry about both 3.0 and 4.0 drives and just write off the Samsung 970 (plus this helps me in the future in case they do upgrade the other ports in my board to 4.0 as well).

And in regards to that, would there be any benefit in using a PCIe 4.0 NVME in a PCIe 3.0 slot? Or would it be no different than just using the PCIe 3.0 version of the same drive? Again, if there are no problems, I feel it would make it a lot easier to only consider 4.0 drives in case plans have to change in the future or they upgrade my other ports to 4.0.

One thing I recall there being some debate about is if you need a heatsink for 4.0 drives Most seem to say you don't need one for 3.0 drives but do need one for 4.0. Do I need to get a heatsink for them?

And if so, are the "heatsinks" that normally come attached to the motherboards and are more meant to blend into the rest of the board for aesthetic purposes generally good enough for that task, or do I need to get something more than that? The two 3.0 ports on my board have those aesthetic-heatsinks, but the 4.0 port does not. And since the first port I want to use it right under my GPU, I can't put a large heatsink under it. (The other port would disable two of my SATA ports if I use it, which I will need until I can transition away from the 2.5 SSDs completely).

That future 4.0 port also is right under the CPU cooler so I worry about ambient temps of that too.

If they are needed, I would definitely need to get a heatsink for the 4.0 port since my board does not come with one, any good recommendations if they are?

As for why I want to bother with PCIe 4.0 at all for my "game" drive, and even be prioritizing that over my OS drive, well, my last pc was built in 2012 and I would still be using it now had it not died. I normally stick with a PC until it's not really reasonably upgradable anymore and annoyingly unusable for current tasks anymore (not to mention I can't afford to build a new PC often), so this PC will have to last me for a while. That means considering future upgrades. And apparently there is a new API that only works over PCIe 4.0 that significantly will increase game load speeds? (Did I understand that right?). I have no idea if this will actually take off or just be one of those techs that a handful of games implemented then dies off (like gpu-accelerated PhysX did) but since I am likely going to be stuck with this system for nearly a decade, I want to plan for future considerations like this.

And finally, this all leads me to the thing I most wanted opinions on, which one to get.

As I mentioned, Normally I like to go with Samsung (which would be the 980 EVO if I want PCIe 4.0) but I was seeing a lot of talk about the Sabrent Rocket 4 comparing to and even beating Samsung's drives. Thing is, almost everyone was talking about the more expensive Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus, even when comparing it to the Non-Pro 980 EVO that it would be more of a closer match to. So first thing I am not sure about, is if I should be considering the Rocket 4 and 980 EVO, or instead be looking at the Rocket 4 Plus and 980 EVO Pro. Apparently it's mostly the write speed that significantly benefits from the Plus/Pro models? If that is true, then should I only bother with a Plus model for the OS drive, and get the cheaper standard model someday for the game drive? It was hard to get a read on what would be the better option for performance, the Rocket 4 Plus or 980 EVO Pro. The Rocket seemed to perform better in some situations, but the Samsung in others and by a larger margin when it did. Most reviews concluded that the Rocket would be the better buy not because it's overall better, but because it's so close to a Samsung but for cheaper....... except that is not the case anymore, currently both the 1TB Rocket 4 Plus and 980 EVO Pro are the same pricepoint (seems like the Samsung drive came down in price to match) so with that I am not sure what would be the better buy anymore.

So what are people's opinions on which one of these I should go with for the OS and the eventual game drive?

IF there are no problems with using a PCIe 4.0 drive in a 3.0 port, then there are four drives I am trying to decide between:

Sabrent Rocket 4, Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus, Samsung 980 EVO. Samsung 980 EVO Plus.

I was thinking that at least the OS drive would benefit from the plus version, but I am not sure if it would matter with the game drive at all since it would be almost entirely just read operations (and apparently it's mostly write operations the Pro/Plus do better?). Which one would you recommend I use for the OS drive? And which one for the game drive? Would the Plus/Pro version benefit the OS drive over the standard version? What about the game drive?
 
Once you have a ssd of any kind the performance in actual use does not really differ much in small random i/o.
That is what windows does mostly.
Synthetic benchmarks will show raid-0 to be wonderful, but in actual usage you probably saw no real difference.
Sequential performance is where the pcie drives show up well, and, again, that is in synthetic benchmarks.
Load times in games, for instance, may differ only by a fraction of a second between a sata ssd and a 4.0 pcie ssd.
If budget is not an issue, then by all means go for the pcie devices.
The key is to avoid mechanical Hard drives

As to brands, I like Intel and Samsung because they design and produce their own chips.
They can do a better job of quality control.
m.2 is a size format.
If budget is an issue, buy a large sata 2.5" ssd.

Pcie devices may get warm on continuous sequential processing.
A virus scan, for example.
I would not worry about that or heatsinks for that matter.
The device will throttle a bit to protect iself if it gets too hot.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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I generally use the system for gaming, video encoding, virtualization, and several small projects that would require compiling.

And yeah, I know right now there isn't much of a benefit outside of systematic benchmarks between 3.0 and 4.0, but as I mentioned, I am likely going to be stuck with this PC for nearly a decade, so I want to try to take that into consideration. Namely in terms of DirectStorage, which IIRC needs 4.0. Though like I said, no telling if that will be successful, or if it will just die out like PhysX did.
 

Cyber_Akuma

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Like I said, I do want to upgrade the system to an 11th gen (Likely a 11700K) in a year or two. The board specifically has a currently unused M.2 port that will operate in PCIe 4.0 reserved just for that purpose.
 

USAFRet

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Like I said, I do want to upgrade the system to an 11th gen (Likely a 11700K) in a year or two. The board specifically has a currently unused M.2 port that will operate in PCIe 4.0 reserved just for that purpose.
And in a year or two, a PCIe 4.0 drive will be less expensive than it is today.

Future proofing is a waste of time.
Future proofing storage even more so.


But, from your choices - The 980 Pro.
 

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