Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um Preview: 2024's Fastest SSD Platform

Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um Preview: The Latest, High-Performance PCIe 5 SSD Platform

Phison PS5026 E26 Max14um 1

Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um Preview: Coming Soon To An SSD Near You
A mature controller, fresh firmware, and the latest high-performance NAND comes together in one of the fastest SSDs we've ever tested.

hot flat
  • Ultra High Sequential Transfers
  • Low Latency
  • Top Performance In Trace-Based Tests
not flat
  • Didn't Always Lead With Random 4K Transfers
  • Will Require Cooling - Can't Run Bare

Just about a year ago, we published a preview of an SSD built around Phison’s PS5026-E26 PCIe 5.0 controller. At the time, a number of Phison’s partners were readying high-performance, enthusiast-class drives based on the controller and the reference model we tested set the stage for what was to come throughout 2023. Today we’re going to do something similar. We’ve got another preview of the PS5026-E26, but this model has been dubbed the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um. What the heck does that mean? The “Max14um” is a reference to optimizations made to the drive to achieve peak performance – that exceeds 14GB/s – over the drive’s PCIe 5.0 x4 interface.

Like last year, the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um drive we’ll be showing you here is not a retail product, but rather a reference design for other manufacturers to use when building their own SSDs. It features the same E26 NVMe 2.0-complianct SSD controller, as well as a beefy DRAM cache, but this time around it’s paired to faster NAND flash and the drive benefits from an array of firmware and power optimizations that ultimately allowed for a significant performance uplift...

Phison E26 PCIe 5 NVMe SSD Specifications And Features

The specifications above are actually for the Phison E26 controller itself, not necessarily this specific reference SSD. Still, it explains what the upper limits are for the controller and roughly what it could do when paired to cache and NAND flash memory fast enough to exploit all of its capabilities.

Phison PS5026 E26 Max14um 2

Phison PS5026-E26-based drives have evolved quite a bit since the controller first hit the scene. Early drives based on the Phison PS5026-E26 shipped with Micron’s B58R 3-bit per cell (TLC) NAND memory running at 1600MT/s. Those drives typically hit transfer rates of about 10GB/s, which was marginally faster than the best PCIe 4.0 SSDs available at the time. Later Micron released a B58R variant running at 2000MT/s, which pushed performance to about 12GB/s. This time around, Micron is readying an even faster variant of B58R running at 2400MT/s, which is the maximum flash transfer rate supported by the controller. The combination of the Phison PS5026-E26, another year’s worth of firmware and power optimizations, and 2400MT/s B58R pushes the performance of the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um to a peak of about 14.6GB/s.

Otherwise the PCB layout and features of the drive are similar. And like current-gen Phison E26-based drives, the upcoming Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um flavors will require some sort of cooling to maintain top performance -- whether it comes by way of an active cooler like the reference model pictured here, or by the M.2 heatsinks built into today's top-end motherboards. We suspect Phison's partners will be introducing drives in this family, with and without included heatsinks, similar to what they did throughout 2023. If your motherboard has built-in heatsinks, you could save a few bucks on a bare drive, and if not, heatsink-equipped models will be available as well.

Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um PCIe 5 SSD Benchmarks

Under each test condition, the SSDs showcased here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a separate drive used for the OS and benchmark installations. Our testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available at the time of publication and Windows 11 was fully updated. Windows firewall, automatic updates, and screen savers were all disabled before testing and Focus Assist was enabled to prevent any interruptions.

Phison PS5026 E26 Max14um 4

In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test. All of the drives here have also been updated to their latest firmware as of press time. Where applicable, we would also typically use any proprietary NVMe drivers available from a given manufacturer, but all of the drives featured here used the Microsoft NVMe driver included with Windows 11.

HotHardware's Test System

Intel Core i9-13900K

MSI Z790 Godlike

Video Card:
GeForce RTX 3080

32GB Micron DDR5-6000

Seagate FireCuda 540 (2TB)
ADATA Legend 970 (1TB)
Samsung SSD 990 Pro (2TB)
Crucial T700 (2TB)
Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um (2TB)
Windows 11 Pro x64

Chipset Drivers:
Intel v10.1.19284

ATTO v4.01.01f
CrystalDiskMark v8.0.4c x64
PCMark 10 Storage Bench
3DMark Storage Tests

ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO is a "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5KB through 64MB transfer sizes and a queue depth of 4 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc.

atto 1 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

atto 2 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

The Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um leads across the board in terms of read write bandwith. In the read test, the gap separating it from the Crucial T700 is small, but it opens up quite a bit in the write test where the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um clearly leads with the largest transfer sizes.

atto 3 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

atto 4 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

These benchmarks measure IOPS instead of transfer rate, so naturally the numerical performance of the drive falls off as transfer size rises. The Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um, save for the very smallest of transfers in the read test, leads the rest of the way, especially in the write test.

CrystalDiskMark x64 Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

cdm 1 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

cdm 2 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

In CrystalDiskMark's sequential transfer tests, the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um outruns every other drive we tested in both the read and write tests. It breaks the 14GB/s barrier in the read test, and 12GB/s in the write test.

cdm 3 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

cdm 4 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

Those firmware tweaks and faster NAND give the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um an edge over all of the other drives in the random 4K transfers as well, save for the Q1T1 tests where the Samsung 990 Pro sqeaks past by a couple of megabytes per second. Those random write scores for the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um are looking mightly tasty, though.

UL 3DMark Gaming Storage Benchmark

UL recently added a gaming-centric storage benchmark to 3DMark that leverages trace-based tests of actual PC games and gaming-related activities (such as streaming with OBS) to measure real-world gaming performance in a variety of scenarios. The tests include things like loading Battlefield V, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and Overwatch from the initial launch to the main menu, recording a 1080p gameplay video at 60 FPS with OBS while playing Overwatch, installing The Outer Worlds and saving game progress. And finally, copying the Steam folder for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive from one drive to another.

3dm 2 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

3dm 3 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

With the exception of a single test, where less than 1MB/s separated the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um from the Crucial T700, Phison's latest platform led all of the other drives once again in terms of in-game transfer rates.

3dm 4 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

3dm 5 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

The latency tests showed virtually the same rankings. The Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um eithe ties the previous fastest drive we've tested (Crucial's T700), or it takes the lead with the best latency characterisitcs of the bunch.

3dm 1 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

Those leading transfer rates and latency result in the top overall score we've seen from an SSD in 3DMark's storage benchmark yet.

UL PCMark 10 System Drive Storage Test

We like PCMark 10's new quick storage benchmark module for its real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark offers a trace-based measurement of system response times and bandwidth under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system use cases.

pcm 3 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

pcm 2 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

pcm 1 phison PS5026 E26 Max14um performance

Finally, we have PCMark10's quick system drive benchmark, where the Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um dominated. The Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um offered the highest overall score we have seen to date, with the lowest latency, and it's the first drive to average over 1GB/s in this test as well.

Phison PS5026-E26 Max14um Preview: Good Things To Come

We’re not going to gush much in this conclusion because the benchmark numbers above speak for themselves, and this particular drive we tested is a reference platform that won’t be sold at retail. That said, it’s obvious Phison’s controller and tuning, and Micron’s latest B58R NAND running at 2400MT/s come together in what is likely to be the top, high-performance PCIe 5 SSD platform for 2024. We say “likely to be” because Samsung’s probably got something up its sleeve and we know InnoGrit's new 12nm, multi-core IG5666 controller is inbound as well, and drives using it will also be paired to Micron B58R NAND and offer transfers in the 14GB/s range.

Ultimately though, Phison has proven it is a leader in the space over the last couple of years. Virtually every top drive of 2023 was powered by Phison technology, and we’re sure this latest PS5026-E26 Max14um variant will be pervasive in the coming months. We’re definitely looking forward to getting our hands on retail drives based on this platform once they become available.

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