The realm of computer storage is witnessing a significant transformation with the advent of PCIe 4.0, a technology that was first embraced with the 11th-Gen intel processor, Ryzen 3000 processor, and gaming consoles like the PlayStation 5. However, the technological landscape is ever-evolving, and the next milestone is PCIe 5.0. This new generation of storage technology promises staggering speeds, surpassing the capabilities of its predecessor. One example and the one we will be reviewing is TeamGroup’s T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD, with an M.2 2280 form factor and using the PCI-Express 5.0 x4 interface connection and supports the latest NVMe 2.0 protocol, it boasts read and write speeds of 12,400 MB/s and 11,800 MB/s, respectively.
Yet, with great speed comes great responsibility, particularly in heat management. Gamers and tech enthusiasts are acutely aware that the increased performance of PCIe Gen 5 SSDs often leads to significant heat generation. This is a challenge that cannot be understated, as typical graphene thermal solutions may fall short of effectively managing this heat. Recognizing this main issue, the TeamGroup’s T-Force also has a separate dual cooler heatsink, the T-Force Dark Airflow 1 SSD Cooler, complemented by a small fan designed to efficiently dissipate heat, maintaining SSD’s temperature within optimal ranges and achieving the expected speed performance.
The T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD is priced at $259 for 2TB, and $149 for 1TB. It also comes with a 5-year warranty and has an endurance of 700 TBW, and 1,400 TBW for 1TB, and 2TB, respectively. On the other hand, the T-Force Dark Airflow 1 SSD Cooler is not yet available to the public.
In this review, we will delve into the capabilities of the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD, focusing on the 2TB variant. Our goal is to thoroughly evaluate whether this SSD can deliver on its performance promises while maintaining smooth operation without any hiccups. Additionally, we will also conduct tests without the additional heatsink to determine if the SSD can still perform reliably under these conditions.
|PCIe Gen 5 x 4 with NVMe
|0°C to 70°C
|40°C to 85°C
|Sequential Speed Write
Read/Write: Up to 12,400/11,800 MB/s
Read/Write: Up to 1400K/1500K IOPS Max
|80 x 22 x 3.7mm (LWH)
|80Hz to 2,000Hz/20G
To begin our analysis of the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD, we will first focus on the packaging. Our review unit arrived in two separate packages, one containing the SSD and the other housing the T-Force Dark Airflow 1 SSD Cooler. The packaging of the Z540 SSD itself adheres to the distinct Red and Black theme that is consistent with T-Force’s gaming product line. The front of the box features essential information like the visual image of the SSD, complemented by the presence of a patent seal and the storage capacity.
Turning to the back, we find more detailed specifications including the expected performance speed, the 5-year warranty, and the Operation temperature which is 0 ºC to 70 ºC. There is also a cut-out hole that allows you to peak the actual SSD.
Inside, the SSD itself is neatly housed in a plastic container, a typical packaging choice for T-Force products. Adjacent to the SSD, there’s a blank space in the packaging which is a pretty common feature in TeamGroup’s packaging design, often seen in their product range, and serves as a standardized element, even though it’s not used for additional components in this specific model.
Included within the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD packaging is a graphene thermal sticker, a crucial element for effective heat management. Interestingly, this thermal sticker is not pre-installed on the SSD which also indicates that the application of the thermal sticker is left to the user’s discretion and is not a mandatory step tied to the product’s warranty.
Shifting to the packaging of the T-Force Dark Airflow 1 SSD Cooler, it is presented in a cardboard box, maintaining the signature Red and Black theme. The heatsink, named ‘AF1’, sounds generic and may serve as a universal thermal solution, potentially compatible with a range of SSD models in the T-Force lineup.
On the back, there are detailed specifications, particularly focusing on the size and dimensions of the heatsink. Important details for users to determine if the heatsink will fit correctly in their system, especially in relation to their CPU cooler.
Upon opening the box, you are presented with several items essential for setting up your SSD with the heatsink.
Included in the package is a screw, specifically designed for removing the cover of your SSD slot, facilitating a smoother installation process.
Crucial to the functionality of the heatsink are the two thermal pads. These pads play a vital role in sandwiching the SSD within the heatsink. For optimal thermal management, it’s required to position these pads on both the front and back of the SSD ensuring effective heat dissipation and maximizing the cooling efficiency.
It also comes with extra SSD screws if your motherboard doesn’t come with an easy-snap SSD.
The T-Force 5Z40
Moving on to the SSD itself, the back features a label in black and white, detailing the product specifications. Interestingly, the SSD is not single-sided as there are components on the back as well.
The absence of a pre-installed thermal sticker allows for an unobstructed view of these components, which we will explore in more detail in the next section of our article.
Applying the graphene thermal sticker enhances the SSD’s aesthetic appeal. It features a sleek black matte finish with striking gold copper text, adding a touch of elegance to its design.
The T-Force Dark Airflow 1 SSD Cooler is equipped with a single fan, consisting of 9 copper blades that play a crucial role in cooling the heatsink’s two individual tube lines.
On the opposite side, there is no fan, which is intentionally designed for the outflow of air from the fan.
Looking at the top of the heatsink, the T-Force logo is prominently displayed, alongside a beautifully crafted design featuring 4 tube pipe ends. This design not only aids in efficient cooling but also adds a visual appeal to the heatsink. The wire connection is conveniently made for CPU lines.
The bottom part of the heatsink houses the cover, which needs to be unscrewed to install the SSD. This cover also plays a role in securing the SSD, sandwiching it between the two thermal pads mentioned earlier. A potential concern arises when re-screwing the cover, as there is a risk of accidentally hitting the SSD components if not done carefully. A suggestion for T-Force could be to include a reminder or guideline for users to exercise caution while securing the cover.
Upon removing the cover, we get a closer look at the two individual pipes and the copper components, which are crucial for absorbing heat from the SSD. This intricate design highlights the careful consideration given to both functionality and aesthetics in the heatsink’s construction.
Features or Components
As for the features, we will discuss here the components that power the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD, focusing on its technical capabilities and electronic architecture.
The T-Force Cardea Z540 is powered with the Phison PS5026-E26-52 SSD controller. This controller is built on a 12nm process and is an ARM 32-bit Cortex-R5 processor, featuring five cores that is responsible for the next-gen speed. A significant aspect of this controller is its inclusion of a DRAM Cache. This means that the Z540 is not a DRAMless SSD, the DRAM Cache uses the SK hynix (H9HCNNNCPUMLXR-NEE), a renowned manufacturer in the memory chip industry. This chip provides 4GB of LPDDR4-4266MHz cache DRAM Memory that offers substantial buffer for data processing and high frequency to handle large volumes of data quickly and efficientlly. Regarding the power control of the SSD, it utilizes the Phison PS6121-45 (UG2324C2 QTP96). However, detailed information about this specific power controller is not readily available.
The storage capability of this device is powered by chips from Micron, specifically the 3PC2D NY181 (511-230823086) model, which is a 232-Layer TLC NAND. In our test unit, there are four such chips, collectively providing a total storage capacity of 2,000GB.
On the reverse side, there are two additional chips, identical to the ones mentioned.
On another corner of the SSD’s backside, there are additional chips. While these might not appear particularly special, they are essential electronic components that contribute to the overall functionality of the SSD.
To evaluate the performance of this SSD, we will subject it to a series of benchmark tests using our lineup of benchmarking programs. This will help us determine whether the SSD lives up to its promises and identify any potential problems that may arise. Initially, we will test the SSD without the installed heatsink fan to assess its handling and thermal performance in this baseline condition. Should the SSD struggle or fail in this scenario, we will forego further tests without the heatsink and instead focus our benchmarking efforts on the SSD with the heatsink installed. Below are the details of the test setup we will be using:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 7900 12-Core Processor with Stock Cooler
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE X670 GAMING X AX
- RAM Memory: T-Force Delta Alpha RGB DDR5-6000 Gaming Memory
- Operating System: Windows 11 Pro
The testing environment is at room temperature of 31°C without air conditioning but cooled only by a standard fan.
Without the T-Force Dark Airflow I SSD Cooler
Before commencing our tests, we will check the initial temperature of the SSD. As observed, the starting temperature is relatively high, standing at 52°C. However, this temperature is still within the operational limits for this SSD, which range from 0°C to 70°C.
During our testing with Crystal Disk Mark, the SSD initially performed as expected, achieving the anticipated read and write speeds while maintaining a temperature within operational limits. However, in subsequent tests, the temperature of the SSD began to rise significantly, eventually exceeding the safe operational threshold of 70°C. This excessive heat led to a noticeable drop in performance. To prevent potential damage to the SSD, we abruptly halted the benchmarking process.
This issue of overheating under heavy loads is not unique to the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD alone; it’s a common problem among many PCIe 5 SSDs. In our tests without the heatsink, it struggled to manage heat effectively, with temperatures soaring as high as 83°C. This clearly indicates that the SSD is not equipped to handle intense workloads without adequate cooling. Therefore, if you are considering purchasing the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD PCIe 5.0, it is highly advisable to opt for the version bundled with the heatsink. This additional cooling solution is essential to ensure stable performance and to prevent overheating during demanding tasks.
However, it’s noteworthy that under normal workload conditions, the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD maintains a much more stable temperature range. The SSD operates between 52°C to 60°C, which is well within the safe operational limits.
With Combo T-Force Dark Airflow I SSD Cooler
After applying the T-Force Dark Airflow I SSD Cooler heatsink, the initial temperature began to show its magic, the initial temperature is at 37°C.
CrystalDiskMark is a widely recognized benchmarking tool used for testing the performance of solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs). Renowned for its simplicity and accuracy, this tool measures the sequential and random read/write speeds of the storage device. It is also commonly used as the benchmarking score for most of the manufacturer-rated speed.
The SSD showed remarkable performance across a range of tasks. For sequential reads and writes for large files (1MB at queue depth 8 and thread count 1), it achieved read speeds of 12,378.19 MB/s and write speeds of 11,820.96 MB/s. This performance was consistent for sequential operations with moderately large files (128KB at queue depth 32 and thread count 1), where it recorded read speeds of 12,341.10 MB/s and write speeds of 11,822.22 MB/s. In the random read/write test with smaller files (4KB) at high queue depth (32) and multiple threads (16), it scored 5,229.49 MB/s for read and 3,512.87 MB/s for write, indicating robust performance under more demanding conditions. Lastly, in the test simulating typical user scenarios (random 4KB files at a single queue and thread), it delivered read and write speeds of 88.92 MB/s and 317.07 MB/s, respectively, showcasing its effectiveness in everyday computing tasks.
AS SSD Benchmark
The AS SSD Benchmark is a specialized tool designed exclusively for testing the performance of Solid State Drives (SSDs). Unlike other benchmarking software that might be suitable for various types of storage devices, AS SSD Benchmark focuses on the unique characteristics and performance metrics pertinent to SSDs. It measures the sequential and random read/write speeds, as well as the access time of the SSD, providing a comprehensive overview of its performance.
The AS SSD benchmark revealed the SSD’s performance in various read and write scenarios. For sequential operations, which measure large file transfer speeds, the SSD achieved a read speed of 9,169.06 MB/s and a write speed of 10,055.14 MB/s. In the 4K test, designed to evaluate performance with small files, it scored 80.37 MB/s for read and 277.37 MB/s for write. The 4K-64Thrd test, assessing the drive’s ability to handle multiple small file requests simultaneously, yielded read and write speeds of 3,196.77 MB/s and 4,445.68 MB/s, respectively. The SSD also demonstrated exceptional access times, with 0.014 ms for reads and 0.041 ms for writes. Overall, the SSD accumulated a total score of 12,104, with individual read and write scores of 4,194 and 5,729, highlighting its strong performance across different types of data operations.
ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark assess the performance of both traditional hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs). Its primary function is to measure the data transfer rates of storage devices across various file sizes and lengths, providing a detailed performance profile.
The SSD demonstrated a progressive increase in performance across various file sizes. Starting with a small file size of 512 bytes, it achieved a speed of 15.38 MB/s. As the file size increased, there was a notable climb in speed, reaching a significant milestone of 1.85 GB/s for 32KB files. The SSD reached its peak performance with file sizes of 128 KB for write operations, achieving speeds around 10.97 GB/s, and for read operations, it peaked at file sizes of 2 MB, hitting speeds of approximately 11.19 GB/s. Notably, both read and write speeds stabilized and maintained their maximum rates at file sizes of 2 MB, demonstrating the SSD’s ability to handle larger data transfers efficiently.
3D Mark Benchmark
3D Mark Benchmark is predominantly recognized for its robust capabilities in assessing the performance of graphics cards and gaming PCs. However, it also includes tests that can evaluate the performance of solid-state drives (SSDs) in gaming-related scenarios. By simulating a range of demanding gaming environments, 3D Mark provides insights into how well a storage device can handle the intense read and write demands of modern gaming.
The SSD showcased its capabilities in gaming-related scenarios. It achieved an average bandwidth of 773.45 MB/s and an average access time of 39 microseconds. When tested with popular games, the bandwidth varied: 1,480.03 MB/s for ‘Battlefield V’, 1,105.62 MB/s for ‘Call of Duty Black Ops 4’, and 649.62 MB/s for ‘Overwatch’, with respective access times of 51, 60, and 36 microseconds. The SSD’s performance in recording gameplay showed a bandwidth of 271.18 MB/s and an access time of 31 microseconds. For game installation, it recorded a speed of 356.54 MB/s and an access time of 37 microseconds, while for saving game data, it reached 311.41 MB/s with an access time of 23 microseconds. Remarkably, in moving game files, it achieved a high speed of 5,173.69 MB/s with an access time of 50 microseconds. The total score attained in these tests was 4,560, underscoring the SSD’s efficiency in handling various gaming-related tasks.
PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark
PCMark 10 Full System Drive Benchmark is a comprehensive tool designed to evaluate the overall performance of a computer’s storage system, including solid-state drives (SSDs) like the T-Force Cardea Z540. Unlike benchmarks focusing solely on speed metrics, PCMark 10 assesses how well a drive performs in everyday tasks. It simulates a variety of real-world scenarios, such as booting up the operating system, launching applications, and conducting file transfers, to provide a realistic assessment of the drive’s performance in common use cases.
The SSD achieved a score of 4,635, indicating robust overall performance. It exhibited an overall bandwidth of 717.2 MB/s, which demonstrates its efficiency in handling data transfers. Additionally, the SSD showed an overall access time of just 35 microseconds, reflecting its quick responsiveness in accessing data.
PCMark 10 Data Drive Benchmark
The PCMark 10 Data Drive Benchmark is a specialized component of the PCMark suite, specifically designed to assess the performance of secondary storage drives, such as SSDs used for data storage, like the T-Force Cardea Z540. This benchmark focuses on how well a drive handles workloads related to storing and accessing data, rather than the operating system or applications. It simulates various real-world tasks, including file saving, editing, and transferring, to evaluate the drive’s efficiency and responsiveness in handling data-centric operations.
The SSD scored 9,802 with an overall bandwidth of 1,374.6 MB/s and 15 microseconds.
PCMark 10 Quick System Drive Benchmark
The PCMark 10 Quick System Drive Benchmark is a streamlined version of the Full System Drive Benchmark, part of the comprehensive PCMark 10 suite. It’s designed to quickly assess the performance of primary storage drives, such as SSDs, in handling common system-level tasks.
The SSD scored 5,898 with an overall bandwidth of 696.9 MB/s and 21 microseconds.
PassMark PerformanceTest Disk Mark
PassMark PerformanceTest Disk Mark is a versatile benchmarking tool designed to evaluate the performance of storage devices such as hard drives, solid-state drives (SSDs), and external drives. It provides a comprehensive analysis of various aspects of a drive’s performance, including read and write speeds, data transfer rates, and access times.
The SSD achieved an outstanding score of 71,142, which places it in the 99th percentile compared to similar devices globally, a clear indication of its superior performance. Breaking down the scores, it showed impressive results in sequential read and write tests, with 10,558 MB/s and 10,047 MB/s respectively. For the IOS 32KQD20 test, which measures the input/output operations per second for 32K blocks at a queue depth of 20, it scored 4,143. In the IOPS 4KQD1 test, designed to assess smaller file operations at a queue depth of 1, the SSD achieved a score of 131. These results place the SSD significantly higher than the global minimum score of 3 and close to the maximum of 209,786, highlighting its exceptional performance across various metrics.
Black Magic Design Disk Speed Test
The Black Magic Design Disk Speed Test is a performance measurement tool specifically tailored for video professionals and content creators. It excels in evaluating the ability of storage devices like SSDs to handle high-resolution video files. This benchmark measures the read and write speeds of drives, such as the T-Force Cardea Z540 SSD, in the context of video file processing and rendering. It’s particularly valuable for determining whether a storage device can handle the demanding throughput requirements of tasks like editing 4K or 8K video.
Tailored for evaluating performance in video-related tasks, the SSD displayed impressive capabilities. It achieved a write speed of 10,038 MB/s, demonstrating its proficiency in handling high-resolution video files, a crucial aspect of video production and content creation. Additionally, the SSD recorded a read speed of 7,536.9 MB/s.
After all of the test, the SSD were able to maintain a temperature of 44°C.
To gain a clearer perspective on the performance of the T-Force Cardea Z540 compared to other SSDs we have evaluated, we invite you to examine the detailed benchmark chart provided below. This chart presents a direct comparison, showcasing how the Z540 measures up against its competitors across a range of performance metrics.