PNY’s new NVMe LX3030 SSD isn’t for everyone. It is traded directly on Chia’s cryptocurrency plotter, a very high-bandwidth sustained write task. For information on the amount of data Chia requires, you can find it here. But if your workload involves something similar, like large-scale continuous backup, video encoding, or anything else that involves writing a large amount of data, it might as well be of interest.
Why? The LX3030 is the fastest PCIe 3.0-based sustained writer we’ve tested and its TBW (TeraBytes that can be written) ratings are staggering: 27,000TBW per 1TB of NAND. Seagate’s ultra-fast FireCuda 530 is rated at 1,250 TBW per terabyte, a lot of data by normal standards, but zero compared to the PNY’s rated durability.
The capture? When I say the LX3030 isn’t for everyone, I mean it: the 2TB version I tested is priced at $ 1170, more than double the FireCuda 530 mentioned above. Gulp.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best SSDs. Go there to learn about competitor products and how we test them.
Price and design
The rest of the LX3030’s story is pretty mundane. It is a four-lane PCIe 3 drive in the standard M.2 2280 form factor (22mm wide, 80mm long). PNY was extremely secretive about details. However, removing the label revealed a Phison PS5012-12ES-32 controller, eight unknown 3D NAND chips (I didn’t find any web entry for chip numbers), and two 1GB DRAM chips from Kingston.
So why is PNY willing to offer these super great TBW ratings? To quote the company, “The LX family of SSDs utilize Lifextension technology, a combination of an advanced AI engine, LDPC, and Flash I / F to deliver ultra-high trace resistance.” Well. That doesn’t really tell us much, but for the record: LDPC is Low Density Parity Check; AI is the imitation of human intelligence, completely inappropriate in this circumstance, so I’ll call it an advanced algorithm; and I / F is just a flash interface.
Just pure speculation – the drive is heavily over-provisioned so more cells are available as replacements, or as PNY claims, there is a special sauce in the controller firmware and the NAND is super reliable. OR…
PNY’s LX3030 offers outstanding longevity ratings and performs well over PCIe 3.
Truth be told, TBW’s price, warranties, and ratings are all attached at the hip. Drives that have high TBW ratings and longer warranties are more expensive because the vendor has a greater chance of having to replace them.
There have been rumors in the industry for years that NAND is much more durable than most ratings indicate. Additionally, controllers have become aces by maximizing speed and / or longevity. Also, it is a well known fact that most users do not write as much data as they think.
54,000TBW is writing 30TB of data every day during the 2TB drive’s five-year warranty. That is a lot of data. “Chia tracing” amounts of data that I have been told.
PNY’s LX3030 has a higher TBW rating than any NAND SSD we’ve reviewed.
PNY’s TBW ratings on the LX Family Spec Sheet are open to interpretation and do not exactly match other listings. The 1TB version is covered by the aforementioned 27,000TBW, but the warranty is only two years.
The only other drives I’ve seen with higher TBW ratings than the LX3030 are Intel’s pure Optane SSDs, which are even more expensive, but rated in petabytes! If you can find one. They were discontinued in early 2021.
The 2TB LX3030 I tested was strictly mid-level in its overall performance. The 3GB write and 3.4GB read are very fast (it’s only PCI 3, remember), but you can’t touch something like the Seagate FireCuda 530 for everyday workloads. If it’s cutting-edge performance or PCI 4 compatibility you’re looking for, look elsewhere – this SSD is all about endurance.
This regular overall performance may well have something to do with NAND’s special handling of PNY claims in promoting longevity. Rigorous error checking, wear leveling (the distribution of writes across the NAND), and finer voltage control can actually slow performance.
The LX3030 strayed quite a bit out of step with top-tier units such as the Samsung 980 Pro, but the unit is all about longevity. Longer bars are better.
The LX3030 was the slowest among the package in CrystalDiskMark 6, as well as in our real-world 48GB transfer tests shown below. It’s probably not fair to compare the LX3030 to units like the FireCuda 530, Samsung 980 Pro, or Adata S70 Blade, but the LX3030 is way more expensive than all of those, so we couldn’t compare it to budget marvels.
The LX303 was decent, but not great in our 48GB transfer tests. Shorter bars are better.
Where the LX3030 took off was in our 450GB write test. It outperformed all other drives by at least a couple of seconds and actually got the best time we’ve seen with PCIe 3. PNY apparently takes SSD design seriously with Chia’s layout in mind.
Surprise surprise. The LX3030 delivered absolutely outstanding 450GB write performance (over PCIe 3). Shorter bars are better.
The LX3030 does what it needs, but of course I’d like to see a PCIe 4 version. Only PNY (and probably Phison) knows if it could pull off the top endurance of faster transfer speeds.
PCIe 3 tests use 64-bit Windows 10 running on a Core i7-5820K / Asus X99 Deluxe system with four 16GB Kingston 2666MHz DDR4 modules, one 1GB x2 PCIe Zotac (NVidia) GT 710 graphics card and an Asmedia ASM3242 USB 3.2 × 2 card graphics card. It also contains a Gigabyte GC-Alpine Thunderbolt 3 card and Softperfect Ramdisk 3.4.6 for the 48GB read and write tests.
The PCIe 4 test was performed on an MSI MEG X570 motherboard with an 8-core AMD Ryzen 7 3700X CPU, using the same Kingston DRAM, cards and software. All tests are performed on an empty or near empty drive that is trimmed after each series of tests. Performance will decrease as drive fills. If your unit, with similar hardware, does not perform similarly, please let us know.
A true workhorse if you have the need and the coin
The LX3030 is expensive and more, so you really have to be sure that you are writing the amount of data necessary to make the most of its longevity. Chia is likely conspiring. If so, you’ll appreciate the peace of mind that the LX3030’s ratings and warranties provide.
If not, look at the much less expensive competing drives shown in the tables, all of which also offer superior performance, lots of durability, and are also PCIe 4 compliant to prepare for the future.
Note that PNY, along with several other companies, has been known to switch to slower components in their less expensive products. I don’t see that happening with a product of this price or type, but it needs to be mentioned.