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Toshiba PX04P NVMe Enterprise SSD Review

Toshiba PX04P NVMe Enterprise SSD Review
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Toshiba races into the PCIe storage market with its first family of NVMe SSDs. Today, we're reviewing Toshiba's PX04P NVMe enterprise SSD to see how it fares against the competition.

Toshiba currently has the fastest 12Gb/s SAS SSD on the market along with a bevy of SATA SSDs, and as the only combined HDD and SSD manufacturer (pending WD's acquisition of SanDisk), it has a wide range of storage products for nearly every workload. However, the lack of a PCIe SSD product is a glaring hole in Toshiba's SSD product stack. 

The new PX04P Series closes that gap and extends Toshiba's reach into the NVMe realm. The SSD comes in both AIC (Add-In Card) and 2.5" form factors in a wide range of capacities that span from 800GB up to 4TB. The top-line random write specifications vary based upon the endurance rating, but the SSDs offer up to 660,000/185,000 IOPS and 3,100/2,350 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput.

The high performance comes courtesy of the PCIe 3.0 x4 connection and the NVMe 1.0e protocol. Toshiba utilizes the familiar in-box NVMe drivers found with the major operating systems to guarantee broad compatibility, but it also offers its own optional proprietary driver for Windows and Hyper-V systems.

The amount of overprovisioning (extra spare area) determines the endurance level of the SSD, so the maximum capacity of each model is based upon its endurance rating. Toshiba takes the unique approach of selling one SSD model with the default Mid Endurance overprovisioning level, but users can employ simple tools to tailor the endurance/overprovisioning to four different thresholds. The PX04P Series provides Mid Endurance 10 DWPD, Value Endurance 3 DWPD or Read Intensive 1 DWPD settings.

Toshiba's PX04P Series employs the same co-branded Toshiba/Marvell SSD controller used with its PX04S 12Gb/s SAS Series. Toshiba develops its own firmware for the controller and utilizes its own A19nm eMLC NAND, which gives the company tight control of the key components.

We originally tested the PX04S 12Gb/s SAS model and came away impressed with its low-power consumption and exceptional efficiency metrics. Toshiba designed the PX04P to fit into a similar low-power envelope with a maximum draw of 18W and 6.4W idle.

The PCIe SSD segment is still largely obsessed with speed above all other considerations, so Toshiba's focus on efficiency is a key differentiator. Many of the NVMe SSDs that come through our lab have little to no user-defined power parameters, but the PX04P offers four different power states. The settings lower the power and thermal threshold of the device, which allows integrators to tailor the drive for its respective environment (much like leading SAS SSDs), which is key in space-constrained and dense deployments.

The low power settings also reduce performance. However, in a dense chassis there are other architectural factors that reduce the performance of multiple NVMe SSDs, such as limited PCIe lanes or networking connectivity. Reducing the power consumption and performance in these scenarios allows integrators to increase density due to the reduced thermal overhead while still saturating the available I/O pipeline.

The NVMe PX04P and the 12Gb/s SAS PX04S are similar platforms that share the same NAND and controller, which will provide us an interesting head-to-head comparison of 12Gb/s SAS and NVMe.

The Toshiba PX04P Series walks the tightrope between low power consumption and bleeding-edge performance, let's get it on the bench and see if it finds the right balance.

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